Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 17th Sunday after Pentecost.
From sunrise to sunset,
Let us praise God’s holy name.
With the wisdom of the aged and the energy of the young,
Let us praise God’s holy name.
In our work and in our homes,
Let us praise God’s holy name.
Let us praise the Lord with our whole hearts!
We will worship God now and always.
Hymn 127 – O worship the King (1,6)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of all creation,
you have opened the world around us and filled it with purpose.
Each creature declares your praise--
the mountain states your majesty;
the ripened field, your generosity.
Birds flying aloft sing of your freedom;
the tiny ant works with your persistence.
But what do we declare about you in our lives, O God? We pray that our work will honour your justice and mercy. May our relationships speak of your love and compassion.
So may we praise you, O God, not just in this hour of worship but in all the hours you grant us,
as we follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Friend.
God of all creation,
you have opened the world around us and filled it with wonder,
but we confess our eyes are not always open to its harsher realities.
Our ears are sometimes deaf to cries of need.
Our minds are often shut to opinions which differ from our own.
Forgive us when we seek greatness instead of goodness.
Forgive us when we miss the wisdom you intend us to embrace.
To all who truly repent and seek reconciliation with God and neighbour in kindness and humility, God offers forgiveness and peace.
Readings – Proverbs 31: 10-31
Mark 9: 30-37
Hymn 485 – Dear Lord and Father of mankind (1,3,6)
O God our God, grant us grace to desire you with a whole heart, so that desiring you we may seek and find you; and so finding you, may love you; and loving you may hate those sins which separate us from you, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen
The streets were empty; no cars and no people. Everything seemed so quiet. You could hear the birds sing. Now, it could have been a description of the early days of Lockdown last year, but it isn’t. Rather, it is a description of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for the Jews, and in Israel on Thursday past a sense of peace would have prevailed. Shops closed, people inside. It is a time to reflect on the past year and especially on failings, individual and collective. It goes back to the Bible and the time when the Israelites led by Moses chose a goat and sent it out into the desert, and the goat carried away their sin; it was the scapegoat. The majority of Israelis are not religious, but secular; and yet, they would still keep quiet on Yom Kippur. I am sure the virtuous woman we read of in Proverbs would have observed the feast and made sure her family did too! She was a multi-tasker; no wonder she was worth more than rubies.
As Christians, we believe that on the cross Jesus took our sins and the sins of the world, upon himself, that we might live and have life in all its fullness. And that you could say was the continuation of the passage we read today. Jesus was talking again of his death and even his resurrection, and his commitment to a life of service and love and putting others first led to that very cross. But the disciples closed their ears to what he was saying. Often we do not want to hear unpleasant things and shut our minds to them.
Instead, they disciples seemed intent in a game of one-upmanship. They argued about who was the greatest. Their minds were focused on Jesus being the Messiah (and not the suffering that accompanied it), and it was as if they were jostling for position in his cabinet and determined not to be the Gavin Williamson figure cast aside. Even among the disciples I am sure there would have been jealousies and resentments, as each strove for the approval of their Teacher.
Of course, when Jesus asked what they were talking about, they fell in to embarrassed silence, knowing he would not be impressed. The disciples are often shown as rather clueless in the Gospels, and yet these are the people who would turn the world upside down. But they were human like us, and like us want to be the centre of attention, want to impress.
Who is the greatest? Muhammed Ali famously said that he was. Greatness is about power and wealth and fame, but Jesus gave it a new twist. He gave a new pattern, by saying that true greatness was in compassion and love, in self-giving and sacrifice. The first shall be last, and the last first. He placed a child in their midst and said the real life-giving power was in humility and vulnerability and service.
Over this pandemic period, the people we regard as the greatest have been the people on the front line, the NHS staff, the teachers, cleaners: people giving of themselves and not seeking any praise. One minister was highly regarded by all in the community in one of the housing estates in Glasgow, as he spoke out for the least and most marginalised. On his desk was taped the phrase ‘You are a servant’.
In this we follow our Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a life of service for all, even to the point of death, and calls us to serve one another.
Hymn 498 – Angel voices (1,4)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of all people and places,
we come to you in prayer,
giving thanks that you are with us in all situations.
You bring us strength and courage when we are anxious or afraid.
You provide wisdom and direction when we face choices and challenges.
Thank you for your faithfulness to us.
In this time of prayer, enlarge our love and sharpen our vision
so that we may serve the well-being of the world you love more faithfully.
Gracious God, help us to learn to see the world as you do. The first will be last and the last first. Thank you for today’s reminder to pay attention to the weak and not just the strong. We pray for those in our communities who are struggling at the moment. We pray for those who are on the margins or feel disenfranchised. Help us, as your church, to notice and respond to the needs we see. We also pray for the powerful, for those who lead and govern. May they see the world as you do. Give leaders in government and business a mutual vision that reflects the values of your kingdom,
so that everyone has enough resources and respect to live well and wisely.
We pray for all those facing famine and drought this year, and for those who have lost everything through fire, storm, or pandemic.
Bring support to those people and agencies like Christian Aid who work to alleviate suffering and help them rebuild lives and communities.
We pray for all those anywhere who struggle with pain or illness, disability or daunting diagnosis.
Stay by their side.
Be with those who face death this day,
and those who weep for loved ones who have died.
Unite us in love, whatever we are facing,
and grant us the peace and hope you have promised us in Christ Jesus.
Hymn 694 (1,2,4) – Brother, sister, let me serve you
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and may blessing of the God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and those whom you love, wherever they may be; this day and forevermore. Amen
Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 16th Sunday after Pentecost.
Put your confidence in God.
Those who have God as their helper will rejoice.
God gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry.
God frees the prisoners and opens the eyes of the blind.
So, put your trust in God’s goodness.
Let God’s reign endure forever! Let us worship God.
Hymn 189 – Be still in the presence of the Lord
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Eternal God, first and last, our beginning and our end,
beside you there is nothing or no one greater.
You gave breath to all living things.
By your Spirit, you are among us still, breathing new life, turning anger into reconciliation,
division into unity,
grief into consolation.
Through your grace, you open up new directions and new possibilities for the world you love.
So, we offer you our lives and our labours in worship and in service,
joining in creation’s song of praise and adoration:
Holy, holy, holy are you, O God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always.
God of mercy,
we know you judge the world with an eye for the poor and outcast.
We confess we fail to live with the same eye for those on the margins.
We have been silent when we should have spoken up, and uncaring in the face of injustice.
We have not shown the same generosity to others that you have shown us.
Forgive us for putting ourselves first,
and help us to serve you with the kindness we meet in Jesus Christ.
Readings – Proverbs 1: 20-38
Mark 8: 27-38
Hymn 522 – The Church is wherever … (1,2)
Almighty God as we move into another week, deliver our eyes from tears and our feet from stumbling and walk with us on our journey of faith as we carry the cross of Christ into the world. Grant us the wisdom that comes from above as we listen to your words of life so that we may live in peace and safety. Amen
Are you on Facebook? Or maybe you prefer some other kind of social media – Instagram or TikTok? I use WhatsApp a lot. Facebook is perhaps the most common, and we like to put up photographs, maybe of ourselves or grandchildren or even photos of the meal we are about to have. A lot of it is self-promotion; we are presenting an image of ourselves to the world. People can press the Thumbs-Up sign to show they like it. If we have lots of ‘likes’ we are happy, but when there are some ‘Thumbs-down’ or negative comments, it upsets our day. Social media has been in the news again this week at the US tennis Open with at least two of the women players complaining of the abuse they receive when they lose matches, some of which are racist and some even death threats. Social media can be good, but it is open to abuse.
I think Jesus would have thrived on social media. He would have attracted a lot of interest, even from those who didn’t follow him. People were fascinated by him, wanting somehow to put him ‘in a box’, to know who exactly he was. With there being no social media, they did the next best thing and would have approached the disciples and told them their thoughts.
At Caesarea Philippi Jesus asks his friends, Who do people say I am?’. I am sure they said a lot – the joiner, the son of Mary, the one who can heal your child or lead your revolution. The one you can invite to dinner or invite to leave the country. The disciples said ‘ John the Baptist come back to life’ or one of the prophets. But Jesus followed it up by asking the disciples for their opinion. Now Jesus wasn’t doing this for any narcissist reason, as in wanting ‘likes’ in Facebook, but wanting to gauge how much the disciples was grasping about his ministry. ‘Who do you think I am?’. In a flash, Peter says, ‘The Messiah’. Full marks, Peter, except….!
Except Jesus went on to talk about suffering and even death, and that didn’t fit into Peter’s conception of the Messiah. Peter wanted a strong Messiah, ready to get rid of the occupying Romans, just as we want a strong God, ready to gain victories for our sports teams. Suffering and death did not come into the equation. Peter rebuked Jesus, and Jesus in turn rebuked Peter. For Jesus was turning everything on its head and saying that the Messiah must take the way of the cross and suffer and die that the world might be saved.
Jesus was changing the equation in the disciples’ minds, that the Messiah would serve and not conquer, give and not take love -to the point where it meant suffering. Jesus was a different kind of Messiah, and he said that those who followed must be different too and be ready to take up their crosses to follow him.
Some have a bigger cross to bear than others. On holiday, I went into Chester Cathedral, and there was an icon to the Melanesian martyrs, 6 deacons killed by a separatist group. They died for their faith. For most of us, our crosses may not be so extreme, but it is there that God meets us. It is in our vulnerability and hurt that God comes to us.
Who do people say that I am? ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’? We have to make a choice. That was the case in Proverbs, where Wisdom cried out in the market place, urging her listeners to choose between the good and the bad, the righteous way and the sinful way. We too have to choose. But in a reflection of Andrew the disciple pondering this very question. The writer has Andrew saying of Jesus, ‘I have never met anyone so alive, so passionate, so courageous. So human. It’s like seeing what human life can be. I want him to be proud of me. He scares me, but I would die for him’.
Who do we say Jesus is?
Hymn 532 – Lord, you have come to the seashore (1,2,4)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
O God in whom we live and move and have our being, We come to you in prayer as the summer season draws nearer to its close:
We give you thanks for the occasions we have enjoyed to catch up with family and friends;
to travel for recreation and restoration and let our worries go.
We are grateful for each moment to savour the beauty of creation.
Refresh us for the season ahead we pray,
and renew our commitment to serve you.
O God, Jesus faced many demands wherever he went, and pressure from critics, whatever he did.
We pray for all those who have not found rest this summer:
for those whose work is stressful, exhausting, or unappreciated;
for those whose livelihoods remain uncertain,
because of the pandemic or through disasters caused by heat, fire, or storm.
We pray for those which hard choices to make,
about work or school or what comes next,
about relationships and priorities,
or about social policy and community leadership.
May they know your strength and guidance day by day.
Today we remember those for whom this summer has been filled with suffering:
We pray for those who have lost loved ones,
and those facing an uncertain future or a difficult diagnosis.
We pray for those who despair about the climate crisis and what can be done to repair the suffering earth.
We pray for all those who join efforts to relieve suffering of any kind.
May each one find courage to face tomorrow in your company.
O God, we need the embrace of your presence, each in our own way.
As we prepare to leave this service, walk with us,
and show us how to live each day
Hymn 512 – To God be the glory (1,3)
Go in peace, in the knowledge of God’s power. Go in confidence, in the knowledge of God’s strength. Go in joy, in the knowledge of God’s love. And may blessing of the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, be with you, and those whom you love, wherever they may be; this day and forevermore. Amen
Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this Climate Sunday.
The earth does not belong to us
We belong to the earth
All things are connected and interdependent
Like the blood that unites a family
We did not weave the web of life
We are merely a strand in it
Whatever we do to the web
We do it to ourselves and our descendants
Let us give thanks for God’s gift of creation
That all things are held together by Christ.
Hymn 147 – All creatures of our God and King (1,4,7)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Creator God, maker of colour, sound, texture, movement, and the ceaseless beauty in living things, we bless you.
Creator God, maker of granite and mustard seed, of grey cloud and starlight, of earthquake and heartbeat, we bless you.
Creator God, maker of all that is unseen, of all that has been, of all that words could never capture,
we bless you.
Creator God, we, the children of your love, the beneficiaries of your kindness, the guardians of your creation, bless you. We bless you for your making, your trusting, your loving, your never-ending goodness.
Loving God, in Jesus you stepped up to the line, bit the bullet, owned the problem. Walk beside us as we seek to accept the evidence that the earth is under threat. Share our pain for the way we have avoided the truth and ignored the signs, and free us from the guilt that binds us.
Walk beside us as we seek to accept our part in damaging the earth and as we struggle to change our lives. Share our pain for what has not been done through fear and weakness, and free us from the guilt that binds us.
God of good Earth, who offers forgiveness. Show us our place and purpose as your creatures here on earth.
Readings – Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Mark 7: 24-37
Hymn 155 – Think of a world (1,3)
Creator God, we are mindful of your creation and our place in it to protect the environment in which we live. Help us to be generous in all we do, remembering especially the poor in our unequal world. We have been reminded that when Jesus came, he was able to make the deaf hear and the mute speak while casting out evil spirits. We especially pray for any we know who need specialist care to help them live fulfilled lives. Amen
A month or so ago it was terrible flooding in Germany; a few weeks ago there was an earthquake in Haiti; this week Storm Idah has battered Louisiana causing destruction and misery. Earthquakes, flooding and storms have always been with us, but somehow they seem worse. More so because our own weather patterns seem to be changing with hotter, drier summers (apparently our reservoirs are only a third full!) and colder winters. All over the world we see extremes in weather. Meanwhile, a new island was discovered in Greenland, which would be exciting, except it means the ice is melting. We have been taking our earth for granted, stripping it of its resources, but now we have had a wake up call. The world governments did put measures into place at Paris in 2015, but in November in Glasgow the world will focus again on what can be done to save our planet, for time is running out.
In our Gospel reading today Jesus has been overwhelmed with work and takes a break, going into what is now southern Lebanon. He thinks he can get away from the constant demand on his time – but no luck. A local woman – Gentile, Syro-Phoenician she is called – comes to him, asking him to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon. Maybe he should have just said ‘I am having a bad day; come back tomorrow’, but instead he said that he had come for the Jews first and seemed to use a slur, calling the woman and gentiles in general ‘dogs’ waiting for food to fall from the table. But the woman persisted; she refused to give up, and Jesus saw that she had a point and changed his mind. The girl was healed. He then returns to Galilee, but to the Decapolis, Greek towns in the south, where he heals a man who is deaf and mute.
Jesus had a fresh insight; he saw that God’s love embraced the Gentiles as well. With climate change, many of us have been changing our minds, being conscious of the need to do more. It isn’t a new thing; we have been conscious of the damage to our environment. The emissions from our factories and cars have been damaging the earth. But in a recent poll it seems that we are recycling more, that we are repairing or mending things rather than going out to buy something new. We are more conscious of our diets. We are trying to be more environmentally friendly and are learning to treat the earth gently and kindly. We have been given a fresh insight as well.
But the Syro-Phoenician woman also persisted. She was determined that the demons possessing her daughter would be cast out, making her well again. So we need to confront the ‘demons’ damaging our world, and that includes greed and over-consumption. Like the woman we need to persist in making a fairer and more equitable world. In Proverbs we read a good reputation is better than riches, and we are encouraged to share what we have with those less fortunate than ourselves. For God is the maker of rich and poor alike. We have to redouble our efforts and work together with all countries to care for our planet.
After his encounter with the woman, he healed the deaf and mute man, saying ‘Be opened’, and he could hear and he could speak. Our ears need to be open to what is going on in our world. We can’t keep them shut! We need to be aware of how we can be more responsible citizens of the world and what changes we need to make in our lifestyles to do so. We also need to let our tongues be loosened and speak out. We can write to our MP or sign a petition. We can be involved in greening our communities by adjusting how we live.
As Christians we are conscious that God made this wonderful earth and we have been given responsibility to care for it. It is in our Christian DNA to be kind and considerate, to be agents of hope. Let us therefore be good stewards of creation.
Hymn 1. Monarch and maker of all time and space,
sculptor of mountain and of desert place,
source and sustainer of both sea and land,
all that exists was crafted by your hand.
3. Help us as guardians of all life on earth
both to respect the world and prize its worth;
and, in deep gratitude for all you give,
turn greed to sharing so that all may live.
4. Glory to God to whom all praise is due,
glory to Jesus making all things new,
glory to God the Spirit, bold and bright,
who leads the world through darkness into light.
Words: John L. Bell, copyright © 2018 WGRG, Iona Community.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Thank you, God, for the colour of tomatoes and beetroot, for the different colours and shapes and fragrances of flowers, for grubby potatoes and funny-shaped carrots – for the goodness of the earth itself. Thank you, God, for the taste of apples from the tree – of brambles picked straight from the hedgerow; for the glossiness of conkers and acorns … Thank you, God, for the smell of baking cakes and real coffee. For the smell of woodsmoke and damp leaves; and for the lights of home on a dark evening. Thank you, God, for the kiss of a dog’s wet nose and for the purring contentedness of a cat. For all of these ordinary wonderful things – thank you, God. May we never forget to give thanks to you, Maker and Giver of all
God of all creation, we thank you form the world around us and for all who seek to preserve it. We give you thanks for agreements that safeguard the environment. We pray for those who seek to make this a reality, especially those following up on climate change agreements made in Paris in 2015. We pray for leaders who will gather in Glasgow for COP 26 and pray that you will give them a sense of urgency, a perception of necessity and the wisdom and will to secure the health and well-being of the world at whatever the cost to wealth, political advantage or prestige.
God of all creation, we remember those who are far from power. We pray for those vulnerable in the face of flood and drought, wind and weather, those vulnerable in the face of impersonal global markets, those crying out for help and justice in times of distress.
We continue to remember Afghanistan and those living in fear. Be with those who have managed to escape by plane or across the border. May they receive a welcome.
In a moment of silence we come, remembering all going through difficult times – the lonely, the sick and the bereaved.
We believe that this is God’s world. We believe that living gratefully and giving generously are marks of faith.
We believe that all of humanity should have equal access to the earth’s resources, and that every individual must now act to preserve this world so that the children of tomorrow will not be burdened by the mistakes of today. And so we commit ourselves to think globally, to trade fairly, to live responsibly, and to love this world as it is loved by God, who in Christ became one with creation. Amen.
Hymn 238 – Lord, bring the day to pass (1,2,4)
Now go in peace to enjoy the earth, and care for creation in partnership with God, who in Christ has honoured and blessed us. May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, now and forevermore. Amen