Sunday 30th August

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

23 weeks since lockdown and we were able to worship together in the church building

 

Call to worship

God calls us to worship in spirit and in truth,

With both deep sadness and indescribable hope,

As we reflect on all that Jesus went through for us,

And praise God who gores beyond all expectations.

 

Hymn

CH4 211

1.      Today I awake and God is before me.

At night, as I dreamt, he summoned the day;

For God never sleeps but patterns the morning

With slithers of gold or glory in grey.

 

2.      Today I arise, and Christ is beside me.

He walked through the dark to scatter new light.

Yes, Christ is alive, and beckons his people

To hope and to heal, resist, and invite.

 

3.      Today I affirm the Spirit within me

At worship and work, in struggle and rest.

The Spirit inspires all life which is changing

From fearing to faith, from broken to blest.

 

4.      Today I enjoy the Trinity round me,

Above and beneath, before and behind;

The Maker, the Son, the Spirit together –

They called me to life and called me their friend.

 

Prayer

Creator God,

You have created all things good.

Nothing is beyond Your reach or Your redemption.

You are the God of the whole universe,

of all of creation and yet You are mindful of us.

You call on us to reveal Your presence

and to speak of Your faithfulness from generation to generation.

Wherever we gather,

You are there.

You were there before we arrived and will be there when we leave.

Your presence makes every space a sacred space.

You delight in our praise and rejoice in all Your people

who find a way to acknowledge Your presence in our world and in our lives.

May our worship bring us back to You

and increase our awareness of Your beating heart at the centre of life,

calming our fears and restoring our souls,

knowing ourselves beloved of God,

united with all Your creatures in heaven and on earth.

We confess Lord God that often our eyes are so downcast

that we fail to discern your presence all around.

We confess that, even when your presence is astounding,

we can be so wrapped up in ourselves that we fail to notice.

We confess that we have missed opportunities to witness

to the presence of your spirit at work in our lives and in the lives of others.

We confess that we rarely live up to the marks of being Christian

by grasping too tightly all that we have

and by excluding others from our tightly drawn circle.

Forgive us, O God.

Lift our eyes to see You everywhere.

Draw us out of ourselves to discern Your presence all around.

Give us boldness to proclaim Your works.

Release us from the boundaries we set ourselves,

freeing us to love and welcome others in Your name.

Commission us anew, in the light of Your forgiveness

to draw attention to You in all of life.

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

Our Father who 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 for give u 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

Jeremiah 15: 15 – 21

Matthew 16: 21 – 28

 

Reflection

Jeremiah 15: 15 – 21

Jeremiah has complained to God, things have not been going well, Jeremiah wishes he had never been born, he has to argue with everyone, and everyone curses him even though he doesn’t owe anyone any money, nor has he borrowed anything that he cannot pay back. Despite this Jeremiah has continued to serve the Lord, despite the curses given to him by others he has pleaded on their behalf to the Lord. The Lord tells Jeremiah that he will send enemies to carry off the wealth and treasures of the people as punishment for their sins. The people will have to serve their enemies in a land that they know nothing about because the Lord is angry. But Jeremiah is not entirely happy with this arrangement. He wants revenge on those who have persecuted him. “Remember me and help me. Let me have revenge on those who persecute me. Do not be so patient with them that they succeed in killing me. Remember it is for your sake that I am insulted” so says Jeremiah to the Lord (v15) which is the beginning of our passage today. Jeremiah reminds God that he has listened to his every word, but still he is suffering, and his wounds will not heal. God replies telling Jeremiah to repent, not for a few honest words spoken out of pain and anger, but for his deep involvement in the wound of his nation and his failure to be God’s messenger to Judah. It is clear from Jeremiah’s prayer that he is still more concerned about his own status and reputation than the fate of his neighbours.

How much of this is true of us?   

 

Matthew 16: 21 – 28

Warren Buffett, though a billionaire, did not lavish money on his children. How easy it must

have been for his children to presume they were destined to be in clover forever. How easy

it must have been for Buffett to consider paying, painlessly, for all their needs for all their lives. Buffett was wise in his withholding, it seems. His children, compelled to be outside any

sumptuous bubble learned to live life by the sweat of their brows and the graft of their hands. And they are the wiser and more fulfilled for it. In terms of riches, their father’s

almost limitless wealth might have suggested he and his children could have had the earth.

But, to borrow Jesus’ words, “What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but

forfeit their life?”

“Self-denying, cross-carrying, life-losers”. It does not sound much of an enticing recruitment

slogan for disciples, but it is the only one worth having. God’s grace is sumptuous and God’s

blessings priceless. Peter thought that his confession meant that Jesus was the conquering Messiah who would lead his army to drive the Romans into the sea and take back the land. Not so, says Jesus. It means more suffering and rejection. Peter is having none of it and suddenly we are back in the desert of temptation with Jesus rebuking the devil who would seek to divert him from his mission.

The first mention of crosses is not the one Jesus will lift – he talks only of his suffering – it is the one that any who follow him must take up. There is real risk of suffering if we follow Jesus. But there is also hope of finding the only true rewarding life (vv 25 – 26) It is not by clinging on to things that matter to us or the place we have carved out for ourselves in the world – all these things result in us forfeiting our lives – it is in losing everything that we find what we long for.

Finally, Jesus refers to himself as ‘Son of Man’. He does this when he is making a significant statement about his identity. It is almost certainly derived from Daniel 7 where the prophet sees one like a son of man ascending on the clouds and coming to God to be given all authority, an authority that he proceeds to share with those who are with him.

The clue to what Jesus is saying here is in the final perhaps puzzling verse (v28). Some suggest that this refers to the Transfiguration where some of the disciples see Jesus in his glory (Matthew 17, taking place just six days after the events in today’s passage). But it is more likely that this refers to those who witness his death and resurrection. As he comes to the cross and from the grave he is coming into his kingdom.

Jesus’ kingship is born of suffering on behalf of a world that needs a story more powerful than one of a conqueror on a white charger. It needs the story of one who liberates and overcomes through suffering – through the cross.

Discipleship is a commitment to live not on the basis of reward for faith but, rather, despite

the lack of any obvious reward. Otherwise, our following is self-centred and ultimately

flawed. Warren Buffett’s withholding of riches from his children was, they recognised in the

end, the loving thing to do: the only route they could find to fulfilment. That God requires

followers of Jesus to live as self-denying, cross-carrying, life-losers is strangely similar.

 

Prayer

We pray for the church and for the world.

We pray for people the world over

Who find themselves in difficult situations,

Those in places of war,

Those who are refugees,

Those who are hungry,

Those who mourn,

Those who struggle with life on a daily basis,

Those who are sick whether in body, mind or spirit.

We pray that they would all have someone to care for them

And we lift them before you.

Merciful God,

Hear our prayer.

 

We pray for all who are persecuted for their faith:

For all who are misunderstood,

For asylum seekers who flee real danger in their homeland.

We pray for those who work tirelessly to address in justice.

Merciful God

Hear our prayer.

 

We pray for those whose lives don’t always work out right,

Whether through their doing or through no fault of their own.

Merciful God

Hear our prayer.

 

We pray for the people in our lives

Who need your protection Lord.

Keep them safe in your love.

Lord, may we continue to serve you and to love you,

To follow you and to share the good news of your gospel of love.

Merciful God,

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,

Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,

Amen.

 

Hymn

CH4 402

1.      ‘Take up your cross’ the Saviour said,

‘if you would my disciple be;

Take up your cross with willing heart

And humbly follow after me.’

 

2.      Take up your cross; let not its weight

Fill your weak soul with vain alarm:

His strength shall bear your spirit up

And brace your heart and nerve your arm.

 

3.      Take up your cross, nor heed the shame,

And let your foolish pride be still:

The Lord refused not even to die

Upon a cross, on Calvary’s hill.

 

4.      Take up your cross, then, in his strength,

And calmly every danger brave;

It guides you to a better home,

And leads to victory o’er the grave.

 

5.      Take up your cross, and follow Christ,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only those who bear the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

 

Blessing

Loving Lod, thank you that you are with us always.

As we go now, back to our daily task,

May we remember to look to you and to listen to you

In the good times and the tough times.

Guide us Lord and bless us as we go in your name,

Amen.