Home Worship 30th August

Opening Prayer

Loving God,

You call us to turn away from our own selfish interests,

to take up our cross,

and to follow after You—

to find our lives by giving them up to Your greater purpose.

So we come before You this morning with open hearts and open hands,

eager to hear Your Word, and eager to know Your will.

Through the power of Your Holy Spirit,

move within us and among us as we worship.

Open our eyes to Your presence;

open our ears to Your call,

open our hearts to one another.

And then send us back out into the world,

to live and work as Your faithful disciples.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord,

Amen.


Let’s light a candle to symbolise Christ’s presence as we begin our worship

Hymn 279

1      O precious sight, my Saviour stands,
dying for me with outstretched hands.
O precious sight; I love to gaze,
remembering salvation day,
remembering salvation day.

2      Though my eyes linger on this scene,
may passing time and years not steal
the power with which it impacts me,
     the freshness of its mystery,
     the freshness of its mystery.

            May I never lose the wonder,
            the wonder of the cross.
            May I see it like the first time,
            standing as a sinner lost.
            Undone by mercy and left speechless,
            watching wide-eyed at the cost.
            May I never lose the wonder,
            the wonder of the cross.

  3    Behold, the God-Man crucified,
the perfect sinless sacrifice.
As blood ran down those nails and wood,
history was split in two,
history was split in two.

4      Behold, the empty wooden tree,
his body gone, alive and free.
We sing with everlasting joy
for sin and death have been destroyed,
sin and death have been destroyed.

            May I never lose the wonder …


Matthew 16:21-28

21From 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. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For 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? 27“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. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”


Reflection

When I visit people in their homes and they have a garden, I always want to have a look around to see what their garden is like. Often, I have brought plants and cuttings from peoples’ gardens and have planted them in my own garden. At the beginning of the lockdown, gardening kept me sane. I find gardens relaxing, inspiring and they make me happy. I would love to have a well-maintained beautiful garden with lots of water features, ornaments, fruit plants, and flowers. The only thing stopping me from having the garden of my dreams is that I live in a manse and I move around roughly every five years. I am always putting my ideas on hold as I know that I am living in this house for a limited time. As you know, next year, I am hoping to be stationed somewhere further North closer to my children. I can’t take all the plants with me, but I have already started to pot some of the plants that I want to take. I am not sure what the garden at the next manse will look like but when I think about gardening and planting, I am already thinking about my next home. I don’t feel that it’s right for me to invest in a garden that I will not enjoy for much longer.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus rebuked Peter with the strongest words possible because he focussed on something temporary. He still believes and desires that the Messiah will restore their earthly kingdom and glory.  Jesus tells Peter that he is thinking this way because his mind is set on earthly things, not on divine or heavenly things.

For hundreds of years, they hoped and prayed for the restoration and glory for their earthly kingdom, but it does not include the idea of a humiliated and suffering Messiah. The idea of setting their mind on heavenly things is new to them. Nobody has preached to them about the kingdom of heaven.  Until John the Baptist, it was all about the law and prophets but since then, it is the good news of the kingdom of heaven. Prophets preached law and repentance, but Jesus’s good news is about the kingdom of heaven (Luke 16:16).

The disciples and their families were already fighting for prominent places in Jesus’ kingdom. The mother of Zebedee’s son’s requested Jesus to make her sons his right- and left-hand men in his kingdom but Jesus reminds his disciples that his kingdom is about saving people’s souls so that they could spend eternity in their father’s house (Mathew 20:20-28). From this encounter alone, it is obvious that the disciples expected status, glory, and honour as a reward for their commitment to following Jesus.

 But Jesus is preaching something new. When Jesus started preaching, he preached repentance because the kingdom of God was at hand (Mathew 3:2). He did not preach repentance to establish an earthly kingdom but because the kingdom of heaven has come near. Jesus wants his disciples to set their minds on God’s heavenly kingdom.  

If our minds are not set on the kingdom of God, then we are a stumbling block to Jesus and his good news. We could still live like a repentant Christians but if our minds are not set on heavenly things than its not enough. Setting our minds on the things above means that our lives are hidden in Christ with God. Following Jesus and entering the kingdom of God demands more than repentance.  It demeans a renewal of the mind which involves not only putting aside things of the earth but also becoming renewed in the image of God. It demands setting our minds on things above.  

So, what happens when we set our minds our things above?

When we set our minds on something, a transformation begins to happen. It is said that “where your mind goes, you go”. For example, if you have started thinking about chocolate than it is likely that before the day is over you will have tasted chocolate. But if you have set your mind on a diet then you will constantly be resetting your mind to resist eating chocolate. Now, you might be saying why would I set my mind to resist chocolate? I eat healthily. Avocado on toast is a part of my diet. That’s fine you can eat chocolate!

But setting your mind on things above is a much deeper transformation. It gives courage and strength to endure suffering, resist earthly temptations, and remain focused on what matters. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus was able to endure scorn, shame, and the cross because there was a joy set before him. He knew that when all of his sufferings were over, he would be sitting at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus could endure the cost of the sin because His mind was set on the kingdom of heaven.

All the earthly kingdoms and governments promise prosperity and wealth to their citizens but they always fail to deliver on their promises. They may come up with great plans and strategies but at some point, they all fail. I have been listing to the American Presidential Candidates and all of their promises about prosperity, status, and wealth for their citizens. I think our world needs something more precious than that.

 The mind that is set on earthly things does not bring about lasting change. This brings to mind the parable of the rich fool who worked hard to have an abundant crop. He became rich and figured out his retirement plan. Yet he was found foolish in God’s eyes as he was not rich towards God (Luke 12:16-21). His mind was not set on heaven but on his earthly possessions.

When things are done, a mind set on heaven brings life and restoration. The NHS came about from the idea that good health care should be available to all, regardless of wealth. Governments have disappointed us on so many things but during these challenging times, it the health services that we can trust.  

Today’s passage invites us to set our minds on heavenly things if we want to be a follower of Jesus. Following Jesus requires more than repentance from sins. It demands setting on our gaze on heavenly things.

May we constantly renew our minds as we fix our gaze on Jesus the protector of our faith.
Amen 


Prayers of Intercessions


Gracious God,

In love You created us,
and in love You sustain us, day after day.
So it is with confidence that we bring our prayers to You,
knowing that You hear us, and will respond.

We pray for the world around us,

for the many who continue to suffer and call out for help:

for those caught up in violence and political uprisings;

or those picking up the pieces after a natural disaster;

for those desperate to find work to support their families.

Gracious God, hear our prayer,

and in Your love, answer.       

We also pray for family and friends who are suffering:

those struggling physically or emotionally,

those working to overcome mental illness;

those facing challenges at home or at work;

those grieving the death of a loved one.

Gracious God, hear our prayer,

and in Your love, answer.

God, You have called us to pray for our enemies;

to bless, rather than curse, those who deliberately seek to harm us.

We bring their names before You now—

those who have hurt us, physically or emotionally;

those who have stolen from us,

or cheated us of what was rightfully ours;

those who have spread rumours about us,

or turned our friends against us.

We ask You to bless them.

Open our hearts so that we may see them as You see them,

and be able to respond to them with Your love.

Gracious God, hear our prayer,

and in Your love, answer.

We pray for Your church around the world,

that it would be a living demonstration of Your coming kingdom:

offering hospitality to all,

ready to help in times of need,

showing love to friends and enemies alike,

seeking to live in peace with all.

Gracious God, hear our prayer,

and in Your love, answer.

God, we praise You for Your faithful love,

and for the mercy You have shown toward us.

Open our eyes to recognize Your presence in our lives.

Give us grace to hear Your call,

and courage to follow without hesitation,

knowing that Your way is the only way that leads to life.

In the name of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord,

Amen.


Pray the Lord’s prayer


Hymn 452

Show me the way of the cross once again,
denying myself for the love that I’ve gained.
Everything’s you now, everything’s changed;
it’s time you had my whole life,
you can have it all.

Yes, I resolve to give it all;
some things must die, some things     must live,
not ‘what can I gain,’ but ‘what can I give.’
If much is required when much is received,
then you can have my whole life,
Jesus, have it all.

2      I’ve given like a beggar but lived like the rich,
and crafted myself a more comfortable cross.
Yet what I am called to is deeper than this;
it’s time you had my whole life,
you can have it all.

Matt Redman (b. 1974)


Blessings

Rejoice in hope,
hold fast to what is good,
persevere in prayer.
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good.
As far as is possible, live peaceably with all.

And may God hear your cries and deliver you;
May Christ Jesus repay you with fullness of life;
And may the Holy Spirit be with you always  nourishing you in love and hope.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ.
Amen