TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
20th AUGUST 2023

OPENING SENTENCE

Let the peoples praise O God, let all the peoples praise you

HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God
to whom all hearts be 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 Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. Amen. Lord, have mercy.

CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

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.

GLORIA
sung by Dougie Byers

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,
by whose grace alone
your faithful people offer service and praise:
grant that we may hasten without stumbling
towards the things that you promise;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end. Amen

FIRST READING
GENESIS 45:1-15
read by Annette Beagrie

Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to keep alive for you many survivors. So, it was not you who sent me here but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me; do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there, since there are five more years of famine to come, so that you and your household and all that you have will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honoured in Egypt and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them, and after that his brothers talked with him.

SECOND READING
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
read by Billy Dewar Riddick

Israel’s Rejection Is Not Final

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

HYMN

GOSPEL READING
Matthew 15:21-28
read by Rev Ann Wren

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew chapter 15 beginning at verse 21

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that moment.

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

Sometimes you have just to grab someone’s attention. It seems a man was headed up to bed one night, when his wife told him that he’d left the light on in their shed. She told him she could see it from the bedroom window. He told her he hadn’t been in the shed that day. When he looked out the window, he saw that there were people in the shed, stealing things. So, he phoned the police. The police told him that there was no one was in his area and consequently, there was no one available to catch the thieves. He said “OK,” hung up, counted to 30 and called the police again. And he said, “Hello. I just called a few seconds ago, because there were people in my shed. Well, you don’t have to worry about them now. I’ve just shot them all.” Within five minutes there were half a dozen police cars in the area, an armed response unit. They caught the burglars red-handed. One of the policemen said to the man, “I thought you said you’d shot them!” And he replied, “I thought you said there was no one available.” Sometimes you just feel like you need to get somebody’s attention any way you can.

To get someone’s attention-that’s half the battle. If someone knew what was going on, then they could make a difference. We even feel that way about God. If only God knew what was going on, then that could make a difference? That was the mind-set of the Canaanite woman. She would grab Jesus’ attention at all costs, nothing but nothing would stand in her way. Pushy, aggressive, assertive and unrelenting are words that spring to mind in her encounter with Jesus. Yet these were not the four words that Jesus used to describe her. The four words Jesus used were enough to make her immortal. These four words were ‘great is your faith’. This compliment from the master of faith awakens in us more than just an academic interest but a feeling of admiration, perhaps, even envy, because she stands where most of us would like to stand. What faithful Christian would not like it said of him or her ‘great is your faith’. Think of what it would mean if an aspiring young artist had Picasso place his hand on his shoulder and say ‘You have a great talent’. How wonderful it would then be to a believer in God, if Jesus would place his hand on their shoulder and said ‘Great is your faith.’

‘Great is your faith’-Jesus recognised something unique and special in this Canaanite woman. Her faith was great in its pioneering and initiating quality. It was not based on some proof of something or even any very strong evidence of anything, for Jesus was not popular or even well-known in her country. Her faith had come the hard way: her reason for believing was not that someone else in her circle of acquaintances had done so already. Her faith was something deep and internal and a heroic venturing forth to reach and touch a power beyond herself- to encounter and be blessed by Jesus.

Great is her faith in pioneering. She needed much courage to cross so many cultural and social barriers. She is after all a Gentile, a Canaanite and therefore a traditional enemy of the Jews. They had been despised for centuries. It was as real and deep an enmity as exists today between the Arabs and the Jews. This Canaanite woman was well aware of this great gulf between the Jews and her people. Yet, here was a woman who had a desperate need; her daughter was deathly ill. There was nothing she would not do out of love for her daughter. So she steps out in courage and in pioneering faith. Great is her faith.

Great is her faith in recognising Jesus’ true identity. She uses in the words ‘Jesus ‘Lord, Son of David’ a comprehensive set of titles. Jesus is Lord- he is intimately connected to God and is for all people, but he is also Son of David coming from a definite people with a particular heritage and distinctive traditions. She shows insight in her awareness of Jesus as universal, yet particular. She also knows what Jesus has to give. So she asks for mercy. She is in such solidarity with her sick daughter that if Jesus has mercy on her, it will flow through her to her daughter. She does not want something for herself. What will be given to her will immediately be given to her daughter. She gives as she receives, and she is a conduit to her child. So, this woman knows both Jesus’ mission and ministry. Great is her faith.

Great is her faith-yet her request is not immediately granted. Indeed, it looks as though, Jesus to begin with, is refusing to help someone in need because she’s from the wrong race. We wouldn’t think much of a doctor or nurse who refused to treat a patient because they were not from the right family background or weren’t the right colour. This lack of response on Jesus’ part seems very strange, especially since Jesus’ has expounded at great length on nothing and no-one being unclean.

What is the issue here? It cannot be the woman’s faith, so is Jesus having a crisis of faith? What is the problem? The problem lies in Jesus’ mind-he has construed his identity and mission with the Jewish people, and this woman falls outside that remit. Hence his eventual response-‘it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’. Jesus was saying that the bread he had was for the Jewish people only and not for Gentiles.

Great is her faith. She was not easily intimidated–even by Jesus. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs,” said the Master. “Yes, Lord,” she said in reply, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Strong and courageous response! Too many people are intimidated by authority figures–doctors, psychologists, teachers, principals, police –and so struggle to get the help they really need. But not this woman- she is not intimated. She recognises her own humble position as a Gentile and acknowledges that salvation comes from the Jews, but she does not stop there she keeps pushing the barriers.

She tactfully reminds Jesus of his universal reach in his title ‘Lord’. The title Lord is not reserved for just Jews but for all people of all races, all nationalities and for people from all backgrounds! When Jesus lives within that identity, she is entitled to the bread. Through persistence and ingenuity, she reminds Jesus` of his identity and increases his understanding of his role and ministry. This woman opens Jesus eyes to a deeper and significant understanding of his own role and ministry. As a result of that new insight her daughter is healed and Jesus compliments her ‘great is your faith.’

Great is her faith. Her great faith stemmed from her courage to overcome barriers, from her persistence to fight against the odds, from her humility to recognise her rightful position and to acknowledge Jesus’ true identity and greatness. It is this great faith that we are called to emulate- we are to have courage to cross barriers and boundaries to help ourselves and others. We are to be persistent in our good causes against all odds and when all seems lost to hang in there. We are to display humility and self- confidence in the causes that God has placed in our heart. We are to have trust and confidence in God. We must believe our cry is heard, and not just heard but heeded and answered. We must have confidence in God and also confidence in ourselves.

Self-confidence matters in great faith. When Henry Ward Beecher was a young boy in school, he learned a lesson in self-confidence which he never forgot. He was called upon to recite in front of the class. He had hardly begun when the teacher interrupted with an emphatic, “No!” He started over and again the teacher thundered, “No!” Humiliated, Henry sat down. The next boy rose to recite and had just begun when the teacher shouted, “No!” This student, however, kept on with the recitation until he completed it. As he sat down, the teacher responded, “Very good!” Henry was irritated. “I recited just as he did,” he complained to the teacher. But the teacher replied, “It is not enough to know your lesson and recite, you must be sure and confident. When you allowed me to stop you, it meant that you were uncertain and lacking in confidence. If all the world says, “No!’ it is your business to say, “Yes!’ and prove it.”

Commenting on this story, an unknown commentator has said, “The world says, “No!” in a thousand ways: “No! You can’t do that.” No! You are wrong. “”No! You are too old.” “No! You are too young.” “No! You are too weak.” “No! It will never work.” “No! You don’t have the education.” “No! You don’t have the money.” “No! It can’t be done.” And each “No!” you hear has the potential to erode your confidence bit by bit until you quit altogether. Though the world says, “No” to you today, will you determine to say, “Yes!’ and prove it?”

When the world said no to Wilberforce- no there will be no end to slavery. He said yes and proved it. He and his friends worked and prayed, devoting their lives to the belief that what would happen in the future had to happen by God’s power in the present as well. This is the great faith upon which Jesus congratulated the woman. What then are the issues we face today-health equality, race issues, rights for special needs children in schools, treatment and care of the elderly, the right to work, end of sex trade and sexual exploitation in the UK? What promises of God have we imagined might be fulfilled in the distant future, but ought to be claimed in the present with a prayer and faith that refuses to be put off.

Be of great faith- don’t take no for an answer! Do not be intimidated by authority figures. And remember, Jesus is waiting to help you. His mission and ministry are universal- He is Lord to all who cry out to him in need. Amen.

NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

PRAYERS

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of grace, thank you
for the great faith of the Syrophoenician woman.
Thank you for the gift of faith you give us
and for the reminder that even if our faith
is as small as mustard seed
we can as we trust in you
do things that seem impossible to us.
Help us to trust in you
and to practise our faith.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of wisdom, give to those
who preach and teach your holy word
insight, wisdom and courage to speak honestly
of what is right, true and noble.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of all compassion,
give to those who direct public policy
vision to see beyond those with the highest profile,
of status, wealth and influence,
that they might include those on the margins.
Hear the cries of all who are finding
the cost- of- living crisis unbearable.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of unity,
we are all made in your image
and belong in your family.
Remove the divisions of our making,
uniting us as fellow citizens of your kingdom.
May respect and dignity be given to all
and no-one be regarded as unworthy or unclean.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of peace,
you ask us to seek negotiation and diplomacy
in face of hostility and adversity.
Be with all involved in the peace process,
especially in relation to Ukraine and Russia
and the Middle East, that steps towards healing
might be found and security and peace established.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of healing, be with all,
those who are undergoing treatment,
or recovering after surgery.
We ask for your healing touch
and help in their recuperation.
We pray for their strength and courage;
for those awaiting surgery in long waiting lists,
give them dates and hope;
for those awaiting results or appointments,
give them your peace.
Surround them all with your love and care.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of life, we thank you that you hold all souls in life.
We bring to you those who have died,
asking that they might be one with you
and know the joy of eternal life in your nearer presence.
Be with all who mourn and grant them
Comfort in their pain and loss
and hope in their sense of emptiness.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of creation, we thank you for
your goodness and gentleness towards us.
Help us to persevere and grow in our faith
and may we bring glory to your name.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

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.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

HYMN

https://youtu.be/DoFvVw8Lby4

BLESSING

The peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord:
and the blessing of God the Father,
the Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen

DISMISSAL

Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ.

Welcome

St John the Evangelist, Dumfries, is a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church also serving Methodist parishioners locally.

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Notices

Contemporary Service

Contemporary Service

The Contemporary Service is at 6pm, on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, followed by refreshments in the hall.

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