The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Let us worship together for our service for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost.
How good it is, how pleasant it is,
where the people dwell as one!
The Lord has lavished blessings upon us,
Life for evermore. Let us worship God
Hymn 225- Summer suns are glowing (vv1,2)
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Welcoming and generous God, you make all things new.
We are glad to come together wherever we are this day.
You invite all people into your fold to receive your blessing. Justice and right relations have their source in you.
We are filled with joy to be counted among your children.
As we gather, make us one in worship and thanksgiving.
We lift our voices to proclaim your all-encompassing love.
May our praise join with the praise of all your people.
And reach the ends of the earth, for you are our Saviour and our hope.
Merciful and wise God,
In your presence we confess that we have not lived as you taught us to live.
Forgive us those times we have not welcomed others into our community;
and those times we have avoided others
because something about them made us uncomfortable.
Forgive us the ways we have judged unfairly.
Reveal to us our own prejudice which separates us from others
and our failure to seek your goodness in those who seem different from us.
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.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,
Now and forever. Amen
Readings -Genesis 45: 1-15
Matthew 15: 21-28
Hymn 498 – Angel Voices (vv 1,2,4)
Gracious God we thank you that, as Joseph was able to see the bigger picture, we too may reflect your love and forgiveness in our families, our church and our community. Then they will be able to witness our faith as followers of Christ and be drawn into his loving care. Amen
There has been a furore this week over exam results. The young people could not of course sit their exams this year, so their grades had to be assessed. When the results came out, many students were disappointed and found that their marks had been downgraded, which affects their hopes for the future, for jobs, for college. Worse, those in poorer areas seemed to be affected more. It was a mess; The Qualification Board were really on a hiding to nothing, and I am sure we all have our opinions about it, but the Scottish Government ended up saying, ‘We got it wrong’, and did a U turn.
In the Bible there are many U turns: we think of Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of the Church, having a complete turnaround on the road to Damascus ,or Zacchaeus or even Joseph and his brothers, now reconciled in our story today. But what about Jesus? Today Jesus finds himself challenged by the Canaanite woman.
Wherever Jesus had gone, crowds had followed, all demanding his attention, his compassion, his healing. He must have been completely drained, and in our story today, he gets away. He goes with the disciples across the border into Lebanon, to the area around Tyre and Sidon. It is almost like a holiday, away from all the crowds. Perhaps that is why he didn’t want to answer the Canaanite woman, when she asked for help. We are so used to Jesus responding immediately with compassion, reaching out to touch and heal, but here he resists. Maybe he was drained, but also he crossed the border, and this was a Canaanite, the traditional enemy of the Jews. She was a woman, and she was a nuisance, who didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. But also she was a mother, and her daughter was sick, and she knew that Jesus could heal her. As a mother it didn’t matter to her if Jesus was Jewish, she wanted the best for her daughter. Like the students with poor grades and like the people of Beirut, just up the coast from Sidon, after the explosion last week, they wanted an answer and wouldn’t give up.
The woman persisted, persevered, spoke to the disciples until they told Jesus to send her away, and at last Jesus spoke and said that he had come only for the Israel and not for anyone else. He even speaks quite harshly to her, but she counters him by saying that even dogs eat the crumbs falling from the table. She challenges Jesus to look beyond Israel, and such is her persistence, that he praises her faith, and her daughter is healed.
This story is not wonderful for Jesus’ PR; it is so out of character. His views were maybe shaped by the culture he was brought up in, as our own are, but he learns from this exchange. He realises that the kingdom message is for all people, that God’s mercy and love are for everyone regardless of race or gender. When Matthew was writing his Gospel, that was a hot topic, as the early church debated whether the Church was for Jews only or Gentiles too.
The passage shows us that, whatever age we are, we are all still learning. This passage also challenges us to see how expansive, how inclusive God’s kingdom is, reaching out to everyone, to say ‘All are welcome’.
It challenges us to persist. When there is injustice or wrong in society, we must call it out. But one more thought. The woman’s modern day equivalent– the Lebanese -protested against their government after the explosion last week. But they also arrived from all over the country with brushes and buckets, to get on with the work of cleaning up, and I love that picture. Speaking ou,t but also doing something to improve the situation for all around. We can learn from them – and we can learn from the Canaanite woman.
Hymn 65 - Jubilate
Prayers for Intercession
O God, we place our hope and trust in your loving kindness, leaning on you for all our needs. Because we want to praise you with more than mere words, we bring our gifts to support Christ’s mission in the world. Bless these gifts and use our energy for your good purposes, so that all the world will know your loving kindness.
Generous God, we pray for your blessing on this community, as we seek to find you in the midst of anxiety. As we search for hope in times of darkness, shine your light into the lives of each one of us, that we may know your love is with us always.
We pray for your whole church, a people attempting to live in your example and spread your message throughout the world. We recognise the difficulties in this time more than any other that face those bearing witness to you, but we ask that all Christians will have strength in your love, to continue and to flourish. We pray for those persecuted for their faith.
We pray for those on the margins of our society, living in fear or hurt, attempting to overcome problems, without the comfort and security many of us take for granted. We pray that we, your people, will give everything to help them and that they will find support in you.
We pray for our global community. The world seems ever smaller, and one country is not immune from the troubles of another, and so we pray that leaders as they make difficult decisions. May all citizens will follow your example of peace, love, and forgiveness, and work towards a better world for all peoples. We pray that each one of us will show your love to the world welcoming friend and stranger alike, bringing your kingdom ever closer.
We think of all involved in the terrible train crash at Stonehaven and pray for those who lost loved ones. We remember all who mourn; those sick in hospital, all in nursing homes and all suffering from depression.
Hymn 396- And can it be (vv 1,5)
People of God, go forward into this week with faith. For the love of God is with you; surrounds and upholds you. May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and be with all, now and forevermore Amen