The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost.
· The podcast of this service can be accessed on Podcast page of the website or by clicking HERE.
· A video of today’s service is posted on Video page of the website early on Sunday afternoon - or you can access it by clicking HERE.
· Harvest will be held next Sunday, 27th September in both Yetholm (10am) and Morebattle (11.15). Donations to the Food Bank will be gratefully received.
· Dorothy Baird will be cremated on Wednesday, 23rd September at 11am. You can access HERE it on with username Paha2593 and password 746453.
· There will be an ecumenical drive-in service near St Boswells on 27th September at 3pm. Details can be had at: www.bordersdrivein.co.uk
· Yetholm Kirk is open for private prayer every Wednesday between 10.00 and 12 noon. Colin will be there, if anyone needs to see him.
· We join with all the other denominations in Scotland to light a candle at 7pm.
· Our singing on the podcast is led by Heather and Gordon
Call to Worship
The Lord our God is great and to be highly praised.
We come to worship.
The Lord our God is great beyond our understanding.
We come to worship.
The Lord our God is loving and full of mercy.
We come to worship.
Hymn 457 – All Hail the power of Jesus’s name (1,3)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Loving God, compassionate Son, healing Spirit,
You meet us in so many places and in so many different ways,
when our need is deep and we long for you,
and when we think we can manage on our own.
You draw near to us in kindness,
regardless of our state or condition.
You turn weeping into laughter, sorrow into joy, death into life.
You speak a word of challenge and a word of comfort
to draw us to you.
In gratitude, we come before you this day,
to seek your word for us,
and to enjoy your gift of life in its fullness.
Receive our praise and our prayers this day
offered in the name of Christ, our Lord. Amen.
God, you are the giver of all good gifts,
yet we confess that our own generosity is limited.
We share what we have, but often reluctantly.
We compare ourselves to others
and focus on what they have that we lack.
We fear running short of things
rather than trusting your attention to our needs.
Forgive us our worries about tomorrow
and give us generous hearts that trust in you.
The mercy of our God is from everlasting to everlasting. Friends, hear and believe the good news of the Gospel. In Jesus Christ, God’s generous love
reaches out to embrace us. In Christ, we are forgiven and set free to begin again. Thanks be to God!
Readings: Philippians 1: 21-30
Matthew 20: 1-16
Hymn 159 – Lord, for the years
Faithful God, God of heaven and earth, companion in life, Spirit of truth; to Jesus alone, in whom all power and authority in heaven and on earth is given, we turn our eyes and lift our hearts. Help us to serve you and you alone. Amen
All of us like a story, and especially if there is something in it that makes us think. Jesus was the master storyteller, and his parables have spoken to people down the centuries. I wonder what your favourite parable would be? Maybe it is the Good Samaritan, where it is the outsider who helps the person who has been beaten up. We associate with him and are left with a good feeling. Or maybe it is the Prodigal Son, where the young man has squandered everything, but then comes to his senses and goes back home, expecting a terrible reception, but instead is enfolded in an embrace. Again, we are left with a good feeling.
But I don’t think many would rate the parable we read today, the workers in the vineyard, as their favourite. There is no strong character for us to associate with and no warm feeling at the end. Instead, more often than not, we feel frustrated with it and cry out ‘It’s not fair!’ It’s not fair – from childhood we seem to have an innate sense of what is right and wrong, a sense of justice, and the way the workers are paid in this parable just isn’t fair.
Let’s remind ourselves of the story again. Day labourers had gathered in the village square hoping for work. It is a situation I have seen in Africa and even in the Arab villages in the North of Israel. Workers hoping someone will come along and hire them for the day, so that there would be enough food to put on the table for their families in the evening. It is a precarious kind of existence. Hoping you look fit enough for the work, hoping you will be lucky.
In the story, the landowner has work in his vineyard and comes and chooses some of the workers. The others were left disappointed, but then later on the landowner returned – maybe there was more work than he had imagined, but he chose more. The rest were left disappointed – and a bit undervalued, as you can imagine. It wasn’t their lucky day; the children would go hungry that evening. But as it grew late, the landowner returned yet again and picked up the rest. Imagine how they would have felt. Overjoyed- maybe they would be paid enough for a loaf of bread. But then comes the rub. Those who have come last and only worked for an hour or two at the most get paid a decent sum – a day’s wages. Word goes down the line, for surely those who have worked from early morning, sweating in the midday sun, will get far more. But no! They got exactly the same. And that isn’t fair. Those who worked far longer should have a greater reward – that is how things are. But the landowner stated, ‘We agreed a wage, and you got that wage. It is my money – what is it to you that I should be generous with my own money’.
The parable is not really about the workers, but about the generosity of God, about the grace of God, which is overwhelming. And sometimes love in the form of grace trumps justice. The mother of the disciples James and John wanted her sons to have a special place in the kingdom, because they had been such loyal followers, but was firmly told that it didn’t work like that. As human beings we define ourselves against other people, comparing ourselves and often begrudging their good fortune – we are in for a shock. We may have been in the church from the year dot, made countless sandwiches and cups of tea, even been elders, but God’s grace is overwhelming and we are going to be surprised at those we find in the Kingdom.
But I think this parable also shows the landowner helping those who were left behind, those who didn’t appear so strong, the undervalued and those with no sense of worth, and the Gospel has a bias to the poor and to the vulnerable. God wants them in the Vineyard, such is the generosity of grace. As the Church, we have to embody that. One way is to support the Food Bank. Another way is to be conscious of so many in our world working for minimal wages, and the importance of ensuring a fair wage and by supporting Fairtrade.
God’s generosity abounds, and we too should show something of God’s generosity and grace.
Hymn 798 – The peace of the earth
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Loving God, you have already today accepted our confession and turned it into forgiving love; you have accepted our praises and turned them into the song of heaven. Now accept our offerings of money and time and turn them into the tender ministry of the body of Christ in your world today.
God of Hope,
When the world is bleak and dim, you pierce the shadows with light.
You help us see new paths and possibilities.
For hope in times of despair, for a way forward when we thought all was lost, we give you thanks.
We pray today for those who feel hopeless; for those who are sick or dying; for those who mourn; and for those weighed down by heavy burdens. We think of those in the West coast of America who have lost homes to wild fires.
May each of us know and share your gift of hope.
God of Peace,
All around us there is conflict: in our world, our communities, our families, even our closest relationships. We thank you for steps toward reconciliation in our lives, our communities, and among peoples of different cultures.
We pray today for places where pain, violence and cruelty seem to have the upper hand. We think of those refugees selling organs from their bodies.
May each of us know and share your gift of peace.
God of Joy,
We give you thanks for moments of delight and occasions of celebration; for happy gatherings, gentle solitude, pleasure given and received; for laugher, friendship, and love.
We remember those who do not taste such joy; those who are lonely or bitter, hurt, or difficult to love.
May each of us know and share your gift of joy.
We pray for our families, those closest to us or and anyone estranged.
We pray for friends and for acquaintances, strangers, for those very different from ourselves, and even for our enemies.
Help us draw our circles of affection wider, seeing our kinship with all people.
May each of us know and share your gift of love.
Hear us now as we pray in silence
Hymn 804 – You shall go out with joy.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and the Blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and all whom you love, wherever they may be, now and forevermore, Amen
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is God’s steadfast love;
As far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us.
So let us rejoice in God’s presence!
Let us praise the name of the Lord together
Hymn 198 – Let us build a house
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Holy and loving One, God of might and mercy,
The heavens and the earth are full of your glory.
Your love transforms our lives.
You take darkness and give light.
You take grief and give healing.
You take fatigue and give strength.
You take fear and give courage.
You take death and give new life.
So we come before you in worship, handing over to you all that weighs us down,
waiting for your refreshing gifts.
Renew us in this time of worship, we pray,
so that we may serve you in Jesus’ name. Amen.
O God, we confess that our lives do not always reflect your transforming power.
You are gracious, but we cling to judgement.
You are forgiving, but we nurse grudges and old wounds.
You are filled with joy,
but too often we are filled with dissatisfaction and complaints.
Forgive us, O God, and fill us with your Holy Spirit, and make us new through Christ, our Saviour.
The proof of God's amazing love is this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Know that you are forgiven by his grace and be at peace.
Readings: Exodus 14: 21-31
Hymn 180 - Give thanks with a grateful heart
Heavenly father we pray week by week “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” but so often we fall short of your standards in our lives. Again today, we ask for your forgiveness and help to live as you intended us to live, as we seek to follow the example of Jesus. Amen
‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’. Sounds familiar. We say it every Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer, though one or two may say ‘trespasses’ and even ‘sins’ instead. But ‘debts’ certainly works, considering our parable today. It trips off our tongues, but think about what we are saying, ‘Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors’. I think we hope God just listens to the first bit and then switches off. In our Gospel reading today, Peter asks about forgiveness and suggests to forgive 7 times, which is incredibly generous. But Jesus says 70x 7. In other words, there should be no limits to forgiveness.
And Jesus goes on to tell the parable about the servant who owed a massive debt to the king. Not even Trillions, but zillions, but graciously wipes the slate clean. Only to hear that the forgiven servant had not shown the same spirit of mercy to a colleague who owed him a trifle. The king’s spirit of mercy evaporated, and he sent the servant to be tortured. God doesn’t seem to like un unforgiving spirit.
But as human beings, we are not very good where forgiveness is concerned. Sometimes it can be trivial things, and we should really know better, but often people really offend us, hurt us or, worse, hurt those whom we love, and it is a hard ask to forgive them – and especially when they don’t seem to show any remorse themselves. And I am sure we can think of many examples when someone has really hurt us.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman and strong Christian, who wrote about her experiences in the 2nd World War, where she and her sister helped to hide a number of Jews. Ultimately someone informed on her, and they were both sent to a concentration camp. Corrie survived, but her sister didn’t. After the war she spoke a lot at various rallies and meetings about reconciliation, but on one occasion came face to face with one of the guards from the camp. Memories of her sister came flooding back, and she felt numb. He approached her, said that he had become a Christian and wanted to ask her forgiveness. She felt nothing but anger, but struggled within herself and somehow managed to forgive him. She felt such a sense of release. Forgiveness broke the chains of bitterness and freed her to live her life. It was as if she had been held captive by the past: she had to move on.
The Israelites must have felt bitter by their experiences of slavery and oppression: the crossing of the Red Sea liberated them and they had their time in the wilderness to process their thoughts. Though the widows of the Egyptian charioteers who drowned and the stable girls or boys whose horses did not return would also have felt bitterness, though whether against Pharaoh or the Israelites, I don’t know. Maybe the two groups could have come together to share their feelings.
That is what happens with restorative justice. In Rwanda, after the genocide there, Tutu and Hutsi came together, people whose families had been butchered to death came face to face with the perpetrators of the crime. There was so much anger and distress, but it was a cathartic experience and brought about so much healing, that the country was able to move forward. The past couldn’t hold them back any more.
It is hard to forgive, but as the parable reminds us that we, like the servant, have been forgiven so much. God has been so gracious and merciful to us, forgiving and accepting us. We have experienced God’s amazing grace, and so we too should be gracious to others and forgive, and if that forgiveness is genuinely from our hearts, then we will have learnt something in the process. Amen
Hymn 782 – Lord of life, we come to you
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Generous God, we offer you our gifts of love, of service and of money. Use these gifts to sow seeds of love and hope and bring closer your dream of justice and peace
God of light and hope,
we pray for those who face lives filled with darkness:
those who suffer in body, mind, and spirit;
those bent under burdens of sorrow;
those who cannot see the way ahead.
We pray for those who accompany others in dark times and places;
For those who comfort the grieving, and work for healing and new possibilities.
May all these find their darkness transformed by your presence.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer
God of peace and promise,
we pray for those who work for peace in the world,
for leaders and decision makers,
for those who hold power and can make a difference in their communities,
and for those who make, interpret, and enforce laws.
Awaken a respect for the needs of the most vulnerable, including the earth and its fragile balances.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer
God of forgiveness and reconciliation;
we pray for those we have hurt or offended
and for those to whom we have been unkind.
We pray for those who have hurt us, or been careless with our feelings.
Work in our lives to redeem broken relationships.
Shape us into gracious and forgiving people.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer
In a moment of silence we bring the prayers of our hearts.
Hymn 252 – As a fire is meant for burning
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with faith.
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with hope.
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with love.
And may the blessing of God Almighty, the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you and be with all whom you love and those we are called to love,
Now and forevermore. Amen.
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. Come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost.
O God, who called all life into being
The earth, sea and sky are yours
Your Spirit enlivens all who walk the earth
With her we yearn for justice to be done
For creation to be freed from bondage
For your Kingdom of peace to come on earth.
Hymn 165 – Praise to the Lord for the joys of the earth (vv 1,4,5)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of grace and glory,
Your creative power is beyond imagining.
Your love is wider than the whole universe;
your mercy, greater than the heights of heaven;
your wisdom, deeper than the sea.
Maker of all things,
you became one of us in Jesus Christ,
and through your Spirit you are present with us
in every place and every time.
We worship you, Creator, Christ, and Spirit,
one God, now and always.
Creator God, we confess that we have not been conscientious stewards of your creation. We confess our failure to learn lessons, to care for our world, and to treat nature and animal life with respect. Forgive us, good Lord, and help us to turn our sorrow into action, our failure into change, our guilt into grace.
God, the source of all mercy, has sent the Holy Spirit amongst us for the forgiveness of sins, the equipping of the saints and the fine tuning of our hearts. We are forgiven! Be at peace with God, with yourself and with each other.
Readings – Exodus 12: 1-14
Matthew 18: 15-20
Hymn 251 – I the Lord of sea and sky (1, 3)
Faithful God, thank you for your promise that where two or three come together in your name you have promised to be with them. Deepen our understanding of the message of the Passover, that we are safe under God's protection and as we pray through this coming week may we do so with your heart of compassion. Amen.
In discussing our experiences over the lockdown period, everyone I have spoken to has commented on how lucky we have been to live in this part of the world with the countryside on our doorsteps and being able to look out on hills and on rolling fields, whose colour has been ever changing depending on the crops being grown. But there has been another picture of the countryside over the last few months – of crowded beaches, and bottles and plastic bags of rubbish, strewn over the sand. Another picture has been of beauty spots violated by day-trippers or campers, littering, soiling, damaging the habitats. It has been horrific, and while none of us could think of anyone who would pollute the countryside in this way, there are obviously those who do.
We have become more and more conscious of the environment and just how fragile our planet is and how we need to care for it. This month of September has been designated as ‘Creation Time’ by the British churches, including Church of Scotland, and we have invited to reflect on the way we as humans abuse the earth but also be challenged to take action.
At first sight, we may wonder what our lectionary readings have to say about this. The Exodus reading can be a bit gruesome, talking about slaying lambs and smearing the blood over the door lintels and also of the slaying of the Egyptian first born. It is about the preparations for Passover. The Israelites had been oppressed and enslaved, and despite plague after plague, Pharaoh had not listened and had rejected any change. But now God was preparing a fresh start for the Israelites. Led by Moses, they would escape the oppression of Egypt and be liberated, set free. A new way of living was beckoning, and that was a life with God.
Like Pharaoh, we have had so many warnings about the damage we have done to the earth, and the plagues of pollution and over consumption and abuse of the good resources like water. We have to listen and act. In the Creation story in Genesis 1 there is a constant refrain – It is good, it is good, it is good. God created a wonderful creation, and we have to remember that and treasure the earth, treating it gently (Yoruba Poem: Enjoy the earth gently, enjoy the earth gently; for if the earth is spoiled it cannot be repaired; enjoy the earth gently). We can, like the Israelites, make a new start.
But our Gospel reading reminds us how divided we can be as human beings. There is the wonderful phrase, often said at evening services, ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them’, but where two or three are gathered, often there are two or three different opinions. It is just the way we are as people. It is called living in community. But for the small Christian community that Matthew was addressing in his Gospel, these views or maybe actions could severely damage the community, and so had to be addressed. Matthew proposes a way to restore good relations – by being open and talking together. It still happens today – sometimes congregations can be split in two, and healing has to take place. There is an organisation in the Church called ‘A place for hope’ which remit is to bring about reconciliation.
Just as we are called to treat the earth gently, so we have also to treat one another sensitively and ever seek to build up the community. In our world where there is sexism and racism denigrating others and causing so much harm, we have to learn to live together with one another, but also live together creatively and gently with our planet.
Song – Let my people go!
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Lord God, receive these gifts, offered in a spirit of generosity and humility. Bless and use them for the work that you long to do in the world for Jesus’ sake
Creator of heaven and earth,
lover of each and every soul,
we are filled with a sense of gratitude for all the blessings of this life.
For making us in your image to love and care for one another,
we give you thanks.
For the gift of Christ, who redeems and guides us,
and who gives us a pattern for everyday living,
we praise you.
Hear us now as we pray for situations where your love and grace are sorely needed in the world you love.
We pray for the Church in this place and around the world, facing so many new challenges to respond to, so many enduring needs…
We pray for this beautiful planet, the fragile home we share with all living things…
For those who govern in this place and the nations of the world, that they may find the wisdom and courage to do justice in the decisions they make…
For the homeless and the hungry, for the unemployed and the anxious, and for all who have become more vulnerable through the pandemic…
For those lying on hospital bed, those who mourn and those who are alone or feeling isolated…
For the powerless and oppressed, and those caught up in destructive relationships or unjust political systems…
And for the concerns we bear on our hearts this day…
Eternal God, we thank you for those who have gone ahead of us and showed us some measure of your eternal love. Keep us always in communion with you, and with your people from every time and place. Amen
Hymn 515 – Soldiers of Christ, arise
May the blessing of God who is always sustaining as Parent, Beloved, and Breath of All Life - surprise you, connect you as friends of Creation, hands, feet, hearts at the ready, alert and awake! Amen
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost.
Give thanks to God and tell of God’s gifts.
We will sing praises for all that God has done.
Let your hearts be joyful!
We will seek God’s presence continually.
Call to mind God’s wonderful works.
We will always remember the blessings of God and glorify God forever!
Hymn 125 – Lord of all being (vv 1,4,5)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Eternal and ever-loving God,
Deep is our desire for what is true and enduring.
Deep is our need to see clearly.
Deep is our longing for you, O God.
In you we live and move and have our being.
You are the root of love,
the fountain of knowledge,
the source of wisdom,
the path of right living.
You are the beginning and end of all things.
Our thoughts cannot comprehend your mystery
And so we worship you in humble praise,
Holy God, ever three and ever one.
May our worship bring us back to You and increase our awareness of Your beating heart at the centre of life, calming our fears and restoring our souls, knowing ourselves beloved of God, united with all Your creatures in heaven and on earth.
We confess together that we have often turned away from you:
We have sought meaning in shallow places.
We have clung to old hurts and familiar habits.
We have nursed anger and envy.
We have been self-absorbed and lacked compassion.
We have turned our backs on those in need.
Forgive what we have been, amend who we are,
and guide us toward what we may become according to your grace.
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new! Thanks be to God that we are forgiven and can all make a new start through God’s grace.
Readings – Exodus 3: 1-15
Matthew 16: 21-28
Hymn 189 – Be still, for the presence of the Lord (1,3)
Weekly Prayer -
Holy God, we thank you that your wisdom not only enlightens us but transforms and guides us. As with Moses, we are sometimes tempted to say "Who am I? " when we hear you speak. We thank you for your promise to Moses and to us as we go from this place of worship, and into our daily walk through life with you "I will be with you". Amen
In Christchurch, New Zealand, Muslims were going to the mosque as they did every Friday for prayers, just going about their routine, when a white supremist started to shoot them. 51 died at the hands of this one man. He was sentenced this week, but I was so impressed by one woman saying she forgave. Going about their daily life. A few weeks ago in Beirut, people were going about their daily life, when an explosion at the docks shattered their lives.
In our reading from Exodus, Moses was going about his daily life. He may have grown up in a palace by the Nile, but now he had fled to Sinai, had married and was now looking after his father-in-law’s sheep. Boring, uneventful. But then something happened that changed his life completely. Nothing as extreme as the events in Christchurch or Beirut, but maybe as dramatic. He saw a bush on fire. The odd thing was that the scrub around didn’t catch fire, but also the bush didn’t seem to burn out. He walked closer to observe this phenomenon. But he couldn’t just stand back and observe – suddenly there was a voice – and Moses was drawn in, involved. God called out from the Bush, and Moses life changed forever.
God reminded Moses that he was on holy ground, but then came to the nub of the issue. God had heard the groaning of the Israelites, in their oppression and in their slavery. Their lives were miserable, and their voices reached heaven – and God responded. God was identifying with the weak and suffering, just as Christ would feed the hungry, give sight to the blind and welcome the stranger. ‘I know my people’s pain’, God says to Moses, and that is encouraging for us, for we have a God who knows the trials and tribulations we face – and wants to do something about it. That is why in Matthew, we read of Jesus committing himself to a life of sacrifice for others, which would eventually lead to the Cross.
Again, Moses discovered he couldn’t just observe or listen, for he soon realises that he is being called and commissioned. God uses people, and it was to be Moses, despite his protestations, who would be the one called to stand up to Pharaoh and demand that the Israelites be set free. In our world of pain and suffering, it is us who are called to do something about it and see God’s justice prevail.
Now, Moses would have been conscious of his Hebrew heritage, but he had an Egyptian name and had grown up in the palace. Would they listen to him? He needed to be able to say who had sent him, and God replied enigmatically ‘I am who I am or I will be who I will be’. In Hoselaw Chapel just above the communion table, there are 4 Hebrew letters, spelling out the name of God, but too holy to say. Jews would just say, HaShem, the Name. God was being cryptic, but Moses would get to know far more about God, as he journeyed with him in all the adventures that lay ahead. Just as we learn at first hand the truth, nature and purposes of God, as we follow the paths laid before us.
We may never see a burning bush, but God asks us to pay attention to our lives catching sight of the divine in the ordinary and see where we are called to serve. None of us are perfect, just as Moses had his flaws, but God calls us all. But whatever we are called to do, we are never alone, for God is always with us.
Hymn 771 – If you believe …
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
We offer our gifts in anticipation that God will use them—and us. Use us to transform the world you love with the good news we celebrate in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
O God in whom we live and move and have our being
We come to you in prayer as the summer season draws nearer to its close
And we prepare for an autumn filled with many changes:
We give you thanks for the occasions we have enjoyed over this strange summer.
savouring the beauty of your creation right outside our doors,
Thank you for the chances we’ve had catch up with family and friends,
and whatever opportunities for travel, recreation & restoration have been possible. We recognize how blessed we are to live in the Borders
and so, we are grateful for each moment in which we found rest and relaxation.
Today we remember those for whom this summer has been difficult:
Those still isolated by the restrictions because of COVID-19, and we think of the cases in Hawick;
Those who go hungry or face violence in forgotten corners of our own community and around the world;
Those whose businesses are struggling, who have to figure out how to be inviting and safe at the same time;
And those who are uncertain how to engage with friends and neighbours and still be wise and careful in this strange time of pandemic.
O God, Jesus walked the road of suffering with so many in pain and grief
We remember those whose lives have faced crises this summer--
Through tragic death and unexpected loss,
Through critical illness or injury,
Through pain or problems that seem to have no end…
Surround them with your comfort and compassion
O God, Jesus often faced many demands and the pressure from his critics,
So we pray for all those who have not found rest this summer:
For leaders trying to figure out ways forward to care for their communities when there are no examples to follow;
For those whose jobs and responsibilities have changed, and every day presents a new challenge;
And we also remember those involved in the riots in Wisconsin, the protests in Belarus, the storms in Louisiana.
Hymn 458 – At the name of Jesus (vv1,3)
We go now into whatever experiences the week will bring always ready to offer God’s peace to all, and may the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you, and with all whom you love and all we are called to love, forevermore. Amen
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The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Let us worship together for our service for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost.
We, who are members of the one body
join together to praise God.
We, who are blessed with the gift of grace
Join together to sing of God’s glory
We, who are part of the family of God,
join together to affirm Jesus as Lord
Hymn 132- Immortal invisible
Prayer of approach and confession
you are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,
and yet you come to us afresh each new day.
You breathe new life into what has grown tired and discouraged.
You offer healing for what is broken and worn.
You restore hope for what seems impossible.
We gather today in hope and expectation, we come to you as we are, overwhelmed by your love and in awe of your mercy. We lay at your feet our whole being, everything we are and everything we have, for
you are the source of life, and so we worship you as Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and always.
“Unresting, unhasting”, You are our God. And, because of all of this, we come tentatively into Your presence – in awe of Your justice; wondering whether we are worthy; questioning whether we deserve to be here. Yet You bid us come; You call us to confess; ….. and You say, ’Come closer, my friend. You are forgiven. You need fear no more. Make a fresh start’. Thanks be to God.
Readings – Exodus 1: 15 -2:10
Matthew 16: 13-20
Hymn 676 (CH3) – Hark! My soul, it is the Lord
Everlasting God, we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ and for revealing him as "Messiah and Saviour of the World.". Forgive us when we only turn to you when things trouble us and when we forget to thank you for your blessings and bounty. Help us to recognise all the wonderful things in your world for which we should be grateful and send us out into the coming week ready to show our gratitude in all that we do and say. Amen
Tom Gordon is a very active retired minister, who writes a lot of books. Very involved in the Iona Community. He tells the story of going into a hospital where he was chaplain and noticing someone new. Above his bed was the name – William Campbell. Tom went up and introduced himself, I am Tom Gordon, the chaplain. Now what do I call you? Is it William or Bill, perhaps?‘ The gentleman said, well most of my friends call me Professor, but you can call me Dr Campbell. And I will call you Mr Gordon, he added. I have certainly had that experience too. While most people are happy to be called by their Christian names, some would rather keep it more formal. For Dr Campbell, he had lost his independence and also his good health, but he could cling on to his name.
Names are important, and in our readings today, names feature prominently, from Moses being named by Pharaoh’s daughter as she brought him from the water, to Simon Peter calling Jesus ‘Messiah’, and Jesus in his turn giving Simon the nickname, ‘Peter’. But there are other names too in our Exodus reading. Like Joseph.
Last week we had Joseph reconciled to his brothers, and the Hebrews came to Egypt as welcome guests. But Exodus starts with the stark desciption of a ‘king who knew Joseph no more’. Joseph and the prosperity he had brought Egypt had been forgotten; the past was erased. Sometimes as we grow older, and people come after us with new ideas, we can feel forgotten. But here it was worse. Not only was Joseph forgotten, but worse the Hebrews were no longer treated as guests, but as a threat. They were oppressed and enslaved, and made a scapegoat for Egypt’s ills. In Exodus 1, the scheme was hatched to kill the Hebrew boys, especially as they were being born. The two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, two more names, were given strict orders to kill any Hebrew boy at birth. There are actually a lot of similarities to Matthew’s nativity story with the massacre of the innocents.
These are two remarkable women – they should be more well known. The believed in God, and they also believed that what Pharaoh was asking was against God’s will, so they didn’t follow the orders. They let the boys live and gave excuses to Pharaoh, that they always arrived too late. Their loyalty to God was above their loyalty to pharaoh, and they were given the courage to spare the Hebrew babies. One small action but it had enormous consequences and led ultimately to the freedom of Israel. We never know the consequences of our actions – small gestures, a kind word, greeting a stranger, but they can have far-reaching consequences.
Interestingly the girls were to be spared, but it was the women in this story – the midwives, Moses’ mother, Pharaoh’s own daughter - who proved Pharaoh’s undoing, as Moses was saved and grew up to be one of the towering figures in the OT.
Names are important, and in the Gospel we find ourselves at Caesarea Philippi. The name tells us a lot – it was a Roman town. A place of commerce, but also worship, and there were shrines to Pan the god of nature and to Caesar himself. It was in that setting of commerce and worship of idols that Jesus asked the disciples who people said he was and who THEY themselves said he was, and Simon Peter, for once, gets it right and says that he was the Messiah, the son of the living God.
It does of course prompt the question, Who do WE say Jesus is today? Hopefully with Peter we can say, The Messiah, the Son of God, but certainly what we believe shapes the way we live and when our relationship with God is clear, our priorities are ordered and we have a better chance of living lives of service, justice and love. – and making a difference where we are.
Hymn 516– We are marching…
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
As you have bound us to your life-giving self, we come today in praise, to declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, our Saviour. We offer these tokens of money, time and talent, as a sign of our continued commitment to your church, its mission and its work, that it might continue to be built through us as a solid foundation bearing witness to you.
We give thanks for the wonderful countryside around us, for the communities in which we live and for all the support of families and friends and neighbours. We thank you that we are able to meet together and pray for all the members of the church wherever they are and however they are worshipping. Keep them always in your care.
We pray for the Church. Keep us one in faith and service, so that Your Good News might be proclaimed, and so that Your love and light might be beacons of hope and purpose in the darkest places.
We pray for our world and all who rebuild where things are destroyed. For those who fight hunger, poverty and disease; For those who fight corruption, and like the Egyptian midwives, stand up against tyrants. We think of those protesting in Belarus.
As the summer comes to an end, we pray for all your children, young and old. For those returning to school after the longest break and their teachers; for those without work; for those who make sure we have food on our tables; and for those who labour tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy, we ask for your love and support, that whatever this new season will bring, you will be with us.
Hymn 694 – Brother, Sister, let me serve you
Go out into the world in peace. Love your God with all your heart. Be challenged by the Spirit’s promptings. Hear the call to serve Christ and be obedient to God’s will. And may God bless you, and the Spirit restore you, and Christ’s presence strengthen you, now and always Amen
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Let us worship together for our service for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost.
How good it is, how pleasant it is,
where the people dwell as one!
The Lord has lavished blessings upon us,
Life for evermore. Let us worship God
Hymn 225- Summer suns are glowing (vv1,2)
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Welcoming and generous God, you make all things new.
We are glad to come together wherever we are this day.
You invite all people into your fold to receive your blessing. Justice and right relations have their source in you.
We are filled with joy to be counted among your children.
As we gather, make us one in worship and thanksgiving.
We lift our voices to proclaim your all-encompassing love.
May our praise join with the praise of all your people.
And reach the ends of the earth, for you are our Saviour and our hope.
Merciful and wise God,
In your presence we confess that we have not lived as you taught us to live.
Forgive us those times we have not welcomed others into our community;
and those times we have avoided others
because something about them made us uncomfortable.
Forgive us the ways we have judged unfairly.
Reveal to us our own prejudice which separates us from others
and our failure to seek your goodness in those who seem different from us.
To all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say, In Jesus Christ our sin is forgiven. Be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.
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.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,
Now and forever. Amen
Readings -Genesis 45: 1-15
Matthew 15: 21-28
Hymn 498 – Angel Voices (vv 1,2,4)
Gracious God we thank you that, as Joseph was able to see the bigger picture, we too may reflect your love and forgiveness in our families, our church and our community. Then they will be able to witness our faith as followers of Christ and be drawn into his loving care. Amen
There has been a furore this week over exam results. The young people could not of course sit their exams this year, so their grades had to be assessed. When the results came out, many students were disappointed and found that their marks had been downgraded, which affects their hopes for the future, for jobs, for college. Worse, those in poorer areas seemed to be affected more. It was a mess; The Qualification Board were really on a hiding to nothing, and I am sure we all have our opinions about it, but the Scottish Government ended up saying, ‘We got it wrong’, and did a U turn.
In the Bible there are many U turns: we think of Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of the Church, having a complete turnaround on the road to Damascus ,or Zacchaeus or even Joseph and his brothers, now reconciled in our story today. But what about Jesus? Today Jesus finds himself challenged by the Canaanite woman.
Wherever Jesus had gone, crowds had followed, all demanding his attention, his compassion, his healing. He must have been completely drained, and in our story today, he gets away. He goes with the disciples across the border into Lebanon, to the area around Tyre and Sidon. It is almost like a holiday, away from all the crowds. Perhaps that is why he didn’t want to answer the Canaanite woman, when she asked for help. We are so used to Jesus responding immediately with compassion, reaching out to touch and heal, but here he resists. Maybe he was drained, but also he crossed the border, and this was a Canaanite, the traditional enemy of the Jews. She was a woman, and she was a nuisance, who didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. But also she was a mother, and her daughter was sick, and she knew that Jesus could heal her. As a mother it didn’t matter to her if Jesus was Jewish, she wanted the best for her daughter. Like the students with poor grades and like the people of Beirut, just up the coast from Sidon, after the explosion last week, they wanted an answer and wouldn’t give up.
The woman persisted, persevered, spoke to the disciples until they told Jesus to send her away, and at last Jesus spoke and said that he had come only for the Israel and not for anyone else. He even speaks quite harshly to her, but she counters him by saying that even dogs eat the crumbs falling from the table. She challenges Jesus to look beyond Israel, and such is her persistence, that he praises her faith, and her daughter is healed.
This story is not wonderful for Jesus’ PR; it is so out of character. His views were maybe shaped by the culture he was brought up in, as our own are, but he learns from this exchange. He realises that the kingdom message is for all people, that God’s mercy and love are for everyone regardless of race or gender. When Matthew was writing his Gospel, that was a hot topic, as the early church debated whether the Church was for Jews only or Gentiles too.
The passage shows us that, whatever age we are, we are all still learning. This passage also challenges us to see how expansive, how inclusive God’s kingdom is, reaching out to everyone, to say ‘All are welcome’.
It challenges us to persist. When there is injustice or wrong in society, we must call it out. But one more thought. The woman’s modern day equivalent– the Lebanese -protested against their government after the explosion last week. But they also arrived from all over the country with brushes and buckets, to get on with the work of cleaning up, and I love that picture. Speaking ou,t but also doing something to improve the situation for all around. We can learn from them – and we can learn from the Canaanite woman.
Hymn 65 - Jubilate
Prayers for Intercession
O God, we place our hope and trust in your loving kindness, leaning on you for all our needs. Because we want to praise you with more than mere words, we bring our gifts to support Christ’s mission in the world. Bless these gifts and use our energy for your good purposes, so that all the world will know your loving kindness.
Generous God, we pray for your blessing on this community, as we seek to find you in the midst of anxiety. As we search for hope in times of darkness, shine your light into the lives of each one of us, that we may know your love is with us always.
We pray for your whole church, a people attempting to live in your example and spread your message throughout the world. We recognise the difficulties in this time more than any other that face those bearing witness to you, but we ask that all Christians will have strength in your love, to continue and to flourish. We pray for those persecuted for their faith.
We pray for those on the margins of our society, living in fear or hurt, attempting to overcome problems, without the comfort and security many of us take for granted. We pray that we, your people, will give everything to help them and that they will find support in you.
We pray for our global community. The world seems ever smaller, and one country is not immune from the troubles of another, and so we pray that leaders as they make difficult decisions. May all citizens will follow your example of peace, love, and forgiveness, and work towards a better world for all peoples. We pray that each one of us will show your love to the world welcoming friend and stranger alike, bringing your kingdom ever closer.
We think of all involved in the terrible train crash at Stonehaven and pray for those who lost loved ones. We remember all who mourn; those sick in hospital, all in nursing homes and all suffering from depression.
Hymn 396- And can it be (vv 1,5)
People of God, go forward into this week with faith. For the love of God is with you; surrounds and upholds you. May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and be with all, now and forevermore Amen
The last couple of weeks have seen increasing numbers of visitors in the Cheviot area - mainly (entirely?) British people, taking advantage of the 'Staycation' trend. Sadly organised pilgrimages along the St Cuthbert's Way have largely been cancelled and we are missing visitors from abroad, many of whom would joing us for worship on a Sunday. It was a pleasant reminder of how-things-used-to-be when we received a letter from America, which Colin read out last Sunday. Here's some of what Carol, from New York State wrote:
Dear Rev Colin and the congregation of Yetholm KIrk - My husband's pilgrimage along St Cuthbert's Way brought me to your church. As I followed him by bus & taxi and did not walk, I was able to worship with you on June 4th 2017. I remember it with great fondness, as you were all so very warm and welcoming. I loved being in the village of Yetholm and learning a little bit about your history. Such a peaceful place now, but so tumultuous a history!
It was a pleasent reminder of how things used to be to receive such a letter. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we be welcoming visitors from all around the world once again.
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Let us worship together for our service for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost.
From hillside to lakeside Jesus meets the needs of his friends. Always surprising them and us with his words and actions. Always responding to our needs, always there for us. We gather to give thanks and praise to the one who loves and cares for us. We offer ourselves and this time and invite Jesus to surprise us once more.
Hymn 260 (vv1,2)– Eternal Father, strong to save
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Surprising and mysterious God,
you come to us when we least expect it,
calling us out of our routines and our plans,
inviting us to follow Christ on a great journey of faith.
We praise you for the many ways you comfort and guide us.
In our moments of fear, you speak to us with words of reassurance.
In our moments of doubt, you reach out your hand to save us.
In our moments of turmoil, you bring calm to the storm.
We place our trust in you this day and every day,
and worship you as our Redeemer and Saviour
in the name of Christ, our Lord and friend.
Merciful and patient God,
We confess that we still live in fear and doubt,
even though we have been touched by your grace.
You call us to live with courage and perseverance,
yet we give up too easily and opt for the safer route.
You encourage us to be bold in our faith and steadfast in our fight for justice, yet we remain silent in the face of inequality and violence.
Forgive us all the times we have left you down and let down ourselves.
Renew our lives through your mercy and grace.
Jesus is alongside us in the storms of life, speaking words of forgiveness and peace. We are a forgiven people. Thanks be to God.
Readings- Genesis 37: 1-4
Matthew 14: 22-33
Hymn 191 (vv 1,3,5) – Do not be afraid
Gracious God, we thank you for your promise to hear our prayers. Strengthen our faith in that promise so that our lives might proclaim your love, mercy and goodness made visible in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, and when the wind and waves get high and threaten to overwhelm us, help us remember Jesus’ words: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Amen
Earlier in the week I travelled to Eyemouth. I had never been before, so it was interesting to look around, especially the harbour. I soon became aware of Black Friday, the day that the fishing fleet was caught up in a storm and most of the boats wrecked with the loss of 189, many of them from Eyemouth. It was a terrible event. Sailing has always been a risky business, and even today you can be very vulnerable out on the water.
The Sea of Galilee was hardly the North Sea; for most of the year it was very calm. But occasionally the wind would rise and the waves become choppy, and a storm could arise out of nowhere. There were some violent ones when I was there. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus had sent the disciples ahead of him across the lake. It was straight after the feeding of the multitude, when Jesus’ compassion had prompted thousands upon thousands to be fed. But just before, news had reached Jesus of the death of John the Baptist. No doubt, Jesus wanted space; he wanted to go off by himself to take it in, so the disciples went ahead without him. And their boat was caught in a storm.
Now many of the disciples were experienced fishermen, but even so, this was fierce. It happened in the evening, and it was early morning when they encountered Jesus, so for several hours they battled with the storm, frantically trying to navigate back to shore – but failing. They would have been exhausted, as well as terrified. Then Jesus appeared, and the situation is resolved. At a time of crisis and of fear, Jesus appears and takes control, and everything is OK. For Matthew speaking to the early Christians when the whole world seemed against them, this would have been a very reassuring story, and so it is for us today.
We live in a world where there are many fears. The horrific explosion in Beirut shows how in a split second our lives can be turned upside down. The lockdown in Aberdeen that Coronavirus is still very much with us and remains such a threat to our health. There is no room for complacency. Fears of unemployment, financial concerns, anxieties over health, let alone international tensions, means that we live with fear. So, this story speaks to us today, of Jesus being beside us at scary times and saying the same words he spoke to the disciples: ‘Take heart. It is I. Don’t be afraid’. In our difficult times, Jesus is there beside us, to reassure us. We have to trust in him.
But the story in Matthew goes on, and suddenly we find Peter jumping out of the boat and walking towards Jesus. But suddenly he is conscious of the waves and starts to sink, only for Jesus to grab him. Peter is often seen as headstrong, impetuous. But what are we to make of this?
Now, I find it interesting, for if I were in the boat, I would be calling out to Jesus. ‘Come here. Get us out of this’, and wait for Jesus to rescue me. But instead, Peter launches himself out of the boat. Instead of remaining passive on the boat, he goes towards Jesus. In order to get closer to Jesus, he takes the risk and does what Jesus is doing, namely in the story, walking on the water. He doesn’t quite manage it, but he makes a good attempt, but then takes his eyes off Jesus, but even so, I think it is an important lesson.
As Christians we want to get closer to Jesus, and we do this by doing what Jesus does. Now I am not suggesting we go to the Kale or the Bowmont and practise walking on water. But Jesus forgave – do what Jesus does. Take time to pray – do what Jesus does. Welcome the stranger, love your enemies, break down barriers, speak up for justice – do what Jesus does.
For 2000 years people have sought to get closer to Christ, by doing what Jesus does, and their lives are an example to us all. Let us keep our eyes firmly focussed on Jesus and take the risk of being as Christ to those around – and do what Jesus does. Amen
Hymn 802 – We are here to praise you
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Faithful God, bless the gifts we bring to you today. Use them and us to plant seeds of faith, hope and love in the world so that your goodness will grow among your people, and your name be honoured for Christ’s sake.
God of all people,
your love and grace sustain the world and all who live in it. When we foolishly set up walls between people, you tear them down and draw us into one family, united in Christ and in compassion.
The pandemic has filled so many countries and neighbours with turmoil and fear.
So we come before you with prayers for the world you love.
Astonishing God, you surprise us.
You come to us in unforeseen circumstances and in unexpected people.
We give you thanks for all the healers and heroes who have stepped forward during the pandemic to surprise us with kindness and courage.
We pray for all who still face upheaval and uncertainty because of COVID-19.
Ever equip our leaders with wisdom and imagination to address the fear and change we are facing. And fill our hearts with compassion and understanding for the most fearful.
God of peace, you reassure us.
You remind us not to be afraid when troubles arise.
We pray for all people who live in precarious situations not related to the pandemic. Assure them they are not forgotten.
We pray for those who struggle with illness, grief or depression. We pray for all who have lost loved ones. May they know your peace and strength.
We bring before you the people of Beirut, caught up in the terrible explosion and adding to an already fraught situation. Bless the medical teams as they try to cope.
We pray for charities like Christian Aid, trying to respond to this and to so many other situations of need in our world. May we ever be conscious of the needs of others.
Hymn 490 (vv1,2) – Jesus lover of my soul
Go in peace, to love and serve God. And may God surprise us on the way, Christ Jesus be our company, and the Spirit lift up our lives. May the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you and all whom you love, wherever they may be, now and forevermore. Amen
We had a wonderful service at Yetholm on Sunday morning (2nd August). Colin is having a short break, so worship was led by Stuart Kelly. We had a full house, including a couple who were visiting Yetholm, having just completed the Penine Way & Kenny was there to make sure the words of the (sadly unsung!) hymns were displayed - a sign that things are slowly getting back to normal.
Thanks to Gordon the service was filmed and is now on YouTube. If you weren't able to be with us and would like to view it, then click HERE.
A podcast of this service can be heard by going to Podcast page of the webite - or simply by clicking HERE.
Call to Worship.
Our call to worship is from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 7, verses 16 and 17: “Never again shall they feel hunger or thirst; because the Lamb who is at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of the water of life”
Hymn – 184 – Sing to the Lord a joyful song
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Our Father, who is Creator and Maker and Shaper; dear Son, who is teacher, healer and Saviour; blessed Spirit, who is Councillor, Consoler and Conscience; we approach you in veneration and in wonder. In these straitened days we have been offered the chance to look closely and deeply at what You granted and what we have taken for granted: we see the flowers blossom and bloom; we see the return of swallows and bumblebees; we see the ever changing palette of the sky. When You saw what you had fashioned you saw that it was good, and we are privileged to share in the merest fragment of that. We have seen the small acts of kindness, the big examples of generosity and the resurgence of fellow-feeling., and for this we give thanks.
You saw the world and you saw that it was good. You see us and see how far below expectations we have fallen. Lord Jesus, you left a simple set of instructions for us, and we have failed abysmally in all of them. Have we fed the hungry? No. Have we given something to drink to the thirsty? No. Have we invited in the stranger? No. Have we clothed those who have none? No. Have we tended the sick? No. Have we visited the prisoner? No. Do we love our neighbours? Only if we’ve known them for thirty years. Do not let us confuse occasional and intermittent acts of charity with having a truly loving heart. We have not done these things, especially for the least of your brothers and sisters. In a moment of silence, we will confess what you already know; the manifold sins within us and listen for You to tell us how to rectify them.
God, you promised never to turn your back on a repentant sinner. In the hope of us living up to your faithfulness we are now emboldened to say the family prayer that you taught us, saying:
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy Kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil;
for Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
Readings: Genesis 32:22-31; St Matthew 14:13-21.
Hymn – 348, Praise the One who breaks the darkness.
When I was a schoolboy, one of my favourite television programmes was I, Claudius, with that ghastly snake slithering over the mosaic floor. As you can all see, my legs are not the least shoogly in the world, and never have been, and so the limping Claudius was something of an inspiration even then. (I also had a stammer in those days). Claudius is seen as weak by Tiberius, by Sejanus, by Caligula, and their interpretation of him as a hirpling fool means they underestimate him. But it did start me thinking about what limps mean. There are plenty of others – Oedipus, who solved the puzzle of the plague only to realise it was himself; Pellehan, the Fisher King of Arthurian myth tasked with protecting the Grail; Amfortas in Wagner’s Parsifal, lamed by the very spear that pierced Jesus. And then there is Jacob. As Colin has shown over the past few weeks, Jacob is something of a scoundrel, cheating his brother, his father and his father-in-law. In today’s passage we hear of him wrestling with what he thinks is an angel. After the night long struggle, his hip is put out and he walks away limping. He also has a new name: Israel. Jacob has deceived and wheedled and disguised all his life thus far, but the thing about a limp is you can’t conceal it. It also means you have to learn to walk through pain. Israel is a different person after this encounter, and although we see him make misjudgements in the later chapters, there is none of the old wiliness. The idea of him being renewed by a combat, a struggle, a wrestling with God is important; because who of us here, in our heart of hearts, could say they have never struggled with God? It might be through loss, or grief, or apathy, or not feeling good enough, or sickness, or unfairness but all surely have sometimes struggled with God. The good news is that in his love he gives us the capacity to change. But it is a public change, not just crossed fingers about promising to be good.
I thought long and hard about how the passage from Genesis relates to the passage from Matthew, and I think in part it is about the very public nature of both Israel’s impediment and the open, un-ignorable ministry of Christ. The feeding of the 5000 is a story we all think we know. It is obviously of central importance as it appears in all four Gospels – not even the Nativity gets that! But it’s useful to go through it a bit slowly and compare the versions.
In Matthew the first thing we learn is that Jesus is wanting to go away, to withdraw, to a deserted place on his own. Why? He has just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist, has been murdered in a particularly gruesome fashion. But his desire for peace and prayer is not going be fulfilled. When the crowds catch up, what does he do first? He heals many of them. How many were there? 5000 we all learn, though Matthew says “about 5000”, “besides women and children”. To put that in context, that’s more than double the capacity of the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. It’s more than ten times the population of Yetholm. We get other details in the other Gospels. Mark adds in the detail of the disciples’ exasperation, that it would take eight months of wages to pay for all the food, and that it would be best if the crowd were to disperse. Luke mentions they were to all sit in groups of fifty, more importantly he says Jesus first directs the disciples “you give them something to eat”. John picks up on this, with Philip being the most frustrated of the twelve: in a way Jesus always challenged the disciples. If they had believed – just as when Peter tries to walk on the water – they could have performed the miracle themselves. John also has the detail that the five loaves and two fishes are given by “a boy”. I have often wondered what became of that boy. Did he cheer along on Palm Sunday? Did he find a mission? What did he learn? Maybe he learned from that phrase when Jesus says “let nothing be wasted”.
It must have been some spectacle. Just as Jacob / Israel is now not able to dissimulate after his encounter with God, Jesus has made a huge demonstration of his power and his love. John reports that many “wanted to make him king by force” – and he goes away again by himself. Let’s not forget that Christ, being wholly God and wholly human, takes on himself our weaknesses. Like Jacob / Israel, he struggled with God, asking that the cup be taken from him, imploring “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But what will persist? Compassion, generosity and most of all love will outlast the long dark night of the soul. The time will come when we too can break bread together again.
Prayers of Intercession.
We pray for the world, a world where many are hungry and where many hunger for something better to come into being. We pray for all those engaged in healing, in curing, in feeding, in sustaining, in simply being there for others. We pray for all those who have taken up the challenge of leaving a world for future generations that is less damaged and polluted. We pray above all for a world where the boundaries we put between ourselves crumble away.
We pray for the Church, the Universal Church, in all its forms. We thank you for the ministry we have from Colin, and wish him well-earned rest and respite during this time. We pray for a church that can once again inspire more than 5000 people in a single day, and has the courage, even the audacity, to do so.
We pray for all those in all forms of power and influence. Just as Jesus retreated from populist acclaim, let us have leaders who do not want power for its own sake, or for selfish reasons. Grant wisdom, sensitivity and a sense of true duty to those who wield power, and the patience to make decisions in a considered and considerate manner.
We pray for all those who are in need. For all those who are anxious, all those who are fearful, all those who are uncertain, give peace and consolation. We pray especially for those who are struggling with the conditions we now live under; for those who are worried about employment, whether their home is safe, where the next meal might be coming from, what will happen next. We pray for those who are sick, not just from the current pandemic, but for all those who ache, who are in pain and who suffer. Grant your mercy to them and make us messengers of mercy. We name now all those of whom we have a particular concern or care.
We pray for the dying and the dead. You, Lord, suffered it and knew it as suffering. For all those who have gone before we give thanks, and rejoice that they are in your more glorious presence.
Hymn – 513 – Courage, brother! Do not stumble.
Go now in peace to love and serve the Lord and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Spirit, rest with us and remain with us now and forevermore. Amen