Sunday at St Andrew's

6 September 2020, 10am

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

Series: Romans ‘Good News for All’

15. Romans 13. 8-14

‘Good News: Loving and living’

Speaker: Phil Rodd

 

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Welcome to this service at St Andrew’s Eaton

- whether you’re back in church at the afternoon service,
- or whether you’re on ‘Zoom’,
- or whether you’re reading this at some other moment during the week.

Today we hear some of the well-known ‘Thou shalt not’s. 

They’re what so many people think the Christian faith is all about.  

Just like Jesus, though, St Paul also wants us to think much more expansively, to love more expansively, to live more expansively.

It’s a good message, especially at time when so much of our physical lives are hemmed in!

As we begin, let’s pray that God will still our hearts and minds and speak to us in this time today.

 

INTRODUCTION                

Leader: Grace, mercy and peace

             from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

             be with you

All:        and also with you.

Leader:  Loving God, we have come to worship you.

All:        Help us to pray to you in faith,

to sing your praise with gratitude,

and to listen to your word with eagerness;

through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

HYMN: O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness or listen here 

 

CONFESSION  

Leader: Jesus says, 
             ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

             So let us turn away from our sin and turn to Christ,

             confessing our sins in penitence and faith.

Leader: God our Father,

            we come to you in sorrow for our sins.

            For turning away from you,

            and ignoring your will for our lives;

   Father, forgive us:

All:      save us and help us.

Leader: For behaving just as we wish,

without thinking of you;

             Father, forgive us:

All:        save us and help us.

Leader: For failing you by what we do,

and think and say;

             Father, forgive us:

All:        save us and help us.

Leader: For letting ourselves be drawn away from you

by temptations in the world about us;

             Father, forgive us:

All:        save us and help us.

Leader:  For living as if we were ashamed

to belong to your Son;

Father, forgive us:

All:        save us and help us.

Leader: May the Father of all mercies

             cleanse us from our sins,

             and restore us in his image

             to the praise and glory of his name,

             through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All:        Amen.

 

PSALM 149 

 

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now

and shall be for ever. Amen.

 

FIRST READING

Matthew 18. 15-20 or listen here

How to be free from hurt and wrongdoing

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

HYMN: My soul finds rest in God alone or listen here 

 

SECOND READING 

Romans 13. 8-14 or listen here

Love for one another

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON (Phil Rodd)

Romans 13.8-14

‘Good News: Loving and Living’

Final preparations.  You know how it is.  You’ve done all the planning for your holiday.  Or at least, in my case, Cathy has.  You’ve done the shopping, you’ve bought the holiday reading, the maps, the compass, the walking boots.  You’ve bought a second penknife, two new airbeds, a new camping gas bottle.  You’ve got two extra spare tyres for the bicycles.  You’ve remembered the crates of food, especially the chocolate bars and the bulbs of garlic.  Yes, this will be a holiday like no other.  

Except somehow in the last-minute rushing around, no pairs of trousers go into the bags – and all you end up with, in what turns out to be the wettest camping holiday ever – is one pair of specially-designed stay-damp jeans.  And when you finally make it home, it takes another four days for your legs to lose that unique soggy pink-and-crinkly look!

Final preparations.  They can go wrong, can’t they?  Despite all our planning, our rushing about.  Despite even our praying.

We’re into the final preparations stage of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  All through the letter, we’ve had lengthy discourses, well-planned blocks of teaching on grace.  It’s been absorbing; it’s been encouraging; and we’re left inspired people, transformed people.

But now Paul’s getting to the end.  He’s beginning to wonder if we’ve really got it.  What has he missed out?  And the passages become shorter, more disjointed, as he mops up the bits and pieces he wanted to say that wouldn’t quite fit in elsewhere.  In fact, there are quite a few bits and pieces, and we’re only going to be looking at a few of them this week and next.

And today we’re in chapter 13, beginning at verse 8.  Paul’s been talking about our civil duties – or rather, the civil duties of the Roman Christians.  It may not sound much of an issue to us: we take it for granted, don’t we, that our starting point at the very least, is to comply with the law.  Not so simple for the new community of Christian believers in Rome, a city dominated by idolatry, emperor-worship, and the might of an all-conquering, brutish army.  

1. BE CAREFUL

There’s no easy way out of this, says Paul.  No short-cuts.  There are various instructions here for the Roman Christians; and first and foremost, they’ll have to be careful, they’ll have to be diligent about their obligations, social and legal (giving whatever they owe, whether taxes, respect, honour) – all social relationships are included in this.  

In other words, and this goes just as much for us here today, the Christian life isn’t just about us here in church, but rather the way we look out, the way we interact, the way we perceive the world ‘out there’ and are perceived by it.  No question of being separate, but engaged and part of it (as we’ve need to be particularly during these months of lockdown, when we’ve needed to have a special focus on the needs of those around us – and even more so now that the familiar faces are now increasingly hidden behind masks.

Be careful.  You may have various debts and duties, says Paul.  Write them down, he says – check them out, and get them all cancelled.  Owe no one anything, he says in verse 8; or better the sense is ‘to let no debt remain outstanding’ – except to love.  Make the most of the time – how often, especially over the summer, do you wake up early, because that’s the routine of your internal clock, and it’s bright and sunny outside – but it’s holiday time, so you stay in bed; only to discover that by the time you finally have got up and had breakfast and read the paper and done the washing up, and done just a couple of those little jobs that needed doing – once you’re ready to go out, it’s clouded over and started raining – or snowing!  You’ve lost the best part of the day.  This is the idea behind what Paul is saying here – to get on and to make the most of the time that we have, while we still have the chance to get ahead with things. 

The point is that the old world is rumbling on its own way, its old way.  Most people continue running their lives governed by the style and habits of that old world.  But the new world has broken in.  God’s new age has already begun, and it won’t be long, says Paul, until it comes to fulfilment.  It’s a new age started by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – and those who follow Jesus are called to live according the rules of that new world – even though everybody else is still asleep.

First, then, be careful.

2. BE MATURE

Second, be mature, be grown up – it’s the idea we had before, earlier in this letter to the Romans, of living up to what we are, living up to what God has made us.  To stop kidding ourselves that we are any less than God’s beloved children, than servants of the living God, than his hands and feet… This is a time for growth, says Paul – for reality checks, for moving on.  Not unrealistically, not running before we can walk, but trusting God who says of us (through Paul), that our salvation really is nearer now than when we first believed.  

And you know, each one of us who are trusting Jesus can say what Paul says there in verse 11, that ‘salvation is nearer to us now than when we first became believers’; because God is coming nearer to us, by his Word, by his Spirit, by each other, as we see God’s kingdom established through our relationships, as we reach out. Let’s believe it, let’s embrace what God is doing through us, even us, right here on our doorsteps!

So, be careful, be mature.

3. BE PURE

Thirdly, be pure.  And here, I think we need to remember the whole teaching of the Scripture on purity. The sad thing about purity among religious people is how it often becomes a feeble state born of fear.  You know, when you see those who try to be pure, but who do so because they’re somehow frightened of the dirtiness of those around them, and they’re not sure whether they could cope if the muckiness of those nasty people came any closer.  And so easily we end up with a weak notion of God’s holiness – something that’s ultimately defective, unattractive, irrelevant.  

But rather, a powerful, infectious purity, born of the character of a pure God, whose purity is stronger than anything we can know – like the face of Jesus at Transfiguration ‘whiter than any man could bleach’, the whiteness reflecting the purity of the refiner’s fire.  Or as Paul puts it, a purity which is ours because we have quite simply ‘put on Christ’, adopting the character of Christ, consciously covering ourselves with his self-giving love – a love that always looks out, beyond the scope of ourselves – a love that brings life, life in all its abundance.  That’s the kind of live that’s worth giving everything for; that’s the love that’s worth striving for with every ounce of strength we can muster; that’s the kind of love that might bring change and hope and yet more love.

 

A version of this sermon in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 6 September.  

 

HYMN: Safe in the shadow of the Lord or listen here 

 

PRAYERS 

As we pray this morning, I believe it is God’s desire to remind us that, in the midst of suffering, pain, confusion, even doubt, we serve the God who is the Creator of the universe, for whom nothing is impossible (Matthew 19:36; Luke 1:37).   This is the same God, who raised His only begotten son Jesus the Christ, from the dead, that we may have life in all its fullness; the same God who longs for each of us to call Him ‘Father’. So, let us come to our Father’s throne room of grace and mercy with childlike boldness; with our prayers and petitions. 

Our Father, you have instructed us through your word this morning that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.  We thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who leads and guides us into your truth.  We ask that you will strengthen us to discern the witness and leading of your Holy Spirit, individually and corporately, that we may continue to grow in your likeness. 

We thank you that as we trust in you, you comfort us in all trials and troubles, that we may also be able to comfort others, with the same comfort by which we ourselves are comforted.  Love does no harm to a neighbour; help us to grow in loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Lord in your mercy

All: Hear our prayer.

We Pray for our World

Father, you have instructed us firstly to pray for all who rule and for those in positions of authority, that we may live peaceable lives.  We pray for world leaders – kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers; those with the power to effect change for the good of all. Your Word tells us that the ‘the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth….’ (2 Chronicles 16:9).  We cry out to you Father that you would show yourself strong on behalf of the weak, the helpless, the poor, the homeless, the widow, the orphan, your church under persecution around the world.  We pray for all those caught up in unimaginable situations in which only you can bring relief and comfort.  

Lord in your mercy

All: Hear our prayer.

We lift to you the ongoing humanitarian crisis on the high seas, with desperate migrants seeking refuge for all sorts of reasons, which only you fully comprehend.  We pray for their security; that you would be merciful, especially with the young and vulnerable amongst them. We ask for compassion from those in positions of power internationally, to intervene and seek just and lasting solutions to the root cause of this problem. We ask for your continued intervention in international effort, in the search for meaningful solutions to the pandemic, especially for a viable vaccine.  

Lord in your mercy

All: Hear our prayer.

We Pray for our Land

Father we lift to you our Head of State the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and members of the Royal Household.  We pray for strength and courage in the fulfilment of their role in the affairs of the nation.

We pray for our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, members of his Cabinet, the leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer and the shadow Cabinet, and all members of both Houses of Parliament.  Brexit is still with us and we ask for courage and inspiration for all involved, on both sides, to keep the wheels rolling for a righteous outcome.

As students of all ages return to places of learning, current decisions being made on their behalf will impact their future.  We ask that you will grant wisdom, understanding and righteousness in constructive decision-making that will be for the good of future generations and our country.  

Lord in your mercy

All: Hear our prayer.

We Pray for Ourselves

We pray for our Vicar Phil, his wife Cathy and the family, and all who support Phil in his ministry.  We pray that You would continue to grant Your wisdom and the enabling power of Your Holy Spirit, to all members of the congregation and to all involved in any form of ministry here; in music, administration, helps, asking that you keep all of us grounded in your Truth, as we work together in the love of Christ, to see your Kingdom come. We pray the same for our sister church, Christ Church, Patrick the Vicar there and all members of Christ Church.

We thank you for the Marriage at St Andrew's yesterday; we pray that the couple will know your presence in greater measure day by day, in their married life. We remember to you our children and youth. Bless them Father as they grow in the knowledge of you.  We pray for our congregation and those suffering in any way amongst us, asking for your hand of healing and restoration upon them. 

In a moment of quiet, let us hold up to our Father anyone known to us needing His touch… Grant us all your peace Father, as we look to you for answers.  

Lord in your mercy

All: Hear our prayer.

 

The Collect for today

Almighty God,

who called your Church to bear witness

that you were in Christ 

reconciling the world to yourself:

help us to proclaim the good news of your love,

that all who hear it may be drawn to you;

through him who was lifted up on the cross,

and reigns with you 

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

All:        Amen.

 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

All:    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.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours

now and for ever.  

Amen.

 

HYMN: We rest on thee

 

THE BLESSING

Leader:     Christ the good shepherd,

who laid down his life for the sheep,

draw you and all who hear his voice,

to be one flock within one fold;

and the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

All:          Amen.

Leader:    The peace of the Lord be always with you

All:          and also with you.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 

  1. ‘It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep’ (Romans 8.11).  What might this mean for you as an individual, and for us as a church at St Andrew’s?

 

  1. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (verse 9).  It’s not so hard, is it?  Is it?

 

  1. ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (verse 14).  What images does this conjure up for you?

 

 

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