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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Worship Service for Sunday 23 September 2012: Year B Sunday 25

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Call to Worship Psalm 1:1-3

Hymn Together in Song 474 Here in this place

Prayer of Adoration and confession

Gracious God,
We give you thanks that we mortal beings can join with the angels, and with the rest of creation, in offering your praise. We give you thanks for each new morning, for all of the hopes and possibilities of the new day.

We give you thanks for the coming of spring after the winter, as all of the plants which lie dormant in the cold of winter explode into life, as the birds lay their eggs, and the animals bring their new babies into the world. We see signs of new life all around, and we marvel at the mystery and promise of resurrection.

We give you thanks for all of the people you have sent into our lives. For the people who serve you by serving us, for the people who give us opportunities to serve you as we serve them. For the wonder of what it is to love another, because you love us.

Merciful God
We confess our failure to serve
We confess we have failed to serve you as you have called us to do
We confess that we have looked on opportunities to serve as a duty or something to be avoided – not something to welcome as a way to encounter you in our lives.
When we have seen others in need, we have failed to see you, we have failed to see their need as yours.
We have confessed that we have looked at those who are outstanding in business or politics or sports and considered them to be great, when your measure of greatness is how a person serves others.
We confess that we have sinned, and we ask your forgiveness. Turn us around to follow your way, to love what you love, to want what you want, to work for your will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
The truth and the promise of the Gospel is this: Christ Jesus came into the world for the sake of ordinary, sinful, people such as us, so I have confidence to say to you “Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God!

Kid’s Time

Hymn Together in Song 662 I know someone who watches over me

Scripture
Proverbs 31: 10-31
Mark 9: 30-37
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Sermon

The disciples were busy arguing about which of them was the greatest, while Jesus was trying to explain to them about his death. While they were distracted by their own importance, he was struggling to get something through to them that really was important.

So Jesus found another way to get through to them.  He put a child in front of them.  We don’t know who the child was, or whose child.  The reason we’re not told anything about the child was probably that children didn’t actually matter. They were more considered property than people.  And he told them that this child, who didn’t matter much, was more important than all of them.

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Equating himself with the child, said something not only about the disciples’ debate about greatness, but also what he’d been trying to get through to them about his upcoming death.

Unlike the disciples’ understanding of greatness, a child was powerless, just as Jesus would be (or would choose to be) in the face of the cross.  In their society, as in ours, a child is weak – dependent on others to provide the basics of survival, and at risk if others choose to cause harm. A child was considered unimportant, and had no political or economic voice, no influence over the adult world. A child is never in control of his or her own fate, but always under the control of others. 

Jesus was turning their concept of greatness upside down.  The child was a symbol of all who are weak, marginalised, who have no voice in society.

He told them the one who was great, wasn’t the one pushing for the leadership role, wasn’t the one giving orders, but the one who acted as servant to all.

That sounds radical – but really, very similar things had been said throughout Scripture.  Let’s look at that Proverbs reading.  Again, we’re looking at a society where women were more possessions than people.

Here we see an amazing woman who manages her home, teaches people wisdom, runs a successful business, travels and trades apparently by herself. She is deserving of honour and respect in her own right, not just because of who her husband is.  She reminds us of Deborah, the prophet and judge or Israel, or Lydia the dealer in purple cloth who headed a church found She’s the kind of woman that the Feminist Movement worked hard to convince us all women could be.   In Biblical times, apart from a few extraordinary exceptions, women were pretty much overlooked and ignored.  But Proverbs doesn’t just talk about this woman as the kind of wife to look out for. Proverbs also talks about God’s divine wisdom as a woman. Women might be overlooked – but so was the wisdom of God.  Like the extraordinary wife, God’s wisdom was something to be sought, loved, and valued. It was more important than the wealth of this world.

In many places, the Bible is counter-cultural. It turns the values of the society it was written in (and also ours) upside down.  Or, perhaps more accurately, it turns an upside down world right side up.

What we’re seeing in both these passages is that God’s value system is not the same as humankind’s.  Those people who are seen as insignificant, are important to God.  Greatness, is found, not in political scrambling for power, but in weakness.  It is not in wealth or influence, but in vulnerability.  The person who is most important is not the one who gives orders, but the one who serves.  Jesus saves the world, not by gathering an army, but by giving himself up on the cross. And when we welcome the person who has nothing, we are welcoming Christ who rules all of creation.

In the world around us, money does talk; greed, crime and corruption often do pay; poor, weak and powerless people are mistreated not honoured; the people who give the orders are seen as important; the richest magnates get to have the biggest say; and we use armies and weapons to try to save the world.  And all of those things, like the disciple’s bickering over who was greatest, are distractions from what Jesus is trying to show us.

The people of God, are called to live by God’s values, not by those of the world around us.  It’s a challenge, because the distracting values of this world confront us constantly.  Because we live in this world, we need to understand how this world works and what its priorities are.  At the same time, we are asked to live by a different set of standards.

For us, it is the person with the biggest need who is most important, not the one with the most wealth. For us, the goal is not to have power, but to show love; not to be a success, but to care; not to be the winners, but to give ourselves for others’ needs. Our reward is not status, or possessions, or authority over others, but to see Christ himself come to us in the form of the person who is overlooked, ignored, or mistreated.

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People

Loving God,
We pray for the servants in this world, for people whose work may not be recognised, people who may not themselves know the true value of what they do.

For the carers of the world, who care for children, the disabled, the elderly – all those who care for people who are unable to care for themselves.

For those who work in industries which serve our daily needs: producers, manufacturers, retailers, public servants, medical and welfare workers, teachers,  - and all the many other people who do the things we count on for day-to-day life.

We pray for the servants of the world, that you would show each one, that in serving others, they are not simply earning a living or doing what they have to do. They are doing the most important work available to human beings, and in so doing, they are able to serve you.

We pray for ourselves, that we would always value the servants we encounter and the work they do for us. And that we would also value the opportunities we have to be servants in your name.

We pray in Jesus’ name, and we use his words……

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 571 Forth in your name, O Lord I go

Benediction

Threefold Amen

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