Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 14th Sunday after Pentecost.
With what should I come before the Lord? What sacrifices should I bring?
You have been told what is good and what the Lord requires of you. Only to do right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God.
Hymn 739 – The Church’s one foundation
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
In the world of your creation, you made the seasons to change,
the sun to shine and the rain to fall,
the vines to bear fruit and the fields to produce good things.
You alone are our strength and security;
you alone bring us rest and comfort.
We turn to you as the source of all life,
marvelling at your wisdom,
seeking to learn your purpose for our lives.
We offer you our praise and thanksgiving,
for you are the God who made us,
the Christ who mends us,
and the Spirit who brings us life.
even though we know you are the Source of our lives, we confess we often turn our backs on you.
We speak and think in ways that deny our loyalty and love for you; we ignore the needs of others.
We harbour anger and say things that cause others pain.
In your mercy, restore us to right relationships with you and with one another.
God is tender-hearted and gracious to all and has forgiven you in Christ Jesus. Trust in God’s grace and be kind to one another, forgiving others as God has forgiven you.
Readings – Song of Solomon 2:8–13
Mark 7:1–8, 14–15
Hymn 599 – Holy Spirit, hear us
Gracious God, thank you for our friends and neighbours and those around us with whom we work and share our daily lives. Keep our hearts clean and free from sin so that we can be truly devoted to your service. We ask for the blessing of your presence in the week ahead and pray that you to will guide us, guard us, and keep us safe in all we do and say. Amen.
It is something you learn very quickly when you live in Africa; before you eat, you must wash your hands. Someone brings a bowl of water, and you wash your hands in it. Then after the meal you wash your hands again, this time with soap. The main reason being that you don’t use forks and knives: you use your hands to eat. So when I read that the disciples did not wash their hands before eating, I raise my eyebrows.
For the last year and a half we have been living with all the Covid restrictions, and one of the most important is – to wash our hands. Hygiene has been essential for survival. We sanitise before coming into church; we are fastidious about making sure everything is clean. And we wash our hands. So when I read that the disciples did not wash their hands, I rather sympathise with the scribes and pharisees when they complained to Jesus in our Gospel reading today. Maybe they had a point.
But from Jesus’ reply and stout defence of his friends, you realise that there is something else going on here. The Pharisees are not so concerned about the hygiene perspective, but from the ceremonial perspective. It was the way things were done which mattered. It was religious tradition surrounding the Torah, the law, and the Pharisees were sticklers for observing every jot of the law. Now the law is brilliant – it brings people closer to God, but the outward ritual had become too important, that people forgot what lay at its heart.
The prophets like Micah and Isaiah and Hosea had complained about the same. Amos famously said, I despise your feasts, your rituals – but let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an everflowing stream. Jesus said that what matters is the heart. It is not the façade, not the externals, but what lies at the very heart. And that was love and grace and forgiveness and service.
We find love at the heart of our reading from Hebrew Scriptures. It is love poetry and paints the picture of a woman waiting, always looking out, anticipating the arrival of her lover, then he comes like a gazelle, bounding over the hills to come and be with her. The Love Island of its time. Some question why Song of Songs is in the Bible, but others liken it to God’s relationship with us, Christ’s with the Church, and I like the idea of God bounding over the mountains to speak words of welcome and grace to us and invite us into a relationship. The outcome in the Song of Songs is one of abundance and new life (‘The winter is past; the rain is over and gone’), and so it is in our life of faith where we are offered life in all its abundance.
We all like our rituals. We like the way our services are. We don’t always like new things, but they can make us think. We recite the Lord’s Prayer every week, but do we reflect on what we are saying? Hopefully we do. We all have our rituals, even what we do when we get up in the morning or go to bed at night. They work for us, but we shouldn’t become enslaved to them, and I think that is what Jesus was complaining about.
A life of faith must have so much more than religious observance. It must be one infused with God’s love and a readiness to serve God in word and in deed, for it is what lies at the heart that matters.
Hymn 489 – Come down, O Love Divine
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Great is your faithfulness, O God, and so we offer to you a portion of what we have received through your unfailing goodness. Bless these gifts and our lives, so that your love is proclaimed to the world through all we accomplish in the name of Jesus Christ
God whose Word created life,
we give you thanks for the abundance we enjoy from earth’s goodness.
Make us wise caretakers of the earth’s fragile balance, so vulnerable to drought and disaster.
May your world become a place of abundance for all your creatures,
for we know all our lives depend on you.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of vigilant care,
thank you for the strength and comfort you offer us
in times of sorrow and stress.
We pray for those who do not know security in their lives day by day,
for those facing violence at home or on the streets and for the vulnerable who must depend on others for their care.
Guide us to shape a society where violence is not tolerated, where the weak are protected,
where the elderly are honoured for their experience,
and children are cherished for their gifts.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of all times and places,
as the summer moves toward autumn,
and activities must reorganize while the coronavirus is still present,
we pray for families and churches and organizations trying to make wise choices.
Equip us all with the wisdom we need to plan well,
and act with understanding for those eager to get things going and for those anxious or reluctant to move too quickly.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We thank you for the Life & Work magazine and for all the various insights it brings to its readers.
We continue to remember the situation in Afghanistan and pray for all living in fear. We pray for the leaders of the Taliban that they might restrain their followers from acts of violence.
We remember all affected by storms or adverse weather, by the aftermath of earthquake in Haiti.
We thank you for the peaceful transition in Zambia with the election win by the opposition.
God who hears our desires even in the silence of our hearts,
listen now as we name before you the people and situations on our minds today:
Hymn SGP 72 – Lord, Jesus Christ (1,3,4)
Bless to us, O God, the moon that is above us, the earth that is beneath us, the friends who are around us, your image deep within us. May the blessing of God , Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, now and forevermore. Amen
Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 13th Sunday after Pentecost.
Call to Worship
Father, as we enter into your gates
lift the clouds that obscure our vision -
from anxieties about Sunday dinner
to worries about world politics –
and may we be open to your glorious presence,
Creator and Sustainer of this vast universe;
Saviour and Friend of each individual person.
Hymn 510 vv. 1 and 2. Jesus Call Us Here to Meet Him
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Creator and Sustainer – we praise and thank you for this glorious world in which we find ourselves.
We are often muddled and anxious, silly sometimes, distraught at others,
but at all times you pour out blessings on our heads.
Shepherd and Lamb – we praise you for your loving concern for each person here
In this small village hidden in the hills you see us individually,
you reach out and touch us, you shelter us from spiritual darkness,
you hold out a glimmer of light for each one us as we carry our souls back to you.
Flame and Living Water – we praise you for your justice, for holding us all to account,
for your promise that you will burn off the dross and we shall glow like gold,
that we shall flourish beside still waters.
Father, Son and Holy Ghost accept these prayers of thanks and praise.
Reflection [An illustrated guide to Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came to Tea and how a children's story might help us to see "the signals of what is important and strange and valuable” is today's scripture readings. See video when it posted up after the service.]
Have you noticed how the term ‘Middle Ages/medieval’ is used as a synonym for crude/barbaric? The text we have just read from Kings is even older – probably more than a thousand years older. Can we dismiss it likewise as something crude and barbaric? I don’t think so. In fact, I suspect that people who lived 3000 years ago may well have had a better understanding of humankind’s place in the universe than we do today. In the last few centuries philosophers have sat smoking their pipes and ruminating about God – and if they conclude God exists at all they describe him in abstract/intellectual terms. But that’s not how God is envisaged in the bible. There are hints (eg Golden Calf story) that in the deep past the Hebrews envisaged God as a bull – and image of power – but there’s no actual description in this passage from Kings. By the time Kings was written they had rejected the idea of making any sort of image of God – though metaphors are impossible to escape! Whatever the case, there is a sense throughout this account of the institution of the Temple is of God as an awesome being – fascinating, powerful, unpredictable … even dangerous. Something, in fact, a bit like a mighty bull or, indeed, like a tiger.
In The Tiger Who Came to Tea the tiger arrives out of the blue. In the Kings passage there’s a sense of Solomon trying to entice God into the Temple, almost to trap him. ‘“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” Solomon wants God to ‘dwell’ in this particular place and to be available to him – so he has built this beautiful house to persuade him to be present – not, it is clear, to entirely leave Heaven but to have, as it were, an embassy in Jerusalem. Then, he hopes, with God on his side, present in a special way in Jerusalem, the House of David will last forever … to philosophers this story is a crude way of describing God and his relationship with humankind. For me, I must say, it all makes perfect sense – I can grasp the points that are being made – the thought that lies behind it – much more clearly than would be the case if I read a philosophical text.
Why does the tiger come to visit Sophie in the first place? Is it just that he wants something to eat? Possibly – though I don’t think that is entirely the case. The tiger may be rather scary, but Sophie is shown snuggling up to him too, as if he were almost a kitten. And he seems to like it.
Why, likewise, would God be interested in Solomon? Why would God be interested in humankind? What does God get out of it apart from a nice house/temple - and all those tasty sacrifices, the scent of which was supposed to ascend into the heavens?
A harder question perhaps. Certainly philosophers find it hard to answer. Since the 18th century they have inclined towards Deism, if they accept the idea of God at all. God is conceived as a distant Prime Mover who once, a long time ago, brought things into being but is not particularly involved thereafter. But that is not the picture painted in not the OT and the New. God is addressed passionately – “Give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.” This is not a philosopher talking! For Christians God is a God of grace, who loves us not because he gets anything out of it, but because that's just how he is.
Does God answer such passionate prayers? Yes, of course, though in some ways Solomon’s prayers seem, ultimately, not to be answered. He prays that the line of David will endure forever, though there is a qualification made to his request – his descendants must walk faithfully. They don’t and they – along with the glorious Temple – were wiped from the face of the earth.
End of story? Not quite. As Matthew points out Jesus belonged to the House of David and, as Paul emphasises, in him we find our king – indeed the King of Kings: ‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
Moreover, in Christian tradition, at the crucifixion, the curtain of the temple is ripped in two and God departs (escapes?). The new Temple is Christ himself – John 2. 19-21: Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
Christ’s body – the new Temple – may now, as I speak, be in heaven, but his spirit is with us still. I haven’t looked much at today’s Gospel reading – mainly because it overlaps with last week’s Gospel reading and Gordon teased out some of the meanings of bread/spiritual nourishment in his sermon.
At the end of The Tiger Who Came to Tea the mysterious tiger is gone and the house is tidied up - but it’s impossible for life to return to ‘normal’. Once you’ve had a tiger in the house nothing can return to normal! Sophie, when her mother goes shopping, buys a very large tin of tiger food, in case the tiger should come back. It’s hard not see an analogy between the situation at the end of Sophie’s story and the situation in the Gospels after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Something weird – something fascinating – something slightly frightening - happened to her (just as, in Christ, it has happened to us) – and the story, for both her and us, isn’t over yet.
Sophie has her tin of tiger food ready. We, too, have our food to bridge the gap between what has happened and what will happen – ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Through the Lord’s Supper we remember what has happened and look forward in hope to what is to come. Past, present and future united through the Holy Spirit.
Sophie buys her ‘very big tin of Tiger Food, in case the tiger should come to tea again’ – ‘But he never did’. Well, not yet anyway! And that’s how it is for us Christians – we have our food to keep us going as we both journey back to our Father and wait for Christ’s return. But it is spiritual food. And we don’t just have the Lord’s Supper – we have prayer, we have songs of praise – the Spirit has escaped from the Temple and is in our hearts – the Sprit is present with us now. The tiger is on the loose! Amen.
Hymn 396 (tune = Sagina) And Can it Be vv. 1 and 2.
Prayers of Intercession
This time on a Sunday gives us a chance to open our eyes to the grace and glory of God, but we can never shut out turmoil and distress, both personal and social, which surrounds us.
First of all lets take a moment to reflect on the our own sins – the mess which we’ve made of our own lives & too often the lives of others.
Father, we are truly sorry for our many sins. Look down on us with the eyes of healing and mercy and help us in the coming week to be kind and generous witnesses to your grace. Amen.
Let us take a moment to pray for our families and neighbours.
Our minds also return to the mess which humankind has collectively made to what should be a beautiful and contended place. Our fears are various – from endless turmoil and violence in Afghanistan, to blazing wildfires in California and Greece. Let us bring our individual prayers for the wider world to God.
Prayer of the Week Holy God, there is no God like you. Thank you for helping us to pray and deepen our awareness of your abiding presence with us. As we daily pray through this coming week may we do it with love and sincerity, in the sure and certain knowledge that you alone have the words of eternal life. Amen
Hymn 162 The God of Abraham Praise vv 1 and 2
A charge to keep we have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
Our calling to fulfill;
Oh, may it all our pow'rs engage
To do our Master's will!
May the blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – be with us now as we leave this holy place to serve the present age. Amen.
Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 12th Sunday after Pentecost.
As we gather to worship this morning
Let us delight in the works of the Lord
And sing and shout our praises for all the things God has done for us.
Because God is gracious and merciful
And keeps His promises for ever and ever.
Hymn 167 Guide me O thou great Jehovah (verses 1 and 3)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession:
“In Christ there is no east or west,
In Him no south or north,
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.”
there is no east or west where Christ’s call cannot be heard to draw us to this fellowship of love. There is no place of brokenness in which we cannot see signs of his healing touch.
There is no south or north,
no dwelling place of darkness from which we cannot escape into the light of his love.
There is no home,
no circumstance from which we cannot get away,
no road we cannot travel,
no journey of life we cannot pass through to reach that place where Christ-like souls are one in Him.
No east or west, no south or north,
no place of failure and dejection from which we cannot rise to be blessed at Your mercy seat.
in this house of Your dwelling,
where high communion is found with our brothers and sisters of faith,
in the presence of Your love,
in the wholeness of Christ’s acceptance,
in the warmth of the Spirit’s blessing,
we rejoice in our oneness;
we recognise for Your mercy;
we pray that our fellowship here will be a mirror of Your Kingdom’s grace;
that our worship here will be an echo of heavenly praise;
that our healing here will be a symbol of redemptive power;
that our closeness here will be a sign of the real unity of the whole people of God;
that our time here will be a mark of true communion with You.
As we join together in Jesus’ name and say:
Which 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 and deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory.
Ephesians 5, verses 15-20
John 6, verses 51-58
Hymn 465 Be thou my vision (verses 1,2 and 5)
we thank you for the beauty of the created world;
for its wonderful variety and the bounty that it brings forth.
Help us to be good stewards, showing love and friendship to all.
Give us discerning hearts to distinguish between right and wrong so that we may please you and serve our community, bringing warmth and light to our lives.
As those of you who know me can probably tell from my shape, I like nothing more than a good meal, maybe you’re the same.
When you are really hungry it is especially good.
In the olden days, before Covid, Heather than I loved holidaying in France. We did so for many reasons, not the least being that the food there can be exceptional.
It was usually well prepared, well presented and almost always beautifully fresh.
But what made it even better is that usually by the time we sat down to eat in an evening, we were hungry. I don’t know if it was the French fresh air or the fact that we were usually getting a lot of exercise during the day, walking and visiting different places, but the food in France just tasted wonderful.
Not that it doesn’t taste wonderful hear in the Borders too!
The other thing about a good meal is that it settles you down. I don’t know about you but when I get hungry, I get nervous. I get jittery and jumpy. But a good meal settles me down. I am more at peace and relaxed after a good meal.
And of course, a good meal gives me strength. Hunger can make you weak. But a good meal, not one full of empty calories, but a meal that is good and nutritious can give you strength.
That is why they say that breakfast is so important. It gives you energy to get the day off to a good start.
Speaking of good meals - Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
Now some of the people who heard Jesus say this thought he was crazy! And can you blame them? If someone came in here talking like that, we would think them crazy. “I am the bread from heaven,” “You must eat my body and drink my blood to be fed.” It sounds like the ranting of a psychopath – Hannibal Lecter perhaps?
Of course, when we hear Jesus talking like this we immediately think of the Last Supper. We think of Holy Communion and the bread and wine that represent Jesus giving his life for us.
And that is right, but Jesus had not yet had the last supper when he said these things. We can’t simply write this off as an allusion to Communion.
Jesus is saying something here that has meaning apart from that reference.
Jesus is saying, “I am the main course.”
The main course of the meal is that part that fills us up and nourishes us the most. The main course is the steak and chips or the lamb and new potatoes. The starters are great and the cheese and the dessert is wonderful. But the main course makes or breaks the meal.
Jesus is saying he is the meat and vegetables for our souls.
Forgive me, but Jesus is “Soul Food”. What came before was good. The law and the prophets provided some nourishment. That bread Moses served as starter was fine. It was prepared by God after all. But Jesus is what really feeds us and gives us life.
Jesus is the main course but we sometimes lose sight of that fact.
There is so much to feed on in the church. There are, when permitted, activities and fellowship and committee meetings.
And all these things are good. But they are just the French Onion soup or the strawberry pavlova that I love so much. They are the starters and the desserts.
Jesus is the main course. It is he who gives us eternal life. By feeding on him and taking him into our hearts and lives we receive life.
You can feed on the starters and and not die, but you will always be malnourished.
We need that main course to truly nourish and sustain us.
I don’t know if it is true but according to legend there was once a king who loved his wife. But she died in child birth. Since he was a king, he ordered a great memorial and mausoleum be built for his wife. Thousands of workers toiled for 17 years. The king dedicated himself to making sure the task was done well. One day near the end of construction a box was found among the construction rubble. They were about to discard it when it was discovered that it was the coffin of his wife. According to legend that memorial is the Taj Mahal
But the King had become so obsessed with the building of a memorial that he forgot it was meant to be a memorial for his wife and a final resting place for her body.
We too need to be careful that in the regular business of our church life we don’t forget the reason for it all, the fact that Jesus is the main course.
Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”
Bread was the main staple of people’s diets back then. People received most of their nourishment from bread. But to be nourished by bread you have to eat it. You have to take it into yourself.
And that is the way it is with Jesus. We have to take him in. We have to accept him and ask him into our hearts. We have to let him become part of us.
Too often people try to keep him at arm’s length. For them Jesus is someone or something outside of them. But we have to let him in then he can nourish us.
Then he can give life to our heart and soul.
Jesus is the main course and this main course involves a sacrifice.
Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”
If Jesus had just wanted to talk about accepting him as spiritual nourishment he could have just talked about bread. But he also talks about blood. He is obviously talking about his death on the cross. Through his death Jesus feeds us. His death defeated sin.
And because sin is defeated, we have forgiveness and eternal life.
For that to happen, a sacrifice had to be made.
Many modern people, present company excepted, are out of touch with what goes into preparing our food. They forget that the chicken on their tables was once a live animal and it had to be killed to make their dinner possible - it had to be sacrificed.
The main course that is Jesus required a sacrifice too.
His blood had to be shed. He had to die so that we could be fed.
Eternal life is a free gift for us but it cost Jesus his life!
So, Jesus is the main course.
Are you hungry?
Do you find that you grow weak spiritually?
Do feel jittery and nervous because your soul’s blood sugar is low?
Maybe you need a good meal.
Jesus is the only “Soul Food” that can give eternal life.
Other things may fill the emptiness for a little while, but they are just empty spiritual calories. If we want to be truly filled and never hunger again, we have to feed on Jesus. We have to dine on him. Keep him at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is the bread of life. He died to feed us and give us eternal life.
“This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
Hymn 616 There’s a spirit in the air (verses 1,3, 6 and 7)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Thank you, Lord, for your amazing power and work in our lives,
thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over us.
Thank you for your great love and care.
Thank you for your sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Forgive us for when we don't thank you enough,
for who you are,
for all that you do,
for all that you've given.
Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh.
Renew our spirits, fill us with your peace and joy.
We love you and we need you, this day and every day.
We give you praise and thanks,
for You alone are worthy!
Ever present God,
You promise us there is no place we can go where You will not be with us;
no prayers we can offer that You will not hear;
no stumbling words or random thoughts that will not make sense to You.
We are so grateful for that, especially when our prayers are dry,
or vainly repetitive,
And yet You call us to come into fellowship,
to gather all of that together;
clever prayers and ill-conceived ideas;
jumbled phrases and inadequate grammar;
silent yearnings and barren deserts of weeping,
in one place and as one people;
to lay it all before You,
knowing that You will hear what we cannot begin to express;
believing that You will makes sense of what we cannot fully understand.
Listening God, we pray for Your Church:
in its fragility and in its strength;
in its nurture and in its mission;
in its pilgrimage and in its establishment;
in its traditions and in its newness
that it may continue to be what it has always sought to be,
a light in the darkest of places;
a healing for broken lives;
a hope for a searching world.
we pray for our nation,
giving thanks for examples of goodness,
and weeping with those who weep in their poverty, alienation and despair;
looking with admiration at examples of righteousness and condemning evil in whatever form we find it.
we pray for our world,
in all its tension and striving,
wonder and questioning,
beauty and brokenness.
Where there is rejection, we pray that the embrace of acceptance might be offered;
where there is isolation, we pray that the handshake of understanding might be given;
where there are barriers, we pray that the sledge-hammers of justice might beat upon the walls;
where there is pain, we pray that the tenderness of healing might be known;
where there is violence, we pray that the beauty of peace might herald a new dawn;
where there is hopelessness, we pray that the vision of oneness might be a pointer to Your Kingdom.
Attentive God, we pray for those we love,
who, with little encouragement or prompting,
pop into our minds and fill our prayers with their circumstances,
our yearnings with their cries,
our compassion with their tears,
our joy with their smiles,
because we know them so well and love them so much.
God who made us in Your very image,
we pray for ourselves,
for strength on our journey of faith;
for love in our expressions of service;
for healing in body, mind and spirit.
And we give thanks, that even now as we pray for others, many others are praying for us.
Bless us now with Your touch of tenderness;
remind us each new day of Christ’s companionship on the Way;
surround us at all times with the Spirit’s constancy;
bind us always with the Communion of Saints.
Hymn 154 O Lord my God (verses 1 and 4)
Blessing and Benediction:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and - until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you and remain with you,
now and for evermore.
Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 11th Sunday after Pentecost.
When we journey with God, anything is possible:
we are challenged to push our limits.
When we walk closely with Jesus, anything is possible:
we are reminded that everyone has their own story to tell. Let us worship God.
Hymn MP 417 – Lift high the cross (1,2,5)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Living, giving God,
you are the source of all good things.
In Christ you give us the Bread of Life.
and we know your care for us is beyond measure.
Through the Holy Spirit, you are present in all situations, both large and small,
yet your majesty is infinite.
Your love reaches wider than the expanding universe,
and your kindness embraces even the tiny sparrow.
And so we gather in worship to offer you our praise,
our love and loyalty,
the best of ourselves,
for surely you deserve all we can offer, our living, giving God.
Living, forgiving God,
in Christ you promise us new life,
but we confess that we are in love with our old ways.
We nourish bitterness over disappointments;
anger can hold us hostage for years.
We find it easy to say one thing to someone’s face
and something else behind their back.
Forgive us for falling short of your hopes for us
and by your grace, renew us to live for love’s sake.
God is tender-hearted and gracious to all and has forgiven you in Christ Jesus. Trust in God’s grace and be kind to one another, forgiving others as God has forgiven you.
Readings – Ephesians 4:25–5:2
John 6: 41–51
Hymn 528 – Make me a channel of thy peace
Creator God, we thank you for the wonder of new life and for the mystery of human love. We thank you for all whose support and skill surround and sustain the beginning of life. We thank you that we are known to you by name and loved by you from all eternity. Long ago Jesus took up the little children in His arms and blessed them so we ask your blessings on us all this day and every day. Amen
We are going to baptise Patrick, a young child with the future all ahead of him. I don’t think he will have given much thought to what he might want to be, when he grows up, though no doubt there are those who will wonder whether he will follow the family tradition and be a farmer. Rightly or wrongly, we can be defined by our family. I am sure his parents will just want him to be happy in whatever he does.
In our Gospel reading today Jesus has performed this wonderful miracle of feeding the 5000 and has followed up by saying that he is the bread of life, the bread that satisfied the very soul. And what do the crowd say, or at least some of them? ‘We knew his father. We know his mother and sisters and brothers. They are ordinary people just like us. Who is this one to claim anything different?’ Familiarity breeds contempt. Jesus was defined by his family, and people made assumptions because of it.
That can be very positive thing. In the Olympics it has been interesting when the media interviews family members of those who have won medals, and you can see their pride. You can also see how grounded the sportsmen and women are, because their families are rooting for them and have also sacrificed a lot so that their children have excelled. Yet some have become multi-medal winners, the best in the world.
The marvellous thing about Jesus is that he did have a family. He was God, he was divine, but also human. Because of that, he knows what we go through. That is why he could look at the crowd and be filled with such compassion, because he saw people hurting, people confused, people needing direction. Most of all, he saw people needing to be loved. Jesus loved the people; he loved us to the extent of sacrificing his own life on the cross that we might live.
In Ephesians we are encouraged to imitate God, and that is a big ask. But we look to Jesus and seek in our lives to be more Christlike. Again, in the Olympics the various medallists have been of one voice, saying that they hoped the young would be inspired to take up sport and aim high, and no doubt there will be a surge of skateboarding or bmx biking or gymnastics. Athletes inspire a new generation. How much more should looking at the life of Christ inspire us to right living, and Ephesians gives us a clue how.
Some commentators have likened Ephesians to a manual for baptism, though in the case of the Ephesians it would have been adults being baptised. But they are being encouraged to tell the truth. Also, to be angry, and that is interesting because often we see anger as a negative thing. But it is right to be angry over injustice, over climate change, over, say, someone cheating in order to win. But Ephesians also says, ‘Don’t let the sun go down on your anger’, as anger can gnaw away within us. But above all, the writer of the letter encourages us to show love and compassion. Look at Christ. See how he was filled with compassion and extravagantly fed the crowd and gave of his very self. Let us then imitate him and show extravagant love to all.
Hymn 632 – Our children Lord (1,2)
Prayers of Intercession
Lord Jesus, we bring our gifts to you, knowing that you have given yourself for us, so that we have life in abundance. Bless them for the extension of your Kingdom.
We lift before you our world leaders. In an increasingly unstable world we ask you to give them wisdom and integrity. Help them to put the needs of their country before their own desires.
We pray for countries at war or suffering long periods of unrest, particularly Afghanistan and the Middle East. We pray that a new desire to love and treasure others may sweep this planet, bringing in a new reign of peace.
Lord, we pray for our communities and all who live and serve in them. We thank you for those who sweep our streets, empty our bins and clean our shops, workplaces and hospitals. We pray for your strength and reassurance for our over-stretched NHS and for teachers gearing themselves up for a new session. We pray for the unemployed and those on zero hours contracts struggling to make ends meet.
We pray those who live around us. We picture them in our minds now as we bring them to you for blessing: our friends, our neighbours, the people who walk their dogs past our house, those we say ‘hi’ to in the street, but don’t necessarily know their names. We pray for those who live behind closed doors that we never see, those we used to spend time with who, for whatever reason, we don’t see anymore. And we pray for those whom we avoid... Lord, you know them all by name and we thank you for each of them and for the way they touch our lives. Give us the grace to be good neighbours, willing to go the extra mile for all these people who are, underneath it all, just the same as us.
Hymn 476 – Mine eyes have seen the glory (1,4)
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and all whom you love,
Now and forevermore. Amen