FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

18TH SEPTEMBER 2022

OPENING SENTENCE

Help us, O God our Saviour, for the glory of your name.

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 Billy Dewar Riddick

COLLECT

O Lord,
let your constant compassion
cleanse and strengthen your Church:
and since, without you,
we cannot continue in safety,
may we ever be governed by your grace;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen

PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD

FIRST READING
Jeremiah 8.18 – 9.1
read by Amie Byers

The word of the LORD through the prophet: My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: ‘Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?’ (‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?’)

‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.’ For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!

SECOND READING
1 TIMOTHY 2:1-7
read by Margaret Morton

A reading from the first letter of Paul to Timothy. My dearly beloved, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all – this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

HYMN

GOSPEL READING
Luke 16.1–13
read by Rev James Clark Maxwell

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 16 beginning at verse 1

Glory to Christ our Saviour.

Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

Give thanks to the Lord for this glorious Gospel.

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

This past week the United Kingdom has been rocked by the sad news of Queen Elizabeth’s death and has been deep in mourning. Many have queued for hours to say their final farewell to the Queen and to convey their appreciation for her life of devoted service and duty. Tributes have been pouring in and services have taken place, noting particularly the excellent service in St Giles. Queen Elizabeth’s integrity and warm character won her a special place in the hearts of her people. She will be greatly missed for she was our nation’s strength and stay. We will be thinking especially of the family tomorrow as they attend the funeral in Westminster Abbey, and our prayers and thoughts will be with them.

The Queen remarkable life of service and duty stands in sharp contrast to the steward in our gospel reading, who was in charge of running the manager’s estate. The steward proved to be unreliable and dishonest. It probably started off in little ways and then became a way of life he must have known all along that he was living dangerously, but he got away with it for a long time, thus evading public judgement and even self- examination. In Palestine there were many absentee landlords. The master may well have been an absentee landlord, and he more than likely had entrusted it into his steward’s hands. The steward had followed a career of embezzlement. However, in spite of his craftiness, he was eventually found out, and his master confronted him with his misconduct.

This parable, along with the previous parable about prodigal son is bringing home amidst other themes, the point that the love of money and power is futile. You will recall the prodigal son who took his inheritance, squandered his property in dissolute living and hits rock bottom. In this parable we have some parallels, in that the dishonest steward squandered his property and he hits rock bottom. He is not immediately threatened with starvation, but he is immediately threatened with job loss that will lead to starvation. It is as dire as the prodigal Son. Since he will never be hired again as a steward, the only paths open to him are physical labour or begging. He is unsuited for both.

It must have been a humbling moment and a painful moment for the steward to be caught out. He was about to lose not only his job but also his reputation. He had brought shame and disgrace on himself and on his family. Yet it was also a moment of truth and revelation, because it brought home the dishonest reality that he had been living in. It provided him with an opportunity to leave behind illusions and lies, and see this as a turning point in his life.

But what happened? He learned nothing from it, even after being sacked from his job, he continued in his old dishonest ways. There was not the slightest change in his character. He refused to take responsibility of the person he had become.

It is very difficult to change the habits of a life- time. Dostoevesky says: “ the second half of a person’s life is usually made up of habits acquired in the first half”. That could be a frightening prospect.” It seems that there is a moment in our lives when the precious clay of which we are made hardens and sets, so from that point on it is not easily moulded, and almost impossible for the Potter to make a new shape out of unpliable clay.

With his back to the wall. The steward manufactures an action plan. He is not giving up easily. He concocts a strategy. The debtors are called in one by one. There will be no chance for group conversation nor for the scrutiny and hesitation that group reflection might bring. Stealth needs privacy. The debtors are questioned. They must acknowledge how much they owe and they must alter the numbers. Admittedly they do so at the instruction of the steward, but they agree to change the debt. Not only do they agree to change the debt but actually they do it themselves. It is their handwriting that doctors the bills, and in line with all shady dealings, it has to be done quickly.

So, the debtors are not only in the steward’s debt, but they are now in collision with him. They are full scale accomplices in defrauding the master. They have been shown how to cook the books and they have participated willingly in doing so. He is already in their homes because he has made them like himself, people whose behaviour has put their survival in jeopardy. The master now has the same case against them as the master has against him.

Although the dishonesty of the manager is forth rightly acknowledged, this master has seen more than dishonesty. So, he commends rather than corrects, decries or threatens the steward and the debtors. His commendation may well be a form of begrudging admiration. The sentiment is I don’t agree with what he did but you have to admit it was a bold and clever move. Even though the manager’s rich resources are somewhat depleted, he values the steward’s resilience and effective action, and so praises him rather than rebukes him.

What are we to make of this parable- surely it is not suggesting that we imbibe dishonest practices? No, rather it is challenging us to have the same passion for survival as the dishonest steward. In Scripture here, it says that the people of this secular world are wiser than Christians. By that he means, if only the Christian would be as eager and ingenious in his attempt to attain goodness as the secular person of the world is in his attempt to attain money and comfort, then they would be a better person. If only we would give as much attention to the things which concern our souls, as to the things that concern our business, we would be better people. Over and over again we will expend twenty times the amount of time, money and effort on our pleasure, hobbies, gardens, sport than we do on the church. Our Christianity will only begin to become real and effective only when we spend as much time and effort on it as we do on worldly activities. So, we are urged and encouraged to have this same ingenuity and resilience in our spiritual lives.

We are also challenged to use our material possessions to cement friendships where the real and permanent value of life lies. It was Ambrose who said that “The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come.” Ambrose commenting on the rich fool who built bigger barns to store his goods said: the bosoms of the poor, the house of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever.” It was a Jewish belief that charity given to the poor would stand you in good credit in the world to come. So,

helping the needy is a good way to use our possessions and forge friendships for eternity.

There are countless ways this can be done. Many a student has benefited from scholarships which have aided them in their university career. Many a person has been appreciative of the generosity of people that has helped them in a time of need in a most practical way. I think it is also saying possessions in and of themselves are not wrong but it is a huge responsibility to steward them well.

Indeed, the passage goes on to say that if we are faithful in little than we will be faithful in much. How we give our attention and care to the small tasks will indicate our capability to deal with larger tasks. No one will be promoted to higher office until they have proven their honesty and capability in the lower position. This principle is extended to eternity what you get in heaven depends on how you use the things of the earth. What you will be given as your very own will depend on how you use the things of which you are the steward.

Finally, the passage concludes with the well- known verse you cannot serve God and Mammon, in other words no slave can serve two masters. In a commentary I read it says that the master owned the slave, and owned him exclusively. Nowadays a servant or workman can quite easily hold down two jobs and work for two different people. He can do one job in the day time and another in the evening. Many a person, augments their income in their spare time. But a slave has no spare time; every moment of every day and night belonged to his master. He had no time so to speak that was his own. So, the point being driven home here is that serving God is not a part time occupation or something that can be done in your spare time, it demands complete and wholehearted commitment. We need to belong to God totally and expend our energy in his service with dedication and wholehearted commitment.

As I started with a focus on the queen, so I would like to conclude by saying that the Queen mirrored in her life this wholehearted commitment to God and to her people. Her life was one of self- sacrificial giving to her people and in doing so she had honesty, integrity, ingenuity and resilience. It is this kind of loving gracious honest service that God is looking for in us. He invites us to be good stewards of all He has entrusted to us that we might serve him wisely and well. After Queen Elizabeth II made her promise to serve the people whether her life be long or short, she then added God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it. This morning we echo that prayer of Queen Elizabeth II-God help us to make good our vow of service and commitment to you. 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.

Loving God, you made us in your image
and call us to bring honour
to your family name.
Help us to steward wisely the gifts
you have entrusted to us
for the building up of your kingdom.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, you turn the values of the world upside down.
Keep your church in single minded devotion.
Sustain your servants
to be faithful in small and large tasks.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, we pray for those in high position,
that the dignity of all may be upheld and honoured.
Guide all nations in the way of peace and justice,
thinking especially of Ukraine and Russia.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, turn your people’s hearts away
from the lust for money and power,
and help them to be content with their sufficient resources.
Fix our hearts and minds on
where true and lasting treasures may be found.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, you understand the plight of others.
You reached out through your Son,
to bring healing, comfort and strength.
Keep us mindful of the needs of others,
the unemployed, the depressed and the stressed.
Give us gentleness of heart towards them.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, we pray for peace and comfort
for a nation in deep mourning
in the death of Queen Elizabeth 11.
We lift to you the royal family
as they mourn a mother,
grandmother and great grandmother
in the public gaze
and ask for your courage and strength
for them in these days.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, we pray for all
who will participate in the funeral of the queen tomorrow,
that they may know your presence, power and divine touch.
We thank you for the vigils and services
that have already taken place,
bringing solace to so many,
and expressing such gratitude and appreciation
for a life live with such devotion, dedication and steadfastness.
As Queen Elizabeth 11 inspires us
in our life journey of service and faith,
may we imbibe her qualities of duty,
dedicated service and faithfulness.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, we pray at this time for King Charles 111,
with all the responsibilities and pressures
that he is facing at present.
Be his stay and strength
and guide him with wisdom, grace and purpose.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, we remember all
who are struggling with health at this time,
and ask that you will work
through the doctors, nurses and surgeons
to bring about a desired outcome
of healing and good health.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Loving God, your Son Jesus
is the Servant King.
By your spirit help us
to walk in his footsteps
and fill us with peace and joy in your service.

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