Our Worship for Sunday, 23rd August: 11th Sunday after Trinity

Welcome to today’s online worship offering using the same readings, prayers and reflection that will be shared in church plus some lovely musical offerings. It takes about half an hour to fully participate in this offering so we hope you can find some quality time to interact with it. Thank you for joining us.

The Prayer for Today: The Collect

O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen

Hymn: Through all the Changing Scenes of Life

First Reading: Romans 12: 1-8. The New Life in Christ

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Psalm 124: If the Lord himself had not been on our side

If the Lord himself had not been on our side, 
now may Israel say:
If the Lord himself had not been on our side, 
when men rose up against us;
They had swallowed us up quick: 
when thy were so wrathfully displeased at us.
Yea, the waters had drowned us: 
 and the stream had gone over our soul.
The deep waters of the proud: 
had gone even over our soul.
But praised be the Lord: 
who hath not given us over for a prey unto their teeth.
Our soul is escaped even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler: 
the snare is broken, and we are delivered.
Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord: 
who hath made heaven and earth.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, 
and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning is now 
and shall be evermore.
Amen

The Gospel: Matthew 16: 13-20. Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Hymn: O Thou who camest from above

Today’s Reflection: from Rev. Jane Cresswell, our Vicar

Loving father, meet us now where we are and lead us on to where you would have us be.”

“Who do you say that I am?”  That’s the question Jesus asks his disciples in the gospel we have just read.  It has to be one of the most searching questions one can ask.  

But first he asks a preliminary question:

v13 “Jesus … asked his disciples, “who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  Lots of people had views about Jesus.  Jesus was, you could say, the big controversial celebrity name of his time, and people being people, were talking about him.  Yet even now, after all this time, after all his teaching, healing and miracles, they are confused.  They don’t know what to make of him.  And the disciples have heard all the rumours.

Basically there were three theories circulating.  First there were those who thought he was John the Baptist.  A bit odd you might think when John was Jesus’ cousin and contemporary.  And yet, by this stage in Jesus’ ministry, John has been beheaded.  Matthew recorded Jesus’ grief at the death of his cousin back in chapter 14.  Now some people are thinking that his spirit had entered Jesus.  

The second theory going the rounds was that Jesus was Elijah.  Well perhaps that makes a bit more sense.  If you think back to the story of Elijah in the Old Testament you may remember that he was snatched into heaven in a whirlwind in a chariot of fire, leaving young Elisha to pick up his mantle and carry on the task he had begun.  And there was an expectation that Elijah would one day return and announce the coming of the Messiah.

The third suggestion flying about was that Jesus was the prophet Jeremiah come back to life.  Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet because of his compassion.  Both Jeremiah and Jesus are examples of patient endurance in the face of unfair suffering.  As people watched Jesus loving the unlovable, caring for the marginalised and weeping over people, it is not surprising they connected him with Jeremiah the prophet.

But I wonder if you have noticed what those different theories have in common?

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is? … Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  The people identified Jesus with figures from the past, with prophets who came to announce the coming Messiah and point the way forward.  They couldn’t acknowledge Jesus for who he really was – for his unique mission.  

And now comes the real question.  The question which is directed to the disciples themselves.  In the Greek the word “you” comes right at the beginning of the sentence and again in the middle giving it great emphasis.  It is a deeply personal question, requiring a personal response.  There’s no room to hide behind theories or pat answers.  

And it isn’t looking for a purely intellectual answer.  It’s the kind of real question that is going to define the relationship between Jesus and the respondents.

The disciples are the people closest to Jesus.  They had lived alongside him, talked with him, witnessed his miracles, heard him teach and pray.  Now is the moment when the relationship needs to be defined.  “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter, as far as we know, is the only one to answer.  We don’t know if he speaks only for himself or as spokesperson for them all.  But we do know his answer:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”

Peter defines Jesus as the Christ or Messiah – the one who would save Israel, God’s King.  And he also calls him the Son of the Living God – recognising his special relationship with God though not necessarily at this stage understanding him as divine as well as human.  That came later after the resurrection.  But this is a ground breaking answer.

It’s an answer inspired by the Spirit of God renewing Peter’s mind and heart so that he can begin to make the connections, even though he still doesn’t always get it right.

It is a life changing answer.  The gospels record how from this moment on Jesus begins to turn his face towards Jerusalem and the cross.  And it is Peter’s recognition of Jesus as Messiah that is the rock on which the whole community of the church will be built.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the bedrock of the church then and now.

So how come the people of his time couldn’t work it out?  They were certainly expecting a Messiah, but they were looking in the wrong place.  They were looking for a great military or political leader and Jesus was just a carpenter, doing a very ordinary job.  Jesus was no political hero with a strategy to overthrow the Roman invaders, but instead a healer who made blind people see and deaf people hear.  Jesus was not of Royal lineage but born of Galilean peasants, illegitimate at that, or so the rumours went.  He wasn’t a highly educated rabbi upholding the Jewish tradition, but rather a teacher who loved sinners.  Jesus had broken all the rules by sharing his life with sinners.  He ate with tax collectors, he hung out with the riff-raff, he prayed with prostitutes.  Jesus understood that lost people matter to God and they loved him and flocked to him.  The community he was building was not at all the kind of community that the religious authorities thought right and proper.  It even included the gentiles.  

How could the Jewish Messiah sit in the company of sinners, especially gentiles?  The religious leaders of his time couldn’t understand it.  But then they had perhaps forgotten how Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would minister to all the nations.  (Isaiah 42:1)

The community that Jesus calls into being and builds around him is a community of forgiven sinners, prone like Peter to making all kinds of mistakes, yet given a fresh start time and time again.  It’s a community that is asked to stake its life on the answer to that question: “Who do you say that I am?”  

It’s a question we all have to answer for ourselves and one we answer with growing understanding as we grow closer to Jesus and discover more of who he is and what kind of relationship we have with him.  And our answer, our heart’s answer, will form the basis for our living, just as it did for Peter.  What might it mean for you, for us, to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah?  Does our church life demonstrate the reality of a community bearing allegiance to Jesus, the Messiah who walked alongside the ordinary person, reached out to heal the sick, taught with patience and lived faithfully the good news of his Father’s love for all humankind?

“Who do you say that I am?”  

Hymn: Brother, sister, let me serve you.

Our Prayers for Today: As the Church of God, members of the Body of Christ, let us pray together.

Want to be like Jesus today? Do these things… – Dr. Kevin Blackwell
Fill your Church, O Lord, with life and energy, spiritual health and vitality.
As we feed on you, may we grow more like you;
May we exercise your loving, minister with your tenderness,
Serve with your humility and co-operate with your vision.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
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Fill your world, O Lord, with wonder at creation,
Recognition of our mutual human responsibility,
Desire for reforming what is at fault, 
and hope in the possibility of living in peace with God and one another.
We pray for the people of Belarus and Lebanon particularly at this time.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
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Fill our homes and neighbourhoods, O Lord, with generosity and trust.
Help us to be always ready to encourage and support.
May we cherish our bodies, minds and spirits 
as temples of your Holy Spirit,
And honour one another as people of your making.
We pray especially at this time for all young people 
receiving exam results 
and uncertain about their futures.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
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We pray for all who are ill at home or in hospital,
Remembering especially at this time Mic Hall 
and Jessie Cooper recovering from surgery,
Sue’s sister, Eileen, and Mervyn and Jo Eden.
We pray for those who have just discovered 
they have illnesses or injuries that will change their lives.
And we pray for all who work to heal and comfort the sick.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
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We pray for the dying, and those who love them;
We pray for those who have completed this life
And have made the journey through death.
We pray for those who comfort the bereaved.
 
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
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Fill our hearts, Lord, with thankfulness and praise
As we recall your faithfulness and live in your love.
 
Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Hymn: Thou art the Christ, O Lord

Notices for this Week

PCC Meeting Today: The PCC is meeting after the morning service at St Nicolas Church this morning.  The outcomes of the meeting will be on our website later this week.

Cream Tea at St Anne’s Church, Dropmore: this afternoon, St Anne’s is holding another ‘Take Away Cream Tea’ from 3pm to 5pm.  If you haven’t placed an order, it is still worth going along as Sue is baking extra scones so you should be lucky!

Feeding the Soul: Do you sometimes feel the need for a bit more spiritual nourishment?   Do you miss the opportunity to meet with other members of our church community? 

Our Parish ‘Connections’ programme is for everyone and on Wednesday, 2nd September from 7:00 to 8:00pm, Jane our Vicar is inviting us into her garden (socially distanced!) to reflect on ‘The Spirit of Love: Loving Neighbour’.  You don’t need to bring anything except perhaps something to drink (!).  We are hoping to hold a Connections session fortnightly at least during September.  It would be helpful for seating arrangements if you could let Jane know if you would like to come.

Suzanne’s Ordination as Priest: This will take place on Saturday 19th September 2020 at St Mary’s Church, Wendover at 3pm. Sadly under the governments covid-19 guidance, guests are not permitted. We understand the service may be streamed and if/when we have information about this, we’ll let you know. The big day for our congregations will be the Sunday (20th September) when Suzanne will preside at the eucharist for the first time; note the date now!

Weddings: You will be pleased to hear that we have four weddings coming up at St Nicolas Church: Andrew and Gemma, Oliver and Katja, Thomas and Claire, Matthew and Joanna.  Please do remember these couples in your prayers.

Lord of love, we pray for all these couples 
who are planning to be married in this parish.  
Be with them in all their preparations 
and on their wedding day 
and give them your love in their hearts 
throughout their married life together.  
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
Amen 
[Mother’s Union Prayer]

Burnham Labyrinth Project: We are invited to paint stones that will become part of the Burnham Labyrinth as a way to remember these Covid times.  The Labyrinth represents a journey.  For some their experiences may have been very positive but for    others it may have been a difficult and lonely time especially if they have lost a loved one.  The Labyrinth will be a multi-faith area with open access where people can come to reflect, mourn, celebrate or to just sit.  It’s free; you just sign up via Eventbrite – search for stone painting Burnham.  There’s also more information in the ‘News’     section of this website.

Being the Church: As we explore ‘new normals’ and reflect on what is required of us in growing God’s church, perhaps this is a good start…

Things to do and places to go!

Services/Events next Week

St Anne’s Church Dropmore: is open for private prayer by appointment. There is now a said Holy Communion service at 9:15am on the second and fourth Sunday in the month.

 St Nicolas Churchis open for private prayer on Wednesdays from 12 noon until 2 pm with a said Holy Communion service at 12:30.

St Nicolas Church will be open for a further said Parish Eucharist at 10:45am next Sunday (30th August) subject to restrictions.

Our online Sunday worship offering continues on our website including the readings, reflection and prayers plus some lovely musical offerings.

Final Hymn: Lift High the Cross

Blessing

May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith;
and may you be rooted and grounded in love,
and comprehend, with the saints,
what is the breadth and length and height and depth
of the love of Christ,
so that you may be filled 
with the fullness of God.
[based on Ephesians 3: 17-19]

Voluntary

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