The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those joining us 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 on the 20th Sunday after Pentecost (we are steadily getting through the Pentecost Sundays!)
Call to Worship
Blessed be God, who creates out of nothing,
shapes beauty out of chaos and breathes life in to dust.
Blessed be God, who gives each person a purpose,
Calling the young for their energy
And the old for their wisdom; affirming forgotten worth, identifying hidden potential, redeeming deep regrets. Blessed be God forever.
Hymn 97 – O God, you search me and you know me
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Holy God, the mystery of your presence stretches far beyond us, yet we know you draw near to us in Christ, walking beside us, guiding us with wisdom, loving us with boundless grace. Your Spirit encourages us as we follow Christ and gives us the energy and insight we need to serve you. Holy God, we are glad to gather in your presence, to be embraced by your mystery and your mercy.
For we confess we do need your mercy. We claim to be your people, but we forget to love as you do. We claim to seek your guidance, but we often turn from your ways. We ask for your forgiveness, but we fail to forgive as you forgive. We claim to listen for your Word, but we ignore your wisdom. Hear us as, in this silence, we offer you our personal confessions:
(A time of silence is kept.)
Forgive us, God of mystery and mercy, amend who we are and direct who you would have us be for the sake of Christ, our Saviour and Friend. Friends, the good news never gets old. God knows us and loves us. We are forgiven, loved and set free to start again. Thanks be to God!
Reading – Matthew 22: 15-22
Hymn 489 – Come down, O Love Divine
Gracious God, you have called and chosen us to spread the Good News of your son to the world. As we go out to another week help us to give the message of Faith, Love and Hope to all we meet, at home, at work, in our leisure time and in our community. Amen
I mentioned a few months ago about how I had started over the lockdown period to collect stamps again. But I have never really collected coins or banknotes, though some people do. But our Gospel reading this morning revolves round a coin, and it made me look at some of the coins I still have from my travels. Of course, in Britain we have the Queen’s head on our coins and notes, and I have a couple of Jordanian coins, bearing King Abdullah’s head. But Israeli or Egyptian coins and most of my Euro coins have only symbols.
The coin in our reading this morning was probably a denarius, and it bore the image of Caesar on it. What’s more, it would have an inscription ‘Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus’. Both image and inscription would be anathema to the Jews. Remember the 2nd commandment – Don’t make graven images. A graven image was a sign of idolatry. But also, the coin was a reminder that they were under occupation, and this coin was imposed by the Romans.
Jesus had become a thorn in the side of various groups in Palestine. His message appealed to the people, but undermined their authority. They wanted rid of him, and the coin gave them the perfect way to trap him, and so there was an unholy alliance of Pharisees, who were really quite radical and anti-Roman, and Herodians, who were very conservative and sought to accommodate Rome.
They held up the coin and asked ‘Is it lawful to pay tax to Caesar or not?’. If Jesus answered Yes, pay the tax, then the crowd would be annoyed. The Pharisees would condemn him as supporting Rome. But if he said No, don’t pay the tax, the Herodians would brand him as a tax rebel and troublemaker. They had caught him, or so they thought..!
I admire Jesus’ quick thinking. He asked for the coin, asked whose head was on it and said ‘Pay unto Caesar, the things which belong to Caesar, but render unto God, the things that belong to God’. And his accusers were silent.
All life belongs to God, and so we pay our tribute to God, in the ways of in which we live our lives, in our time and talents, in our creativity and morality, our kindness and in our whole being.
The coin bore Caesar’s image, and so belonged to him. But here we are reminded that we are made in the image of God. We bear God’s image and belong to God. What’s more, through baptism we bear the name of Christ. That’s something to remember, for as Christ’s followers, we represent him on earth, whether we be at home or at work or at leisure – we bear the image of God and should let nothing tarnish it.
When we are tempted to compromise our values – stop and remember we are made in God’s image and belong to Christ.
When we are tested and are tempted to do wrong things. Stop and remember we bear God’s image and belong to Christ, for the Caesars of this world are ever keen to rule our lives, but we belong to God.
As we carry on through this difficult time, let us be reassured. We belong to God; God’s stamp is on us, and because of that we are never alone.
Hymn 769 – holy, holy, holy (Argentinian Sactus)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of abundance, we bring what we have to share, the fruit of our lives, a portion of your goodness to us. Bless our gifts and our lives, so that generosity and justice will join hands and your goodness will be shared with those in need.
God of our hearts and our hopes,
As the season continues to change and harvests are gathered, we thank you for the beauty around us,
for brilliant colours, birds flying south, the crackle of fallen leaves, and the rhythms of this time of year.
We are grateful for your steadfast love amid so much that changes.
This autumn, we also face unpredictable changes as the pandemic continues. Draw close to those who find the uncertainty unsettling and help us preserve our connection to you and to each other.
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of our imaginations and insights,
We thank you for all the ways you inspire human minds to create things which improve the lives of your people.
We are grateful for all the medical efforts taken to manage COVID-19, and for the scientists testing vaccines. Give them perseverance and success.
Guide politicians and policy makers so that breakthroughs and resources are shared with the most vulnerable.
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of neighbours and neighbourhoods,
We praise you for everyone working to build and maintain healthy communities: for teachers and healthcare workers, construction workers, farmers and labourers. So many have had their workplaces changed and their livelihoods threatened by the pandemic. Give them perseverance and encouragement.
Make us good neighbours to all who serve our community and remind us to say thank you.
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of comfort and compassion,
We pray for all those who are struggling this autumn, whatever the reason.
We remember before you those facing illness or waiting for treatment…
those who have lost income and worry about winter expenses and shelter…
those who are grieving the loss of someone close…
and those whose mental health is under pressure these days…
Awaken your people around the world to attend to the needs of those at risk in our communities so that they will know your comfort and compassion
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Hymn 476 – Mine eyes have seen the glory
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and the Blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and all whom you love, wherever they may be, now and forevermore, Amen
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those joining us 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 on the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.
Call to Worship
We are the eyes of Christ
Seeing as Christ sees
We are the lips of Christ
Speaking with love
We are the hands of Christ
Serving with love
Hymn 251 – I the Lord of sea and sky
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Generous and forgiving God ,you are the first and the last, the giver of all good things .Your glory is endless; your power, incomparable. Your love stretches wider than the universe, your mercy reaches beyond the heights of heaven. We gather with hearts thankful for the abundance of your creation to worship and adore you. Inspire us by this time of worship, that our hearts overflow with praise each and every day. May our lives reflect our gratitude to you in the ways we share your abundant love in Jesus’ name.
Let us confess our sins before God. Generous and loving God, we confess that in a world where many do not have enough, we enjoy more than we need. In a world where many live in fear, we take peace for granted. In a world where many have lost hope, we become indifferent to despair and grumble about small things. Forgive us, merciful God, and transform our lives to shine with the generosity, peace and hope you offer us in Christ Jesus.
Friends, while it is true we have all sinned, it is a greater truth that we are forgiven through God’s love in Jesus Christ. To all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say, in Jesus Christ our sin is forgiven. Be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.
Readings – Philippians 4: 1-9
Matthew 5: 38-48
Hymn 336 – Christ is our light
Weekly Prayer Faithful God, as we move into the coming week to live and work for the Gospel, help us to concentrate our thoughts on whatever is true, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Help us to travel onwards with our eyes fixed on Jesus willing to go the extra mile, and may we know your peace with us. Amen.
At the General Assembly last week, the Youth moderator gave her report, and she talked about how she had travelled to Zambia to visit one of the projects being supported by the Guild. It is a project, supporting young mothers in a particularly poor area of the capital, Lusaka, a shanty town with makeshift roads and few amenities. But the youth moderator spoke of how, within a few minutes of her arrival, she found herself dancing. The young mothers had immediately burst into song, drums were beating and everyone started to dance. I can well imagine it. They would be wearing colourful chitenge cloth around them, tying their babies to their backs, so the babies would be dancing as well! These are young women who had probably left school early, who would struggle to get by, and yet who put their troubles aside and exude the joy of being a Christian in song and in movement. And who would have been given much hope through the Guild’s support.
Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi says, Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice. Paul had a soft spot for this church, and there is a warmth of feeling in his words. I visited the site of Philippi some years ago- it is now just ruins, its glory faded. But nearby is a chapel by a river, marking the place where Lydia was baptised along with her household. She was a dealer in the expensive purple dye and a prominent member of the early church. But in the passage this morning we read of two other women. There was obviously a disagreement between them, which needed to be resolved. They held different views, but they had to come together for the good of the church. But the thing that strikes me is that they had leadership positions in the church and had been co-workers with Paul. This was a church where women were very active.
Today is Guild Sunday, and we remember the work of the Guild in the life of the church. Nowadays the Guild is not only for women, but also men, and I am always tremendously impressed by energy and devotion of the Guild. In the rallies and meetings there is a real sense of joy, as they enjoy fellowship with one another and with God, but also it is an organisation which is very much on the move and one which is committed to showing God’s love in action. They choose 6 projects for a 3 year period and raise phenomenal sums of money. Projects like the young mothers in Zambia or street children in India – or nearer to home, tackling loneliness with CrossReach or supporting chaplains to sailors.
The Guild have had their theme of ‘One Journey, many roads’, and this year they are looking in particular at the ‘Extra Mile’. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount encouraged his followers to go the extra mile. Rome occupied Palestine at the time of Jesus, and Roman soldiers could pressgang someone to carry their load, but only for a mile. Jesus is saying to go beyond that and carry it for an extra mile. Go beyond what is required, in other words. It is all part of Christ’s upside-down world.
The Guild certainly seek to go the extra mile, doing more than expected. As followers of Christ, all of us have to surprise the world by the joy in our souls, but also by exceeding expectations; by being a voice to the voiceless, by being a companion on the road, by showing the love of Jesus Christ -in the words of the Guild motto, ‘whose we are and whom we serve’.
Taize Chant – In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Gracious God, we present our gifts to you as tokens of our thanksgiving for all we have received from your hand. Bless these gifts and multiply them, just as Jesus multiplied a few loaves and fishes to bless others. Use our gifts and our energy to share your love in our community and around your world, for the sake of Christ our Lord.
Gracious Father, we give thanks for all those who have walked that extra mile for us over our lifetime – the nurturing when we were young, the extra time taken with us when we were learning new skills, the kind word and helping hand when we were struggling with life’s problems. We ask for Your help and guidance that we too can walk an extra mile for others in the loving and generous spirit of Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Father God, we think about Your Church here in Scotland. This is a time of radical change and we ask for Your guidance for those at local, presbytery and national level - giving them wisdom as they seek to discern Your will. May we all be willing to support, change and move forward to meet the needs of today.
Be with young people in every country in the world. Guide them in their work and studies. Let them use their gifts and talents and ideas to Your glory. Give guidance to all who work with young people, whatever their age. Give them wisdom to know what each child needs.
We pray for our country as new restrictions come into effect and pray that all may work together to combat this virus. Help us to encourage one another. We pray for our world, remembering the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, where tensions are high. We also pray for the United States as the election nears.
Hymn 449 – Rejoice the Lord is King
As we travel the road of life, lead us, Heavenly Father. As we journey the path of faith, uphold us, Christ the Son. As we meet all joys and sorrows, fill us Holy Spirit. Be with us now and always Bless us, three in one. Amen
The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those joining us 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 in this new month of October and on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost.
The podcast of this service can be accessed on the website.
This is the day that the Lord has made
Let us rejoice and be glad in it
It is good to give thanks to the Lord
For God’s love endures forever
Hymn 200 – Christ is made the sure foundation (vv1,2)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
As the seasons change, we see that you are still at work in the world, transforming hearts and situations.
We praise you for all you do to repair injustice,
bringing peace to places of hostility, working for goodness to prevail among neighbours and nations.
You have shown us the true face of power in Jesus Christ, reaching out with healing and hope to touch desperate lives.
Let us see the face of Christ in this time of worship,
and fill us with renewed energy and insight this autumn,
so that we can join in your work to bring justice and joy into the world you love,
in Jesus’ name.
Lord of love, today we confess our sin of indifference.
Too often we turn away so we don’t have to see pain, suffering or injustice,
even when the evidence is right before our eyes.
We don’t like to feel uncomfortable.
We don’t want to feel responsible.
In your great mercy, forgive us, Lord.
Teach us a new way to live.
Give us courage to love others as you love us,
and to respond to the cries of others with the humility we have witnessed in Jesus.
The prophet Micah declared that God requires of us these three things: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.
To all who humbly seek reconciliation with God and neighbour, God offers forgiveness and peace. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Readings – Philippians 3:4b-13
Matthew 21: 33-46
Hymn SGP 72 – Lord, Jesus Christ, you have come to us (1,4)
Almighty God and loving heavenly Father, we pray for our Church; that Christ may be the cornerstone of all that we do in his name. May we, his living church be the solid blocks of a spiritual community which continues to hold fast in the knowledge of Christ and the power of his resurrection in an ever-secular world. Amen
It was a triathlon race. The participants had been swimming, cycling and now it was the running. The person in front had won, and the one in 2nd place was clear of his rival – but he seemed to take a wrong turning, allowing his rival the opportunity to win silver. But his rival stopped before the line to allow the one who had taken the wrong turning to cross ahead of him. It was only fair, he said. It happened just a couple of weeks ago, and it was a marvellous example of sportsmanship. The fact that it hit the headlines shows how unusual it was.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians uses the image of a race, and how he strains, using all his energy, to attain the prize, which is to live in Christ. There is a real sense of determination and single-mindedness here, as Paul discards all the ‘baggage’ that he carries, in order to achieve his goal.
Some of that determination is needed in the Church at this time. The General Assembly will have met this weekend. Usually this is a weeklong meeting in Edinburgh, but this year it is one and a half days online. But as you may have seen in some of the newspapers, the Kirk has to make some difficult decisions, especially since income has fallen during this lockdown period. There will be pressure on the number of buildings we have, and also presbyteries will have to assess the number of ministries there will be. It is not necessarily negative, but it is the church having to do things differently, and this lockdown period has brought it to the fore.
But we also need to have that determination to pursue the things of the Kingdom, the values of peace and justice in a world which is too often violent. This week a policeman, nearing retirement and involved in the community, was shot dead in a police station. Meanwhile there was the presidential debate in America, which did nothing to reassure its citizens or to calm the violence which has affected so many American cities recently.
The parable in our Gospel reading today is a violent one. A landowner had a vineyard and does everything possible for it to yield good crops. He is going away, so he rents it out. But when he sends his servants to collect what is due to him, they are not received well. In fact, the opposite. They are abused and beaten up. The owner sends more, but they are even killed. So the owner sends his son and heir. After what happened to the servants, we may be surprised at this, but the owner felt they would honour his son – but they kill him too.
Of course, bells are ringing, for the setting of the parable is during Holy Week and we know that Jesus will himself be killed the son of God, the owner of the vineyard. We also have a sneaking suspicion of our responsibility in this, for we have been poor stewards of the vineyard, of God’s good earth.
But at the end of the parable, Jesus asks the crowd is what should the owner do to those tenant farmers? They reply that the tenants be killed. Meet violence with violence in other words. But what would Jesus do? Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey of peace, Jesus would comfort the mourning and heal the brokenness of humanity that he saw all around him and confront the injustices. And as those baptised into the Kingdom, we are called to do the same, as we strain towards the goal. We are called to agents of healing and love in the brokenness of our world – a world broken by racism, by poor stewardship of earth, by hatred and violence. We look to Jesus and see how he lived, and we follow his example.
Hymn 231 – For the fruits of all creation (1,2)
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Generous God all we have has come from you and so we give just a little back: our money, but also our time, our talents, our very lives. We ask you to bless both the gift and giver through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Loving Lord, we are living in strange and uncertain times. It feels as if everything we were sure of now fills us with fear and doubt. Yet throughout it all you remain constant, the great unchangeable I AM.
Still there is much in our world that we would want to pray for.
We pray for those working on the frontline, especially in our NHS and those working towards a cure and a vaccine for Covid 19.
We remember all those people and professions who previously we may have taken for granted. We pray that this new-found respect continues even as our lives return to some normality. We continue to think of our shopworkers, delivery drivers and refuse collectors and many, many more.
We bring before you those areas of the world which have largely disappeared from our screens, replaced by news closer to home: continued fighting in Syria and Yemen and Libya; refugees and asylum seekers who have been particularly affected by the pandemic; the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel.
We pray for the Church throughout the world, and especially the Church of Scotland after its General Assembly. Grant her wisdom and steadfastness at this difficult time.
We pray for those who usually sit next to us, in front of us and behind us. Although distanced, may we feel each other’s presence in our lives.
We spend a moment in silence, recalling those we know who particularly need our prayers at this time ...
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers, Amen
Hymn 137 – All things bright and beautiful (1,4)
The blessing of God who speaks our name
The blessing of God who sits at our table
The blessing of God who knows us
Be with you and be with all whom you love this day, this week
And forever. Amen