Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on this 24th Sunday after Pentecost.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts.
As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest, so our home is by your altars, O God.
Hymn 149 – Let all creation dance (All)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of Creation,
you break the cycle of wars, so we may be enriched by your peace; you shatter the grip of violence, so we may be freed from our fears; you plant your words of hope deep within us.
You give us the word we need, so that we might live in your grace.
Friend of the needy,
you freely become one of us, so that we could be liberated from our addiction to sin;
you take us by the hand to lead us out of our doubts;
you give us the words we need,
so we can continue to share your good news of life.
Spirit of Holiness,
you pull us to safety when sin's waters swirl around our feet;
you surround us with serenity when doubts rattle our souls; you give us words we need,
whenever we wander onto the paths of trouble,
Living God, we have known your hopes for us; if we have disappointed them, we are sorry. We have seen your dreams for us; if we have turned them into ashes, we are sorry. Forgive us.
There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Know that you are forgiven, set free from fear and guilt, and can be at peace. As a forgiven, healed, and restored community, we join together in the prayer that Jesus taught his followers: Our Father…
Readings – Ruth 4:13–17
Hymn 493 – It’s me, it’s me, O Lord (1,2)
Loving God, we praise your name with all you have created. We acknowledge your presence in the whole universe, and in the smallest of creatures. We accept the responsibilities you have placed upon us as stewards of your creation and acknowledge our duty to care for the widows and marginalised in our world. Amen
COP26 is happening, and the nations of the world have gathered to see how best to tackle climate change. Hopefully their words and commitments will be transformed into action, and certainly the various activists, not least Greta Thunberg, will be relentless in ensuring accountability.
There is always a certain irony about these big global conferences, as world leaders arrived in their jets and some like Joe Biden even brought their own cars. On Monday night I noticed on television how they all arrived in big motorcades to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery for a sumptuous dinner. Other celebrities like Leonardo de Caprio made appearances too. You can’t help but notice them.
What a far cry from the widow in our Gospel reading today. In one of the musicals on the West End there is a character called Mr Cellophane, and no-one notices Mr Cellophane. It is as if he is invisible. You see right through him. The widow was like that. She was one of the least. She had no husband to support her; she was powerless. How many people in our society are invisible; we just don’t see them?
But Jesus did see the widow. He watched as she put her two pennies into the coffer at the Temple. Did he praise her for giving all that she had or did he lament the fact that she was one of the poor and that society really didn’t care and that maybe her coins would end up in the pockets of one of the scribes flaunting their fancy gowns? Maybe a bit of both.
The widow’s mite. We use it in sermons to encourage giving. We praise her complete commitment, giving all she had, whereas the Scribes would only give from their abundance. It is apposite, given what is happening in Glasgow just now. The wealthiest nations, whose current prosperity has been built on the burning of fossil fuels, are debating how much of their wealth they can sacrifice in the name of arresting climate change. Meanwhile, less developed countries and those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as the small island states of the Pacific or those countries who have not contributed as much to our current predicament, are being forced to take proportionately greater action. Like the people in front of Jesus, countries today have differing capacity to change and different starting points but the key issue is giving sacrificially and not just for show.
But I am sure Jesus would also have been infuriated by the system that kept the widow so powerless. Ruth was also a widow and also extremely vulnerable. What’s more she was a foreigner, from Israel’s great enemy, Moab. There was every reason to treat her with suspicion, but Boaz was impressed by her love and fidelity to her mother-in-law Naomi and allowed her to glean in his fields. However, harvest had ended, but the story has a happy ending, as Ruth and Boaz marry and we are told that their great grandchild was David, the King of Israel. The Law says in Deuteronomy that Moabites should not be allowed to become part of Israel to the 10th generation, but the author of Ruth subversively shows that the most famous king had a Moabite ancestor. The system could be changed.
We pray that the richer nations of the world will not just look out for themselves, but show a generosity of spirit and realise that we are all in this climate crisis together and take action for the good of all. God has made us stewards of the earth. We are accountable. This is true for our leaders, but also for each one of us. Let us be good stewards of God’s creation.
Hymn 165 – Praise to the Lord for the joys… (1,5)
Prayers of Dedication & Intercession
you have created a home where all people can live in peace, our planet so beautiful and yet so fragile.
Generous God, you give us the ground under our feet, solid and strong, fertile and full of things that jump, crawl, wriggle and walk, bursting with plants that grow and trees for fruit and shade.
Generous God, you give us times and seasons;
the sun to warm our days and the moon to light our night-time ways; stars that sing and planets that spin. Unknown reaches of time and space,
full of mystery and dreams.
We pray for all who have gathered for the COP26 conference and pray that there will be a unity of spirit and a real commitment to make the necessary sacrifices to combat climate change. We pray for countries in the Pacific and elsewhere, as they seek to cope with the climate crisis.
Generous God, you give us choice and responsibility.
May we be generous in sharing and open hearted to the needs of developing communities
ready to limit what we have so that all may share fully
in the fullness of life you give to all.
We remember those who are ill, for those who have tested positive for Covid and also those ill with other conditions. May your healing hand rest upon them. Be with all in nursing homes; all who are anxious and all who are bereaved.
Hymn 737 – Will your anchor hold (1,4)
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
May the blessing of God
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you, now and ever more. Amen