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TWENTY FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

17TH OCTOBER 2021

OPENING SENTENCE

The Lord shall give his angels charge over you.

HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God
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.

CONFESSION

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.

ABSOLUTION

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.

GLORIA
sung by Sue St Joseph

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God:
in your goodness keep from us all that is harmful;
that, being ready both in body and soul,
we may freely accomplish your will;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen

FIRST READING
JOB 38: 1-7
read by Annette Beagrie

The Lord Answers Job

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

SECOND READING
Hebrews 5: 1-10
read by Marion Whitty

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honour, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also, Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;

as he says also in another place,

“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

HYMN

GOSPEL READING
Mark 10:35-45
read by Rev Janice Aiton

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Mark chapter 10 beginning at verse 35

Glory to Christ our Saviour.

The Request of James and John

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So, Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

Jesus’ twelve appointed companions began to think of themselves as being specially chosen — specially chosen for greatness. Great things were happening everywhere Jesus went.

Great speeches.
Great healings.
Great crowds.
Great fans.

If Jesus was so great and powerful, why could his chosen followers not also be imbued with some of that greatness? Surely at least some of the disciples must be destined to sit at Jesus’ “right” and “left” hand when he came into his full glory, when he publicly claimed his messianic identity. Certainly, that was the thinking of James and John, when they made a request of Jesus, in private, away from the other disciples.

Teacher,” they asked, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. Hmm! When someone asks you to grant a favour before specifying what the favour is, watch out. “Grant us to sit,” they said, “one at your right hand one at your left, in your glory.” So, this is what discipleship is all about a power play in the executive suite. James and John were brothers who left their father Zebedee sitting in a boat in the middle of the lake when they responded to Jesus’ teaching. Being part of the inner circle with Peter, they felt they should have the top positions when Jesus established his kingdom. Is there anyone who can’t relate to James and John? The drive to be number one is one of the most common instincts of humanity.

This common instinct to be number one has played itself throughout history. Let’s take one example from Roman history. The month of July was named after Julius Caesar. Not to be outdone, the Emperor Augustus called the following month August after himself. Since that month had only thirty days at the time, he borrowed a day from February and added it to August, making sure that his month would not be inferior to Julius Caesar’s. Augustus was a spiritual ancestor of James and John.

James and John were driven by ambition. They envisioned themselves at Jesus’ right and left side in the coming kingdom. They viewed themselves as VIPs, perhaps one as Secretary of State and the other as Secretary of Defence. They longed to have positions of power and prestige. “You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” To which the brothers James and John replied. “We are able.”

We are able to occupy these sets of position, prestige and power. Perhaps it shocks us to see such blatant self-promotion and blind ambition within the ranks of Christ’s disciples. Outside the church, these attitudes are present every day. The world out there encourages us to take the initiative, climb the ladder, and push to the front of the line. “Blessed are the aggressive,” says our culture, “for they will get what they want.” If that means pulling the boss aside and making a private pitch, then that is what must be done. Like it or not, this is how the world works. Here in the church, it disturbs us to see the same attitudes are prevalent, oh they may be less blatant but they are just as real. We want a Jesus who will give us what we want, a Lord who can shower a little power on us, a Saviour who can make us better than we are. We want some kind of recognition and reward for our services. We are no better and no wiser than James and John.

James and John were ambitious. Jesus never condemned anyone for being ambitious only for being ambitious for the wrong things. There is nothing wrong with ambition. It is the starting point for great achievement. However, not all dreams are created equal. Misguided ambition is also the cause of much of the heartache in the world. Jesus wants us to be careful what we are ambitious about. James and John wanted places of honour in Christ’s Kingdom. If truth be known so did the other disciples want positions of power and prestige that was why they were so indignant at the audacity of James and John- they had beaten them to it!

There are many negative things that can be said about James and John,” writes William Barclay. “They were nakedly ambitious and proud: they wanted, and believed they deserved, places of honour in Jesus’ kingdom. They were ignorant and insensitive: their request for places of honour came right after Jesus had told of His coming suffering and death. But there’s one positive thing you can say about James and John: they believed in Jesus. Here was a poor, homeless, persecuted carpenter and yet James and John believed Jesus was a king. They believed that He would conquer the power structure of Rome.” Even their crude ambition reflected their faith in Christ. What was there about Jesus that inspired such confidence, such devotion from the people who followed him? There was surely something special in the way he talked or the look in his eyes. There are people who inspire such confidence, aren’t there? Their confidence in him must have warmed Jesus’ heart. For Jesus does not scold them for their ambition and for their arguing among themselves, instead Jesus showed them an alternative path to greatness.

True greatness, Jesus demonstrated is not in the worldly ways of success, power and privilege, but rather in service. Jesus taught them, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave to all.” This certainly wasn’t what James and John had in mind. They wanted power and prestige, but Jesus turned their notion of greatness upside down. Jesus taught that, in the kingdom, true greatness is found in serving others.

This awareness of true greatness came home to Bob Pierce when he visited a friend. Bob Pierce was dying and he wanted to see his friend, Borneo Bob Williams, a missionary who had started hundreds of churches in Indonesia. When Pierce arrived at Borneo Bob’s mission, he noticed a girl lying on a bamboo mat. He asked his friend about her. Borneo Bob explained that the girl was dying and probably had only a few days left to live. “How come this girl is living down there in the mud when she could be up there in that nice, clean clinic?” Pierce asked angrily.
Borneo Bob explained that the girl was a jungle girl who had asked to be near the river that day because it was cooler. A great sense of sadness and pity filled Bob Pierce’s heart. He knelt beside the girl, held her hand, and began rubbing her forehead tenderly. Then he prayed for her. The girl said something to him which someone nearby translated. She was telling him of her tremendous pain and how she was unable to sleep because of it. “If I could only sleep again,” she told him. If I could only sleep again! This was more than Pierce could stand. He began crying for the girl, knowing what it was like not being able to sleep, since he experienced the same problem with his illness. Pierce reached into his pocket and handed his only bottle of sleeping pills to Borneo Bob. “You make sure she gets a good night’s sleep from now on,” he said to his friend. Pierce knew that it would be at least ten days before he could get to Singapore to refill his prescription. He knew that he would have to forfeit ten nights of sleep to help this girl, but he obviously felt that it was worth it. Greatness is found in serving others.

Serving others does not come instinctively to us. Jesus knew what it is to be human. He knew that when we accomplish something we want recognition, we want selfies taken, awards and plaques to hang on our walls. We want everyone to know what we’ve done. He understands that. But what he wants us to know is that true greatness is found in service – service to the community, service to the church, service to the least and the lowest.
This road of service is not an easy road to travel. James and John wanted to take the easy road. They wanted success without service. They wanted prestige and power without having to earn it. They did not understand that service is the key to greatness. Even more important, service is what the kingdom is all about. As Jesus said about his own life, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” A politician that I admire and who in my opinion mirrors this servant attitude is Angela Merkel. She served the people of her country well for 16 years. A few weeks back the Germans came out on their balconies and clapped for 6 minutes, a standing ovation across the country. Germany said good- bye to its leader, physicist, quantum chemist, who was not tempted by greatness, lights and fashion. She did not buy real estate, cars, yachts and private jets.

For sixteen years she never changed the style of her wardrobe. At a press conference, a journalist asked Merkel: ”We realize that you are wearing the same suit, don’t you have another? She replied: I am a civil servant, not a model. In another press conference, they asked her: “Do You have a housemaid cleaning your house, preparing food, etc.” Her response was: “No, I have no servants nor do I need them. My husband and I do this work every day at home.”  Then another journalist asked: “Who is doing the laundry, you or your husband?” Her response was: “I’m fixing the clothes and my husband is the one who runs the washing machine.” Ms. Merkel lives in a normal apartment like any other citizen. She lived in this apartment before being elected Chancellor of Germany. She did not leave it and she does not own a single villa, houses, pools, gardens. 

Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Europe’s largest economy, will always remain a great example of leadership, driven by values, selfless principles, facts and empathy. Her empathy was most notably seen when she opened her country’s border to refugees from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries, and tens of thousands of people came. To her own incredulous people, she said “we can manage this” — a phrase that in German became synonymous with her. She served her people and others well with her servant leadership.

This is the kind of service that Jesus is referring to in today’s gospel. This is the kind of service that Jesus modelled so well for us. He had no home that he could call his own; he showed empathy to so many people; he went out of his way to heal, teach, encourage and challenge people from all races and background; he was dedicated in his service to others- a service of love. So, we and the disciples have true greatness modelled for us from the top- from Christ himself. May we know true greatness through serving others! Amen.

NICENE CREED

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.

PRAYERS

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service

God of all goodness, you inspire our hearts
to reach beyond personal ambition.
Set our restless hearts
at ease in your love.
Help us not to be hungry for greatness
in the eyes of others,
but rather stir in us a willingness
and joy to serve others.
As Jesus modelled servant leadership to us,
teach us to follow his example.

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service.

God of all goodness, you became one of us
in Christ your Son, our Servant King.
Fill us with Christ’s spirit of humility
that we might willingly and graciously
serve all people, no matter their colour, race or status
with your love and grace.

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service
God of all goodness,
our world is in turmoil
with climate change
and with the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
Hear our cry to you
for those who suffer the most
in the poorer parts of the world.
Create in us a willingness to change our lifestyles,
to help the environment
and to reach out in generosity
to those in poverty and hardship.
Meet us in our difficulties,
be our tower of strength
amidst the shifting sands.

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service

God of all goodness,
you know the struggles of your people
we pray for the many,
who are trapped by growing burdens of debt,
who see no way out, and who despair for their future:
give them courage to tackle the problems they face,
clarity in taking decisions which will turn their situation around,
and faith that, as they cry to you in their trouble,
you will deliver them from their distress.

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service

God of all goodness, you create us in your image
and place us in families for nurture and love.
We praise you for all that our family members
mean to us and for all the love they give us.
We thank you too for
our church family
and for all the fun, help
and fellowship
we enjoy, when we
gather together.
We lift to you today
those who feel alone,
isolated, unloved and
are suffering from poor self-esteem,
remind them of your great love for them
and bring someone into their life
who can befriend and help them.

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service

God of all goodness,
you know us and are concerned
about our health and well-being.
We lift to you today those,
who are struggling with mental health issues,
and ask you to grant them the help
and support they need.
We pray for those who are sick at this time,
remembering those in hospital;
those who are recuperating at home,
and those who are undergoing various treatments.
Come with your healing presence and touch
and comfort them.

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service

God of all goodness, you
know our hearts,
you feel our pain and share
our sorrows.
We are hurt by our parting
from those whom we loved:
when we are angry at the loss
we have sustained,
when we long for words of comfort,
yet find them hard to hear,
turn our grief to truer living,
our affliction to firmer hope
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

God of all compassion

guide us in loving service

God of all goodness,
guide us in our service.
Take our gifts
and use them for your glory.
May our desire to be great,
rest in pleasing you,
and in honouring your name.

Merciful Father accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
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.

HYMN

BLESSING

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

DISMISSAL

Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ.

10 Responses

  1. The prospect of Gordon or I getting to church to worship seems highly unlikely.
    On line we see and hear fellow worshipers and that is as near public worship as possible for us.
    I thank Janice and all who prepare on line worship.

    If we encounter any of our “church” friends outside , that is a total joy.
    I met with Heather at the wetlands where she serves.
    That was after nearly two years.

    Love to all at St John’s from Joan

  2. Thank you Janice for an excellent newsletter and virtual service. It is amazing that COVID came also just as social media blossomed (or not so amazing). in 2004, I was involved in the design and dedication of a memorial to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force at the National Memoriail Arboretum in Staffordshire, At the foot of the facing panel, I added the words `And they shall rise up with wings as eagles’ Memories came flooding back

  3. Hi Janice,

    Sorry to see the bruises on your face from the dental work. I hope you are not in too much pain. Enjoyed the Sunday service. I watched the recording.

  4. Finally found how to access St John’s online and thoroughly enjoyed it particularly your thought provoking sermon with lots of background information Thank you for looking after us in the pandemic Keep well Love Rosie and Terry

  5. I welcome this sermon and indeed the sermon I had best valued was one when the preacher ended his sermon :

    ” Do not have any expectations of me and I will not have any expectations of you”

    Welcome words to any members of a clergy family!
    Joan x

  6. Dear Janice,
    I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only just discovered the St John’s web site!! Thank you for all that you are doing and lovely images which give food for thought. I saw you on zoom at the retreat last week but then you disappeared – I hope you enjoyed it. On Sundays I’ve been watching the SEC eucharists on YouTube usually with lovely organ music.
    Blessings and love from Ann

  7. Hi Janice,
    I haven’t been coming to church because I am shielding my self as well as shielding my two very elderly parents, ( Mum is 94 years years old this December and Dad is 96 years old this coming March ) they are my main reason for not coming to church, but I get too come to our church on line of which I am greatly pleased, thank you for that wonderful service this morning God bless.

  8. We pray for Janice and hold her before His healing power.

    Thank Janice that we can worship on line , because for us at home “God does not live in houses made with hands” but on the airwaves

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