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Sunday 30th August 2020 Trinity 12

posted 14 Aug 2020, 05:14 by Church Office   [ updated 1 Sep 2020, 04:00 ]
You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Sunday 30th August 2020

 Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

There are those who will tell you that following God will bring you security and contentment, and it will, but not perhaps in the way we expect.  Today the prophet Jeremiah is having a moan (as usual) God tells him to suck it up.  Life will still be hard, your enemies will still attack you, but that’s OK, because, even through all this, I’ve got you.  Jesus’ message to the disciples is similar: they will know joy and freedom but this will come not through power and might but instead through suffering and humility and self-sacrifice.  Unsurprisingly they do not understand.  Jesus tells them the truth: it is in giving away ourselves that we become ourselves – the way of the cross, the losing of self for love, is the path to God’s kingdom. 

Readings

Jeremiah 15:15-21 

15 O Lord, you know;
    remember me and visit me,
    and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance do not take me away;
    know that on your account I suffer insult.
16 Your words were found, and I ate them,
    and your words became to me a joy
    and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
    O Lord, God of hosts.
17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
    nor did I rejoice;
under the weight of your hand I sat alone,
    for you had filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain unceasing,
    my wound incurable,
    refusing to be healed?
Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
    like waters that fail.

19 Therefore thus says the Lord:
If you turn back, I will take you back,
    and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
    you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you,
    not you who will turn to them.
20 And I will make you to this people
    a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
    but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
    to save you and deliver you,
says the Lord.
21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
    and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:21-28 

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

Sermon

The night before I celebrated my first Mass, I was in church practising: what to say, what to do, when to lift the chalice, what hand to use to make the sign of blessing.  There were so many things to get wrong and I really wanted to get it right.  Whilst I practised, I prayed and my prayer was “please Lord don’t let me be a stumbling block.  Please don’t let me get in the way, please don’t let my presence be the thing that keeps people from experiencing your presence.”

Well that prayer was not answered. 

The First Mass went fine – as far as I remember I did not drop the host or spill the blood of Christ (though I have done both since).  But, nevertheless, I was a stumbling a block.

I knew that there were people in the worshipping community who did not accept women’s priesthood, who wanted a male priest and so, you know, I couldn’t help but be a stumbling block because there really wasn’t anything that I could do about being me.

I am sure that I have often been a stumbling block for reasons other than my gender – but that particular stumbling block was a given.  And so I had to live with it and so did you. 

There was a particular couple who would not receive communion from me for three whole years.  They had principles and they were sticking to them. 

What was beautiful about that was that they continued to work and worship with me, their stumbling block.  We did not try to persuade each other of the rights or wrongs of the ordination of women but they did not storm off in disgust, they did not only come to church when a male priest was officiating, they continued to be very much a part of the community, I continued to be a part of the community – it was not always comfortable.

Then one day they started to receive communion from me, I was still the same me, still female, I hadn’t changed, but for some reason I was no longer a stumbling block for them: I didn’t ask why, they didn’t tell, I was just grateful.

Many, many years later I was having lunch with one of those same parishioners and she told me that she changed her mind, not about women priests (she was still clear that they were an abomination) but about this particular woman priest, me. 

As we talked, I pondered why, if I could be loved by God and called by God and, on a good day, be used by God for God’s work, why couldn’t another woman, say her?  She burst into tears. 

Last week Jesus called Peter the rock on which he would build his church.  This week he calls him a stumbling block.  He is still the same Peter this week that he was last week, he hasn’t changed.

The stumbling block is still a rock it’s just a rock that’s in the way. 

The question is in the way of what?

Canon Jeffrey John was chosen to be a Bishop in the Oxford Diocese back in gosh I guess around 2004??  All hell broke loose.  A few weeks later Jeffrey stood down. He had been persuaded that if he did indeed become a Bishop he would be a stumbling block in the path of church unity.  Jeffrey John is gay.

If Jeffrey had become a Bishop he may well have been a stumbling block to church unity but he might also have been a rock on which a more inclusive and more Christ shaped church could be built.  In the words of James Finley, maybe what is IN the way IS the way.

Perhaps the only time we stop to think about whether or not the path we are headed down is really the path of God, the cross shaped path that Christ calls us to follow him on, or maybe some other path entirely, a path upholding the status quo, an unchallenging path, a secure and certain path, is when we stumble.

Stumbling blocks challenge us, they hurt, they make us trip and fall.  We don’t like them.  But we need them.  

The times of greatest growth in my life have been the times when I have literally been brought to my knees, when I have fallen and fallen hard.

No one wants to trip and fall.  And no one wants to be the person who makes another trip and fall.  But sometimes we need a stumbling block and sometimes we need to be the stumbling block.  And sometimes all of us, the ones who are stumbling and the ones who are being stumbled over need to stop and reflect together on whether the path that we are stumbling down is actually the right path, a path which is cross-shaped, a path which does not avoid suffering and struggle but which is broad enough for all God’s children.  Or whether what is the IN the way maybe IS the way after all.

 

Prayers

God, you are the power of liberation,
calling your servant Moses
to lead your people into freedom,
and giving him the wisdom to proclaim your holy law.
Be our Passover from the land of injustice,
be the light that leads us to the perfect rule of love,
that we may be citizens of your unfettered reign;
we ask this through Jesus Christ,
the pioneer of our salvation. Amen.


Prayers of intercession

Let us pray to God through his Son and in the power of the Spirit

Your Son told his disciples that whoever lost their life for his sake would find it. We give thanks for churches which give much of themselves for the Kingdom and which risk their own security for the greater good. Mould your church into a people worthy of your Kingdom. Grant them your strength of purpose.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son asked his disciples to take up their cross. We remember all who take up crosses on behalf of others - in Belarus, in Libya, in Syria and in Yemen. We pray for those who defend criminals to ensure justice is done, those who care for people who are physically or emotionally frail. Grant them your love

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son challenged Peter to think of heavenly rather than earthly things. As schools return this coming week we remember  the children, staff, governors and helpers in Bonneville and Macaulay schools and Lambeth Academy. May they embrace the higher goals of learning and friendship in this time of fear and uncertainty. Grant them your wisdom.

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son was weighed down carrying his own cross. We pray for all who follow him in pain and suffering. By name we remember:

 Jane Bell, Heidi Bell, Albert Bell, Sara Carter, Ruby Mitchell, Monika Maciejko,  Jane Taylor, Linda Parker, Christine Harris, Jane Roberts, Damien Harte,  Joshua Clarke and,  Jonathan Aubrey. Grant them – and all who care for them – your compassion

Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Your Son pointed the disciples to the Day of Resurrection.We give thanks for the lives of those who have gone before us in faith, among them Rev Nick Richards whose anniversary of death falls around this time.  We remember too Mercy Beguma, the asylum seeker who died in Scotland this week. Grant them your peace.

 Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer

Rejoicing in the company of Aidan, Gregory the Great and the whole of creation we commend these prayers to God who is love.

Merciful God, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our saviour Jesus Christ, Amen

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Church Office,
14 Aug 2020, 05:14