St Matthew’s Anglican Parish, Hastings
A Christian community in the heart of the City
9th August 2020
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.
Hymn of praise: Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the king of creation!–
Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the king of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!
Come, all who hear; brothers and sisters draw near,
praise him in glad adoration!
Praise to the Lord, above all things so mightily reigning;
keeping us safe at his side and so gently sustaining.
Have you not seen all you have needed has been
met by his gracious ordaining?
Praise to the Lord, who when darkness and sin are abounding,
who when the godless are rampant, all goodness confounding,
shines with his light, scatters the terror of night,
safely his people surrounding.
Praise to the Lord, who shall prosper our work and defend us;
surely his goodness and mercy shall daily attend us.
Ponder anew what the almighty can do,
who with his love will befriend us.
Praise to the Lord – O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him!
Let the ‘Amen!’ sound from his people again;
gladly with praise we adore him!
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.
As God who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct.
Spirit of God, search our hearts.
In silence we remember our need for God’s forgiveness.
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 us in life eternal;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
Jesus, Saviour in storm,
when the waters of the deep are broken up,
when the landmarks are washed away or drowned,
come to us across the water;
for the glory of your holy name. Amen.
The Ministry of the Word
Psalm 105: 1-6,16-22
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 called down famine on the land:
and cut off the supply of bread.
But you had sent a man before them:
Joseph who was sold as a slave,
whose feet they bound with fetters:
and a collar of iron was round his neck.
Until his predictions came true:
he was tested by your command.
The king sent and released him:
the ruler of nations let him go free.
He made him lord of his household:
and ruler over all his possessions,
to correct his officers at will:
and to teach his counsellors wisdom.
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 14:22-33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!
The Sermon – God in the midst of the bad stuff: Joseph – Part I
Ordinary Sunday 19 (A).
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Matthew 14:22-33
God in the midst of the bad: Joseph – Part I
The ancient narrator describes it as ‘the story of the family of Jacob,’ though what we read today and next week are snippets of a novella centred around Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph.
The opening scene is set in Canaan. Ever since God promised land and descendants to Abraham, it’s been a story of obstacle after obstacle threatening to frustrate the divine promise. Joseph’s story will add yet another obstacle, though at this point, it simply looks like another chapter in the drama of this rather dysfunctional family.
What emerges is a hopeless triangle: the teenage Joseph (aged 17), the father (Jacob, or Israel as he’s now known), and the brothers. First up is Joseph. He’s the son of Rachel, Jacob’s true love, for whom Jacob had laboured fourteen years to marry, and who then died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. We’re told: ‘Israel (alias Jacob) loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age.’ Favouritism is a recurring theme in this family saga, and it always breeds trouble.
Next is the father. Jacob was himself the spoilt son of his mother, who connived with him to steal his elder brother’s birth right and blessing. Now he dotes on the son of his old age; the son who is a sign of God’s promises. Nothing is withheld from Joseph. He even gives him a special coat with long sleeves (A.V. translated it as a coat of many colours). It may be that a long-sleeved garment hinted that the wearer wasn’t expected to have his arms free to undertake manual work. Whatever, it wasn’t a gift to enhance family harmony.
Then there are the eleven brothers. Not surprisingly, they’re deeply hurt by the blatant favouritism towards Joseph; and over time the hurt becomes jealousy, and jealousy turns into hatred. This unhealthy dynamic is compounded by events omitted in today’s reading. Joseph is a dreamer and dreams will play an important part in his life. At this point he has two dreams, both of which are clear in their meaning: Joseph will become preeminent in his family. His brothers and parents will bow down to him! Whether it’s youthful naivety or the expression of a self-centred brat, or a combination of both, I don’t know. But Joseph shares his dreams with his brothers. They hate him both because of the dreams and because he insists on talking about them. Even his doting father rebukes him for his words. Though it seems that neither Joseph nor Jacob are aware of the intense jealousy raging in the hearts of the brothers, because Jacob then sends him to check on them while they pasture the flocks. Joseph, again showing a lack of common sense, wears his special robe, the sign of his father’s favouritism.
The brothers conspire to kill Joseph, but Reuben, the oldest brother, persuades them otherwise. They instead strip Joseph of his robe and throw him into an empty well. Joseph isn’t an attractive character, but his brothers are revealed as callous and cruel. Having tossed him into the pit, they sit down and enjoy their lunch. They show neither compassion nor remorse. The dreamer whom they jeered at had been dealt with; now, they said, ‘we shall see what will become of his dreams.’
Joseph’s descent into the pit is the first of several descents (and ascents) he’ll make. Drawn out of the pit, he’s taken ‘down’ to Egypt and sold into slavery. Nevertheless, blessed by God, he rises to a position of authority in Potiphar’s house. Falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, he’s again cast down, this time into prison. Again, God blesses him, and he rises to a position of authority. Forgotten by Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer after he correctly interprets his dream, Joseph seems fated to spend the rest of his life in prison. Then the cupbearer remembers, and Joseph is raised yet again from the ‘pit’ of prison to the highest position possible: he becomes the second in command in Egypt. It’s an image of life that you may recognise – rising and falling, descending and ascending. Yet, somehow, through it all, God is at work (as celebrated in today’s psalm). His power in Egypt will save the lives of his family, who will finally bow down to him.
This disturbing tale of violence and betrayal, of self-centredness and foolishness, becomes the means by which Israel’s descendants will survive a terrible famine. A sense of God’s purposes runs throughout. At the very end Joseph says to his brothers ‘Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.’
The story leaves me pondering the presence of God in our lives, and how God is in the midst of good and bad alike. What can God make of the messes that we humans create? Where is God in our selfcentred actions – in our foolishness and heartaches? The narrator of this ancient tale believes that, somehow, God is present in all circumstances of life. In spite of our foolishness, God’s purposes of at work, albeit in unnoticed or hidden ways.
It’s so easy to throw our arms up in despair and write-off humankind. What use can God have with these deeply flawed creatures called human beings? But Joseph’s story shows how God uses and draws good out of our sins and failures. In other words, sin can be a means of grace. Of course, there’s a thin line between honouring God’s working and presence and calling evil good. For example, thinking about the dysfunctions of Jacob’s family, we must be wary of enabling or excusing bad family behaviours instead of challenging and correcting them. Nor should we turn a blind eye to injustice. Nevertheless, Joseph discerns God’s goodness and purposes in the midst of the evil he suffered. The story invites us to seek out the ways God is present in the tough situations we experience.
It’s a question thrown up by the Gospel reading as Jesus comes walking towards the disciples across the sea. For the ancients the sea was symbolic of chaos and danger, and it’s across this that Jesus comes as the one who has power over the chaos and then calms them. Peter doubts, and Jesus asks why they have little faith. The question isn’t a condemnation of doubt, rather, a reminder that faith is about being open to recognising God’s presence in the turbulence of our lives. Jesus’ arrival doesn’t spell the end of the storm and the waves. That comes later. It’s often the same in our experience. The presence of God doesn’t necessarily bring immediate calm to our storm, but the chaos loses its power and we begin to find new meaning and transformation within it.
Peter, like Joseph, and perhaps like us at times, face circumstances and experiences that seem overwhelming. We live with the consequences of our own failures and sins, and those of others. We exist in a world marred by selfishness and suffering, and we may well ask, where is God? What’s God doing about it? We aren’t puppets and God isn’t the great puppeteer. Rather, God is more like a sculptor who can make something beautiful out of anything. For God, the great artist, nothing is too bent to be used, not even tragedies, not even bad decisions, not even plain human meanness. Joseph is a living work of art, and so are we. Through us, God is weaving the divine purposes.
Alister Hendery St Matthew’s, Hastings – 9.8.2020
Reflective hymn of praise:
It is good to trust to the Lord our God,
trust and hope in the Lord our God.
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.
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
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.