Sunday Worship – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

5th July 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: New every morning is the love

New every morning is the love
our waking and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life and power and thought.

New mercies, each returning day
surround your people as they pray,
new dangers past, new sins forgiven,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If on our daily life our mind
be set to honour all we find,
new treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

The trivial round, the common task,
will give us all we ought to ask,
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us daily nearer God.

Prepare us, Lord, in your dear love,
for perfect rest with you above,
and help us, this and every day
to grow more like you as we pray.

E te whanau, let us love one another for love is from God.
Those who love are born of God and know God:
but those who do not love know nothing of God;
for God is love.
Those who dwell in love:
are dwelling in God and God in them.
There is no room for fear in love:
love which is perfected banishes fear.
We love because God first loved us:
if anyone who hates another says,
‘I love God,’ that person is a liar.
If we do not love those whom we have seen:
it cannot be that we love God whom we have not seen.
This commandment we have from God:
that those who love God must lover their neighbour.


God our Creator, you have made all things good,
but we do not love you with all our heart,
and with all our soul, and with all our mind,
and with all our strength.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus our friend, you forgive our sins,
but we do not forgive and befriend each other.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit, you love us and live in us,
but we often find it difficult to love ourselves.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

In silence before God we confess our sins.
Silence
God forgives us. Let us be at peace.

Collect

God of hospitality,

Holy and eternal God,
give us such trust in your sure purpose,
that we measure our lives
not by what we have done or failed to do,
but by our faithfulness to you.
Hear this prayer for your love’s sake. Amen.

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from Romans 7: 15-25a

(Paul continues to wrestle with the question of the role of the law. Although the law is good in principle, without God’s saving act in Jesus, it only produces more sinfulness.)


For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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

Psalm 145:8–14

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion:
slow to anger and abounding in love.


You Lord are good to all of us:
and your mercy rests upon all your creatures.


All your creation shall praise you O Lord:
and your servants will bless your name.


They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom:
and their talk shall be of your power,
so that all may know of your mighty deeds:
and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.


Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom:
and your dominion endures from age to age.


The Lord upholds those who stumble:
and raises up those who are down.


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 11: 25-30

Jesus bids all to come and find that the yoke of his teaching is easy to bear.


At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

The Sermon Freedom from Religious Exhaustion


14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Romans 7:15-25a & Matthew 11:25-30
Freedom from religious exhaustion

What affect does religion have on you? And if you asked that question of your friends who have little or no contact with the church, I wonder how they would respond. Some will describe, with justification, some very negative experiences of religion. When I have those conversations, what people portray is often a version of Christianity that’s legalistic and exclusive – loaded with shoulds and should nots. It’s religion that’s stifling – that denies life. Yet, Jesus once remarked, ‘I came that
they may have life, and have it abundantly’ – ‘to have life in all its fullness.’

I don’t want anything to do with religion that’s so heavy and loaded down with rules, that it denies life in all its fullness. That’s a form of religion that leaves people spending their energy trying to get everything right and having to have the correct answers. It’s oppressive, even scary. What happens if I get it wrong or fail?

This is nothing new. It was an issue that Jesus had to address. It’s what he’s responding to when, in the Gospel reading, he says:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I like how The Message paraphrases it:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting
on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.


Jesus was aiming his words at the religiously exhausted, those labouring under the expectation that religion was a matter of having to do this, and this, and this, and do it all exactly right, in order to be
accepted by God. It’s a form of religion that’s loaded down by oughts – so people end up living oughtomatically – and, not surprisingly, they burn out on religion.

The rabbis spoke about the responsibilities of living by God’s Law as a ‘yoke’ – as something people took on themselves to steer and guide them down God’s paths in life. But these teachings had become incredibly complicated and hard to follow. It was a massive burden. Religion had become a heavy load.

I follow Professional Master Chef. A criticism the judges frequently make is that the contestants make their food too complicated. There’s too much in the recipe – too many things on the plate – and the diner’s taste buds gets confused (and it’s too easy for the chef to get it wrong). That’s what the rabbis were doing. They had managed to make some basic guidelines very complex and intimidating. So, people were turned away from experiencing God’s life – just as a complex recipe for
puree of mashed potatoes, requiring 30 minutes preparation, can send a hungry person off for takeaways.

Jesus offers the very opposite. Instead of a heavy load his teaching, he says, is easy and the burden of learning from him is light. He says, ‘come to me’ – not come to a to-do list. It’s an invitation to experience a relationship with a person from whom we can learn. He isn’t saying that there are n

God-given guidelines for leading our lives. But God’s Law, the guidelines, had become an end in itself. He doesn’t want people to be intimidated by the recipe and living in fear of getting it wrong. So, he returns to the heart of God’s call upon us – and that’s the way of love – love of God and love of others. In this way, and this way only, will we find peace, rest, and refreshment.

We seek to live a life determined and shaped by love because God loves us. We want to love others, not because of a rule that’s been set down, but because God first loved us, and that love leads us to share it with others. That’s the nature of love. The relationship that Jesus invites us to come into is one that enables us to make love real.

This isn’t always easy. Paul knew this. Writing to the Romans, he describes an inner tug-of-war that I’ve found, as I’m sure you have, to be very real. It’s the tension between knowing what the right thing to do is – what is the true response of love, and the desire to do the very opposite. Familiar? But as Paul found, when we live our lives based on a relationship of love with God – when we keep company with Jesus – we learn to live freely and lightly, and God’s grace gradually transforms us.

Following Jesus is, of course, demanding. To love is no easy business. It carries risks and challenges – and Jesus made this very clear. It’s also a lifetime response. But when we choose this path, we discover this is where life in all its fullness is to be found. We no longer have to prove ourselves – no longer have to spend our energy ticking off to do lists – but simply to rest in his company of love and to live freely and lightly.


Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 5.7.2020

Prayers

Gracious God, you have promised rest to the weary and relief to the heavy laden: hear the prayers we bring for your people.

We pray for those weighed down by the hardships of daily life:
for those who in live in poverty, without adequate food or shelter;
for those in places of conflict and strife.
Relieve their burdens, that all your people may live in dignity and peace.

Gracious God, in your mercy
hear our prayer

We pray those wearied by responsibility in your church:
for those without the support and resources to fulfil their tasks;
for those whose dreams are shattered, whose vision others do not share.
Renew their spirits, that they may find strength in you.

Gracious God, in your mercy
hear our prayer

We pray for those exhausted by overwork or the responsibility of care:
for caregivers;
for those unable to provide for their families or themselves.
Lighten their loads, that they may know your encouragement and support.

Gracious God, in your mercy
hear our prayer

We pray for those burdened by guilt, self-doubt, anxiety, or despair:
for those unable to leave the past behind;
for those afraid of the present and without hope for the future.
Lift their weights from them, that they be freed from their fears.

Gracious God, in your mercy
hear our prayer

We pray for those worn down by pain and grief:
for the sick and the dying;
for those living with deep loss.
Soothe their hurt and suffering, that they may find their peace in you.

Gracious God, in your mercy
hear our prayer

We remember those who have died, especially those dear to us.
In life teach is to follow the example of Jesus,
that we may learn to share each other’s burdens,
and in death bring us into your presence that we may find eternal rest in you.

Gracious God, in your mercy
hear our prayer

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. 

Hymn of praise: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
it soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and drives away our fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
it satisfies the hungry soul,
and gives the weary rest.


Dear name, the rock on which I build,
my shield and hiding place,
my never-failing treasury, filled
with boundless stores of grace.


Jesus, my shepherd, brother, friend,
my prophet, priest, and king;
my Lord, my life, my way, my end,
accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
and cold my warmest thought;
But when I see you as you are,
I’ll praise you as I ought.

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.

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