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
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. Wherever we are, we meet together in God’s presence. We may be scattered and dispersed, but we are still God’s church, called to be a light to the world. Let us worship God together for our service for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost.
Call to Worship
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain and heals our wounds.
God is our light and our salvation May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always
Hymn 485 – Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Living God, Lord of heaven and earth, you are the promise of eternal life:
you love us for ever, treasuring each of us in our uniqueness from the moment of our creation until we join the whole company of heaven.
Living God, through life you journey with us: our companion in the questioning, the spur to our search for truth, the passion in our indignation, always gently, tenderly, holding us in love.
We come to you, God of love, for with you there is room for everyone, and you are there in all our fears, our anxieties and pain.
Loving God, we confess that we have failed you and ourselves; we have not been what you intend us to be, nor have we been what we want to be:
We would touch the world with goodness,
but instead we chase after our own salvation.
We would care for your creation,
but we squander it with little thought for those still to come.
We would meet the needs of others,
but we find ourselves reluctant to share.
We would stand for truth, but we remain silent in the face of evil.
We would live with love and compassion,
but we take on the values of this world.
We would share our faith joyfully, but we lack courage to trust in you.
We need you, God, if we are to become who you want us to be.
Transform us by the power of your Spirit.
Renew our faith day by day and make it as big as a mustard seed,
full of promise and possibility,
so that we may live with courage and purpose
and see the signs and parables you have for us in the world today.
God’s love for us and for the world is faithful and steadfast.
God is slow to anger and full of mercy and grace.
God breathes new life into us, so that we can start afresh,
thinking new thoughts and making new choices. We are a forgiven people! Thanks be to God!
Readings – Genesis 29:15-28
Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-50
Hymn 527- Lord make us servants of your peace
Weekly Prayer from Arthur and Kathleen
Father God, we are reminded that the kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure. Help us to search until we find it so that we can worship You as the one who has given us this life. We ask that You will help us to live it to the full. May we be the friends and neighbours that You want us to be, and help us to spread the warmth of Your love to everyone we meet. Amen
Over this lockdown period, many of us have been developing new talents and discovering new hobbies – baking bread, researching family trees – but I have taken up stamp collecting again, and I find myself on Ebay, bidding for stamps, Egyptian stamps in particular. I see something I like and I make a bid. Needless to say, someone outbids me; should I make a further bid? The seconds are ticking down. But these stamps appeal to me, they tell a story; maybe they are old or have a particular design, but I feel I must have them for my collection and so I bid again, with seconds remaining. If I win, I am delighted to have the stamps in my collection, though, to be honest, it would not be the end of the world if I lost.
But there are those who are determined to spend whatever it takes to buy certain stamps or a particular edition of a book or their dream house or an outfit that will be just right for a particular occasion. Jesus tells a story today about a merchant who comes across a pearl and is ready to sacrifice all that he had in order to buy it.
In fact, in the Gospel today we read five little parables, each explaining what the Kingdom of God is like. Jesus uses every day examples, A tiny mustard seed growing into a large bush; a woman baking bread, a fisherman drawing in his net; someone stumbling over treasure in a field and selling everything to buy the property (which I always felt was a slightly unfair on the owner); and the merchant seeking to buy the pearl of great price, and that is the one I want to concentrate on today.
I think all of us like ‘nice things’. As human beings, we are not content with mediocrity or with second best – we like to aim high and have the best. Admittedly, sometimes money can be a hindrance, but whether it is the clothes we wear or the food we buy, we all like to have something of good quality. So it was with the merchant, who obviously dealt with gemstones and jewels. He was used to dealing with quality gems, but when he saw the pearl, he knew he would never be satisfied until he owned it. Therefore, he sold all his other jewels to raise the money to buy the pearl.
But for Jacob, in our Genesis reading, it was Rachel. He had met her at the well and fallen head over heels in love with her. It was pure Mills and Boon. EXCEPT, in order to marry her, he had to work for her father for 7 years. EXCEPT it turned out to be the tradition that the elder sister must marry first, so Jacob had to work a further 7 years for Rachel. There is some lovely irony here, as Jacob, who had deceived so many, was deceived! But to him marriage to Rachel was worth it, and she remained his favourite wife. Work for the pearl of great price!
In our relationship with God, it is worth pursuing the best and we are called to offer our best. But the best, as the merchant in the parable discovered, comes at a cost, and there is always a cost to discipleship, a cost to loving the unloved and standing up for God’s justice. God calls, and we must follow.
Moses could have remained in Sinai looking after his father -in-law’s sheep, but it would have been second best; instead he was used by God to liberate the Israelites from Pharaoh’s yoke.
Simon Peter could have stayed on his fishing boat and been content, but instead he followed Christ and was instrumental in turning the world upside down.
So many people have followed Christ down the centuries, endured many difficulties, sometimes it hasn’t been easy to be a Christian, but it was all worthwhile, because of the satisfaction is serving God and helping their fellow human beings, because we are in Christ.
We too are called to develop our relationship with God and to live out the kingdom values in the here and now. We are called to know God more clearly, love God more dearly and follow more nearly day by day. We seek out that pearl of great price, because that pearl is the one which makes all the difference.
Hymn 782- Lord of Life, we come to you
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Good and generous God,
we offer you our gifts - of love, of service, and of money. Use these gifts, we pray, that they may sow seeds of hope and bring closer your dream of justice and peace.
Good and generous God,
In Jesus Christ you came to us, promising us life in abundance.
We give you thanks today for the abundant gifts we receive in him:
Assurance of your love day by day;
Hope renewed when things seem bleak;
Peace that comes when we trust ourselves to your eternal keeping.
These are the gifts that matter, O God, so for all the times we experience these gifts we thank you.
Generous God, the world is going through difficult times this summer and so many things have had to be rearranged because of the pandemic.
So we pray for all whose lives seem empty of joy:
Because plans have changed, and friends seem far away.
Because hearts are filled with disappointment and loneliness.
Because they are without work.
Because they face discrimination
Because sorrow and grief rise up each day.
And we think of all who have lost loved ones and pray for all going through difficult times.
We remember before you those who lives are empty of peace and hope:
Because they struggle with illness or disability.
Because they are powerless in the face of violence.
Because old animosities rankle and opportunities for reconciliation are elusive.
Send your dove of peace and promise to create new possibilities for each one.
We pray for all our leaders in government, that they may rule wisely, and we remember all in positions of leadership in Church, that they may live faithfully to their calling .
Good and generous God, fill us with the energy and compassion of your Spirit to reach out to those facing difficult times. In Jesus name, Amen.
Hymn 511- Your hand, O God, has guided
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.
May the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, be with all whom you love, wherever they may be, and be with all we are called to love, forevermore. Amen
Hello everyone! We have just been given permission by Presbytery (on Friday afternoon at 4.45pm!) to reopen Yetholm Kirk. We plan to have a service this Sunday at 10 am. We may have to wait a little longer before we reopen Morebattle, though everything is in place.
It will be exciting to be able to gather in church again, but please be aware that it will initially be very different. Safety is paramount, and the buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after each service. Only come to church when you feel comfortable to do so. I cannot stress enough that we should not feel any pressure to come. Please note the following safety measures:
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 7th Sunday after Pentecost.
Call to Worship
We gather in the presence of God;
We gather to worship and praise.
We gather in joy and expectancy;
We gather in beauty and wonder.
Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening;
Speak your Word of life to us, O God.
Hymn 147 – All creatures of our God and King (1,4,7)
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Creator God, in you we live and move and have our being:
You alone have been our help and guide through good times and bad.
You alone give us the strength we need to face the challenges around us.
You alone can give rest for our bodies and souls.
To you we turn and in your presence we find the peace and comfort we long for.
Fill us with your Spirit in this time of worship;
Open our minds and hearts,
so that we may see as you see, love as you love,
and follow your ways for the sake of Christ our Lord.
God who sees and knows our inmost thoughts and our thoughtless actions, we confess how blind we are to our own faults, but how harsh in judging others; how swift we are to take for gain, yet slow to give to others; how proud we are of our own success, yet grudging in our praise of others.
Forgive who we have been, amend who we are, and direct who we shall be
For the sake of Christ, our Lord.
My friends, remember that God is slow to be angry and quick to forgive; kind and gracious to all. Know that your sins are forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ, and forgive those who have sinned against you.
Reading – Genesis 28: 10-19a
Matthew 13: 24-30
Hymn 268 – O God of Bethel (1,3,5)
Here is our weekly prayer from Arthur and Kathleen: May the love of our good and generous God guide and protect us; May the hope of the gospel sustain us and bring us joy; When we are lost or lonely; when the road ahead seems hard, or when the darkness gathers, May the light and peace of Christ be ours. Amen
Remember the days when we could go to the theatre or cinema or to a concert and have no thought about keeping 2 metres apart? It seems long ago, a different world. Well, I remember being very excited seeing a play at the Lyceum in Edinburgh. It had very good reviews, so I was all set to enjoy the evening. The theatre was filling up with people all dressed for the occasion, but then I noticed a youngish woman come in, just in jeans and a big baggy jumper with holes in it, and by her side was a girl, obviously still at primary school -I would have thought too young to appreciate the play. And did they not sit down bang in front of me! I thought, the girl will be bored and fidgeting all through the performance. Now behind me was sitting a nice family with teenage boys, nicely dressed – perhaps they were studying the play at school. What a contrast, I thought.
The play began, and to my surprise, the young girl was rapt, her eyes fixed at the stage. But behind me, there were sweeties being passed along, the wrappers crinkling, and that went on through the entire first half, along with whispers and comments.
I had a disturbed performance, but the bother came from behind, from the ‘nice’ family, and not from in front.
You would think I would have learned by now, but no. We rush in and judge people - because of how they dress or the accents they have or the kind of cars they drive or, these days, whether they are wearing a mask or not, but very often we get it completely wrong.
Jesus told the parable this morning about the wheat and the tares. A farmer planted a field of wheat, but someone with a grudge came by night and planted weeds in it too, so wheat and weeds grew up together. I know there are a lot of keen gardeners in the congregation, who would instinctively want to get in there and pull up the weeds; it is a natural reaction. But in the parable the farmer says to wait until everything has grown and only then will it be separated. The final judgement belongs to God, and it is for God to separate the wheat from the weeds.
The weeds in the story were apparently very like wheat, especially to begin with. It was hard to distinguish them, and so an overenthusiastic person might well pull out the wheat, as well as the weed. I well know that I have done that in my garden.
But we do the same when we judge others. We are telling God, ‘I am going to pull up the weeds’, but our assumptions and first impressions can get us into a pickle, as we don’t know the full story. Jacob is a case in point. He was a nasty individual. Obviously one of the ‘weeds’. But God had a purpose for Jacob; in our story this morning he was given a vision of a ladder to the skies and even a new name. He had potential to change. Yes, he still, like all of us, got some things wrong, like showing his favouritism later to Joseph with his multicoloured coat, but he had potential to change.
The parable is talking about patience. It shows God as patient, waiting till the crops had grown and encourages us to have that same godly patience, rather than jumping in to judge and criticise before we know the full story. Remember the parable of the fig tree – it was useless, not bearing any fruit, and the workers wanted to cut it down, but the owner gave it yet another year. God always gives us the second chance.
And the parable is also talking about us and how God judges with clemency, giving each one of us the opportunity to change and to grow. We are all a mixture of wheat and weed, of holiness and selfishness, saint and sinner. but God doesn’t give up on us. God wants us ever to grow more Christlike caring for our neighbour and standing up for justice and so produce a rich harvest. Amen
Chorus 791 – Open your eyes
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Gracious God, we offer you what we have. Bless these gifts with your love so that their goodness will overflow to meet the needs of those who cry out to you and to us.
God who is full of kindness and love,
hear our prayers for the world, for one another, and for ourselves:
We pray for this congregation and for the church around the world: that we may be faithful and courageous in the face of all challenges that arise day by day;
For mercy, justice, understanding, and peace in relationships between nations; that in this time of anxiety about the future there will still be generosity for all in need.
For those who work in fields and forests, in mines and offices, in hospitals, schools and shops; and for those who cannot find work: that as the economy is reorganized, all who do work will be fairly treated and those seeking work will not lose hope.
For all those in danger and need: for the sick and the dying, the poor and the oppressed, for those standing up against injustice, and for all still at risk from COVID-19.
For those who are closest to us, for friendships that have stood the test of many years, and for those who love us enough to tell us the truth about ourselves: that they may know our love and appreciation.
Lord, in your mercy hear our prayers. Amen
Hymn 229 – We plough the fields and scatter
Sending God who sows and God who reaps,
God who allows growth even in the hard places,
God who waits patiently for the right time,
send us out now into the fields of your world
to plant hope amidst the weeds and seeds of life.
And may we learn to scatter love wisely
till you gather us in once more.
And may the blessing of Almighty God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, be with you all, forevermore. Amen
Warm greetings from the Manse!
I wanted to highlight a couple of events which will take place this Saturday, 18th July.
Firstly, Simon and Bridget Fraser are opening their gardens at Corbet Tower from 10am to 4pm. It will be the 25th year of opening their gardens, and there will be 25 pyramids of sweet peas, so we are encouraged to bring along some scissors and cut ourselves a bunch! There will, needless to say, be no refreshments this year, but we are encouraged to take a picnic. There will be no entry charge, but there will be a donation box, and donations will come to Cheviot Churches, which we really appreciate. Obviously social distancing will be in place, and also please note that there will be no toilet facilities. It should be a super day, so please support it (and pray for dry sunny weather)!
The St Cuthbert's Coffee Stop is opening up again this week, so please pop along for coffee/lunch. On Saturday evening at 7.30pm they will hold a Quiz by Zoom to generate much-needed funds for the project. It should be great fun, so please do support it. Tickets are £5 for individuals and £15 for a household, and you can donate your money by going online - click HERE - or type 'St Cuthberts Coffee Stop' into Google, and it should come up. Leave your name and email address, so an invitation can be sent.
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are 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 6th Sunday after Pentecost.
Call to Worship
The seed is sown and the crop is grown.
Come, Lord, strengthen us as we grow in you.
The rain hydrates and the sun radiates.
Come, Lord, quench our thirst in the warmth of your love.
The land is tilled and the flour milled.
Come, Lord, refine us by your Spirit.
Come let us worship the Living God as the seed of the Word is sown here with us today.
Hymn 739 – The Church’s one foundation
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Almighty God, You are the light of the minds that know you,
you are the strength of those who serve you,
you are the rest of those who seek you.
God in whom we live and move and have our being,
In worship we come and pause in your presence--
to rest from our work and responsibilities,
to rest from our play and distractions,
to rest from our fears and concerns.
Receive our love and attention in this time of worship
so that we enjoy your attention to our lives in this world you love.
Merciful God, we often appear to be choked by greed and selfishness We confess that we indulge ourselves and ignore the needs of others. We are quick to protect what we believe is our own and forget to share the bounty you have so generously provided for us. We have ignored the opportunities for bringing the love you have shown to our neighbours and those in need. Forgive us, we pray. In your mercy, give us wisdom to walk in your ways, the will to seek things that truly matter, and the grace to renew relationships with you and with one another.
St. Paul reminds us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the power of sin and death. We are forgiven, so let us live our lives, forgiving one another. Amen
Readings – Genesis 25: 19-34
Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
Hymn 623 Here in this place, new light is streaming
Weekly Prayer by Arthur and Kathleen:
Everlasting God, we bring our prayers to you, Lord of all nations, asking that your blessing of love and peace may be known to all people everywhere. Creator God, we are your chosen stewards of this beautiful world; you provide us with seed and soil to sow. Help us to bear abundant fruit from the seeds of potential that you have planted within us. Amen
Margaret Rustad from Yetholm was recently awarded first prize in the Guild competition for her story ‘The Journey’. It told of a woman Suzanne travelling to Australia to see her terminally ill sister. It is a story of sisters coming together and sharing stories from the past, cementing their close relationship, even though they had lived so far apart for 50 years and preparing themselves for the sister’s final journey, that of dying.
This lockdown period has made us reflect upon the important things of life. And family would be right at the top. Most families are good at keeping in touch, others less so. Occasionally at funerals I have, however, been saddened when it becomes apparent that families have lost touch and only realise too late the importance of the family bond.
Some families are of course dysfunctional. That is not a modern thing: one of the best examples of a dysfunctional family is the one we read about this morning in Genesis – Isaac, Rebekah and their twin sons, and today we focus on the boys. Twins are usually very close, with a special bond and fierce devotion to each other but in this case Esau and Jacob were rivals, competing even in their mother’s womb. Physically they were different, with Esau hairy and red-haired, while Jacob was smooth-skinned. Their personalities were different too. Esau liked the outdoor life. He was a hunter and was strong. Jacob, on the other hand, used his brain, though often in ways to trick people. He would deceive his blind father later in the next chapter, but in our story today he famously persuades his brother to sell his birthright for a plate of lentil soup. We instinctively feel sorry for Esau, though I suppose it was ultimately his choice, and he chose the soup over his birthright, which involved being head of the family and inheriting all of the property. Jacob was a second son, even if by only a few minutes. He was an underdog, struggling to make his way in life and using the means at his disposal, namely his brains, to do so. But he sowed the seeds of rivalry and of deceit, and that would grow into division and enmity and which only would be resolved far later in life. We have to watch what we sow.
In our Gospel reading we read the well-known parable of the Sower. I think the farmers in this area would be more professional about how they sowed their seed. The farmer Jesus talked about was quite extravagant, indeed reckless, broadcasting the seed, so that they fell anywhere and everywhere. While some of the precious seed fell on good soil, so much seemed to be wasted, falling on stony ground, on the path and among thorns.
Jesus was describing how the seed, the Word of God, was good, but people received it differently. Some were just not interested; others receptive to a point, but there were so many other distractions, so the seed didn’t grow; but others let it take root within them.
We have just published the summer edition of the ‘Cheviot’ and distribute it to every home in the parish. In some homes it might go straight into the bin (hopefully the recycling one!), but we hope that for most people they will gain something from it, that something will encourage or comfort or challenge; that some good seed may be planted.
I mentioned the sower broadcasting the seed, and of course that is the word we use in media for television or radio broadcasts which reach out to everyone. It can be a force for real good, but also it could be used for propaganda. Horrendous as the Covid 19 pandemic has been, it could have been far worse without the media keeping us informed and for social media keeping us in touch, but not all social media is good, and hate messages have caused confusion and the vulnerable abused. We have to be careful with the seeds that we plant.
As we reflect on the sower, let us consider the words we say, the actions we perform. May they be good seeds. We plant, but it is God who brings forth the harvest. Amen
Prayer of Dedication and Intercession
Generous God, we bring the gifts we have to offer to you, seeds of goodness you planted in our lives which have flourished. Bless and multiply them. Help us to choose wisely how they can best serve your purposes in our church and in your world. Amen.
God of wanton grace and extravagant love,
you formed the earth to be a place of joy and abundance for all your creatures.
For food in all its variety and the people who grow it, transport it, and market it, we give you thanks.
These days of pandemic have shown us how much we depend on others.
We pray for those who do not have enough food,
and for those whose agricultural supply is at risk
through extreme weather, uncertain prices and social upheaval.
Help us care for the earth and its fruitfulness
And for each other in our common need of its fruits.
We pray for farmers, who work night and day, to bring produce from the land: who can feel isolated and stressed, and whose future can be insecure. We also think of farmers in countries affected by drought or flood or locust, seeking to grow their crops.
We pray for children who do not have the nurture they need in early years, and for parents who cannot provide what they did not know. God of love, make up every deficit of love, we pray, and enable us to be co-workers in this field.
In an age when not just seeds are broadcast, but images and sounds, news and opinions, helpful information and cruel lies, we give thanks for all the good and vital connections, that social media has made possible, and pray for those who have been harmed by something with so much potential for good.
We pray for young people concerned already about the future of the planet, who must now be wondering even more, what sort of life lies ahead for them and their children; and for older people, forced to question all that they thought was secure. May we find our security and our hope in you, whose love is in all, and for all, and available always in plentiful supply.
Loving God, we lay before you now our personal concerns in this time of silence:
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer. Amen
Hymn 543 – Christ be our light
Benediction 787 – May the Lord, Mighty God (Aaronic Blessing)
Let us say the grace together: May the grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen
ere to edit.
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