Call to Worship
With thankful hearts we gather to worship God
May we be united in love and praise
With generous, faithful minds we open our hearts
May we be filled with the knowledge of Christ's teaching
With the trials and temptations of life in our thoughts
May we lay them down and prepare to worship God
Hymn 214 – New every morning
Prayers of adoration and confession
Eternal and Loving God,
We are in awe as we worship You today.
Your generosity knows no bounds,
and we are humbled by the breadth, length and depth of Your love for us,
which extends to the people of the whole world that You made so creatively.
How wonderful it is that You brought variety, colour, vibrancy and beauty to this earth,
for You have been a generous and caring master
who wanted to provide for Your children.
We are blessed with continents, countries and areas that range from the high mountain to the deep ocean,
the small rural village to the bustling city.
All of this has been made perfectly, a loving gift to be experienced and lived to the full.
You have showered upon us all the resources we need for a fulfilling life,
including families and friends who love us,
work and leisure that inspires us,
and a faith that brings meaning and purpose day by day. We are truly thankful for all You have done, and continue to do for us, day by day.
You know everything about us.
The thoughts we have, the desires we fight against, and the words that are spoken
that cause distress, worry and fear.
We confess the mistakes made, the actions taken, or not taken, and say sorry ...
Sorry because we let others gain the upper hand, instead of turning to You.
Sorry that we have not been as faithful as we could have been.
Loving God, forgive us, assure us and empower us as we move forward in faith,
renewed and forgiven,
knowing You are with us, urging, encouraging and driving us on
Readings – Lamentation 3: 19-26
Hymn 153 – Great is thy faithfulness
Prayer of Illumination
God our creator,
You have made us one with all the earth,
To tend it and to bring forth fruit:
May we so respect and cherish
All that has life from you,
That we may share in the labour of all creation
To give birth to your hidden glory,
Through Jesus Christ. Amen
Two weeks ago was the Morebattle Flower Show; yesterday was the Yetholm Shepherd Show. At both events I stood amazed at the skills people have. There are gigantic leeks; there are thick stalks of rhubarb; there are flowers wonderfully proportioned and in the brightest of colour. There are cakes and scones; there are the beautifully carved sticks. At Yetholm there is the livestock as well, but also runners tackling a hilly course. It is all great fun, but also it represents a real commitment to grow the fruit and vegetables; a creativity to produce the best displays. I look out at my garden, and there is nothing I could display, but there are flowers and trees that have given me a lot of pleasure over the months. We humans can work away, but it is God who ultimately brings about the growth.
I don’t think I saw in either of the shows any mustard bushes, but Jesus had a particular liking of mustard seeds, for he uses them in several of his parables. The seeds were of course tiny, yet put them in the ground, lavish them with TLC (tender loving care) and they would grow into a large bush. But in the parable this morning Jesus used the image of a mustard seed to talk about faith; if the disciples had the tiniest of faith, the size of a mustard seed, they could tell a mulberry tree to uproot itself and plant itself in the sea. Though perhaps more famously in Matthew, the faith to move mountains.
In Cairo the story is told of a time in the Middle Ages when Cairo was a place in which the three monotheistic religions all thrived – Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The heads would gather every now and again to chat, but this time the Sultan and the chief rabbi rounded on the Christian bishop and asked about this parable and challenged the bishop to prove it and to move a mountain by faithful prayer – or else, his flock would be put to the sword. He was given three days – and he was in despair. He tried to explain that perhaps it wasn’t to be taken literally, that Jesus was exaggerating to put across his point. But they wouldn’t listen. The story goes, however, that after sleepless nights and much fasting during the day, on the third day the mountain was moved, and the Sultan abdicated and became a Christian.
We may take a story like that with a pinch of salt, but for many Coptic Christians in Egypt they believed it happened. They live as a small minority, and stories like this bolsters their faith. We read from the book of Lamentations today. It is a gloomy book, as it records the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. |The temple had been raised to the ground, the precious treasures taken away to Babylon; even the king had been led away in chains. The people who were left lamented in despair. But in Chapter 3 we have the tiniest mustard seed light in their darkness, as the writer realises that God’s love is there new every morning; so great is his faithfulness. Suddenly there is hope in the worst of situations.
The disciples had asked Jesus to increase their faith. By faith, I thank they meant their trust. We are often in that situation, where we look at other people or we look at those who have gone before us and feel that they had so much faith, whereas often ours is wanting. But I think we need to take these words from lamentations to heart; that God’s love is there new every morning; that God is ever faithful to us. The saints were ordinary people, with all their failings, but who somehow made a difference. We too can make a difference, even with our failings.
Daoud Nasser is a Palestinian Christian and has a farm near Bethlehem. It has been in the family for many generations, and they have title deeds to prove it. It is now surrounded by Israeli settlements, which ever seek to encroach upon their land. He now calls his farm the ‘tent of nations’, as many volunteers come to stay to help the Nasser family plant olive trees especially and help them with the harvest. So often the settlers burn the trees or uproot them; the Nasser family just replant, refusing to be intimidated or to treat the settlers as enemies. That’s faith. Despite the hatred they face, they respond with love and plant believing in a bright future. We pray it will come.
As the farmer plants crops hoping for a good yield or a gardener plants flowers or vegetables hoping for a good display, so we can plant the seeds of hope, for God’s love is there for us, new every morning. So great is God’s faithfulness.
Prayers of Dedication
O God of the ages, we give because you have given so many things to us. Help us to use our resources to bring about change that the poor will be lifted up, the broken healed, and the despised included,
let our love for you increase and our love of mammon fade away.
Hymn 259- Beauty for brokenness
Prayers of Thanksgiving & Intercession
Eternal One, we praise You for Your goodness and grace, Your love which sustains our world and all that is therein, the diversity of Your creation, the beauty of our planet, and the animals and forms of life with which we share our fragile home.
O Most High, we give thanks for all that is good in our lives: our church where we’re nurtured and sustained, our community where You meet people in all sorts of ways, the love that we share in so many different ways – each way reflecting Your love for us.
Here in the security of our worship we bring to you places, O God, that are not very secure, for we remember those who weep: the people of Ukraine living with invasion, terror and uncertainty, the people of Afghanistan recovering from earthquake and living with an unstable government the people of Yemen at war with Saudi Arabia and the civil conflict in Ethiopia.
We pray for those who seek and work for peace in each of these places - seeking to sing your song of peace in a strange place. We ask Your blessing on those who investigate war crimes and attempt to bring perpetrators to justice and we ask You continue to turn the hearts of politicians toward peace and away from war.
We remember too, Eternal One, our own nations in times of trouble. We pray for those who: struggle to pay their bills this month and this winter, will suffer due to the fall in the value of sterling, plot to make the rich wealthier in the proud imagination of their hearts, and those who feel they have no alternative but to strike to defend their livelihoods. Give wisdom, O God, to those who dare to lead us, that integrity, justice and compassion will become watchwords of our national life.
We pray for the Church, that we might be forward looking and outward-looking. Help us to put our trust in You, O God. Give us faith to make a difference. Faith: that you still call people to Yourself; that you still have work and purpose for us; faith the size of a mustard seed. In a moment’s silence we bring to God the names of those we love and worry about…
Hymn 644 – O Jesus I have promised
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord turn His smile towards you and give you peace.