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.
Call to Worship
You call us into your light
Fill us with your peace
You encourage us to face our fears
Surround us with your love
You call us to new paths
Uphold us with your resurrection promise
Hymn 124 – Praise to the Lord
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Transforming God, you take the night and give us day. You take our strife and give us peace. You take our sadness and give us joy. You take our fear and give us courage. You take death and give us new life. You give grace beyond all expectation; you give love beyond all imagination; you give and you give and you give. So we praise and adore you as Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit, One God, Three in One.
Merciful God, we look at our lives and our world and don’t like what we see. We are impatient, ungrateful and angry, far more ready to receive than to give. In this time of worship, remind us of Your promise never to leave us or forsake us. Help us to trust Your promise that You will be with us.
Paul writes: ‘Neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’. Let us rejoice that, no matter what is happening around us, no matter what we have done, God forgives us and will never let us go. Thanks be to God!
Readings - Judges 4:1–7
Hymn 83 – I rejoiced when I heard them say
Father God, we thank you for the gifts, talents and abilities you have given each of us, and we pray for a deeper understanding of how they can be used and shared within our church and our community. Set us free from the fear that makes us inward looking. Give us a renewed generosity with our time, our talents and our treasure. Give us a renewed concern for those who are struggling in our congregations and our communities. Give us a renewed vision of what it is for us to be your church, in this place, at this time. Amen
Over this lockdown period, we have been developing new skills, and it seems a lot of us have been doing a lot of cooking and baking. On the television Nigella has started a new series, and she has obviously been experimenting, for in the first programme she made a banana skin curry. I never knew you could eat banana skins! I used to enjoy cooking very much, but my first attempt sticks in my mind. There had been a shortage of woodwork teachers in my first year at secondary school, and we were given some periods of cooking instead. I was quite enthusiastic, so much so that I told my parents that I would cook tea one night. You can imagine! It was something like Welsh rarebit, but it burnt. I made a very elementary sponge, but the inside didn’t cook. It was a disaster. My brother was scathing, but my parents were incredibly gracious. They had trusted me, and even though the meal was awful, they were full of praise.
This has a bearing on the parable we read today, the parable of the talents, where the Master praises two of the servants for the efforts they had made. The word ‘talent’ can be confusing. It does not mean special ability, but is actually a ginormous sum of money. You could work for 15 years, and what you earned would still not make up a talent.
In the story, the Master leaves for a trip abroad and entrusts his three servants with these enormous sums of money. Two invest the money and it doubles in value, but the third is terrified of the master and scared of losing everything, so digs a hole and buries it. But when the master returns, he praises the two servants, but condemns the one who had buried the cash.
It is quite a difficult parable, because we sympathise with the third. He was terrified of the master; he froze. But the master’s reaction seems so harsh. There is no ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ for him. But then the story is not about money; it is about trust and faithfulness. I think that if the two servants had made a mess of their investments, the master would still praise them, because they made the effort, whereas the 3rd servant had made no effort, not even to put it into the bank to earn a little interest.
As human beings, we have been entrusted with so much, not least the earth itself. We have been given gifts and talents, which we are encouraged to use to the glory of God and for the benefit of those around us. We all have different abilities; some can knit or make soup, some are good with repairs, others are good with people. We are encouraged to use what we have to the full. In Judges, we read of Deborah, who was a charismatic figure with a gift to inspire people, and she inspired the general Barak to confront the superior forces of Sisera and win. No hiding their heads in the sand.
We have to use our gifts. Sometimes we get it wrong, but at other times we can surprise ourselves. So it is with the Church: at times of declining numbers and dwindling offerings, we are tempted to play it safe as a church, but Jesus never played it safe. Our resources are God’s and we must use them to spread the Good news. Certainly not bury them in a hole!
One more thought: in the parable the 3rd servant froze, and it was due to fear. He had a terrible image of the master as someone harsh and cruel. It occurred to me that some people have a scary image of God. They consider God as judgemental and counting all our misdeeds. But the picture of God given to us in Jesus is one of love and grace, ready to forgive and empower us to be God’s people in the world. We respond by offering our very selves to be used to God’s glory until the day when we hear the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.
Hymn 502 – Take my life and let it be
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Loving Lord, we give what we have. We bring who we are. Knowing that it can never be perfect and never enough. Yet We bring our talents. The gifts You have given us, the people You have made us. Knowing that You accept us and love us. Use our lives and our living to build Your people. Use Your people to build a better world Use this world to show the beauty of life with You.
God of loving kindness:
we give you thanks for moments of joy and celebration in our lives, even amidst the ongoing pandemic: for love given and received,
for friendships which bring us meaning and happiness, even at a distance, and for family members who show us glimpses of unconditional love. In all our relationships and interactions,
keep us mindful of your call to see you in one another.
God of the nations,
we pray for our country and the countries of this world, as we all struggle to face the choices COVID-19 sets before us. Guide our leaders that they may govern wisely. We thank you for the news about the vaccine and give thanks for all who have used their skills to develop it.
We pray for our Church, and especially today we think of all involved at Crossreach, as they work on the frontline– that Christ might use their hands and their hearts as they offer help, support and a willingness to listen. Help all who experience the care that CrossReach offers: from elderly residents of care homes, to those struggling with emotional well-being, poor mental health or addiction, to children and families facing educational and disability challenges.
God of healing:
we pray for those who are suffering in these difficult days of pandemic and for those who mourn the loss of someone or something dear.
Draw close to all who fear the future.
Surround each one with your love
and show us how to bring comfort and support into situations of hurt and pain.
God of life: you hold all souls in your loving care, the dead as well as the living. We thank you for your saints of every age who continue to inspire us,
and for all who have meant the world to us and now live with you. Keep us in communion with them
and, at the last, bring us all to dwell together in your light. Amen
Hymn 518 – Lift up your hearts
Now may God send us forth to use our gifts in the service of the Kingdom, and may the blessing of God, Creator, redeemer and Sustainer, be with you and with all whom you love, wherever they may be, now and always, Amen