Armadale UCA

27th September 2020

and Pharisee – Ivan Filichev

`On good authority`

Pentecost 17

Rev Fiona Winn

Welcome and Grace

Scripture sentence
`Think about what we have in Christ:
the encouragement he has brought us, the comfort of his love,
our sharing in his Spirit, and the mercy and kindness he has shown us.
If you enjoy these blessings, then do what will make my joy complete:
Agree with each other, and show your love for each other. Be united in your goals and in the way you think.
 In whatever you do,
don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide.
Be humble, and honour others more than yourselves.
Don’t be interested only in your own life,
but care about the lives of others too.`
Philippians 2: 1-4 (ERV)

TIS 141 (vs. 1, 2, 6 and 7) `Praise to the holiest in the height`
https://youtu.be/fPBE5r3a0UA

(John Henry Newman)

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise,
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways.

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.

O wisest love! That flesh and blood
Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against blood refine,
Should strive and should prevail;

And that a higher gift than grave
Should flesh and blood refine,
God's presence and his very self
And Essence all divine.

O generous love! that he who smote
In man for man the foe,
The double agony in man
For the man should undergo;

And in the garden secretly,
And on the Cross on high,
Should teach his brethren, and inspire
To suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise,
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways.

Prayer

God of all creation, You have made all things beautiful.
Rocks and mountains, trees and forests,
flowers and insects, animals and birds – all cry out
and declare Your greatness and love.
The creation that surrounds us and sustains us
speaks of Your infinite care and provision.
We wonder…and we worship You, Creator God.
Jesus, author and finisher of our faith,
You bring order, truth and justice
where there is disorder, hypocrisy and corruption.
With healing authority, You speak words of grace, mercy and truth
to all who have been hurt and led astray
by powerful, persuasive voices who do not and never did love them.
We wonder…and we worship You Lord Jesus Christ.
Holy Spirit of God who leads us into truth
and shows us the path to life come to us in these testing times of trial.
Refresh us where we are thirsty.
Calm us when we are anxious and disturbed.
Reassure us of the ever present loving kindness
and provision of God, when we are fearful of the future.
Challenge us, if we have become lazy
in our commitment to the Good News story of Jesus Christ.
We wonder…and worship You, Spirit of courage and hope and truth.
Forgive our lack of care towards the created order.
Help us to take seriously and deal responsibly with the world around us. Lord have mercy…
Forgive our lack of insight and discernment
in listening to and being influenced by those do not do justice,
who do not love mercy, who do not walk humbly with You.
Attune our ears to listen better to Your Word. Christ have mercy…
Forgive us our complaining and rancour
when things don`t go the way we want or expect…
Teach us gratitude and trust. Lord have mercy…
`…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace that you have been saved`. Ephesians 2:4
Reminded of Your love for us and all creation, in Jesus Christ,
we are glad to hear Christ`s words of grace to each of us
`Your sins are forgiven` Thanks be to God. Amen

Readings:

Exodus 17: 1-7

Water from the Rock

17 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Psalm 78: 1-4, 12-16

God’s Goodness and Israel’s Ingratitude

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the 
Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.
In the sight of their ancestors he worked marvels
    in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
    and made the waters stand like a heap.
14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
    and all night long with a fiery light.
15 He split rocks open in the wilderness,
    and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16 He made streams come out of the rock,
    and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

Matthew 21:23-32 The Authority of Jesus Questioned

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 

27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father[a] went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Song `Christ be our light` https://youtu.be/KMkfKXLcm5Q

Bernadette Farrell)
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
Light for the world to see.
Refrain:

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
Walls made of living stone.
Refrain

Many the gifts, many the people,
Many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
Making your kingdom come.
Refrain

Reflection and Q and A

On Good Authority

`Is the Lord among us or not?` Exodus 17: 7

There`s a question. In these days of pandemic, of creaking institutions, with corrupt and unaccountable practices in just about every area of public life - banks, police, politics – in a world of increasing factionalism and division,
`Is the Lord among us or not?`
How do we answer that question? How would we know?
Does it matter?
The Israelites are unhappy and quarrelsome – not without reason. They`ve come a long hard way from Egypt and now they have nothing to drink. And they are thirsty.
So they go to their leader and complain to him – and he, Moses, goes to God and asks God what he should do.
And God provides.
God provides water – from a rock; from a hard, unforgiving place – water, refreshment, hope - the ability to continue on.
And their refreshment, their hope, the ability to keep going stems from the question they dared to ask: `Is the Lord among us or not?`
It matters that we ask this question. It heralds a time of reflection and review. It calls into question, and calls us to question, the things we have taken for granted for so long: the things we have assumed as ours by right - whether by birth, merit, gender, nationality, the language we speak, the colour of our skin, the religion we follow.
It matters that we ask this question and it matters how we answer this question. Yes. No. Possibly?
What would our answer be – today? In twenty first century Australia? In our Western style, liberal democracy?
What can we say with assurance, with confidence, with authority?
The Israelites drink the sweet water from the rock – and they know that the Lord is among them; is at work; will provide for them; will give them what they need to keep on keeping on.
They asked the question. And they got the answer.
By contrast the chief priests and the elders of the people get more than they bargain for when they ask Jesus `By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?`
Matthew 21:23
Why are they asking these questions? Are they `real` questions or ones posed simply to entrap Jesus? Take him off guard? Humiliate him as he teaches the people? Can`t they work out the answer?
In response, Jesus deflects their questions and asks a question of his own - which the religious leaders find themselves unable to answer without incriminating themselves. In their calculated refusal to answer him, they demonstrate their resistance to the ways and teachings of God – which Jesus presses home in the excoriating parable of the two sons. Where is the Lord in that story?
The religious leaders, in response to Jesus, feign ignorance which, rather than undermining the authority of Jesus, serves only to undermine their own. The people revered John the Baptist and trusted what he said. As with Jesus…they love listening to him. Imagine what that would have been like…
`Now when Jesus had finished these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not like their scribes.` Matthew 7: 28, 29
`He went down to Capernaum…and was teaching them on the Sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority` Luke 4: 31, 32
What is authority? The word is connected to `author` and `authorship`. It is connected to words – and deeds - which bring truth and light and hope to dark and difficult times. Times like these
And it is connected to people who know what they are talking about; who have put in the hard work, acquired skill, knowledge and expertise to help teach, lead and guide others. It is not based on words alone but on the congruity, consistency, integrity of accompanying deeds.
(Watch the interaction between Senator Paul Rand and Dr. Anthony Fauci this past week. You can find it at:
https://youtu.be/RkVA4yb4ugY)
It might be helpful to consider the difference between those who have authority and those in authority.
What does it mean for us and for the world that Jesus says, as he leaves his disciples: `All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me` Matt. 28: 18
What do you think? What do you say?

Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer
(from Duncan MacLeod, Chair of Presbytery of Port Phillip East, read by Bill Rush)

Name above all names,
Name yet untamed;
in the fullness of time
you emptied yourself
becoming weak in power
to be strong in love.
Still fear and trembling
fill our days and our faith;
please help us shift from fear to awe.
Move us from trembling
to transformation
that we might
not confuse the love of infinite power
with the power of  infinite love.

So we pray for those
in places of privilege and power:
that empty words and empty promises
might be replaced with the fulness
of justice and the honesty of humility.

We pray for those
under the thumb of privilege and power:
for voices silenced,
breath suppressed,
lives destroyed.

Bend our knees that we might
uplift all those long held down,
all those long ignored,
all those bound
by powers and principalities
into shapes that seek
to hide your imaging shining within them.

Encourage us to be of
that same mind
of and that same spirit
of that unity in Christ
that first wound the world
with the cords of your grace.
Amen

TIS 547 ` Be thou my vision` https://youtu.be/rnZ9Nl7ZHyA

(Trad. Irish; Trans. Mary Byrne)

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art,
Be Thou my best thought, in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true word
Be Thou ever with me, and I with Thee, Lord,
Be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son,
Be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight,
Be Thou my whole armour, be Thou my true might,
Be Thou my soul's shelter, be Thou my strong Tower,
O raise Thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Be Thou my inheritance now and always,
Be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart,
O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, Thou Heaven's bright Sun,
O grant me its joys after vict'ry is won,
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Blessing

May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Spirit,
compassionate Creator, forgiving Saviour,
Spirit who leads us into all truth,
renew, sustain and reassure you
today and always.
Amen