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11th Sunday after Pentecost

What follows is a worship service which, I pray, you can participate in at a time(s) that are convenient to you. This 'service' will take about forty five (45) minutes.

I pray that you will feel called to ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in this service.

The text that is in regular typeface (that is what you are reading at the moment) is to be read quietly, while the text that is in
bold face (like you are reading right now) is meant to be read aloud.

Opening Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we commence our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A Call To Worship:

We meet in the name of God,

Creator of the universe,

source of true humanity,

mother and father of all. Amen.

An Assurance of Forgiveness:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

The Absolution
00:00 / 00:18

The Sentence For Today (let us say aloud):

Oh, how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity!

The Special Prayer For Today (let us pray aloud):

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Our first reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

Genesis 45:1-15
00:00 / 02:34

Our second reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

Romans :11_1-2a, 29-32
00:00 / 00:55

Gradual Hymn:

Let us continue by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we raise out voices in praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

A reading from the holy gospel according to Saint Matthew.

Matthew 15:21-28
00:00 / 01:33

Listen to David speak to this gospel

Us and Them!
00:00 / 12:13

or, if you prefer, you can read the sermon, below:

Sermon Ordinary 20, 20th August 2023

MAY the words of my mouth and the meditations in our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. <Amen>

Our Gospel text for today speaks directly to the “us” and “them” mentality that often rears its ugly head in our human world.

It has always been easy to ‘draw a circle’ so that some are inside and others are out. It may be people of a different race or ethnic origin, different gender or gender orientation, age, educational background or ability. It is easy to look at the man with tattoos or the woman with many piercings, the man who stutters or the woman who didn’t make it through high school and say that this person is just “not like us”.

Today, we find Jesus out of the land of Israel and in the region of Tyre and Sidon … Gentile territory!

Then a woman from the area comes to Jesus - Matthew uses the word “Canaanite” and this term is heavily “loaded” for Jewish people because Canaanites were the pagan people with whom the Israelites had fought for centuries. The Canaanites were idol worshippers and opponents of the one true God.

This Canaanite woman who came to Jesus, came alone without a husband or son or father AND she came shouting loudly, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David.”

So, from the beginning - this woman has “three strikes” against her:

she was not Jewish (strike one!),
she was a woman who spoke to a man without a male intermediary (strike two!),
she was a pest, whose screaming and shouting behaviour would not endear her to Jesus and His followers. Indeed the disciples came and urged Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting at us.” (strike three!)

‘The circle’ is clearly drawn - Jesus and the disciples and Jewish men are inside. This bothersome, Canaanite woman is outside. <PAUSE> “Us” and “Them”.

What I find very interesting is how much a ‘man of His time and place’ Jesus was. Jesus agreed, so it seems, with the disciples - His mission was to Israel only. Yes, she had confessed Him Lord and Messiah, something many in Israel would not confess. Yes, she asked Him for mercy and knelt down before Him in a posture of supplication and worship. Yes, She had faith that Jesus could heal her daughter of a tormenting demon. What did Jesus do when she would not go away? He likens her to a dog!

The Jews often referred to the Gentiles as “dogs” - a term of insult and derision.

But the woman uses the same phrase back to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” <PAUSE>

There you have it … with that one phrase … she broke the circle and entered in. <PAUSE>

Salvation came to her and her possessed daughter not because she became Jewish or promised to keep the Law of Moses. But here in Matthew’s Gospel she finds salvation through faith in Jesus alone.

Jesus responds, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done to you as you wish.” Her daughter was healed instantly.

When we look into the Bible, there are only a few people who specifically acquired the praise of Jesus Christ … this Canaanite woman is one!

The great Good News is not just for men, for Jews, for people who conform to our expectations of them, not just for any one, single religious denomination. It’s taken us a long time to realise this and - very sadly - some still don’t grasp the breadth of the love of Christ and the call, to everyone, to spread the great good news of Jesus Christ. Remember - the first great controversy in the Christian Church was whether Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians.

Christ reveals that NO PERSON is to be called common or unclean and so it was that at the Council of Jerusalem (about AD50) it was agreed that Gentiles could become Christians. Meanwhile … in my own lifetime … I remember when the first woman priest and the first woman bishop were ordained. I remember when a divorced person could not re-marry in church. Today, I remain saddened by the divisions we see amongst our brothers and sisters relating to the acceptance of same-sex couples and their positions in the body of Christ - HIS Church.

The God of MY understanding leads me to believe that being a woman and wanting to be a priest or pastor is not a sin; divorce is not an unforgivable sin; being gay or lesbian is not an unforgivable sin.

Your opinions on these matters may very well differ from mine … BUT … the world needs to remember … we are all sinners.

Scripture tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Paul, writing to the young church in Rome puts it so wonderfully when he declares that Jews and Gentiles are BOTH sinners and invited to be God’s people through faith in Jesus.

Like the Canaanite woman, we are not saved by our gender or our status, our race or educational level, by our sexual orientation or our good behaviour or whether we attend this church or that. We do not find our self worth in what others may think of us but in being children of God and heirs to God’s Kingdom ….. through faith in Christ alone.

What our Gospel text, the Canaanite woman, clearly says is that we are saved by faith in Jesus alone - - - irrespective of who we are.

God’s good news is for all people not just some.

Christ died for all not just some.

Forgiveness is for all not just some.

The only condition is faith ….. which is, itself, a gift of God.

Yes, we are human beings, full of faults and ‘fallen’ and

YET …

Our God is faithful and loving even when we, God’s servants, may not be.

Our God draws the circle wide enough to bring everyone in.

Never let anyone or anything try to keep you outside the circle that is God’s love in Jesus Christ. Live the life of The Risen Christ proudly inside the circle of Christ’s love that encompasses ALL of us … and … to God will be the glory.

I runga e te Ingoa o te Atua, te Matua, te Tama me te Wairua Tapu.
In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit <AMINE>

Pause and Reflect

Just take a moment now to pause. Bow your head, close your eyes.
 

Allow these words of Holy Scripture and this interpretation of them today to speak to you.

An Affirmation of Our Faith

Let us affirm our faith by saying aloud, and together, "The Apostles Creed":

apostles_creed_pic02.jpg
Image by Allef Vinicius

... and now let us pray for the Church, the World, and Ourselves, giving thanks for God's goodness.

​Let us pray aloud, and together:

Loving God we recognise our responsibility to encourage and uphold one another and to live together within the all-encompassing circle of Christ’s peace and love. We also recognise our needs and our human weaknesses and come to You now with our prayers and petitions.

(LONGER pause for silent, personal reflection)

In response to the call today “Lord, in Your Mercy” Our plea is, “Hear our prayer”

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Holy God, we pray for Your people all around the world. We especially pray for Christians who pay a heavy price for their faith; who daily experience hostility, from their governments, employers and neighbours, as a result of their identification with Christ.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Creator God, You created us to be stewards of Your creation but we have chopped down forests, polluted the air, poisoned the rivers and seas, destroyed the places where nature lives and even pursued them to extinction. Help us change our ways so that we can look after the world, and to make it the way that You want it to be.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Father God, help us be reliable and honest in what we do, and friendly to all we meet in our daily lives. Help us always to give our best, to work to our fullest and never be ashamed to confess Your name.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Gracious God, We pray for the ill, the lonely and distressed especially those tormented by the demon of mental illness. We pray for healing and wholeness in their lives and we pray for ourselves.  Help us to bring life and love, joy and hope, to those who live in despair.

We now raise before you all those who have asked for our prayers from around the world … those we know in in New Zealand, in Singapore, in Argentina, in France, in Australia and any others we now name aloud, or in the silence of our hearts, and those who are known only by you. <PAUSE>

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Merciful God, remember the souls of your servants now gone from this life and for those who are saddened by their passing. Be with the bereaved in their loneliness and give them the faith to look beyond their present troubles to Your Son Jesus Christ who died and rose again and who lives forevermore.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Heavenly father, in a moment of silence we place before you our personal prayers for ourselves, our families, our friends, for all of those whom we love and, for our personal ministries.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Faithful God, forgive us when we only turn to You when things trouble us and when we forget to thank You for Your blessings and bounty. Help us to recognise all the wonderful things in Your world for which we should be grateful and send us out into the coming week ready to show our gratitude in all that we do and say.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.

Forth in the peace of Christ we go; Christ to the world with joy we bring; Christ in our minds, Christ on our lips, Christ in our hearts, the world’s true King.

Merciful father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

lord's_prayer_pic01_edited.jpg

Remembering that we are confident to pray this day, and every day, because Jesus Christ continues to teach us:
 

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 conclude our prayers by praying together and aloud:

 

God of mercy,
you have given us grace to pray with one heart and one voice,
and have promised to hear the prayers
of two or three who agree in your name,
fulfil now, we pray,
the prayers and longings of your people
as may be best for us and for your kingdom.
Grant us in this world to know your truth,
and in the world to come to see your glory. Amen.

The Blessing

May The Risen Lord Christ turn His face towards each and every one of you.

May He cause His light to shine upon you, and

may He grant you His peace, and

 

The blessing of Almighty God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be with you and all of those whom you love,

on this day and forever more.

A Closing Hymn:

Let us conclude our worship today by watching, and please do feel free to sing or read aloud the lyrics, as we unite in another hymn our praise and thanksgiving.

When you are ready - click the "play" button on the video window, below:

The Dismissal

Go now, go out into the world

to love and serve The Lord.

 

Go in peace.

AMEN, we go in the name of Christ.

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