Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 16th Sunday after Pentecost.
Put your confidence in God.
Those who have God as their helper will rejoice.
God gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry.
God frees the prisoners and opens the eyes of the blind.
So, put your trust in God’s goodness.
Let God’s reign endure forever! Let us worship God.
Hymn 189 – Be still in the presence of the Lord
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Eternal God, first and last, our beginning and our end,
beside you there is nothing or no one greater.
You gave breath to all living things.
By your Spirit, you are among us still, breathing new life, turning anger into reconciliation,
division into unity,
grief into consolation.
Through your grace, you open up new directions and new possibilities for the world you love.
So, we offer you our lives and our labours in worship and in service,
joining in creation’s song of praise and adoration:
Holy, holy, holy are you, O God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always.
God of mercy,
we know you judge the world with an eye for the poor and outcast.
We confess we fail to live with the same eye for those on the margins.
We have been silent when we should have spoken up, and uncaring in the face of injustice.
We have not shown the same generosity to others that you have shown us.
Forgive us for putting ourselves first,
and help us to serve you with the kindness we meet in Jesus Christ.
Readings – Proverbs 1: 20-38
Mark 8: 27-38
Hymn 522 – The Church is wherever … (1,2)
Almighty God as we move into another week, deliver our eyes from tears and our feet from stumbling and walk with us on our journey of faith as we carry the cross of Christ into the world. Grant us the wisdom that comes from above as we listen to your words of life so that we may live in peace and safety. Amen
Are you on Facebook? Or maybe you prefer some other kind of social media – Instagram or TikTok? I use WhatsApp a lot. Facebook is perhaps the most common, and we like to put up photographs, maybe of ourselves or grandchildren or even photos of the meal we are about to have. A lot of it is self-promotion; we are presenting an image of ourselves to the world. People can press the Thumbs-Up sign to show they like it. If we have lots of ‘likes’ we are happy, but when there are some ‘Thumbs-down’ or negative comments, it upsets our day. Social media has been in the news again this week at the US tennis Open with at least two of the women players complaining of the abuse they receive when they lose matches, some of which are racist and some even death threats. Social media can be good, but it is open to abuse.
I think Jesus would have thrived on social media. He would have attracted a lot of interest, even from those who didn’t follow him. People were fascinated by him, wanting somehow to put him ‘in a box’, to know who exactly he was. With there being no social media, they did the next best thing and would have approached the disciples and told them their thoughts.
At Caesarea Philippi Jesus asks his friends, Who do people say I am?’. I am sure they said a lot – the joiner, the son of Mary, the one who can heal your child or lead your revolution. The one you can invite to dinner or invite to leave the country. The disciples said ‘ John the Baptist come back to life’ or one of the prophets. But Jesus followed it up by asking the disciples for their opinion. Now Jesus wasn’t doing this for any narcissist reason, as in wanting ‘likes’ in Facebook, but wanting to gauge how much the disciples was grasping about his ministry. ‘Who do you think I am?’. In a flash, Peter says, ‘The Messiah’. Full marks, Peter, except….!
Except Jesus went on to talk about suffering and even death, and that didn’t fit into Peter’s conception of the Messiah. Peter wanted a strong Messiah, ready to get rid of the occupying Romans, just as we want a strong God, ready to gain victories for our sports teams. Suffering and death did not come into the equation. Peter rebuked Jesus, and Jesus in turn rebuked Peter. For Jesus was turning everything on its head and saying that the Messiah must take the way of the cross and suffer and die that the world might be saved.
Jesus was changing the equation in the disciples’ minds, that the Messiah would serve and not conquer, give and not take love -to the point where it meant suffering. Jesus was a different kind of Messiah, and he said that those who followed must be different too and be ready to take up their crosses to follow him.
Some have a bigger cross to bear than others. On holiday, I went into Chester Cathedral, and there was an icon to the Melanesian martyrs, 6 deacons killed by a separatist group. They died for their faith. For most of us, our crosses may not be so extreme, but it is there that God meets us. It is in our vulnerability and hurt that God comes to us.
Who do people say that I am? ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’? We have to make a choice. That was the case in Proverbs, where Wisdom cried out in the market place, urging her listeners to choose between the good and the bad, the righteous way and the sinful way. We too have to choose. But in a reflection of Andrew the disciple pondering this very question. The writer has Andrew saying of Jesus, ‘I have never met anyone so alive, so passionate, so courageous. So human. It’s like seeing what human life can be. I want him to be proud of me. He scares me, but I would die for him’.
Who do we say Jesus is?
Hymn 532 – Lord, you have come to the seashore (1,2,4)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
O God in whom we live and move and have our being, We come to you in prayer as the summer season draws nearer to its close:
We give you thanks for the occasions we have enjoyed to catch up with family and friends;
to travel for recreation and restoration and let our worries go.
We are grateful for each moment to savour the beauty of creation.
Refresh us for the season ahead we pray,
and renew our commitment to serve you.
O God, Jesus faced many demands wherever he went, and pressure from critics, whatever he did.
We pray for all those who have not found rest this summer:
for those whose work is stressful, exhausting, or unappreciated;
for those whose livelihoods remain uncertain,
because of the pandemic or through disasters caused by heat, fire, or storm.
We pray for those which hard choices to make,
about work or school or what comes next,
about relationships and priorities,
or about social policy and community leadership.
May they know your strength and guidance day by day.
Today we remember those for whom this summer has been filled with suffering:
We pray for those who have lost loved ones,
and those facing an uncertain future or a difficult diagnosis.
We pray for those who despair about the climate crisis and what can be done to repair the suffering earth.
We pray for all those who join efforts to relieve suffering of any kind.
May each one find courage to face tomorrow in your company.
O God, we need the embrace of your presence, each in our own way.
As we prepare to leave this service, walk with us,
and show us how to live each day
Hymn 512 – To God be the glory (1,3)
Go in peace, in the knowledge of God’s power. Go in confidence, in the knowledge of God’s strength. Go in joy, in the knowledge of God’s love. And may blessing of the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, be with you, and those whom you love, wherever they may be; this day and forevermore. Amen