Trinity 15


Almighty God, whose only Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence: give us pure hearts and steadfast wills to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Merciful God, your Son came to save us and bore our sins on the cross: may we trust in your mercy and know your love, rejoicing in the righteousness that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion

Lord God, the source of truth and love, keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, united in prayer and the breaking of bread, and one in joy and simplicity of heart, in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Old Testament

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

Isaiah 35.4–7a

Psalm 46

1    Alleluia.
Praise the Lord, O my soul:
while I live will I praise the Lord;
as long as I have any being,
I will sing praises to my God.

2    Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power,
for there is no help in them.

3    When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth;
on that day all their thoughts perish.

4    Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;

5    Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;

6    Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong
and bread to those who hunger.

7    The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;

8    The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;

9    The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;      he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.

10    The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.



My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

[ For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.]

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

James 2.1–10[11–13] 14–17


From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

Mark 7.24–37

Sermon on Sunday, Trinity 15

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear! …’

These words from the prophet should speak directly to us today, even though they were spoken about three thousand years ago. Why? Why do I quote such an old saying? I think “fearful hearts” belong to us today, don’t you? With the last two years spent in COVID isolation, and with the fear of terrorists of the last few weeks, we know fear, don’t we? We continue to fret that the worst might happen in the next few hours – to us.

But Isaiah’s words are read out to us today. We need to hear his message of “comfort” – we need to hear that we can be strong and go boldly. Like Captain Kirk on his beloved Enterprise, we are enjoined to go boldly into the future, “where no one has gone before.” It is not just space which is the final frontier. No, there is another frontier – it is in time. The present is the border which surrounds us, the future and the past are cut off from us. The past has gone and will never be recovered or relived. It has passed and lies outside our grasp, but we can remember. The future is to come. It is to be hoped for, or perhaps dreaded depending on our fears. Spatially, what is beyond our reach, remains just that, and we have no control or experience of it. But what is at hand can be manipulated or handled. We have to admit that we are bounded in space and time, and the unknown can paralyse us with fear.

We all know this to be true, don’t we? We are afraid to make any decision because we wonder “What if …?” That question enters our minds and incapacitates us. “What if …?” becomes the stop sign for our lives. I think that is why insurance is so popular nowadays. It puts our minds at rest, there is no “What if …?” when we are insured, as all the ads tell us. Insurance is the panacea for our fear of the unexpected, the impossible of our everyday lives.

The future faces us and we have no control over its accidents, do we? That is the unknown country we have to enter. The future is not our everyday experience. Rather than insuring against the unknown, I think we ought to embrace it – no matter what will happen. Ernest Shackelton did so when he went to the Antarctic, didn’t he? The unknown loomed over him murderously but he survived because he embraced the situation and was able to overcome the frozen world which had taken so many other lives. Shackelton’s embrace was strong as life and took him into an unknown future, a future which included other trips to the Antarctic.

Such is the future, such is everything just over the horizon. It is for us to overcome those boundaries of our lives. We must be able to say to our friends – or indeed anyone who would talk with us – “Be strong, fear not!” More importantly, we need to say this to our very own selves – Fear not, μη φοβου, just as Jesus said two millennia ago.

And we need to do the same with the past. The past will be with us forever, but we can do nothing to it. We can only do something about it. We need to learn lessons from the past. Isn’t the saying, “The person who does not study history is bound to repeat it.” And not every episode of the past is something which bears repeating – but it does mean that we should be able to avoid the despicable in life if we learn from our past, individually and collectively.

We need to sing with Edith Piaff, “Je ne regrette rien” – that all that has passed is the past, out of touch, but remembered without regret for the future because we have learned from it. The song also goes on to say that we will treat everything the same. Doesn’t Paul also tell us to do that? Doesn’t Jesus’ example on the cross teach us this lesson?

‘Be strong, do not fear!’ Isaiah’s words echo through history, especially the history of the church, but I think they echo through the whole of history, in fact I think they echo all the world’s religions and philosophy. But religion, not philosophy, talks about our ultimate hope.

He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

These are the words Jesus reads from the scroll when he began his ministry. He speaks about our very own hope – our hope for the future, when our saviour will come with glory and might and power, to  which all the events of healing attest.

Jesus opens the eyes of the blind, both the literally blind and those who will not see. Jesus lets people hear what is real, about which the lame dance and the dumb sing with joy. Jesus has accomplished miracles for so many. I am sure that Jesus has accomplished miracles for us here today. Don’t we all have hope for the future? That is the miracle we all want – a future in which we will be saved. A future in which we hope. So who has that hope? Who has experienced that miracle?

Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

This is the miracle we all hope for, isn’t it? That our eyes and ears are opened, that we would speak plainly to everyone we meet. Last week I went on about mission and conversation. All of that is predicated on the clarity of vision and hearing, on this miracle of hope, of any miracle which transforms our lives one way or another. – And miracles need not be the stopping of the sun in the course of its daily route, nor the equally extraordinary changing of the natural world, the curing of infirmity or withering fruit trees. I think the greatest miracle is that we can touch each other’s lives in some way – that we might care profoundly for another person. This care is the love I have always spoken of, the foundation of all we do.

We began with words from nearly three millennia ago, and now we are talking about love, that extraordinary openness to another, something within everyone’s capacity as a person.

Today we are hearing something in the present which assures us of our future because of what has happened in our past. We are no longer paralysed by fear.

Who else can do that, except someone who has experienced the miracle of God in their lives? Aren’t we the people who are free to act for those whom we love?


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