Sunday Worship – 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

St Matthew’s Anglican Parish, Hastings
A Christian community in the heart of the City

14th June 2020

The Preparation

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

We have waited eagerly for you O Lord; for you are our help and our shield; our hearts shall rejoice in you, because we have hoped in your holy name. Psalm 33:19,20

Hymn of Praise – All my hope On God is founded

The words are printed below.
Lyrics – Joachim Neander trans. Robert Bridges
Tune – ‘Michael’ Herbert Howells

All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew,
me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown,
he alone
calls my heart to be his own.

Pride of man and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray his trust;
what with care and toil he buildeth,
tower and temple fall to dust.
But God’s power,
hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.

God’s great goodness aye endureth,
deep his wisdom, passing thought:
splendor, light and life attend him,
beauty springeth out of naught.

from his store
newborn worlds rise and adore.

Still from man to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ, his Son.
Christ doth call
one and all:
ye who follow shall not fall.

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.

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.


Almighty God,
give us such a vision of your purpose
and such an assurance of your love and power,
that we may ever hold fast the hope
which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from Genesis 18:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version)

(The Lord appears to Abraham and promises that he and Sarah will have a son)

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the
entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three
men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

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

Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19

I love you O Lord because you heard my voice:
when I made my supplication,

because you turned your ear to me:
when I called upon your name.

I will take up the cup of salvation:
and call on the name of the Lord.

I will pay my vows to the Lord:
in the presence of all God’s people.

Grievous in the sight of the Lord:
is the death of a faithful servant.

Lord I am your servant, the child of your maidservant:
you have freed me from my bonds.

I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving:
and call on the name of the Lord.

I will pay my vows to the Lord:
in the presence of all God’s people,

in the courts of the Lord’s house:
in your midst O Jerusalem. O praise the Lord.

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. Amen.

A reading from Romans 5:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

(Paul encourages the Christians in Rome to rejoice in the hope which is theirs.)

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of
sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

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

The Sermon And Sarah Laughed


11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

And Sarah laughed

Genesis 18:1-15 & Romans 5:1-8

Sarah laughed. Of course, she laughed. What she overheard was
absurd – utterly absurd. Standing at the entrance to their
tent, Sarah eavesdropped on Abraham as he talked with three
strangers. These men prophesied: ‘about this time next year
Sarah your wife will bear a son. It was ludicrous. He was a
hundred and she just ten years younger. So, Sarah laughed to
herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is
old, will I now have this pleasure and the joy of a newborn
baby?’ It was the laugh of total disbelief.

Faith – trust in God – is often not only difficult – it can
seem downright dumb. It doesn’t fit with how we normally see
things. It can appear irrational. Sarah’s response was
understandable. I laugh with Sarah as she realized the
impossibility of what she had just heard. After all these
years, she and Abraham had accepted their bareness. They had
resigned themselves to a future without children, and there
was no reason to expect that it would change now. The
absurdity of what was being said was laughable.

Their situation was hopeless, and they accepted their
hopelessness as normal, and this is where God meets them. Not
in their hopefulness but in their hopelessness.
Understandably, when this good news is brought to them, they
see it as nonsense to be laughed off. But what is God’s
response? Here’s the punch line of the story. ‘Is anything too
wonderful for the Lord?’ ‘Is anything impossible for the
Lord?’ It’s not a statement but a question, because what God
is offering requires a decision. Abraham and Sarah have to
decide how they are going to respond. And only they can make
that decision. It’s the same for us.

If our answer is, ‘Yes, some things are too hard – some things
are impossible for God,’ then we’re saying God isn’t God.
We’ve confined ourselves to a static and hopeless existence.
If, on the other hand, we answer, ‘No, nothing is impossible
for God – No, nothing is too wonderful for the Lord to do,’
then we’ve not only opened ourselves up in trust to God –
we’ve also opened ourselves up to a new world – to a new way
of seeing life – to a life that is loaded with hope. 

To do the impossible! That assertion shatters our normal
frames of reference. It breaks us out of the limitations and
bounds of reason and common sense. It smashes how we normally
think and see things. I admit, that for me at least, it’s
exciting – but it’s also scary as a whole lot of questions and
doubts quickly creep in. Things won’t necessarily turn out how
I expect them to. My pragmatic way of seeing life is thrown
out of kilter.

It’s a critical question that takes us to very nature of God.
It questions who God is. For all our affirmations of faith, I
think we usually join in with Sarah and laugh out of
disbelief. Anglicans are, after all, sensible people. We fight
back this irrational attack on our way of seeing things. But
this story poses a searching question. Have we tamed God? Have
we made God into a harmless and bland being? Have we bought
into a faith that doesn’t have any real expectation of God –
at least a god who won’t disrupt the status quo Have we
created a tiny god?

‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ ‘Is it impossible?’ ‘Is
anything too wonderful for the Lord?’ Is God’s power limited
to our expectations? The question resounds today. Can Abraham
and Sarah finally keep their future closed off to God? Can we?

The question isn’t, of course, only for this old couple. It’s
about how we choose to live. Jesus would come back to this
question. He said to the disciples, ‘For mortals it is
impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
Faith – trust in God – doesn’t, of course, make everything we
desire possible. Not everything is promised. What is possible,
is that which is promised by God – that which is within God’s
purposes. Jesus illustrated this the night before he died.
Wrestling with God as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane,
he asked: ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible;
remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you
want.’ The one thing that God will not do is to sidestep the
reality of suffering, hurt, and the cross. So, we mustn’t use
this story as a way of using God as a fairy godparent who
grants us every whim. A great biblical scholar of our time
(Walter Brueggemann) commented: ‘Because of the character of
God, everything is possible for those who stay through the
dark night of barrenness with God. For Abraham and Sarah,
there is no simple, painless route to an heir.’

Paul knew what it was to suffer, and when he wrote to the
Romans, he was addressing a faith community who also knew pain
and suffering. He spoke to them of hope. ‘Hope’, he said,
‘does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured
into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to
us.’ Hope isn’t wishful thinking. For Paul, hope contains a
very high element of certainty because it’s rooted in the
reliability of God and God’s promises. Hope is grounded in who
God is – the God who is love – whose love, as Paul says, ‘has
been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.’ This is
the basis of our hope, and such hope ‘does not disappoint’
because God is who God is, and that is what provides
confidence in facing the future. This is what Abraham and
Sarah would learn.

This story ends on a question mark. Will this elderly couple
finally accept this utterly absurd promise that contradicted
all common sense? As the story progresses, we discover that
they did learn that with God the impossible is possible –
though for them it was a massive struggle. They would doubt
and deny – just as we do. We know how the story finally ends.
Sarah finally fell pregnant and gave birth to a boy who they
named ‘laughter’ or ‘he laughs’. Sarah declared: ‘God has
brought laughter for me; and everyone who hears will laugh
with me.’ Her laughter of disbelief was finally turned into
the joyful laughter of unexpected fulfilment!

God’s promises are sure, but they are fulfilled in unexpected
and untimely ways. We need to decide how we respond to the
question: ‘Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?’ ‘Is
anything impossible for the Lord?’ Do we choose to be bound by
predictability, by familiar routines, and common sense – all
of which make us feel safe? Do we accept our barrenness as had
Abraham and Sarah – whatever forms that barrenness takes – and
simply resign ourselves to a life of diminishing
possibilities? Or do we embrace a trust in God, knowing that
God may do the irrational, the absurd, the impossible, and the
wonderful? Do we embrace the Lord who meets us in our
hopelessness and transforms it into hopefulness?

Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 14.6.2020


As Christ has taught us, 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. 

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.

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

In darkness and in light,
in trouble and in joy,
help us, heavenly Father,
to trust your love,
to serve your purpose,
and to praise your name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Song – The God of Abraham praise

The God of Abraham praise,
Who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days,
And God of love.
Jehovah, great I AM,
By earth and heaven confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred name,
Forever blest.

The God of Abraham praise,
At whose supreme command
From earth I rise and seek the joys
At His right hand.
I all on earth forsake,
Its wisdom, fame, and power;
And Him my only portion make,
My shield and tower.

He by Himself hath sworn,
I on His oath depend,
I shall, on eagle wings upborne,
To heaven ascend;
I shall behold His face,
I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace

The whole triumphant host
Give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son and Holy Ghost!”
They ever cry.
Hail, Abraham’s God and mine!
I join the heavenly lays;
All might and majesty are Thine
And endless praise.

The God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all.   Amen.


Our St Matthew’s website is being updated regularly:

Also our St Matthew’s Facebook


The Rev’d Alister Hendery: 021 742 434

Parish Office (Tracey at home):  06 878 9476

~ 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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