Sunday 13th September 2020

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

 

Call to Worship

Come to the God who knows us,

To the God who created our being,

To the God who knows our frailty,

To the God who loves us and cherishes us

Beyond measure.

Come as you are and worship God.

 

Hymn

CH4 161

1.      O God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.

 

2.      Under the shadow of thy throne

Thy saints have dwelt secure;

Sufficient is thine arm alone,

And our defence is sure.

 

3.      Before the hills in order stood,

Or earth received her frame,

From everlasting, thou art God,

To endless years the same.

 

4.      A thousand ages in thy sight,

Are like an evening gone;

Short as the watch that ends the night

Before the rising sun.

 

5.      Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly, forgotten as a dream

Dies at the opening day.

 

6.      O God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Be thou our guard while troubles last,

And our eternal home.

 

Prayer

Our desire, our need, our yearning

Draws us together to worship God.

Unexplainable, unimaginable,

Incomprehensible love,

Pulls our heart strings,

Tugs at our emotions,

Turns our eyes beyond the seeing.

All loving God,

We come, just as we are.

Teach us O God, how to treat you,

How to know you, how to love you,

How to learn of you,

How to do as you would have us do.

Teach us, above all,

How to show those same things to those around us,

And those whose lives meet ours,

Those we see on a regular basis,

And those who we meet fleetingly along the way.

Forgiving God,

Help us to see our failings,

To see where we fall short,

To see where we deceive ourselves,

Where we close our eyes and ears

To ripples of wrongdoing.

We come before you seeking forgiveness,

And in the shadow of your forgiveness of us,

Help us to forgive others also,

In and through your holy name.

We continue our prayer by praying together the words of the Lord’s Prayer…

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine in the kingdom, the power and the glory,

For ever and ever,

Amen.

 

Readings

Genesis 50: 15 – 21

Matthew 18: 21 – 35

 

Reflection

Genesis 50: 15 – 21

The wonderful soap opera contained in Genesis all about Joseph and his brothers is reaching its climax here in chapter 50. The dramatic reveal has happened (chapter 45) now we await the consequences. Are we expecting, like Joseph’s brothers, some kind of revenge from the younger brother, for all that his older siblings have out him through? Such a script would go a long way in Hollywood – and would be fair enough and so dramatically satisfying. But not here. Joseph met God somewhere along the way, and that meeting humbled him and showed him a better way – that of forgiveness. And not just forgiveness in words, but also in life sustaining action for his brothers and their families.

 

Matthew 18: 21 – 35

Jesus’ words that we read last week about sinning (v15 – 17) give rise to the question that Peter asks here – How often should I forgive the one who sins against me? Peter reckons that there should be a limit – seven times he reckons – which sounds generous and is more than what was suggested by the contemporary rabbis who thought that three times should be enough. But Jesus tells Peter to stop counting. Forgiveness should be a lifestyle, not an equation.

The numbers plunge us in to the Old Testament where we come face to face with the logic of Jesus’ response. Peter’s number echoes the seven-fold vengeance threatened to those who harm Cain. Jesus’ seventy time seven echoes the Jubilee at the heart of Old Testament life. Those living the Jubilee are perpetually forgiving.

To illustrate this, Jesus tells a parable that comes from the everyday world of the empire – the very world that the Jubilee was meant to regulate. It is a story that is both funny and serious. The amounts owed make the story fantastical and amusing. The attitude of the slave is chilling as we realise that Jesus is talking about Peter – and us. A talent was the largest unit of currency (actually a measure of weight, about 30kg, usually of silver) worth 600 denarii. A denarius was a good day’s wage for a labourer, so here Jesus is talking big numbers and this slave owed a huge amount of money – zillions as we might say!

Unable to pay such a debt, the slave throws himself on the mercy of his master. The master takes pity on him (v 27) and he writes off the entire amount. Wow! indeed, the stuff of Hollywood films. Having experienced such grace, the slave then demands that a colleague pay back the few pounds that he owes him and has him thrown into jail when he does not comply. When we get to the end of the story – if we are truthful, don’t we cheer when the slave gets his comeuppance? Yet, like Nathan’s parable of the poor man’s lamb (2 Samuel: 12) we are cheering our own downfall. This, says Jesus, is the outcome of Peter’s calculus. The parable serves to illustrate the foundational principle of relationships among disciples – namely that they are built on perpetual forgiveness.

Relationships depend on forgiveness and focusing on what brings us together rather than what drives us apart. Joseph is the embodiment of a forgiving heart, and the reading from Matthew gets to the heart of the issue: the people of the kingdom live the Jubilee in their relationships with one another – forgiveness of debts and sins flow in equal measure.

 

Prayer

We bring to God our prayers for the church and for the world.

Loving, living Lord,

We come to you as your children,

Giving thanks for the many good things you give us,

And asking for your care and compassion on the world.

We bring before you the places of the world

Where there is war, famine, natural disaster,

And the people who live in them.

At this time we remember especially the people

Affected by the fires in America.

We pray for those who are in positions of leadership

And who have responsibility for the welfare of others,

That they may have the wisdom and strength

To work for the good of those in their care.

We pray for those who are sick or suffering in any way,

And those who care for them wherever they may be.

Those who mourn the loss of a loved one,

Those who are alone or afraid,

Those who are separated from family because of Covid 19

Those who are struggling with daily life,

Lord, may they know that you are with them,

May they know the peace and security of your love in their lives.

We pray for ourselves, 

That we may come closer to you,

And that others may see in us,

Your love and your compassion,

May we continue to share the gospel

Through our words and deeds,

With all those whom we meet day by day.

Merciful father,

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,

Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,

Amen.

 

Hymn

CH4 528

1.      Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there is hatred let me bring your love:

Where there is injury your pardon Lord,

And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

Chorus

O Master, grant that I may never seek,

So much to be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love with all my heart.

 

2.      Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope;

Where there is darkness, only light;

And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Chorus…

 

3.      Make me a channel of your peace.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

In giving of ourselves that we receive,

And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

 

Blessing

Into a world of noise and confusion,

Into a world that bemuses us at times,

Into a world of delight and regret,

Into a world of hope and fear,

Into a world that is ever changing,

We go with the message of an unchanging God

Who gave us his all,

That we might live life to the best of our ability.

God of all, go with us and within us,

Bless us as we go, this day and every day,

Amen,