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. Come, people of God, let us worship together for our service for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is God’s steadfast love;
As far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us.
So let us rejoice in God’s presence!
Let us praise the name of the Lord together
Hymn 198 – Let us build a house
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Holy and loving One, God of might and mercy,
The heavens and the earth are full of your glory.
Your love transforms our lives.
You take darkness and give light.
You take grief and give healing.
You take fatigue and give strength.
You take fear and give courage.
You take death and give new life.
So we come before you in worship, handing over to you all that weighs us down,
waiting for your refreshing gifts.
Renew us in this time of worship, we pray,
so that we may serve you in Jesus’ name. Amen.
O God, we confess that our lives do not always reflect your transforming power.
You are gracious, but we cling to judgement.
You are forgiving, but we nurse grudges and old wounds.
You are filled with joy,
but too often we are filled with dissatisfaction and complaints.
Forgive us, O God, and fill us with your Holy Spirit, and make us new through Christ, our Saviour.
The proof of God's amazing love is this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Know that you are forgiven by his grace and be at peace.
Readings: Exodus 14: 21-31
Hymn 180 - Give thanks with a grateful heart
Heavenly father we pray week by week “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” but so often we fall short of your standards in our lives. Again today, we ask for your forgiveness and help to live as you intended us to live, as we seek to follow the example of Jesus. Amen
‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’. Sounds familiar. We say it every Sunday in the Lord’s Prayer, though one or two may say ‘trespasses’ and even ‘sins’ instead. But ‘debts’ certainly works, considering our parable today. It trips off our tongues, but think about what we are saying, ‘Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors’. I think we hope God just listens to the first bit and then switches off. In our Gospel reading today, Peter asks about forgiveness and suggests to forgive 7 times, which is incredibly generous. But Jesus says 70x 7. In other words, there should be no limits to forgiveness.
And Jesus goes on to tell the parable about the servant who owed a massive debt to the king. Not even Trillions, but zillions, but graciously wipes the slate clean. Only to hear that the forgiven servant had not shown the same spirit of mercy to a colleague who owed him a trifle. The king’s spirit of mercy evaporated, and he sent the servant to be tortured. God doesn’t seem to like un unforgiving spirit.
But as human beings, we are not very good where forgiveness is concerned. Sometimes it can be trivial things, and we should really know better, but often people really offend us, hurt us or, worse, hurt those whom we love, and it is a hard ask to forgive them – and especially when they don’t seem to show any remorse themselves. And I am sure we can think of many examples when someone has really hurt us.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman and strong Christian, who wrote about her experiences in the 2nd World War, where she and her sister helped to hide a number of Jews. Ultimately someone informed on her, and they were both sent to a concentration camp. Corrie survived, but her sister didn’t. After the war she spoke a lot at various rallies and meetings about reconciliation, but on one occasion came face to face with one of the guards from the camp. Memories of her sister came flooding back, and she felt numb. He approached her, said that he had become a Christian and wanted to ask her forgiveness. She felt nothing but anger, but struggled within herself and somehow managed to forgive him. She felt such a sense of release. Forgiveness broke the chains of bitterness and freed her to live her life. It was as if she had been held captive by the past: she had to move on.
The Israelites must have felt bitter by their experiences of slavery and oppression: the crossing of the Red Sea liberated them and they had their time in the wilderness to process their thoughts. Though the widows of the Egyptian charioteers who drowned and the stable girls or boys whose horses did not return would also have felt bitterness, though whether against Pharaoh or the Israelites, I don’t know. Maybe the two groups could have come together to share their feelings.
That is what happens with restorative justice. In Rwanda, after the genocide there, Tutu and Hutsi came together, people whose families had been butchered to death came face to face with the perpetrators of the crime. There was so much anger and distress, but it was a cathartic experience and brought about so much healing, that the country was able to move forward. The past couldn’t hold them back any more.
It is hard to forgive, but as the parable reminds us that we, like the servant, have been forgiven so much. God has been so gracious and merciful to us, forgiving and accepting us. We have experienced God’s amazing grace, and so we too should be gracious to others and forgive, and if that forgiveness is genuinely from our hearts, then we will have learnt something in the process. Amen
Hymn 782 – Lord of life, we come to you
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Generous God, we offer you our gifts of love, of service and of money. Use these gifts to sow seeds of love and hope and bring closer your dream of justice and peace
God of light and hope,
we pray for those who face lives filled with darkness:
those who suffer in body, mind, and spirit;
those bent under burdens of sorrow;
those who cannot see the way ahead.
We pray for those who accompany others in dark times and places;
For those who comfort the grieving, and work for healing and new possibilities.
May all these find their darkness transformed by your presence.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer
God of peace and promise,
we pray for those who work for peace in the world,
for leaders and decision makers,
for those who hold power and can make a difference in their communities,
and for those who make, interpret, and enforce laws.
Awaken a respect for the needs of the most vulnerable, including the earth and its fragile balances.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer
God of forgiveness and reconciliation;
we pray for those we have hurt or offended
and for those to whom we have been unkind.
We pray for those who have hurt us, or been careless with our feelings.
Work in our lives to redeem broken relationships.
Shape us into gracious and forgiving people.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer
In a moment of silence we bring the prayers of our hearts.
Hymn 252 – As a fire is meant for burning
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with faith.
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with hope.
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with love.
And may the blessing of God Almighty, the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you and be with all whom you love and those we are called to love,
Now and forevermore. Amen.