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Sunday 21 August 2022: Trinity 10, Twenty-first in ordinary time, Proper 16

Being the inconvenient change

Luke 13:10-30

By Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed

Minority Ethnic Vocations Officer for the Church of England.

Context: a Service of the Word with a mix of ages

Aim: to encourage being bold and thoughtful agents of change at a time when it is easy to feel ineffective

COLLECTIVE ACTIVITY

Before we reflect on the scripture, I invite you to jot down the following, either in the back of your Bible or on your phone:

  • The last time it was in your gift/ability to do something that could possibly have been transformative to a person/situation, but you refrained because you were concerned about what others might think or you decided to do it another time
  • A time when you decided that what you had to contribute or say was so small/inconsequential that you decided not to contribute or speak
  • A time when you chose, through an act or omission, to do the easier thing

Today may be the day when you decide to make a change and live a little bolder even if the prospect of doing so is a bit daunting. Let’s explore a few ideas bearing in mind the three things you have written down.

IS THIS A GOOD TIME?

You cannot always schedule doing the right thing. The healing of the crippled woman is a challenge to be our best selves, even if the situation is not convenient or considered proper. Eighteen years is a long time to be unwell. She could barely move but she makes sure that she gets to the synagogue on the Sabbath. She doesn’t appear to have help. She doesn’t shout out to Jesus, yet Jesus sees her.

By healing this woman, Jesus demonstrated that when it comes to an opportunity to change someone’s life for the better, the right time and place is right then and there. Jesus could have easily instructed her to return the following day and she probably would have. He demonstrated an old saying that I grew up with, ‘Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today’.

As we journey with our Lord through the world, we are often presented with various opportunities to do a small thing that can make a huge difference to the lives or quality of life of someone else.

ITS JUST A SMALL THING

In my late 20s I learned that the mustard seed was the smallest of seeds. A fraction of the size of an acorn yet produces one of the largest trees. So, I experimented, planted a mustard seed from Tesco in my parents’ garden, out of the way of my father who was an enthusiastic weeder. To my astonishment, it started to grow! My dad accidentally dug it up, but it reminded me of what is possible from the smallest of things. We assume of ourselves or make others feel that that the small thing they offer (time, money, food, a spare room) is not enough to make a difference. You may not have done so intentionally but the result remains the same, a chance to make a difference to another person’s life is thwarted.

As a person addicted to all things leaven, I decided to learn to make bread for myself. Yeast reminds me of encouragement. Just a small amount makes thing expand to double its size and what only seemed enough for one, becomes enough for many. We tend to forget that encouragement, no matter how small, has the power to increase the confidence of the timid, give energy to the tired and increase the impact of a small ministry. Recalling what you wrote at the beginning, think about what you would now do differently and how.

NOT EVERYONE WILL GET THROUGH

At various points in the Bible, people ask Jesus what they must do to be saved or have eternal life. Often the answer is not welcomed:

  • ‘Sell everything and follow me’
  • ‘…be born again’
  • ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’

In short, it is not easy to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God because on that route there is no hiding. It requires making choices that don’t allow for apathy or negligence. It’s a door that not everyone is going to follow you through. The good news is that until Christ comes again to shut that door, there is still time to do the right thing.

Choosing the narrow door requires that we speak up for justice and not just for those who look like us or share our values. It requires that we don’t follow the crowd, focusing on the majority when there are smaller groups of vulnerable people being ignored. It requires that we grasp the thorns and love like Jesus even when our nearest and dearest do not understand. I leave you with these three things:

  • Do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances
  • The smallest thing can make the most difference
  • Choosing the easy/pragmatic thing is the wrong thing when you choose to follow Jesus

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