Sunday Worship – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

26th 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: Be Still For The Presence Of The Lord

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

David J. Evans © Thank youmusic)

Hear the teaching of Christ:
you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
This is the first commandment.
And a second is this:
You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
Spirit of God, search our hearts.

In silence we acknowledge how we have failed to keep the teaching of Christ.

Silence

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.

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

Collect

Living God,
the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy;
enfold us in your gracious care and mercy,
that with you to govern and to guide us
we may so use your gifts in this fleeting world
that we do not lose the good that is eternal;
through Jesus Christ who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

.

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from Genesis 29: 15-28

Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger
before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

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

Psalm 105:1–11, 45


Give thanks and call upon the name of the Lord:
make known to the nations what God has done.

Sing to God, O sing God’s praise:
tell of all the wonderful deeds of the Most High.

Exult in God’s holy name:
let the heart of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Turn for help to the Lord your strength:
and constantly seek God’s presence.

Remember the marvellous things the Most High has done:
the wonders, and the judgments God has given,

O children of Abraham the servant of God:
O offspring of Jacob the chosen of the Lord.

You are the Lord our God:
and your judgments are in all the earth.

You are mindful of your covenant always:
and of the promise you made to a thousand generations,
in the covenant that you made with Abraham:
and the oath that you gave to Isaac,
which you confirmed to Jacob as binding:
as your everlasting covenant with Israel,
saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan:
as your appointed inheritance.’ 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.

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 Romans 8:26–39


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

The Sermon Jacob and Us

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Genesis 29:15-28 & Romans 8:26-39
Jacob and us

The story of Jacob, like those of the other biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, can read more like a soap opera than holy history. But when I delve into these stories, moving beyond the good yarn, I find something very real – something of our stories, of our struggles and tensions with God and one another – something of God’s gracious dealings with somewhat fragile and flawed people.

First, let’s push the rewind button… Twin boys, Esau and Jacob, are born to Rebekah and Isaac. But before they’re even out of the womb, the two are fighting each other. They’re born into a rather dysfunctional family which, not surprisingly, accentuates the conflict between the twins. It all comes to a head when Jacob, with the conniving of his mother, steals from his elder brother his birth-right and blessing. Jacob then flees the family home – sure that his brother will be out to get revenge. Then, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, God comes to Jacob in a dream. Instead of berating him for his bad deeds, God blesses Jacob – and more than that, Jacob is assured that God will stick by him, and that through him, the promise will be fulfilled that a great nation would be founded from this family. This is a very gracious promise for a man who was running for his life, a man estranged from his family. But then, that’s God for you.

It’s a story of God using very imperfect people to bless others. It’s a story of surprises as God reverses all our expectations of how God acts. You can’t put God in box. God does things God’s own way – which includes using self-centred rogues like Jacob. I wonder if you’re like me and have days when you question whether you can be of much use to God. We see our weaknesses and failings and wonder if we’re of much use to God. But then this story tells us that God often chooses flawed people to be instruments of the divine purposes.

If I’m really honest with myself, I see bits of Jacob in me – and maybe you will too. We may not like what we see, but then we know that that doesn’t stop God from using us. However, we need to remember that God doesn’t want us to stay as we are. Living with God means allowing God to change us. When we face up to the not-so-nice parts of ourselves, we find that God transforms us and, with a large dose of grace, uses us to bless others as well as us. For Jacob is started back at Bethel when he had a dream. The process continues, but it’s not going to be easy for Jacob. Jacob meets his match in Laban – his future father-in-law (who is also his uncle). Laban is as much a rogue and trickster as Jacob, but God is going to use Laban to re-shape Jacob.

To re-play today’s episode. Jacob has arrived in his mother’s homeland and is welcomed by uncle Laban, who says to him, “Just because you’re my nephew, you shouldn’t work for me for nothing. Tell me what you want to be paid.” Jacob has fallen in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, who is very beautiful. So, Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven years – at the end of which he would marry Rachel. There’s that line that tells us that this was no fleeting fancy: ‘Jacob worked seven years for Rachel. But it only seemed like a few days, he loved her so much.’ The seven years come to an end and Jacob is ready to claim his bride. But then, on the wedding night, the trickster is tricked. Laban gives Jacob his older, and apparently less attractive daughter, Leah. The man who deceived his father and his elder brother is himself deceived, and Jacob must now work another seven years for the privilege of marrying Rachel.

What do we make of all this? We see God gradually transforming Jacob so that he can be the father of the nation. It’s a reminder that we too are being reshaped and refined to become more like Christ–
and that can be an uncomfortable, even painful process at times. Often, what we don’t like about other people is a mirror of what we don’t like about ourselves but haven’t faced up to yet. Maybe Jacob had to meet up with a man who was as good at deceiving and lying as he was, for him to see what needed changing in himself. When we go through such challenging and changing experiences it hurts. But it’s also a reminder that God uses such experiences to help us become the people God wants us to be.

Up to now Jacob’s world has revolved around Jacob, but now he’s beginning to see beyond himself. First, he had a spiritual experience at Bethel where a relationship starts to form with God. But spiritual experiences need to impact on our relationships. To love another human being, as Jacob loved Rachel, meant that he had to see beyond Jacob. Love takes us out of ourselves – it makes us think of another person. To love another requires hard work. Relationships don’t just happen. I see Jacob having to work all those years before marrying Rachel, as a picture of how we have to work at our relationships. Did Jacob love Rachel enough to work for her? Do we care enough about others, at home and within our faith community, to work on our relationships?

Today’s reading ends with Jacob having two wives – and the rather sad note (which leaves me feeling sorry for Leah): ‘And he loved Rachel more than Leah.’ As the story continues, we read of the births of their children, the struggles that take place between the two sisters, of Rachel’s inability to conceive – but then, out of all this strife Jacob and his wives eventually becoming the parents of twelve sons and one daughter. At last, it looks like God’s promise that a great nation will arise, will be fulfilled through this family.

Through all this struggling and pain God is at work – using everything that happens for Jacob’s good and the good of many others. Recall Paul’s comment in the second reading: ‘God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him’ – though that doesn’t mean that we always get what we want – we get what God knows we need.

Jacob’s story is reminder that God mixes with characters we might not expect God to mix with. God deals with people who are deceptive and flawed. But, when you think about it, that’s all God has got to work with, because, in different ways we’re all flawed. Paul reminded us that there’s a lot going against us. As he says, ‘In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us.’ God is always at work in our lives shaping us into the people God would have us be. And when the going gets tough we recall a promise that takes us to the heart of the Gospel: ‘I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death… Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!’ That’s how much God loves us… you and me… who in our own ways are like Jacob.

The story of Jacob and his family challenges us to be honest about ourselves. While that can be hard, it also encourages us with the knowledge of God’s faithfulness, God’s gracious kindness, and the

promise that God forgives, heals, and transforms.

Alister Hendery – St Matthew’s, Hastings – 26.7.2020

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.

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.

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: Be Thou My Vision

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art–
thou my best thought by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
thou my great Father, I thy true son;
thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my battle shield, sword for my fight;
be thou my dignity, thou my delight,
thou my soul’s shelter, thou my high tower:
raise thou me heaven-ward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
thou mine inheritance, now and always:
thou and thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

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.