The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those in other places too! This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well and keeping safe. We find ourselves in another new month, and while some restrictions are being eased, some still remain, and we continue to worship where we are. Some of us are indoors, others may be in the garden, some in Yetholm or Morebattle or Hownam or Linton, others in Kelso, and some far further afield, but we are connected to one another through the God who made us. So come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.
God is all mercy and grace
Slow to anger and rich in love.
God provides help for us in moments of trouble
And gives a fresh start to those who feel like giving up.
Come, let us worship God!
Let us lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving.
Hymn 214 – New every morning (vv 1,2,4)
Prayers of Approach and Confession
God of all creation, though we are scattered, you call us together; though we are alone, you bring us into a great company; and living in unfamiliar times, you draw us into the Gospel story.
Lord Jesus, teacher of wisdom for all ages and alive and present with us now, we come to meet you here
Holy Spirit, blowing where you will, never confined, never locked down, bringing to us the presence of God, we open ourselves to your touch.
Merciful God, we look back over the past week and we review our lives and how we have lived them. We lay before you our regrets and our sorrows, our weakest moments and strongest flaws, and we pray for forgiveness and grace, for your Spirit to change us and your love to move us.
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God’s compassion reaches out to all creation. Know that you are forgiven through Christ, our Lord. Live in peace and harmony with yourself and with all people. Amen
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 – Song of Songs 2: 8-13
Matthew 11: 16-19,18-23
Hymn 257 – Singing we gladly worship… (v 1 and chorus)
Weekly Prayer by Arthur and Kathleen:
Loving God, we thank you that your yoke is easy, your burden is light and so we offer ourselves to you in faith and confidence. Show us how we can best be part of your response to our prayers and fill us with the Spirit of life which was in Christ Jesus, your Son and our Saviour. Amen
On my bedroom wall there is a poster. It is from the Israel Museum, and is a stylized picture of the Sea of Galilee with snow-capped Mount Hermon in the distance. The town of Tiberias nestles by the lake, but in the foreground are two figures, a man and a woman, one of whom is looking after some goats. I don’t know who is the shepherd, but the couple are obviously enjoying each other’s company. At the bottom of the poster are the words we read from Song of Songs, ‘See the winter is passed, the rains are over and gone. The land is in flower and the turtle dove is singing’.
As we remember from our Sunday School/ Bible Class days, the Bible is a library of 66 books, and just as in Kelso library (whenever it reopens), you find different sections; crime, romance, biography, reference, so in the Bible we find different genres. There are history books like Kings or Chronicles or Acts. There is biography like the Gospels. The Psalms would qualify for the music section. There is wisdom literature, prophetic literature, collections of letters. And there is also poetry, such as the Song of Songs, and more specifically, love poetry.
In fact, it can be really quite racy at times, and over the centuries there have been some in both the Jewish and Christian communities who have questioned why Song of Songs is in the Bible, especially when there is no explicit mention of God. However, it has always had its defenders among the rabbis and monks and theologians, who point to the young lovers and see in their love a reflection of the love between God and Israel, between Christ and the Church.
There is also a lovely mutuality between the couple, of give and take and of respect for each other. It is sad that down the centuries and in so many cultures that mutuality and respect have not been there, and it is something we must ever strive for.
In the short passage we read this morning, we find the woman at her window, gazing out longingly for her lover. In the language of today, there is a sense of her being isolated, and she is longing for her isolation to be ended, for her lover to arrive. Then suddenly she sees him swiftly approaching her like a gazelle, coming to break her isolation. That speaks to us at this time, as we long to get back to some kind or normality. We have been very inventive in keeping in touch with people and in having meetings by Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but there is nothing like face-to-face contact and being able to speak to our family and friends.
But also someone said that the heartbeat of faith is a yearning for God. We long to get back to church: to worship together, to enjoy our fellowship as the family of God. Yes, we can worship in our homes, often more comfortably with a cup of tea by our side, but wherever we are, we long for God, the God who loves us and who can alone fulfil our deepest needs.
The lover appears, and everything seems to change. He says that the winter is passed; the rains are over and gone. The flowers spring up, the fig tree blossoms and the vine is blooming. The cold of winter has passed, and the earth regains its fruitfulness. There is a new world. There is so much hope here for the couple, hope of new life together.
Again, it is a reflection of the new life we are offered in Christ. The old has gone and the new has come. At present, the various restrictions are being eased, and we are hopeful of turning a corner and leaving behind the winter of lockdown and the detrimental effect it has had on so many people’s mental wellbeing. We go slowly, and we trust in God, the God who offers us life in all its abundance. And we go to make our new world , learning from our mistakes and creating a world in which love and respect for all abound.
Song 755: Be still and know
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
O God, who created and redeemed us, we offer our selves to you: all we have, all we are, and all we might yet become. Use us and use our gifts ever to expand your Kingdom in your world.
God of heaven and earth, in these times apart from friends and loved ones, we thank you that there is nothing in all creation, not even coronavirus, that is able to separate us from your love.
Lord in your kindness, hear our prayer
We pray for your wisdom to inspire politicians, judges, and all who form and keep our laws. Work among us by your Spirit to recognize injustice and respond to create systems of fairness and trust.
Lord, in your kindness, hear our prayer.
We pray for your healing for those who are ill or in chronic pain, for those grieving the many losses of the pandemic, and for all who feel afraid for the future. Work among us by your Spirit to renew hope and sustain our support for each other.
Lord, in your kindness, hear our prayer.
We pray for those whose workplaces are recovering from the lockdowns and economic shock during the pandemic. Give courage to those who have lost so much, and creativity to those reorganizing their lives. Work among us by your Spirit to rebuild common life with an eye to the most vulnerable.
Lord, in your kindness, hear our prayer.
O Christ, the Master Carpenter, who at the last through wood and nails purchased our whole salvation; wield well your tools in the workshop of your world, so that we who come rough-hewn to your work bench may be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand. Amen.
Hymn 476 – Mine eyes have seen the glory (vv1,4)
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
And may the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you,
with the people you love
and those whom we are called to love. Amen