Call to Worship
Creator God, of Justice
You are with us now
Bright God of Change
You will walk beside us
Rainbow God of life
We will follow you!
Hymn 200 – Christ is made the sure foundation
Prayers of adoration and confession
beauty and harmony mark your creation.
As the seasons change,
we see you are still at work in the world,
transforming hearts and situations.
We praise you for all you do to repair injustice,
to bring peace to places of war,
working for goodness to prevail in all nations.
You offer us new possibilities day by day,
and so we place our trust in your redeeming power.
Renew our energy to reach out in love this autumn
and open our eyes to new opportunities in Jesus’ name.
Through the power of the Spirit, make us participants in your work, bringing justice and joy into the world you love.
you open your heart to those in need,
and to your aching creation.
We confess we often turn away
so that we do not have to see pain, suffering or injustice, right before our eyes.
We don’t like to feel uncomfortable
or pressed into service.
Forgive us and give us courage to love others as you love.
The prophet Micah declared that God requires of us three things: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
To all who repent, who act for justice and seek to serve God and neighbour in kindness,
God offers forgiveness and peace.
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Readings – 1 Timothy 6: 6- 19
Hymn 517- Fight the good fight
Prayer of Illumination
God, whose name is not honoured
Where the needy are not served,
And the powerless are treated with contempt:
May we embrace our neighbour
With the same tenderness
That we ourselves require;
So your justice may be fulfilled in love,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
I studied at St Andrew’s, and tourists would come and rave about being at the home of golf. I was caught by surprise, because after the first week, I never noticed the golf, I never noticed the golf courses.
This week I was speaking to some visitors at Yetholm Church, and they were raving about the thatched cottages and the village greens and even the house in the Morebattle Road with the gnomes in the garden. I realized that I have grown used to these now; I accept that they are there and don’t see them as different.
Some things become so familiar that we don’t notice any more. We have to look with the eyes of a stranger to see how beautiful a part of the world we live in or even to see what needs done about the house - that we do need to change the wallpaper or give the door a lick of paint.
The parable we read this morning is about failing to notice. There are two main characters, and there is a chasm between them – because one is outrageously rich and the other dirt poor. There is a chasm between them in the afterlife, as one is in heaven and the other in the torments of Hades, of Hell.
There is a rich man. Sometimes we call him Dives, but that simply means rich man. And there is the poor man, a destitute, with sores all over his body that the dogs lick. He is called Lazarus, and in all Jesus’ parables, Lazarus is the only one Jesus gives a name to. The prodigal son isn’t Aaron, woman looking for her lost coin isn’t Rebecca; the sower isn’t Zack. Only Lazarus is given a name, the lowest of the low. And the name Lazarus means ‘God helps’.
There is a painting of this parable by the Italian artist Veronese, and the rich man is sitting at his table, eating the sumptuous fare, drinking the finest wine, while musicians play for his enjoyment. He is dressed in the latest fashion. He has everything money can buy. But Lazarus is lying by a pillar, dogs licking his wounds. The rich man would have passed Lazarus every day, but never noticed – or chose not to notice. He had become just part of the scenery.
But then the scene shifts to the afterlife. Jesus is talking with some Pharisees, and they believed in the afterlife. Jesus isn’t giving a model of what heaven is like, but is rather using a folklore version of heaven and hell. On death, Lazarus is whisked away by angels to heaven, but the rich man ends up in hell, where he suffers. This time, for the first time, he does notice Lazarus seated beside Abraham, but a chasm lies inbetween. The rich man was used to giving orders and he begins to instruct both Abraham and Lazarus, telling Lazarus to warn his brothers to mend their ways. They will believe, he thinks, someone who comes from the dead. But the parable finished with Abraham saying that if they hadn’t listened to the teaching of Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen to someone coming from the dead.
Wealth plays a part in this parable, though Jesus doesn’t dwell on it. But in our reading from Timothy, we hear the famous verse about the love of money being the root of all evil and how destructive it can be. Yet the rich can also help – the Hunter Foundation matches by 50% every pound raised for charity in the Kiltwalk for example. He gets some kudos out of it and can probably well afford it, but even so, he has done a good thing. It is the abuse of money that is the problem. Paul encourages the young Timothy to concentrate on living his life in a good and compassionate way, fighting the good fight and pursuing love and faith and gentleness.
The was a challenge to the Pharisees with whom Jesus was conversing, for did they notice the downtrodden? Or did their learning blind them? But it is also a challenge to us. We are privileged in so many different ways, with education, lifestyle, technology. But what – of whom- do we pass by, with eyes closed? Some are obvious – the widows, orphans, refugees that the Old Testament prophets keep mentioning, but others of our neighbours can have hidden needs and anxieties. We need to keep our eyes – and our ears – open.
And as a Church we are tasked to build bridges over the chasms that divide and tackle the prejudices that create these chasms in the first place. Jesus called Lazarus by name. Let us give everybody their dignity- by noticing them and not walking past.
Prayers of Dedication
Loving God, we bring you our gifts, grateful that we have something to share, and glad to be part of a network of mission and mercy which circles the earth. Bless the various good works supported by our Church of Scotland as well as the mission of our congregation. Use our gifts to multiply their impact in the world you love through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn 544 – When I needed a neighbour
Prayers of Thanksgiving & Intercession
God of mystery and wonder,
We look around at the beauty of this world
and the worlds beyond us,
and sense that you have given each precious thing its place and a way to sustain itself.
Thank you for the care you hold for your whole creation.
We also look around at the aching of the world
and sense that many precious things are under threat.
Too many pieces of your creation have fallen out of balance with each other.
Show us how we can help restore that balance
and protect what is at risk for the health of your whole creation. God of all creatures great and small,
Make us stewards of what is precious to you.
God of energy and life,
We look around at the peoples of this world
and see your image and dignity in every variety of face and culture.
Thank you for the care you hold for all humankind.
Yet we look around at the people of this world
and see the aching of the hungry and hurting;
we hear the groans of parents whose children die in their arms and feel the tears of children whose parents die too soon.
We know neighbours who are suffering
and hear of strangers who can’t imagine how to make it through tomorrow.
Awaken our generosity to offer what healing and hope we can
to the lives you cherish in every neighbourhood and nation. God of all creatures great and small,
Make us stewards of what is precious to you.
God of promise and possibility,
We look around at places where people collide with each other. We hear the grumbling of nations locked into old rivalries and grievances.
We watch the jousting of leaders impressed more by polls than effective policies.
We worry about the future of our communities and our children. We hear your call to do justice and live generously. Guide us as citizens to act for justice that brings peace and well being to communities near and far. Bless the Church as she engages with causes both in this country and abroad. God of all creatures great and small,
Make us stewards of what is precious to you.
God of faithfulness and surprise,
We look at ourselves and sometimes doubt we can make a difference or have an impact.
Challenge us to recognise the kinds of power we do have: The love and compassion, the courage and commitment, the laughter and friendship, the generosity and mercy You inspire within us.
In all these gifts we know your power.
Through all these gifts, our lives have been changed.
Using these gifts in our lives, bring Christ’s love and mercy to the world you love,
Hymn 737 – Will your anchor hold
Go in joy, knowing God rejoices over you; And care for others, knowing God rejoices over them, too!
May the blessing of the God who made us,
the Christ who mends us,
and the Spirit who gives us life
be with you now and always. Amen