Call to Worship
Praise God, all you people of the earth.
Blessed be God forever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
blessed be God forever.
As high as the tree soaring above the forest,
as beautiful as the river flowing through many lands,
as rich as the ecosystems of an abundant earth,
as close as the smallest creature on the ground,
so good is the God of all creation.
blessed be God forever.
Hymn 154 – O Lord my God
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Glorious God, who made us part of a wonderfully varied creation: We join creation in praising you!
Generous God, who made humanity in amazing diversity so that we might, together,
comprehend your boundless marvels:
We join creation in praising you!
Gracious God, who entrusts the care of all creation to us and gives us the gift of creativity:
We join creation in praising you!
For those times when we have blamed others’ actions: Gracious God: forgive us.
For those times when we have acted from selfish ambition: Gracious God: forgive us.
For those times when we have been conceited: Gracious God: forgive us.
For those times when we have regarded ourselves as better than others. Gracious God: forgive us.
For those times when we have looked only to our own interests: Gracious God: forgive us.
In silence we remember those times when we have fallen short of the example that Jesus set for us. Silence Gracious God: forgive us.
It is God who is at work in you, your sins are forgiven. Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus, so that your love for all people may shine through our words and actions.
Readings – Philippians 2:1-13
Hymn 143 – Who put the colours in the rainbow
Christ Jesus whose glory was poured out like perfume, and who chose for our sake to take the extravagance that our lives may be fragrant with you. Amen.
‘Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No’. So said Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. But we are not very good at that, are we? Some nationalities can be very direct and say exactly what they think; they don’t beat about the bush. But we don’t want to upset people, so we skirt around the issue to avoid offending people with what we think.
When we ask people how they are, the response is rarely ‘ I am very well’ or ‘I feel absolutely dreadful’; rather people say ‘I’m not bad’ or ‘I’m doing away’ or ‘fair to middling’. In Zambian English it was ‘Just OK’.
There are other phrases we use: we say, "It really doesn't matter" –when we mean ‘Nothing has ever mattered to me more and I will never forget this and will hold a grudge forever’
In our Gospel reading we had the parable of the two sons. It is one of Jesus' shortest parables, and the two brothers seem to have great difficulty saying either yes or no. A father asks his two sons – will you go into the vineyard and work for me? One says yes when he really means no; one says no, but then on reflection realises he actually means Yes. And Jesus asks which of the sons does the father’s will, and the Priests and pharisees to whom he addresses the question, admit that the son who originally said no, but ended up in the vineyard, was the one who did the father’s will.
Jesus was speaking to the chief priests and elders. He had just cleansed the Temple and was obviously regarded as a troublemaker, someone who was intent on upsetting the system. They asked by what authority he did these things, but Jesus turned it on them, asking on whose authority John the Baptist did things, implying it was by the same authority Jesus acted. The leaders were in a quandary. If they said John acted on God’s authority, people would wonder why they the priests didn’t support him; but if they claimed John acted on his own authority, the crowd would turn against them, for John was still popular with them. So they chickened out and said, they didn’t know.
But somehow Jesus was having a dig at the religious leaders, for putting on a face, saying yes to God and to God’s commandments, while all the time living out the opposite in their lives. They said Yes but did not mean it.
Thankfully we have a God who says Yes and does mean it. In the beginning God said Yes to creation. He made creation and said that it was good – the sky, the sea, the land with all that grows. It is amazing to think of the creativity of creation with all the wonderful creatures and plants. It is amazing to think that at an early time people began to till the land and farming began, growing crops and looking after livestock. Although we have hi-tech machines now, there is still the timelessness of the crops being brought in. We depend on the land around us.
Yet we are conscious of the harm we have done to creation. We have been poor stewards. This week there was a story of water companies being fined because of their failure to keep the waterways clean. There were pictures of all kinds of sewage pumped into rivers and the sea. The changing climate has impacted creation with wildfires and floods and extreme heat this summer, with areas like Morocco and Spain where so many vegetables are grown affected. When we talk about caring for creation, we can’t let our Yes mean No.
But we are also thankful that God created humanity in his image – male and female, and God said they were very good. God said yes to us and affirmed us. We quickly said No to God and went our own way, But God continued to draw us back and sent his Son Jesus to live our life on earth and bring us back to God, and in his letter to the Philippians Paul describes in that wonderful passage how Jesus became like a servant and humbled himself to the point of dying on the cross, before being exalted. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow. That was God’s yes to us.
Paul tells us that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s, our mind should be the same. That means living out God’s Yes in our lives. This is harvest season when we celebrate the fruits of creation, but we also recognise the fruits within us – the fruit of goodness and kindness and patience and peace and generosity and gentleness and so on. By living out these fruits in our lives we show our Yes to God.
Hymn 240 – God in such love for us
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Accept our gifts O God, as tokens of our praise and thanks to You.
Accept our gifts O God, as tokens of our desire to change.
Accept our gifts O God, as tokens of our love.
Accept us too O God, that we may continue to praise, change and love.
O God, Eternal Majesty,
we thank you for our world,
but recognise all is not as it should be.
birds are dying of avian flu, fish swim in polluted seas,
flowers cry out for bees and insects to pollinate them,
trees are torn down so big business can make more money. The rains are not gentle but threatening,
the mountains shake with rage as we turn our backs on the earth our mother.
Teach us, O God, to learn from the Earth that we may lie in harmony with Creation and each other.
O God, Incarnate Word,
You walked our earth, know our pain, see our confusion. Help us to see those things You lay out in plain sight:-
the rising sea waters,
the increasing temperature,
the people on the move,
the ecological crisis reaching tipping point,
and give us the grace and strength to act.
Forgive us when we are distracted by things that don’t matter. Help us to call to account those who lead us, that we may use our voices to change before it’s too late.
We thank you that Paul taught us that our life in Christ makes us strong, and his love comforts us. We need your comfort as we hear of so many things seeming to go wrong in your world. We pray for all those affected by recent disasters. We pray for the people in Libya whose homes were destroyed by flooding and those in Morocco who lost so much in the earthquake. We pray for the various organisations trying to help, we pray that they will have the money and the people needed. We especially pray for Christian Aid and for all they do to help people in your name. We remember the hundreds of refugees from war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh and pray for the situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan.
We pray for those we know who are ill or anxious or bereaved, who need to be aware of our care for them…teach us your way of love.
We pray for the church, as we face the challenge of Christian living in a modern society and world…teach us your way of love.
Silence as we remember all in need. Amen
Hymn 137 – All things bright & beautiful
May thoughts of Jesus fill your mind,
and hunger for God drive your soul,
and love for Lord guide your speech and your actions. And may the grace, peace, and love of the triune God, protect, defend, and empower you
to run with perseverance the race marked out for you.