The Lord be with you! Welcome, Cheviot churches and also those joining us from elsewhere. I hope everyone is staying well and keeping safe. Come, people of God, let us worship together on this Third Sunday of Lent.
Call to Worship
The heavens are telling out the glory of God
The firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
The law of the Lord revives the soul
May God’s teaching bring wisdom in our worship
Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord
You are our rock and redeemer, and we praise you.
Hymn 198 – Let us build a house
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
you have set the whirling cosmos in motion
and called all creatures into being.
All that exists speaks of your majesty,
yet no detail misses your care and attention.
You know each of us by name,
and make yourself known to those who seek you.
Your wisdom delights the heart and purifies the soul.
We gather to enjoy your presence with us,
and to listen for your Word for our times and our lives.
God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
to you alone all worship, honour and glory are due,
this day and every day, now and always.
God of majesty and mercy,
we are aware that you are present here and everywhere, drawing near to us.
Yet we confess we are often distracted from your presence.
Many things compete for our attention.
We are tempted to seek things that cannot truly satisfy. We envy those who are successful in the world’s terms, and so pursue our own desires,
without questioning the cost to the earth or those in need.
Forgive us, O God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, here is the good news: God loves and values us and forgives what is past.
Trust in your hearts the promise of new life and proclaim with your lips the goodness of God.
Readings – Exodus 20:1–17
Hymn 253 – Inspired by love and anger
Holy God, during this period of Lent, please give us a new awareness of your presence in our Cheviot Church community and help us to live by the values of the Ten Commandments; not forgetting Jesus' commandment to love one another, and hold sacred our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Over this last year, we have had a new set of rules to keep. Rules relating to the Covid pandemic: keeping a distance, washing our hands, wearing a face mask, how many people we can meet. These rules have changed over the months; some of us have kept them very strictly, while others have maybe had little lapses, but they have been very much there for our safety. Yes, many of us long to meet up with family or go on holiday, but we realise the rules are there for the good of everyone.
In our first reading today we read about another set of rules – the 10 commandments. The Israelites had just escaped from Egypt, and God is setting the boundaries and providing the framework of how they would live as a society. In Egypt they would have been used to lots of different gods. If you were wanting good weather for your garden, for example, you would go to one god; if having a baby, you would go to another. But in the 10 commandments, God starts by stating quite categorically that there is only one God and one alone. Then there are rules for how to relate to God – not to make idols, and so on- and how to relate to one another – don’t kill, don’t steal and so on. They were giving a vision of what society should be like and how to shape our relationships with God and with one another, and as such they were life-giving, they were something positive and for the good of all. The Israelites would use them as a basis to build their society, as they are the basis for our society today.
Of course, over the years these 10 commandments were developed to cover all sort of situations the Israelites might find themselves in, and the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy contain many more laws. In time, as the Israelites settled, the worship of God became centred on the temple in Jerusalem, where sacrifices were made, and there were rules about what to sacrifice and when.
The Temple should have been a place where people could feel close to God; so often in travelling round the country pre-Covid, I loved to drop into churches, and they sanctuaries of peace and tranquillity. But in our Gospel reading, we find that this was not the case when Jesus went to the Temple in John’s Gospel. It was like a market place, full of the clamour of buying and selling. There were various booths, changing money into Temple currency and selling animals and birds for the various sacrifices. In seeing it, Jesus was filled with righteous anger, that God’s house should be defiled in this way, and he proceeded to overturn their tables and drive them out.
It always strikes me as out of character with the picture we have of Jesus, but he felt strongly that God was being dishonoured. Similarly, there are so many injustices in our world, and over the centuries and indeed today many Christians have channelled their frustration with injustice to reform society and keep it more in line with the vision of Christ’s kingdom.
In our opening hymn we sang of building a house where love can dwell, where peace and justice meet and where there is an end to fear and danger, where all are welcome. So let us live our lives, seeking to live out Christ’s commandments and build a society where love and respect and compassion hold sway.
Hymn 755 – Be still and know that I am God
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Receive our gifts, Generous God, as an expression of our commitment to you and your ministry. Bless them, and use all that we can give to offer hope and healing in the world you love.
we thank you for the world you created
and the opportunities we have to enjoy its beauty and its life sustaining promise.
When we find occasions to breathe in fresh air and exercise outdoors, remind us of our partnership with you to care for creation.
As spring comes closer and the sun shines longer each day,
reawaken our hope in your promise of new life
to sustain us as the weeks of the pandemic stretch on.
Ever present God,
we thank you for walking with us through days of uncertainty as well as times of pleasure and satisfaction.
In times of risk and stress, you provide a still point of calm.
In times of challenge, you are the source of courage and confidence for us.
This day we pray for those who are struggling with the isolation and frustration the pandemic means for so many. Bring them peace and patience with your love.
We pray for churches whose common life has been changed so much by months of pandemic rules. Keep us strong in faith and fellowship, so that we may serve as agents of healing and hope in our communities.
We pray for our nation and the nations of this world. May leaders confront the challenges of this time with courage, wisdom and compassion. We pray for the Scottish parliament at this time of political tensions. We also pray for Vanuatu in the Pacific, featured in the World Day of Prayer and pray for the people in Myanmar and Yemen and the Uighurs in China. Grant them peace and security.
And we pray for all those who are enduring pain and illness, those who are facing grief and loss. Be their comfort and encouragement day by day.
Lord of all in need,
we bring to you the prayers of our hearts.
We commend to you those about whom we are especially concerned,
praying for… Silence
Hymn 510 – Jesus calls us here to meet him
May the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding keep your hearts and thoughts in the knowledge and love of Christ, and may the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, be with you and those whom you love and those we are called to love, for evermore. Amen