Call to Worship
Come all you travellers, tired from the journey. Come to the feast; there is room at the table.
Come all you questioners, looking for answers. Come to the feast; there is room at the table.
Come let us worship God, who welcomes us in with love and grace
Hymn 125 – Lord of all being
Prayers of adoration and confession
Welcoming God, we join together to offer this time of worship. We are glad to come as we are, each one unique, different and each loved just the same. We are aware that you meet us here, may we notice your presence all around us.
You are the host, and we are invited to be here to join together in worship, in song, word and silence. May we remain humble and faithful to you here and now and always.
We come to show our love for you and all you have revealed to us in Jesus. We come to hear your word afresh and learn more of you. We come to offer ourselves just as we are and to give our gifts to help build your kingdom.
we confess we too often fall short of the kindness and compassion we meet in Jesus.
You have welcomed us like guests to a banquet,
yet we find it hard to welcome a stranger in church.
You have shown us what matters most in life,
but we are distracted by worries,
busy with things that really do not matter.
Forgive us, O God.
Teach us to honour you and those we meet
in all we do and say, for the sake of Christ, our Lord.
Dear friends, while it is true that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s hope for us,
it is a greater truth that we are forgiven through God’s amazing love. Praise be to God.
Readings – Jeremiah 2: 4-13
Luke 14: 1, 7-14
Hymn 489 – Come down, O Love Divine
Heavenly Father as we humbly come before you this day help us never to forsake you, our spring of living water. Help us to focus our priorities and our thoughts on heavenly things, as well as placing our treasures in heaven. Give us eyes to see and hearts to understand not only what you do on our behalf, but what you call us to do on your behalf. Amen
n the old days of air travel, there used to be smoking at the back and non-smoking near the front, though it didn’t seem to matter. In the old days of air travel, you could sometimes ask for an upgrade and, if you were lucky, find yourself in business class. It happened to me a couple of times, and it felt really good having slightly more space and some nice food. I don’t think you would get anywhere nowadays if you asked.
Have you ever been upgraded? Maybe it has been on a train or you have been given a sea-view in a hotel or a special cabin in a cruise. Once I had cheap tickets for a concert, but found myself in a box, though that was because the person I was with knew one of the ushers. It can make us feel good, when we are upgraded. It can make us feel special.
Jesus was at a dinner party; in a way, he was the star attraction. He was fascinated to watch as people positioned themselves, all vying to be near the top, to be in the places of honour. The guests at the dinner party would have been wealthy, they would have been people with influence, people with clout. They would have all felt that they were entitled to be at the top table. But imagine their shame, if they were asked to give up their place for someone else and be moved down. Jesus taught that it was far better to humble yourself and sit at the back or further down the table and be given the honour of being brought up to the front. Though in your average church of Scotland congregation, people might prefer to remain at the back!
In Zambia, whenever there were meals, the clergy would always be ushered to the front and given the best pieces of chicken, and I was never comfortable with that. Only, when I went to the back of the queue, others were not comfortable and always ushered me to the front, which I had to accept. I think we have moved on from that in Britain now!
But honour and shame still play a part in our everyday lives. I don’t know whether you use social media or not? In Facebook, for example, you can post a photo or write a few lines, and people can ‘like’ it. If there are lots of likes, then we are happy. However, if there are ‘dislikes’ or negative comments, it can really be quite devastating. I don’t use Twitter, but I know that comments can be retweeted, which makes you feel good, but again, negative reaction can be very hurtful. Most of us can take it in our stride, but for younger people, it can have a big impact and they can feel bullied and depressed, shunned and excluded.. Their sense of self-value damaged, for somehow people measure their status with how many likes they have, and it is so damaging. In God’s eyes all of us are valued, all of us have worth; we need to see ourselves through God’s eyes.
Jesus was at the meal, because he had received a bunch of ‘likes’, you could say. People wanted to hear him, especially if he was controversial. He didn’t disappoint, for he questions who we should invite to our dinner parties. Do you invite those who will invite you back or who will be able to help you in some way? Or should you invite the overlooked and the marginalised? He gives a glimpse of the Kingdom, where all are welcome and where social distinctions are turned on their head.
There is a story told, and maybe it is apocryphal, of a big church in the States who were waiting for a new minister. The day of the induction came, and the church was absolutely full. There were young and old, rich and not-so-rich. There was even a homeless person, judging from his clothes, who had wandered in. The elders were all at the front. The homeless person made for the front, but the team on duty soon took him to the back and fund a seat, though the family next to him felt obliged to move. The organist was playing, but where was the new minister? People were excited, but there was no sign of him yet. Someone went to the microphone and appealed for the new minister to come to the front, but no-one came forward – except for the homeless person who was on his wanders again. I am sure you have guessed it… the homeless person was the new minister, who had dressed incognito to see how welcoming his new congregation really was.
The gospel reading today doesn’t give us much wriggle room. We are encouraged to reach out to the poor, to the outcast, to those on the margins. The people without any influence, but they are the ones who get a place at the table. The Kingdom is not about popularity, but is a place where everyone is welcomed, everyone is valued. So, if you see someone sitting alone, draw a seat up and sit with them. You may well find that Jesus draws a seat up and sits beside us. The Pharisees liked their distinctions, but in God’s kingdom all are welcome.
Hymn 543 – Longing for light
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
God of all good things, take our humble offerings of money and time and talent and multiply them, that through our resources which we return to you, our world may be changed.
Good and generous God, in Jesus Christ you came to us, promising us life in abundance.
We give you thanks today for the abundant gifts we receive in him –
assurance of your love day by day;
relief of mercy when we recognize our own failings;
hope when things seem bleak;
energy to make a difference through our work and our witness;
peace that comes when we trust ourselves in you.
These are the gifts that matter, O God,
especially when the future seems uncertain:
Generous God, today we pray for all whose lives seem empty:
For those whose lives are empty of joy
because the going is tough and friends seem far away…
because sorrow surrounds them…
because hearts are filled with anger or disappointment…
Generous God, we remember before you those whose lives are empty of purpose
and those who do not know the respect of their neighbours:
because they are without work…
because they face discrimination in their communities…
because they have made poor choices and cannot find a way forward…
Generous God, we remember before you those who lives are empty of peace & hope:
because they struggle with illness or disability…
because they are powerless in the face of violence…
because old animosities rankle & opportunity for reconciliation is elusive…
Good and generous God,
fill us with the energy & compassion of your Spirit
to reach out to those whose lives seem empty.
Hymn 458 – At the name of Jesus