3RD SEPTEMBER 2023
Sing to the Lord, sing praises to him.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
COLLECT FOR PURITY
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.
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.
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.
sung by Billy Dewar Riddick
Guide your Church, O Lord, with your perpetual mercy:
and since without your aid we lose our way,
draw us always by your help, away from harm
and steer us towards salvation;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
EXODUS 3: 1-15
read by Robyn Brotherston
Moses at the Burning Bush
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
The Divine Name Revealed
But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.
Romans 12: 9-21
read by Annabelle Guthrie
Marks of the True Christian
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Instead, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink, for by doing this, you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
read by Reverend Chris Wren
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew chapter 16 beginning at verse 28
Glory to Christ our Saviour.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
The Cross and Self-Denial
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel
Praise to Christ our Lord.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
In our Gospel reading we are invited to lose our lives for Jesus. Does Jesus really mean lose my life? How do you react to that invitation- to lose your life? Do you feel that losing your life is taking Christianity a bit too seriously? Is it not too radical, verging on some sort of extremism? A bit of religion is fine-if you are into that kind of thing but losing my life is that not going OTT?
Wait a moment-did you watch the final of the men’s singles at Wimbledon, when Djokovic flung himself the whole breadth of the court just to get one point- total commitment! What about top businessmen and women sacrificing everything on the altar of ambition in order to reach the top. We often admire that sacrificial determination in people, so why should Jesus not be calling us to lose our life for him? What is so extreme about this call? If Jesus is who he said he is, the Messiah, the Son of the living God then might not the business of following him be more important than sport, more important than our career and even more important than our family. Does Jesus really mean lose my life?
Does Jesus really mean lose my life- CT Studd believed so and took Christ at his word! A great cricketer and teacher CT Studd said- if Jesus did all this on the cross for me then there is no sacrifice is too great for me to make for him! CT Studd left his privileged work in Cambridge and gave up his fame as a great cricketer to go to China, where he faced great opposition and where he had many a struggle. He lost his life for Christ and was instrumental in helping other people encounter Christ and lose their lives for him! A little later in life CT Studd inherited 25,000 pounds- which was a lot of money back then, our equivalent of many millions today and what did he do with all that fortune- he gave all the money away to Christian mission. Why- because he found fulfilment, joy and peace in Christ and Christ meant everything to him! He did lose his life for Christ!
But that was then, what about today are people still losing their lives for Christ- is that still in fashion? Absolutely, daily people lose their lives for Christ. For many years I worked for Scripture Union, and I met a real gentleman called Richard Gorrie. Richard had a double first degree from Oxford in Maths- quite a rare achievement- an achievement that would have opened up any professional door he wanted and would have guaranteed him a great academic career but Richard gave it all up to share the love of Jesus with children in schools and in holiday camps. Like CT Studd he believed Jesus meant lose your life, and so he gave up a promising career on this earth for an inheritance greater in heaven.
In my time working with Scripture Union, we shared offices with the Bible translators called Wycliffe. Time and time again we would meet people who gave up everything to go to some remote tribe or distant part of the world to translate the Bible into the language of those people. I guess they too were losing their lives!
I recall years before I came to faith, whilst studying languages and history at Glasgow University – going to the Christian mission meetings at the university- why did I go because I was fascinated with people who gave up everything for Christ- I couldn’t get my mind or heart around it! I read many biographies like CT Studd, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Isabel Kuhn, and David Livingstone- trying to fathom what it was that prompted them to give up their careers, their ambitions and live risking and exciting lives for Christ. Why do people live like that? Why do they make these choices?
Quite simply -they fall in love. They meet Jesus and are filled with love and awe for him. They digest and absorb his teachings and so when confronted with the question that all of us must answer- the question that we looked at last week- who do you say that I am. They answered unreservedly -you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. These people grasped something that is at the core of our faith. When you recognise, accept and embrace Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God you cannot continue with your life as though nothing has happened.
Indeed, the greatest encounter of your life has taken place and that encounter has changed you for ever- you will never be the same. His love, his life, his teachings, his charisma, and his compassion have inspired you and called you to walk in his footsteps. So, like the Apostle Paul you can say –“it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” It has shaken up your life completely, for after all Christianity is not some top up religion- it is not something you add to your perfect relationship or add to your ideal career like icing on the cake- no it is about commitment, it is about surrender- it is about giving your all!
When Christ calls a man to follow him, he calls him to die- said Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew this from his own experience. He knew that it was about investing your life with God for the sake of others and for his glory- he knew that it is all about self- denial!
Self -denial is an alien concept in today’s culture where we are obsessed with self, with my needs, my ambitions, and my desires. Our goal is to further self, even if it means stepping over others, shoving others aside- all that counts is me! I am number one- the attention is all on me! The ideal of self- denial, of losing your life and of taking up your cross is lost on us. Even the very word cross has been softened in our culture, so that the saying of Jesus has lost its force. We feel the cross is to be equated with our arthritis, our broken relationship, our hard work situation- but that is not the case as these are things that come to us in spite of ourselves.
The cross in the New Testament means suffering that comes into our lives because of the choices we have made for the kingdom. In that sense it is always something we choose.
Here is an example of this –the scene: a prison for political prisoners near Moscow during the era of Stalin. Ivan a prisoner and an expert in physics and optics, sat facing the prison governor and an army general. Ivan knew at once that they wanted something from him. Would you like a remission they asked him? What do I have to do he asked? We’d like to transfer you to another prison to take charge of an important project and if you agree you will be free in six months. What is the project? We want you to perfect a camera that works in the dark and another miniature one that can be fitted to the jamb of a door, which works when the door is opened. We know you can do this. Ivan was perhaps the only person in the whole of Russia who could produce a blueprint for these devices. After seventeen years in prison the idea of going home appealed to him. Here surely was the answer to his wife Natasha’s prayer. All he had to do was to invent a device that would put a few unsuspecting fools behind bars in his place and he would be free. Could I not go on working on television sets where I am at present? He asked. You mean you refuse, said the general. Ivan thought: who would ever thank him? Were those people out there worth saving? Natasha was his lifelong companion. She had waited for him for 17 years. I couldn’t do it, he said. But you are just the man for the job, said the general. We will give you time to make up your mind. I won’t do it. Putting people in prison because of the way they think is not my line. That’s my final answer. Ivan knew what his no meant. A few days later he was on a train to Siberia to work in a copper mine where starvation rations and probable death awaited him. No fate on earth could be worse. Yet he was at peace with himself.
Does Jesus really mean lose my life? It has been claimed that religion asks too little of people, that it is too ready to offer comfort and to console but has lost the courage to challenge. Being a disciple of Christ is about courage, risk, and challenge but it is also about comfort and consolation. What has tended to happen is we have developed a kind of selective vision where we have accepted and embraced the comfort and consolation of the Christian faith but have ignored the courage, risk, and challenge aspect of that same faith!
Ivan knew about the risk and challenge as well as the comfort and consolation. Few of us, I hope, will ever be faced with a decision as tough as that of Ivan. Our following of Jesus is more likely to be about faithfulness in the low- key events and decisions that add up to heroism in ordinary life. Daily we get opportunities to lose our lives, to die to self in little ways each day- to die to pride, to die to our selfishness, to die to our lust for pleasures and power. We have to die so that the real self can be born, and we are at peace with ourselves. This death to self, this losing of self is in fact the entrance to a higher richer and fuller life. Did Jesus really mean lose my life-yes, he knew what was best for us! Amen
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.
God of all love, you have shown in Jesus your love for us,
so, we entrust to you now our cares and concerns.
God of all truth, we come before you
with our faltering faith
with our doubts and anxieties,
with any delusions we might have
and ask that you will strengthen us in the truth
and rekindle within us your love and gentleness.
Open our eyes Lord
and direct us in the truth
God of all power and love, open our eyes
to the folly of the world ways
and to the wisdom of your way.
Help us as your disciples
to take up our cross and deny ourselves.
Save us from selfish ambition,
and from false idols,
so that we might surrender our lives to you
and give all that we are and have in your service.
God of all wisdom,
we pray for our government
asking that you may guide them
to govern with truth and wisdom.
May you steer them away
from any delusions of importance or greatness,
and guide them to look out and provide
for all that are struggling in our society
especially the weak and vulnerable.
Open our eyes Lord
and direct us in the truth
God of all kindness, we lift to you those
whose homes and families
have been crushed by flooding and disaster.
We pray especially for families in Greece
struggling after the recent fires
and ask that you may grant them the support
and resolve required to rebuild their lives.
We remember too the war in Ukraine.
We pray for the cessation of hostilities
and the return of peace and stability.
Open our eyes Lord
and direct us in the truth
God of all compassion,
we lift to you those who are frail or weak.
We remember those who are ill in hospitals,
and those who are weary in nursing homes,
may you bring them your comfort, strength and healing.
We pray especially for those with cancer
that your presence, your touch
and strength will be with them
in the days of treatment ahead.
Be with all who are undergoing surgery
and may you guide the surgeons
so that the operations will be successful.
Be close to all in their time of recuperation.
Open our eyes Lord
and direct us in the truth
God of all faithfulness and hope, we pray for all
who are struggling with stress, or are suffering
from mental health issues
and ask that they may experience
your faithful presence and love.
Give them coping skills and mechanisms
so that they may know your peace and solace.
Open our eyes Lord
and direct us in the truth
God, of all goodness we praise you
for your constant faithfulness to us.
You know our deepest thoughts
and our desire for a close and deep relationship with you.
May we not stray from your paths
but rest in your unfailing love for us.
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.
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
Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ.