Sunday at St Andrew's

13 September 2020, 10am

Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

 

Series: Romans ‘Good News for All’

16. Romans 14. 1-12

‘Good News: Loving and welcoming’

Speaker: Phil Rodd

 

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Welcome to this service at St Andrew’s Eaton

‘Welcome’ – it seems such an innocuous word. It greets us above entrances and on doormats. It is the first word we say to someone new.

But how deep does our welcome truly go? We know we have to accept one another, 

but to what extent is our acceptance grudgingly offered, rather than being from the heart?

How willing are we to welcome even those with whom we disagree?

Welcoming each other is the theme of our service today, as we turn to chapter 14 in our series through Romans.

 

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.

All:        God of our days and years,

             we set this time apart for you.

             Form us in the likeness of Christ

             so that our lives may glorify you.

             Amen.

 

HYMN: At the Name of Jesus 

 

CONFESSION

Leader:  Jesus said, ‘Before you offer your gift, go and be reconciled.’

        Matthew 5.24

As sisters and brothers in God’s family, we come together to ask our Father for forgiveness.

All:        Most merciful God,

             Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

             we confess that we have sinned

             in thought, word and deed.

             We have not loved you with our whole heart.

             We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.

             In your mercy

    forgive what we have been,

    help us to amend what we are,

    and direct what we shall be;

    that we may do justly,

    love mercy,

    and walk humbly with you, our God.

    Amen.

Leader:  May the God of love and power

             forgive us and free us from our sins,

             heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,

             and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord.

All:        Amen.

 

PSALM 114

 

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 chapter 18 verses 21-35

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

HYMN: Lord make us servants of your peace (accompaniment here)

 

SECOND READING 

Romans chapter 14 verses 1-12

Do Not Judge Another

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON (Phil Rodd)

Romans 11.1-6, 29-32:

‘Good News: Faith in Unexpected Places’ 

I really don’t like people who are show-offs.  They really annoy me.  All of them.  Bar one.  Yes, for some reason I can never quite understand, I really enjoy listening to Stephen Fry (apart from when he talks about God, that is – when it’s fairly obvious he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about at all).  But the rest of the time, I just love how much this man seems to know – and the way it just flows effortlessly from him.  Especially when he’s talking about language – and all its technicalities.  And all its technical terms.  Terms like synonyms (you know, words that mean the same thing as each other – like ‘watch’ and ‘see’); or antonyms (words that mean the opposite as each other – like ‘watch’ and ‘ignore’).  I expect some of you will know those.  But how about tautology, or oxymoron, or anapaest, or dactyl?  Answers on a postcard, please!

Have I lost you yet?  Don’t worry – it’s all a load of nonsense.  I did come across a new technical term recently, which I really liked: antanaclasis – defined as ‘a rhetorical device in which a phrase or word is repeatedly used, though the meaning of the word changes in each case.’  Here’s a boring example by US president Benjamin Franklin, who stated, not very wittily: ‘We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.’ You get it? - the first time ‘hang’ appears it means ‘stay’ or ‘stand,’ while the second time it refers to being ‘hanged’.  Right?

A far better example that I can still hardly utter without bursting into uncontrollable laughter is this: ‘Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.’

Maybe it’s the way I tell them!

We’re often stuck with the way we see things, aren’t we?  You know, we get so used to seeing things one way – like the way the word ‘fly’ means ‘to travel through the air’, that somehow we forget that it can also refer to a tiny insect that enjoys nothing more than hovering over your fruit bowl.  And very easily we can get totally caught out when someone comes along and says, ‘Times flies like an arrow; but fruit flies like a banana.’  

And very often in like we need someone to come along and say: ‘That old situation, how about we look at it like this?’ or ‘Have you ever thought that it could be done… this way?’  

THE CONTEXT OF ROMANS 14

There’s something similar going on in the background to the chapter from Romans which we heard earlier on.  We’ve heard a bit about the church in Rome over the last few weeks – and in particular we’ve heard how they were learning about God’s grace to them – the fact that God loved them – as he loves each one of us this morning – not because of what we’ve done to try to please him; but that he loves us and saves us because he is love.  That’s his nature, and he wants us to trust what’s he’s done for us rather than in what we might try to do to please God.  

But what we’re seeing today in this the last chapter in Romans that we’re going to be looking at, is that the Roman church was a very diverse place: culturally diverse, racially diverse, socially diverse.  The two major groups were Jewish converts, and Gentile converts.  And they had very different customs because of their different backgrounds.  

And so in the first few verses we read about an issue of eating meat.  This is probably to do with the Jewish custom of eating kosher meat – meat that’s been butchered in the right way – and certain types of meat that just weren’t allowed.

And then there are issues raised in verse 5 about sacred days – holy festival days, and whether they should be celebrated in particular ways – much like the special ways we remember Ash Wednesday, for example, or Easter Day.  

And because of people’s different backgrounds, they were looking at these issues in very different ways.  They were, as Paul says in verse 3 looking down on each other, condemning each other – running each other down, keeping within their own cultural subgroups, and the unity of the church was in danger of breaking down.

OK, the issues might seem very odd to us – very alien to us.  But when you think about it, the tendencies are pretty much the same in every age, aren’t they?  You know, either we tend to criticise those who are cautious, always drawing back from new ideas, from new ways of doing things:  ‘Oh, they’re too careful, they can’t move with the times, they’re bound up by the status quo’.  Or we tend criticise those who are careless, carefree, happy-go-lucky: ‘They have no sense of history, and they’re disrespectful of methods that are well-tried and tested – methods that have stood the test of time, and which will be here long after we’ve all passed on.’

And in an age when the church is perhaps most frequently in the news over the things that divide us, maybe we need to be sitting up and taking notice precisely of these verses.

A RESPONSE TO THE PROBLEMS

Paul’s response to this is there in the first word of the passage.  In verse 1, to ‘welcome’: ‘Welcome those who are weak in faith.’  Some Bible translations used the word ‘accept’ here: ‘accept those who are weak in faith.’  But that can just mean ‘put up with them’.  It can mean more: such as ‘to receive or accept into your company, into your home or your circle of acquaintances.’  But really the word here goes much deeper: it means to welcome into your fellowship, to welcome into your heart.  In other words, it’s totally bound up with the nature of love – that self-giving, self-sacrificing love which has been best demonstrated by Christ in his death for us, dying to make us right with God when we were unable to do anything for ourselves to bridge the gap.  Christ came so we might be welcomed by God.  

And so we accept each other.  No, no! – sorry, we welcome each other – as those who have been welcomed by God.  God has given himself for each one of us who have responded to his love in faith and repentance, turning away from sin – he’s given himself for each one of us, welcoming us.  And you know, there aren’t any exceptions.  

So we accept each other.  We support each other.  We want the best for each other – and we seek to make that best come into being – from the smallest to the biggest, from the youngest to the oldest, from the nicest to the… well, you get the picture, I hope.  Because we absolutely don’t judge, and we absolutely want the absolute best – for everyone, absolutely!

A FINAL STORY

I’d like to end with a story from the business world to illustrate this. It’s a story that came from People Management magazine a few years ago, from a hotel executive, who said the following:

‘The hotel I manage is located near a renowned hospital. Recently, we noticed that a man and a boy were visiting regularly, and surmised that they were father and son, and that the son was undergoing treatment at the hospital. One evening, the father sent the boy up to bed and called over the head waiter. “My son is about to start chemotherapy tomorrow,” he said. “He’s really upset at the prospect of his hair falling out, so he’s decided to shave it all off tonight. I’m going to do the same to support my son. When you see us tomorrow morning, please don’t react.”

‘The head waiter was touched by the story and briefed his colleagues. The next morning, father and son came down with bald heads, feeling rather nervous. But, as they went in to breakfast, they gradually realised they weren’t the only ones who looked a bit different that day. No fewer than ten members of staff had shaved their heads out of solidarity with the boy.’

‘That,’ she concluded, ‘is how my staff live the corporate value, “Show you care.”’ (As reported by Hashi Syedain in People Management magazine.)

CONCLUSION

The point is we’re intricately connected with each other.  We’re joined – joined, as it were, at the hip.  Like the father and son in the story.  We can’t change it – we can accept it, we can build our relationships taking it into account, and we can learn to put each other first – because that’s what it means, not just to accept each other – but to welcome each other.  

That’s also what it means to acknowledge that Christ is Lord – Lord of all – the weak and the strong, the over-cautious and the happy-go-lucky, the careful and the carefree – those that always get straight to the point, like arrows, and those who just meander about, like fruit flies!  He truly is Lord – Lord of all those who just see things differently from us.  

 

A version of this sermon in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 13 September.

 

HYMN: Brother, sister, let me serve you 

 

PRAYERS (Valli Rao)

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord, o my soul!

I will praise the lord as long as I live.

I will sing praises to my God all my life long,

who made heaven and earth the sea and all that is in them;

who keeps faith for ever;

who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

 

With that confidence let us pray to the Father who gave his only Son as an atonement for our sins.

 

Everlasting father for whom a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, we praise you that you are on your throne of majesty. Thank you that through all the turmoil of the pandemic and the devastating toll it has taken across the world you are faithful and unchanging. We pray for the church around the world and the service they are doing for the helpless and the needy. Thank you for their faith that keeps them trusting in you, no matter what afflictions and hardships they endure.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Merciful Father, as we are slowly coming out of lockdown, let us all be aware of the rules and regulations in our country and help us to follow them sincerely. We pray for the doctors, nurses, paramedics, care workers and the research scientists in their efforts to find an effective vaccine.

We pray for those who have lost their jobs and are seeking employment. We also pray for voluntary agencies and food banks working to help those who need basic everyday provisions.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Heavenly Father we pray for peace in the world, especially in war torn areas of the Middle East, in Lebanon and all countries where power and corruption prevail.

We pray for our Queen and Prince Phillip: give them your blessings in all that they do for the country and Commonwealth.

Gracious God, we pray for Phil and Patrick our vicars, James and Shawn our curates, and Sheila our associate vicar, and all who help with church activities.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Loving Lord, we pray locally for those who are sick and recovering from illness in body, mind or spirit. Especially we pray for your healing hand on those we name here. We pray also for the bereaved.

In a moment of silence in our hearts let us remember and pray for any others or our own families for whom this is a very sensitive time.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Loving Father, we pray for all the children who have started school: help them to understand the social distancing and hand washing, and protect them from Covid infection as it is spreading in the younger population.

Almighty Father, we pray for each other: help us to live in the warmth of your love and may your Holy Spirit guide us to show compassion and kindness to our families and neighbours.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And all things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Amen.

A prayer to collect together all our intercessions today

Let your merciful ears, O Lord,

be open to the prayers of your humble servants;

and that they may obtain their petitions

make them to ask such things as shall please you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

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: Christ triumphant, ever reigning 

 

THE BLESSING

 

Leader: Now may the blessing of God the Father,

           who made from one every nation that occupies the 

              earth;

           of God the Son who bought us for God

           from every tribe and language and people and nation;

           and of God the Spirit who brings us together in unity,

           be with us and remain with us always.

All:      Amen.

Leader: The peace of the Lord be always with you.

All:      and also with you.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 


1.    How do you manage when you encounter different ideas?

2.    How do you manage when you come up against people who are ‘wired up’ differently from you, or who have different personality types?

3.    How might St Andrew’s church be more (truly and deeply) welcoming?  And how might you contribute to an improvement?

 

 

 

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