EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

9TH OCTOBER 2022

OPENING SENTENCE

Great are the deeds of the Lord

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 Dougie Byers

COLLECT

O Lord,
since without you we cannot please you:
let the work of your mercy in all things guide our hearts;
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
Jeremiah 29: 1,4-7
read by David Kerr

Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles in Babylon

These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

SECOND READING
2 Timothy 2:8-15
read by Kate Lidwell

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure:

If we have died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him;
if we deny him,
he will also deny us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful—
he cannot deny himself.

A Worker Approved by God

Remind them of this, and warn them before the Lord that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

HYMN

GOSPEL READING
Luke 17: 5-10
read by Rev Chris Wren

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Luke chapter 17 beginning at verse 5

Glory to Christ our Saviour.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me; put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’ ”

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

Max Lucado in his book entitled “Six Hours One Friday tells the story of how he and his boat survived a hurricane. An old sea man gave Max the advice to take his boat to deep water, drop four anchors off each corner of the boat, and pray that the anchors held. Max survived that storm, but he says that he learned an important lesson, all of us need an anchor that will hold during the storms of life. That anchor is our faith. Where do we find a faith strong enough to make it through the storms of life?

The disciples doubted the strength of their faith to cope with the path of discipleship and all the storms that come with it. They were so perturbed about their lack of faith that they cried “increase our faith.” I am sure that in many ways we can identify with their cry. We have faced great challenges and we feel at times that our faith is weak and not fit for purpose. If I just had more faith, I wouldn’t have so many questions or doubts. If I just had more faith God would answer my prayers. If I just had more faith, my mother would not have died; she would have recovered. If I just had more faith, I would be more involved in the church. If I just had more faith, I would be a better person, a better parent, a better spouse. If I just had more faith, I would know what to do, I would handle things better.  If I just had more faith life would be different. We have even looked at others and thought “I wish I had their faith”. What is faith anyway?

Marcus Borg a New Testament Scholar, in his book “The Heart of Christianity” devotes an entire chapter to what is faith. He goes back to the Middle Ages and looks at the four different words they had for faith in Latin. The first word is “assensus” from which we get the English word assent, and it means pretty much what you would expect it to mean: giving one’s mental assent to a claim or proposition, that is, believing that it is true. Borg questioned whether God wants from us mere mental assent to a long list of theological propositions? Is not our faith more than intellectual assent, after all you can believe all the right things and still be in bondage, still be miserable, still be unchanged. Whilst faith is about intellectual assent that in its own is not suffice, as it doesn’t have much transformative power. Don’t get me wrong Marcus Borg believes that in our faith tradition, there are some things we can and should affirm. At the bare minimum being Christian means affirming the reality of God, the utter centrality of Jesus, and the centrality of the Bible.

The second Latin word for faith is “fiducia”, and the closest English equivalent is fiduciary, which may mean something to the bankers and lawyers out there. A better word for the rest of us would be trust, or “radical trust.” “Borg says that once, when his wife was teaching an adult Sunday school class, she asked if anyone had ever tried to teach a child to swim. Several hands went up. She asked, “What was the hardest thing about it?” And they all agreed: getting the child to relax and float, to trust the buoyancy of the water. Fiducia is learning to trust the buoyancy of God. In the middle of that storm on the Sea of Galilee, when they were afraid their boat was going to sink, Jesus asked his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith?” A few chapters later he says, “If God so clothes the grass of the field, will he not clothe you, you of little faith?” In both cases he is talking about faith as “fiducia”: radical trust.

The third Latin word is “fidelitas” which can be translated as fidelity, or faithfulness, specifically, faithfulness in our relationship to God. It means what faithfulness does in a marriage—being faithful to God in the same way you might be faithful to a spouse. The opposite of this kind of faith is unfaithfulness or adultery. Another biblical word for this kind of unfaithfulness is idolatry—giving one’s ultimate loyalty and allegiance to something other than God. Christian faith means loyalty to Jesus as Lord, and not to the seductive gods of our world- wealth, status, achievement, family, or sport.

The fourth Latin word for faith is “visio” and this one is fascinating. As you might guess, “visio” is a way of seeing “the whole,” a way of seeing “what is.” “Visio” is looking at reality and seeing that it is essentially nourishing and lifegiving. It has brought us and everything else into existence. It is filled with wonder and beauty. It loves us and cares about us. This is the reality Jesus was talking about when he said, “Look at the birds of the air, the flowers of the field.” God feeds them. God clothes them. God sends his rain on the just and the unjust.

These four Latin words give us an insight into what faith is. Did you notice that all but the first are relational words. Fiducia describes a relationship of radical trust. Fidelitas describes a relationship of love and loyalty. Visio describes a relationship of life-giving nurture. Faith is more than just believing a set of theological propositions, it is about a relationship of trust, love and loyalty.

Is faith quantitative for the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith? What is Jesus implying when he says: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Is he inviting us to increase our faith, or is he sayings something different? It sounds as if Jesus is saying, you don’t need more faith. You only need the tiniest little speck. No, it’s not about having more faith, it’s about putting your faith in the right place, or more specifically, in the right person.”

What Jesus is trying to tell us this: that we don’t need a lot of faith, we only need the tiniest little speck. But we need to put our faith in the right place—not in ourselves and our ability to believe—but in God, the One who gives us life and nurtures it, the One who loves us like a faithful spouse, the One we can trust completely, and yes, the One who can and does move mountains. Let us put our mustard seed of faith in him, and watch it grow.

I suppose faith is a bit like our muscles, if we don’t use them regularly, they waste away. They become weak and lack strength. To build muscle strength we need to be exercising them. In a way that is what James is saying in his small book when he states” faith without works is dead. We need not worry about our faith resources, it is who we are putting our faith in that matters. God has all the resources and nothing is impossible for him. As we trust in God and step out in faith, things happen for good. The more we exercise the muscle of faith, the stronger it becomes.

This was true for the heroes of faith mentioned in the book of Hebrews. We often think they were extraordinary individuals with great faith, where the truth is they were ordinary folks like you and I who had the same gift of faith as we have but chose to exercise it frequently. What makes them stand out from others is their unwavering trust in God and his promises. A remarkable hero of the faith for me is George Mueller and one of his quotes stays with me. “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where a man’s power ends.’ Indeed, that was true then and continues to be true today.

Did you know that George Mueller provided for thousands of orphans by means of the “faith principle” — which meant he would look to God and never directly ask another person for money. Nor did he ever borrow money — for anything. He was renowned for peaceful trust in God’s provision, even when a deadline loomed and food was short. On this faith principle, he raised £110,000 to build five orphan houses that accommodated 2,050 orphans. In his lifetime he cared for 10,024 orphans. Mueller testified that in his lifetime 50,000 specific prayers were answered. Years before he died, about the middle of his career, he affirmed that up to that time 5000 of his definite prayers had been answered on the day of asking. He made it a habit to keep a notebook with 2-page entries. On one page he gave the petition and the date, and on the opposite page he entered the date of the answer. In this manner he was able to keep record of definite petitions, and their specific answers. He recommended this form to believers who desired specific results to their prayers. Thus, there is no guesswork as to when God answers prayers. He proved by faith God promises to be true.

Last Christmas we supported Open Doors, founded by Van der Bijl. He became famous as “God’s smuggler” when the first-person account of his missionary adventures—slipping past border guards with Bibles hidden in his blue Volkswagen Beetle—was published in 1967. God’s Smuggler was written with evangelical journalists John and Elizabeth Sherrill and published under his code name “Brother Andrew.” It sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages. He exercised great faith. He died just last month. He would tell us as he has told many others, “The Bible is full of ordinary people who went to impossible places and did wondrous things simply because they decided to follow Jesus.”

Today, Open Doors has bases and staff all over the world. The next generation of ‘Brother Andrews’ still smuggles Bibles into regions that are hostile to the faith. They still go wherever needed to show the marginalised, isolated and persecuted Christians around the world that they are not forgotten and never alone. They are trusting God and exercising their faith.

The 14 May last year was the 18th birthday of Leah Sharibu, who was abducted from her school in north east Nigeria in 2018 by an Islamic State affiliate. She refused to renounce her faith in exchange for her freedom, and is still being held by her terrorist captors, who have declared her a “slave for life”. Leah’s faith inspires us to trust in God and persevere in our faith as she does.

So, this scenario in scripture tells us that we like Jesus’ disciples have more than enough faith to follow him and in our adventure with him, do some amazing things for God’s kingdom. Will we trust God enough, will we be loyal enough to God, will we love him enough to give our all for him and seek to live out the words the hymn say: oh love so amazing so divine, demands my soul my life, my all. 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

Gracious God,
Let your people rejoice in you.
Jesus, Lord of grace, thank you for the gift of faith you give us
and for the reminder that even if our faith
is as small as mustard seed
we can as we trust in you
do things that seem impossible to us.
Help us to trust in you
and to practise our faith.
Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of wisdom, give to those
who preach and teach your holy word
insight, wisdom and courage to speak honestly
of what is right, true and noble.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of all compassion,
give to those who direct public policy
vision to see beyond those with the highest profile,
of status, wealth and influence,
that they might include those on the margins.
Hear the cries of all who are finding
the cost- of- living crisis unbearable.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of unity,
we are all made in your image
and belong in your family.
Remove the divisions of our making,
uniting us as fellow citizens of your kingdom.
May respect and dignity be given to all
and no-one be regarded as unworthy or unclean.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of peace,
you ask us to seek negotiation and diplomacy
in face of hostility and adversity.
Be with all involved in the peace process,
especially in relation to Ukraine and Russia
and the Middle East, that steps towards healing
might be found and security and peace established.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of healing, be with all,
whose illness separates them from contact
with others or isolates them through fear.
We think of Covid and other viruses
and thank you for vaccines and their protection.
For those undergoing treatment,
we pray for their strength and courage;
for those awaiting surgery in long waiting lists,
give them dates and hope;
for those awaiting results or appointments,
give them your peace.
Surround them all with your love and care.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of life, we thank you that you hold all souls in life.
We bring to you those who have died,
asking that they might be one with you
and know the joy of eternal life in your nearer presence.
Be with all who mourn and grant them
Comfort in their pain and loss
and hope in their sense of emptiness.

Gracious God,

Let your people rejoice in you.

Jesus, Lord of creation, we thank you for
your goodness and gentleness towards us,
your servants, and may we glorify your name
in our humble service.
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.

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