Sunday September 12th 2021
Gathering Prayer: The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
StF: 171 – Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes, the Saviour promised long.
Worship and praise belong to you, God our maker. Where nothing was you wove the web of being, and still you draw the universe to its fulfilment. Dawn and evening celebrate your glory till time shall be no more.
In Christ your Son, the life of heaven and earth were joined, sealing the promise of a new creation, given, yet still to come.
Taught by your Spirit, we who bear your threefold likeness look for the City of Peace in whose light we are transfigured and the earth transformed. Amen.
Reading: Mark 8:27-38
Peter answered; ‘you are the Messiah.’
The crowd gather at Brian Cohen’s door and, upon seeing his mother, shout out asking to see the Messiah. ‘There’s no Messiah here,’ Terry Jones says in his high squeaky voice, ‘there’s a mess alright, but no Messiah.’
Life of Brian, with only one confirmed line of heresy from Christian faith, remains, to me, one of the funniest films ever made. At it’s heart is the human need for a Saviour, a Messiah figure that will take all our problems away and make everything alright. This yearning is as old as time and we live in this beautiful, yet flawed world, always seeking and hoping for better.
The Old Testament has this yearning embedded throughout. From fallen Eden to the golden past of David and Solomon, there is this eye on things were better in the past and God will make things better in the future. In our scientific and sceptical secular age, this future will be technological, yet, as the pandemic has shown us, what we really yearn for isn’t ‘the vaccine’, pleasing as this is, but companionship, meaning and purpose. We have a yearning to share with and give unto others and we have missed this intimacy. The vaccine became the Messiah, but, as with all human invention, it falls short of what we really hoped for – no more illness, no more death, no more pain, no more tears. The world carries on and the creation continues to groan for release.
The expectation of the Messiah that Peter declares for, in Jesus, comes in many guises. Isaiah 40-55 has the Messiah as ‘the Servant’; and in Isaiah’s first 37 chapters, the Messiah is ‘the anointed Conqueror’. In Zechariah the Messiah is ‘the Branch’, in the order of the priestly caste, the perfect priest enabled to sit on the throne of grace; and, again in Isaiah (7:14 & 49:1) we have the humanity of the Messiah emphasised as ‘the Seed of woman’, that finds fulfilment in Mary and celebrated in the Magnificat. For Daniel, the Messiah as king is ‘the Son of Man’, a title Jesus applies to himself, where the divine and human nature find oneness; and the Messiah is ‘the Anointed Prince’, again from Daniel (9:24-27) who is to rebuild Jerusalem and allow the ‘holiness of Holinesses’, a place/person where God’s presence is found in it’s most powerful manifestation.
By the time of Jesus, this hoped for Messiah, had become an ‘expected deliverer’; in Greek; ‘Christos.’ Jesus generally avoided this word being applied to himself, using Son of Man, yet alluding to becoming a King; the entry into Jerusalem we know as Palm Sunday, and at the trial with Pilate. Christos became an insult, the word cropping up in Acts where the early followers of Jesus were mockingly called the Christos, or, as we know the term; Christian.
As time went by, as we see in the later writings of the New Testament, the name stuck. Jesus (God saves) became Jesus Christ (the Messiah/King/Lord) and the writer of Hebrews, 1 John and 1 Peter are happy to be insulted and called Christians. They proclaimed that Jesus was, and is the Servant King who comes from the Branch of David; in the order of Kings and Priests, even older that Judaism itself (Melchizedek), who is from a woman and therefore fully human, yet divine, who is the anointed one of God who has conquered sin and even death to allow all of humanity to know God, whom we may call Father, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
Jesus asked the disciples a question, sorry, I should say, Jesus asks us a question; ‘what about you, who do you say I am?’
StF: 322 – How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.
Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. The heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
God of hope, revealed in Jesus the Christ, we bring our prayers to you with confidence. In your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.
You protect those who trust in you. We pray for ourselves and those dear to us.
You invite all people, so that your house may be filled. We pray for our community and for our neighbours.
You are holy, and your decrees abide forever. We pray for the church in all places, that we may be faithful in solidarity across generations and geography.
You will destroy the shroud cast over all peoples. We pray for the world, for our enemies and for those who are in conflict.
We offer other concerns we carry in our hearts.
Generous God, you draw us into surprising stories. Use them to disrupt our complacency and remove our fear, that we may follow you into the joy of your kingdom. In the name of the Messiah, we pray…….Our Father.
StF: 351 – In Christ alone my hope is found.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.
Rev Gordon Gresswell