Weekly Church Service – Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost: 18 October 2020


Sentence

Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. Matthew 22:21                                                                                                 


Collect

Almighty and everlasting God,

in Christ you have revealed your glory among 

the nations: grant that your church throughout

the world may persevere with steadfast faith

in proclaiming the cross to be the way that

leads to life eternal; through Jesus Christ our

Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 33:12-23
  • Psalm 99
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
  • Matthew 22:15-33

next week

  • Deut 34:1-12
  • Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13
  • Matthew 22:34-46

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 20 Matthew 22:15-33

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

In today’s Gospel, two opponents of Jesus, the Pharisees and Herodians (supporters of Herod’s dynasty), join forces to trap Jesus. If Jesus affirms that taxes should be paid, he alienates the religious nationalists; if he denies that taxes should be paid, then he is subject to arrest by the Romans as a political revolutionary. But the very fact that his inquisitors could produce the emperor’s coin from one of their purses was to admit a Roman obligation: If one used the sovereign’s coin then one automatically took on an obligation to the sovereign; in other words, the Pharisees and Herodians, in trying to trap Jesus, answered their own question. But Jesus takes the debate to an even higher level by challenging them to be just as observant in paying their debt to God.

The confrontation over Caesar’s coin is not a solution to any church-versus-state controversy; Jesus’ response to the Pharisees confronts them – and us – with the demand to act out of our convictions and to take responsibility for our actions.  

Jesus appeals to us to look beyond the simplistic politics and black-and-white legalisms represented by the coin and realise that we are called to embrace the values centered in a faith that sees the hand of God in all things and every human being as part of a single family under the providence of God.  

The Pharisees who confront Jesus with Caesar’s coin are trying to trap him into making a choice between one’s country and God. But Jesus’ response indicates that one’s citizenship does not have to be at odds with one’s faith; in fact, when government seeks to provide for the just welfare of its citizens, it becomes a vehicle for establishing the reign of God.

God and Caesar do not have to be at odds, Jesus tells the Pharisees. In God, we realise the dignity of every man, woman and child as sons and daughters of God and our brothers and sisters; in setting up systems of government, we provide for the common good of one another and protect the welfare of all, providing for public safety, educational opportunities and clean water and air.  Jesus’ answers are not the clear, unambiguous solutions we hope for to these and many other questions. But his response is the heart of living our faith: the struggle to return to God what is God’s. Through prayer and discernment, each one of us has to do for ourselves the hard work of deciding exactly what is God’s will in our complex world of politics, money and human relationships.                  

                                                                                       © Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Pentecost 20 A

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Pentecost-20-A

Weekly Church Service – Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost: 11 October 2020


Sentence

This is our God for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:9                                                                                                        


Collect

Saving and healing God,

you have promised that those who have died 

with Christ shall live with him: grant us grace

to be continually thankful for all you have done

for us, and in that thankfulness to be eager to

serve and live for others,

so that we and all your children may rejoice in

your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy 

Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 32:1-14
  • Psalm 106:1-6, 20-24
  • Philippians 4
  • Matthew 22:1-14

next week

  • Exodus 33:12-23
  • Psalm 99
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
  • Matthew 22:15-33

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 19 Matthew 22:1-14

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son: ‘Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast … Go into the main roads and invite whomever you find …” “When the king came to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But the man was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast is another illustration of Israel’s rejection of God’s promise. The invitation is therefore extended to everyone – Gentiles, foreigners and those who do not know God – to come to the Lord’s table. (Matthew’s readers would see the “destruction of those murderers” and the “burning of their city” as references to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.)

Jesus tells a second parable within the parable of the wedding feast. The wedding garment is the conversion of heart and mind required for entry into the kingdom. The Christian who does not wear this mantle of repentance and good deeds will suffer the same fate as those who reject outright the invitation to the wedding. As the apostle Paul writes (Romans 13: 14), we must “put on” the garment of Christ.

God has invited each of us to his Son’s wedding feast: the fullness of God’s life in the resurrection. The only obstacle is our inability to hear his invitation amid the noisy activity that consumes our time and attention.

God invites all his children to his table – distinctions drawn according to economic class or influence, discrimination by race or origin, reservations due to mental or physical ability disappear at the banquet of the Father. In order to be able to take our own place at God’s table, we must first realise God’s vision for the human family at our own tables. 

The parables of the king’s wedding feast and wedding garment confront us with the reality that we cannot be Christian without conversion; we cannot come to the feast of heaven while remaining indifferent to the empty plates before so many of the world’s children; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we cannot love those we can see.  

The wedding garment of today’s Gospel is the garment of good works we make for ourselves for the Lord’s banquet: the garment sewn of repentance, joyful expectation and humble service to others.

                                                                                       © Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Pentecost 19 A

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Pentecost-19-A

Weekly Church Service – Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost: 4 October 2020


Sentence

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. Matthew 21:33-46                                                                                                            


Collect

Almighty God,

your Son Jesus was the stone rejected by the 

builders, and, by your doing, he has been made

the chief cornerstone: grant that, by the power of

his Spirit working in us, we may become living 

stones built up into your dwelling place,

a temple holy and acceptable to you;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
  • Psalm 19
  • Philippians 3
  • Matthew 21:33-46

next week

  • Exodus 32:1-14
  • Psalm 106:1-6, 20-24
  • Philippians 4
  • Matthew 22:1-14

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 18 Matthew 21:33-46

The parable of the vineyard owner and his murderous tenants: “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruits.”

Today’s Gospel parable “updates” Isaiah’s allegory of the friend’s vineyard (Reading 1). God is the owner of the vineyard who has “leased” the property to the religious and political leaders of Israel. Many servants (prophets) were sent to the tenants, but all met the same fate. The owner 

finally sends his own son, who is brutally murdered “outside” the vineyard (a prediction of his crucifixion outside the city of Jerusalem?). With this parable, Jesus places himself in the line of the rejected prophets. The owner finally comes himself and destroys the tenants and leaves the vineyard to others (the Church) who yield an abundant harvest. This parable is intended to give hope and encouragement to Matthew’s Christian community, which is scorned and persecuted by its staunchly Jewish neighbours.

Fear, selfishness and bigotry can kill whatever chances we have of turning our part of God’s vineyard into something productive; but, through justice, generosity and compassion, we can reap a rich and fulfilling harvest, regardless of how small or poor or insignificant our piece of the vineyard is.

Too often we see this “vineyard” God has given us as ours alone, and we will manipulate it, abuse it, and exhaust it to satisfy our own needs and pleasure — like the tenants in the today’s parable, we will find some way to cut down whoever challenges us or calls us accountable.  

Like the tenants in today’s parable, we are too quick to reject whatever scares us or threatens us, whatever we don’t understand, whatever challenges us and the safe little worlds we have created for ourselves. In Christ, God calls us to look beyond the “stones” of our fears and welcome Christ (in whatever guise he may appear) into this vineyard of ours, aware that he calls us to the demanding conversion of the Gospel but determined to sow and reap the blessings of God’s reign.     

Christ the Messiah comes with a new, transforming vision for our “vineyard”: a vision of love rather than greed, of peace rather than hostility, of forgiveness rather than vengeance, a vision that enables us to reconcile even the ugliest and smelliest dragon among us.  

                                                                                       © Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Pentecost 18

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Pentecost-18-A

Weekly Church Service – Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost: 27 September 2020


Sentence

Come, let us return to the Lord, that we may live before him. Hosea 6:1a, 2b                                                                                                             


Collect

Grant, O merciful God,

that your people may have that mind that was in

Christ Jesus, who emptied himself, and took the

form of a servant,

and in humility became obedient even to death.

For you have highly exalted him

and bestowed on him the name

that is above every name, Jesus Christ, the Lord;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, in everlasting glory. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 17:1-7
  • Psalm 78:1-4, 11-16
  • Philippians 2
  • Matthew 21:23-32

next week

  • Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
  • Psalm 19
  • Philippians 3
  • Matthew 21:33-46

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 17 Matthew 21:23-32

The parable of the two sons: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.”

Today’s parable of the two sons is a devastating condemnation of the Jewish religious leaders whose faith is confined to words and rituals.  Jesus states unequivocally that those the self-righteous consider to be the very antithesis of religious will be welcomed by God into his presence before the “professional” religious.

Prostitutes and tax collectors were the most despised outcasts in Judaism.  In light of the First Testament tradition of God’s relationship with Israel as a “marriage” and Israel’s disloyalty as “harlotry,” prostitution was considered an especially heinous sin.  Tax collectors were, in the eyes of Palestinian Jews, the very personification of corruption and theft.  According to the Roman system of tax collection, tax collectors (also called publicans) would pay the state a fixed sum based on the theoretical amount of taxes due from a given region.  The publican, in return, had the right to collect the taxes in that region – and they were not above using terrorism and extortion to collect.  Tax collectors, as agents of the state, were also shunned as collaborators with Israel’s Roman captors.

Jesus’ declaration that those guilty of the most abhorrent of sins would enter God’s kingdom before them deepened the Jewish establishment’s animosity toward Jesus.  

Jesus’ simple story of the two sons takes the Gospel out of the realm of the “theoretical” and places the mercy of God into the midst of our messy, complicated everyday lives.  Compassion, forgiveness and mercy are only words until our actions give full expression to those values in our relationships with others; our calling ourselves Christians and disciples of Jesus means nothing until our lives express that identity in the values will uphold and the beliefs we live.  

The words of the Gospel must be lived; Jesus’ teachings on justice, reconciliation and love must be the light that guides us, the path we walk, the prayer we work to make a reality.  Discipleship begins within our hearts, where we realize Christ’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others and then honouring that presence in meaningful acts of compassion and charity.   

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shatters labels and stereotypes in order to uphold the sacred dignity of all men and women in the eyes of God.  Christ calls us to move beyond our own contemporary version of the designations of “tax collector” and “prostitute” to recognize, instead, the holiness that resides within the soul of every person, who is, like us, a child of God.   

                                                                                       © Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Pentecost 17

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Pentecost-17-A

Weekly Church Service – Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost: 20 September 2020


Sentence

By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9


Collect

Loving and righteous God,

your boundless generosity exceeds 

all that we can desire or deserve,

and you give to the last worker all you promised to the first: 

liberate us from all jealousy and greed,

that we may be free to love and serve others,

and in your service may find our true reward;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 16:2-15
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
  • Philippians 1
  • Matthew 20:1-16

next week

  • Exodus 17:1-7
  • Psalm 78:1-4, 11-16
  • Philippians 2
  • Matthew 21:23-32

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 16 Matthew 20:1-16

The parable of the generous vineyard owner: “Are you envious because I am generous? Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

The parable of the generous vineyard owner (which appears only in Matthew’s Gospel) is the first of several parables and exhortations challenging the Pharisees and scribes and those who criticised Jesus for preaching to tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus makes two points in this parable:

First, the parable speaks of the primacy of compassion and mercy in the kingdom of God. The employer (God) responds to those who have worked all day that he has been just in paying them the agreed-upon wage; they have no grievance if he chooses to be generous to others. God’s goodness and mercy transcends the narrow and limited laws and logic of human justice; it is not the amount of service given but the attitude of love and generosity behind that service.

The parable also illustrates the universality of the new Church. The contracted workers, Israel, will be joined by the new “migrant workers,” the Gentiles, who will share equally in the joy of the kingdom of God.

Today’s Gospel strikes at our tendency to judge everything and everyone in terms of how it affects me. How someone else benefits or is lifted up doesn’t matter — myhurt feelings trump their joy. Christ calls us to embrace the vision of the generous vineyard owner: to rejoice in the good fortune of others and their being enabled to realise their dreams, instead of lamenting our own losses and slights.  

We have our scales, yardsticks, actuary tables and market indices to measure what is just and what is not; but God is generous, loving and forgiving with an extravagance that sometimes offends our sense of justice and fair play.

Christ calls us to look beyond labels like “tax collector” and “prostitute” and seek out and lift up the holiness and goodness that reside in every person who is, like each one of us, a child of God. The parable of the generous vineyard owner invites us to embrace the vision of God that enables us to welcome everyone to the work of the harvest, to rejoice in God’s blessings to all, to help one another reap the bounty of God’s vineyard.

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

Sorry no sermon recorded this week

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Pentecost-16-A

Weekly Church Service – Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost: 13 September 2020


Sentence

If you, O Lord, should note what we do wrong, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. Ps 130:3-4


Collect

O God,

you call your Church to witness

that in Christ we are reconciled to you:

help us so to proclaim the good news of your love

that all who hear it may turn to you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 14:19-31
  • Psalm 114
  • Romans 14:1-14
  • Matthew 18:21-35

next week

  • Exodus 16:2-15
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
  • Philippians 1
  • Matthew 20:1-16

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 15 Matthew 18:21-35

The parable of the unforgiving debtor: “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives one another from your heart.”

The cutting edge of Jesus’ teaching on love is that nothing is unforgivable, nor should there be limits to forgiveness.  

It is ironic that Peter should ask the question about forgiveness that introduces the parable of the merciless steward, since Peter himself will be so generously forgiven by Jesus for his denial of Jesus on Good Friday. It was common rabbinical teaching that one must forgive another three times; the fourth time, the offender was not to be forgiven. Perhaps Peter was anticipating Jesus’ response to his question by suggesting seven rather than the conventional three times; but Jesus responds there should be no limit to the number of times we must be ready to forgive those who wrong us (“seventy times seven times”), just as there is no limit to the Father’s forgiveness of us.  

As the king in the parable withdraws his forgiveness of his servant because of the servant’s failure to forgive another, so will God withdraw his forgiveness of the unforgiving and merciless among us. God’s forgiveness is not entirely unconditional: if we do not share it, we will lose it. What is going on within our own heart? Is it rigid or open? Is it full of resentment or compassion? 

To forgive as God forgives means to intentionally act to purge the wrong that exists between us and those who harm us, to take the first, second and last steps toward bridging divisions, to work to mend broken relationships and to welcome and accept the forgiven back into our lives. It also means recognising those times when this is not possible because the other party is not willing to budge.    

Forgiveness requires empathy, the ability to place ourselves in the place of the other to see the situation from their perspective. To realise the reconciling peace of Jesus begins with overcoming our own anger and discontent at the injustice waged against us and focusing our attention, instead, on the person who has wronged us. Is there something I’ve missed? Is there something I could do differently? Do I have the humility to face the hurt I have inflicted on others as a result of my insensitivity and self-centredness?  

Before our merciful Father in heaven, every one of us is an insolvent debtor – but the great mystery of our faith is God continues to love us, continues to call us back to him, continues to seek not retribution but reconciliation with us. All God asks of us is that we forgive one another as he forgives us, to help one another back up when we stumble just as God lifts us back up.

The Risen Christ calls us to seek reconciliation that transforms and re-creates: forgiveness that is joyfully offered and humbly but confidently sought; forgiveness that transforms the estranged and separated into family and community; forgiveness that overcomes our own anger at the injustice waged against us and focuses on healing the relationship with the person who wronged us and broke that relationship. Christ-like reconciliation also means possessing the humility to face the hurt we have inflicted on others as a result of our insensitivity and self-centredness.

© Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

  •     Pentecost 15

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Pentecost-15-A

Weekly Church Service – Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost: 6 September 2020


Sentence

‘Where two or three are gathered in my name,’ says the Lord, ‘I am there among them.’ Matthew 18:20  


Collect

Go before us, O Lord,

and further us with your continual help,

that in all our works,

begun, continued, and ended in you,

we may glorify your holy name,

and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the 

Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 12:1-14
  • Psalm 149
  • Romans 13:1-10
  • Matthew 18:10-20

next week

  • Exodus 14:19-31
  • Psalm 114
  • Romans 14:1-14
  • Matthew 18:21-35

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 14 Matthew 18:10-20

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone … If he does not listen, take two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church …“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel is a collection of Jesus’ sayings on the practical challenges facing the Christian community, including status-seeking, scandal, division, and the topic of today’s reading conflict.

Today’s Gospel reading sounds more like regulations devised by an ecclesiastical committee than a discourse by Jesus (this chapter has been called the “church-order discourse” of Jesus). But the real point of Jesus’ exhortation is that we must never tolerate any breech of personal relationship between us and another member of the Christian community. At each stage of the process – personal discussion, discussion before witnesses, discussion before the whole community – the goal is to win the erring Christian back to the community (the three-step process of reconciliation outlined by Jesus here corresponds to the procedure of the Qumran community).

Jesus’ exhortation closes with a promise of God’s presence in the midst of every community, regardless of size, bound together by faith.

Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel not to tolerate the dysfunction in our lives or allow our judgements and disappointments to isolate us from others, but to confront those problems, misunderstandings and issues that divide us, grieve us, embitter us.  

Today’s Gospel outlines a process of reconciliation among divided members of a community. Jesus calls his hearers to seek honesty and sincerity in all relationships, to put aside self-interest, anger and wounded pride, and take the first step in healing the rifts that destroy the sense of love that binds family and friends, church and community – the love of Christ is the “debt” that binds us to one another.

In the “rules” and “procedures” for bringing sinners back to the community he lays out in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to build communities that are inclusive, not exclusive: to bring the lost back, not out of pride or zealousness, but out of “the debt that binds us to love one another.”

Today’s exhortation by Jesus is designed to help us create and maintain households of love and forgiveness and communities of reconciliation and peace, where even the smallest and youngest and least able to contribute are as welcomed and honoured as we would welcome and honour Christ himself.  Christ promises that whenever we gather in his name, he is in our midst. Sometimes it requires an extra sharp and focused vision of faith to realise and recognize Christ with us, but he is always there. Christ’s presence should move us, inspire us, transform us into a community of disciples and witnesses of his resurrection.  © Connections/MediaWorks   

Sermon

  •     Pentecost 14

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Pentecost-14-A

Weekly Church Service – Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost: 30 August 2020


Sentence

If you want to become a disciple of Jesus, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him.  Matthew 16:24-25 


Collect

O God,

whose Son has shown the way of the cross

to be the way of life:

transform and renew our minds

that we may not be conformed to this world

but may offer ourselves wholly to you as a living

sacrifice through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy 

Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 3:1-15
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26
  • Romans 12:9-21
  • Matthew 16:21-28

next week

  • Exodus 12:1-14
  • Psalm 149
  • Romans 13:1-10
  • Matthew 18:10-20

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 13 Matthew 16:21-28

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Peter’s confession of faith (last Sunday’s Gospel) begins a new phase of Matthew’s Gospel.  As he makes his way to Jerusalem, Jesus’ teachings will now be addressed primarily to his disciples on the events and work that awaits them in Jerusalem – and beyond.

The hostility between Jesus and the leaders of Judaism is about to reach the crisis stage.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims unambiguously that his mission as the Messiah includes suffering and death.  Peter is sharply rebuked by Jesus for his seemingly innocent remark that Jesus should be spared such a fate, but Jesus sees Peter’s refusal to accept such a possibility as a “satanic” attempt to deflect the Messiah from his mission of redemption.  To avoid suffering and hardship in order to opt for the easy and safe course is purely human thinking, an obstacle to experiencing the life of the Spirit. Authentic discipleship involves taking on the cross and “denying oneself” – disowning ourselves as the centre of our existence and realizing that God is the object and purpose of our lives.

Jesus asks his disciples to detach from the ephemeral and shallow in order to attach to the lasting, fulfilling things of God: compassion, reconciliation, justice.  

The cross that Jesus asks his followers to take up is not a cross that cedes to crucifixion but a cross that is the means to resurrection.  In embracing Jesus’ spirit of humble servanthood and compassion, we take up his cross, not out of a sense of self-loathing or pessimism, but out of a sense of conviction and hope that the demands of the cross will result in the life and love of the Easter promise.

It’s a natural and understandable reaction to avoid whatever is unpleasant, uncomfortable, stressful, hurtful.  In today’s Gospel, Peter simply wants to protect Jesus from the suffering that awaits — but Jesus sharply rebukes Peter for trying to diminish or skirt the cross because it is difficult.  To take up one’s cross is not a “battle” of good over evil but a means for bringing God’s promise of resurrection into our lives and the loves of those we love.   Christ urges us to “lose” that part of our life that is centred in ephemeral, perishable things so that we may “gain” lives grounded in the love of God: to lose our anger, our disappointment, our need for control in order to find meaning and purpose in doing for others and contributing to the common good.  In “dying” to ourselves we become something greater; in letting go of the temporary and the fleeting we become richer; in the suffering we endure we become stronger, in the failures we experience we become wiser.     © Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

No sermon recorded today.

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Pentecost-13-A

Weekly Church Service – Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost: 23 August 2020


Sentence

Jesus said to them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’ Matthew 16:15-16 


Collect

O God, fount of all wisdom,

in the humble witness of the apostle Peter

you have shown the foundation of our faith:

give us the light of your Spirit,

that, recognising in Jesus of Nazareth

the Son of the living God,

we may be living stones

for the building up of your holy Church;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the

Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Exodus 1:8-2:10
  • Psalm 124
  • Romans 12:1-8
  • Matthew 16:13-20

next week

  • Exodus 3:1-15
  • Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26
  • Romans 12:9-21
  • Matthew 16:21-28

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 12 Matthew 16:13-20

Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”  
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
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.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . . ”


In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter’s confession of faith is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus will now concentrate on preparing his disciples to take on the teaching ministry and leadership of the Church he will establish.

The scene of today’s Gospel, Caesarea Philippi, was the site of temples dedicated to no less than 14 different pagan gods, ranging from the Syrian god Baal to Pan, the Greek god of nature.  In the middle of the city was a great white temple built by Herod and dedicated to the “divinity” of Caesar (hence the name of the city).  In the midst of this marketplace of gods and temples, Jesus first indicates his plans and hopes for his church.

Jesus “sets up” Peter’s declaration of faith by asking his disciples what people are saying about him.  Many believed that Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptizer or the long-awaited return of the prophets Elijah or Jeremiah (Malachi 4: 5-6), whose return would signal the restoration of Israel.  Simon Peter, however, has been given the gift of faith (“flesh and blood has not revealed this to you”) and unequivocally states that Jesus is the Messiah.

Jesus blesses Simon with the new name of “rock” (Kepha in Aramaic,Petros in Greek), indicating that his faith will be the foundation for Jesus’ new Church.  Peter is entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (an image drawn from Isaiah 22: 15-25, today’s first reading) and the mission to bring sins to consciousness and to proclaim to sinners the love and forgiveness of God.

The question Jesus poses to Peter and his disciples is asked of us every minute of every day.  Every decision we make is ultimately a response to the question, Who do you say I am?  Our love for family and friends, our dedication to the cause of justice, our commitment to the highest moral and ethical standards, our taking the first step toward reconciliation and forgiveness, our simplest acts of kindness and charity declare most accurately and effectively our belief in the Gospel Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer.

Peter is the first of the disciples to grasp the divinity of Christ.  On the faith of Peter “the rock” Christ establishes his Church.  Peter becomes, then, the first stone in the foundation of the Church.  We who are baptized into the faith handed down to us by Peter and the apostles become stones of Christ’s new church; the faith we live and the hope we cherish in the empty tomb of Easter are the foundation of the Church of the Risen One.

The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” are entrusted by Christ not just to the institutional Church but to each one of us.  Christ has given every one of us a “key” to the kingdom: the means to “unlock” the presence of God in our world by our own efforts, however small and hidden, to realize God’s love in our midst.  Our “keys” may be patience and understanding, a talent or skill we possess that we can use to unlock a door or open a pathway enabling us and those we love and care about realize the kingdom of heaven here and now. © Connections/MediaWorks

Sermon

No sermon recorded today.

You can read the Pew Sheet here

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Weekly Church Service – Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost: 16 August 2020


Sentence

Thus says the Lord, ‘Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.’  Isaiah 56:1 


Collect

God of freedom,

you have broken the tyranny of sin

and sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts:

give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your 

service, that all people may know the glorious

liberty of the children of God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Readings

  • Genesis 45:1-15
  • Psalm 133
  • Romans 11:13-32
  • Matthew 15:21-28

next week

  • Exodus 1:8-2:10
  • Psalm 124
  • Romans 12:1-8
  • Matthew 16:13-20

A Thought to Ponder

Pentecost 11 Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus cures the Canaanite woman: “Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs from their tables of their masters.”

The story of the Canaanite woman was a marker for the Christians of the predominately Gentile Christian communities.  Jesus’ healing of the daughter of the persistent Canaanite mother became a prophetic model for the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christians.  The woman is not only a Gentile but also a descendent of the Canaanites, one of Israel’s oldest and most despised enemies.  Despite Jesus’ rebuff of her (equating Gentiles with “dogs,” as Jews referred to anyone who was not a Jew), the woman has the presence of mind to point out that “even dogs are given crumbs and scraps from their masters’ tables.”  She displays both great faith in Jesus (addressing him by the Messianic title of “Son of David”) and great love for her daughter (subjecting herself to possible ridicule and recrimination for approaching Jesus) that should inspire both Jew and Gentile — and Christian.

Jesus does not see in the Canaanite woman an old enemy; he sees, in her great compassion and love for her sick daughter, a loving mother; he sees, in her courage to come forward in the face of imminent rejection and denunciation, a woman of great faith.  

The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel seeks what we all seek: to be acknowledged as good, to be respected as a child of God, to be welcomed as a sister and brother to all.  

In honouring the goodness and love of the Canaanite mother (who, as a Canaanite, is despised by Jesus’ hearers), Jesus opens up our perspectives and illuminates our vision, enabling us to see one another as God sees us.  

Most of us would consider ourselves fair-minded and unbiased, neither bigots nor racists; but if we’re honest, we would probably recognise times we have treated people as if they were “a little less human” because they did not possess some quality or ingredient we consider imperative.  We underestimate people because they are somehow different; we treat them as inferiors because they don’t quite measure up to what we think they should or should not be.  God does not measure his people by our standards but welcomes all who seek him in faith. Pope Francis often speaks of reaching out to those on the boundaries or “peripheries,” to those who are driven to the margins and edges of society by poverty, violence and illness.  In Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, we begin to recognize those divisions and chasms between us and others and to go the peripheries and cross those boundaries that are obstacles to realizing God’s kingdom of justice and peace in this time and place of ours. 

© Connections/MediaWorks                                                                  

Sermon

No sermon recorded today

You can read the Pew Sheet here

Pentecost-11-A

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