Sunday 21st June 2020
3rd Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39

(Alternatives: Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69: 8-11, (12-17), 18-20))

Today's readings are not particularly easy ones; the story of family struggles between Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, coupled with the words of Jesus that we should be prepared to leave family for the sake of his Kingdom, are challenging. It might be recognised that the difficulties within Abraham's family were caused by poor choices which were made to have a child with Hagar, rather than trusting God's promise. Sensitively handled, this might be used to reflect on the fact that we all make poor choices, and for some, these along with circumstances that are not of their making, can result in family breakdown and struggle. This in turn could provide a platform to pray for people engaged in social work, family support services etc. and to recognise the importance of their role. God's willingness to bless and support everyone involved in this crisis, is an expression of outrageous grace, and raises challenges and questions about how as God's people we engage with such situations in our world.

It can also be recognised, that although presented in a domestic context, the Old Testament reading represents the root and origin of an ongoing struggle in our world - the relationship between Israel and the Arab states that surround it. A congregation might be reminded how relatively small decisions, can with time have significantly greater consequences - and this can be particularly true about decisions made in the workplace. The words of Jesus about disciples, teachers, slaves and masters can be used to echo themes which also emerge next week. An opportunity could be given to pray for those engage in training, apprenticeships and similar contexts. It is also a reminder that power, authority and subordination in every context of modern life, carry with them responsibility.

Throughout the Psalms, alternative OT reading and Paul's epistle are some valuable thoughts and reflections for those who perhaps find the world of work a difficult and hostile place. The Psalmist and the Prophet are able to cry out to the Lord in their distress, drawing strength from a sense of God's eternal presence and promise.