Sunday 25th October 2020

21st Sunday after Pentecost

 

Call to worship

Come. Love the Lord your God,

With all your heart,

With all your soul and with all your mind.

 

Hymn

1.      Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,

To his feet thy tribute bring,

Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,

Who, like me, his praise should sing?

Praise him! Praise him!

Praise the everlasting King.

 

2.      Praise him for his grace and favour

To our fathers in distress,

Praise him still the same for ever,

Slow to chide, and swift to bless.

Praise him! Praise him!

Glorious in his faithfulness.

 

3.      Father-like he tends and spares us,

Well our feeble frame he knows,

In his hands he gently bears us,

Rescues us from all our foes.

Praise him! Praise him!

Widely as his mercy flows.

 

4.      Frail as summer’s flowers we flourish,

Blows the wind and it is gone,

But, while mortals rise and perish,

God endures unchanging on.

Praise him! Praise him!

Praise the high eternal One.

 

5.      Angels, help us to adore him,

Ye behold him face to face,

Sun and moon bow down before him,

Dwellers all in time and space.

Praise him! Praise him!

Praise with us the God of grace.

 

Prayer

Let us thank God for each other

As we spend this time in worship,

As we come to pray and praise,

Let us thank God for the witness of Jesus

And the gift of the Holy Spirit

To inspire and move us.

We bring ourselves to a moment of quiet,

To a place of peace.

We bring ourselves to cast off the cares of the world

And for a time to reflect o you, Lord God,

That our batteries may be recharged,

Our direction refocused and our energy renewed:

That we may let go of the things that impede us

And hold us down,

And be free to care gently for those we share time with.

O God, renew us, we pray,

That we might renew others.

Lord, we bring before you the things we have done

That are wrong,

And the tings that we have left undone.

We ask for your forgiveness,

May our burdens be lifted,

And our souls released to share afresh

The love that we have known in you.

Lord God, forgive us and assure us

That our sins are forgiven,

That our lives are renewed,

And that we are loved and cherished and cared for.

:et us continue our prayer by praying 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 is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

For ever and ever,

Amen.

 

Readings

1 Thessalonians 2: 1 – 8

Matthew 22: 34 – 46

 

Reflection

1 Thessalonians 2: 1 – 8

Paul suffered a great deal for his Christian faith and in this passage, he is very upfront in reminding his readers about this. Paul refers particularly to an incident at Philippi (v.2) (Acts 16:19-24) when Paul and Silas were stripped beaten and locked up in prison as they healed the servant girl who was possessed by an evil spirit. This treatment would have been highly illegal under Roman law. Roman citizens (such as Paul and Silas) were entitled to an immediate hearing in front of the magistrates and, even had they been found guilty, they should not have been beaten up. This is mob rule was based probably upon racial prejudice, in that the two men were Jewish. It seems that similar opposition had been found in Thessalonica, and although Paul does not specify, we can imagine that this was known to those reading the letter (v.2). Paul is also rejecting claims that he is proclaiming the Gospel for the sake of personal gain (v.5) or indeed that he has ulterior motives for making converts. There is no sense that Paul is relying on trickery or flattery; his motives are pure and honourable, and the apostles have been “approved by God” (v.4). Note too, the feminine imagery of the “nurse tenderly caring for her own children” (v.7) – perhaps not what we usually expect from the, at times, rather harsh Paul! But Paul has experienced hunger and hardship himself in following Jesus, and this has surely brought him close to the underprivileged in society, and seems to have made him more sympathetic, even empathetic towards those who were marginalized in society. From his image of a nursing mother, Paul is moved to speak of the centrality of self-giving to the preaching of the gospel.

This picture carries forward into the following verse as Paul reminds his readers that he shared not only the Gospel but “our own selves”, the stress here is on the relational side of ministry to others. How we relate to God and how we relate to others. What others perceive as our motives can be vital in conveying the Gospel. Sometimes what helps to convince others of our Christian love and grace is not what we preach on Sunday in Church, but how we helped the needy from Monday to Friday.

 

Matthew 22: 34 – 46

This is one of those Biblical stories that we may be so familiar with that it fails to shock or surprise us any longer. To us, Jesus is simply echoing what we know in our heart of hearts – love God, love your neighbour. It seems so obvious! But it would not have been so to Jesus’ original hearers. For the scribes and Pharisees (and thus for the people who were taught by them) the Law given by Moses from God was sacrosanct. There were 61 mitzvot (laws) in the Torah (Jewish Law) but as scholars and rabbis interpreted these according to different times and circumstances, a huge body of oral tradition and oral law began to emerge. In Jesus’ days these unwritten community laws and traditions were beginning to be recorded. And the scribes and rabbis debated at some length about which of these were the most important. The Pharisees concluding that they all were important, not one had precedence over another, as all came from God. So what Jesus is doing is taking his hearers back to first principles. To “love God” (v.37) with heart, soul and mind is a direct echo of the Shema, the fundamental creed of Judaism (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

The second command Jesus gives, to “love our neighbour”, again reflects the Old Testament Law (Leviticus 19:18). Thus, while many scribes of the time were expanding the legal precepts and making them more detailed, and, we might think, more complex, Jesus acts to simplify things for the ordinary people. But Jesus was not alone in this endeavour. The great Rabbi Hillel for example urged, “Whatever you wish men should do to you, do so to them.” Jewish scholars have maintained with remarkable consistency that Jesus did not consciously set himself against the Torah of Moses. But what Jesus did do was to challenge the assumption that rules about ceremonial (cultic law) was of equal importance with ethical Law (how we behave to each other). He also sought to end the growing practice of the day of making God’s Law more and more complicated, thus confusing the ordinary people. Simple and succinct was Jesus’ approach. It was these changes that would have surprised Jesus’ audience.

Note too that having been posed a question, Jesus ends the encounter with the Pharisees with his own tricky question: whose son is the Messiah? They revert to the safety of tradition and reply, King David, the warrior hero. Jesus challenges them with Scripture (Psalm 110:1) “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” How can the Messiah be David’s son if David calls him “lord”? Jesus is making folk re-think their traditional understanding of who and what was the Messiah. Little wonder they stopped asking Jesus questions…

This brings us to the question once more – who is God for us in our lives? Who is the Messiah for us – and how does he feature in our daily lives?

 

Prayer

Holy and loving God,

Who gave your Law to Moses:

And who personified your love in Jesus you Son,

As Jesus reached out to those on the margins,

So now, in our prayers we do likewise.

We pray for all those who have little love in their lives –

Those who are lonely and afraid,

Those who are addicted and trapped,

Those who grieve and mourn,

Those whose relationships are broken.

God of love,

Help us to hold them close.

 

We pray for those who love the wrong things –

Those for whom money or possessions are more important,

And where greed has taken over,

Those who love only for gaining the approval of others, flattery or power,

Those who can love only self

And where bitterness pr hurt has made them inward looking.

God of Love,

Help us to unlock their hearts.  

 

We pray for those who love to such an extent

As to give totally of themselves –

Those who are persecuted for truth,

Or oppressed because they take a stand for justice,

Those who face discrimination

Because of skin colour, gender, sexuality or class,

Those who strive tirelessly for the Good News of Jesus,

Often facing hostility or apathy from others.

God of love,

Help us to work in harmony with them.  

 

(Keep a short period of silence for your own prayers)

 

God of Love,

Hear our prayers, spoken and unspoken,

And receive them in your grace and mercy,

Through Jesus Christ our loving Saviour,

Amen.

 

Hymn

1.      Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart,

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art,

Thou my best thought ion the day or the night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

 

2.      Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,

I ever with thee and thou with me Lord.

Thou my great Father, thine own I would be,

Thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

 

3.      Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight,

Be thou my dignity, thou my delight,

Thou my soul’s shelter, and thou my high tower,

Raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

 

4.      Riches I heed not, nor earth’s empty praise,

Thou mine inheritance, now and always,

Thou, and thou only, the first in my heart,

High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.

 

5.      High King of Heaven, after victory won,

May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,

Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

 

Blessing

From the security of this place,

With friends and family and our faith,

Be with us, Eternal God,

As we step back into the world of ‘mixed-up all-sorts’.

May we be kind and caring to all people,

No matter how they treat us.

May we be true to ourselves and to you, 

Sharing your love with all those we encounter.

And may the blessing of God Almighty,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Be with us today and for evermore,

Amen.