Ordinary Sunday 21 (23-08-2020)

 WELCOME TO WORSHIP WITH THE BARWON HEADS & OCEAN GROVE CONGREGATIONS

This service was streamed live via Zoom on August 23rd at 10am

Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use while public worship is not available in the church buildings   Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the back button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

-oOo-

“Tell me the picture of Jesus you have reached,  and I will tell  you some important traits about  your nature.”                                       (Oscar Pfister)

CALL TO CELEBRATION

In the breaking of the morning, in the breaking of the bread, let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of God.

HYMN “Come, Thou, Almighty King” (click here to listen)   

OPENING SENTENCES

L: Who is this Jesus?  Who do you say the Son of Man is?

R: Some say a prophet; some say a teacher.

L: Some say a wise man; some say a reformer.

R: Some say a mystic; Some say a shaman.

L: Some say a reincarnated prophet like Elijah, Jeremiah or John the Baptist.

R: But we say he is the Anointed One,  the Son of the living God.

L: Blessed are you who come today with that belief, for such faith is not your doing but a gift from God.

R: Thanks be to God!

PRAYER OF AWARENESS

God of surprises, startle us with truth we do not see, amaze us with your power and grace, beckon us, and lead us far above restricted hope and narrow faith. Amen.

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

     Meditation:  “Like the Wind” by the Rev. Bruce Prewer.

Like the wind swaying through mountain trees,
or surging through thickets of wattle,
so, God, is your presence with us;
your power thrusts through our lives.
You sweep away our petty worries
and shake us free from fears.
At your pressure we move and sway together,
as if we were of one mind.
Sometimes you are as strong as winter storms,
at others as soft as the rustling of ferns.
We are taught to bend and not be broken,
to be flexible without shifting ground.
You test the strength of our feet
and whatever proves shallow is uprooted.
On calm days we rest content, glad to watch each other

     Silence:

Let us take a moment to settle into the silence.  In these brief moments of silence and meditation may we find strength. May our lives be rich in affection, deep in understanding and sympathy for each other.  May the blessings of life be known to all.           (30 seconds silence)

PRAYERS OF CONFESSION

Holy Friend, even if we had not seen your light and love in Jesus, we might still be discontented with many of our thoughts, words and actions. But since you have shown your beauty in Christ, we are much more aware of how badly we have fallen short; of how far we are from fulfilling our potential.

We bring to you now the conglomerate that comprises our lives. We bring the small diamonds of success and the clay of failure, the gems we are proud to remember and the slag that makes us ashamed, the silver smattering of wisdom and the dross of our folly, the hopes that still shine like gold and the mud of pessimism. We confess all that we are and everything we have been, and put ourselves unconditionally in your hands.

Holy Friend, we thank you that the same Christ whose beauty highlights our fallen condition, also highlights your inexhaustible mercy. In your hands is forgiveness, in your hands is healing, in your hands is encouragement, in your hands is peace. Touch us now and we shall be made whole. For your love’s sake, amen!

THE WORDS OF ASSURANCE

L: Christ did not come to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be redeemed. He is the one who declares to those who come to him in faith: ‘You are forgiven. Go in peace.’  And so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.

R: Thanks be to God.

FROM THE EPISTLES Romans  12:1-8  (The Message Version)

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

FROM THE GOSPELS – Matthew 16:13-20

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17And 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. 18 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. 19 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.”

2Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Note:  The coloured text above (vv. 17-19), according to New Testament scholarship, does not convey the words or  even the thoughts of Jesus; rather, it is considered to be political propaganda inserted to support the authority of Peter.  It is highly unlikely, indeed inconceivable, that Jesus spoke of building a “church.”  He was a good Jew, and he fought against the pharisaic religiosity that had taken over Judaism.  He wanted to get back to the roots of Judaism, not start a new religion with himself as the focus. However, despite its origin and purpose, it is a good example of how Scripture, through story, is able to evoke the realisation of a Truth about life.

HYMN “Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing” (click here to listen) 

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS           “But Where’s the Keyhole?     

     Part 1

“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.16:19)

The disciples were asked a “Who Am I?” question by Jesus.  They made several replies: Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, presumably because that which they knew about Jesus could have fit any of those gentlemen.  They could have made any of several correct statements which fit Jesus: you are a teacher, you are a healer, you are a revolutionary, you are a prophet, you are a rabbi.  Yet, even all together, they don’t add up to the description of a unique individual.  Peter came up with something unique, however: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  

Here in the middle of the Gospel of Matthew we have the climax of the gospel story.  For the first time Jesus is called the Christ by his disciples,  the foundation stone is laid for the church,  and through Peter, we are handed the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  What more do we need to know?  Only how to use the keys – to find the keyhole.

If we join what we might call Peter’s rock group we, like Peter, are handed the keys to the kingdom of God; i.e. we become aware of a way into that fullness of life that Jesus called the kingdom of God. In Jewish tradition, the key of David refers to the teachers of the law; according to Mt.23:13, the keys of the kingdom of heaven are in the hands of the teachers of the law.  However, as a result of Peter’s and our recognition of the Christ, the keys – that is, the authority to enter the kingdom –  have been given to him and us.

In all that I have said thus far, I’ve side-stepped the issue of what it was that Peter was said to have recognised.  We may be part of Peter’s rock group, we may have the keys to the kingdom, but until we recognise what Peter recognised we can’t use the keys because we don’t know where the keyhole is.   Peter’s answer must be ours, too.  But what does it mean to confess Jesus as the Christ or Messiah?

The word, Messiah, would have meant one of several things to the Jews of the day.  There was no single understanding of what the Messiah would do, therefore, in itself it was not a unique description.  Was he the Milk & Honey Messiah who would bring prosperity to the land?  Was he the Political Messiah, who would free Israel from the Roman yoke?  Was he the supernatural apocalyptic Messiah who would bring and end to the old world and build the new Jerusalem?  Jesus rejected all of the prevailing Messianic images in the wilderness temptations, so the word ‘messiah’ must take on some new meaning, but even today we can only know the term, ‘Christ’ (the Greek word for messiah), simply as a name for Jesus.  To confess Jesus as Christ inevitably leads to the question of which Christ?  the Christ of piety?  the Christ of church dogma?  the Christ of literature and art?, the Christ of social activism?  There is no single definition because the word is coloured by a history of beliefs of those who recorded it.

The clue is, I think, given in verse 17: “for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.”  Here we have a story inserted for purposes of political propaganda by the Syrian Church and yet it conveys in story form the reality of God breaking through to reveal to humanity an image of what each of us can become.

Peter is any person who, despite failures, lapses of faith, misunderstandings, stubbornness, hard-heartedness, etc., suddenly sees the Truth.  He is any person whose eyes, for a great and blissful moment, penetrate the physical world like spiritual x-rays, to see into the infinite. Two humans, teacher and pupil, suddenly meet on a higher level, experiencing their encounter as a burst of the Beyond Within.  

The experience originates from neither person; not from exhaustive research, empirical scientific evidence nor detective-like reasoning, but from the Creator taking a creative step as soon as his creatures were ready.  Peter sees God in Jesus, yes, but it is the God in Peter that sees the God in Jesus.  What Peter called Christ is the image of God which is at the core of each one of us waiting to brought to consciousness.  He saw in Jesus that very same thing which was stirring within himself.  It may have been what Jesus called the Son of Man.  Today we might call it the Christ archetype. (An archetype is a pattern inherent in the human psyche.)

     Part 2

The Christ archetype was manifest in Jesus, defining the human relationship with God, with humanity and with the created order.  It was there to be perceived.  And so it awoke the Christ archetype in Peter, and continues to awaken that same God-pattern in us all.

This is the crossroads on the way to the kingdom of God.  A fully human person looks at you: you look at a human being who is completely free from bondage to this world and from egocentric fear.  He sees you as you are. Do you see him as he is?  He asks you, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter’s answer lingers in your ears, breathless, in utter sincerity: “You are the Christ…”  But you cannot repeat it. It has been repeated too frequently.  It is too coloured by over use and misuse. You are not asked about your belief, your creed.  The question has to do with what you actually see, what you discover while looking at this man – and any person – who is as he ought to be: mature and free.  What your eyes can see in this moment will decide what you shall do from now on.  You stand at the crossroads of your life.

Recognition makes you part of the rock at the foundation of creation, and you find the rock on which you must build your house, your life.  You are handed the keys to the kingdom, but where is the keyhole?

The answer comes from the same truth that reveals Jesus as Son of God:  namely, you are a child of God, also, and hence all people are brothers and sisters; all of them children of God.  We may glimpse eternity, but we cannot go and leave others behind.  If they fail, our success is useless.  Humanity fails or succeeds as a whole.  This is the purpose of the gift of the keys to the Kingdom: not to get yourself in, but to open the door for others.  Recognition of the Christ archetype in us unites us in a new way with friends and enemies alike.  The sins of humanity are our sins, and the keyhole is symbolised by a cross.  A life, your life, newly discovered in all its divine glory, is to be given up for others.

Note: If this sermon is less than clear, you may find some added clarity in “Messiah (Christ)” in “Words of the Word” on this website.

HYMN  665 “Jesus Christ is Waiting” (click here to listen)     

AN AFFIRMATION OF FAITH

L: From all corners of the world:

R: God has called a pilgrim people.

L: From all walks and ways of life:

R: God has called a pilgrim people.

L: Black and white, male and female

R: We are signs of God’s division.

L: Black and white, male and female

R: We are signs of God’s new creation joined together by love.

L: So let us not journey alone with God.

R: So let us not journey only with our friends.

L: Let us be a place and a people of welcome

R: signs of God’s all embracing love.

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

We pray, our God, for our sisters and brothers of every race, our fellow Australians and the myriads who may seem just statistics in populations of Asia, America , Africa or Europe. 

We cannot love every person, but you do, and we seek your blessing on them. Please help those who are caught up in webs of corporate evil, and  those who are torn by personal temptations, to now take some control of their own destiny. 

Please help any who are on the brink of belief and trust, but who feel that their lives are too insignificant for you to be concerned for them, to find renewed faith. 

Please help children who are enduring war, hunger, violence, or who are forsaken, orphaned, homeless, or diseased, to receive loving care through the hands of your agents of mercy. 

Please help the intellectually and physically handicapped,  the frail who find each day a major struggle, the lonely, sad or bitter folk, to discover peace and purpose in their daily lives. 

Please help prime ministers and presidents, parliaments and local councils, the UN Security Council and Unesco, to find the way to achieve what is best without fear or favour. 

Please help leaders in commerce and industry, and union secretaries and shop stewards, to look beyond short-term victories to the long term well being of all. 

Please help the social welfare outreach of the church, its social justice ministries, and its ventures in evangelism, that we may be more ready to serve than be served. 

Please help us where it is appropriate to our skills and opportunities, to implement some of these prayers with sensitivity, integrity and quiet determination. Through Christ Jesus our Lord, who taught us to pray, “Our Father…” 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

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, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us in the time of trial, and deliver us from evil; for the kingdom and the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen

HYMN 154 “Great is Your Faithfulness(click here to listen) 

WORD OF MISSION

L: Let us embrace the wonder of this week with expectation and imagination. Our time of celebration is now coming to an end.

R: For it is merely a time of rest, a time of transit, when we, together with Creativity God, can pause before taking to the road again.

BENEDICTION

Fall in love with living, wrestling with the chaos and the pain within ourself and within the world. Join the celebration of life, dancing with the angels and the clowns. And may the God of peace and joy, who is continually making all things new, embrace you as a partner in the divine creating. 

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