Sunday 5th July 2020
5th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:11-18; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

(Alternatives: Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Zechariah 9:9-12; Psalm 145:8-15)

Like so many Biblical stories, the episode recorded in Genesis 24 takes place almost exclusively in a workplace context. We meet a servant fulfilling his duties and the daughter of a family in the midst of her everyday task of collecting water. It was in the process of this encounter that they became aware of God's presence, guiding and enabling the servant in his rather unusual commission. There are key aspects of this story that will jar with our contemporary values and behaviour, but there remains an underlying narrative of God being present and worshipped in the midst of daily activity. From this basis, a congregation might be encouraged to reflect on where God might be present in their everyday working lives, and to see them as a place where He might be encountered.

A supplementary theme is that of prosperity, status and wellbeing. Abraham's servant speaks of his master's accomplishments, the daughters of Zion rejoice at the coming of their king; the bearing of children, the joy of marriage and the care and providence of God all come into focus. This might cause us to stop and think about what we do with our wealth and prosperity and the responsibility of those who are financially successful to recognise God as the giver of everything, and their calling to act as wise and just stewards. This throws a very strong focus on the world of work, often described as the place of economic activity. Wealth creation and income generation is not something which can occur in a moral vacuum - our nation has witnessed the worst effects of when this happens in recent years. These readings rightly re-couple the ownership and control of material possessions with a sense of accountability to God. Paul recognises, writing to the Romans, that we can often find it difficult to do what we know to be right.

A prominent theme is that of marriage and relationships, so we might pray for individuals who are involved in weddings and marriage in their employment. This might include wedding planners, wedding dress designers, and the like, along with relationship counsellors, those who work in family courts etc. etc. There is also a strong focus on the dignity of women, so we might reflect on those situations where women continue to feel discriminated against in work, and those who work in issues of equality, women's rights etc.

The focus on the king and royal events, might also cause us to pray for kings, rulers and others in positions of authority.