"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea."
Psalm 46 verses 1&2

Hymn 1
"All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell;
come ye before him and rejoice.

The Lord ye know, is God indeed;
without our aid he did us make:
we are his folk, he doth us feed;
and for his sheep he doth us take.

O enter then his gates with praise;
approach with joy his courts unto;
praise, laud, and bless his name always,
for it is seemly so to do.

For why, the Lord our God is good;
his mercy id for ever sure;
his truth at all times firmly stood,
and shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
the God whom heaven and earth adore,
from earth and from the angel host
be praise and glory evermore.
(William Kethe)

"Eternal God and Father,
you are the source of all life,
the fount of all wisdom,
the well-spring of all grace.
Your days are without end,
your lovingmercies without number.
We depend on you:
and we remember your goodness to us
and to those who have gone before us.

We tell your story in every generation:
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
God of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel,
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
God of a pilgrim people, your Church.
You are our God, ahead of us, leading us, guiding and calling us;
you are the Lord God,
the all-wise, the all-compassionate.
To you we lift up our hearts and we worship you, one God for ever.

"Holy God, we confess that we have rebelled against you and broken your law of love;
we have not loved our neighbours nor heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us we pray, and free us for joyful obedience;
through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

In Christ we are set free, through Christ we are forgiven.
Amen. Thanks be to God.

(from The Methodist Worship Book)

Reading -

Genesis 17 verses 1-7, 15-16

Hymn 463
Deep in the shadows of the past,
far out from settled lands,
some nomads travelled with their God
across the desert sands.
The dawning hope of human kind
by them was sensed and shown:
a promise calling them ahead,
a future yet unknown.

While others bowed to changeless gods,
they met a mystery,
invisible, without a name:
and by their tents, around their fires,
in story, song and law,
they praised, remembered, handed on
a past that promised more.

From Exodus to Pentecost
the promise changed and grew,
while some, remembering the past ,
recorded what they knew,
or with their letters and laments,
their prophecy and praise,
recovered, kindled and expressed
new hope for changing days.

For all the writings that survived,
for leaders long ago,
who sifted, copied, and preserved
the Bible that we know,
give thanks,and find its story yet
our promise, strength and call,
the model of emerging faith,
alive with hope for all.
(Brian Wren)

Mark 8 verses 31-38

Jesus had called his disciples and begun his travels around Galilee.
Mark brings us in this passage to something new. He tells that Jesus
began to teach his followers something they found hard to take.
Peter had just declared that Jesus was the Messiah (8 v29) and been told to keep quiet about it. Jesus now tries to show that his idea of the Messiah is radically new. He started talking about rejection and death. Peter immediately reacted. His concept of the Messiah matched the age-old idea that Messiah would defeat Israel's enemies and set up a new kingdom. Messiahs, in his mind don't get killed by the authorities!
Tom Wright in his commentary puts Jesus' response in these words,
"You're thinking human thoughts, not God's thoughts." and Jesus goes on to explain that following his way involved a new way of looking, a new way of understanding, a new way of commitment.

In the reading from Genesis, Abram heard a new call from God,
'walk before me and be blameless.'
He and his wife were given new names as a sign of a new covenant, a new relationship with God and they would be the ancestors of all those who followed God's way.

So what is the new thinking that Jesus is putting before his disciples and before us as we read this story today? In a way, it is not new. It is just that most people fail to rise to the challenge to think or to live from God's point of view.

We pray regularly, "thy kingdom come on earth... as it is in heaven"
but God's kingdom challenges and overturns all normal human assumptions about power and glory, about what is important in life and in the world. The Messiah is not a battle leader with more guns than his enemies. Evil powers are not defeated by force. Hatred is not defeated by hatred, only by love. Jesus' way is challenging because it makes us vulnerable - if we love as he did, we are open to being hurt. The kingdom of God, where God rules and his way is followed, is risky. To follow Jesus is a step of faith into the dark but there are some clear signposts. "Love one another as I have loved you", said Jesus. "Follow me" - it's often hard and needs all you have and are but this way you go with God.

A poem by RS Thomas called "The Kingdom"

"It's a long way off but inside it there are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man is king and the consumptive is healed;
Mirrors in which the blind look at themselves and love looks at them
And industry is for mending the bent bones and the minds fractured
by life.
It's a long way off, but to get there takes no time and admission is free, if you will purge yourself of desire and present yourself with your need only and the simple offering of your faith, green as a leaf"
"Let us pray for all people everywhere according to their need -

for the Church of Christ throughout the world.

for all nations and peoples of the world.

For those we know and love.

for all those who suffer.

We commend all people to your unfailing love,
that in them your will may be fulfilled;
and we rejoice at the faithful witness of your saints in every age,
praying that we may share with them in your eternal kingdom.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ."

The Lord's Prayer.

Hymn 769
All glory to the Father be,
the Spirit and the Son
all glory to the One in Three
while endless ages run.
Alleluia! Amen.