Sunday Services

Sunday Church Service

Sunday 13 September 2020,  a service for use at home; Haddington West Church, Garvald and Morham

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

Ps.103,1.3-4 “Bless the Lord, my soul. He pardons all my wrongdoing, and crowns me with love and compassion.”

Collect: Almighty God, you call your Church to witness that in Christ we are reconciled to you. Help us so to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may turn to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and for ever.  AMEN

 

Sing to the Lord a joyful song

Sing to the Lord a joyful song,

lift up your hearts, your voices raise;

to us His gracious gifts belong,

to Him our songs of love and praise.

 

For life and love, for rest and food,

for daily help and nightly care,

sing to the Lord, for He is good,

and praise His name, for it is fair.

 

For strength to those who on Him wait

His truth to prove, His will to do,

praise ye our God, for He is great,

trust in His name, for it is true.

 

For joys untold, that from above

cheer those who love His sweet employ,

sing to our God, for He is love,

exalt his name, for it is joy.

 

Sing to the Lord of Heaven and earth,

whom angels serve and saints adore,

the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,

to whom be praise for evermore.

                                                                                William Smallwood (1831-97)

Jonah 1,: 1-10

“The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.’

Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, ‘Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’

He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)

Dear friends

Both Matthew and Luke tell us in their gospels that Jesus made reference to the book of Jonah in a way which suggested strongly that understanding its message could serve to shed light on his own, and indeed on those who heard him. Lk.11,29ff.: “As the crowds increased, Jesus said, ‘This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. … The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.” We have good reason, then, to expect that by looking at the book of Jonah and letting it deliver its message to us – in the light of Christ, one greater than Jonah – we may hear God’s word to us.

The book opens with an answer to a most relevant question – that of the God-factor in our history. In Jonah’s day it would not have occurred to many to deny there was such a thing even if in accounting for it opinions would vary greatly. Indeed, then as now, the truth of it would come to be known only through experience and revelation. Today in some respects the landscape has changed. It would not be wrong to say that the sense prevails quite widely that the relevance of any God-factor to account for the state of things and for finding a better way is small.

This is not so, of course, when we talk about the human factor. We all have a sense of how important the ‘human factor’ is in the question of what becomes of us and of the world, in the shaping of reality. We recently watched the film that tells the story of the events of the day in the winter of 2007 when an American passenger plane made an emergency landing on the river Hudson and managed to do so without the loss of a single life and without breaking the fuselage. At the end of the hearings of the investigation that followed, somebody sums up the conclusion of their findings by saying that the success of the landing was ultimately down to 1 factor – the human factor that was Captain Sullivan. Yes, we have a healthy sense of the importance of the human factor in the decisions and events that shape our world and our lives. We wouldn’t deny that the human factor is relevant. But neither should we deny that the God-factor is.

But what of the human factor and its role in our lives as they are before God? And what of the God-factor? What role does it play in how things turn out? The book of Jonah is like a picture book that lets us see some answers.

It opens with the prophet Jonah being tasked by God to go to Nineveh and make the people, both rulers and ordinary folk, aware of judgement, to tell them their “wickedness has come up before me”.  That is, the God -factor is present in the issue of divine judgment pronounced against wickedness and evil, against human sin. In the picture of Nineveh and the prophetic message of divine judgment we become aware of the God-factor and its significance and bearing upon us – that God searches and makes transparent, for the sake of truth and justice, by what principles and by what rule we (actually) live. He brings it into the open, “into the light of his presence” (Ps.90,8) through the declaration of his word – how we ought to live - and through punishment.

In fact, some of the sharpest rebukes in the Scriptures are directed towards the teachers who conceal from the people this aspect of the God-factor, do not declare to the people their sins nor that God requires righteousness and will not let the guilty go unpunished. Their rebuke ought to open our eyes and hearts anew to this reality of the God-factor – it is no more removed by concealment through vain thinking and idle talk than is the fact that God is “the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (v.9)

Now in the next picture, however, we see the human factor coming into play in a way which is at odds with God. Jonah does not comply with God’s will and sets out in the opposite direction. Why? As we learn later in the book it is because he has a hunch that Nineveh’s response to the message of God’s judgment might be repentance, might be that they agree and turn to God from the heart and seek to do right. And then what?! Then God would relent and not bring on Nineveh the destruction which his judgment was threatening. And this thought, that God would be gracious to Israel’s arch-enemy, to the wicked and utterly undeserving enemy at the hand of whom they suffered so much, was unbearable to Jonah.

Jonah knows that the God-factor means not just judgment but even more so grace in repentance and faith. God’s judgment serves the greater end of God’s mercy and grace which man receives in repentance and faith.

Dear friends, the true picture of the human factor is that it brings into play disobedience, hardness of heart, rebellion against God’s way. But it is also brings into play one whom God does not let go or give up on, whom God speaks to and calls and whom He wants to know His grace and love, to be redeemed and to be righteous and indeed holy. And the true picture of the God-factor is that God works His will through judgment and through grace so as to save and be a Saviour. And there we see the picture truly where we look on the one “greater than Jonah”, namely Jesus Christ.

                                                                                                                                                                              AMEN

Teach me Thy way

 

1       Teach me Thy way, O Lord,

         teach me Thy way!

         Thy gracious aid afford,

         teach me Thy way!

         Help me to walk aright,

         more by faith, less by sight;

         lead me with heavenly light:

         teach me Thy way!

 

2       When doubts and fears arise,

         teach me Thy way!

         When storms o’erspread the skies,

         teach me Thy way!

         Shine through the cloud and rain,

         through sorrow, toil, and pain;

         make Thou my pathway plain:

         teach me Thy way!

 

3       Long as my life shall last,

         teach me Thy way!

         Where’er my lot be cast,

         teach me Thy way!

         Until the race is run,

         until the journey’s done,

         until the crown is won,

         teach me Thy way!

Benjamin Mansell Ramsey (1849–1923)

- time of prayer / intercession –

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen’

 

The peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

Sunday 06 September 2020,  a service for use at home; Haddington West Church, Garvald and Morham

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

1Tim.4,10: We have set our hope on the living God, who is the Saviour of all.

Collect: Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that richly bearing the fruit of good works, we may by you be richly rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  AMEN

BE STILL, FOR THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD

  1. Be still,

for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One, is here;

come bow before Him now

with reverence and fear:

in Him no sin is found –

we stand on holy ground.

Be still,

for the presence of the Lord,

the Holy One is here.

 

  1. Be still,

for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around;

He burns with holy fire,

with splendour He is crowned:

how awesome is the sight –

our radiant King of light!

Be still,

for the glory of the Lord

is shining all around.

 

  1. Be still,

For the power of the Lord

Is moving in this place:

He comes to cleanse and heal,

To minister His grace –

No work too hard for Him.

In faith receive from Him.

Be still,

For the power of the Lord

Is moving in this place.David J Evans, 1986

Mt.16, 21-28:

“From that time Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’”

Dear friends

One day when our family were a lot younger we were on a ferry passage across the English Channel. As the weather was quite good I decided to take all four children – one of them in a buggy – outside on to the deck for a wee walk-about. Opening the heavy door and manoeuvring the buggy outside took a bit of effort and by the time I had managed the other 3 children were out in front. To my absolute horror, before I could stop her, our youngest girl, barely able to walk and certainly in no controlled way, lost no time in running towards the railing, stumbling straight towards a small gap left there, I presume, for handling the crane next to it. The gap was large enough for the little girl running towards it at top speed to go right through – and behind was nothing but a 30 m drop into the sea! Never before or after have I shouted a name as loudly and sharply as I did then in utter panic. Thankfully it stopped her in her track, she stood frozen to the spot. Grabbing her by the hand I made sure she couldn’t continue where she had been going.

From the moment I realised where she was heading I had but one thought: “Don’t go there!” Now it’s a similar thing with Peter here (and it’s important we look at this because in the things we read or hear about the people who were with the Lord we learn a lot about our own hearts, about our thoughts towards God and about Him and about truth and love and about salvation). After hearing Jesus say that his way was to take him to Jerusalem where he would have to suffer and die and on the third day be raised to life, Peter had a “Don’t go there!” – moment. Taking Jesus to one side he urged him very earnestly: “Don’t go there! You must not even think in that way! This cannot be God’s plan. Look at what you have achieved, the support you have from the people – would you now jeopardize all of this? Our movement has gained real momentum, you have the upper hand over you adversaries in Jerusalem – if you don’t push this further not even a future resurrection, whatever that might look like, will undo the damage that suffering and death at the hands of your adversaries will do to your cause. What is the point in going to your doom? In suffering? In death? People have seen your power and they follow you. But will they follow you when you end in such weakness? No Lord, you mustn’t go there, it can’t be right, nor God’s good plan!”

Do you and I not understand Peter? Do we not think like him? How, we say, will people be attracted to faith, to God, to church, if the way is that of suffering and death and resurrection, that of the cross? No, people are attracted to miracles, to healings, powerful demonstrations which leave no one doubting that God is real! And people are attracted to a faith that agrees with their wisdom and with their understanding, with how they see God, their soul and whatever else, and the cross with its dying Saviour jars with that! Yes, Jesus did suffer on the cross and he may have thought that it was the main purpose of his coming, but did not his miracles and teachings do more for the attractiveness of Christianity than the forgiveness of sins and the hope of the resurrection? Would he not have achieved even more if he had not died on a cross, like a church today, let’s be honest, can hope to achieve more by being impressive and captivating rather than being faithful in suffering and calling out sin and preaching Christ crucified? Would God not sell Himself, faith, the church, much better and more successfully if He gave the church the power of miracles and of awesome prophecy?

This way of thinking is natural to us, is it not? It is tempting to think so. In fact, Jesus was tempted by it – he was tempted by the idea that he could be a Messiah without the cross (suffering and death before resurrection). And that is why he rebuked Peter in such very strong terms, because he perceived in him the words and voice of the tempter himself – Satan.

“Don’t go there!” Peter said to the Lord. And the Lord said to Peter: “By speaking in this way you don’t have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns. Why must I go there? So that God, being concerned for your soul may become your soul’s concern. For nothing else can or shall give life to your soul, nothing you do and nothing you can possibly gain and should it be the whole world.”

Dear friends, we are tempted in our minds with human concerns when we imagine God’s concern for us. Our concerns for success, for gain, for health, for security, for admiration, for our aims, must be the way for God to be our help and convince us of his love. But God’s concern for us is for our soul – that there be light because there is love, that there be truth because there is grace.

And the way here is through the cross, where God out of concern for our soul in Jesus suffers and dies in place of the sinner in judgment of sin and rises from death to new life in order to become this new life in all who receive him, that is, believe.

Let Christ be your concern, and that you may follow him: though it will mean a cross for yourself it is the way in which the new life will grow. AMEN

IN CHRIST ALONE

  1. In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song;

this cornerstone, this solid ground,

firm through the fiercest drought

                and storm.

What heights of love,

                what depths of peace,

when fears are stilled,

                when strivings cease!

My comforter, my all in all,

here in the love of Christ I stand.

 

  1. In Christ alone - who took on flesh,

fullness of God in helpless Babe!

This gift of love and righteousness,

scorned by the ones he came to save

till on that cross as Jesus died,

the wrath of God was satisfied,

for every sin on Him was laid;

here in the death of Christ I live.

 

  1. There in the ground his body lay,

light of the world by darkness slain,

then, bursting forth in glorious day,

up from the grave He rose again!

And as he stands in victory

sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,

for I am His and He is mine-

bought with the precious blood of Christ

 

  1. No guilt in life, no fear in death,

this is the power of Christ in me;

from life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man

can ever pluck me from his hand;

till he returns or calls me home,

here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!

                                                Stuart Townend, 2001

Time of prayer / intercession –

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Live in union with Christ Jesus as Lord, be rooted in him, be built in him, grow strong in the faith; let your hearts overflow with thankfulness. (Col.2,6-7)

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

Sunday 30 August 2020,  a service for use at home; Haddington West Church, Garvald and Morham

Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

Rom.12,1: Offer your very selves to God: a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance.

Collect: Almighty and ever-living God, you are the author and giver of all good things. Graft in our hearts the love of your name, increase in us true religion – faith active in love –, nourish us with all goodness, and of your great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN

LOOK FORWARD IN FAITH

1. Look forward in faith –

All time is in God’s hand.

Walk humbly with him

And trust his future plan.

God has wisely led

His people by his power.

Look forward in hope,

He us each new hour.

 

2. Look forward in faith –

The world is in God’s care.

His purpose of love

He calls on us to share.

In our neighbour’s need,

The Lord is present still.

He blesses the meek!

The earth will know God’s will.

 

3. Look forward in faith –

God gives us life each day.

Go onward with Christ,

His Spirit guides our way.

Now God lets us live

Within the sphere of grace.

Trust ever in him –

He rules o’er earth and space!

 A Scobie

Rom.12,9-21:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

Dear friends, brothers and sisters in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Love must be sincere, says Paul, and is, of course, not speaking about something that is optional for the church and the Christian, but is the very goal of what faith intends and is about. The practical applications which follow this ground-rule are all highly relevant. Noble and beautiful, they bring into our relationships truth and righteousness, affirmation and support, peace, reconciliation and unity. Again, this is the aim of faith, that without which faith in the end is goal-less and pointless. Are these not the deep relationship qualities which we yearn for? Does not every need demand the willing service of love? And does not Jesus Christ say to those who profess to know and belong to him, yet fail to love and care for the needs of those in whom they encounter him: “Depart from me, you who are cursed … Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me”? (Mt.25,41-45)

Sincere love – practical, respectful, patient, persevering, God-honouring, gracious love, willingly given: that is here the appeal to the church, to us all. And while there may be much else that calls for our attention, this appeal comes first.

But how about it? How to avoid the fate suffered by so many on hearing this appeal? Endorsed at first by those to whom the appeal is made, in the process of responding its ideals are then weakened to such a degree that the result in the end hardly matches these ideals anymore. Which is why it is ever so important that we are conscious of the condition on which this appeal and its instructions depend and on which they stand.

The point is this: That these instructions result in you actually doing them rather than disappear without trace into some kind of void after you hear them, is not a matter of your will and of the strength of your resolve. But this goes against the normal pattern, does it not? Normally a command or an instruction is a matter of will and resolve, the way to take it is to put your mind to it. Not here, however, for the simple reason that what you put your mind to when your heart is not in it, that is not sincere. It is pretence. It may have the appearance of love but not the essence, and it will quickly fade.

It is not a matter of your will and resolve, of putting your mind to it - even if, of course, that comes into it at one point -, no, it is a matter before all else of the state of your faith. This explains, and is the reason why Paul approaches this matter over the space of 11 chapters by laying out the word of faith. It is why he first sets forth the doctrinal side of faith, dedicating to this chapter after chapter.

If these instructions for sincere love are to go anywhere, they must be preceded by a word which it is necessary to hear, receive and believe. [ see Lk.10,41 Jesus to Martha about Mary who is listening instead of doing: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”] What makes us ready for the instructions to sincere love is not that we say ‘OK, let’s put our mind to it!’, but that we know our dependence on the word, that we receive the word of faith, which is Christ, and are in him through faith.

You see, chapters 1 to 11 don’t present us with a word that we could equally well say to ourselves and to each other, even though it turns out that this word understands us like none other. All such words – those we can say to ourselves -, and all the ways in which we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Word, as though they were really our own, do not leave nor come from beyond the realm of who and what we are (and what we make of ourselves!) – creatures of a sinfully weak nature incapable of producing and upholding the goal of these instructions for sincere love. Such words, whatever they may move, leave us as we are, bound to our sinfulness, and can only darken the way and counsel of God’s salvation.

But the word of faith, spoken through the Scriptures, announces to us that we are lost, all of us without exception, that we are in need of being redeemed from the ruling principle that is sin within, which makes us enemies of God and haters of His will, endlessly seeking ways not to acknowledge Him and suppressing the truth; it announces to us the holiness and justice of God, that He judges evil and says the righteous shall live; it announces to us the redeemer who is the righteous one, His Son who assumed our flesh and took upon him the sins of the world as they stand in the face of God and died to make us free, the punishment being on him that brought us peace ( Is.53,5); it announces to us that God raised him from the dead and that all who believe in him, repenting of their sins, are counted righteous through his righteousness and shall live by their faith in Christ; it announces to us the grace and love of God who justifies the ungodly by condemning sin once and for all on the cross of Christ and declaring: “Your sins are forgiven!”; it announces to us the gift of the Holy Spirit and that he indwells every believer in accordance with faith, making present to us the Lord Jesus Christ and his gracious rule, the love of God and its hope.

It is the hearer of this word to whom these instructions are given, because of what by hearing and believing they have received and do receive. Not the “I shall!” of the will, not the resolve to put your mind to it, but the prayerful hearing of the word of forgiveness and grace in repentance and faith (and here only are mind and will so prepared that they are usefully employed in following the instructions!) is the condition from which arises the freedom to obey, the zeal to do so, the heartfelt desire to see it done, to love sincerely, to overcome sin and follow in the way of Jesus, to do it at a cost and begin again when having failed.

The instructions are about putting something together – the life of love. If we compare this to a construction toy, say a Lego model of a Land Rover, we may have a reasonably good illustration. On the box it gives an age reference of 11+, indicating that the capacity to follow the instructions and construct this thing successfully lies beyond the person whose life has not developed sufficiently. Such a person, say a 5-year old, may still put the pieces together, but the construction, process and result, will not be the sincere form envisaged in the instructions. So it is in the matter of putting together the life of love commanded by faith: it requires the capacity of the developed life. And the growth of this life is the gift of God in Christ Jesus and comes by hearing, from faith to faith.

Dear friends, love must be sincere. And it can be, out of Christ’s solidarity with us sinners and our attachment to him. As is well captured in Paul’s word: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal.2,20) Shall we not through him who strengthens all who look to him grow strong in his strength, that is, in love?  AMEN

 

WILL YOU COME AND FOLLOW ME?

1. Will you come and follow me,

if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don’t know

and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown,

will you let my name be known,

will you let my life be grown

in you and you in me?

 

2. Will you leave your self behind

if I but call your name?

Will you care for cruel and kind

and never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare

should your life attract or scare,

will you let me answer prayer

in you and you in me?

 

3. Will you let the blinded see

if I but call your name?

Will you set the prisoners free

and never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean

and do such as this unseen,

and admit to what I mean

in you and you in me?

 

4. Will you love the ‘you’ you hide

if I but call your name?

Will you quell the fear inside

and never be the same?

Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around

through my sight and touch and sound

in you and you in me?

 

5. Lord, your summons echoes true

when you but call my name.

Let me turn and follow you

and never be the same.

In your company I’ll go

where your love and footsteps show.

Thus I’ll move and live and grow

in you and you in me.

J. Bell and G. Maule

 

Time of prayer / intercession;

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

 

Now to him who is able through the power which is at work among us to do immeasurably more than we can ask or conceive, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus from generation to generation for evermore! (Aph.3,20-21)

Keep hold of what is good and avoid all forms of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, make you holy through and through, and keep you sound in spirit, soul, and body, free of any fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes. (1Thess.5,21-23)

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

Sunday 23rd August 2020

Call to worship: Almighty God, fill the church with your power -- the power of truth, the power of mercy, the power of love -- that your glory might be known in every land, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Come all!" Let us worship God who welcomes us all, and may we find unity in our diversity.

MP 624:

1.Take my life and let it be                                                                                                                                                          Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

Take my moments and my days,

let them flow in endless praise.

 

2.Take my hands and let them move

at the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet and let them be

swift and beautiful for Thee.

 

3. Take my voice and let me sing,

Always, only for my King.

Take my lips and let them be

Filled with messages from Thee. 

 

4. Take my silver and my gold,

not a mite would I withhold.

Take my intellect and use

every power as Thou shalt choose.

 

5. Take my will and make it Thine,

it shall be no longer mine.

Take my heart, it is Thine own,

it shall be Thy royal throne.

 

6.Take my love, my Lord,

I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.

Take myself and I will be

ever, only, all for Thee.

 

Prayer and Lord’s prayer - Father, we thank you for the opportunity to gather today. May everything we do, begin with your inspiration and continue with your help. We ask your guidance throughout this week, that all of our thoughts and actions would reflect your Holy will, and that You would grant us the grace to love You and our neighbours as You would want us too. Faithful God, forgive us when we only turn to You when things trouble us and when we forget to thank You for Your blessings and bounty. Help us to recognise all the wonderful things in your world for which we should be grateful and send us out into the coming week, ready to show our gratitude in all that we do and say. Lord thank you for walking with us throughout our lives. You are always with us.  We pray in Jesus name. Amen. 

Lord’s Prayer

CH4 232 Pears and apples 

Pear and apples, wheat and grapes

Many textures, many shapes

sailing leaves in golden drifts

Thank You God, for harvest gifts

Flashing shoals of silver fish,

every colour you could wish;

Fishing boats, for you and me

Reap the harvest of the sea.

Earth and ocean, plant and beast,

altogether make the feast;

All who long to share your grace

at your table have their place.

Loving Lord, we know you care;

May we all your goodness share;

Save us from all selfish greed, finding you in those who need.

All age Good morning. Today I would like you to think about what colour of the rainbow you would like to be.  I, myself, would like to be blue as that is my favourite colour. I have a an image here of the colours of the rainbow, but it has the names of Jesus on it that he has been called in the Bible.  I will just say one or two of them 

I chose this image because it was the nearest I could get for the meanings of the colours of the rainbow as it was God who first made a rainbow. As a promise between himself and all living creatures to never destroy all that he had made ever again. -  Next to this is a picture of the stained- glass window in St. Michael’s Church in Linlithgow.  The colours are beautiful.  Can you just imagine how this window will reflect the colours when the sun shines through it? The colours are all equal; not one any more special than another. They are all required to make this amazing artwork. There are so many different shapes and sizes of glass, all put into the different parts of the window to complete the picture the artist wanted to portray.  I want you to think about what colour you would like to be and place yourself as part of a stained glass window. We are all different, but we are all special to God. When we all come together, we help to make up a very special window. Within this window we are showing just how important it is to be joined together as one walking with God. The Bible tells us that “…even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don’t have the same function” (12:4) “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually, members one of another” (12:4). Each of us has gifts. We might be able to teach or lead. or have the gift of caring and be cheery and be able to give encouragement. When our own gifts, that we have been given by God, are combined with everyone who we share the love of God with, then we will have the ability to make something full of colour to praise God. God’s light transforms us, just like sunlight streams through our stained- glass windows and helps us to see the beauty of all the colours not just in the rainbow, but all around us. Could Paul see us as the congregation who knows who we are? Would he see the Holy Spirit shining in us and throughout the church?  I do think that he would see us as a living church of our Lord Jesus Christ and thank us for all our different gifts that we use through our faith to the community in around us.  We can thank Him and praise God for all his good gifts to us.

Let’s pray:  Loving God we come together to say thank you for all the gifts you shower upon us and give you all the praise and honour in your name now and forever. Amen

CH4 143: Who put the colours in the rainbow?

Who put the colours in the rainbow?

Who put the salt into the sea?

Who put the cold into the snowflake?

Who made you and me?

Who put the hump upon the camel?

Who put the neck upon the Giraffe?

Who put the tail upon the monkey?

Who made hyenas laugh?

Who made wails and snail quails?

Who made hogs and dogs and frogs?

Who made mats and rats and cats?

Who made everything?

Who put the gold into the sunshine?

Who put the sparkle in the stars?

Who put the silver in the moonlight?

Who made Earth and Mars?

Who put the scent into the roses?

Who taught the honey bee to dance?

Who put the tree inside the acorn?

It surely can't be chance?

Who made seas and leaves and trees?

Who made snow and winds that blow?

Who made streams and rivers flow?

God made all of these!

Psalm 138:

1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;

before the “gods” I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple

and will praise your name

for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,

for you have so exalted your solemn decree

that it surpasses your fame.

3 When I called, you answered me;

you greatly emboldened me. 

4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,

when they hear what you have decreed. 

5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD,

for the glory of the LORD is great. 

6 Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;

though lofty, he sees them from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.

You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;

with your right hand you save me. 

8 The LORD will vindicate me; your love,

LORD, endures forever—

do not abandon the works of your hands.

Intercession Prayers - Almighty, Creator God – We come humbly before your throne of grace to make known those issues and concerns which burden our hearts and those of your people this world over. So help us, Lord, as we try and focus on the big issues of the day, about which we often feel so powerless, and the myriad of small, daily, concerns that can sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. We pray for the World-wide Christian church praising Your name in thousands of different languages and styles. We pray for churches in regions where any religious faith is suppressed or where Christianity is seen as an unwelcome intrusion. Give courage and faith to all who hold the name of Jesus central to their lives. We pray for a world seemingly forever caught up in violence and conflict and pray that a ‘longing for peace’ abides in the hearts of all those who have the influence to change things for the better. Especially, we pray for the innocent victims caught up in conflicts not of their making. Give us the wisdom to understand more about the root causes of conflicts and how they might best be resolved without further mistrust. We pray for those forging stronger links between faith communities and for the world’s leaders that they may be given insight and strength to continually strive for just societies in all regions of the world. We pray for and remember peoples who are the victims of natural disasters or who suffer hunger and deprivation because of corrupt or power - crazed leaders. We pray that, through the generosity of the world-wide community, aid may be allowed to reach those in desperate need. Warm the hearts of those who would deprive their own people of help and show them that true leadership comes from humility and service. As schools and colleges go back for the new term, we pray for our children and young people at the beginning of another academic year. And for the new leavers, starting new lives in the world of work. Let it be a place where both young and old, gifted and less able feel valued and proud to be a part of the workforce. We pray for those in our health services as they get to grips with the pandemic. Support those working in laboratories to produce vaccines, giving advice on the help-lines or on the front line in surgeries and hospitals. At times of great national anxiety help us to know that all our concerns are already known to you and that from you we may draw strength to do your will in the service of others. And so, we think now of those in need in our own community: the elderly, the housebound and those in care homes, hospital and hospice.e pray for the lonely, the marginalised and those who face a future with little hope or love. We also pray for all who tend to their needs. So let us share a moment of silence together as we bring before you those known only to ourselves as we name them in our hearts and commit them to your loving care. We also pray for those who face the pain of grief at the loss of a loved one. Help us to support all those who mourn, both with our prayers and with practical help both this day and in the days and weeks to come. Today Lord, open our eyes that we may see your image in everyone we meet; open our ears that we may hear your word in the words that other speak and open our mouths that we may speak your gracious word of love to those whose paths we cross; “Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen”.

MP 640 the church is one foundation

1.The Church's one foundation 

is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is His new creation

by water and the Word;

From heaven He came and sought her 

to be His holy Bride;

with His own blood He bought her 

and for her life He died.

 

2 Elect from every nation,  

yet one o'er all the earth,

her charter of salvation,

one Lord, one faith, one birth;

one holy Name she blesses,

partakes one holy food,

and to one hope she presses,

with every grace endued.

 

3 'Mid toil and tribulation, 

and tumult of her war,

she waits the consummation   

of peace for evermore;

Till, with the vision glorious, 

her longing eyes are blest,

and the great Church victorious   

shall be the Church at rest.

 

4 Yet she on earth hath union   

with God the Three in One,

and mystic sweet communion   

with those whose rest is won:

O happy ones and holy!   

Lord, give us grace that we,

like them, the meek and lowly,

in love may dwell with Thee

 

Romans 12:1-8 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Amen

Sermon: Put your left foot in, your left foot out, your left foot in, and shake it all about. You do the hokey kokey and turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about. O hokey kokey.

You all know the words. The song goes through all your limbs and your head, then it asks you to put your whole self in. How many times have we all done this at parties etc., but have you ever thought that it could be biblical? In the New Testament reading from Romans today, Paul tells us to do exactly that. “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). “To present your bodies” is Paul’s way of saying, “Put your whole self in.”

We all know that too by giving our offerings each week is our way of saying, “Thank you” to God for the blessings He bestows on us. We see the baskets going round the church and envelopes and money put into the baskets. We also know that there are bank direct debits going into the church account. It is a commitment given as a form of worship, an outreach to God in grateful thanks for the gifts given to us.

The forgiveness for our wrong doings over the past week, the burdens we have worried over made lighter, but we still have to give ourselves in total commitment to God. He does not accept anything less, so we must turn towards Him and give Him the honour and praise. It is not an easy task.  There are many outside distractions which turn us every other way, but we must turn from the outside worldly distractions and focus totally on God. If only we could stand up in the basket and say, “I give you my all.” That would be true worship. If you could see and feel the presence of God how could you not put your whole self in? We should never forget that through Jesus dying on the cross and taking all our sins away. we are saved by God’s grace and His mercy. He gave His son to die for us. That is some gift and, with that in mind, we should give ourselves fully to Him.

How would we be feeling today if we let ourselves be turned away to the world as it and not have the gifts of forgiveness and love from God? Personally, I would be feeling very uncomfortable. I know that I need God in my life. Paul said “... to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom. 12:1).  meaning we must give our whole self. The term “living sacrifice” was the way in the Old Testament in the giving of an animal to be sacrificed. Today or by way of the New Testament, we give of ourselves - body and soul to God in thanks for what Jesus did for us through God.  Life is for living. Yes, and our worship is a living thing. It is not just for Sunday morning. It should be practised every day and everywhere. Our offering to help and pray for others is worship, but not to be seen to make us look better than anyone else. We are all parts of one body working together to give God the glory and praise he deserves Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2) When we do this, we are mirror imaging how we should live. As Christians we live in the everyday world with all its distractions, but we turn away from the bad ways. We are not turned by the ways of the world. We turn, instead, to the one who loves and gave us life. We live with Christ in our hearts and he gives us the gifts of truth and an inner wellbeing, which we can as we go about our daily lives pass to others an inner calm in hectic lives. As children of God we are like the kids’ transformer toys. We can turn into what God wants us to be - a reflection of Himself.  God moulds us daily to live our lives for Him and through the Holy Spirit is given to us the power of the living God which will aid us to be given the way to lead a Christ-like life.  We have the free will to do what we like, but we must remember that total commitment is the only way that is pleasing to God.  You must put your whole self in and do the whole of the hokey kokey to offer up yourself to God

 

MP 428:

Lord, for the years your love

has kept and guided,

urged and inspired us,

cheered us on our way,

sought us and saved us,

pardoned and provided:

Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today

 

Lord, for that word,

the word of life which fires us,

speaks to our hearts

and sets our souls ablaze,

teaches and trains,

rebukes us and inspires us:

Lord of the word,

receive your people’s praise.

 

3 Lord, for our land in this our generation,

spirits oppressed by pleasure,

wealth and care:

for young and old,

for commonwealth and nation,

Lord of our land,

be pleased to hear our prayer.

 

4.Lord, for our world where men

disown and doubt you,

loveless in strength,

and comfortless in pain,

hungry and helpless,

lost indeed without you:

Lord of the world,

we pray that Christ may reign.

 

5 Lord for ourselves;

in living power remake us

self on the cross and Christ upon the throne,

past put behind us,

for the future take us:

Lord of our lives,

to live for Christ alone.

Benediction Go from here knowing you are God’s beloved children. Be transformed by your time here today and by the people you met here and when you leave this place e humble, knowing you are blessed by God with talents and gifts just as every other person in the whole wide world is blessed by God with gifts and talents too.

 

Sunday 16th August 2020

Psalm 67, Matthew 15. (10-20),21-28

Call to worship.  

May your way be known everywhere, God; in the hidden places of our hearts;
in the comfort of our homes; in every corner of our world; in the farthest reaches of creation. You transform us; you heal our lives; you renew the earth and every creature. Let our praise for you shake the rafters with songs of joy!  Amen

MP 228

Here from the world we turn, Jesus to seek; here may his loving voice tenderly speak! 

Jesus, our dearest friend, while at thy feet we bend, O let Thy smile descend! 'tis thee we seek.

 

Come, Holy Comforter, Presence Divine, now in our longing hearts graciously shine! 

O for thy mighty power! O for a blessed shower, filling this hallowed hour with joy divine.

 

Saviour, thy work revive! Here may we see those who are dead in sin quickened by thee! 

Come to our hearts’ delight, make every burden light, cheer thou our waiting sight; we long for thee.

Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

Lord God, as we come before you now, we open our hearts to you. Help us to see that we can learn so much from others, even from those with whom we think we may not share much in common.
Make us willing to stand out from the crowd, to hear your voice, and act upon it.  Lord, sometimes we look as though we are listening to others. We may even make all the right noises! But we confess that our attention is often anywhere but where it is supposed to be. Sometimes we are too distracted by our own concerns. We care only for ourselves, and listen only to those who say what we want to hear.
Sometimes we don’t listen to people because we don’t like them, or because they are different from us.  Sometimes we have bad or unhelpful thoughts. Sometimes we don’t listen to you, Lord, because we are too busy, or a bit frightened about what you might say to us. Forgive us Father for not listening out for your word.

Living Lord, we praise you that you are a God who loves. You have given us a marvellous world, to live in and to share with all your people. You, O God, love everyone equally, and we thank you that we are each unique. We thank you that each one of us has so much to give – and to receive – from each other. Thank you for each new experience that you give us.  Lord’s Prayer. Amen.

MP 411

Let there be love shared among us, let there be love in our eyes,

may now Your love sweep this nation, cause us O Lord to arise:

give us a fresh understanding of brotherly love that is real;

let there be love shared among us, let there be love. Sing twice

All Age talk. Objecta newspaper

Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly. (v. 28)

Good morning, boys and girls! How are you this morning? Today we are going to talk about persistence. Have any of you heard that word before?  Can anyone tell me what it means?  "Persistence" means "never give up." When you are persistent, you keep trying until you succeed.  The newspaper reporters have to call people and interview them. Some people are hard to find! So the newspaper reporters keep ‘phoning maybe for days or weeks. If the person won't answer the telephone at home, the reporter might have to try to call them at work. The reporter might have to drive to the person's house and knock on the front door. That can be very hard work and time consuming.
Our gospel lesson today tells the story of a woman who was very persistent. In Jesus' time, people were divided by different cultures. They tended not to mix with each other. They just did not want to have any contact at all.  In our New Testament  reading this morning Jesus meets a woman from a different culture. His disciples tell him: "Get rid of this woman! She's different from us, we shouldn't talk to her!" But Jesus does not do what they the disciples say he should. The woman wants to talk to Jesus because her daughter is sick. She wants Jesus to make her daughter well. She asks Jesus several times, "Help my daughter!" But Jesus is careful. He knows that different cultures don't get along. If word gets out that he helped someone who wasn't one of "his" people, it could cause a big backlash against him. So Jesus puts her off. He tells her that he is the Messiah, and he has only come to save his people. But the woman doesn't give up. She keeps talking to Jesus, trying to persuade him to help her daughter. Finally, Jesus gives in. He says, "Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." Jesus was impressed by the woman's persistence. She knew that she was from a different culture, and she knew that she should not talk to Jesus. But she believed in Jesus. Her faith was so great in him -- and her wish for her daughter to be well was so strong -- that she was willing to do whatever it took to talk to Jesus and to beg him for her daughter's health.   Ask and it shall be given to you" (Luke 11:9). But, as we can see in the story of this woman, sometimes it takes more than just asking once. When we ask for something, we have to mean it. We have to be persistent. We have to seek the things that we want and work hard to make them, through God's grace, our own. Amen.


CH4 225

Summer suns are glowing over land and sea, happy light is flowing, bountiful and free.

Everything rejoices in the mellow rays, all earth's thousand voices swell the psalm of praise.

 

God's free mercy streameth over all the world, and his banner gleameth, everywhere unfurled.

Broad and deep and glorious as the heaven above, shines in might victorious his eternal love.

 

Lord, upon our blindness thy pure radiance pour; for thy loving-kindness make us love thee more.

And when clouds are drifting dark across our sky, then, the veil uplifting, Father, be thou nigh.

 

We will never doubt thee, though thou veil thy light: life is dark without thee; death with thee is bright. Light of Light! shine o'er us on our pilgrim way, go thou still before us to the endless day.

Psalm 67

1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us 

2so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. 

3May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. 

4May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. 

5May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. 

6The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. 

7May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Intercession prayers

Sisters and brothers in Christ, God invites us to hold the needs of friends and loved ones before Him. And so, loving our neighbours as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world.

Faithful God, we pray today for your blessing to be upon this congregation, and all the other congregations in our towns and villages, and for your presence to be seen clearly in what we do and say every day. We pray that your joy and your love will flow freely in and through us and that we might encourage others to learn of your joy and love for us. Creator God, we pray for all in authority that they may never be tempted to misuse their power. We continue to pray for persecuted Christian believers and for minority Christian communities where they are under pressure and for all who suffer for their faith. Father God, we pray for the times when our blinkered vision prevents us from taking care of our immediate family and household or when through our busyness, we take no part in the life of our neighbourhood or the wider community. We pray for the children going back to school. Keep them safe Lord and encourage them to listen to their teachers and learn as much as they can whilst in school.

Loving God, friend of those in need, your Son Jesus can free us from our burdens and heal our bodies and spirits. We pray for those still burdened, those seeking healing, those in need within the church and the world. We pray too for those suffering from addiction of any kind and ask that you help them to put the temptation of Satan and the world behind them.  And we continue to pray for those affected by the pandemic in any way.

Merciful God, we commend into your hands those who have died.  We especially think of the victims of the train derailment. Be with the survivors and enfold them in your care as they recover. Help the families of the three who lost their lives. Enfold them in your loving arms as they come to terms with their loss. You gave them breath and loved them through their journey of life.  Receive them now at the end of that journey into your eternal presence and may they rest in everlasting peace.  Merciful Father, Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

 

MP 419

Like a mighty river flowing, like a flower in beauty growing,

far beyond all human knowing is the perfect peace of God.

 

Like the hills serene and even, like the coursing clouds of heaven,

like the heart that's been forgiven, is the perfect peace of God.

 

Like the summer breezes playing, like the tall trees softly swaying,

like the lips of silent praying is the perfect peace of God.

 

Like the morning sun ascended, like the scents of evening blended,

like a friendship never ended is the perfect peace of God.

 

Like the azure ocean swelling, like the jewel all-excelling,

far beyond our human telling is the perfect peace of God.

 

Mathew 15: 10-28 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this? 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”  The Faith of a Canaanite Woman 21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Sermon   Matthew 15:10 - 28  

One day, Jesus and the Devil were having a discussion about who was best, so God suggested a typing competition. So God sat them down at two computers, one each, and told them to type up an article written on a piece of paper. The first to complete the typing would win.  Anyway, both Jesus and the Devil were typing away frantically, when there was a power cut and both computers switched off. Their typing work had disappeared from the two screens.
When the power was restored, and the computers re-booted, Jesus's work re-appeared on his screen, but the Devil could get nothing back and had lost all his work. So Jesus was declared the winner. The Devil complained bitterly to God saying that it wasn't fair at all and demanded a rematch, but God said, "Stop whinging Satan, you know why Jesus got his work back - everyone knows "JESUS SAVES!" 

The first part of the passage was for the Jewish listeners, especially the Pharisees, who followed very strict dietary laws. Most of those laws are laid down in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and they are matters of deep concern, since breaking them was seen as separating oneself from the community of faith. There was a fairly long list of things that would separate them from their faith if they broke the rules.  Jesus wasn’t just taking on the Pharisees; he was also going against the teachings of the Torah.  Certainly not the thing to do but it was deliberate to bring the attention on what they were probably doing without even thinking about the consequences. “Nothing you eat can defile you. But what comes out of your mouth absolutely will defile you.” Dirty words. Vile name-calling. Demeaning others by word or deed. These are the things that defile us.  How little attention is paid to this rule laid down by Jesus! We finger-point, calling out those who don’t live as we do.  If we remember that this statement by Jesus comes immediately before the Gospel words, we are invited to concentrate on the story of the Canaanite woman which takes on some importance we may have missed -- that we were allowed to miss in most of the teaching we have ever received on this woman’s encounter with Jesus.

She approaches Jesus first from some short distance away. She is shouting “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David!” Jesus ignores her and keeps on walking. She shouts again: “Have mercy, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” Jesus doesn’t answer her. He keeps on walking, ignoring her pleas. His disciples come to him and beg him to do something. Even to send her away would be more merciful than ignoring her like this. What is Jesus thinking? Well, apparently, he says what he’s thinking. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” She is not easily dismissed, and she is not going to stop until she gets what she wants. She catches up to Jesus and throws herself on the ground in front of him.  “Lord, help me!” She’s begging him to help her at this point he says to her: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The woman, undaunted, replies: “Yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Dogs are not beloved pets in the Middle East. They are working dogs and hang around the table, hoping that scraps will come their way.  I remember my Great uncle Peter boiling the potato peelings up in a big pot and anything that was left would be added to the pot for his collie.  He was a faithful sheepdog my uncle valued the dog but he was another worker helping my uncle to the work on the farm and guarding the hen house. That pot used to smell to high heaven but the dog and the hens loved the mash that he made for them.

It was normal among the Jews that the Canaanites were unclean, ritually unclean. They were unfit for the Kingdom of God, outcasts literally, since it was their land before the Israelites came and drove out the people who had been living in Canaan.  The woman was not shocked at Jesus ignoring her.  She was used to being shunted to one side, pushed out of the path of any men she passed on her way.  But earlier Jesus told the disciples “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.” Was this deliberate a story for the benefit of his disciples?  Had Jesus realised the woman had picked him up on his own preaching. She certainly made a point which was surely persistent in her still talking to Jesus, it made Jesus look right at her. He answers her: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”  We know, from other gospel stories, that sometimes Jesus seems to say that a sick person only gets healed if they have enough faith. But Jesus’ own words to his disciples indicate that it is the healer, not the patient, that needs to have faith. Outside of the church, people don’t talk about faith every day. Instead they talk of people trying over and over again to work for something they really want. That is what Jesus saw in this woman. She just would not let it go, begging for help. She followed him, even as he ignored her. She threw herself to her knees right in front of him. She begged him “Lord, help me” and questioned him. Many times Jesus points to the women -- bleeding, broken, Over and over, he saw that these women would not give up. They followed him, shouting out. They begged. They persisted. Until they got what they wanted, what they needed. Until Jesus made them whole again.  Can we do the same?

MP 329

In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north,

but one great family bound by love throughout the whole wide earth.

 

In him shall true hearts everywhere their high communion find:

His service is the golden cord close binding humankind.

 

Join hands, disciples in the faith, Whate'er your race may be! 

Who serve each other in Christ's love are surely kin to me.

 

In Christ now meet both east and west, in Him meet south and north,

All Christly souls are one in him throughout the whole wide earth.

 

Benediction.

May God be gracious to us and bless us. May God’s face shine upon us as we go out from here to make God’s ways known upon the Earth. To praise God in our homes and in our streets to bring God’s gladness and joy to our nations and neighbours. And may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and forevermore.