The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those joining us 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 in this new month of October and on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost.
The podcast of this service can be accessed on the website.
This is the day that the Lord has made
Let us rejoice and be glad in it
It is good to give thanks to the Lord
For God’s love endures forever
Hymn 200 – Christ is made the sure foundation (vv1,2)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
As the seasons change, we see that you are still at work in the world, transforming hearts and situations.
We praise you for all you do to repair injustice,
bringing peace to places of hostility, working for goodness to prevail among neighbours and nations.
You have shown us the true face of power in Jesus Christ, reaching out with healing and hope to touch desperate lives.
Let us see the face of Christ in this time of worship,
and fill us with renewed energy and insight this autumn,
so that we can join in your work to bring justice and joy into the world you love,
in Jesus’ name.
Lord of love, today we confess our sin of indifference.
Too often we turn away so we don’t have to see pain, suffering or injustice,
even when the evidence is right before our eyes.
We don’t like to feel uncomfortable.
We don’t want to feel responsible.
In your great mercy, forgive us, Lord.
Teach us a new way to live.
Give us courage to love others as you love us,
and to respond to the cries of others with the humility we have witnessed in Jesus.
The prophet Micah declared that God requires of us these three things: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.
To all who humbly seek reconciliation with God and neighbour, God offers forgiveness and peace. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Readings – Philippians 3:4b-13
Matthew 21: 33-46
Hymn SGP 72 – Lord, Jesus Christ, you have come to us (1,4)
Almighty God and loving heavenly Father, we pray for our Church; that Christ may be the cornerstone of all that we do in his name. May we, his living church be the solid blocks of a spiritual community which continues to hold fast in the knowledge of Christ and the power of his resurrection in an ever-secular world. Amen
It was a triathlon race. The participants had been swimming, cycling and now it was the running. The person in front had won, and the one in 2nd place was clear of his rival – but he seemed to take a wrong turning, allowing his rival the opportunity to win silver. But his rival stopped before the line to allow the one who had taken the wrong turning to cross ahead of him. It was only fair, he said. It happened just a couple of weeks ago, and it was a marvellous example of sportsmanship. The fact that it hit the headlines shows how unusual it was.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians uses the image of a race, and how he strains, using all his energy, to attain the prize, which is to live in Christ. There is a real sense of determination and single-mindedness here, as Paul discards all the ‘baggage’ that he carries, in order to achieve his goal.
Some of that determination is needed in the Church at this time. The General Assembly will have met this weekend. Usually this is a weeklong meeting in Edinburgh, but this year it is one and a half days online. But as you may have seen in some of the newspapers, the Kirk has to make some difficult decisions, especially since income has fallen during this lockdown period. There will be pressure on the number of buildings we have, and also presbyteries will have to assess the number of ministries there will be. It is not necessarily negative, but it is the church having to do things differently, and this lockdown period has brought it to the fore.
But we also need to have that determination to pursue the things of the Kingdom, the values of peace and justice in a world which is too often violent. This week a policeman, nearing retirement and involved in the community, was shot dead in a police station. Meanwhile there was the presidential debate in America, which did nothing to reassure its citizens or to calm the violence which has affected so many American cities recently.
The parable in our Gospel reading today is a violent one. A landowner had a vineyard and does everything possible for it to yield good crops. He is going away, so he rents it out. But when he sends his servants to collect what is due to him, they are not received well. In fact, the opposite. They are abused and beaten up. The owner sends more, but they are even killed. So the owner sends his son and heir. After what happened to the servants, we may be surprised at this, but the owner felt they would honour his son – but they kill him too.
Of course, bells are ringing, for the setting of the parable is during Holy Week and we know that Jesus will himself be killed the son of God, the owner of the vineyard. We also have a sneaking suspicion of our responsibility in this, for we have been poor stewards of the vineyard, of God’s good earth.
But at the end of the parable, Jesus asks the crowd is what should the owner do to those tenant farmers? They reply that the tenants be killed. Meet violence with violence in other words. But what would Jesus do? Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey of peace, Jesus would comfort the mourning and heal the brokenness of humanity that he saw all around him and confront the injustices. And as those baptised into the Kingdom, we are called to do the same, as we strain towards the goal. We are called to agents of healing and love in the brokenness of our world – a world broken by racism, by poor stewardship of earth, by hatred and violence. We look to Jesus and see how he lived, and we follow his example.
Hymn 231 – For the fruits of all creation (1,2)
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Generous God all we have has come from you and so we give just a little back: our money, but also our time, our talents, our very lives. We ask you to bless both the gift and giver through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Loving Lord, we are living in strange and uncertain times. It feels as if everything we were sure of now fills us with fear and doubt. Yet throughout it all you remain constant, the great unchangeable I AM.
Still there is much in our world that we would want to pray for.
We pray for those working on the frontline, especially in our NHS and those working towards a cure and a vaccine for Covid 19.
We remember all those people and professions who previously we may have taken for granted. We pray that this new-found respect continues even as our lives return to some normality. We continue to think of our shopworkers, delivery drivers and refuse collectors and many, many more.
We bring before you those areas of the world which have largely disappeared from our screens, replaced by news closer to home: continued fighting in Syria and Yemen and Libya; refugees and asylum seekers who have been particularly affected by the pandemic; the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel.
We pray for the Church throughout the world, and especially the Church of Scotland after its General Assembly. Grant her wisdom and steadfastness at this difficult time.
We pray for those who usually sit next to us, in front of us and behind us. Although distanced, may we feel each other’s presence in our lives.
We spend a moment in silence, recalling those we know who particularly need our prayers at this time ...
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers, Amen
Hymn 137 – All things bright and beautiful (1,4)
The blessing of God who speaks our name
The blessing of God who sits at our table
The blessing of God who knows us
Be with you and be with all whom you love this day, this week
And forever. Amen