Liturgy of the Word for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, August 30, 2020

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A note about the structure of this webpage:

This page is set up to enable you to participate in the Liturgy of The Word, during which you will hear the sermon in its natural liturgical context; or you can scroll down the page to hear the stand-alone sermon webcast accompanied by the written text.

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Order of Service for the Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word begins on page 355 of the Book of Common Prayer or online Eucharist Rt II here.

Podcast produced by Christian Tulungen.

The Prelude: Fugue and Finale (Sonata VI) by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Steven Young, organ

Welcome: The Rev’d Mark Sutherland, Rector

The Introit: “Ave verum corpus” by Josquin des Prez (c1450-1521), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Greeting: Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and blessed be God’s Kingdom, now and for ever.

Hymn 401 “The God of Abraham praise,” The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of love;
the Lord, the great I AM, by earth and heaven confessed:
we bow and bless the sacred Name for ever blest.

5 The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” they ever cry;
hail, Abraham’s Lord divine! With heaven our songs we raise;
all might and majesty are thine, and endless praise.

Collect for Purity

The Gloria S 280, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The Collect of the Day:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The First Reading: Exodus 3:1-15, read by David Blake

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Refrain: Sing to the Lord, and remember the marvels he has done, hallelujah.

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name; *
    make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
    and speak of all his marvelous works.
3 Glory in his holy Name; *
    let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Search for the LORD and his strength; *
    continually seek his face.
5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
    his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,
6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
    O children of Jacob his chosen.
23 Israel came into Egypt, *
    and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.
24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful; *
    he made them stronger than their enemies;
25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people, *
    and dealt unjustly with his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant, *
    and Aaron whom he had chosen.


The Second Reading: Romans 12:9-21, read by Sammi Muther

Hymn 593 “Lord, make us servants of your peace” (v. 1-2), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 Lord, make us servants of your peace:
Where there is hate, may we sow love;
Where there is hurt, may we forgive;
Where there is strife, may we make one.

2 Where all is doubt, may we sow faith;
Where all is gloom, may we sow hope;
Where all is night, may we sow light;
Where all is tears, may we sow joy.

The Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28, proclaimed by Linda+

Hymn 593 (v. 4-5)

4 May we not look for love's return,
But seek to love unselfishly,
For in our giving we receive,
And in forgiving are forgiven.

5 Dying, we live, and are reborn
Through death's dark night to endless day;
Lord, make us servants of your peace,
To wake at last in heaven's light.

The Sermon: Mark+  A stand-alone sermon recording and full text also appear below on this page.

The Nicene Creed: We recite together. Please note italicized inclusive language changes.

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 Being 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 from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made human.
    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, God, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified
    and 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.

The Anthem: “Let All Things Now Living” (text/arr. Katherine Kennicott Davis, 1892-1980), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

Let all things now living
A song of thanksgiving
To God the Creator triumphantly raise,
Who fashioned and made us,
Protected and stayed us,
Who guides us and leads to the end of our days.
God’s banners fly o’er us;
God’s light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
Till shadows have vanished
And darkness is banished,
A forward we travel from light into light.
His law he enforces
The stars in their courses,
The sun in his orbit obediently shine.
The hills and the mountains,
The rivers and fountains,
The deep of the ocean proclaim Him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration and song let us raise,
Till all things now living
Unite in thanksgiving
To god in the highest,
Hosanna and praise!

The Prayers of the People: led by Linda+

The Lord’s Prayer, The St. Martin Chapel Consort

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we your unworthy servants
give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable
love in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such
an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in
holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

The Peace

Hymn 48 “O day of radiant gladness” (vv. 1, 4), The St. Martin Chapel Consort

1 O day of radiant gladness, O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright;
this day the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
sing "Holy, holy, holy" to the great God Triune.
4 That light our hope sustaining, we walk the pilgrim way,
at length our rest attaining, our endless Sabbath day.
We sing to thee our praises, O Father, Spirit, Son;
the Church her voice upraises to thee, blest Three in One.

The Final Blessing

The Postlude: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” arr. Franklin D. Ashdown (b. 1942), Steven Young, organ

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #M-400498. All rights reserved.

Stand-Alone Sermon Podcast:
Charlie Girl contemplating the cost of discipleship
Exploration of Matthew 16:21-38

I last preached on the readings for Pentecost 13 in 2016. The Lectionary repeats over a three-year cycle. Rereading my response then –

I am struck by how differently the experience of living in 2020 demands a different response.

In 2016 I preached on the Exodus reading variously playing with the themes – firstly, of experience in the place beyond the wilderness – a place where we encounter God because it is devoid of the usual signposts that insulate us with the familiar – and secondly, the pulsating, humming nature of the divine name – which in the nature of Hebrew – allows the meaning of the divine name to oscillate between I am, who I am, and I will be, who I will be – an oscillation between present-time reality and future-time potential.

These themes, important as they remain, seem somewhat abstract in the brutal rawness of the time we now find ourselves living through. My search for a more visceral response directs me to a continuation of the exploration begun by Linda+ a fortnight ago and continued by me last week of Matthew’s depiction of Jesus as the messiah.

How did Jesus come to the realization that he was the messiah? Most of us – if we think about it – labor under the impression that he always knew from a very early age that he was the messiah. Confident in this knowledge – revealed to him through his unique relationship with God – he then proceeds through the events of his life – knowing at each step of the way -the shape of the future.

Omniscience – all knowingness – is the quality we so admire in our superheroes. So much of the Tradition plays into this theme of Jesus as a 1st-century superhero who moves through his life like an actor playing the role of Son of God – fully aware at each stage of how the story will end. Of course, it’s easy for us to collude with this presentation of Jesus. Like him, we also are all knowing –

for we too know how the story will end – coloring the way we experience each event the life of Jesus of Nazareth -AKA (also known as) the Messiah.

Last week Jesus’ true identity is starkly revealed in Simon’s confession of him as the Son of God, the Messiah. In the audience, we at this point smile knowingly – aha we knew so! But on stage, the secret is out even though for some mysterious reason – for the time being it must remain secret.

Now the disciples know his true identity. Has Jesus always known it or has he step by step, discovered it? Well this is the question but more to the point why does it matter?

Events move forward to the pivotal point in Matthew’s story with Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain witnessed by Peter, James and John – and not to forget, by us as well.

It matters how Jesus comes to his realization as the messiah because it goes to the difference between Jesus as superhero actor – playing out the roll of messiah on the world stage – and the human Jesus who is like you and me is someone who is not all knowing –

and has instead to learn through experience what God wants of him -as he goes along.

In Matthew’s telling of the story we are now reaching the midpoint in Jesus’ ministry between his Galilean preaching and healing ministry and turning is face towards Jerusalem where like all good superheroes he knows what’s awaiting him.

In all stories the writer has an interpretation to be shared by the story’s hearers or readers. Matthew, writing after the fact – knows what Jesus’ prediction of this suffering, death, and resurrection at Jerusalem mean. For him it’s now historical fact.

But what if we read the story a little differently and see Jesus’ prediction not as an expression of his all knowingness, as in, now let me tell you all how this story ends – but as simply a prediction of probability? Living in this period of time, Jesus would have to have been extremely naive to think that his radical challenge to the status quo would go unanswered by a violent show of force. As we are currently uncomfortably aware, this is the response of all dictators or wannabe dictators to any kind of challenge or threat – let those who have ears to hear! Jesus was clearly a threat to the power structures within the Jerusalem beltway. He would have been deluded not to have had a pretty good idea of how – without a change of direction in his message -this was likely to end.

I want to invite us to reject our traditional interpretation of Jesus as superhero with special powers of all knowingness.

I want to invite us to reject our traditional interpretation of Jesus as superhero with special powers of all knowingness. I’m much more attracted to the interpretation – fully supported by a closer reading of Matthew chapters 15,16 and 17 – of Jesus learning along the way – of Jesus like all human beings – learning to piece together the fragments of his experience as he goes along – interpreting the future as the events of the present come to be better understood. This different reading of Matthew reveals that from his encounter with the woman in Sidon onwards, we clearly see Jesus coming to more fully understand what God wants of him.

As with Moses after his encounter with God in the burning bush – in the place beyond the wilderness – Jesus is coming to more fully understand and accept the mission God has for him.

For both Moses and Jesus – accepting God’s mission is a real challenge to their own constructed self-images – of who they might prefer to be  – that is if God had no other plans for them.

And here we come to the gist of Matthew 16:21-28. Acceptance of Jesus messiahship is not only a challenging task for him, but also for his followers. Simon’s OK with recognizing Jesus as messiah, but he’s definitely not up for going along with what this is going to mean for him and the rest of the band. His protest at Jesus’ prediction Lord forbid earns a sharp rebuke from Jesus to the effect of: wake up Simon and smell the roses -following me is not going to be a breeze.

Jesus spells out for the disciples what will be required of those who follow him. Eugene Peterson in his Bible translation known as The Message has an uncomfortable way of putting this when he has Jesus say:

Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am. I am – get it? I am who I am/ I will be who I will be.

For most of us the NRSV translation:

If any want to become my follower, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me -

slips off the page – in one ear and out the other. That’s the problem with challenging words whose difficulty becomes smoothed over by our over familiarity with them.

Speaking personally, I’ve been struggling with what will it mean for me if I give up my self-help and accept self-sacrifice to – in the words of the Carrie Underwood song Let Jesus take the wheel?  

I am daily torn between gratitude and guilt. In the midst of the pandemic and its dire economic fallout – I and my family are well and financially stable. But it’s my very gratitude that is also the source of my guilt.  I and my family are well and financially stable when many people around us are at dire risk from the virus’ devastating effect on either their health or their livelihood – or both.

To this tension I can add a feeling of pervading anxiety. We all may be well and secure in my immediate family bubble but for how long? Although Al and I are likely to be OK, unless one of comes down with Coronavirus – as men we are in the dangerous age bracket. But what of the kids who like the vast majority of all Americans still in work are only one or two wage cycles away from financial peril.


For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life 

becomes in The Message:

What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? 

I know in my heart of hearts that Jesus’ call to follow him requires more than I am comfortable giving.

What does the call to discipleship as Jesus spells it out in Matthew 16 mean for those of us who remain comfortably insulated at a time of unprecedented crisis for society and the planet? I don’t have an easily packaged answer and I suspect if I am honest – I’m not going to like the answer anyway. But what I do know is that I am deeply troubled by the question. I politely suggest we all should be. Amen

If you are not a regular St. Martin’s supporter, we invite you to


Thank you for supporting our ministry during this period of physical distancing.

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