Morning Service for Trinity 16

HYMN - The king of love my shepherd is - Dominus Regit Me - NEH 457

1 THE King of love my Shepherd is,

Whose goodness faileth never;

I nothing lack if I am his

And he is mine for ever.

2 Where streams of living water flow

My ransomed soul he leadeth,

And where the verdant pastures grow

With food celestial feedeth.

3 Peverse and foolish oft I strayed,

But yet in love he sought me,

And on his shoulder gently laid,

And home, rejoicing, brought me.

4 In death's dark vale I fear no ill

With thee, dear Lord, beside me;

Thy rod and staff my comfort still,

Thy cross before to guide me.

5 Thou spread'st a table in my sight;

Thy unction, grace bestoweth:

And O what transport of delight

From thy pure chalice floweth!

6 And so through all the length of days

Thy goodness faileth never;

Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise

Within thy house for ever.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
God the Father forgives us in Christ and heals us by the Holy Spirit.

Let us therefore put away all anger and bitterness, all slander and malice,

and confess our sins to God our redeemer.   cf. Ephesians 4.30,32

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

we have sinned against you

and against our neighbour,

through our own fault,

in thought, and word, and deed,

and in what we have left undone.

We are truly sorry

and repent of all our sins.

For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,

forgive us all that is past;

and grant that we may serve you in newness of life

to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of love and power

forgive you and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by his Spirit

and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers

   of your people who call upon you;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

   what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;

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


FIRST READING - Exodus 17.1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

SECOND READING - Philippians 2.1-13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Shining as Lights in the World

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

HYMN - O for a heart to praise my God - Stockton - NEH 74

1 O for a heart to praise my God,

A heart from sin set free;

A heart that always feels thy blood

So freely spilt for me:

2 A heart resigned, submissive, meek,

My dear Redeemer’s throne;

Where only Christ is heard to speak,

Where Jesus reigns alone:

3 A humble, lowly, contrite heart,

Believing, true, and clean,

Which neither life nor death can part

From him that dwells within:

4 A heart in every thought renewed,

And full of love divine;

Perfect and right and pure and good,

A copy, Lord, of thine.

5 My heart, thou know'st, can never rest

Till thou create my peace;

Till of mine Eden repossest,

From self, and sin, I cease.

6 Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart,

Come quickly from above;

Write thy new name upon my heart,

Thy new best name of love.

GOSPEL - Matthew 21.23-32

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

SERMON

Three readings from three radically different situations, they would appear to bare absolutely no relation to one another - and yet...

Our further instalment of the adventures of the Israelites in the wilderness is strikingly similar to last weeks.  This time it’s not bread they want but water, once again Moses is at the end of his tether and once again the people long for the past, and once again they put their God to the test.  They just cannot believe that he is on their side, that he has been with them and will be with them.  In the terms of the story the miracle will, this time, have to be closely observed by the people’s own representatives.  The startling part of this incident is that God says that he will be standing there in front of them on the rock at Horeb.  God’s presence is now almost tangible, invisible but palpable.  But still in the wilderness the people are unaware, not only have they forgotten past blessings, they have forgotten what it is to be in the presence of Yahweh.  This is by no means an uncommon human trait.  We are forgetful, especially of that which does not slap us on the face.  We too soon forget the blessing of God.  In the wilderness of our needs we too soon forget God’s past providing.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians contains many reminders of past instruction.  This morning’s passage was pure gold.  Paul simply reminds his readers that if they are truly ‘en Christo’, in Christ, then they should reflect the nature of Christ, both as individuals and as a community.  The astounding humility of the Son of God - emptying himself of his God-likeness to become human - should profoundly affect our relationships and our attitude to everyone.  

This is something we despair of achieving; we just do not see, very often anyway, something that amazing in our churches.  But that despair is the very cause of the problem, just like the Israelites in the desert we doubt the presence of God in the enterprise.  Paul tells us what we should already know, “for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  We must continually remind ourselves that in the struggle to be his people he is always with us.

Jesus’ barbed reply to his questioners explained why he disliked the worthiness of the professionally and culturally religious and admired the sincerity of the penitent.  To hear is one thing, to hear and to respond is quite another.  

Which takes us neatly back to Paul, it is one thing to understand that we are “in Christ”, it is quite another to demonstrate it.  And so back to Moses, it’s one thing to follow the pillar of fire out of Egypt, quite another not to give up in the desert when you’re tired and thirsty and the fire has become a mere memory.  Fundamental truths of why we are where we are are too easily forgotten in the fog of the present.  

Too easily forgotten also are the commitments we have made, and the idealism we once possessed.  The second son, asked to work, agreed to do so, possibly in all good faith, he really did mean to, but he changed his mind.  The reality of the task, the drudgery in carrying out the fine intention got the better of him.  I wonder if it was seeing all those devout and fine chief priests and elders that caused Jesus to consider that once upon a time they too had been full of enthusiasm and passionate faith but the years of compromise and expediency had worn them down and now they just went through the motions, intensely suspicious of the same passionate faith they once had experienced for themselves.

But such world-weary religion will not help people across deserts, or sustain and make fruitful a Christian community.  For there to be life in the community there must be faith – faith in itself as being what it is, a bearer of the good news of Christ, a witness to his presence in the world and a source of strength to the weary. 

HYMN - O thou who camest from above - Hereford - NEH 431

1 O Thou who camest from above,

The pure celestial fire to impart,

Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart.

2 There let it for thy glory burn

With inextinguishable blaze,

And trembling to its source return

In humble prayer, and fervent praise.

3 Jesus, confirm my heart's desire

To work, and speak, and think for thee;

Still let me guard the holy fire,

And still stir up the gift in me.

4 Ready for all thy perfect will,

My acts of faith and love repeat,

Till death thy endless mercies seal,

And make my sacrifice complete.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS -

Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
As our Saviour taught us, so 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.
Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

BLESSING
The power of God be about you,
the love of Christ enfold you,
the joy of the Spirit be within you;
and the blessing of God Almighty, 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - At the name of Jesus - Camberwell - NEH 338

1 At the name of Jesus

Every knee shall bow,

Every tongue confess him

King of glory now;

’Tis the Father’s pleasure

We should call him Lord,

Who from the beginning

Was the mighty Word.

2 At his voice creation

Sprang at once to sight,

All the angel faces,

All the hosts of light,

Thrones and bright dominations,

Stars upon their way,

All the heavenly orders,

In their great array.

3 Humbled for a season,

To receive a name

From the lips of sinners

Unto whom he came,

Faithfully he bore it

Spotless to the last,

Brought it back victorious

When from death he passed:

4 Bore it up triumphant

With its human light,

Through all ranks of creatures,

To the central height,

To the throne of Godhead,

To the Father’s breast;

Filled it with the glory

Of that perfect rest.

5 In your hearts enthrone him;

There let him subdue

All that is not holy,

All that is not true:

He is God the Saviour,

He is Christ the Lord,

Ever to be worshipped,

Trusted, and adored.

6 *Brothers, this Lord Jesus

Shall return again,

In the Father's glory,

With his angel train;

For all wreaths of empire

Meet upon his brow,

And our hearts confess him

King of glory now.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen