Exodus 1:8-2.10: After a regime change in Egypt, the Israelites are made slaves and oppressed by the Egyptians. Midwives are also commanded to kill all male children but they refuse to do so, so Pharoah commands that male children be thrown into the Nile. It is into this context that the boy Moses is born, left on the river by his mother and adopted by Pharoah’s daughter.
Psalm 124: A pilgrimage Psalm remembering how God has protected and saved God’s people and kept them safe and free from their enemies’ traps.
Romans 12:1-8: Paul encourages the believers to offer themselves sacrificially to God, and to allow God to transform them by renewing their minds. He challenges them to remain humble and connected to each other, and to use their gifts in God’s service.
Matthew 13:16-20: Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, and Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus responds by affirming that God has shown him this and that he (or his proclamation – depending on which view you prefer) will be the rock upon which Christ’s church is built, against which hell will not prevail.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

First Thoughts on the Old Testament Readings of the RCL

First Thoughts on the New Testament Readings of the RCL

Reflecting on ‘the body’ and community in Romans 12: 13-Ways-of-Looking-at-Community-ParkerJPalmer

In one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8
Churchful Gratitude
I give thanks for the people who You call me to be a part of.
I am grateful that I have a place in this body of diverse and flawed followers.
l open myself to the offering of the small gifts which the Spirit has gifted me with to join with the gifts of others.
I am thankful that a cracked and broken vessel as myself can be of some use in your work, as you creatively make use all the cracked and broken vessels in this family of faith.
In this struggling mess of flailing and failing humanity called the Church,
Which holds me in faith, not always well,
You choose to be known.
We are blessed by your grace.
We blessed by you love.
In our connection with you and each other we find healing and wholeness.
In our serving you and others we find meaning and purpose.
In your way, truth and life we find redemption and salvation.
We are thankful for your kindness, care and patience,
So in our faltering fragile faith we pray. Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

Romans 12: 2 “Do not be conformed to this world.”
Sister Spirit,
in this age of contemporary empire and
systems of domination,
reorient us toward your values and vision.
Brother Jesus,
amid the ubiquitous and pervasive idolatry of our culture,
and the beguiling and cunning seduction of society’s norms,
realign our priorities toward Gospel and your Way.
Divine Parent,
in a world swirling with power-over entitlement,
and unquestioned privilege,
turn us around and
help us sing your song in this foreign land.
“Be transformed by the renewing of your minds…”
Sister Spirit,
change us where we need changing.
Brother Jesus,
energize our many and varied gifts
with your hope and love.
Divine Parent,
remake us into a church that is alive with faith,
and vital with ministry.
“…so that you may discern what is the will of God.”
Sister Spirit, open our hearts,
to receive sacred inspiration and
teach us to rely on your grace.
Brother Jesus, open our eyes,
to see your realm in the present and
to view each person for their full worth.
Divine Parent, open our hands,
and show us when and where to take initiative,
and help us to act as if your kingdom has come.
“…what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Sister Spirit, as individuals and communities,
lead us away from arrogant self-centeredness,
and debasing self-doubt.
Brother Jesus,
grant us sacred mindfulness and holy judgement,
radical commitment and transformative action.
Divine Parent,
guide us into becoming
generous and compassionate,
diligent and intentional,
justice-seeking people.
(Source: Diaconal Minister Ted Dodd, United Church of Canada, August 2020)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.2)
Society presses upon you to copy
dress and manner, thought and value,
what will anger or attract you.
Ignore it. It’s fear whining for company.
It’s a shield against celestial radiation.
Tune out the market’s frantic clatter.
Be changed by a new way of thinking:
not thinking: an opened awareness,
a mind of wonder and gratitude
and the strangeness of being loved.
Conform to nothing but the grace of God.
Each moment the Mysterious Blessing
dawns in you, allows a newness,
sings a song their ears can’t hear.
Let the Great Love in you make harmony.
The tune is already there,
the ear and the voice.
Let it meld in perfect harmony.
Passersby will hear songs from your door,
from the woods rises music
that’s lovely, good and beautiful,
the delight of God.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Who do I say You are, Jesus?
(could be used as a reflection for ‘prayers of who we are’/prayers of confession)
Sometimes I think I know, and I eagerly praise You,
I confess that I have learned to know God because of You,
I celebrate the fact that my life is fuller because of You,
I recognise that, at great cost, You have made it possible for me
to have a second chance when I mess up my life,
and hurt those around me.

But, then sometimes I confuse You with others
that have helped me or challenged me;
Great teachers and writers, prophets and priests,
parents and authorities.
This can be helpful – sometimes they do point me to You;
but sometimes I can’t see You through the image they present,
and my relationship with You gets blurred.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I know You at all;
I begin to get a sense of who You are,
but then, like Peter, I misunderstand Your mission, or Your message,
or what You really want from me.

Who do I say You are, Jesus?
You are the one I have come to love as God,
You are the one I am learning to recognise
and will give eternity to know,
You are the unfathomable mystery
that is always beyond my ability to understand;
You are the Christ, the Son of the Living. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

SABBATH REFLECTION – MATTHEW 16:13-20 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – 23rd August 2020
When we read scripture we need to engage our Hearts, our imagination, our knowledge and experience and our common sense. We can give 10 people something to read and there will be 10 different interpretations. Our interpretation will depend upon our conditioning, our life experiences and our belief structure among other things. Sometimes we have heard something so often, we do not bother to explore it any further than what we have always been told. It is so important we learn to look deeper.
Today’s Gospel DEMANDS our ‘attention’. ‘Who do YOU say I (Jesus)am?’ ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.’ How do we interpret these two statements? Our response to the first question is profoundly personal just as it was for Peter. Peter was the only one that spoke up when Jesus asked this profound question. He was the only one at this time who came to experience who Jesus truly was. The others with Peter are silent. They do not yet know. Peter came to see Jesus as the Christ as we all must.
Peter’s experience must also be our EXPERIENCE. It is not about what we have been told to believe, it is deeply knowing from within the depths of our own Hearts and trusting and believing OUR EXPERIENCE. When we come to KNOW deep within ourselves that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus’ response to us will be the same as it was to Peter: ‘You are (your name) and on this rock I will build my church.’ We were all born to be builders of this ‘church’. What is this ‘church’ Jesus speaks of?
Those who have truly met Love (the Christ) will build the Church of Love – it is the fundamental Law of Love. When we journey with Jesus we know he longs for his Jewish brothers and sisters to recognise the Christ within their presence and within them. When we journey with Jesus we know he discovers Faith outside his own Jewish religion. What Jesus teaches us goes far beyond any one religious tradition. When we journey with Jesus we come to know ‘church’ for him was a Church of the Whole Cosmos – The Church of Love and no religious body could ever have a monopoly over it.
Jesus moves us into a greater evolutionary consciousness, which is the process and purpose of Life. This evolving consciousness takes us beyond any traditional religious stagnation which we can so easily cling to. We come to see Jesus as the Christ when we consciously and openly meet Jesus the God of Love. It is an evolutionary moment in time. It will embark us upon a journey that refuses to continue to DIVIDE what was Whole from the very beginning of time. Sadly, we have divided The Christ down through history – we have divided God – we have divided each other. In our new consciousness we will come to see our Original Unfolding Wholeness, our Original Goodness, our ‘Original Blessing’ continuously unfolding within everything. Any whiff of stagnation will be obliterated within this living consciousness.
We will still have our particular expressions of this Love with our different rituals and community gatherings and different faith expressions, but we will come to respect each other, learn from each other and bow down before each other. We will NOT DIVIDE AND SEPARATE as we have done down through the centuries. This evolutionary consciousness continually invites us into the motion of change.
Jesus asks each of us today: ‘But you, who do you say I am?’ When we can truly answer ‘The Christ’, Jesus will then say to each of us: You are my Beloved, and upon this Rock of Love, we will build this Church of Love together. We are indeed blinded when we believe in anything less than this revelation.
The ‘keys to the kingdom’ are Love, nothing more, nothing less – Love Alone. We will all find different ways of expressing that Love and this is Love’s pure diversity and is to be celebrated and rejoiced over.
When we open into this Truth, all will be equal, there will be no power and authority erroneously dictating Love’s purpose – there will be a clarity of seeing, knowing, acting, accepting and Loving.
To know Jesus as the Christ is to know Love in all its diversity and all its Freedoms. It can never be bound in any one religious tradition or religious experience.
Can we truly rejoice over such extraordinary revelations handed over to each of us this very day?
(Source: Annemarie Reiner, Coordinator/Facilitator at Listening Heart Contemplative Centre, Adelaide)

Our small difference
(could be used at end of prayers for others)
We may not be able to confront queens,
or challenge presidents;
We may not have the capacity to divert resources,
or uplift communities;
We may not have the voice to silence the noise of war,
or the words to negotiate peace between armies;
But, as we follow you, O Christ, we are able to do something.
And so, we pray that you would inspire us
to commit to and act on the small difference we can make:
May we bring peace through small acts of gentleness and reconciliation;
May we bring wealth through small contributions and collaborations;
May we bring safety through small acts of consideration and acceptance;
May we bring wholeness through small acts of care and service.
And in the small ways, O God,
may our small difference make a big contribution
to your saving work in our world. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Australian Church Music website with suggestions for music related to each week (lectionary based)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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