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 21st Sunday after Pentecost (the last of the Pentecost Sundays!)
Call to Worship
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God
Hymn 465 – Be thou my vision
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God, gracious and loving, holy and eternal,Your love is steadfast, your presence ever near,yet you come to us in surprising ways and unexpected places.Your love is older than time and as fresh as the morning dew.Your patience is unending, your faithfulness to us unmatched.Your name has come to us through the centuries,yet you can always do a new thing to draw us back to you.God, Creator, Christ and Spirit,we offer you our prayers and praise this dayIn humble expectation,hoping you will surprise us here and refresh our readiness to serve you.
God, gracious and merciful, holy and healing,
You know our hearts, the times we have truly loved one another and those times when we merely tolerated each other.
You know our minds, the times we have truly focused on you and the times when we pursued our own purposes.
You know our stories, the times we have followed you faithfully and the times we went our own way.
Forgive our wavering discipleship and half-hearted service,
and renew our commitment to live lives marked by your grace.
People of God, we are forgiven people, set free from our past failures to make a fresh start this day and every day. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love God and to love others. Thanks be to God for such everlasting mercy and grace!
Readings: 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8
Matthew 22: 34-46
Hymn 532 – Lord, you have come to the seashore
Gracious God, at the start of this new week, recognising your trust in us, help us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. Make us always more ready to please you as we seek to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Amen.
I went to Galloway last weekend on a short break, and one of the places I visited was Threave Gardens. I don’t know if anyone has been there. The gardens are beautiful, especially with the autumn colours, and in the centre of the gardens is the old house. The property was left to the National Trust in the 50s, as the owner had no family. They were going to pull the house down, as Scots Baronial was out of fashion at the time, but instead they used it as a training school for young gardeners. It was a lovely legacy, and now the gardens can be enjoyed by so many people.
What legacy do we leave? When we look at the Bible there are so many figures who, you could say, left their legacy, for good or occasionally for not so good (the Jezebels or Pilates come to mind). But certainly, the apostle Paul left a gigantic legacy, as the church came to birth. Paul is a very complex character. He was very single-minded, tireless in his travels, sometimes abrasive, certainly controversial, but his letters to the various churches have shaped the theology and much of the practice of the Church. Many theologians including the Reformers like Luther and Calvin and Knox, looked to Paul and his writings. In some countries of the world, like Germany, the United States and New Zealand, today is called Reformation Sunday, as it was the end of October that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, which is seen as the start of the Reformation.
Today we read from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, which is actually the earliest writing in the New Testament, written before any of the Gospels, and one thing which stands out is that Paul suffered for the Gospel. He was a Roman citizen, had status, but despite that, he had been beaten and thrown into jail. He knew what suffering was and was prepared to accept it for the sake of spreading the Gospel message. But the other thing which stands out in this passage goes against the more confrontational image we often have of Paul, for here we are told he was gentle with the people, like a mother nursing her children. It is very feminine language, very caring, very relational. Paul realised that in order to tell people the Good news of Jesus Christ, he had to draw alongside them and relate to them. He could preach all he wanted to on a Sunday or whenever, but it was how he lived his life alongside them through the week that would convince them.
We find this in the Gospel reading, where Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment was. He answered immediately – to love the lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, With all your being, 100%. But then follows it with ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. In other words, it is about how we relate to God and how we relate to one another. And that is hard. Some people can be very difficult to like or can rub us up the wrong way – but that person is made in the image of God too, so we have to love them. Paul gave of himself for the Gospel, to the point of being beaten and thrown in jail. We too are called to give of ourselves by loving God – and, by extension, loving those around. Some call this radical empathy, which means working to create a good and caring and inclusive society, conscious for the care of all, and caring for our world. It calls us to challenge situations and structures which contribute to injustice and cause pain.
What will our legacy be? It is always a big question. But to me, love for God and others is central, and all else follows from that.
Hymn 718 – We cannot measure how you heal
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Loving God, you give to us beyond measure, you give to us without counting the cost. Accept whatever giving we can offer and use it that life may flourish and your Kingdom community come.
Faithful God and Holy Friend,
We do not have enough words to thank you for all you have given us and the love you share with us in Christ Jesus.
In the silence of this time, help us review the week just past, remembering the ways we encountered you—in the beauty of creation, the support of friends, the wisdom of books, the joy of music, the energy of exercise, through study and prayer.
(A time of silence is kept.)
Be with us as the months of pandemic continue. Give us patience to keep each other safe and make us attentive to the needs of those around us. In silence we name before you those finding these days especially difficult.
(A time of silence is kept.)
God of justice and leadership, We pray for our country and all other nations facing immense challenges with COVID-19. Guide decision makers and keep the hearts of those with resources open to those who do not have enough.
We pray for places where justice is lacking, where violence threatens, or leaders are untrustworthy. Strengthen voices of wisdom and acts of courageous compassion to tend the needs of people most at risk.
We pray for those who are feeling lonely or isolated. Comfort them with Your presence. Help us to create community, safe spaces of comfort in these difficult times.
We pray for those who are anxious and suffering from mental health issues. God, comfort them with Your peace. May they hear words of calm and not chaos. May they hear words of gentleness and not confusion. We pray for those who mourn. God, comfort them with Your love. May memories comfort and console. (A time of silence is kept.)
God of grace and guidance,
You call us to be your hands and feet, your voice and comfort in the world, following the example of Jesus. Equip us to respond to the needs around us in his name and make us bold to get started right here and right now.
And in this moment of quiet, we bring to You our own concerns and prayers…
Hymn 130 – Ye servants of God
Go now – back to your home, back to family, friends, and colleagues.
Take God’s spirit with you and share the word you heard God speak to you today.
May the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you, be with those you love and those whom we are called to love, now and forevermore. Amen