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Sunday September 27th 2020 – Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Opening prayer:
God in Christ has revealed his glory.
Come let us worship.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the Lord’s name is greatly to be praised.
Give him praise, you servants of the Lord.
O praise the name of the Lord!

Psalm: 25:1-8
 1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
 2 O my God, in you I trust;
   do not let me be put to shame;
   do not let my enemies exult over me.
 3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
   let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
 4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths.
 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long.
 6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
   for they have been from of old.
 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
   according to your steadfast love remember me,
   for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
 8 Good and upright is the Lord;
   therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

Old Testament: Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-end
The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.
Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Epistle: Philippians 2:1-13
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
   and gave him the name
   that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
   every knee should bend,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
   that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32
When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.


By what Authority?
It is important to keep the context of this week's Gospel passage is mind. If you have been following the readings in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has just ridden triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey. He then went into the Temple and overturned the tables and drove the money changes out. It is no surprise then that he is asked the question - by what authority do you do these things? Or we might say - who do think you are? The religious leader were deeply threatened by Jesus' actions, but Jesus had no fear in challenging the prevailing power structure.
The leaders had been secure in their position, their wealth, their status and power. Suddenly, they are challenged and instead of engaging them in debate and a justification of his actions, Jesus instead answers them with a question: ‘The baptism of John, was it from God or from men?’. They realise they are trapped - whichever way they chose to answer they cannot win, because they will end up upsetting someone. The award-winning BBC series, Line of Duty, is full of moral dilemmas, but at the heart of the programme is the question of power and how we use our power. We can use power to protect ourselves and our reputation, but as the plots show this only leads to lies and ever greater moral dilemmas. Leadership demands the courage to do what is right, often at our own expense, to our own cost and personal gain or popularity. The leaders that Jesus challenged could not recognise his authority because he simple turned normal convention upside down and stood it on its head. Normal convention said authority comes with title, Sir, Dr, Professor, Reverend, First Minister, authority came with wealth and prestige, with the weight of tradition and learning. Jesus, however, models the authority of the Kingdom. His authority was worked out in welcoming sinners and criminals, in welcoming little children, outcasts, the diseased and those on the margins. And ultimately, Jesus’ authority was worked out in self-giving service that led to the Cross. He wasn't interested in playing power games and his authority was marked by betrayal, torture and sacrifice. Each of us exercises power - whether in school setting, at work or at home, even in the context of play. How we exercise that authority is crucial in acknowledging the Kingdom here amongst us. The hallmark of Christian authority must be that of service, honesty, integrity and compassion; for that is what authority looks like in the kingdom of God.
                   The Very Reverend Dr Philip Hesketh, Dean of Rochester Cathedral

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers
     of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know
     what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

We pray for God’s grace.
Lord, receive our praise
and hear our prayer.

Lord God, through your grace we are your people:
through your Son you have redeemed us;
in your Spirit you have made us your own.

We pray for … (the Church)
Make our hearts respond to your love.
Lord, receive our praise
and hear our prayer.

We pray for … (the world)
Make our lives bear witness to your glory in the world.
Lord, receive our praise
and hear our prayer.

We pray for … (the sick and those in need)
Make our wills eager to obey, and our hands ready to heal.
Lord, receive our praise
and hear our prayer.

We give you thanks for …
Make our voices one with all your people in heaven and on earth.

Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Go in strong and growing faith.
Trust in the tenderness of Christ
to heal a bruised and broken world.
Thanks be to God.

Go in eager and refreshing hope.
Work with Christ risen from the dead,
to fulfil the promise of a new creation.
Thanks be to God.

Let us go in peace,
to treasure and to tend the world God made and loves.
In the name of Christ.

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