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Sunday 23rd August 2020 Trinity 11

posted 14 Aug 2020, 05:08 by Church Office   [ updated 1 Sep 2020, 03:34 ]
You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here soon.

Sunday 23rd August 2020

Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

Our Gospel reading this week marks the mid-point of Jesus’ ministry, with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi.  He asks his disciples who people think he is, and then he asks who they think he is.  Simon Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  In Matthew’s Gospel we then hear Jesus giving him the name ‘Peter’, meaning the ‘rock’ on which he will build his church. 

Our first reading, from Romans, also marks a shift - Paul moves from talking of God’s grace and mercy for all people, to explaining to the Christians in Rome how they need to live out their faith – being transformed ‘by the renewing of your minds’ rather than conformed to this world.

We need to be able to respond to Jesus’ question – who do we think he is?  And then, if we agree with Peter, reflect on how we can put into practice what Paul says, and ‘discern what is the will of God’, working together as one body using the gifts God has given us to do ‘what is good and acceptable and perfect’

Readings

First Reading:  Romans 12:1-8 

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-20 

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 

Sermon

 The conversation Jesus has with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi marks a turning point in the gospel. From now on he will be talking about how he is going to suffer at the hands of the authorities – in next week’s reading we hear him tell the disciples that he will die, and that he’ll be raised on the third day. Unsurprisingly, they can’t understand that, and Peter will protest that it cannot happen. Today, we hear what’s known as Peter’s ‘Confession of Faith’ – he has come to realise that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Of course, his expectation of what that means is very different to reality, and that’s why next week’s reading is important. For now, Jesus is telling Peter that he is the rock on which he’ll build his church, and “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” That can be interpreted to mean that the power of death cannot win – the gates will not close to imprison those who have died. What would we answer if Jesus were here now, asking us, “Who do you say that I am?” We might sometimes vary our response, depending on the depth of our faith at the time when we’re asked, but if we consider ourselves to be reasonably orthodox Christians, we probably agree that Jesus is, to use the title of a book by John Robinson, “The Human Face of God”. If we believe that, then the challenge for us is to look at how that makes a difference to the way we live our lives. In our first reading we heard Paul challenging the Christian community in Rome not to let themselves be ‘conformed’ to the ways of the world, but to be ‘transformed’ – and how? – ‘by the renewing of your minds’ – and why? – ‘so that you may discern what is the will of God: what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ 

I wanted to take a break from the series of Old Testament readings we’ve had over recent weeks because this passage is very significant for me. On a personal level that’s partly because the first time I had to stand up in an adult service to read the lesson as a teenager, these were the verses I was given to read, and I have special memories of my father taking the time to ‘coach’ me in how to read well. It was some kind of civic service at the Parish Church in Richmond where I grew up, because I remember that I was in my Girl Guide uniform!  But much more significantly than that personal memory is what I see as a brilliant summary of what it means to be a committed Christian. We must constantly resist conforming to the pressures of society – we need to open our minds to be ‘transformed’ and ‘renewed’, so that we can do what God requires of us. That may mean becoming a ‘living sacrifice, as St Paul says. We sometimes pray after Communion – “…we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice.” There is a cost to being a Christian – or at least, there should be. I was reading in this week’s Church Times a report of an article in the Financial times about someone who works as a ‘tax lobbyist’. His work involves persuading governments to change tax regulations in a way that enable big corporations to pay less tax. Obviously if big companies find ways to avoid tax, there’s less money available for the government to use to support the poor and disadvantaged in our communities. The issue with this particular lobbyist is firstly that he was part of the team who negotiated a tax break which the HMRC now claims was fraudulent, and, more significantly, he is an ordained priest in the Church of England, serving part-time and unpaid, but still as a priest. The Church Times commentary was asking the question “Should we compare him to all the clergy who are not paid to frustrate the financing of the welfare state, or to all the tax lawyers who would never dream of working as parish clergy?” The two roles seem simply to be incompatible. The journalist went on to point out that if you shop from Amazon you are taking advantage of that company’s ‘sweetheart’ tax deals, and I would add, you’re paying money to a company that doesn’t treat its workers well. Do we allow our minds to be transformed by God so that we can discern his will and do what is good and acceptable and perfect? Do we stop and think enough before all our actions, including shopping, to check if this is what God wants us to do – or to say? Are we careful about the wonderful God-given resources of our created world? Do we avoid using cars when we can walk? Do we go without goods that are wrapped in plastic? Do we stop to think about the conditions in which people work in order to supply our needs? I know I often fail – but each time we fail, we need to repent, and try a little harder the next time to live lives that are ‘good and acceptable’ even if they’re not perfect. 

The second half of our reading from Romans today is about using the gifts God has given us to work together as “one body in Christ” because we are all “members of one another”. The list Paul gives applies as much to the whole of our lives not just as members of a church congregation. When we take time to reflect, we can identify the ways in which we can best work to support and serve others. Our gift may be in teaching or ministry, encouragement or generosity or diligence, or it may simply be ‘cheerfulness’ which we can offer to others, when appropriate. Whatever it is that we offer, it will require ‘sacrifice’ in the sense that if it comes too easily, we may be missing something. The salvation we find in Jesus comes through his death and resurrection, and Paul tells us we have to present our bodies as a ‘living sacrifice, holy and acceptable’ in order that we can be sent out into the world to live and work to give praise and glory to God. Ours is not an easy faith if we truly allow ourselves to be transformed, rather than being conformed to this world. Last weekend we commemorated VJ day – the day when the Japanese surrendered to the allies and the Second World War finally ended, 75 years ago. We now give thanks for the end of the conflict, rather than celebrating a victory. We remember the sacrifices made by so many in order to secure the freedom for those of us who live in the free parts of the world today. The devastating death toll of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be forgotten, nor must the deaths of all those who died during the war, innocent civilians in bombed cities as well as servicemen and women, and we remember all those whose lives were totally changed by their experiences. Sadly that day 75 years ago did not bring an end to all war and conflict. Jesus taught that among those who are blessed are those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and those who are “peacemakers”. If we seek peace and righteousness in whatever small way we can, we will be doing what St Paul calls “the will of God”. Lord, we pray, may Thy will be done.

Prayers

Through the storms of life, O God,
you are with your people
in the person of Jesus your Son.
Calm our fears and strengthen our faith
that we may never doubt his presence among us
but proclaim that he is your Son,
risen from the dead,
living for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Prayers of Intercession

Dear Lord,

We pray that you help us to work for you, like Peter who you called to be his rock.

Let us recognise that if we are to be strong, and work in the way you wish, we also

 have to recognise our weaknesses, and seek your help to aid us in our time of need.

 Lord in your mercy- hear our prayer.

 

We pray today for the church, throughout the world, 

That at these times of trouble, the church may come together in unity

 That it may demonstrate, that we are all part of the same body.

We pray for our Parish:  that we may work for all

We pray for those who are sad,  and for those  who feel  they are lost,

  in a meaningless world, that Christ may renew their faith and hope.

 Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer.

 

Let us  pray for the world,

We pray for peace in the world, especially in those countries where war and hatred of the other , has become a part of daily life.

We pray for all leaders and those whose decisions affect the lives of others

That they may take wise counsel, and listen to those with knowledge.

We pray that leaders will recognise that in order to choose the right way forward for all, they must consider those who have the least,  and need  the most ,

We pray they will follow your example when they are choosing the path to take..

Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer.

 

Let us pray for our own community

We pray for all leaders locally, we give thanks for all those who have stepped forward to help others, and care about the many people in our community who are less able to help themselves

We pray for those who are uncertain of the future, who are coping with insecurity.

Bless them and grant that they are given strength to carry on, and know that you are with them.

We pray for those whose work is fraught with anxiety, and for those who have lost their jobs.

We give thanks for those who are rocks supporting others in this difficult time.

Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer

 

Let us pray for those who are ill or in distress,

We pray for all those who are ill, and for those who tend to their needs. 

We pray for those whose work puts them at risk: may they find strength in

your love.

God our father, Bring healing to the sick and the distressed, and

to all those who are caring for them.

In particular we ask for your blessing on for Jane, Heidi, and Albert Bell; Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko, Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte, Jo Harvey, and Joshua Clark.

and in a moment of silence any others known to us .

Lord, in your mercy - Hear our prayer

 

Let us pray for the departed

We pray for all those who have died and those they leave behind, that they may know the presence of Christ beside them.

We pray for the souls of all those who have recently died,

 Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, And may light perpetual shine upon him.

We pray for all those who are bereaved, that you will surround them with your love.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

Lord in your mercy  -   Hear our prayer

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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Church Office,
14 Aug 2020, 05:08