Sunday 26th July 2020

8th Sunday after Pentecost

 

This weekend sees 18 weeks since we were able to worship together in our church buildings. Since the Scottish government has taken us to phase 3 of the return from lockdown, we are now able to go back to our buildings for worship. However, there are restrictions on numbers and a huge number of policies and guidelines that we must follow in order to make sure everyone is as safe as possible. The Sessions are beginning to work towards re-opening the buildings and we will keep you informed of the progress. Hope you are all keeping well and safe.

 

Hymn

CH4 153

1. Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,

There is no shadow of turning with thee;

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not,

As thou hast been thou forever will be.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed thy hand has provided –

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

 

2. Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To they great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness…

 

3. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine and ten thousand beside.

Great is thy faithfulness…

 

Prayer

Loving God, as we come to worship you,

We thank you for your presence with us.

Thank you that each one of us is unique,

Yet we all share a common bond in you.

We come to worship today,

Together with others, even though we are physically apart.

We come as one body,

We thank you for your amazing word

That gives us so many pictures of your kingdom.

As we come today, Lord,

May we see the amazing things you do in our lives,

May we never forget that we are part of your kingdom.

We come to you in awe and wonder.

We come to you in confession.

Sometimes we are set in our ways,

Not always ready to give something up

Even when it gets in the way of our relationship with you.

Forgive us Lord,

Open our hearts to you.

Sometimes we want to keep everything locked up,

Safe and away from prying eyes,

Forgive us Lord,

Open our hearts to you.

Sometimes we feel that doing your will is too hard,

And we turn away from it and go our own way.

Forgive us Lord,

Open our hearts to you.

Sometimes we take our eyes off you Lord,

And we feel so lost.

Forgive us Lord,

And open our hearts to you.

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

Our Father, who are 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 Kings 3: 5 – 12

Matthew 13: 31 – 33, 44 – 52

 

Reflection

1 Kings 3: 5 – 12

This passage expresses a longing for God’s guidance, to know God’s will in order to live well. Solomon was chosen and anointed king even before his father David died. Despite Solomon’s practices of ‘worshipping in high places’ (ch3: 1 – 3) God appears to him in a dream and asks Solomon “What would you like me to give you?” (v5). Solomon’s humility in asking for wisdom and guidance to govern the people and know what is right (v9) rather than riches or victories over his enemies, is pleasing to God, who grants his request. God goes on to grant Solomon other blessings on condition that he continues to obey God’s instructions on how to live (3: 13 – 14). Sadly, we know that Solomon failed to do this (1Kings 11: 1 – 13) and the united kingdom of Israel that he had inherited fell apart when he died.

 

Matthew 13: 31 – 33, 44 – 52

In our passage from Matthew’s gospel today we have six parables concerning the kingdom of heaven. The legendary smallness of the mustard seed (about 1mm) sometimes contrasted to the sizeable mustard bush (typically 2 – 3 metres tall), is referred to in other ancient writings (Matthew 17: 20). This comparison illustrates the fact that although the kingdom may currently appear as insignificantly small, it will grow dramatically. Trees are used as pictures of kings and their kingdoms elsewhere (Ezekiel 31: Daniel 4) and it is thought that birds sometimes signified non-Jews. Jesus’ use of the mustard seed as an image of the kingdom – rather than perhaps using a more ‘majestic’ species – also draws attention to the unlikely beginnings of the kingdom: in Jesus’ ministry of service rather than the work of a warrior king.

Yeast in dough (leaven) had to be cleared out of a Jewish household before Passover (Exodus 12). It is sometimes used to picture the spread of negative things from a small start (1 Corinthians 5: 6 – 8). However, here it is used to demonstrate again the way that the kingdom starts small but has a mighty and wide-ranging effect.

The next two parables (vv44 – 46) both convey something of the huge value of the kingdom in comparison with anything else that life has to offer. They also both echo from the mustard seed and the yeast, the idea of the kingdom not being easily seen at first glance. Pearls were more valuable than gold at the time.

The parable of the dragnet that indiscriminately catches fish, both good and bad, comes with an explanation. It is similar to the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13: 24 – 30) in the way it talks about the separation of good and evil and what will happen at the end of the age, and of the persistence of evil parts in society until then. It is not clear if the net signifies the whole world (in which case the separation is between those who accepted the message of Christ and those who did not) or if it refers to the kingdom (in which case it might suggest a judgement of those who consider themselves to be members of the kingdom.)

Finally, Jesus tells a parable about teachers within the kingdom. Scribes were those who interpreted God’s instructions in the scriptures in order that the people would know how to live God’s way. This parable may indicate that, in the kingdom, those who have been trained in the kingdom ways (as the disciples have) will draw on their Jewish heritage of knowing God’s ways but also on the new things that Jesus is showing them.

    

Prayer

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

Lord Jesus Christ,

Words cannot express how thankful we are

that You consider us to be Your children;

Your treasure, Your pearl beyond all price.

Words cannot express how grateful we are that nothing:

Angels, demons, death, life…

nothing can separate us from Your love!

Lord, we pray this day for all who are yet to hear this news.

May You continue to sustain all who seek to make You known across our world.

Be with missionaries, Bible translators, children and family workers,

chaplains, ministers, preachers and pastors.

Be in conversations, Bible studies, Alpha courses,

Christianity Explored and Emmaus courses.

Be in high churches, café churches,

messy churches, house groups and cathedrals.

Be in all that opens people’s eyes to You, Your love, and Your call.

God of love and compassion,

We pray for all who seek to make a difference in the lives of others.

Be with carers and counsellors, medics and mediators,

Be with those with listening ears and those with caring hands,

Be in all that opens people’s eyes to You, Your love and Your call.

God of justice and peace,

We pray for all who seek to challenge injustices and stand up for what is right.

Be with the politician and the protester,

The activist and the pacifist,

The vocal and the silent.

Be in all that opens people’s eyes to You,

Your love and Your call.

Be with us as we seek the way forward,

To re-open our buildings,

So that we may begin to gather for worship once again.

Be with those who are sick,

Those who are worried or frightened

By the changes that are taking place around them.

Be with those who have experienced the loss of a loved one,

And those who find daily life a struggle.

Hear us and help us to see You this day, we pray.

Amen.

 

Hymn

CH4 555

1. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

Hat saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed.

 

3 Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come;

‘tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

4. The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.

 

Blessing

Lord bless us and keep us,

Send us out to love everyone equally,

And do everything we can to promote your kingdom,

Amen.