Call to Worship
This is a place of welcome,
A place where all may find solace,
Where all may celebrate,
Where all are valued, all are loved.
God welcomes us wherever we may be.
Let us worship God
Hymn 125- Lord of all being
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Lord God, Loving God,
how majestic is your name in all the earth.
From north and south, from east and west,
drawn by your majesty, we come to worship you.
For the gift of this new day, fresh from your hand, we rejoice. For the renewal we know through friendship with Christ, we praise you. For the Spirit’s energy, blessing us in each moment, we honour you.
Lord God, Loving God, all of life is your gift, so give us glimpses of your splendor and love in this time of worship. Accept our praise offered in word and action, now and always.
Lord of all life and each life,
We confess we can forget that life is your gift,
especially when we face struggles or feel hard done by. Forgive any hurt we have caused by action or inaction and show us how to make amends.
May we live with you and with each other in reconciling grace through the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Friends, Jesus knows we have fallen short of his intentions for us, yet in his great mercy, he welcomes us back into his embrace. Thanks be to God that we are forgiven, refreshed and restored for ministry by God’s grace.
Readings – Genesis 22:1-14 (Pg 21)
Matthew 10: 40-42 (Pg 975)
Hymn 463- Fairest Lord Jesus
Merciful God, thank you for the faith of Abraham who said "God himself will provide the lamb". Thank you that our Lord Jesus became the lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world. Let us speak your word of truth with confidence, so that those who are searching and listening will be able to clearly see and hear your message of forgiveness, love and peace. Amen
Mellerstein House is a stately home just north of Kelso. I had visited the gardens during the Pandemic, but it was only this week that I had the opportunity to visit the house. It has a fascinating history, as Robert Bailie, who wanted to replace the old camped Tower with a grander house, was a Covenanter, who had signed the Solemn League and Covenant, which pledged loyalty to the king but also to the Church, at a time when there was a move to restrict freedom of worship. He was imprisoned, and his friend and fellow Covenanter Patrick Hume sent his daughter Grisell to the prison with a message. Later Patrick had to flee his home, as Covenanters were being arrested, and he hid in the crypt of Polwarth Kirk, with Grisell again tasked to take food, before he was able to escape to the Netherlands. With the ascension of William and Mary to the throne, all was well, and Grisell who had fled to the Netherlands too married a Baillie and became mistress of Mellerstein. All a bit confusing – but what interested me was that these families were willing to stand up for their faith and were even willing to die for their faith. One of their descendants, another Grizell Baillie, was the first deaconess in Church of Scotland and founded the deaconess hospital in Edinburgh.
It took me back to my childhood, as the congregation I grew up in was named after one of the Covenanters, Peden the Prophet, and every year we would go into the moors on the east of the village to hold an outdoor service, as the covenanters used to do, though they would have people looking out for soldiers hunting them. People were prepared to risk their lives for their faith. Maybe some were crazy and fanatics, but many honest faithful people.
Was Abraham crazy or a fanatic or purely a man of faith? He is one of the heroes of the Bible, but in Chapter 22 we have this incredibly disturbing story. I recently read some reflections on ‘bible stories they don’t teach you at Sunday School’. Stories of trickery or deceit which don’t sit well with us these days, and the intended sacrifice of Isaac is one of these. After all the heartache of Sarah being barren, of suddenly giving birth and the subsequent casting of Hagar & Ishmael out of the camp that we looked at last week, with the longed-for son born and growing up, suddenly we have this story where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, to take Isaac up a mountain and to slaughter him. What kind of God would do that – it is not in keeping with all we believe God to be – a God of love and grace. What kind of father would do it?
What’s more, Abraham complies without a murmur. When God threatened to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham argued with God, pleaded with him to save the inhabitants. But here he meekly accepts the inevitable. What did Sarah think of it all? We don’t know, as she doesn’t get a mention. Though we can imagine her fury. I wouldn’t have liked to have been in Abraham’s shoes when he got home that night.
Genesis says that God was testing Abraham, making sure he was the right person, a person of loyalty and faithfulness. He passed the test, he was willing to sacrifice the most precious thing, to him, but at what cost? Abraham and Isaac would both have been traumatised by the experience. Maybe we need to move from the horrors of the story to reflect on the willingness to sacrifice what is precious to us. For the covenanters it was their freedom and even lives, and that is still what many Christians throughout the world are ready to sacrifice. For us, it might be simpler things, but this passage asks us to ponder them. Of course, we think of the supreme sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross for us.
We read just a few verses from the Gospel. It is the end of the story of the sending out of the disciples to take the Kingdom message to the people. Now some people would not receive them well, and they were told to shake the dust from their shoes and move on, but in these few verses today, we are told that the disciples are received with a welcome and even given a cup of cold water. Those who welcomed the disciples welcomed Jesus and would be rewarded. Though also, those who welcomed Jesus are also asked to welcome those Jesus associated. with, and that was the least and the lost.
Having lived in the Middle East I appreciate the reference to the cup of cold water. There is nothing better! Remember the story of Jesus asking for water from the Samaritan woman at the well? After a tiring journey in the heat, there was something precious about the simplicity of cold water. A little thing, but it made all the difference.
Discipleship does not have to be heroic, but small acts of kindness and forgiveness can help build up relationships. The life of faith is full of such small gestures. But according to Jesus there are no small gestures and anything done in faith and in love has cosmic significance. Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac; we are not asked to do anything so drastic, but we are asked to live to the best of our abilities and serve God in all things.
Hymn 162- The God of Abraham praise
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Jesus teaches that the gift of a simple cup of water is a gift worthy of his disciples. Friends, whatever we give to God this day can bless the world in Jesus’ name. Generous God, what we return to you today has first come to us from you. Bless what we offer so that those in need may taste your abundance which we know already in Christ, our Living Lord. Amen.
Lord God of heaven and earth,
with joy and thanksgiving we praise you
for you create, sustain, and redeem all things.
For making us in your image to love one another and to care for your creation, we give you thanks.
For the gift of your Son whose life is the pattern for our lives and learning, we give you thanks.
For the energy of your Spirit to inspire us in times of challenge and change, we give you thanks.
Strengthen us in these challenging times to show your love to others as we pray
For the Church and those who lead it to find new ways of reaching out in a culture with changing values
For creation that we may learn to reverence and care for it . . .
For those who lead the nations of the world
that they may work for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable and seek peace together. . .
For those who make decisions about health care, education and social services and transport in these times when there are many demands in every area . .
For the poor, the hungry and those struggling to find affordable housing when prices for everything seem to rise each day . . .
For those who struggle with illness, addiction, disability or despair, and for those who mourn the loss of someone dear . Hear us now as we pray in silence for situations on our hearts this day.
Eternal God, thank you for listening to us in every situation. Keep our eyes open for your Spirit at work among us. Amen
Hymn 470- Jesus shall reign
Call to Worship
Jesus said, I was hungry and you fed me.
We see the face of Christ in all
Jesus said, I was sick and you cared for me.
We see the face of Christ in all
Jesus said, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
We see the face of Christ in all
Hymn 195- Here to the house (vv 1,2,4)
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Glory to God in the world around us,
In sun and shade, day and night and the rhythm of the seasons.
Glory to God in the community in which we live, in love and laughter, sorrow and joy, in the pattern of human living.
Glory to God in the world, in the search for justice and peace, and all that makes us one human family.
Glory to God in the smallest things, in tiny creatures, fleeting moments, the smallest seed of faith new-growing.
Glory to God in greatness and majesty, in the tallest mountain and highest cloud, the awesome dance of the whole cosmos.
God of mercy and grace, you know the secrets of our hearts: how blind we are to our own faults, yet harsh in judging others. How swift we are for gain, yet slow to give to others. How proud we are of success, yet grudging in the praise of others. Help us to believe and trust that no wrong we have done or good that we have failed to do, is too great for you to pardon through the merits of Jesus Christ your Son.
Readings – Genesis 21: 8-21 (Pg 21)
Matthew 10: 24-39 (Pg 975)
Hymn 544- When I needed a neighbour
Gracious God, thank you that you always hear our cry. We acknowledge and thank you for your only Son to be for us, both a sacrifice for sin, and an example of Godly life. Give us the grace to thankfully receive this wonderful gift, and to always strive ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life. Amen
Someone whom I had never met before came up to me at a funeral this week and asked me to pray – not for themselves, but for the people in the submersive lost near the wreck of the Titanic. Many of us have been following the story, and it is the stuff of nightmares. To be under the sea with air running out and hope of rescue also growing slimmer. A businessman is on that trip with his son, and it must be so dreadful to know someone you love is so much at risk.
A couple of weeks ago, a ship capsized in the Mediterranean. It was packed with refugees fleeing oppression and war, packed with people hoping for a better future. Some men survived, but hundreds did not, including all the women and children in the hold. It didn’t get the news coverage given to the submersive, but how dreadful to be a parent on that ship, knowing your children will drown along with you.
Tatiana is a Ukrainian refugee living in Edinburgh. She writes: ‘Imagine a desert. Wherever you look, all you can see is sand everywhere. There are no trees or any other vegetation, except for dry bushes. The sun burns everything that tries to grow, and you have a long road ahead through this parched land. There is nothing suitable to shelter you from the heat, there is not a single source of water along the road, only what you have taken with you. You are alone; it's just you and a boy – the son you are responsible for. There is not a single other person around who could offer you help. You wander in a direction unknown to you, no destination, not knowing where to turn, just wandering, hoping for safety. The situation is dire. Your son is about to die. What could be worse than this?’
She is referring to the Hagar story we read in Genesis, but also to her own situation is Ukraine. ‘Many Ukrainians have found themselves in this situation during the war. You're running from danger, but you don't know where to run to. In your hands is a single suitcase, which now holds all your life's belongings. And sometimes you don't even have a suitcase – I did not have time to collect it. In your hands are the hands of your children. Who will help? Where to run to? Where can you expect help to come from? Everything around is new and unfamiliar. There are people around, but it is as if you are in a desert. Only you and your problems and no-one who could help!’
In Genesis 21 we meet Hagar, the servant of Sarah. Sarah had mistreated her before, and she had run away, only to be persuaded to return. She had been abused worse by Sarah and Abraham when they thought Sarah was barren and Hagar had to bear Abraham’s son, Ishmael. But now Sarah had borne a child in old age and there was laughter and joy, but not for Hagar. Sarah persuaded Abraham to send her and his son away into the desert, knowing that most probably they would not survive. And so we have this dreadful story of a woman cast out from the camp into the desert. Eventually the provisions are empty, the last drop of water gone and without water in the desert the chances of survival are zero. She simply holds the hand of her son. Death seemed certain. It is a situation sadly that so many people in our world recognise because they have been in that same situation. To be cast out and rejected, to brave the unknown. To go back means death, but to go forward is full of uncertainty. For many refugees in Britain, they feel disowned, dehumanised, forced away, scared, searching and hoping, often with children in tow.
Hagar makes the only decision she feels she can make in this situation. She leaves her son and goes a bowshot away so as not to see how he will die, and she cries and he cries. Incredibly though, there was one who sees and hears. The angel of God calls to Hagar and says: "Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation" And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. God sees their distress and restores both her and Ishmael's physical wellbeing as well as their dignity, safety and protection through the promise of a family. They are saved and they are safe. What is more, they are promised a future. Hagar has a very personal encounter with God and gives God the name ‘El Roi', saying: "You are the God who sees me!" When the world had discarded Hagar, God did not.
In the Gospels we read God will not forget us. Our reading reassures us that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without God noticing. If that is true how much more will God hear the cries of those in need? God sees every refugee, every person in our community who is suffering, for all of us going through challenges today. This passage reminds us that we are never alone in our pain, we have a God of love who draws close to us and has counted every hair on our heads.
Today is Sanctuary Sunday, a special Sunday set aside to pray for the stranger in our midst and say to the refugee and asylum seeker: "We see you, and there is a God who sees you too". This reassurance keeps many going – people like Tatiana from Ukraine, who says: This is my God, the God in whom I believe! The God who knows all my difficulties and experiences, who does not leave me alone, but empathises and helps me! This is the God who gives hope and gives life! In the most difficult moments of my life, my Lord supported me and gave me hope!’. We can echo these words I am sure.
Hymn 543- Longing for light
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
God who gives each good gift, receive now all that we would offer you with thankful hearts. Bless us with generous hearts so that your world may be enriched through our gifts. Amen.
God of compassion and courage,
In our weakness you are strength.
In our sorrows you are comfort and peace.
We thank you for your embracing presence in our lives. Embrace each situation we lay before you today with your steadfast love.
We thank you for moments of joy that break into our lives, for love given and received, for friends who furnish our life with meaning and happiness,
and for family who embrace us with love and understanding.
We pray for those who cannot feel joy today,
for any estranged from family or friends,
for those feeling stress as the costs of living rise,
and for those who face any kind of loss.
We pray for those who feel overwhelmed by life. For victims of natural disaster. For those trapped in debt or addiction. We pray for all who love and serve those in this kind of need.
For those facing bullying or oppression For those undergoing medical tests or treatment.
We pray for those whose distress leads them to feel that God’s face is turned against them. For refugees fleeing war or oppression, rejection or starvation. For those separated from family members. We pray for those who seek to welcome and encourage them.
We pray for those who need to know that you are with them. For those struggling with lack of self-worth. For those with poor mental health. For those nearing death. Loving God, draw near to them. We pray for all those who accompany others and bring deliverance. Loving God, save us, lift us up, hear us, draw near to us. That our prayers may be heard and answered, and we and all your children know your love more deeply. In Jesus name. Amen.
Hymn 291- When out of poverty was born
May God bless us with encounters
that turn strangers into neighbours,
that turn fear into friendships,
that turn hatred into hospitality,
that turn pain into peace.
And the blessing….
Call to Worship
Praise to God, the Creator of all things.
Praise to Christ who brings healing and hope.
Praise to the Holy Spirit, the Breath of new life.
Trinity of grace, we call on you today.
Come worship the God who made us and loves us!
We come with joyful praise and hopeful hearts!
Hymn 110 – Glory be to God the Father
Prayers of Approach and Confession
You have made a world of such amazing diversity –
with unique living things we cannot number!
We praise you for such wonder. You have created such amazing diversity in humankind – through culture and language, custom and community,
expressed in so much creativity and compassion.
We praise you for such wonder.
In Jesus Christ, you show us how much you love your creation and how we can live by your love.
By the power of your Spirit, give us new eyes to behold the wonders you have made and teach us how to love your creation with humble, grateful hearts.
We confess the words spoken and things done which have harmed us and hurt others this week; hasty words perhaps, unkind thoughts, acts of frustration.
We confess words never spoken and things undone
which have laid guilt upon us and left possibility incomplete; words of kindness or challenge left unsaid, acts of justice or generosity thought about but never acted upon.
We look beyond ourselves, and confess that your good creation and your beautiful human family all too often are broken by sin and wrecked by evil.
Lord, forgive us. Forgive the things we know and the things we haven’t noticed. Lift from us the guilt we carry.Set us free to serve you with joy and passion.
Renew, restore, begin again your good news within us.
The prophet Micah declared that God requires three things of us: to do justice, to love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
To all who seek reconciliation with God and neighbour in kindness and humility, God offers forgiveness and peace. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Readings – Genesis 18: 1-15 (Pg 17)
Matthew 9: 35- 10: 8 (Pg 974)
Hymn 598 – Come Holy Ghost our hearts inspire
Father God, at times your son offers us hard choices; to choose sometimes between the closest ties of earth and loyalty to him. Free us from making decisions that are for our comfort or for the approval of others. Help us to understand that good choices don’t always lead to the easiest outcomes. Amen
I was in Morocco recently on holiday, and at the end we were asked what we enjoyed best. Some said an ancient town or the Sahara Desert, but for me, I enjoyed the times when we met with local people and were invited into their homes. They would have a ‘good’ room for visitors often with bright cushions, and we were given mint tea or on a few occasions we were given lunch or dinner. They were paid to do so, but even so, they were happy to welcome us and wanted to give of their best.
Whenever we have visitors, whether it is family or friends coming to stay for a few days or a friend looking in for half an hour, we want them to be comfortable and we make an effort. When I lived in Zambia, friends would often turn up without warning, but it was good to welcome them and to hear what was happening, to listen to their stories – because of poor telephones and distance, though mobile and wifi has considerably improved now.
Visiting plays a part in both our readings today. In Genesis, Abraham and Sarah have set up their tent at the oaks of Mamre and receive 3 visitors with unexpected news, while in the Gospels the disciples are empowered to visit others with Good News, just as their teacher Jesus was doing.
Abraham and Sarah offer a ‘wilderness welcome’ to their guests. Visitors would be few, so they would be eager to find out what was happening in the world, whether anything momentous which would affect their security or simply chat about the weather. It was incumbent on them to provide hospitality, as they themselves would rely on it if they travelled. In Hebrews in the NT we remember the verse, ‘Don’t neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels unawares’. Certainly it can be a blessing to meet with others and share stories. In the case of Abraham and Sarah’s visitors, they turn out to be from God. Are they angels? In the famous icon they are even seen to be the three members of the Trinity. But the reward of hospitality is the sharing of the news that Sarah would bear a child. Now, Sarah had left the ‘men’ to their talk but was situated herself conveniently near at hand to overhear what they were talking about – and when she heard this she laughed. There is not a lot of references to laughter in the Bible, so this is significant. But you can imagine a throaty, bitter laugh, for she had been barren for all these years. She had never thought she would bear a child. She had even encouraged Abraham to sleep with her maid Hagar, so that he would have a child to carry on his name. Now these visitors were taking of her giving birth at her age – how ridiculous. But the message came from God – and it was no cruel joke. Many of us will know couples who have adopted children only suddenly and unexpectedly to have their own. That was to be the reality for Sarah too, despite her age, for nothing was impossible for God.
So we have two points here – that God comes to us when we least expect, and we need to be open to God speaking to us through other people. And also that God can make things happen through us, if we be open. There was a piece of good news last week. A plane had crashed in the Amazon Jungle, killing several people on board, including the mother of 3 children. But the children were nowhere to be found. Even if they had survived the crash, there were wild animals, it was isolated. But after weeks, they were discovered alive and well. The impossible can happen.
The impossible seemed to be happening for the people of Galilee, for their lives were being transformed by Jesus of Nazareth. In the last verses od Chapter 9 there is a sense of movement with all the verbs – he taught, proclaimed, healed, had compassion, summoned. Jesus was on the move, so active, and everywhere people’s lives were changed. He saw and had compassion for they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he acted and turned people’s lives around. No wonder they crowded round him, hoping for healing or for another miracle.
But he didn’t want to be a one man band, so empowered his followers to go out with compassion and love to proclaim and heal. The wonderful thing is that at the beginning of Chapter 10 Matthew names the disciples. You can almost hear the first readers say, ‘O yes, there was Philip. Oh I had forgotten about James the son of Alphaeus. I know his nephew.’ But they were not nameless, but each was individual and each had their own unique gifts and talents that could be used to visit people with the good news of God’s Kingdom.
God still calls us today as individuals with our own gifts to explore how best we can be used. Our new Presbytery has a series of Zoominars which are tapping in to what is happening in some congregations, and we can see what can be good for us., for we are a dynamic church, always reforming, always on the move. God still wants to use us and can still surprise us with the good news of the kingdom.
Hymn 623 – Here in this place
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of grace and goodness, your world is full of gifts that sustain our lives. We offer our gifts in gratitude. Bless them and make them signs of your presence at work in the world, touching lives in need with your love and strength in Jesus’ name.
We read, Jesus, of your compassion. The world unfolded its sadness as much as its joy as you walked your way with us. You saw and felt the need. You cared. In our prayers, we join with you in your unending compassion and care. We pray for all those trapped in situations that destroy them: those caught up in war and the violence of abuse; those trapped in addiction and cursed by poverty; those lost in depression and crushed by sadness; those broken by anger and torn by loneliness.
We pray for those burdened by situations that snatch at life: those who are sick and those who care for them; those who are dying and those who mourn; those who face unemployment and those without homes; those facing hard choices and those longing for guidance.
We pray for the Church and all of its witness: for the congregations we know that have been home to us;
for those in leadership across denominations and for their wisdom; for those whose work is often unnoticed but who build the Church; for those sharing faith and those seeking it.
We pray for ourselves: for the gifts and joys that bless us; for the longings and hopes that beckon us;
for the sadness and pain that touch us; for the calling and gifting that inspire us.
[silence for our own prayers]
Jesus, in your compassion, hear us. Amen.
Hymn 533 – Will you come and follow me
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you
Call to Worship
We gather today to worship the One who made us
The one who calls us
The one who welcomes us just as we are
Who loves us just as we are
With joyful hearts let us worship God.
Hymn 212 – Morning has broken
Prayers of Approach and Confession
God of our ancestors,
You have wanted relationships with people
ever since the dawn of humanity
You have reached out in love right from the beginning of our existence. You are glad to be known as the God of Abraham and as our God. You want us to know ourselves as Your children, Your people.
You are the Ancient of Days and as fresh as summer sun/rain. Steadfast and Surprising God,
You are younger and older than all that is
and before Your face, we bow in wonder at You again. You call us to You and call out the best in us.
God of all our journeys,
you lead us day by day.
Sometimes the going is smooth and we follow gladly.
But sometimes the going gets tough.
We face obstacles and choices.
We’re unsure which way to turn.
Forgive us when we hesitate,
and give us the courage to take a step into your future.
God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Know that you are forgiven and be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.
Readings – Genesis 12: 1-9 (Pg 13)
Matthew 9: 9-13, 18-26 (Pg 974)
Hymn SGP 102 – the Spirit lives to set us free
Heavenly Father, you have called us to follow you as you have called your followers throughout history. And so wherever we see nature’s beauty or daily miracles around us, help us to see your hand at work, and thank you for the grace to live and enjoy life to the full. Amen
It is always good to welcome the Bari Manushi and Bari Gadgi at the beginning of the Yetholm Festival Week and the start of their journey as principles, a year like no other. It is also good to welcome their friends from the other Border towns who come to support them. Before leaving this morning, I am sure that you had to prepare yourselves for the journey: making sure you had your rosettes or sashes ready, arranging who would drive and when to be picked up, maybe having water to drink or a coffee-to-go. There will be lots of preparation ahead of you as you take part in the various rides and festivities.
We do that whenever we journey and often prepare for any eventualities, like downpours. I recently went to Morocco and knew that the temperatures had been quite high. However, when it came to packing my case, the umbrella went in and the jumper and the rain jacket and so on. And it turned out I needed them, especially up in the hills.
In our Old Testament this morning we read about Abram – he wasn’t quite Abraham yet. He was 75 and living in Haran, in what is now Southern Turkey. It is the area where there was the terrible earthquake recently. I had visited the area many years ago and there still was a tradition about Abram, and there was a beautiful park with pools of fish, whose ancestors of course dated back to the time of Abram! He was married to Sarai. They didn’t have children, but their nephew Lot lived with them. He was probably quite settled, until one day God called him. Did he hear voices, did he have a dream, did he just have a feeling, we are not told, but Abram was convinced that God was telling him to up sticks and leave their settled life in Haran and all that was familiar, all the people they knew, and go – well, God was vague about their destination. Go into the unknown, trusting in God. Would you have gone? But God made a promise to Abram, that he would become a great nation and would be a blessing to all nations. Ironic in that Sarai and him had now children; ironic in that he had seen his three score years and ten plus more; ironic in that he would not have the same energy as a younger man. But Abram believed, and they maybe panicked over what to take, but Genesis tells us they packed all their possessions and they set off into the unknown in faith and in trust. God had called him to a journey, and suddenly his world had changed. It was if it had turned from black and white to colour. He maybe wasn’t full of self-confidence, but God believed in him and had a purpose for him.
He travelled to Shechem and then to Bethel and then into the Negev, for it is sometimes good to take things gradually and to have stops in our journeys. Abram gradually built up his relationship with God.
(in the Gospels, we find another unlikely candidate to be used by God. Matthew was a tax collector, not a popular occupation to have, as it meant working for the occupying Romans and often fleecing the people of their hard-earned cash. You could imagine him avoiding eye contact with those who were paying their tax, as he would meet only condemnation and hatred. But when Jesus came, his eyes were filled with love. He could see the potential in Matthew and called him to follow. So began Matthew’s journey of discipleship. Not much for him to carry; just himself).
Again, we read in Matthew about a girl on the threshold of womanhood, aged 12, an exciting journey to be on, yet she becomes ill, and word reaches Jesus that she died. Her father is frantic, and despite being the ruler of the synagogue, he goes to where Jesus is, dining with tax collectors and sinners, because he believes that Jesus can save her. Jesus sets out immediately – but on the way something happens. For on the way he encounters a woman with a constant bleeding. Her life journey seemed to be over, for because of this affliction, she had been declared unclean by the powers that be, including the girl’s father no doubt. She was therefore prevented from taking part in synagogue services, but also any other activity, because anyone coming into contact with her will automatically become unclean as well. It was a terrible situation. She was an outcast; nobody would go near her. For 12 years, the same length of time that the girl had lived. ‘If only I could touch Jesus’ robe’ she said, ‘I will be cured’.
There is a mural of this scene from the Bible on the wall of a church in Israel. A melee of sandalled feet, but a hand reaches down to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak. She succeeds, wants to retreat to the edge of the crowd again, but Jesus feels the power go from him and asked who touched him. Everyone was bemused, for there were so many in the crowd. The woman owns up, goes public, but is met with acceptance and love, the qualities missing from her life for 12 years. Her life changes from black and white to colour. We don’t know what happens to the woman afterwards, though we can imagine her life is transformed. We do know what happened to Jesus, for he goes on and heals the girl, brings her from death to life. Brought colour back to her life.
Wherever Jesus went, he made a difference. He challenged conceptions, reached out to touch the unclean and make them feel included. He set them off on their life journey refreshed, renewed, affirmed. He called all to follow a God-filled life, and that was an adventure. As Abram showed, there was no age limit. All were included. Still he reaches out to us today, ready to turn our lives from black and white to colour.
Hymn 237 – Look forward in faith
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
God loves a generous giver. So let us pray for a spirit of generosity as we offer back to God our money, our time, and ourselves. Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty, for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you. Amen.
Jesus, today we are thankful for all that we know of journeys You made –
heaven to earth
conception to birth
growing up in years and in understanding
into the water of baptism and the wilderness of testing, into villages and out among fields,
teaching, storytelling, healing, confronting, discipling;
walking to Jerusalem, sweating in a garden, stumbling under a cross. You pitched Your tent and moved among us.
Thank You for Your courage and Your compassion.
Thank You for Your trusting and Your questioning.
Thank You for Your sorrow and Your integrity.
What an example You are, of how to walk,
how to face each stage as it comes,
how to know what is finished and what is unfinished.
from long ago You have called people
to leave and arrive, to move and to settle down.
Thank You for the saints this Border area.
spreading the gospel here.
Thank You for the unsung saints of our own lives,
those who have crossed our paths just when we needed each other, convincing us of Your grace and timing and mystery.
Today we bring our prayers
for people we know and people we don't know
who are at a difficult stage of a journey.
For those in anguished questioning, God meet them.
For those in trembling doubt, God, reassure them.
For those in endless, unfulfilled waiting, God, bear with them.
We pray for those at times of change and transition,
not knowing what lies ahead –
beginning a new relationship,
preparing to move home,
applying for a new job,
summoning courage for a lonely decision…
God, come close as You came to Abraham,
go ahead and come behind,
make camp with Your people, and lead on.
Hymn 702 – Lord, in love and perfect wisdom
Call to Worship
we come humbly into your presence.
Jesus, Son of God
we come gratefully into your presence.
we come quietly into your presence.
When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, Everything inside me wants to jump for joy!
Hymn 112 – Thou whose almighty Word
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Creator God, giver of food and drink, clothing and warmth, love and hope and life in all its fullness, we praise and adore you.
Jesus our Lord, Wisdom and Word, lover of the outcast friend of the poor, one of us yet one with God, we praise and adore you.
Holy Spirit, storm and breath, building bridges, breaking chains, opening doors and waking the oppressed, unseen and unexpected. We praise and adore you.
Holy Trinity, source of all our sharing, in whom we love and meet and know our neighbour, unbounded dance of love. With heart and mind and voice, we praise and adore you.
God of mystery and mercy,
you know the details of our lives.
You see the sin and the sorrow we bear;
you see the problems and the possibilities we face.
You see how we fit into the world around us
and how we rub each other the wrong way.
We confess we do not always see what you see.
Open our eyes to the truth of our lives and touch us with your grace.
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new! Thanks be to God that we can all make a new start through God’s gift of forgiveness and peace! Amen
Readings – Genesis 1: 1-5 (Pg 3)
Psalm 8 (Pg 546)
Matthew 28: 16-20 (Pg 1001)
Hymn 595 – O breath of life
Hymn 462 – The King of love my shepherd is
God in three persons, blessed Trinity, how majestic is your name in all the earth. You are our Father God, the creator, giving us all things to enjoy. You are Christ the Saviour of the world, who died and rose again to bring life eternal. You are the Spirit of truth and love, willing to dwell in us. Help us as we celebrate Holy Communion to remember your sacrifice on the cross. Amen.
What makes you wonder? What makes you gasp in amazement? For some it could simply be driving or walking through our Cheviot countryside on a sunny day, seeing sheep and cattle on the hills and a heron swooping over the river. For some, for some it is the inner workings of the atom or the biological cell that really get them thinking. Or an animal like the platypus! It has the body of an otter, the tail of a beaver, and the mouth of a duck and it lays eggs! As someone once said, it’s made up of leftover parts. Pretty fascinating. We could go on and on and on with our lists of things about the natural world that astound and perplex us before we could even start with the things about human creativity and ingenuity that we find fascinating: The Pyramids of Giza. The Sistine Chapel. Shakespeare’s plays. Ethiopian long-distance runners. Or the things we encounter every day, as well. The kindness of strangers. The healing of old wounds. The sharing of stories that somehow inspire and encourage us to conquer fears and overcome obstacles. Stepping back momentarily from the grind of the day-to-day provides the soul with wonder and the mind with plenty to contemplate.
For the Psalmist, he looked to the heavens and gasped in sheer awe and felt so small. He expressed the insignificance of human beings – What is man that you are mindful of him? But then he goes on, ‘But you have raised him to little lower than the angels’. Faced with the immensity of the night sky, the psalmist questioned who he was, what his purpose was; he asked the big questions. The ancient peoples were no different. In a simpler, slower and a lot less digital age way back when, they pondered what the point of life was. In fact, they had stories about it all, stories that made space for belief and faith about the meaning of existence. But the Hebrews told of one God that created everything with order and meaning. Creation was no accident or by-product of cosmic warfare between rival deities, as some other stories had. In their stories creation was a careful, thought-out process. There was purpose and sequence. Things built upon each other. The God who was responsible for it all was intimately involved from the first all the way until things reached completion. And God pronounced it Good. It is not random or meaningless. It is not without value. Everything from the atoms to the platypus is the work of a loving and gracious Creator. Humans, which were the crowning piece of this God’s creative work, were not just declared good. They were pronounced very good. Male and female together, humans occupied a place in the order of creation that no other creature did. The Creator would not step back entirely once Creation was complete. In fact, creation would never really be complete all at the beginning, which is something the Hebrew people steadfastly maintained. It was and is an ongoing process, and God has made us in God’s own image that we may steward it and maintain it into the future.
However, we seem to get it wrong as humans and make a mess of things. We act in dreadful fashion towards our fellow creatures, become complacent towards the things that need to be changed, and when we make a mistake we utter “I’m only human!” forgetting that to be truly human actually means to be very good, crowned with glory and honour. It is only through this love in Jesus of Nazareth that we begin to understand just how good and perfect we were designed to be. In the person of Jesus, the God who creates descends in order to save and restore us. Made of the very stuff of God and yet also sharing our skin, Jesus comes to take up a part in the very creation that has become such a mess. He goes searching for every lost sheep and even dies on the cross of Calvary to save us and allow us to experience life in all its fullness.
The love that is poured out between God the Father Creator and God the Son Jesus is then bestowed upon the rest of humankind so that we may actually share it with each other and help complete the work that God began so long ago. This power, this life-giving love between Father and Son, is what we come to know as the Spirit, and it turns out we see the Spirit at the beginning, too, as God’s breath of love swirl and sweep over the waters to bring everything into existence.
Standing back and beholding all of creation’s grand story is certain to produce awe and endless fascination—the wonders of things like autumn foliage and the harvest of lambs and calves and crops…the complexity of Bach Brandenburg Concertos and the Hubble Telescope. God.
We can’t say we totally understand God or have in any way figured it all out, but when we are so bold to say God’s name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, this is what we mean: We have been created in the image of God. That we have been redeemed by the Son of God. And that we may take part in God’s dreams of a world renewed, each in our own unique way, thanks to the ever-present Spirit of God. And by the power of that same Holy Spirit we may echo the story the ancient Hebrews gave us: Lord Almighty, you are good. You are very, very good. Thanks be to God!
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Eternal God, known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Majesty, Word, and Flame of eternal love, as one who creates, redeems, and sustains, bless these gifts we offer for Your glory, and make us into a people who work and yearn for your Kingdom to come.
God of creation, we praise you for the beauty, diversity and energy the earth, our wounded mother. We give thanks for the life of our planet, for its ecosystems and creatures, the vegetation, insects and animals with whom we share this our fragile habitat. Increase, O God, our understanding of creation, the wondrous ways in which You have knit our world together, give us a greater love for Your creation, that we may learn to live in harmony and peace with each other, and with our fellow creatures.
Suffering God, we lift to You today all who are in pain:
those living with the ache of grief,
those fleeing war, oppression, and poverty,
those whose burdens are too much for them,
those rejected and despised for how they live, who they love or what they are. Enable us, Suffering One, to help shoulder our share of pain, to work for a world where there will be no more suffering, crying, mourning, or oppression, a world where You dwell in our midst.
Holy Trinity of Love, we bring to you now, all those we know and love in any type of need or pain. Amen
Hymn 19 – Ye gates, lift up your heads on high
Hymn 113 – God the father of Creation