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15th 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):

The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation;

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

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ 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)

Exodus 14:19-31
00:00 / 02:18

Our second reading for today:

(click the 'play' button below to listen)

Romans 14:1-12
00:00 / 02:04

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.

Philippians 2:1-13
00:00 / 02:13

Listen to David speak to this gospel

The Power of Forgiveness
00:00 / 14:34

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

Sermon Ordinary 24, 17th September 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>

This week I have been remembering the 9/11 attacks in the United States. On that day in 2001 I was in Australia with a former US President and this brought the tragedy so very close.

However, in the midst of that darkness, a shining light is Phyllis Rodriguez, a mother who expresses forgiveness, not hate, toward those who killed her son.

Phyllis’ son Greg died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He was a computer specialist working on the 103rd floor of the North Tower and she recalls, in harrowing detail, how she found out that something terrible had happened that morning.

Phyllis and her husband Orlando went on to release an open letter to then President George W. Bush. The couple wanted no part of revenge. They opposed the death penalty for the man who became known as the 20th hijacker, they befriended Zacarias' mother, Aicha el-Wafi, and became active participants in human rights and forgiveness projects.

Despite knowing that she will never see her son on this earth again, Phyllis chose to forgive those responsible. <PAUSE>

So, what does it REALLY mean to forgive someone?

That, essentially, is the question Peter is asking Jesus at the start of today’s gospel. His suggestion of seven times is no accident – that was Peter’s biblical signifier of what is complete or perfect. Peter wants to get it right. He’s not asking Jesus what the bare minimum requirement is to ‘pass the class’; Peter wants to ace the exam with a perfect score.

Jesus replies, though, with an astronomical figure – seventy-times seven. This is the response that forgiveness requires something even beyond perfection.

Forgiveness - requires - something - beyond - perfection … let that sink in for a minute.

The goal is the perfection of perfection; infinity times infinity.

No wonder we have such a hard time doing it! However, there is hope in this response from Jesus; he is telling us that forgiveness is not about some sort of ‘forgiveness count’, but instead it is about ON-GOING discipleship.

Put another way, forgiveness is beyond counting!

In the face of her personal tragedy Phyllis Rodriguez seems to do the impossible.

Forgiveness on such epic levels fits with the the pattern that Jesus gave to Peter, a forgiveness that knows no bounds; a way of life, ongoing, beyond perfection!

Forgiveness, on its most basic level, is a “letting go”. It is a choice that we make, regardless of remorse shown or not shown by others, by behavioural changes made or not made by others.

To forgive is to make a PERSONAL, conscious choice to release the person who has wounded us from the sentence of OUR judgment, however justified we may feel that judgment may be. It represents a choice to leave behind our resentment and hurt.

Forgiveness means the original wound’s power to hold us trapped is broken. We are released. We are set free.

But, as with most things that are ultimately good for us, it’s often not the most attractive option unless we make the efforts. Our human nature seems to be to get sucked into our own anger. Such an attitude breeds resentment, which is when we re-live that anger over and over again.

Forgiveness challenges us to release those things that bind us.

Forgiveness challenges us to “let go and let God”.

This is what makes forgiveness such a theologically important concept – when we let go of our resentment and anger and relinquish the grudges we have, we open up space – space to experience all of the other emotions present in our lives; space to experience grief if we need to grieve, space to experience joy and hope in the promises of a brighter tomorrow, and time to work through other things that prevent us from living the lives God intends for us. Most of all, forgiveness offers us the space to experience God’s grace and love more fully.

Let me be clear, though: forgiveness is not just “get over it.” It is not pretending that some wrong did not occur or forgetting that it happened or acting like the harm done is acceptable by condoning or excusing it.

Forgiveness is naming the offence and declaring that it should NEVER be repeated.

Forgiveness is also declaring that the offence will no longer take hold in our lives.

Forgiveness proclaims that mercy is what will define us.

I think that’s what Jesus was hoping for in his conversation with Peter and the parable that followed; that the lives of His disciples would be marked by mercy.

Such mercy, though, can only come with a renewal of trust which, VERY SADLY, may not always be possible. If you aren’t able to get to that point of reconciliation, right now, or ever, that is okay. Continue to work on the acts of forgiveness you are being called to give. It’s hard, excruciating work, but remember this refrain:

“We try to forgive, but we are human too.”

Forgiveness calls attention to our humanness at its most human. It reduces us to our most base of instincts, and challenges us with the hard work of responding in the way of Christ instead.

Listen to these words:

“When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on His right and the other on His left.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The lessons of Jesus can be daunting. They are big. Larger than seems possible.

Yet we need such big images to begin to wrap our heads around the nature of God, and such seemingly unreachable examples might just be what we need to begin to take even a little step in the direction that forgiveness calls us.

One opportunity at a time, then seven, then seventy, then seventy times seven. May we, little by little, move more into the ways of God’s mercy.

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:

A 9/11 PRAYER OF REMEMBRANCE

Most Holy and Eternal God, even though the events of 9-11 took place several years ago, many of us can still recall them like it was yesterday. Some, more then others, are still feeling the effects, and the pain.

On this day, we remember all those who lost their lives and their loved ones to this terrible tragedy. We lift up their families and their friends, and ask for strength, peace, comfort, and the courage to forgive. Amen.

(LONGER pause for silent, personal reflection)

Holy God, You have called us together today; and so as we gather we offer to You our prayers which stem from our love for You and our love and concern for those we love and for the people of the world.

(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.

Lord God, when we, Your people, join together, we can show others a much fuller picture of Jesus and His Kingdom. We pray for your people in around the world and ask that there will be a growing desire to get together and proclaim The Kingdom of God. We give you thanks for those who come up with fresh ways of making your name known to the wider community and for those who work so hard to make fellowship so pleasurable and successful.

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

Creator God, we pray not only for the victims but also for the perpetrators of evil and violence in our world; for all governments which run on corruption and fear. We pray for a change of heart and attitude, an awakening to a better way of living, and the courage to reject wrong principles, to forgive, and to live together.

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

Father God, forgive us when we waste our lives by being too busy to enjoy Your creation. Teach us how to make spaces in the day to do the things we most enjoy. Just as You rested from Your work, help us to practise the discipline of recreation and help us to become Your hands and feet in our streets so that our neighbours will one day ask us to tell them more about You.

(Short Silence) Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer. Loving God, help those we know and love to turn away from habits which are harmful to them. Help them to turn to You in times of crisis, rather than reaching for quick-fix solutions.  Lord, we also bring to You those we know who are ill or suffering in any way.  Give them healing and restore them in body, mind and spirit.

We now raise before you all those who have asked for our prayers from around the world … those we know in New Zealand, in Singapore, in Argentina, in France, in Australia, in the US, in Canada, in Austria, in Ukraine 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.

Mighty God, we remember in Your presence all those who have died, and particularly those we have known and loved. Thank you for them and thank you for your promise of eternal life and peace.

Be close to those who are recently bereaved, strengthen them with the knowledge that you are always there to lean on and to be carried through difficult times.

We especially pray for any we know who recently died and are on that journey to You and for those who are bereaved by their passing.

May all the faithful departed now rest in peace as they most surely have risen in glory.

(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, at the start of this new week, help our love and forgiveness be an example to others and show us the practical steps we need to take to develop consistency and integrity in all that we do in our lives.

(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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