Lectionary - Ordinary Sunday 23 (Pentecost +13) Year B

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Proverbs 22:1-2,8-9,22-23 The Lord is the maker of them all
Psalm 125 ... the Lord surrounds his people ... for evermore
James 2:1-10, (11-13)14-17 ... love your neighbour...
Mark 7:24-37 The Gentile woman of faith

Suggested Hymns (From Denis Towner. TIS = Together in Song; AHB = Australian Hymn Book; SA = Sing Alleluia)
Hymns for Sunday 23, Yr.B
lesson hymn TIS AHB SA
G A man there lived in Galilee 235 176
O Almighty Father who for us thy Son didst give 548
G Amazing grace (how sweet the sound) 129 56
G Be thou my vision 547 455
G Beyond the mist and doubt 13
E Father all-loving and ruling in majesty 160 104
E Father of mercy, God of consolation 472 33
E Forth in your name, O Lord, I go 571 480
O Give thanks with a grateful heart 717
Ps Glorious things of you are spoken 446 374
Ps God is love, let heaven adore him 153 93
G God of mercy, God of grace 452 379
O God who stretched the spangled heavens 163 112
E Great God your Spirit, like the wind 416 41
O Happy are they who walk in God's wise way 1 43
G Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes 269 197
G I heard the voice of Jesus say 585 500
G If we will trust in God to guide us 554 489
E In Christ there is no east or west 459 391
O Inspired by love and anger 674
G Jesus Christ is waiting 665
G Jesus' hands were kind hands 236 178
E Jesus my Lord, how rich thy grace 475
O Jesus united by thy grace 365
E Kneels at the feet of his friends 640 561
O Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour 520 441
O Lord look upon our working days 560
Ps Morning has broken 156 91
G O Christ the healer, we have come 638
G O for a thousand tongues to sing 210 141
E Pull back the veil on the dawn of creation 326
Ps Safe in the shadow of the Lord 644 74
E Sent forth by God's blessing 531 76
E Son of God, eternal Saviour 606 529
G What does the Lord require of you 751
G What God ordains is always good 109
E When Christ was lifted from the earth 248 93
E/G Where cross the crowded ways of life 608 532
G You satisfy the hungry heart 539

Other Possible Hymns
(Numbers refer to The Australian Hymn Book and Sing Alleluia.)
SA 14 (TIS 650) Brother, sister, let me serve you
44 (TIS 90) I'll praise my maker while I've breath
139 (TIS 211) Jesu, lover of my soul
503 (TIS 587) O brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother
563 (TIS 633) Lord, we are blind; the world of sight /is a shadow in the dark
450 (TIS 530) Now let us from this table rise

Sermon summary (Click here for complete sermon)
(For an alternative sermon from Year A on the gospel reading see The general saviour of mankind )

Status, Love and Equality

The letter of James reveals ordinary human struggles within the Church. Vanity and pride of place, claims for recognition and a bigger share were common concerns brought into the Church from the culture of the converts which had not yet been transformed in response to the gospel. The leaders of the church often had to confront its members with the need for their behaviour to change in order to reflect Christ and his victory over evil. For example James 2:1-4 concerning their attitudes to the poor, in whom the writer sees a spiritual privilege (James 2:5, Compare Luke 6:20) The poor should be honoured. But James said in this letter, "You dishonour the poor" (verse 6a). That is very different from political ideologies of equality.

Remember the washing of the disciples feet (John 13:14-15). See how the action comes back upon oneself. There is something very basic in our confused thoughts and feelings when questions of status, pride and equality challenge us personally.

1. Equality is not promised or required in the Kingdom or among disciples of Jesus;

2. The change required and promised is more radical than that.

Equality of status was not encouraged by Jesus or by Paul
There is some truth in the popular (or is it populist?) ideal of equality. We all, as human beings made in the image of God, have the power to become children of God, but those whom we least expect might go into the Kingdom first (Matthew 21:31b). We see it in the parable of the workers in the vineyard who were all paid an equal amount regardless of how long they had worked Matthew 20:8) The workers who had been out in the heat all day objected (Matthew 20:10-12). His message in the parable was about the goodness and grace of God, who chooses to give people more than they deserve (cf Luke 7:39-50; Mark 4:26-29).

Another view on it comes from the way that Jesus regarded his own status. The Jews were offended that Jesus seemed to speak as if he had equality with God. (John 5:18; Mark 2:7; Mark 1:27), but he did not grasp at equality with God (Philippians 2:6). Concern to enjoy equality with anyone, let alone with God, is nearly always presented in a bad light in the New Testament. Equality is represented as a concern with status, and something to let go. The only positive mention of it in the New Testament is in regard to money and material possessions - strange is it not? That was when Paul was making a collection for the poor in Jerusalem: (1 Corinthians 16:1; Galatians 2:10; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:3-4; 2 Corinthians 8:13-14)

A greater change than equality
When Jesus talked of status he talked of how things would be different: there would be radical changes in the Kingdom he came to announce: upside-down and very different from what was expected, but not equal! (Matthew 19:30). But the disciples jockeyed for positions in the Kingdom (Mark 9:33-37; Matthew 20:20-28) That the first in status must take the place of the least was a recurring theme in the teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God.(Luke 13:29-30). It was a lesson he applied to himself. He gave up his equality and suffered death for others (Mark 10:45), and God raised him up to glory (Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13; Acts 5:31)

How then do we relate to one another? - As members of the body without concern for status, but as servants of one another, giving special honour to the least among us, and in this we honour Jesus Christ whose love made him the servant of all.

It would be quite wrong to see the message of this sermon, calling popular ideas of equality as an ultimate value into question, as a call for return to some more hierarchical and authoritarian society. Aspects of equality in changed social relationships in our society over the past generation or so have not moved as far as the promises of the Kingdom, but they do signify benefits which can be enjoyed.

In the end we hope that by the grace of God in Jesus Christ we will be enabled to enjoy that free relationship of love in which we all rejoice in the glorious liberty of children of God without regard for status, even the status of equality.

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The Gathering of the People of God

Surely the Lord is in this place.
This is none other than the house of God,
and this is the very gate of heaven. [Genesis 28:16-17]

Almighty God, you have been the dwelling place of your people in all generations; your mercies are more than we can number, and your compassion is without end.
Grant us now the help of the Holy Spirit, that we may praise you for your goodness and mercy, receive your word with joy and thanksgiving, and give ourselves again to you in love and service; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

HYMN O for a thousand tongues to sing /my great redeemer's praise. TIS 210, AHB 141
Merciful God, our Maker and our Judge,
We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed:
We have not loved you with our whole heart,
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves;
We repent, and are sorry for all our sins.
Father, forgive us.
Strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Hear then Christ's word of grace, 'Your sins are forgiven'
Thanks be to God

DOXOLOGY (Hymn TIS 771 AHB 576)
Now to him who loved us, gave us
every pledge that love could give,
freely shed his blood to save us,
gave his life that we might live,
be the kingdom, and dominion,
and the glory evermore.


Service of the Word

INTRODUCTION OF THEME: concerning outsiders: the poor and the Gentiles
OLD TESTAMENT Proverbs 22:1-2,8-9,22-23 The Lord is the maker of them all
PSALM 125 ... the Lord surrounds his people ... for evermore
EPISTLE James 2:1-10, (11-13)14-17 ... love your neighbour...
GOSPEL Mark 7:24-37 The Gentile woman of faith

HYMN O brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother AHB 503
alt: Fold to your heart your sister and your brother TIS 587

HYMN Brother, sister, let me serve you. TIS 650, SA 14
SHARING TIME [Notices, celebrations, requests for intercessions]
Lord our God, in you mercy and justice meet. With unparalleled love you have saved us from death and drawn us into the circle of your life. Open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us, that we may serve you, free from fear, and address you as God our Father. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.
THE LORD'S PRAYER [Front of the Hymn Book]

The Sending Forth of the People of God

HYMN Forth in your name, O Lord, I go TIS 571, AHB 480
DISMISSAL Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.

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