This is one of those readings where you ask yourself; have I read that right? and then go and read it again to make sure. Doesn’t the prophet Isaiah speak of the Messiah as ‘Prince of Peace’, so why is Jesus saying that he will not bring peace? There are some strong words here from Jesus and they should grab our attention. The Messiah brought the opportunity for man and God to be at peace once more, but the focus of Jesus’ teaching here is all about choice.
Where do we, where are we, placing Jesus in our lives? It’s about putting him first in every area of our lives and as we do so, being mindful of the wonderful gifts he brings; eternal salvation, restored relationship, grace, mercy, forgiveness, freedom from guilt, freedom from shame etc and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But when we do place him first we must expect opposition for there is no such thing as a neutral reaction to Jesus. His spirit challenges each and every one of us and the way we choose to live our lives so often for ourselves.
It’s not as if he is saying, ‘I’m here to take away all the fun from your lives’ but he is challenging our priorities. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matthew 6:33) says Jesus. God’s desire is to bless us with good things but for that to happen we must ensure that we place God in his rightful place; at the head of all things, for there we will find ‘life.’ We must then, put God F.I.R.S.T. Maybe this will help as an aide memoire to some of those key areas to give to him.
Jesus first in our F inances
Jesus first in our I nterests
Jesus first in our R elationships
Jesus first in our S chedules
Jesus first in our T hanksgivings and Troubles.
With God’s blessings
Last year this country produced over 777,000 tonnes of soft fruit with a value of nearly £700 million. Strawberries alone accounted for £284 million of sales. The soft fruit industry is growing with an increase of 3:5% in 12 months  but there are challenges. The fruit needs care and attention; protection from pest and disease that would damage it, nourishment from a good soil, adequate water and a healthy environment. But there is a problem. With an increased expectation in the quality of working conditions, changes to the law and an unknown future surrounding Brexit, farmers are struggling to find the labourers to harvest their valuable crops. At present, mechanisation can only go so far and the picking of the delicate fruit must be done by hand with sensitivity and with careful attention given to individual situations and condition if it is to be brought in successfully. Those willing to engage in the work are becoming harder to find.
In our reading from Matthew, Jesus draws a close parallel as he identifies a similar problem; ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.’
We’re told that he had ‘compassion’ on the crowd as they needed care and attention and leadership; ‘like sheep without a shepherd.’ They were not receiving the spiritual nourishment they required from their religious leaders who saw the common people as a problem. Jesus saw them as people in need, people who needed guidance, people for whom he was prepared to give everything to help and to save.
What a very special sight it was to view the sheep following a lead down through the village of Askrigg in April with the tractor in front and James and Heather at the rear steering them to the ‘maternity wing’ for lambing.
Most followed the others easily enough but there were some who looked confused and unsure, raising their heads for guidance and here the onlookers gave a gentle signal with an arm outstretched to which the ewe duly responded and moved back into the safety and care of the flock. A lead had been given but the combined efforts of the team and their faithful dogs ensured that all went well.
It is one of the great Christian truths and supreme Christian challenges that the sheep will not be shepherded, nor the harvest reaped unless there are enough workers in the field to ensure that it takes place. Jesus Christ draws us into the incredible privilege of working with him to transform lives and we can all play our part.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to stand on a street corner with a placard calling out to those passing by, but it does mean we take opportunities where we can to witness to his love and his life and the joy that there is in knowing him. It may be a simple act of love or kindness – a phone call, a visit, a meal taken to a housebound neighbour or it may be a conversation, a comment, the offer of praying for someone in need or inviting to accompany them to a service. Every such act is participating in the harvest that Jesus is drawing us into.
It’s worth remembering that if we know Jesus it’s because someone, somewhere at some time blessed us by responding to his words and telling us about him.
Why not ask God’s Holy Spirit to show you where you’re needed today, enjoy the privilege of responding and feel the joy of the Spirit in your heart when you do.
With God’s blessing
 DEFRA 2015 statistics.
Sunday June 11th is remembered as ‘Trinity Sunday’ in the churches calendar. A day when the church considers the mystery and wonder of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There is a story of St Augustine walking along the beach considering the mysteries of the Holy Trinity when he came upon a young boy filling a small hole in the sand with a bucket of water. When the bucket was empty he filled it again and emptied into the hole. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked – ‘I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole’. ‘That’s impossible’ said Augustine ‘It will not fit’. ‘No more so than you trying to fit the Trinity into your tiny brain’, the boy replied and then he disappeared.
Trying to explain the Trinity is like trying to empty the ocean with a small bucket, but perhaps that’s because God is not interested in us explaining it. He wants us to experience it.
The early church may have developed the idea of the Trinity as a means of encapsulating the nature of God but scripture constantly reveals the plural nature of God, eg the first chapter of the first book of the Bible: ‘Then God said, “Let us..” or in the opening verses of John’s Gospel, ‘In the beginning was the word and …’
The Trinity is an expression of unity. The Father sees himself in Jesus – John 1:14, Jesus sees himself in the Father – John 10:30 and the Holy Spirit unites this love – Mtth 3:16 – Or it is as if the Father says, ‘If you want to know what love is, look to Jesus.’ Jesus answers, ‘If you want to know what love is then look to the Father and the Spirit replies, ‘If you want to know what love is then look to Jesus and the Father and I’ll give you the ability to see and understand’.
The Trinity is an expression of the unity of God and of the unity of His purpose which is to bless. In our Gospel reading Jesus gives the instruction known as ‘The Great Commission’, to make Disciples of the whole earth and to baptise them in the name of the ‘Father, the son and the Holy Spirit’. What a challenge and what a privilege! To be effective in this calling we need a full experience of the different facets of God and that certainly includes the power of the Holy Spirit in each and every one of us. Praise God that whenever he calls us He always equips us; ‘I am with you always’ and the promise that He will ‘renew their (our) strength’.
The PCC’s within the Benefice are to be considering what God’s mission looks like for us in this beautiful part of His creation; why we’re here and what He is calling us to do together in these days. The unity of God as expressed in the Trinity is an example to us all of the power and the strength there is when we are in union and agreement with one another and with God. If we are to be so then this always begins and ends with prayer.
I’d like to invite you and encourage into continuing to pray for this wonderfully exciting and privileged work that we are all called into together, for His glory.
Whenever I hear the account of the Holy Spirit coming on that day of Pentecost, I am always considering what must it have been like? What did it look like I wonder? What did it sound like? How did the crowd react as they asked the question: ‘What does this mean?’
It meant that it was God’s plan for this to happen, that it was the end of waiting, that we don’t need to live lives in our own strength anymore and that we now have the power to live our lives as God originally intended us to.
The Holy Spirit is a gift. It’s a gift from God and it’s a gift that makes a difference, but a gift isn’t a gift unless it’s received. It’s a gift that God wants us to receive and it’s a gift that He wants us to want to receive, both personally and corporately.
Personally: so that we might live our lives to the full, free from things that would seek to harm us and drag us down or stop us fulfilling our God given potential.
Corporately: so that the church might be the body that God intended it to be. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, things changed: hearts changed, language changed, desires changed and outlook changed.
We all have gifts and abilities that God has placed within us and His desire is that we might use them in His service. Left to our own resources, however, we soon run out of strength and can quickly ‘dry up’. We’re like a teapot. A teapot is designed to be full and pouring out tea to refresh those around it. When it is empty it is not fulfilling its purpose as a teapot and if the pot is to be refilled, then the lid needs to be removed. If we are to receive the refreshing of the Holy Spirit then we need to make a conscious decision to ask him for that refreshing and to ensure that our ‘lids’ are off so that we are open to receive from him. Then, the Holy Spirit can fill us up and we can continue to pour out God’s blessings to those around us.
I wonder, in which areas of your life and mine are we still keeping the lid on? Perhaps we need to ask God to reveal them to us in order that we may open ourselves to Him and his Holy Spirit.
ere to edit.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale