6th Sunday of Easter Worship

The Sixth Sunday of Easter – 17th May 2020

The Preparation

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Great is the Lord and worthy of all praise.
Amen!
Praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour,
power and might, be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.

‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life,’ says the Lord.
‘No one comes to the Father except through me.’ John 14:6

Hymn of Praise – Be still, for the presence of the Lord

Music & words: David J. Evans (b. 1957) Copyright © 1986 Thankyou Music

The words are printed below.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the holy One, is here
Come bow before him now with reverence and fear
In him no sin is found we stand on holy ground
Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the holy One, is here

Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around
He burns with holy fire, with splendour he is crowned
How awesome is the sight our radiant king of light
Be still, for the glory of the Lord is shining all around

Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place
He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace
No work too hard for Him, in faith receive from him
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place

Great and wonderful are your deeds
O Lord God the almighty:
just and true are your ways
O Sovereign of the nations.
Who shall not revere and praise your name O Lord?
for you alone are holy.
All nations shall come and worship in your presence:
for your just dealings have been revealed.
To the One who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb:
be blessing and honour, glory and might
for ever and ever.  Amen.                      Revelation 15:3b-4; 5:13

As God who called you is holy,
be holy yourselves in all your conduct.
Spirit of God, search our hearts.

We remember our need for God’s forgiveness.

Silence
Let us confess our sins to God.

God of mercy, we have sinned against you and against others.
We have sinned in what we have done,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,

who died for our sins,
forgive us all that is past
and raise us to newness of life. Amen.

Almighty God, who pardons all who truly repent,
forgive our sins, strengthen us by the Holy Spirit,
and keep un in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Collect

Eternal God,
light of the minds that know you,
joy of the hearts that love you,
strength of the wills that serve you;
grant us so to know you that we may truly love you,
and so to love you that we may gladly serve you,
now and always.  Amen.

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from 1 Peter 3:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version)

(Guidance for all Christians)

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

1 PETER 3:13-22 (NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION)

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

Psalm 66:8–20

The Lord has preserved us among the living:
   and kept our feet from stumbling.

For you O God have tested us:
   and refined us as silver is refined.

You led us into the snare:
   you laid a burden of trouble upon our backs.

You let enemies ride over our heads, we went through fire and water:
   but you have brought us out into a place of liberty.

I will come into your house with burnt- offerings:
   and I will pay you my vows,

the vows which I made with my lips:
and swore with my mouth when I was in trouble.

I will offer fat beasts in sacrifice, with the smoke of burning rams:
   I will prepare you an offering of bulls and goats.

Come then and listen, all you that fear the Lord:
   and I will tell you what God has done for me.

I cried aloud to God:
   high praise was ready on my tongue.

If I had cherished evil in my heart:
   the Lord would not have heard me.

But truly God has heard me:
   and has given heed to my prayer.

Blessèd are you O God, for you have not rejected my prayer:
   nor withdrawn from me your steadfast love.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Alleluia! Amen.

A reading from Acts 17:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version)

(Two related images in which Jesus is first the shepherd in charge of the sheep and then (Paul’s address in a public forum to the curious citizens of Athens.)

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”


Acts 17:22-31
(New Revised Standard Version)

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

The Sermon – Bridges to the Known God  

SEE THE SERMON below – OR just WATCH THE VIDEO

6th Sunday of Easter 6 (A)

Bridges to the Known God
Acts 17:22-31, 1 Peter 3:13-22, Psalm 66:8-20

This time in Lockdown has changed so much. I suspect that it
will only be as we begin to resume our communal ways of life,
that we’ll discover what that change looks like. As a faith
community, we’ll need to come to terms with a new normal –
with new and different ways of being church. This may feel
scary, though it can also be an opportunity to discover fresh
ways of living out the good news – when we can learn afresh
how, as the writer of today’s epistle puts it, to be ready to
give an account of the hope that is in us, and do it with
gentleness and reverence. In the passage from Acts, Paul give
us some clues about how we might go about this.

Paul is visiting Athens, the philosophical capital of the
ancient world. He’s been doing his usual thing, going to the
synagogue and arguing with his fellow Jews, and he’s been
visiting the marketplace and talking to people there. What
he’s been saying, about Jesus and the resurrection, has
intrigued this bunch of sophisticated Athenians, so they get
Paul along to the Areopagus – the place where all the
philosophers hang out – and ask him to tell them more.

In some ways the Athenian culture isn’t dissimilar to ours.
Like many of our contemporaries, the Athenians weren’t
familiar with the Bible, but they were interested in spiritual
matters. They had the reputation of being curious about such
things and Atehns was a veritable forest of altars, shrines,
and temples. While less than half of New Zealanders profess
any level of adherence to Christianity, that doesn’t mean that
we aren’t a spiritual people. You’ve heard people say, “I’m
not religious, but I’m spiritual.” For sure, spirituality can
mean anything, and people are putting together their own
spiritual packages, and this reveals that people are searching
for meaning – seeking God. We can so easily assume that those
around us just aren’t interested in God, or church, or faith,
and so we say nothing because of that – when actually people
are often very curious. But they don’t like to feel judged, or
spoken to in some strange religious language. This is how it
was in Athens, and Paul makes the most of their curiosity.

Paul doesn’t damn all these different religious expressions he
sees around the place, nor does he use a whole lot of
religious jargon. This would alienate his listeners. Instead,
he looks for a point of connection and begins by speaking of
the Athenians’ devotion. His technique is simple. He builds
rapport with his audience:

“Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every
way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at
the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with
the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you
worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”

As he goes on, he makes more connections between Greek culture
and the Jewish-Christian story. He’s not being judgemental. He
doesn’t assume that just because the people he’s talking with
don’t worship as he does, that they have no interest in
spiritual things. He connects with people where they are. His
technique is to build bridges – a bridge between an unknown
god and the known God. Somewhere I read, “People who inspire
others are those who see invisible bridges at the end of dead
end streets.”

To share the good news, we can’t keep our faith in a religious
box called ‘church’. We need to be open to new ways of
connecting with people in our common search for God. I learned
this lesson a few years ago at my gym. A man, who was a
champion powerlifter, wanted to find out more about
Christianity. He had visited several churches and would ask
questions about why they believed certain things. He was
frustrated because they wouldn’t explain the ‘whys’. They
would just say, “That’s how it is.” So, he asked me, because
I’m always asking him questions about his sport. Here I was,
in the middle of the gym, having a conversation about God. The
conversations kept going – usually between press-ups and dead
lifts. That’s a bit like how Paul operated in Athens.

Over the time of the Lockdown we’ve discovered the value of
the internet. In the last month, through the medium of our
website, this faith community has connected with over twice
the number of people that we normally would if we simply
relied on those who come to our physical building for worship.
It’s about meeting people where they are – and to you (some of
whom are in countries beyond Aotearoa New Zealand) we say
welcome and thank you for journeying with us – thank you for
being a part of our extended faith community.

Many people are asking questions about faith, but they don’t
want their questions condemned or their searching judged.
Rather, we share together a common search for God. This is
what Paul affirms. He says to the Athenians, that God created
us to search for God, perhaps grope for God, and finally, to
find God. After years of searching, Augustine of Hippo said,
‘O God you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are
restless until they find rest in you.’

We don’t need all the answers, but be willing to journey with
others, wherever they are, as they search towards God. The
church dies when we think what matters most is what happens in
a building. We become self-absorbed and talk to ourselves
instead of engaging with those we’re called to share the good
news with. So, I’m wondering, what new connections we can make
and how we might make them – how can we proclaim in fresh ways
the gospel with gentleness and reverence.

Paul’s speech to the Athenians reaches its climax as he
invites his audience to embrace God whom he had made known to
them. His final comment is about how God raised a man from the
dead. This takes us to the heart of Christian faith. It’s the
assurance, Paul says, of everything that we believe about
Jesus. This is what we’re called to live out and share with
those about us. This is what gives us purpose and meaning as a
faith community. It’s the invitation for us, to say to others,
as the psalmist says, ‘Come then and listen … and I will tell
you what God has done for me’.

 Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 17.5.2020

Hymn:We have a gospel to proclaim

words Edward J. Burns.

Thou art the way: to Thee alone

We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for all throughout the earth;
the gospel of a Saviour’s name:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.

Tell of his birth at Bethlehem
not in a royal house or hall
but in a stable dark and dim.
the Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of his death at Calvary,
hated by those he came to save,
in lonely suffering on the cross;
for all he loved his life he gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter mourn:
empty the tomb, for he was free,
He broke the power of death and hell
that we might share his victory.

Tell of his reign at God’s right hand,
by all creation glorified.
He sends his Spirit on his church
to live for him, the Lamb who died.

Now we rejoice to name him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel-message we proclaim,

we sing his glory, tell his worth.               

Prayers

Make your ways known upon earth, O God,
your saving power among all peoples.

Renew your Church in holiness,
and help us to serve you with joy.

Guide the leaders of this and every nation,
that justice may prevail throughout the world.

Let not the needy, O God, be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

Make us instruments of your peace,
and let your glory be over all the earth.

In your prayers please pray:

For our nation – that our leaders continue to act with sound judgement and care for all.

For the whole of humanity – that through this time of crisis we are led to build a world rich in mercy and caring for the vulnerable, and renewed by an awareness of the deeply spiritual nature of life and presence of God.

For health workers and other essential workers – that they have time to rest and recover from their work, that they be protected from the virus, and that their work bears the fruit of healthy and grateful people and communities.

For our wider community – that as we enter Level 2 people will work together cooperatively and do as they have been asked by the government, to continue to reduce infection rates.

For all faith communities – that though challenged by not being able to meet together to pray and worship, we will grow stronger in faith and more gracious and merciful in living.

For people who are sick and dying – that they sense the loving and peaceful presence of God.

For those who have died – that they may rest in peace and rise in glory.

Holy and everliving God,
by your power we are created
and by your love we are redeemed;
guide and strengthen us by your Spirit,
that we may give ourselves to your service,
and live each day in love to one another and to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lord, you have called us to serve you.
Grant that we may walk in your presence:
your love in our hearts,
your truth in our minds,
your strength in our wills;
until, at the end of our journey,
we know the joy of our homecoming
and the welcome of your embrace,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.    Amen.

The risen Christ is in our midst, and so we pray

Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name,
   your kingdom come,
   your will be done,
       on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
   as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
   and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours    now and for ever.    Amen. 

May Christ who out of defeat brings new hope and new alternatives, bring us new life.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

A little humour… In last Sunday’s Gospel reading Jesus said that we could ask anything in his name

The parish priest at St Matthew’s is booked in for a haircut on Monday. But… his hairdresser is unable to cut beards at this time… so… it will be interesting to see the results.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Our St Matthew’s website is being updated regularly:  https://stmattshastings.com

Also our St Matthew’s Facebook

CONTACTS

The Rev’d Alister Hendery: 021 742 434
Email: alister.hendery@waiapu.com

Parish Office (Tracey at home):  06 878 9476
Email: stmatthews.hastings@gmail.com

~ This copyright material is taken from A New Zealand Prayer Book / He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, © Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and is used in accordance with regulations.

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