Reflection for the First Sunday after Trinity

“Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” 

Jesus, in today’s Gospel Mark 2:23-3:6.

‘Nobody is above the law’ – slogan on a banner regarding Donald Trump’s conviction.

Today’s Gospel contains two controversial incidents from Jesus’ early ministry. The first occurs in a cornfield as he and the disciples are making their way through it and they pluck some of the grain to eat. The Pharisees accuse them of acting unlawfully on the Sabbath, the day of rest for Jews, but Jesus reminds them of David and his men who ate the bread reserved for priests when they were hungry fugitives. By breaking the rules, Jesus suggests that the Sabbath was made for humankind and not that humans must observe its customary laws when in need. David was fed, just as the man with the withered hand was also healed, on the Sabbath. Restoring the man to fullness of life angers the Pharisees so much that Mark states that they began to conspire with the Herodians to destroy Jesus – and this is only chapter three!

This week has focussed on American law with the conclusion of the first trial of former President Donald Trump who has been found guilty of all thirty-four charges of falsifying business records to conceal payments to the adult actress Stormy Daniels. He has become the first President to face possible imprisonment as a result yet, despite this and trials for further felonies in the pipeline, Trump stood outside the court afterwards and declared, ”I am very innocent.” Having condemned the trial, the judge, the jury and his political opponents, he has announced his decision to appeal and to conduct his presidential campaign for the next election from a prison cell if necessary. In the run-up to November’s vote, Trump has already polarised the electorate and created huge divisions in the American judicial system – and this was only May 30th!

All this is in the context of the General Election and the political machinations in the UK where, if both are elected, a former Director of Public Prosecutions who is now Leader of the Labour Party might be expected to liaise with a convicted felon if they become Prime Minister and the next President. These are complex matters and they may not come to pass – but if they do and this is the will of the people, what will be the consequences for the law and democracy if that happens? 

This week marked the thirtieth anniversary of my priesting, although I was a deacon for four years beforehand. As one of the first women to be ordained in the Church of England, I well remember the consequences and controversies of this huge change which divided the institution itself and created legal as well as religious issues which are still not fully resolved. The turmoil all this created was complex and not least was the irony of women who discerned a call to priesthood before it was legally possible and those who opposed this change to the point of leaving the Anglican church over it.

It was a difficult and challenging time for all involved, heralding other legal changes which are still ongoing as the Church responds to the demands made of it in our day. 

As Jesus responded then to the demands made of him and his followers, he urged them to consider whether they should do good or harm on the Sabbath and whether they should save life or kill. As the struggle for rest, justice and the interpretation of the law continues in our day with the constant intensity of media scrutiny and the demands of busy-ness as well as business, perhaps his question could be broadened. How, in our differing yet challenging situations, can life be spiritually enhanced rather than deadened on a daily basis and not just the Sabbath?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

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