Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on the Seventh Sunday of Epiphany
Come before the Lord your God,
in the quiet spaces and the busy places,
in worship, praise and thanksgiving,
for all we have and all we are is a gift from God.
Hymn 189 – Be still, for the presence of the Lord
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
You have gathered your people in faithfulness throughout many generations. You have offered your blessing to us through their examples, and led the Church through many changes and challenges by your Spirit. Draw near to us this day to guide us in these uncertain times. Root our faithfulness in the compassion and courage we meet in Jesus.
Renew us through your steadfast love
so that we may dare to trust our future to you.
All praise and honour are yours, O God,
Source, Saviour and Spirit of Life.
you test the mind and search the heart, so you know the thoughts and intentions we keep hidden.
Trusting in your wisdom and mercy,
we confess the ways we have failed to love one another, the times we looked the other way when someone needed help, and the ways our actions betrayed your goodness.
Keep a brief silence.
Forgive us for missing opportunities to share your love, and carrying grudges that keep us from offering the forgiveness we hope for.
Renew us with your mercy to become more merciful to others we meet, in the example of Christ our Lord.
Hear and believe the good news: anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.
The old life is gone, and new life has begun. Trust that you are forgiven by God’s generous love, and have the courage to forgive one another for Christ’s sake.
Readings – Genesis 45: 3-11, 15
Luke 6: 27-38
Hymn 722 – Spirit of God, come dwell within me
Everlasting God, we ask that you will make yourself known to us and lead us into the coming week. Help us to believe that you are close by us, keeping us from making mistakes and helping us to love like you loved, even our enemies. Amen
Masks! While we may hate them, we have grown used to wearing them and are aware that they have helped to make us safe during this pandemic. We still have to wear them in church, but it was announced that they will no longer need to be worn in schools. One pupil said she was looking forward to seeing the face of her teachers. She had been new to the school and had never seen them without a mask. It certainly helps to relate to one another when we can see each other’s faces.
Our readings this morning are both about how we relate to each other and really gets to the core of the Gospel message. In Luke we continue to read from the Sermon on the Plain, and we find familiar phrases– such as ‘Love your enemies’ and ‘turn the other cheek’. They are so familiar, they roll off our tongues, but just how radical they are. Love your enemies: tell that to the Ukrainian mother whose children are soldiers on the front line. Tell it to someone who has been abused. We don’t love our enemies! It is the last thing we do. It is so much easier to say ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ and seek revenge for wrongs done to us. It is so much easier to hold a grudge, rather than to face the issue and seek to resolve it. Yet in the Gospel Jesus says that you have got to change and love our enemies and also start to break down the way we define people according to labels. He encourages us to take off our masks and see each other as a child of God.
Our reading from Genesis is a case in point. Joseph could be a bit of a pain. He was his father’s favourite and was singled out for special treatment. He was very gifted and even had dreams where his 11 other brothers seemed to be kneeling down before him. It was maybe insensitive of him to tell them so. You could see why his brothers may have resented him. But they beat him up, threw him in a well, determined to leave him to die. Then the plan changed, and Joseph was sold as a slave to Midianites who sold him onto Egyptians. It is a brilliant story. Joseph hits rock bottom, when he is falsely accused of adultery and is thrown in prison. But then he interprets Pharaoh’s dream and has a stellar rise to become viceroy of Egypt. It is at that point his brothers come, basically as refugees, seeking help because of a famine in Palestine. They don’t recognise him; he is wearing the mask, you could say, of the Egyptian number two to Pharaoh. This is his chance to take revenge. Think about the beating, being sold into slavery, the misery in prison. But instead, he sees family and the chance for reconciliation. When he revealed who he was, his brothers must have trembled. But they all had to face up to what had been done in the past, and make a new start. Reconciliation was possible.
In South Africa, everyone expected a blood bath, but instead under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and people like Desmond Tutu, there was the Truth and Reconciliation commission. Bringing people together, the abused with the abuser, and, taking masks off, facing the truth and moving forward. It was painful, but it was the only way. Nowadays, there is more talk of restorative justice, which is the same thing. Victims meeting up with those who have perpetrated crimes against them. So difficult, for it opens wounds again, but often that is the way healing comes. The Church supports a project called A Place for Hope, which seeks to transform conflict situations and bring about reconciliation, and I have had experience of them healing a congregation split down the middle, bringing both sides together- by addressing the hurt and the pain. That particular congregation became the stronger for it.
In verse 31 is the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’. So we are ever encouraged to forgive and respect and want the best for others, just as God in his mercy has shown love and forgiveness and affirmation to us.
Hymn 484 – Great God, your love has called us here (1,3,5)
Prayers of Intercession
God of generous love, we bring our gifts with grateful hearts, for we have received so much through your kindness. Bless our gifts, and use them to touch lives. Make us a blessing in our community for the sake of Christ, our Friend and Saviour.
God of our faith and our future,
there are so many pressures we face today,
so many problems without simple solutions.
Draw near to anyone who is struggling in this economic climate with prices rocketing. Be with all those burdened by challenges to their health and happiness.
Guide us all through the changing face of the pandemic, especially as we move forward.
Ease any conflict in homes and workplaces and inspire solutions that express mutual respect and deeper understanding. Help us share with others the hope we find in your presence.
God of the whole human family,
Hear our prayers for your world.
God of mercy and forgiveness,
You call us to live together in peace and unity.
We pray for our communities and the nations of this world. Where people are divided and bitterness turns into resentment, show us how to work for reconciliation. Where violence and fear turn neighbour against neighbour, or nation against nation, equip leaders to work for justice that will bring peace. Help us build a world where children enjoy a future filled with good health and happiness.
God of the whole human family,
Hear our prayers for your world.
We pray for those whose lives are ruled by hate and vengeance, rather than love and justice.
For those whose homes are not places of love or safety, but places of fear and violence.
For those who have no home to speak of and have become invisible on our streets.
For those who are stigmatised because of status, ill-health, ethnicity, religion.
Lord, You asked us to love our neighbours, all of them, not just the ones we choose.
Enable us and equip us to carry out Your command
and to make a positive difference in the lives of those who are our neighbours and are struggling.
Hymn 512 – To God be the glory
Go now and share God's love with all you meet.
Go now and share the joy of Jesus.
Go now and share the inspiring breeze of the Spirit.
Go in peace assured of God's love.