The mystery of faith (16 Aug 2020)

16 Aug 2020 by Jan C (service), Paul B (sermon), Image Woman of Canaan, c1940-1996, by Sadao Watanabe who places biblical subjects in a Japanese folk art context) in: Online Services

WELCOME TO WORSHIP 
Today, whether watching zoom or reading at home, may God speak to you through words and music.  

Lighting the Candle 

We light this candle to help us remember one little light can make such a difference to a dark world.  Let us be a light to bring love peace and equality to our struggling world.  

Let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land. We pay our respects to elders past and present as they hold the knowledge, language and spiritual connections to this country.

We Acknowledge:
Our gratitude for this land we share,
Our sorrow for the cost of that sharing,
Our hope that together in the spirit of Reconciliation,
we move to a place of justice, equality and partnership,
As together we walk gently on this land.

SONG  I have chosen this hymn/song because I think the YouTube clip is quite moving. Also, I just love this version of Amazing Grace.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

PRAYER
Let us pray.

Our small minds, little lives, and scanty understanding, we bring to you, Our Holy Friend. But what we are we bring to you with the most profound devotion of which we are capable. Yours are the truths we crave, the beauty we worship, and the love we adore. Please bless us as we worship in different ways, for with your blessing we are the poor who have immense riches to celebrate and share. To your honour and praise.
Through Christ Jesus Lord.

Amen!

CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

Let us pray.

With you, loving God, is the beauty that shows up the defects in us,
With you is the goodness which shames the evil in us.
Yet also with you is the love that embraces us,
That Christ-love that welcomes common sinners and eats with them.
Many are the times we have turned our back on you,
But never has there been a time when you have turned your back on us.

Today we come again,
Some of us feeling guilty,
Some feeling frustrated with ourselves,
Some feeling despondent,
And maybe some feeling apathetic.

Enfold us all, we pray, within your saving love.
Please deal with us in the way we most need;
Speak comfortable words or rebuke us,
attend to our wounds or lance our infections,
awaken our conscience or calm our nagging anxiety.

Holy Friend, give to the timid the courage to accept your mercy,
And give the proud the humility to seek your forgiveness.
Please touch every person with the redeeming love of Christ Jesus.
In whose name we pray.

Amen! 

FORGIVENESS
Family of God, God knows your need before you ask for help. There is enough mercy to cover all your sins, and not yours only, but those of the whole world. Therefore, put the past and its errors behind you. Live as forgiven people, for in Christ, such you truly are!

Thanks be to God!

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

And also, with you.

Bible Readings 

Matthew 15:1-2,8-11 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Then Jesus responds by quoting from the Prophet Isaiah: “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” Jesus called the crowd to him and said,“Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.

Matt 15:21-28 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So, his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Through this reading we hear God speak -- thank you, God

MESSAGE ​    from Paul ​​​​Bartlett

"Faith discovered in the most unexpected of places and people!”

If the past 8 months have taught me anything, in relation to moving my parents out of their house into aged care it is that the process, in-spite of all my organisational endeavours and frequent trips to Melbourne, has been extremely dynamic and fluid. As events unfolded, changes had to be made, sometimes more than once or twice. Twice, the sale of their house fell through as COVID-19 decimated the income of prospective buyers. No more clearly has this volatility been seen than in the events of the past 4-5 weeks when NSW effectively closed their border to Victoria and Victoria itself went into what is now both a State of Emergency and a State of Disaster declarations.

I began this journey, with my folks knowing that one day just as my parents had moved with their children to many different places as the family of a Methodist Minister, so, one day I might have the same opportunity, of moving them into a place they will now stay in for the rest of their lives. I undertook this journey in love, with a commitment to make it happen, with all the experience and resources that I had. This journey continues to be life changing for us all.

Three weeks ago, when I began to look at today’s Gospel reading, I was drawn to the word ‘withdraw’.

In light of my trips to Melbourne I could understand something of what that word had meant for me.

The word ‘withdraw’ is one that Matthew in particular used quite frequently at key times in Jesus’ ministry. The English word ‘withdraw’ is anechōrēsen, in the original Greek.

Anechōrēsen does not mean to retreat, or to go back the way you came, or to disengage. 

It is a powerful active verb, set if you like at a crossroad where a different action is now required.

In my case it meant I could de-brief, find renewal and refreshment with my family and friends and within my ministry life at Engadine. It also required me to ‘see’ my parents in a different light and with those insights I needed to find new resources to sustain me on my journey and in my care for them. 

I am sure many, if not all of you will have similar stories of your journeys with your parents or with a spouse, a sibling or another significant member of your family or a dear friend, even as I speak.

In our COVID-19 world which has become so dynamic, even a week, changes the landscape in what we could do last month but isn’t possible today. At Engadine UC as elsewhere in-spite of all our love, all our planning and desire to re-engage with family and friends in Sunday worship, we’re having to alter how we keep in touch even if it’s never been done before, even if its ‘just not the same as it used to be’. And then there is grief in all this too, with no past experience from which to draw encouragement.

But back to that powerful Greek word anechōrēsen or ἀνεχώρησεν in the Greek - “to withdraw”.

A brief look at the times and places this word is used in some of the Gospels gives us:​​

On hearing of Herod’s plot – the Wise Men withdrew and went home another way; ​

Joseph was warned in a dream to flee Herod – and withdrew to Egypt; ​​​​

Joseph on hearing that Herod was dead – withdrew to live in Galilee; ​​

A great crowd follows Jesus (twice recorded) – he withdrew to a solitary place & healed many;​​

On hearing that John the Baptist was in prison – Jesus withdrew; and ​​​​

As they were about to come and take him by force to make him king - Jesus withdrew. ​

And today – after his confrontation with some Pharisees and Teachers of the Law

Jesus withdraws to the region around Tyre and Sidon and encounters a Canaanite woman!

In Jesus’ withdrawing – renewal, safety, strategic time for a rethink of his focus and purpose in ministry is required – and on a couple of occasions healing of the crowd who follow his withdrawal, also occurs.

2 weeks ago, it was his compassion for the crowd, today it’s a non-Jewish woman’s great faith! 

What could be a starker reminder of the difference between the faith of this Gentile woman and that of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law who came to challenge him and trip him up with his deeds.

This word ‘to withdraw’ I can now see is dynamic, life changing and life giving.

Historical events happening around Jesus, impacted Christ’s need to pause, to reflect and regroup. 

No just being swept along by the crowd amidst their wishes and demands of him.

No just accepting as fate the powerful political and religious leaders’ determination to also mould Jesus to their image and liking.

The word ‘withdraw’ is decisive, trail-blazing and renewing. It is a move to relative safety, but only for long enough to reflect, to re-evaluate, to then move forward again on his journey while never losing sight of who Jesus is; trusting, loving & caring enough ‘on the way’ to also be influenced by all the people he encounters in those times of anechōrēsen or withdrawal.

To ‘withdraw’ enabled Jesus’ ministry focus to be fine-tuned, it enabled Jesus, the man of faith to be refreshed and renewed in body, mind and spirit, and dare I say to learn on the job. 

In the mystery of faith, Christ is fully Divine but also fully human, flesh of our flesh, the object and the example of our faith. This means Jesus isn’t just following a pre-determined path, like ticking off all the OT Scripture passages that ‘refer’ to his coming, his ministry, his rejection, death and resurrection! 

Today’s story underlines the dynamic, interactive way Jesus proclaimed his message and engaged with all whom he met. Jesus responds to the people he meets, he fully engages with their lives – with all of their goodness, with all of their frailty, longings, questions, hopes and fears. 

His approach to ministry as the LORD whom we seek to follow therefore becomes our model and example for life and ministry too. And that applies equally to us as the Body of Christ, His Church.

We too like the OT Reading from two weeks ago where Jacob wrestles with God at the Jabbok, must wrestle as Christ did verbally and linguistically with today’s Canaanite woman of great faith.

The inclusion of this encounter from ‘the margins’, from outside of the territory of the Jews, where their faith was dominant, is a role model and invitation to Christ’s Church today. 

To leave the relative safety of just looking after ‘God’s people at Engadine UC’ to engage in robust ways with people of faith we are yet to discover in the community. Where God is already at work, as God was in this Canaanite woman of great faith even though Jesus had not met her before.

This encounter was one of the great examples of hope for the early Church. It said in effect, that Gentiles could be and were also people of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob and in Jesus Christ God’s Son. It is hard for us to grasp just how radically inclusive that message was and still is.

Who was more surprised by this encounter in Syro-Phoenicia? 

The woman who found Jesus (albeit initially reluctantly) a Jewish Rabbi talking with a woman with whom he was not related, or for Jesus that she was surprisingly a determined person of great faith!

From the verses previous to this encounter in Matthew 15 vs 8: we hear Jesus comment “These people (religious leaders) honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

In our story of the Canaanite woman, Jesus withdraws, to the land where supposedly God is not worshiped and where Jesus is not Lord, but the Canaanite woman’s words and her heart are one, so different from those Jesus had been engaging with on the Jewish side of the border.

Humbling, surprising, challenging, life giving interactions! God is at work in this woman here too!

May it be so in all our interactions with the people of faith we are yet to meet! Amen

‘Father I Thank You’

Father, I thank You for all that You’ve done.
You gave Your Son freely for me.
And I praise You for calling me, drawing me near.
Out of blindness You caused me to see.

Spirit of life, you are God’s holy fire.
You’ve kindled my heart with Your blaze.
And I know You’re refining me, changing my life.
And by faith You’re revealing Your ways.

Jesus, I need You as Lord of my life.
I give all I have unto You.
Lord, I want to come under Your heavenly hand
And to praise You in all that I do. 

PRAYERS FOR OTHERS

Loving God, healer and bringer of wholeness,
there are days and this year when we wonder
why life is the way it seems to be:
give courage to the weak and the lonely,

Give strength to those suffering from this Covid19 virus 
bring healing to those weighed down with grief,
rejoice with those who are glad
and be company for those whose troubles are known only to you;

SENDING OUT
The gathering of the people of God is ending,
The scattering of the people of God,
to be agents of Christ in many places is about to begin.
Remember how great are your resources.

Amen