A sermon preached by Graham Low on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity – 5 July 2020
Jesus says: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. There is indeed a weariness among most people today. Many are bearing heavy burdens. We are experiencing levels of disruption, of risk, and of fear which we have never known in peacetime. And so we look with uncertainty at the future. In particular, we wonder how we may renew our country and rebuild the economy.
I think an example from the last century is a helpful reminder of fundamental issues to be faced. In 1945 the new government, inspired by the Beveridge Report, founded the welfare state, leading to the formation 72 years ago today of the National Health Service, and the implementation of the 1944 Education Act.
Health and education remain key matters today. It is clear that we need another Beveridge-type report to look at the deprivations, flaws, the weariness, and the burdens in our country which are being so harshly exposed today. For much of the last 70 years our governments have tended to act on a theme of “private good and public bad”, which has been disastrous for many people. Now we recognize the importance of the NHS, and the results of under-funding it, and the problems for children if they cannot go to school.
Now is the time to face several critical questions: for example:
Why is service to the common good valued less than wealth creation?
Why has the pay of the already wealthy soared while that of nurses and carers has not, and has led some to have to use food banks?
Why are millions of children badly housed and only fed adequately at school?
Why is the cost of residential care for the elderly not adequately funded?
The Church of England report Faith in the City exposed such issues 35 years ago. It offered a vision for the future. We need to face the problems that Covid-19 has exposed and form a policy for a long period of reshaping and renewing our country. This has to be beyond party politics, and led by people of vision who seek the common good. Seeking the common good is where the church and all of us come in.
In our reading from Zechariah we read that our king comes to us, and likewise, in the passage from Matthew, Jesus says come to me. The word come implies presence and proximity. Jesus invites his hearers to be close to him, even as he is preparing for his death. He tells them that he will always be with them until the end of the age. This is an assurance that wherever we go, we go with him.
Come is a word which we use when we give an invitation. Being weary and burdened is enough for Jesus’ invitation to come to be with him, for rest, and to learn from him. In a time of national darkness he invited people to trust in him. Likewise, Zechariah spoke to a dispirited people, saying that God will halt the warring and bring hope. He speaks wonderfully of prisoners of hope, unable to escape hope, bound to hope. Bound to hope. What a wonderful promise!
So I wonder what a world filled with unpreventable hope would look like. I wonder what it would be like if nobody was overlooked, whatever their burdens. These wonderings point towards the kingdom into which God invites us to come. By prayer, words and action may we respond to God’s call for the common good – now. Amen.