We welcome all visitors to our services at Yetholm (10am) and Morebattle (11.15am) this Sunday. It will be Guild Sunday at Yetholm. Please take time to sign the visitors’ book.
From the routines of work and leisure,
we have come to worship God.
With the weight of the world heavy on our hearts,
we have come to worship God.
In the midst of our fears and our hopes,
We trust in God’s power and presence, so let us worship God with heart, mind, soul and strength.
Hymn 465 – Be thou my vision
Prayers of adoration and confession
the mountains you raised reflect your strength and majesty. Sunrise and sunset frame the day with your light and joy. Fields bursting with grain and trees coloured with autumn glory sing of your steadfast love. Pictures from the depth of space give a glimpse of your infinity, yet in Christ you have walked the humble earth.
You alone are worthy of our praise.
You alone give us hope.
Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of Life, we praise you, and join our voices to those of every precious thing to wonder at your mystery and majesty.
You created human beings with gifts of intelligence and imagination. Yet we confess we often use these gifts to exploit your creation and put others in their place. So often we think that we are great when we are small. Or we claim smallness when you set a challenge before us.
We convince ourselves that our sin is not nearly as great as others, yet every sin offends your purpose for us. Forgive us, we pray,
and grant us a truer picture of ourselves.
Readings – Joel 2: 23-32 (Pg 912)
Luke 18: 9 -14 (Pg 1052)
Hymn 493 – It’s me, it’s me, O Lord
A Great Man...
A great man strutted in one day
For everyone to see.
He raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Dear God, I’m glad I’m me!”
“I go to church, I say my prayers,
I never break the rules,
unlike some other people here.
They’re thieves and rogues and fools!”
“Take that chap there…” He looked across
to where the light was dim.
“He works for Rome; he cheats the poor.
Thank God I’m not like him!”
All eyes turned to the furthest nook,
and in the shadows, there
they saw a man whom no-one liked.
His head was bowed in prayer.
He beat his breast, he shed a tear,
he sank down on his knees.
“Dear God,” he whispered, full of shame,
“I’m struggling. Help me please!”
High up in heaven, God heard them both,
the short prayer and the long.
Which one, dear children, do you think
was right, and which was wrong?
Prayer of Illumination
Merciful God, help us when praying not to be like the Pharisee, whose prayers were full of pride showing how good and righteous he is, but more like the humble Tax Collector ready to admit to our faults, failures and imperfections. We call again on the name of the Lord so that we might know and experience your salvation afresh. Amen
It is good that we are able to leave our churches open, so that people have the opportunity to visit, to feel a sense of peace; they are able to sit and pray. Judging from the comments in the visitors’ book, it is much appreciated.
The temple in Jerusalem was always open, and people were able to visit and to pray. In our Gospel reading today Jesus told a parable about two individuals who did just that! One went to the middle of the Temple in full view of everybody, while the other stayed away from the limelight and kept to a dark corner. But he was noticed, and you can almost imagine the conversation: ‘Look what the wind has blown in! Imagine seeing him in the Temple. It is a wonder the roof hasn’t fallen in. How dare he. He takes our taxes and a bit extra, connives with the Romans, betrays his own people – and he thinks he can breeze into the temple. Well, maybe not breeze. In fact, he looks quite pitiful. Anyway, as long as he keeps right to the side, away from everyone else, there should be no trouble’. It was of course the tax collector they were referring to, and he simply fell to his knees and implored God for mercy. ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’
The Pharisee, on the other hand, for he it was who had positioned himself in the centre, thanked God that he wasn’t like the tax collector. He then proceeded to blow his own trumpet and list all his attributes, his good deeds, all the brownie points he feels he has earned. He is pompous, he is arrogant, he is self-righteous.
Jesus asks those around him which of these two men goes away justified, made right with God. It is quite straightforward. I am sure we would all agree that it is the tax collector who is forgiven and made right with God, for he has spoken from his heart. The Pharisee, on the other hand, is unchanged from the encounter. He goes home exactly as he came in.
The Pharisees get a bad press in the Gospels, and that is unfortunate, as many were sympathetic to Jesus. In this story, the Pharisee is just telling the truth about himself, big headed though he is. He does fast twice a week – not eating for two whole days a week. He also tithes, giving a tenth of his income to charity. Any congregation would love him as a member. In fact, in Zambia it wasn’t unusual for people to tithe to the church. The Pharisee is a good person, not involved in cheating or corruption. The tax collector is the opposite. He is involved in cheating and corruption. He works for the Roman occupiers. Next week in our readings we will be looking at the story of Zacchaeus, who was a tax collector, who fleeced the people around and lived in luxury. We can imagine the tax collector in the parable was the same. But like Zacchaeus he had a change of heart and realised he needed help and forgiveness. God have mercy on me, a sinner. A complete reversal.
In our reading from Joel, we have a reversal as well. The book is set during a catastrophic event – a plague of locusts. The Israelites have been getting ready to harvest their crops, which will keep them going for another year, but then the locusts strike and devour everything. The Israelites have simply to watch as their future is eaten up before them. But in Chapter 2, there is hope, and God promises to restore the years that the locusts have eaten. There is a promise of abundance and the possibility of better times, but as long as the people live in harmony with creation and respect God’s will and way.
The Pharisee thought he was living in God’s way, and in many ways he was. But he judged and condemned the tax collector. He still needed to learn humility. He still needed to realise that he depended on the grace of God. But is he any different from us? We can be ready to condemn others without realising what they are going through. We need to realise that we are all sinners, dependent on God’s forgiveness and love. But the parable is about hope; hope that the tax collector can repent and change his ways. So we thank God for God’s mercy and love and pledge to live our lives with honesty and integrity.
Hymn 535 – Who would true valour see
Prayers of Dedication & Intercession
Good and generous God, receive our humble gifts, offered in hope and gratitude. Make something of them – and of us, so that the world will be surprised by your love and what we can offer them in Jesus’ name.
God of righteousness, you have taught us through Jesus not to regard others with contempt. As we pray, show us when we are tempted to look down on others who are different to us and melt our hardness of heart. Open our eyes to see your grace in the lives of others.
Draw close, Lord, to all whose lives are being treated with contempt, from war zones to the streets of our neighbourhoods. Bless those who fear the stigma of reaching out to foodbanks for help this winter. Be with all who fear for their lives in the prisons and streets of Iran, in the homes and shelters of Ukraine and in all places where freedom and peace is under threat. In a moment’s silence we hold before you the people in our minds, whose lives are belittled or demeaned.
God of compassion, you are merciful to all who come to you in true repentance. We hold before you the many places and situations in your world where we long for suffering to be met with compassion. Look with the radiance of your love on the people of Pakistan suffering from floods, in Somalia facing drought and in America and the Caribbean following devastating hurricanes. Sustain with your spirit all who work tirelessly to help those in need, abroad and on those shores.
We hold before you our government at this time, asking for the spirit of servanthood and your gifts of wisdom and compassion for them.
Steadfast God, you invite us to place our trust in you above all else. Be with us, Lord, when we are fearful for what the future may hold: for the Church, for the economy, for our livelihoods, for our loved ones, for the rise of Covid, for the peace and stability of Europe. Help us to face our fears with honesty and truth, in the light of your enduring providence for us. Even as we are fearful, give us the confidence to continue to be your people, set apart to serve you in the world. Give us faith, even as small as a mustard seed, to trust you for the future, as we place our lives once again in your hands. God of grace, hear our prayer. We offer you our prayers, spoken aloud and offered in the silence of our hearts, in the name of Jesus, our risen Saviour. Amen
Hymn 646 – Forth in the peace of Christ
Go out into the world to sow the seeds of love, knowing that God goes with you, and the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, now and always. Amen.