28 August 2011
Year A Sunday 21
Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20. Green.
Call to worship
Give thanks to the Lord
and sing his praises
for all the wonderful things he has done.
Let us worship and praise our God!
Hymn Together in Song 491 “Father Welcomes”
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of all Being,
you showed yourself to Moses in the fire of the burning bush.
You told him your plans and revealed to him your name,
you called yourself “I am”, not just an name, but an action,
You are the very act of existence -
all else can only exist because of you.
You are absolute being – not needing anything else to be -
all other being depends completely on you.
You are, and all else can be, only because you are.
And you have a plan for all that is,
You showed part of your plan to Moses
Through your word recorded in Scriptures,
you show part of your plan to us.
Through your word, coming into the world in Jesus,
you show your plan in action in the world.
Through your word, acting in our lives
you make us a part of your plan,
a part of your work in the world.
Sometimes we forget your name means “I am”,
We act or speak or think as if you were some time in the past,
but don't live now, don't speak now, or don't act in our world now.
Sometimes we forget that your name is a verb,
we act or speak or think as if you were a “thing” static, unmoving;
when your name means the very act of existing.
Sometimes we forget that your name identifies you as the source of all be-ing,
We act or speak or think as if we existed apart from you,
when even your name tells us that our being, relies on your being.
God of all, forgive our sins,
Help us to learn to speak, to think, to act in ways which glorify your holy name,
We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
Declaration of forgiveness
The truth of the Gospel - God's word to us
that Jesus came into the world,
so that we might be
put right with God.
So I have confidence to say to you:
“Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God!
Kids' time – Bec
Hymn Together in Song 236 Jesus' hands were kind hands
There's a saying that a week's a long time in politics. It's also apparently a long time in the life of a disciple.
A week ago we read that Peter was a rock, a foundation-stone Jesus could build a church on.
Today, he's a stumbling-block. Far from being the foundation of the church, he's the Satan, the accuser, trying to tempt Jesus away from his work. That's a bit of a demotion.
A rock's a rock. Of itself it's not good or bad. That's all in the way you look at it or what you do with it.
A rock could be almost anything. It could be a millstone, and grind grain into flour – or it could be a millstone tied around someones neck, dragging them down. It could be sculpted into a beautiful statue, or it could be the rock that starts an avalanche.
In a different congregation I was a part of once, the Sunday School children made prayer rocks. Those were rocks in small tulle bags, with instructions on use. The idea of a prayer rock is that you leave it on your pillow – when you hit your head on it at night time, you're supposed to remember you had to pray. Then you drop the rock on the floor beside the bed. When you hurt your foot stepping on it in the morning, you're supposed to remember to pray again. And you leave the rock back on the pillow. The children's prayer rocks were useful, but very uncomfortable. Sometimes, useful things just are uncomfortable.
Peter was a rock. Jesus had called him “Petros” - which wasn't a real name, but more a nick-name. It was like “Rocky” to us (but without the movie reference.) And for Peter, things did get rocky from time to time.
Peter had been praised by Jesus and declared to be the rock on which Jesus would build the church: because he had recognised that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the Living God.
The next thing Peter knew, he was being accused of being a stumbling-block, something tripping Jesus up.
Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me,” a reminder that the proper place for a disciple wasn't in deciding what should or should not happen, but in following the teacher. Then Jesus went into detail as to what following him would mean, self-denial, carrying a cross, following him.
Over and over Peter would get thism mixed up. He did have faith in God, and he did have faith in Jesus. He wouldn't have walked away from everything he knew to follow him if he didn't. But he was still an ordinary human being. He still made mistakes and said things he'd regret later. He wasn't the perfect disciple.
Peter's not all that different from us, I'm sure. We all have times when we seem like that strong stone which can be a firm part of Christ's church. Our faith seems solid and we seem to know exactly where God is leading.
Then we all have times when we are floundering. When we don't understand what God is doing, and we want to say: “No, do it my way.” In every life there are experiences we would rather not have had, experiences we can see no point to: just as Peter could see no point to Jesus' suffering.
And at times, we're all pulled up short, given the shock of being reminded that it is not our place to decide how God will act. We are the disciples, not the leaders, we should get back in our place and follow, even if we are following somewhere we really don't want to go.
It's comforting to know we're not the first to be in this position. Even those who were there with Jesus in his earthly ministry suffered from the same problem. When they thought they'd got it right, at times it turned out they were wrong. We don't know why Peter objected to Jesus going to the cross. Perhaps he just couldn't bear the thought of that happening to Jesus, his teacher, leader and friend. Perhaps he had other ideas of the role of the Messiah.
We have sometimes basically good reasons for objecting to the way God does things as well. Perhaps we see it as unnecessary. Perhaps we think thgere were better ways for things to happen. Perhaps we are frightened or distressed by the way things come about.
How often do we have to be reiminded that we ar ethe disciples, not the leader? We have to get behind and follow even when we don't like where it leads. Those times when we directly disobey, when we turn around and say “no” to God, how often do we hear those same words Peter heard: “get behind me.” We are reminded again of the path Jesus walked, to Jerusalem and the cross, and told if we are to be his followers, we also have to pick up our crosses and walk after him.
Like Peter, we're all a bit like rocks. Sometimes, we're solid rocks of faith, who seem able to withstand everything, a good foundation if we want to build Jesus' church. Sometimes, we don't want to go where Jesus is leading, and we become stumbling-blocks, causing problems for Jesus' mission in the world. I wonder what kind of rock I am right now. I wonder what kind of rock you are right now.
Even though Peter had to be put in his place, and reminded what it was to be a disciple, Jesus never rejected him. Jesus corrected him, taught him, and called him to continue the journey.
Hymn: Together in Song 490 Lord Jesus, once a child
Baptism of xxx
Prayers of the people – with Response Together in Song 741 “O Lord, hear my prayer.” I need a singer to help lead this
God of all Life,
We pray for all of the people living in your world,
For people not yet born, their parents, doctors and others already involved in decisions about their futures. We pray that every person you create will have the opportunity to live the life you intend for them.
For babies and children, for homes and food and clothes and health, for loving families, and safety and reassurance.
For teenagers, for guidance and care,f or help in the struggle of not yet being adult, but not feeling like children. For the challenges of working out who they are in the world. For the dangers they face, the risks and the pitfalls of life which they not be prepared for.
For young adults, finishing their education, searching for work, finding it or not finding it; establishing their homes and lives. For the basic skills for living they must learn to practice, whether or not they have been taught.
For parents, constantly finding new challenges, new fears and new hopes.
And for adults who never become parents, for the joys and disappointments of their lives.
For those who are old. For the peace or the trouble that memories bring. For the frustration of failing bodies. For watching other generations grow and learn. For the wisdom of experience. For the pain of loss.
For those who are dying. For peace and comfort. For love, and for a gentle move from this life into the next.
We pray for all of the people of your world – especially the needs we are most aware of (prayer points from newsletter).
And we pray for xxx who has been baptised today, may he grow in grace and wisdom, and in love for you. Guide him throughout his life, and let him know you are with him.
We prayfor his parents xxx and xxx. Surround their home with your love, support and guide them in their role of parenting, and give them love that is great enough for all the trials of a family home. Help them to keep the promises they have made on xxx's behalf today.
We pray these things in Jesus' name, and we use his words:
The Lord's prayer
Hymn 599 Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord, to thee
Present baptismal candle.