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