The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those listening in other places too! You are all very welcome. Come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost.
O God, who called all life into being
The earth, sea and sky are yours
Your Spirit enlivens all who walk the earth
With her we yearn for justice to be done
For creation to be freed from bondage
For your Kingdom of peace to come on earth.
Hymn 165 – Praise to the Lord for the joys of the earth (vv 1,4,5)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of grace and glory,
Your creative power is beyond imagining.
Your love is wider than the whole universe;
your mercy, greater than the heights of heaven;
your wisdom, deeper than the sea.
Maker of all things,
you became one of us in Jesus Christ,
and through your Spirit you are present with us
in every place and every time.
We worship you, Creator, Christ, and Spirit,
one God, now and always.
Creator God, we confess that we have not been conscientious stewards of your creation. We confess our failure to learn lessons, to care for our world, and to treat nature and animal life with respect. Forgive us, good Lord, and help us to turn our sorrow into action, our failure into change, our guilt into grace.
God, the source of all mercy, has sent the Holy Spirit amongst us for the forgiveness of sins, the equipping of the saints and the fine tuning of our hearts. We are forgiven! Be at peace with God, with yourself and with each other.
Readings – Exodus 12: 1-14
Matthew 18: 15-20
Hymn 251 – I the Lord of sea and sky (1, 3)
Faithful God, thank you for your promise that where two or three come together in your name you have promised to be with them. Deepen our understanding of the message of the Passover, that we are safe under God's protection and as we pray through this coming week may we do so with your heart of compassion. Amen.
In discussing our experiences over the lockdown period, everyone I have spoken to has commented on how lucky we have been to live in this part of the world with the countryside on our doorsteps and being able to look out on hills and on rolling fields, whose colour has been ever changing depending on the crops being grown. But there has been another picture of the countryside over the last few months – of crowded beaches, and bottles and plastic bags of rubbish, strewn over the sand. Another picture has been of beauty spots violated by day-trippers or campers, littering, soiling, damaging the habitats. It has been horrific, and while none of us could think of anyone who would pollute the countryside in this way, there are obviously those who do.
We have become more and more conscious of the environment and just how fragile our planet is and how we need to care for it. This month of September has been designated as ‘Creation Time’ by the British churches, including Church of Scotland, and we have invited to reflect on the way we as humans abuse the earth but also be challenged to take action.
At first sight, we may wonder what our lectionary readings have to say about this. The Exodus reading can be a bit gruesome, talking about slaying lambs and smearing the blood over the door lintels and also of the slaying of the Egyptian first born. It is about the preparations for Passover. The Israelites had been oppressed and enslaved, and despite plague after plague, Pharaoh had not listened and had rejected any change. But now God was preparing a fresh start for the Israelites. Led by Moses, they would escape the oppression of Egypt and be liberated, set free. A new way of living was beckoning, and that was a life with God.
Like Pharaoh, we have had so many warnings about the damage we have done to the earth, and the plagues of pollution and over consumption and abuse of the good resources like water. We have to listen and act. In the Creation story in Genesis 1 there is a constant refrain – It is good, it is good, it is good. God created a wonderful creation, and we have to remember that and treasure the earth, treating it gently (Yoruba Poem: Enjoy the earth gently, enjoy the earth gently; for if the earth is spoiled it cannot be repaired; enjoy the earth gently). We can, like the Israelites, make a new start.
But our Gospel reading reminds us how divided we can be as human beings. There is the wonderful phrase, often said at evening services, ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them’, but where two or three are gathered, often there are two or three different opinions. It is just the way we are as people. It is called living in community. But for the small Christian community that Matthew was addressing in his Gospel, these views or maybe actions could severely damage the community, and so had to be addressed. Matthew proposes a way to restore good relations – by being open and talking together. It still happens today – sometimes congregations can be split in two, and healing has to take place. There is an organisation in the Church called ‘A place for hope’ which remit is to bring about reconciliation.
Just as we are called to treat the earth gently, so we have also to treat one another sensitively and ever seek to build up the community. In our world where there is sexism and racism denigrating others and causing so much harm, we have to learn to live together with one another, but also live together creatively and gently with our planet.
Song – Let my people go!
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Lord God, receive these gifts, offered in a spirit of generosity and humility. Bless and use them for the work that you long to do in the world for Jesus’ sake
Creator of heaven and earth,
lover of each and every soul,
we are filled with a sense of gratitude for all the blessings of this life.
For making us in your image to love and care for one another,
we give you thanks.
For the gift of Christ, who redeems and guides us,
and who gives us a pattern for everyday living,
we praise you.
Hear us now as we pray for situations where your love and grace are sorely needed in the world you love.
We pray for the Church in this place and around the world, facing so many new challenges to respond to, so many enduring needs…
We pray for this beautiful planet, the fragile home we share with all living things…
For those who govern in this place and the nations of the world, that they may find the wisdom and courage to do justice in the decisions they make…
For the homeless and the hungry, for the unemployed and the anxious, and for all who have become more vulnerable through the pandemic…
For those lying on hospital bed, those who mourn and those who are alone or feeling isolated…
For the powerless and oppressed, and those caught up in destructive relationships or unjust political systems…
And for the concerns we bear on our hearts this day…
Eternal God, we thank you for those who have gone ahead of us and showed us some measure of your eternal love. Keep us always in communion with you, and with your people from every time and place. Amen
Hymn 515 – Soldiers of Christ, arise
May the blessing of God who is always sustaining as Parent, Beloved, and Breath of All Life - surprise you, connect you as friends of Creation, hands, feet, hearts at the ready, alert and awake! Amen