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  • Lectionary -- Ordinary 23 (Pentecost 15) Year A
    to thee thy promised presence claim 467 Who would true valour see 503 O brother man fold to thy heart thy brother Sermon summary Click here for complete sermon Owe no one anything Paul advised the Christians at Rome to owe no one anything Romans 13 8 he was telling them to be good citizens It was about meeting our social and public obligations Romans 13 6 7 We should respect authority as good order is important for human well being Owe no one anything except to love one another is about our duty to others fulfilling the law through love John 13 34 15 17ff Romans 13 9 Who is my neighbour The saying Love your neighbour as yourself used by Jesus comes from the old Jewish law Leviticus 19 18 The difference was that Jesus taught people to regard even foreigners as their neighbours eg parable of the good Samaritan Luke 10 25 37 Belonging to a different society with different rules does not excuse humanity from this general obligation The historical prohibition of usury For many centuries the church forbad the collection of interest sometimes absolutely In recent times the great moral dilemma seems to have been forgotten very largely in the West We should acknowledge that it has not only been a Christian concern The Moslems still today prohibit lending money on interest There does seem to be an element of fairness in sharing the risk Take the example of a farmer who borrows money to put in a crop The Biblical basis for lending There is a general foundation in the principle of owing no one anything except love Jesus himself did not regard the making a profit as morally reprehensible Matthew 25 14 30 Luke 19 23 Lending was also directly encouraged by Jesus Matthew 5 42 Jewish law required loans to be made without interest to family members in need but allowed interest on loans to foreigners Exodus 22 25 Leviticus 25 35 36 Deuteronomy 23 19 20 however the question Who is my neighbour does not allow that distinction I am not suggesting that we should give up investing in interest bearing deposits but we need to think about it DB Home RCL Resources Index Order of Service Ordinary 23 Pentecost 16 Year A The Gathering of the People of God CALL TO WORSHIP Praise the LORD Sing to the LORD a new song his praise in the assembly of the faithful Psalm 149 1 HYMN I ll praise my maker while I ve breath AHB 44 PRAYER OF ADORATION CONFESSION O God we confess the blindness that is not even aware of sinning the pride that dares not admit that it is wrong the selfishness that can see nothing but its own will the righteousness that knows no fault the callousness that has ceased to care the defiance that does not regret its own sins the evasion that always tries to make excuses the coldness of heart that is too hardened

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  • Owe no one anything?
    the new commandment to love one another That is the sense in which we should Owe no one anything except to love one another Romans 13 8 The historical prohibition of usury What then can we say about lending and borrowing Especially important has been the question of requiring interest to be paid on loans For many centuries the church forbad the collection of interest sometimes absolutely sometimes only in excess Sometimes in the past the sin of usury was understood in a narrow way to refer to lending money for interest at any level and sometimes usury was thought only to be the imposition of excessive rates of interest The general prohibition on usury in the narrow sense for Christians in the middle ages led to foreigners and Jews becoming money lenders in the Christians states of Europe hence the prejudice directed against characters like Shylock in Shakespeare s The Merchant of Venice Given the importance of that character in our collective memories it is significant that it was at about the time of Shakespeare that modern commercial arrangements began to be made for trade to be to encouraged by the advancement of credit at interest In recent times the great moral dilemma that the rich might be robbing the poor by charging interest on loans seems to have been forgotten very largely in the West Although governments might still limit the rates of interest in some circumstances the general commercial attitude seems to be that in the finance industry as elsewhere lenders are justified in charging what the market will bear As one financial commentator said in the Melbourne newspaper The Age in opposition to a policy submission from the churches Banks are not in the welfare business So what has happened to the Christian concern with usury We should acknowledge that it has not only been a Christian concern The Moslems still today prohibit lending money on interest In strict Moslem countries financial institutions like banks cannot profit from charging or paying interest They must develop alternative ways of linking investors with people who need finance That is done by making arrangements in which the risk of investment is shared through an equity arrangement Funds are set up so that the investors receive a return or make a profit only if the enterprise receiving the funds is successful There does seem to be an element of fairness in this that is missing in arrangements often made for loans in our system Take the example of a farmer who borrows money to put in a crop In the way things work in our financial system if the crop fails the investor who has made a loan still expects to get his money back with the agreed amount of interest and will take a mortgage on the farm as security By contrast in an equity investment the investor will have a share in the crop and will profit if it succeeds but have no claim on the farmer if

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  • Lectionary resources - Ordinary 24 A
    sermon on the lectionary gospel reading is linked to this page In addition there is below an introduction of the theme on which the special family service set out in the order of service was based The family service included several dramas based on scripture which had been prepared in advance only in part and were dependent upon active and spontaneous participation by the congregation under a director who was a professional drama teacher and director of dramatic productions There is no regular order of service posted here to go with the complete sermon on the lectionary What is a covenant See note at beginning of the Order of Service One good example of a covenant is marriage When people marry they promise to be faithful to each other to share their lives together and care for each other The relationship of people with God can be like that If Mary and John are being married the minister asks John will you give yourself to Mary to be her husband to live together in the covenant of marriage Will you love her comfort her honour and protect her and forsaking all others be faithful to her as long as you both shall live He answers I will Mary than answers in the same way to be his wife to live together in the covenant of marriage I will The Old Testament books that is the books of the Old Covenant tell us of how God called the people of Israel into a covenant relationship with him that was like a marriage They entered into this relationship especially when he led them out of slavery in Egypt I will take you as my people and I will be your God You shall know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians Exodus 6 7 Even when they were unfaithful God kept his promise you will call me My husband I will make for you a covenant And I will take you for my wife forever Hosea 2 16 19 In the New Testament the books of the New Covenant Christ is described as the husband and the community of his people the church as his bride Ephesians 5 29 32 2 Corinthians 11 2 Revelation 19 7 and through him God at last has his covenant with humanity fulfilled as in a marriage Revelation 19 7 21 2 3 Order of Service Ordinary 24 Pentecost 16 Year A DB Home RCL Resources Index This special family service picks up one theme from the Old Testament reading in which the escape from Egypt was a foundation experience for the people belonging to the covenant of God with them It is extended here into broader conceptions of covenant with a New Testament emphasis on inclusion of the least of all in the family of God The service proceeds with several dramas based on scripture which had been prepared in advance only in part and

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  • If you do not forgive!
    seven times and says I repent you must forgive The repeated accumulation of debts is never to too much to be redeemed nor forgiven in the economy of salvation It is because the redeeming value of forgiveness in which we share through the work of Christ is like the value of love beyond calculating Jesus used his common technique of dramatic exaggeration to make this point both in multiplying the number seven to Peter and in the parable Matthew 18 22 23 Jesus said to him Not seven times but I tell you seventy seven times 23 For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves The accent falls not on behaviour in general but on relations within the household Jesus was not setting out a new set of laws about paying or not paying debts On the contrary on another occasion as we saw recently he said Owe no one anything The point is not that debts do not matter If we have done harm to someone or we have sinned against another in the language of the gospel we are in debt to the other person We owe them something We should make it up to them if we can We should help them to recover what they have lost because of what we have done The debt is real and serious There is no suggestion that it does not matter It is indeed because it matters so much that forgiveness is necessary Much of the time what is done is done and there is nothing we can do to put it right We should certainly do what we can to restore the damage but it is often beyond us That is the point at which we can only beg forgiveness asking to be relieved of a debt we cannot pay If we could pay it there would be no need for forgiveness The need to forgive comes in precisely at the point where what we owe is beyond our available resources When it is beyond a debtor s resources to make things right again the one who is owed the debt can chose to make fellowship more important than equity We can choose to forgive in order to restore relationships which are like life more important than the debt None of this means that discipline is not required in personal life or in the chur ch or in society at large The church like the Father though ready to forgive is forced to discipline those who jeopardise the fellowship That is really a separate topic It is sufficient to remember here that the requirement to forgive is based on the reality and seriousness of sin not on the libertarian notion that there is no such thing as sin Nor is sin to be permitted on the grounds that God is gracious and will forgive Romans 6 1 3 What then are we to say Should

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  • Lectionary recources Ordinary 25 A
    comfort all my people SA 73 Rejoice in God s saints today and all days 65 Holy holy holy Lord God almighty 142 Father whose everlasting love 143 My heart is full of Christ and longs 412 Awake awake fling off the night 420 Jesus thou joy of loving hearts 454 v 7 8 Christ be with me Christ within me Sermon summary Click here for complete sermon Better than a fair go Australians believe in a fair go Fair go mate is generally accepted as a fair and reasonable claim The parable that Jesus told is about something better than a fair go There is some Christian foundation to those egalitarian attitudes emphasising the inherent value of every person but sadly the faith on which such values developed in previous generations has been buried deep beneath layers of selfish materialism in rececnt years or so The parable of the vineyard Can we learn anything for the way we live today from the parable of the vineyard Matthew 20 1 16 Of course he was not giving a lesson in economics His talk of money was to illustrate things of more lasting value Yet it is worth asking whether there are not some things to be learned from it for the way we earn our living or govern our society that is what does it mean for us after we have understood the essential meaning of the parable which was that from God you can expect not just a fair go but better than a fair go The landowner hired labourers at different times throughout the day and paid them all for a full day s work The only problem was the generosity of the landowner to the least deserving That is the way it is with the grace of God his willingness to give freely far more than we ask or deserve The same reversal of expectations was celebrated in Mary s song Luke 50 53 The strange economy of grace So no one gets less than they deserve but the least deserving get more It is a strange economy Equality is not a biblical idea at least not in the way we commonly think of it It is there in the general idea that we are all children of God Galatians 3 28 But there is something better than equal treatment Matthew 19 30 This seems to apply to spiritual as well as material gifts Matthew 19 2 Luke 19 8 You will have to work out what this means for you You will know that you cannot earn your place in the kingdom of God It is gift of value beyond what you could expect What happens if others are treated that way in work or giving service or in family or personal relationships Order of service Ordinary 25 Pentecost 17 Year A DB Home RCL Resources Index The Gathering of the People of God CALL TO WORSHIP O give thanks to the LORD call on his

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  • Better than a fair go
    is the way it is with the grace of God his willingness to give freely far more than we ask or deserve In fact for most of us if we got only what we deserve in the sight of God who is the owner of the vineyard we all work in it would not be very much and would certainly not amount to fellowship with the owner and eternal life Part of the irony of this sort of justice is that it is most appreciated by those who know they don t deserve very much In that strange way it is easier for sinners to enter the kingdom of God than for righteous people In the gospel lesson for next week from the following chapter we have Jesus said to them Truly I tell you the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you Matthew 21 31 The strange economy of grace So none receive less than they deserve but the least deserving were given more than they had earned It is a strange economy one very difficult for hard working good living people to appreciate Giving a fair go to a battler is something we can appreciate but God gives better than a fair go and he is not concerned with equality As in the comment of the landowner Or are you envious because I am generous there is a suggestion of envy in most people s idea of justice especially if others get more than they deserve There is a concern with status and envy in most talk of equality Equality is not a biblical idea at least not in the way we commonly think of it It is there in the general idea that we are all children of God and that differences like those between people of different races or nations or between men and women do not count in regard to membership in the body of Christ or a place in the kingdom of God There is no longer Jew or Greek there is no longer slave or free there is no longer male and female for all of you are one in Christ Jesus Galatians 3 28 That is more about the irrelevance of such distinctions the differences that people often take pride in The idea is further developed in 1 Corinthians 12 where the parts played by different members of the body are to be valued without any being thought of less value because they are different But there is something better and even more just than equal treatment The parable of the labourers in the vineyard illustrates a saying of Jesus which is recorded at the end of the preceding chapter But many who are first will be last and the last will be first Matthew 19 30 hat is a revolutionary idea far more radical than the current political ideologies which demand equality for various disadvantaged groups The promise of the kingdom of God

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  • Ask others to help you Teach them by word and example to love God and to love one another Order of Service Ordinary 26 Pentecost 18 Year A DB Home RCL Resources Index The Gathering of the People of God CALL TO WORSHIP HYMN 159 All hail the power of Jesus name PRAYER OF ADORATION God how great you are CONFESSION What have we done wrong Loving God Lord of the Church we confess that we have sinned against you in thought word and deed we have not loved you with all our heart or served you with all our strength we have been blind to the vision of a renewed world and deaf to your call to costly discipleship we have been indifferent to the suffering of others and unwilling to forgive one another In your mercy Lord pardon and restore us that together in the ministry of Christ we may serve you with joy all the days of our life Amen DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS If we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness 1 John 1 9 Hear then Christ s word of grace to us Your sins are forgiven Thanks be to God HYMN 56 Amazing grace WELCOME AND GREETING EACH OTHER Sacrament of Baptism Only some of the service is reproduced here for the Congregation INTRODUCTION SCRIPTURE READING Romans 6 1 5 United with him in a resurrection like his PRESENTATION Parents and children introduced by an elder from their home congregation THE MEANING OF BAPTISM The minister explains the purpose and asks the parents N and N what do you ask of God s church for N We ask that they be baptised into the faith and family of Jesus Christ In the light of the covenant promise and of your request I ask you now Do you believe that the gospel enables us to turn from the darkness of evil and to walk in the light of Christ We do Let us confess the faith into which we are baptised The people stand Do you believe in God who made you and loves you I believe in God the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth Do you believe in Jesus Christ your Saviour and Lord I believe in Jesus Christ God s only Son our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit born of the Virgin Mary suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified died and was buried he descended to the dead On the third day he rose again he ascended into heaven he is seated at the right hand of the Father and he will come to judge the living and the dead Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the continuing work of our salvation I believe in the Holy Spirit the holy catholic Church the communion of saints the forgiveness of sins the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting Amen The people remain standing

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  • it is better to err on the side of generosity which is clearly the risk that Jesus took What to teach and how What then should parents teach their children to fulfil these vows How can we all help as members of the fellowship in which they are to grow in the faith Perhaps we will have special privileges as grandparents or supporting friends One thing we do in the congregation is to maintain a Sunday School or some other learning program though it is difficult today when there are so many competing interests and of course we are related to the wider church where other congregations do these things to help keep the promises we make in our services But these things in the church mean very little if they are not backed up at home What parents do at home in the early years matters most and then the kind of social groups in which older children learn many things become very important as they grow up Let me suggest a few things about how these responsibilities can be carried out 1 You need to teach children directly what you believe and let them know clearly what you think is important That is especially important for Christians today because there is tremendous pressure in society at large among friends at school in the media and later in the commercial world and at work to conform to other ways The pressure is on us all the time to adopt values which are selfish and materialistic and to believe all sorts of things that are not true If you don t deliberately teach your children what they ought to learn they will be learning something else There might have been a time when we had a largely Christian culture or thought we had when we could expect to rely more on society at large and general involvement in the social life of the church to pass on at least some key aspects of the Christian tradition but we trusted that way for too long and should know now that it depends on parents to teach what they know and believe The old liberal ways that many of my generation followed don t work any more if they ever did The next generation will not get it if we do not give it to them personally It is done with the help of others but if parents don t do it children will not grow up today with minds open to discover things about God for themselves but they will learn anti Christian beliefs and non Christian ways of life 2 Remember the traditions of the ancient people of God the Israelites who had a great emphasis on teaching within the family It was so strong that the Jewish people today still survive more than 3000 years after some of these things began to be shared in families As we read in the Psalm today in regard to the laws of

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