Service for Sunday 2nd August
We prepare to worship God
O Lord, open our lips and our mouths shall proclaim your praise
Let us worship the Lord.
All praise to his name
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever.
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
Collect for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity
your Son left the riches of heaven
and became poor for our sake:
when we prosper save us from pride,
when we are needy save us from despair,
that we may trust in you alone;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hymn - All things bright and beautiful
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.
Each little flow'r that opens,
each little bird that sings,
he made their glowing colors,
he made their tiny wings. [Refrain]
The purple-headed mountain,
the river running by,
the sunset, and the morning
that brightens up the sky. [Refrain]
The cold wind in the winter,
the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden,
he made them, ev'ry one. [Refrain]
The tall trees in the greenwood,
the meadows where we play,
the flowers by the water
we gather ev'ry day. [Refrain]
He gave us eyes to see them,
and lips that we might tell
how great is God Almighty,
who has made all things well. [Refrain]
We confess our sins to God
Come, let us return to the Lord and say:
Lord our God, in our sin we have avoided your call.
Our love for you is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early.
Have mercy on us; deliver us from judgement;
bind up our wounds and revive us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
May the God of love bring us back to himself, forgive us our sins, and assure us of his eternal love in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
Matthew 14 v 13-21
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit--I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Despite us living in the digital age of WhatsApp and emails, of texts and mobiles, of Zoom and YouTube don't we all love what might be called " a proper invitation " ?
The excitement of an envelope arriving, hand written, the feeling that what is inside might be something very special . Could it even be a thick, gilt edged card bearing the Royal Coat of Arms, saying,
" The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by Her Majesty to
summon ........ ".
It is also very special to be the one writing the invitation, the culmination of so much preparation and deliberation and a genuine affection towards the person to whom the invitation is addressed. This is coupled with the anxiety as to how the invitation will be received and what the response will be.
When I first saw the passages set for today's service my initial thought was, " Great, I have already spoken about Isaiah 55 in St Michael's last year. I only have to make it more suitable for written form rather than spoken and that will be job done ! Wonderful ! "
However that was scarcely the response I imagine God hoped I would make. Gradually as I read all four Bible passages I began to see links and meanings which were fresh and new to me, and also exciting. That's how God's Word is meant to be, exciting, fresh, new. In each I saw an invitation so we will start there.
1. THE INVITATION
In Isaiah 55 verses 1-5 the invitation is very clearly given from the start, " Come ". In the Authorised Version it is prefaced by " Ho ! " that arresting word, sit up, take notice, pay attention.
God is saying ,
" I want you, My people to come. " He wants them to come to
A Free Feast There is no entrance fee, there are no special clothes to be worn, no present needs to be brought. What He is going to provide is the richest , most sumptuous banquet they could positively imagine (verse 2), so it is indeed
A FREE FEAST.
In Psalm 145 the invitation is different. It is to A Festival of Praise . The invitation is to all, to every creature (verse 21), but also to the individual ( verse 14), to the burdened and the sad and weary, all are invited to find comfort and then to praise God. So,
A FESTIVAL OF PRAISE
In Matthew 14 verses 13-21, the invitation is to A Picnic
without social distancing, sit down, wait and you will be given enough food to satisfy your hunger after this long, hot day in the sun, yes, all 5,000 of you, yes even all the women and children .
AN ABUNDANT PICNIC.
And then we come to the saddest of our passages, Romans 9
verses 1-5, 30-33. In the Amplified Bible Paul's sadness is expressed in this way, " I have bitter grief and incessant anguish in my heart" " as he thinks of his own people, his own race whom he loves and to whom an invitation has been given. The invitation is to accept, to acknowledge, Jesus as Messiah, to be therefore,
ADOPTED AS CHILDREN OF GOD.
2. THE RESPONSES TO THE INVITATION
As we consider the four responses and think about our own let us not forget the One who issued the invitation and the deep affection He, the God of love, felt and feels as the responses are made to the invitations He has given.
We have been through tough times individually and collectively since the end of March, some today are back in our dear churches but some will still be at home, reading this service on our own or with one other, trying perhaps to sing the hymns with varying degrees of success, but all of us trying to draw near to God and finding in Him the grace we need in our time of need. Perhaps, we wonder if what we took as normal will ever be restored in our lifetime. What is our response to His invitation be it to a feast or a festival, to a picnic or an adoption ? However abnormal we feel our situation to be His deep love expressed in His invitations remains the same, yesterday, today and forever.
(a) THE FREE FEAST
As He gives this invitation God says to His people, " yes, it's a free feast but it's no good just looking at the table laden with goodies, admiring the table settings, the fantastic floral arrangements, the hovering waiters, you must tuck in, enjoy it, that's why it has been provided, eat, eat, don't hang back. "
A few weeks ago D gave us thought provoking words also based on Isaiah 55 but a few verses further on from today's reading referring to God's Word which must be received and devoured,
"My word which goes out of my mouth ...." ( v11). We are to receive what we read, as food, as our Daily Bread, our spiritual nourishment which will change our thoughts and attitudes . As we listen (v2) and take in what is good (v3) so our innermost being will delight in the richness God is providing.
It's no good just admiring the words, the use of vocabulary, the poetic flourish, recognising favourite verses and stories, being proud of knowing where they come in the Bible.
It's useless reading our set portion for the day, then firmly closing our Bible, feeling self-satisfied.
It's pointless too to leave church or to come to the end of this service, thinking, " that's done, another tick on the list," with no fresh word which will stay with us and feed our soul and change our behaviour
The free feast is there to be assimilated, to remain with us, to be chewed over, to delight and equip us throughout the day. As I typed those words I was challenged to remember what I had read that very morning, ..... and it was only lunchtime!
(b) FESTIVAL OF PRAISE
Turning now to Psalm 145 and the invitation to a Praise Festival, what is our response to that? Praise ! How can I praise God while life is such a mess? Everything has gone wrong, all my dreams have been shattered, there's strife, there's tension, there's suffering, I need to hug my grand children, I need to hug someone, anyone, just to touch and to feel normal again. No lips to read and I am deaf, no hymns to be sung, no surface safe to touch, there's nothing left that gives life a sparkle so how on earth can I accept an invitation to a festival of praise? Is that our internal monologue ?
As we read that psalm, the whole psalm, it turns out to be something to eat. It is a sandwich with three layers,
First Layer, verses 1-7, eternal praise,
"I will praise your name for ever and ever, " (v1)
Second Layer, verses 8-13, universal praise, "all whom you have made will praise you" (v12)
Third Layer (verses 14-21) rational praise for what He has done and is doing.
This third layer should help the cries of that internal monologue.
It really needs a whole Bible Study but here is a summary,
It is rational to praise God, with others, for that is what a festival is being with others, because :
He is faithful to His promises
He is loving
He upholds those who fall
He lifts up those who are deeply burdened
He provides food through His creation
He satisfies our desires
And it goes on further.
He is near us
He hears us
He watches over us
The only negativity in the psalm is the reference to the wicked in verse 20. They cannot share in the festival of praise because they have turned their backs on God. If we are hurting and out of sorts we can still praise God for just being there and to whom we can pour out our grief, He is, in Jesus , the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief so He understands and can carry our pain and our anxieties and even our anger.
We can all accept this invitation to join our praise with the multitude whom no man can number, but do we?I
(c) THE PICNIC
Then we come to The Picnic in Matthew 14. And what a picnic it was. I am almost certain that none of us have ever been to such a colossal picnic, 5,000, and that was just the men. I am sure there would have been an equal number of women there as Jesus honoured women, and of children too as Jesus loved little children.
There was no rich Persian carpet, just grass, green grass says Mark, plenty of it says John. It was a simple picnic, just two items on the menu, barley bread and fish, (two small ones at that). It was enough for one small boy to eat as his packed lunch.
We know the story so well, there are many things to notice, to pause over and God gives each of us fresh insight every time we read it. Perhaps today as we are thinking about our response to an invitation given, the response here might be to give our meagre resources to Jesus, to God, and to see what He can do with them.
Even the broken lives which some of us may feel are all we have to give, the lips which find it hard to join in a festival of praise, even those Jesus delights to receive, everything is precious, nothing is wasted. He uses them, " a broken spirit and a contrite heart You will not despise .... " Psalm 51 v 17. He gathers them all up and miraculously He uses them. Don't let us feel we have nothing, He delights even in that, just bring it to Him.
(d). ADOPTED INTO GOD'S FAMILY
And so to our final Bible passage, Romans 9. I was in two minds about including it. Couldn't I find another invitation in the Bible? Plenty of more comforting ones sprang to mind, much easier BUT we are told in Isaiah that every word which goes out of God's mouth has something to accomplish so let's put that to test with Romans 9. I have included the final verses of the chapter.
Here we have the response of God's ancient people to this invitation. They were given it by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . They were to see in Jesus the fulfilment of all the promises in the Law and the Prophets. Those promises spoke of their Messiah and included the vision of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. But here they stumbled (v 32) they took active offence, they showed irritation, (Amplified Bible). This Rock they stumbled over is the Cross.
In 1Corinthians 1 verse 23 it's Paul again who says, " We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (Gentiles). " They could not accept the shame of a Messiah whose destiny was death on the Cross. They could not accept that forgiveness came by grace, God's undeserved love rather than by keeping the Law, or, as so many say today, by good works or good deeds.
So we end with a sad response, a refusal rather than an acceptance. It is not only the Jewish people of that time who said no, thank you, though of course many including Paul said yes, please, it's today's people of all communities who still find the Cross an offence, a stumbling block and so have no idea of the riches of the feast and the festival and the picnic which could be theirs by the grace of God.
God has invited us to come to Him, taking in His Word, to join in praise to Him, to give Him what we have and are, and to see in the Cross, in Jesus, His gift of life in all its fullness. We come, He gives.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift of such an invitation, Amen
Let us declare our faith in God
We believe in God the Father who has revealed his loving kindness to us; and in his mercy saved us, not for any good deed of our own, but because he is merciful.
We believe in Jesus Christ, who gave himself up for us to be free from our sin, and set us apart for himself, a people eager to do good.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, whom God poured out on us generously through Christ our Saviour; so that justified by grace we might become heirs with the hope of eternal life.
Hymn - The Lord's my Shepherd
The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want;
he makes me down to lie
in pastures green; he leadeth me
the quiet waters by.
My soul he doth restore again,
and me to walk doth make
within the paths of righteousness,
e'en for his own name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through death's dark vale,
yet will I fear none ill,
for thou art with me; and thy rod
and staff me comfort still.
My table thou hast furnished
in presence of my foes;
my head thou dost with oil anoint,
and my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
shall surely follow me;
and in God's house forevermore
my dwelling place shall be.
We offer our prayers to God
Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you that you have brought us safely to the beginning of this day. Keep us from falling into sin or running into danger; order us in all our doings and guide us to do always what is righteous in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Merciful God, we entrust to your tender care those who are ill or in pain, knowing that whenever danger threatens your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe. Comfort and heal them, and restore them to health and strength; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Gracious God, give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick, and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. Strengthen them with your Spirit, that through their work many will be restored to health; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For all who are affected by coronavirus, through illness or isolation or anxiety, that they may find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
For those who are guiding our nation at this time, and shaping national policies, that they may make wise decisions:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
For doctors, nurses and medical researchers, that through their skill and insights many will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
For the vulnerable and the fearful, for the gravely ill and the dying, that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.
We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, as our Saviour has taught us, so we pray:
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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.
Hymn - Christ is made the sure foundation
Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord and precious,
binding all the church in one;
holy Zion's help forever,
and her confidence alone.
All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody;
God the One in Three adoring in glad hymns eternally.
To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of hosts, today:
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy people as they pray;
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.
Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee to gain,
what they gain from thee forever
with the blessed to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.
Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever Three and ever One,
One in might, and One in glory,
while unending ages run.
The Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil, and keep us in eternal life. Amen.
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Many thanks to Deirdre Greenshields from St Michael’s Monkton Combe for this week’s sermon
This will be the last 'Service for Sunday' published on the Seniors Blog
Thank you to all who have contributed and joined in