Material for Worship on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Thank you to Rev. Moira Jamieson for the reflection and prayers this morning. Nerys

As we share in worship this morning and reflect on our two readings while Nerys is celebrating the Eucharist on our behalf, we focus on the building up of the church, the community of believers, and the way that we share Christ’s Gospel with others. Next week some of us will have the opportunity to begin once again to worship together in church (with guidelines in place). No matter if we are in the church building or at home, we will still come together as a worshipping community, building each other up in faith, hope, and love.

Listen to our readings. Romans 12.1-8 is read by Kath Smallman…

…and Matthew 16.13-20 by Rob Smallman:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build up my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. With these words from our Gospel passage this morning, Jesus is beginning to build up his church, and he is doing it using his apostles as the foundation. Through their spreading of the Word, they will be used by God to make his church stronger. In John 17.17, Jesus says, ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, [his disciples] but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word’.

This is how we, as disciples of Christ can help to build up his church in our own communities. By witnessing to the truth of the Gospel and speaking about its message of saving grace and salvation, we can perhaps help those who are struggling with their faith or who do not yet know God, to decide to follow him. It is not just by sharing the Good News that we can bring people closer to God, but often it’s by the example of God at work in our lives. By our example, the way we live our lives, we might find that others come to a realisation of God and his love for them.

In this Gospel passage, Jesus is preparing his disciples to be the building blocks on which his church is to be built. He promises that his spiritual church will never cease to be—there will always be Christian people here on earth. That doesn’t mean that we should sit back and do nothing, God still needs us to help build up his church, and he needs us to be ‘salt and light’ in our communities. If our hearts are full of God’s love and we show that God is part of our lives, it shouldn’t be too hard a task.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he begins with an exhortation, an appeal to the church in Rome, and he does this through the mercy of God. He tells the church, and us today, that not only is our salvation dependent on God’s mercy, but that the Christian life also grows out of that mercy. Our spiritual worship, when it is true and acceptable to God, helps to build up not only the worshipping community, but others whose lives we touch and encounter each day. When we receive grace from God, it remains active in our lives and we can show that same grace to others. Therefore, Paul’s exhortation is about us living a life that is appropriate to our status of grace received, by the mercy of God, and to live as one who has been saved.

The grace and mercy that we are shown by God is not something that we should keep to ourselves, instead we need to give thanks to God for his saving grace and offer up ourselves to God in his service. As we say in our Liturgy each week, ‘and with them ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice [to God]’. At my ordination in 2009, I chose a hymn that was special to me, ‘Take My Life And Let It Be’. This hymn was written by Frances Havergal after a wonderful experience of God’s mercy moving in the lives of those around her. The words tell the story of a life offered to God. It is almost a great shopping list of the things that Frances was thankful to God for and which she wanted to offer up in gratefulness. Listen to Moira Langston playing the tune and sing along if you wish.

Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will,l and make it thine:
it shall be no longer mine;
take my heart: it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at Thy feet its treasure-store;
take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

I wonder if anyone has ever made a list of aspects of their life that they have offered to God. During this strange time, perhaps it would be a good idea to put pen to paper and make our shopping list of things that we want to offer up to God in gratefulness. Are there things that we have hidden away or forgotten, parts of our lives that we have not offered up? It could be things that we have done or said, places we have been and things we have experienced. Perhaps now is the time for each of us to pray, ‘Take my love, my Lord I pour, at thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be, ever, only, all for thee’.

Take a little time over this next week to reflect about what determines the form of your life – the life that you have offered up to God. Can you evaluate the power of the various influences in your life? The influence of family and friends, your education or things you have been involved in within your community. Where does the Church and God fit in?

Paul tells us, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect’. Rather than the outside influences, what should be important to us as Christians, is the influence of God in our lives. Paul is saying that we should not let the distractions of this world force us into its mould. Not an easy thing to do with the pressures from the media and hard selling advertising, so how are we to resist? Well Paul tells us that as Christians we have all the help we need, and that help comes from God. We are not our own and our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds, a renewing that can only be done by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. This means that we are not left to foster our own self-discipline in order to achieve a life acceptable to God. God is ready and eager to work with us if we just turn our lives over to him.

I leave you with a couple of questions we might want to ask ourselves this week. Do our lives show the grace of God to our neighbours and those around us? Do our lives show by example, that saving grace of God? I think it is time for us to let go of the things of this age and all its distractions, and to let God lead us to be the people he wants us to be. In this way, we help to build up the body of the church, the community of believers, building on the foundations of those who have gone before us by God’s grace and mercy.

Let us pray,
God our Father, we come before you with thanksgiving for your wonderful grace and mercy. Help us to keep you foremost in our lives that we might show your grace and mercy to others. We pray for your church here on earth, that it would be a true witness of your love for all whom you have created. Build us up in faith that we might be the people you want us to be.
We pray for the Scottish Episcopal Church, for its witness in Scotland, for our Primus Mark and for the College of Bishops. We give thanks for all the opportunities to worship which have been provided throughout the Province in this time of lockdown, and we ask you to bless all clergy and congregations. Bless Nerys our Rector and the congregation at St. Mary’s.
We pray for all who are struggling to feed their families and give you thanks for the many foodbanks and charitable organisations who are helping to relieve some of that suffering. Help us to give generously when we can. We remember all refugees and asylum seekers who have the added worry of being infected with Covid19 in holding camps and overcrowded accommodation. We pray for their safety.
We pray for all who are ill at this time and remember those who are in hospital with symptoms of the Coronavirus, especially those in intensive care. Bless all nurses, doctors and hospital staff, paramedics and all who work in the ambulance service and all carers at home and in the community. We bring before God those those known to us who need our prayers.

Finally Father, we pray for ourselves, that you would continue to show us your grace and mercy to build us up in faith, hope, and love. May we be salt and light in our community and always be ready to share the Good News of your saving grace with those we meet.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Savour Jesus Christ. Amen.