Our Gospel reading today is Matthew 10: 40-42
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,”
When I served as chaplain to the Bishop of Liverpool it was in the days when the internet was in its infancy. We didn’t have email, memos had to be copied on paper and distributed by hand around the various diocesan departments. When a new vicar was appointed, for example, one of my jobs was to let about thirty different people know where things were up to. When we couldn’t hand them a paper memo we sent them a fax, using a line that could transmit one message to one person at a time. I spend many hours late into the night feeding bits of paper into the fax machine.
One day our switchboard transferred a call to my desk, “We don’t know who handles this so we’re passing it on to you.” That is what bishop’s chaplains are for. All the odd jobs nobody else wants ends up with the bishop’s chaplain.
A very nice lady from the Diocese of Blackburn had a problem with a new appointment, but she didn’t understand why her call had been transferred to me. I explained, “Bishop’s chaplains are the lowest form of ecclesiastical life. Any problem nobody else wants ends up with me.” As it happens it was easy to resolve. I simply rang another bishop’s chaplain and we fixed things up. One of the advantages of doing jobs nobody else wants is they are highly unlikely to ask too many questions afterwards.
The lady from Blackburn sent me a thank you note, by fax. But she had mislaid my name, so she simply wrote on the top of the fax sheet – “To the lowest form of ecclesiastical life in the Diocese of Liverpool.” When the fax arrived it was delivered straight to my desk.
For the Jews things were a bit different. They didn’t have bishops of course, but if that had then they would treat the bishop’s chaplain as if they were the bishop themselves. For the Jews to receive someone’s messenger or representative was the same as receiving the person themselves. To pay respect to an ambassador was to pay respect to the ruler who had sent them.
On one occasion, when the bishop had delivered a lecture in London, I found myself invited to the supper afterwards held at the Royal Society. I was somewhat overawed to find myself sat between a very jovial member of the aristocracy on one side and Patrick Head, chief designer for the Williams Formula One team, on the other.
The following evening the bishop gave the same lecture in another city. There was another reception afterwards. But this time I was outside sheltering from the rain sat in a bus stop with a bag of chips.
Jesus told his friends that those who received them received him, and those who received him received his Father. How we perceive and behave towards other people is an indicator of how we perceive and act in response to God. Jesus makes it abundantly clear this is especially so when we encounter people not like ourselves.
For someone who was concerned to make people understand the enormity of how different God’s kingdom is Jesus has a knack of understanding how little things matter. The least person given just a drink of cold water will not be overlooked. We often look at our world and feel dismayed that we cannot solve all the problems. Jesus doesn’t ask us to. He asks us just to do something. A random act of kindness. A willingness to listen. The decision to ring that person you know is lonely and likely to keep you on the phone for hours. Do these things for that person, and in that moment that person becomes for you God’s ambassador.
God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and power;
hold us fast to your promise of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
We are pleased to be able to open our churches for public services starting on Sunday 5th July. On that day we will hold two morning services, 9.30am at St Mary’s, 11.00am at St Peter’s. The Vicar will preside and preach.
We have made good preparations for this next stage and have made provision for an interim pattern of services which will enable us to meet the challenges ahead. Services will be fewer and simpler. We expect less people and some things need to be done differently. We shall not be able to sing hymns for example, nor share the Peace. But we shall meet together and we will record the sermon to share with those who cannot be with us in church.
I know not everyone will be able to join us in church. We continue to live in strange and difficult times. This is a step on a journey and we will make this new beginning with hope and thankfulness.