Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 10th Sunday after Pentecost.
Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Lord, open our lips;
And our mouths shall proclaim your praise.
Hymn 173 – Sing to God new songs (1,3)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
we lift our hearts to you in praise and prayer,
thankful for the wonder of creation
and grateful for the good things in our lives.
As we open ourselves to the ways you love us,
we find the ways to love you in return.
We raise our eyes to look beyond our immediate circumstances
and to view the world with your compassion.
As we broaden our perspective, we see the needs beyond our own, and hear your call to love others.
We bow before you in humble wonder.
Your grace defies our explanations. You touch us when we least expect it.
Receive our praise and prayer this day
sometimes we shy away from growing into your great love. We are aware of our thoughts and actions that are less than loving; our comments and communications that have unintended consequences; our habitual patterns of reacting that disappoint us and leave us low.
We lament the state of our lives, but also the state of our world, marred by inequality, violence and careless indifference.
We are sorry.
We long to know that we are forgiven
and experience renewal that will make a difference.
Listen and hear the good news:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in love.
He does not treat us according to our attitudes and behaviour,
for as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love for us;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our wrongdoing from us.
Jesus says, ‘You are forgiven,’ He also says, ‘Follow me.’
Readings – 2 Samuel 11: 26 – 12:13a
John 6: 24-35
Hymn 641 – Seek ye first (1,3)
Faithful God, fill our hunger with the food that lasts; the bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Thank you that we need never grow hungry or thirsty again, as we come and trust in Jesus. Amen
It has been good to watch the Olympics, though admittedly I do not stay up all night to watch the various races live. I enjoy seeing small countries without many resources win medals, though it is also good to see home talent win. I wondered if anyone in the Bible would have qualified. No doubt Jesus would have won everything, though I never picture him running, and he is more likely to walk on water rather than swim in it! In the Old Testament Samson would have won the weightlifting, Jacob would have a chance at the wresting, but if there is one person who would do well and be an Olympian, then it would be David. He was a good all-rounder. Archery, battle, writing psalms, playing music: everything seemed to come naturally to him, and he set the standard for other kings to follow. But the Bible is a very honest book and in the passage we read this morning, we see that David was fallible and flawed.
The army has gone to fight, and usually the king would go with them. But David remains in Jerusalem. We don’t know why. From the roof of his palace, he sees a woman bathing; she was purifying herself, as the law demanded. But David, the peeping Tom, was filled with lust- the outcome was that he seduced her. He was the king, a man of power, and she was the wife of a soldier, a foreign mercenary, a Hittite. Nowadays it would be called sexual exploitation or worse, for she would have had no power to refuse. Her name was Bathsheba.
When we do something wrong, we always try to deflect the blame. It is always the other person’s fault. Or we try to wriggle out of it, and that is exactly what David did. Bathsheba was pregnant, and David called her husband back from the front, so he could sleep with his wife, so he wouldn’t know that the baby wasn’t his. But Uriah, unlike David, was a man of integrity and wouldn’t sleep with his wife while his friends were fighting. David tried to get him drunk; that failed. In the end he ordered his commander to put Uriah in the front of the battle – certain death. It is a sordid tale. David is no longer the Olympian, no longer the hero; rather he has become the villain.
Uriah is dead. He married Bathsheba and thinks everything is OK. He can forget about it. He has had a lucky escape. Enter Nathan the Prophet. Nathan tells the story of the rich man with his own flocks grabbing the little lamb from the poor man to roast for a guest. David is livid, demanding the wealthy man be put to death. In one of the best lines, Nathan says ‘Thou art the man’, and David’s eyes are opened to the immensity of what he has done and he has to the grace to realise his sin. Nathan has held up a mirror to David and he saw himself as he really was. Warts and all.
The parable talks about the abuse of power and also the nature of choices made by the powerful which can impact on the powerless. Society needs to look in the mirror. We live in a world where people can think themselves above the law and therefore can do what they want. But we have to look at ourselves too, for all of us fall short and need a change of heart. ‘Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow’. David is supposed to have written Psalm 51 after this. But Ps 51 is our psalm too – it expresses the sadness we feel at our own failings. But as our confession at the start of the service reminds us, God is a God of forgiveness who encourages us to learn from our mistakes and move on to be a people of grace and mercy showing Christ’s love to the world.
Hymn 517 – Fight the good fight (1,2)
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of power and possibility, bless the gifts we offer to you this day, and all our efforts to serve you and our neighbours in Jesus’ name.
We pray for the things that are shaping our national life at the moment. The things we hear about on the news, but also the cultural currents that are shaping and changing our shared values and sense of identity. We pray for those who witness to your love in the community, in institutions and the corridors of power.
We pray for our world, ravaged by COVID and climate change. A world where there is unequal impact of these effects and unequal access to the resources to cope with them. Where war displaces people, and the everyday violence of discrimination distorts lives.
And we pray for the help that each of us needs in the coming week. For the areas of our lives where we need inner strength, or challenge, or to imagine your world transformed by love.
We pray for young people moving to school or secondary school or to college or to a job. Young people planning their next stage.
For patients coping with life limiting illness.
For families living with loss.
Those looking for a way to find mental wellbeing,
and those who need a holiday.
We thank you, Lord, for this church community and the nourishment we find by spending time here with you. Fill us with your Spirit as we praise you so that we may go out from here enriched and ready to serve you in the wider world. Help us to encourage one another and build each other up, that this may be a place of affirmation, acceptance and love. We pray for our leaders, both locally and nationally, asking that you will provide them with wisdom, patience and grace.
Hymn 458 – At the name of Jesus (1,2,4)
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and all whom you love,
Now and forevermore. Amen