Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Paul Blackheath

A short service for the 12th Sunday after Trinity 30th August 2020

Today the 12th Sunday after Trinity 30th August 2020.

Grace, mercy and peace
From God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you.

Call to worship

God calls us to worship in spirit and in truth,
with both deep sadness and indescribable hope,
as we reflect on all that Jesus went through for us,
and praise God who goes beyond all expectations.

A gathering prayer

Lord, the disciples gathered around you,
trying so hard to answer your questions,
and to cope with difficult news.
We come before you now and ask your blessing,
as we seek to understand more of your story –
your tough and challenging,
but so good story!

A prayer of approach

Thank you, Lord,
that you do not call us to anything
without also giving us the resources to cope.
You do not ask us to go anywhere you haven’t been.
You call us to take up our cross,
and we come to you with fear and trembling,
but knowing that ultimately your way is the best.
Be with us, Lord, and help us to understand.

A prayer of Confession

Lord, I acknowledge before you
that often I can be like Peter:
hearing your word but going off on my own track,
not wanting to see your path, especially if it looks rough.
Forgive me, Lord,
and set me on your path.

Lord, I acknowledge before you
that there are times when I want the world,
but don’t give much thought to my soul.
Forgive me, Lord,
and help me to take up my cross.

Lord, I acknowledge before you
that there are times when
I am a stumbling block to others – and to myself;
times when I look for complications
instead of just following you.
Forgive me, Lord,
And help me to follow you. Amen.

Psalm 105

God and His People

Give thanks to the Lord,
proclaim his greatness;
tell the nations what he has done.

2 Sing praise to the Lord;
tell the wonderful things he has done.

3 Be glad that we belong to him;
let all who worship him rejoice.

4 Go to the Lord for help;
and worship him continually.

5-6 You descendants of Abraham, his servant;
you descendants of Jacob, the man he chose:
remember the miracles that God performed

23 Then Jacob went to Egypt
and settled in that country.

24 The Lord gave many children to his people
and made them stronger than their enemies.

25 He made the Egyptians hate his people
and treat his servants with deceit.

26 Then he sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.

45 so that his people would obey his laws
and keep all his commands.

Praise the Lord!

Our bible reading is Matthew 16. Verses 21-28
Jesus Speaks about His Suffering and Death

21 From that time on Jesus began to say plainly to his disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.”

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “God forbid it, Lord!” he said. “That must never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned around and said to Peter, “Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don't come from God, but from human nature.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 25 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. 26 Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life. 27 For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his deeds. 28 I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.”

A Thought for the Day by Revd. Mike Sermon
Suffering and Death

We sometimes say what a difference a day makes. However, sometimes it does not even take a day, but merely a breathe or two for us to descend from the heights of success to the depths of failure.

A journey that Peter makes here not for the first and certainly not for the last time. How wonderfully human Peter is, flawed and brilliant all in the same package just like us.

To recall the distance travelled by Peter, we only have to look back to our bible reading from last week. Here Jesus asked his disciples the question “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” In response Peter was commended by Jesus for declaring

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16 verse 16).

Jesus concluded by saying that this insight and revelation did not come from human wisdom but by direct revelation from God the Father in heaven.

The problem for Peter was that he did not fully understand what he had said. Peter did not understand what the nature of this revelation meant. Peter, with his Jewish background, in common with many of his kinfolk carried the expectation that the promised Messiah would be an all-conquering king, after the example of King David, who would lead his army to drive back the Romans, in order to take possession once again of the promised land.

Stunningly, in our bible reading today, Jesus says this is not so. In doing so he turns upside down the expectations of Peter and his kinfolk declaring that

“I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life” (Matthew 16 verse 21).

Peter is outraged and in a sense he speaks for many when he declares

“God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you!” (Verse 22).

Our expectations and hopes often take on a life of own, a fixed shape and understanding, which is what makes it so difficult when they are disappointed and shattered. In this moment Peter moves from acclamation to condemnation with Jesus addressing him in the harshest possible terms when he says

“Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God but from man” (Verse 23).

Did you spot the difference in these two declarations?

It is subtle, but the first came as a direct revelation from God, the second from the human heart. The origin of our thoughts and words matter. Are they inspired and sourced in God, or do their origins lie elsewhere? It sounds clear cut, but of course it is not. It is far from easy to discern between the two, but perhaps with humility we can handle our words with care always pondering the origin from which they come.

It is hard not to be sympathetic with Peter at this point. Despite his journey and presence with Jesus, he is unprepared for this final revelation of the mission impossible, that he has signed up to. What follows, is the toughest lesson of discipleship, which is beginning to explore and unpack the nature of costly, sacrificial love. A love which holds nothing and no one back. In worldly terms the invitation here which Jesus lays before his disciples, is an inherently unattractive one. It is completely counter cultural and as a marketing and advertising strategy for attracting new converts and disciples, it really does not look like the winner it will become.

What becomes clear here is the true nature of love. This love is neither cheap nor a buy one get one free deal, but a priceless act and offer. It is summed up in these words of Jesus to his would be disciples of each and every age

“If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Verses 24-25).

What does that mean in practical terms, in our day? What does choosing, or not choosing to carry our cross look like in practice? Well mindful of discrimination in all of its forms and our repeated failure to love as God has loved us, I finish with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said:

‘If a man happens to be 36 years old, as I happen to be, and some great truth stands before the door of his life, some great opportunity to stand up for that which is right and that which is just, and he refuses to stand up because he wants to live a little longer and he is afraid his home will get bombed, or he is afraid that he will get shot…he may go on and live until he’s 80, and the cessation of breathing in his life is merely the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. Man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.’

So let us keep a moment of prayerful silence…

Revd. Mike Sermon Vicar St Paul’s Blackheath, Priest in Charge St James’ Rounds Green


Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
was blind, but now I see.

The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

John Newton (1725-1807)

Our prayers.

Lord God,
you reproached Peter because he had only human concerns;
but Peter just wanted to protect the one he loved.
We pray for people the world over
who find themselves in difficult situations.
We pray that they would all have someone
to care for them and lift them before you.
Merciful God,
hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are persecuted for their faith:
for all who are misunderstood,
for asylum seekers who flee real danger in their homeland.
We pray for those who work tirelessly to address wrongs.
Merciful God,
hear our prayer.

We pray for people whose lives don’t always work out right,
through their fault, or through no fault of their own.
Merciful God,
hear our prayer.

We pray for the people in our lives
who need your protection, Lord,
that we will always be faithful in prayer for them.
Merciful God,
hear our prayer. Amen.

A sending out prayer

Lord God, you knew what was going to happen to you.
You didn’t flinch, or back away.
You calmly told the disciples – and us – what to expect.
As we go out now, remind us constantly to look to you in the good and the tough times.
Guide us as we go in your name. Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society
<span style="font-size: 1rem;">John Newton (1725-1807)
</span><span style="font-size: 1rem;">© ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission.</span>
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