Sunday Worship – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

28th 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.

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

God of hospitality,
even a glass of water given in your name
is rewarded beyond measure.
So fill our hearts with love
that we welcome all in your name,
For you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from Genesis 22:1-14

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.
Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.
He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

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

Psalm 13

How long O Lord will you utterly forget me:
how long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I suffer anguish in my soul,
and be so grieved in my heart day and night:
how long shall my enemy triumph over me?


Look at me, and answer me O Lord my God:
give light to my eyes, lest I fall asleep in death,


lest my enemies should claim to have prevailed against me:
lest my foes should rejoice at my downfall.


But my trust is in your mercy:
let my heart be joyful in your salvation.


I will sing to you O Lord,
because you have dealt so lovingly with me:
I will praise your name O Lord most high.


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 6:12-23

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

A reading from Matthew 10:40-42


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. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”


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

The Sermon Putting God First


13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Putting God First
Genesis 22:1-14; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42


There’s a Yiddish folk tale that goes something like this: Why did God
not send an angel to tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? Because God
knew that no angel would take on such a task. Instead, the angels said,
‘If you want to command death, do it yourself.’
The story named by Christians ‘the sacrifice of Isaac’ and by Jews the ‘binding of Isaac’, probably tops the list of our least favourite Bible stories. Not surprisingly, it’s provoked heated debate over the
centuries. Is it a story of an abusive God, a misguided Abraham, religious violence at its worst? Or is it a story of faith and obedience? One way of looking at it is to see it as an explanatory story about the
shift from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice. Certainly, it’s clear by the end of the story that God is opposed to child sacrifice, for humanity generally and for Abraham. As a way of us making sense of it, I’m going to approach it as we would one of Jesus’ parables – as a story that challenges and asks questions.

We’re told that God tested Abraham, telling him, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So that’s what Abraham does – he goes off in the morning with Isaac, and everything else needed for the sacrifice except the animal. The thing is that what’s being asked of Abraham cuts right across the promise God had already made to Abraham. Abraham had been promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the sands on the beach, as the stars in the sky, and this promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac. Isaac wasn’t just Abraham and Sarah’s beloved son, the child of their extreme old age, hoped for, waited for over many years – Isaac was the means by which God’s promise would be fulfilled. And now Abraham was being asked to give up Isaac.

They reach the place of sacrifice, Abraham builds an altar, and lays his son on top of it. Then, at last, God calls to him, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ Abraham sees a ram caught in a thicket by its horns and sacrifices that instead and calls that place ‘The Lord will provide’.

Some scholars suggest that God has laid this test on Abraham because God has risked everything on this one man, and God needs to know if he is faithful. Certainly, the questions behind this are about
trust, and obedience, and who really comes first in Abraham’s life. Did he trust God to fulfil the promise even without Isaac? Abraham isn’t afraid to argue with God, yet here he doesn’t argue – he simply obeys. Abraham demonstrates that God really does come first in his life – before Isaac, before his hopes and dreams for the future, before anything else.

What about us? I don’t mean that we would ever face anything like this terrifying test that Abraham faced, nor that we can fully understand exactly what is going on here. But there’s something this story asks us to acknowledge. All that we have, even our own lives and those of the ones who are dear to us, belongs ultimately to God, who gave them to us in the first place. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?’ The story of the binding of Isaac assures us that God will provide, that God will be present. Because Abraham showed he put God first in his life before even Isaac, because he was willing to give up Isaac, he ended up knowing that God would provide and with Isaac as well. It’s a story about trust and about priorities. It’s reflected in a statement made three times. ‘Here I am.’

I say to God, ‘I’m your servant … I’ll go where you ask, I’ll do what you require … but… but.’ There’s the exception I cling to. And when I face it, I have to ask, how much do I really trust God? Where does God come in my list of priorities? … What are our priorities? How much do we really trust God?

As we may find this story from Genesis rather abhorrent, so imagery that Paul uses, as he writes to the Romans, could be interpreted as objectionable. He tells them that since they have been set free from sin they have become ‘slaves of righteousness’ – slaves who please God. Some of Paul’s original audience had been or were slaves. Others were or had been slave owners. Imagine how they would have felt when they heard those words. How does, I wonder, a black American feel about them today. Now Paul tells the Romans that they are slaves – slaves of God.

The key thing about being a slave, is that you know who your boss is. You know who is in charge. But here is a shift in understanding. Our master, the One in charge, is a God who loves us unconditionally and who has given us a new life. And we’re being asked to live out our relationship with God in concrete ways that show who is really in charge of our lives. There’s a paradox in this slavery. We may have a master of our lives, but there comes a new freedom with it. Paul calls it freedom from the power of sin, from the tendency to stuff things up on a fairly regular basis. Slaves of God get freed from this. What about us?

Who is really in charge of our lives? Who do we put first? Over the years I’ve come to realise that putting God first is a decision that I have make on a daily basis – otherwise my default setting kicks in and I start to think my life is all about me. Over and over we are called to put God first.

As a slave of God our freedom leads us to make decisions and to act on the basis of God’s love. We are agents of that love. Jesus’ words in the Gospel passage affirm the bond that exists between God and Jesus’ disciples. Whoever welcomes disciples (who are God’s representatives) welcomes God. He’s saying we, Jesus, and God are intimately connected. So, I wonder, how does the way we live; the way we relate to others and treat them; the decisions we make on a daily basis; how we use what we have been given – how do all these reflect that relationship? How do they reflect the place God has in our lives and the trust we put in God?

Reflecting on these readings, the question I must keep asking, is whether I’m willing to say to God (as did Abraham), ‘Here I am.’


Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 28.6.2020

Prayers

Generous God, your love bids us welcome.
Give to us your people an open heart…
As we seek to place you first in our lives, unite us in the love of Jesus.
I give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart
I will glorify your name for ever.

Generous God, your Son gave a model of simple caring love.
Transform the governments of the world with such compassion…
May the hungry find food shared, the thirsty revived, and the sick and suffering care.
I give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart
I will glorify your name for ever.

Generous God, break down the barriers that divide communities and increase hostilities.
Extend the hands of friendship to soften hardened hearts…
Diminish all that hardens hearts.
I give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart
I will glorify your name for ever.

Generous God, pour out your love and compassion on all who cry out in need…
Shine your light in the darkness.
I give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart
I will glorify your name for ever.

Generous God, receive with mercy all who have died…
Comfort those who grieve and bring us to share in the joy of our eternal homecoming.
I give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart
I will glorify your name for ever.

God, you shape our dreams.
As we put our trust in you
may your hopes and desires be ours,
and we your expectant people. 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. 

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

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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.