Sunday 23rd August  

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

(Today we are without the music for the hymns as Doreen is unable to do the recording this week. I have included the words anyway, so you can read or sing to yourself, whichever you prefer. Doreen hopes to be back next week.)

 

Call to worship

When Jesus asked Simon Peter, he answered:

‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’.

Let us make the same bold answer,

And let us come to worship

Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

 

Hymn

CH4 132

1.      Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

In light inaccessible, hid from our eyes,

Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

Pavilioned in splendour, thy great name we praise.

 

2.      Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,

Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might:

Thy justice like mountains, high soaring above,

Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

 

3.      To all, life thou givest, to both great and small;

In all life thou livest, the true life of all;

We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,

And wither, and perish, but nought changes thee.

 

4.      Great Father of glory, pure father of light,

thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight.

All praise we would render, O help us to see

‘tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

  

Prayer

Lord, as we come into your presence to worship,

Still our hearts,

So that we may truly appreciate who you are.

We come before you to praise you,

Make us ready to listen to your word,

And ready to do great things in your strength

And for your kingdom.

Lord, we come to you

to say sorry for the things we have done that are wrong.

Thank you that you are always ready to forgive,

Help us to trust you enough to confess our sins to you.

Be merciful O God.

Forgive us for the times

When we do not always listen to what others have to say,

For the times when we go our own way.

Be merciful O God.

Forgive us for the times

When we do not listen to you Lord,

But instead turn away and listen only to the world.

Be merciful O God,

Be merciful and forgive us our sins.

Let’s continue our prayer by praying the words of the Lord’s Prayer…

Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

For ever and ever,

Amen.

 

Readings

Isaiah 51: 1 – 6

Matthew 16: 13 – 20

 

Reflection

Our passages today speak of the coming of God that will liberate his people. The people who are languishing in exile hear the prophet promising that God will rescue them and in Matthew’s gospel Peter’s confession reveals God’s plan to unite his people under the Messiah’s reign.

 

Isaiah 51: 1 – 6

This passage consists of two short instructions from God (vv.1-3 and 4-6) to ‘Listen up, people – for I have something important to say.’ A third begins at verse 7.

• The first is aimed at “those who pursue righteousness” and “seek the Lord”. These are the ones who are likely to be sympathetic to the Prophet’s message. They are urged to “look to the rock from which you were hewn”. The rock is, of course, Abraham. Look back and remember what happened. Abraham was childless and look how many there are of you now. Didn’t I promise this? Remember where you came from. I did not let you down, so why should I abandon you now? What I promise you is as good as done!

• The second is aimed beyond the Children of Israel and is a message for the whole of humankind: “teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples”. Some scholars interpret this as a message for wayward Jews, others that it is aimed at Gentiles.  Either way, it is directed beyond the ‘righteous’ and is a message for all those who have departed from, or have never known, the blessing of God. And the passage ends with echoes of the metaphors utilised in Psalm 124, this time in the form of vanishing smoke or the limited lifespan of a woven garment. We will “die like flies (or gnats depending on which translation you are reading)”, an allusion to the transience of all life.

 

Matthew 16: 13 – 20

Jesus has taken the disciples a long way north to the city of Caesarea Philippi. This is the seat of Roman rule through the puppet king – Herod the Great’s son, Philip. He had built the city, naming it as he did to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima where the Roman governor lived. Jesus went there to ask pointedly political questions about his identity.

Jesus asks the crowds “who do people say that I am” First on the list comes John the Baptist – executed by Philip’s brother – others include Elijah and Jeremiah who were seen as political troublemakers in their own time.   

Jesus then asks the disciples” who do you say I am?” Peter straight away says “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. In the shadow of the place of the seat of government, the place where there was a king residing, this was dangerous talk. But like the voice at the occasion of his baptism and on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus confirms that Peter has spoken God’s view on the matter.

And here Jesus describes Peter as ‘The Rock’ – but is it Peter or his confession which is ‘the rock’ on which Jesus will build his church? Surely it is the latter: the Church is founded on the simple confession of faith that Jesus is Lord. But this is not a religious matter, it is a political one. Caesar – the Roman emperor – was Lord and in his empire, there could only be one Lord. So, if Peter was saying that Jesus is Lord, then he is also saying that Caesar is not!

Perhaps even more startling is that Jesus says not only will he build his Church on this confession, but that not even death will be able to overcome it. They will be given the keys of the kingdom – is this to go in or come out, or to let others in? Whatever it is, it means that this small band will break out of Caesar’s empire and take many thousands of people with them. But not only will God’s people be set free by their confession if allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah, they will also hold the keys to God’s kingdom. In following the guidance of God, his followers will show the world the liberating message of the king they follow and of his kingdom, distinct from the restrictive rule of Caesar’s empire.

And then Jesus tells them all to keep this quiet – they are not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah- the time for that will come later!

  

Prayer

Listening God,

You call us to come to you with our prayers for others.

And we do so in a spirit of gratitude

for all the ways Your grace and mercy fill our lives

We thank You for creation,

and for all the blessings of this life,

and, most of all, for Your boundless love in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

our redeeming presence.

Give us a constant awareness of Your mercy.

Call us to take time to immerse ourselves in Your grace.

Make us aware of the signs and symbols of Your love in action.

Loving God,

in Jesus Christ You taught us to pray and to offer petitions to You in His name.

Guide us by Your Holy Spirit that our prayers for others may serve Your will.

You made all things in Your wisdom,

and, in your love, you save us.

So, we pray for all creation, that evil powers might be cast down,

that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness might be fed,

and that all Your children might enjoy in equal measure the fruits of Your world.

We pray for the Church.

Keep us one in faith and service,

so that Your Good News might be proclaimed,

and so that Your love and light may be beacons

of hope and purpose in the darkest places.

Lord we cannot love You fully unless we love our neighbours as ourselves.

So we pray for our enemies and our friends;

we pray for all those in need, in body, mind and spirit;

we pray for all who suffer from pain and sorrow;

especially any known to us whom we name before You now ...

 

God of compassion, bless us and those we love,

that, drawing close to You,

we may be drawn closer to each other.

And hold us always in communion with the Saints of all the ages,

especially those dear to us, in the one Kingdom of Your love

In Jesus’ name we pray

Amen

 

Hymn

CH4 139

1.      Praise the Lord, you heavens, adore him;

Praise him angels in the height;

Sun and moon rejoice before him,

Praise him all you stars and light.

 

2.      Praise the Lord for he has spoken;

Words his mighty voice obeyed;

Laws which never shall be broken

For their guidance he has made.

 

3.      Praise the Lord! For he is glorious;

never shall his promise fail;

God has made his saints victorious;

Sin and death will not prevail.

 

4.      Praise the God of our salvation!

Hosts on high his power proclaim;

Heaven, and earth, and a;; creation,

Laud and magnify his name.

 

Blessing

As we go now,

May our hearts be full of joy and amazement

So that we can share the good news of the gospel.

Go with us good Lord,

And help us to tell everyone who will listen,

Bless us , in Jesus’ name,

Amen.