Sunday 16th August 2020

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

 

Today would have been our joint service to mark the end of our holiday club week, so we hold our young people and all those who help with the running of the club, in our thoughts and prayers.

This weekend is also the marking of VJ day. We remember especially those who served in the Far East and all those who served, who continue to serve and all who are affected by the events of war.

 

Call to worship

Come today with purpose

Into the presence of the living God.

Come to worship and be amazed,

To discover and learn new things.

Come knowing that God welcomes us all with open arms.

 

Hymn

CH4 172

1. Sing to God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation,

Racing across the sky, trailing bright clouds of elation:

Sun of delight

Succeeds the velvet of night,

Warming the earth’s exultation.

 

2. Sing for God’s power that shatters the chains that would bind us,

Searing the darkness of fear and despair that could blind us,

Touching our shame

With love that will not lay blame,

Reaching out gently to find us.

 

3. Sing for God’s justice disturbing each easy illusion,

Tearing down tyrants and putting our pride to confusion.

Lifeblood of right,

Resisting evil and slight,

Offering freedom’s transfusion.

 

4. Sing for God’s saints who have travelled faith’s journey before us,

Who in our weariness give us their hope to restore us,

In them we see

The new creation to be,

Spirit of love made flesh for us.

 

Prayer

God who calls us to praise,

let us be glad and sing for joy.

Guide us in our worship this morning.

Help us to be attentive to You as we come to worship,

to grow and learn, to be challenged and to be comforted.

Help us to listen for Your voice today.

Forgiving God,

there have been moments this week that have been difficult.

There have been times

where we have not lived up to everything You created us to be.

We have done what we should not,

and not done what we should.

We have said and thought things that were not kind, or honest.

We haven’t loved other people or ourselves.

Forgiving God, we are sorry.

God of fresh starts, help us to wipe the slate clean.

Walk beside us and teach us Your ways,

give us hope that the difficult things will not always be this way.

Help us to know Your forgiveness for ourselves,

and show Your forgiveness to others.

Let’s continue our prayer with the words that Jesus taught us…

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 is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

For ever and ever,

Amen.

 

Readings

Isaiah 56: 1, 6 – 8

Matthew 15: 10 – 28

 

Reflection

Isaiah 56: 1, 6 - 8

This passage begins the third section of Isaiah and touches on many similar themes to the passage in Matthew. Both discuss who is included in the Kingdom of Heaven and both ultimately are inclusive of all. It affirms that God’s covenant is not restricted to the Jews but can and will extend to all who love and serve God, maintaining justice and doing what is right. Foreigners were excluded from the temple as they were regarded as ritually impure and only Jews were able to enter the inner courts to take part in worship. Isaiah anticipates a day when anyone who joins with the Lord (presumably at this time by the act of circumcision) is to be fully welcomed into the temple and able to take part in prayer and sacrifices. In this Isaiah anticipates what Jesus makes explicit at the cleansing of the temple. This incident is recorded in all four gospels, and in three of them Jesus contrasts the house of prayer that the temple should be, with the unethical financial practices that have been taking place there. The practice of money changing would have particularly affected foreign worshippers arriving with their own currencies which they needed to exchange in order to buy what they needed to take part in sacrifices. In the Kingdom of God there will be no discrimination. God gathers all people and nations in.

 

Matthew 15: 10 – 28

This passage picks up in the middle of an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees. They are debating what it is that makes a person righteous in the eyes of God. Is it following all the rules and traditions of the faith, or is it something less easy to pinpoint? This is not a friendly encounter – the Pharisees are offended by the words and actions of Jesus and His disciples. But Jesus is adamant that it is only things which have their roots in God that will survive and flourish. The Pharisees, with their focus on rule-following, are described as blind guides leading others astray. They give the illusion of being able to clearly see what God requires of them and others, but in reality, are unaware that they are leading themselves and others into dangerous territory.

In the second part of the passage, on the surface Jesus and the disciples seem to be acting very out of character, trying to dismiss the woman coming to him seeking help for her daughter. Other people coming to Jesus in similar circumstances have been met with compassion and Jesus’ argument that He was sent to the Israelites falls a bit flat when it is He who has made the trip to Tyre and Sidon where the encounter takes place.

The tone in which this passage is read greatly affects the meaning taken from it. Do you read this as being very confrontational, with Jesus trying to deny this woman access to healing because of her background? Or is there a playfulness in the encounter, with Jesus drawing out a profound theological insight from her? Is this woman humiliated by the words of the man she is talking to, or is she humble, recognising her spiritual poverty? This text is sandwiched between the stories of the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000, both of which deal with the question of crumbs and leftovers. In both stories, a very small amount of food is more than sufficient for a large crowd of people, and the crumbs left under the table would be substantial. The economics of the Kingdom of heaven perhaps are not those of scarcity, but of abundance. The contrast between the Canaanite women and the Pharisees is not commented on, but it is stark. For all their focus on purity, the Pharisees are defiled on the inside, while the Canaanite woman, who was seen as impure, is spiritually alive and commended for her faith.

Where do we find ourselves spiritually? Are we focussing on the right things? Are we focussed on God?

 

Prayer

“The Kingdom of God is justice and peace

And joy in the Holy Spirit

Come, Lord and open in us the gates of your Kingdom”

(use this response throughout the prayer if you wish to do so)

 

God of Justice we pray for people who find themselves caught up in conflict.

At this time, we remember those caught up in the conflict of war,

Remembering especially those involved in the war in the Far East,

The lives lost and the sacrifices made:  

For those navigating difficult relationship and making hard decisions,

For those who have experienced discrimination and unfairness,

For those caught up in dangerous situations around the world.

We pray for people who find themselves on the margins.

For those who feel they don’t quite fit in or are being left out.

For those who don't want others to know they are struggling.

For those who can’t access the things we take for granted

because of poverty or disability.

Break down the barriers.

Bring Your Kingdom Lord.

The Kingdom of God is justice and peace…

 

God of Peace we pray for Your church.

For our parish and the communities that we live in.

For our brothers and sisters around the world.

Strengthen and encourage us Lord.

As we settle into new rhythms of life,

we remember those who have suffered

and are struggling with the effects of the last few months.

We pray for those who are trying to trying to return to a new normality

and for those who are caught between the two.

Bring Your Kingdom Lord.

The Kingdom of God is justice and peace…

 

We pray for those who are sick or suffering

Whether in body, mind or spirit,

And for all who care for them wherever they are.

We pray for those who mourn the loss of a loved one.

Bring your Kingdom Lord.

The Kingdom of God is justice and peace…

 

We pray for our families and friends,

For our worshipping community,

That we may be guided and strengthened by your love

As we seek to face the many challenges that lie before us.

Gracious God, help us to stay strong in you,

And to be guided by your spirit.

Bring your Kingdom Lord.

The Kingdom of God is justice and peace…

 

Hymn

CH4 198

1. Let us build a house where love can dwell

And all can safely live,

A place where saints and children tell

How hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,

Rock of faith and vault of grace,

Here the love of Christ shall end divisions

All are welcome, all are welcome

All are welcome in this place.

 

2. Let us build a house where prophets speak,

And words are strong and true,

Where all God’s children dare to seek

To dream God’s reign anew.

Here the cross shall stand as witness

And a symbol of God’s grace,

Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

All are welcome…

 

3. Let us build a house where love is found

In water, wine, and wheat,

A banquet hall on holy ground

Where peace and justice meet.

Here the love of God, through Jesus,

Is revealed in time and space,

As we share in Christ the feast that frees us,

All are welcome…

 

4. Let us build a house where hands will reach

Beyond the wood and stone

To heal and strengthen, serve, and teach,

And live the word they’ve known.

Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face,

Let us bring an end to fear and danger,

All are welcome…

 

5. Let us build a house where all are named,

Their songs and visions heard

And loved and treasured, taught, and claimed

As words within the Word.

Built of tears, and cries, and laughter,

Prayers of faith and songs of brace,

Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter,

All are welcome…

 

Blessing  

Lord, may we leave this time of worship

Renewed and strengthened in your spirit.

May we find you in our hearts

And follow you this coming week,

Lead us good Lord,

Bless us and keep us,

Through Jesus name we pray,

Amen.