Sunday Worship – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

21st June 2020

The Preparation

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.

Hymn of Praise – Tell out my soul

The words are printed below.
(words: Timothy Dudley Smith – adapt; tune: Woodlands)

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of our God!
Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of God’s word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.


Tell out, my soul, the greatness of God’s name!
Make known the might, the deeds God’s arm has done;
all mercy sure, from age to age the same;
this holy name – our God, the gracious one


Tell out, my soul, the greatness of God’s might!
Powers and dominions lay all glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.


Tell out, my soul, the glories of God’s word!
Firm is this promise, and all mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of our God,
to children’s children and for evermore!

(words: Timothy Dudley Smith – adapt; tune: Woodlands)

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

Love one another,
for love is of God,
and whoever loves is born of God and knows God.
Spirit of God, search our hearts.

We remember our need for God’s forgiveness.
Silence

Let us confess our sins to God.
Almighty and merciful God,
we have sinned against you,
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with all our heart.
We have not loved others
as our Saviour Christ loves us.
We are truly sorry.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 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

Caring God,
even a sparrow is protected by you.
Imprint upon our hearts, that
because we belong to you,
no one can pluck us from your hand;
and because we fear you,
we need fear no other
Through Jesus Christ our Liberator. Amen

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from Genesis 21:8-21 (New Revised Standard Version)

(We hear of Sarah’s jealousy as
she fears that Ishmael may supplant her son Isaac in her husband Abraham’s affections.)

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also,
because he is your offspring.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and
filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

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

Psalm 86:1–10, 16–17

Turn your ear to me O Lord and answer me:
for I am poor and in misery.

Preserve my life for I am faithful:
my God save your servant for I put my trust in you.

Be merciful to me O Lord:
for I call to you all the day long.

Gladden the heart of your servant:
for to you Lord I lift up my soul.

For you Lord are good and forgiving:
and of great mercy to all who call upon you.

Give heed O Lord to my prayer:
and listen to my cry of supplication.

In the day of my distress I will call:
and surely you will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you O Lord:
nor can the deeds of any be compared with yours.

All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you:
and they shall glorify your name.

For you are great, and do marvellous things:
truly you alone are God.

Turn to me then and have mercy, give your strength to your servant:
and save the son of your handmaid.

Give me a sign of your favour, that those who hate me may see it, and be put to shame: because you Lord have been my help and my comfort.

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 Matthew 10:24-39 (New Revised Standard Version)

(Jesus warns his disciples of troubles to come but offers them the assurance of the Father’s care and his own readiness so support them before God when they speak up for him.)

“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake
will find it.

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

The Sermon Hagar and Ishmael – The wideness of God’s Mercy

SEE THE SERMON below – OR just WATCH THE VIDEO

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Hagar & Ishmael – The Wideness of God’s Mercy
Genesis 21:8-21

Genesis is a family therapist’s paradise where for generation after generation dysfunctional family dynamics are played out. Take Sarah and Hagar. It’s a relationship marred by jealousy and fear – fear that one son would supplant another in their father’s affections, and as a result, a mother and son are tossed out. What happens to Hagar and her son is deeply troubling, yet it’s also a story filled with hope.

To recap: Sarah can’t have children and so she persuades her husband, Abraham, to have a child by her Egyptian maid Hagar. Hagar becomes pregnant, and when she realises this, she looks down on her mistress. Not surprisingly, Sarah takes umbrage. Abraham, though a great man of faith, was far from flawless. On this occasion he simply walks away from the issue, telling Sarah: “Hagar is your problem. You sort it out.” Having been given a free hand, Sarah abuses Hagar and Hagar, understandably, runs away. But then, out in the desert, Hagar encounters an angel who persuades her to return to her mistress and ‘submit’ to her (translated: patch things up and behave like a good meek servant), but with the promise that Hagar will have a son who will be named Ishmael, and they will have countless descendants. So, Hagar returns home, and a few months later, Ishmael is born.

That all happened back in chapter 16. Fast forward to chapter 21, some 17 years later. Sarah has, at long last, had a son named Isaac, whom God promised would be the father of a great nation. A feast is being held to celebrate Isaac’s weaning, but then Sarah sees Ishmael playing with her boy and demands of her husband: “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” There was no way Sarah was going to have her son’s halfbrother sharing the inheritance, and yet Ishmael is the firstborn and he has his rights; but in the Bible the firstborn often comes off second best. God has a habit of doing things God’s way and not how tradition dictates.

Abraham is caught between a rock and a hard place. Ishmael is, after all, his son and perhaps Abraham has learnt something from the last time tensions flared up between the two women. So, Abraham consults God on the matter and is advised not to feel too bad about Ishmael and Hagar, and to do what Sarah has demanded, because while his descendants would be named through Isaac, Ishmael, too, will be the father of a nation.

So, for a second time, Hagar is driven away, and with her son, they wander about in the wilderness. Finally, their supply of water runs out, and in utter despair Hagar gives up her son for dead and sits down and weeps. Then, also for a second time, an angel speaks to her, telling her that not only will Ishmael live, but that God will make of him a great nation. So the story ends with us being told that, ‘God was with the boy’. Apparently, he lived in the wilderness, became a skilled archer and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

It’s a story of Sarah’s jealousy as well as Abraham’s ineffectual, even cowardly response to the situation. Yet Hagar managed to survive them both. It’s also the story of how, in the midst of the whole unseemly affair, God’s grace somehow brought about some marvellous promises. We’re told that out in the wilderness and near death, ‘God heard the voice of the boy.’ The storyteller is using a word play on Ishmael’s name. Ishmael means, God hears. So he’s saying, ‘God heard the boy named God hears.’ God hears the cries of the outcast and abandoned. God hears and has compassion. Then, at the end, the declaration: ‘God was with the boy.’ God is with this outcast son of Abraham. God is also with his mother, an Egyptian slave woman cast out by the father of her child (albeit with divine sanction). Throughout the story of God’s people, who are the descendants of Isaac, God makes that 2 statement repeatedly. The outcasts, the forgotten ones, those excluded, have a special place in God’s affections, and so they should always have a special place in the heart of God’s people.

Isaac is the child of promise and God will honour this. But that doesn’t mean that God will spurn the other boy. He too is to be treasured – something that Sarah struggles to accept. God has a place and a plan for Ishmael that doesn’t fit with how Sarah sees the world. Of course, Sarah is acting with faith in God’s promises. She and Abraham had been told by God that Isaac, this child of promise, born in her great old age, would be the start of a great nation. However, the way God goes about fulfilling the divine promises don’t always coincide with how we see things. God blesses whomever God chooses to bless. God’s view of people can be very different from ours.

The nation called into existence by God through Isaac would have a unique relationship with God. It would know itself as God’s chosen people. But that didn’t make them the only people God cared about. We cannot limit God’s mercy. God hears the cry of the abandoned. God hears the cry of the outcast.

Religious people often define themselves as much by whom they exclude as they do from whom they embrace. I wonder, how does that apply to us? How will we, in the time ahead, define our calling as a faith community? I think these words:
He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!’ 1

Within the tensions of this ancient story, we see God’s inclusion – the drawing in and saving of the outcast, the rebel. And more than that, God using the outcasts Hagar and Ishmael to make a nation from their descendants. God’s ways of justice and mercy are so often bigger than ours, leaving us gasping for breath as we try to catch up with how God is embracing others.

As our culture becomes increasingly pluralistic – as people of other faiths make their home in Aotearoa New Zealand, let’s not forget the story of Hagar and Ishmael, especially when we relate to followers of the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Islam. Islam recognises Ishmael as the forefather of Muhammad and the ancestor of the Bedouin Arabs. Like us, they’re also the descendants of Abraham, which I guess, makes us cousins.

God embraced Hagar and Ishmael – God drew a circle and took them in. I don’t understand what God’s plan is for the people of Islam and Judaism, and there are times when I don’t understand fellow Christians who hold such radically different views from me. What I do know is that this story challenges our tendency to create an ‘us and them’ mentality. It challenges us when we become exclusive.
The lines from an old hymn come to mind:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
like the wideness of the sea…
For the love of God is broader
than the measure of [our] mind…2

Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 21.6.2020

1 Edwin Markham
2 Frederick William Faber

Prayers

Lord Jesus, your light penetrates the secrets of hearts.
Be at the centre of your church,
that we may love you above everything else…
Give us grace to walk in newness of life.

Lord of hosts
We put our trust in you

Lord Jesus, your love exposes both deeds
of darkness and light.
Drive away the fear that oppresses and demeans…
Give courage to those in authority to defend
and uphold the good of all.

Lord of hosts
We put our trust in you

Lord Jesus, you hold everyone
precious in your sight.
Look with compassion on all who
are marginalised and rejected…
Raise up all who suffer reproach and shame for your sake.

Lord of hosts
We put our trust in you

Lord Jesus, you show great love towards those in need.
Keep watch over those who grieve,
those who are sick, those who are dying…
Give them your peace that passes all understanding.

Lord of hosts
We put our trust in you

Lord Jesus raised from the dead you die no more.
Hear us as we remember in this faith
and love those who have died…
As you break the hold of death so
may we come to share your life in glory.

Lord of hosts
We put our trust in you

Your word is a lamp for our feet.
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
.

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. 

Song – God is love, let heaven adore him

God is love, let heaven adore him;
God is love, let earth rejoice;
let creation sing before him
and exalt him with one voice.
God who laid the earth’s foundation,
God who spread the heavens above,
God who breathes through all creation:
God is love, eternal love.

God is love; and love enfolds us,
all the world in one embrace;
with unfailing grasp God holds us,
every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow’s iron rod,
then we find that selfsame aching
deep within the heart of God.

God is love; and though with blindness
sin afflicts all human life,
God’s eternal loving-kindness
guides us through our earthly strife.
Sin and death and hell shall never
o’er us final triumph gain:
God is love, so love forever
o’er the universe must reign.

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.

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.