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….