Sunday Worship – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

30th August 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, 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.


Music & words: David J. Evans (b. 1957) Copyright © 1986 Thankyou Music

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.

Spirit of God, search our hearts.


In silence we remember our need for God’s forgiveness.

We confess our sins to God.

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.

Collect

God of unchangeable power,
our strength at all times;
guard us from all dangers
and support us in all difficulties
that we may live victoriously now and forever;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

The Ministry of the Word

A reading from Exodus 3:1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“ God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.

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

Psalm 105:1–6, 23–26, 45c

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.

Then Israel came into Egypt:
Jacob settled in the land of Ham.

There Lord you made your people fruitful:
and they became stronger than their enemies,


whose hearts you turned to hatred of your people:
and to deceitful dealing with your servants.

Then you sent Moses your servant:
and Aaron whom you had chosen.
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.

A reading from Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in
hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them;
if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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

The Sermon ‘Moses’ Curiosity’

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) Matthew 14:13-21

Moses’ Curiousity

Moses is the classic hero: a warrior, mystic, political leader, prophet, rolled into one. His relationship with God was profound and intimate, and his influence on the history of the people of Israel second to none. But no one is born like that. It takes decades of gradual transformation, and today’s story shows part of that process.

Moses’ early life was turbulent. As an infant, he was marked for death, then rescued and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Although he lived his early years in comfort, he was doubtless confused and conflicted, sharing the heritage of enslaved people and the privileges of their oppressors. By the time we get to Exodus 3, he’s a fugitive, having killed an Egyptian taskmaster who had beaten a Hebrew slave. Fearing for his life, Moses fled to Midian, where he became a shepherd. But where to from here?

One day, while grazing his sheep, a nearby bush burst into flames. It wasn’t an extraordinary event. Occasionally a dried brush caught fire in the hot sun, blazed a moment, and died out. This time the fire didn’t die out, and he said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”

We’re warned against curiosity, after all, it killed the cat. Yet the desire to know is a powerful instinct, and this day curiosity got the upper hand. It seems to me that God uses our curiosity to draw us on. If Moses hadn’t given in to it, he might have stayed as a shepherd, and he would’ve never become the man he did. Curiosity can lead us away from the familiar. It involves us in change and searching and, for sure, that can disrupt our lives. But if we’re to realise our potential we need to allow ourselves to be caught by our curiosity.

I see two approaches to life. One is not to question or search out, but to simply accept things as they are. The other is to look, to inquire, to follow our curiosity. It’s the approach that asks questions, and yes, it
can be disconcerting at times, but it also enables an exploring faith out of which can emerge a deep spirituality. This is Moses. He asks questions and wonders what’s happening with the bush. As he nears it,
he hears a voice: ‘“Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”’

Up to now Moses has known God second-hand – as an almost long-lost tradition or as an impersonal power in whom he believes in a vague kind of way. Now he encounters God directly. He experiences God in relationship. It’s the move from knowing about God to knowing God. Whatever happened that day, Moses experienced it as a moment of meeting with God.

I respect experiences like this, rare though they are, because they help us to know and experience God more intimately. They are moments of change, of enlightenment, of challenge. That’s how it is for Moses.
Life will never be the same again. It’s an awesome experience, but it’s not an end in itself. It never is. Moses is called to work with God, who says, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt…
I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey… So come, I will send you to
Pharaoh to bring my people… out of Egypt.” So it is with us. We’re called to work with God to set people free from whatever enslaves them and prevents them from being who God calls them to be.

It’s quite an ask – even absurd. Not only will Pharaoh laugh at the idea, but Moses is wanted for murder. Yet, God is calling Moses to be a hero. He’s being called to accomplish the seemingly impossible… Here’s another absurd idea. We are called to be heroes. We’re not called to become a Moses, but we’re called to become the person God has created us to be. There’s an old tradition that God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak that message, or sing that song, or offer that act of love. These are entrusted to us alone. When we accept that task, then we too have set out on the path that Moses took.

I’m like Moses and I find reasons not to set out on this journey. I’m too old… I don’t have the gifts or the wisdom or the experience… It’s too scary. I come up with excuses. Is this familiar? Moses says he doesn’t
know what to say if the people ask him who has sent him. Who is this divine being that has sent him?

Behind that question is the belief that the knowledge of another’s name could give some power. But the giving of a name is also a sign of trust and openness. In Hebrew thought a name reveals something of the
inner essence of the person. It gives us a ‘handle’ on them. God grants Moses his request, and reveals the Divine name: ‘“I AM WHO I AM.” … “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’

What does this mean? Perhaps, that God is beyond time and space – eternally present. God is the great I AM, the holy One whom we can encounter but never totally comprehend. It’s as if God is saying, “Don’t
box me in. Don’t try to tie me down to your preconceptions. I’ll be who I’ll be.” Before this moment, God was simply ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’, the God ‘of our ancestors’ … a
tribal god… but now God can be known by all people, though humankind will have to wait before God gives a far fuller self-revelation in the person of Jesus.

Moses is also discovering that he can only learn who God is by following God on the path set for him. So it is for us. We come to know God as we become the person God is calling us to be… as we step out and begin the journey. So, after more protest, more excuses, more self-doubts, Moses will go to Egypt, confront Pharaoh, and lead his people out of Egypt. Our story isn’t that dissimilar. It’s only as we step out,
trusting God’s call to us, that we come to truly know God.

To know God, we have to go with God. Faith isn’t a spectator sport. It involves participation. We have to follow our curiosity, take risks, and try something new. We need to step out onto the winding road – the
end of which we can’t see from our doorstep.

I wonder, where is God calling you – where is God calling this faith community? What’s the special message you have to deliver, the song you have to sing, the act of love you have to bestow? It doesn’t have to be spectacular. As we saw last week, even the seemingly small action can change the world. You have the makings of being a hero, and if you think this sounds absurd, then you’re in company with Moses. But God has this habit of using ordinary and fallible people to do extraordinary things.

Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 30.8.2020

Prayers

Caring God,
we thank you for your gifts in creation:
for our world,
the heavens tell of your glory;
for our land, its beauty and its resources,
for the rich heritage we enjoy.

We pray:
for those who make decisions about the resources of the earth,
that we may use your gifts responsibly;
for those who work on the land and sea, in city and in industry,
that all may enjoy the fruits of their labours and marvel at your creation;
for artists, scientists and visionaries,
that through their work we may see creation afresh.

We thank you for giving us life;
for all who enrich our experience.

We pray:
for all who are deprived of fulness of life,
for prisoners, refugees, and those who are sick;
for those in politics, medical science, social and relief work, and for your Church,
for all who seek to bring life to others.
We thank you that you have called us to celebrate your creation.
Give us reverence for life in your world.

We thank you for your redeeming love;
may your word and sacrament strengthen us to love as you love us.

God, Creator, bring us new life.
Jesus, Redeemer, renew us.
Holy Spirit, strengthen and guide us.

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. 

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

The almighty and merciful God bless us and keep us now and for ever. 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.