Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 29 August 2021

by Janet Patmore 29 August 2021

Call to worship
Come, Let us Sing to the Lord                                                        
and rejoice in the Rock our Saviour.                                                                              
Let us come and give thanks in his presence                                                            
and greet him with songs of praise.

Hymn: Jesus is Lord!

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Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Generous God, As the music of our praise dies away, we draw near to you in the stillness of prayer.                                                                                                                                                                                         We draw near to you with thankful hearts - thankful for the wonders of your world, its beauty, its resources - thankful for your loving presence in our lives - your care reaching out to us  through the love of family and friends, your voice speaking to us through scripture and preaching,   your guidance as we seek the way to go.
Generous God, we adore you.

Forgiving God, We draw near to you with sorrowful hearts -  sorrowful for the times when we have turned away from you, when we have disobeyed you,  when we have closed our hearts to your message of love and in our pride and selfishness have hurt others or ignored their needs. Father, we bring to you those failings which lay so heavily on our consciences. We lay them at the foot of the cross and we hear your words of grace, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Forgiving God, we adore you

Transforming God, We draw near to you with eager hearts-  eager to accept  that forgiveness and to go forward in newness of spirit, eager to share your love with others, eager to serve you .
We draw near to you – we open our hearts to you -   we welcome you into our hearts and we offer you our hearts’ adoration.  Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,   6-9 Mark 7 :    1-8,  14-15,   21-23

The last 18 months have taught us many things.  A new meaning to ZOOM  and a new phrase entering the language.”You’re on mute.  Press bottom left.”  New ways of worshipping, of communicating with each other, of looking at the world, new insights and awareness. For we preachers, maybe new slants on familiar stories,  new connections to make, new imagery  to use.   The pandemic, a metaphor for sin and evil, all our medical care a metaphor for the fight against evil,  protected and prepared for the fight with our PPE,   Pray, Preach, Evangelise.  

I’m sure when you heard  our NT reading the first thing that came to mind was – Oh Yes we know all about handwashing,  I’m quite sure all of us were pretty good before but we now have routines and designated songs to sing, while we wash to the required standard. We can picture the careful hand movements of the devout Jews, the ritualistic dropping of the water into just the right spot laid down by the rules.  We’ve got used to following rules. We may even be brave enough to remind other people if we notice them breaking the rules.  To complain about those who are letting the side down by not being careful enough.

Hey, hang on a moment  -  we’re beginning to sound just like the Pharisees ourselves. So let’s get a few things straight. 1. As we heard in our reading from Deuteronomy, God required his people to obey the laws he gave, without adding or taking away anything, in order to live pure lives and make God’s loving wisdom clear to all people. 2. Then, over the centuries the symbolic purification rite for priests in the temple had been added to,  extended to all devout  Jews and, together with the fastidious treatment of pots, crockery and  market goods, been changed into an elaborate routine for washing away the  contamination of the gentile world. God’s original law had been added to.  Man-made tradition had triumphed over God’s words. Purity of living had been replaced by legalistic ritual.  The trappings of religious observance had taken over the working out of faith in the loving words and actions of  daily living.

And this is what Jesus is getting at as he responds to the Pharisees complaints about the disciples. He refers them right back to Isaiah. They, the Pharisees, are the people who, according to Isaiah, honour God with their lips but not their hearts, who worship God in vain because all their emphasis is on the rules taught  by men.  Tradition above God’s words. And Jesus brands those Pharisees as “hypocrites”. People who say one thing with their lips but do not carry it out in their lives.  People whose actions proclaim a different message to their professed beliefs. Jesus calls them hypocrites. Hypocrites . Jesus is challenging the Jewish hierarchy and he is challenging us.  Are we hypocrites?  Please don’t take offence -  but yes we definitely are hypocrites and have been for the last 18 months. Because the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for “actor” and actually means someone who speaks from under a mask.  Well just look at us – we know all about speaking from under masks. And you remember in Greek drama the actors all held masks in front of their faces to show their role- tragedy, comedy, villain, hero etc,   But of course  these masks depicted assumed roles,  for the purpose of the play. We’ve definitely been wearing our surgical masks and perhaps it makes us think more carefully about what Jesus is saying. To a certain extent we all hide behind a metaphorical mask.   When people ask how we are , we say “Fine”.   How often is that a cover up?   But Jesus is challenging us to look more deeply at ourselves as individuals and as churches. Is our religious devotion merely a mask? How closely do our attitudes, our actions, our actions reflect the beliefs we profess? Do we work to achieve  the ideals we pray for -  justice, freedom, equality? Does our business life follow the integrity that we advertise Do we share our possessions with the openness we promise?   Do newcomers  actually find the welcome that our  church noticeboard promises?  Does the community recognise our Lord in us, his people?

The pandemic has caused us to reevaluate  many things.  Made us think a lot and I hope the imagery I’ve used this morning gives us more food for thought.   But, of course, Charles Wesley puts it much better.

So let’s sing: O for a Heart to Praise my God

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Prayers of Intercession          
Lord, you know each of us inside and out. You know our deepest failings, yet still you love us. We are sorry for the times when what you see on the inside just doesn’t match up to what we show to the outside world. You also know our deepest needs and our deepest hurts. We ask you to give us the courage to face these places of pain and difficulty, give us the wisdom to ask for help from others and the grace to accept it.  And we ask you to give us the insight to see where others need our support and to be prepared to go that extra mile for them. We lift to you now any amongst our family, friends and church whose needs we know, especially.....                                     Lord in Your mercy  Hear our Prayer

Loving Lord, we thank you for this church community. Inspire us to live faithfully under your leadership.  As we worship you and listen to your word, renew our commitment to following you and our determination to support one another in living a life of integrity. We ask you to bless the gifts we bring to you, gifts of money on the plate or given through our banks and gifts of time and talents.   We pray that all may be used for your glory. We pray for any decisions that our church leaders need to make in the near future. And we pray especially for our new minister, Revd Jackie Quarmby, that she will feel welcomed here and that her ministry will be blessed.                                                                          
Lord in your mercy Hear our Prayer

 Loving Lord, we know that living faithfully for you is often easier on a Sunday in this place than it is in our homes, schools and workplaces. Help us to remember what we have learnt today as we go forward into the week ahead. As we prepare for a new term, with the added problem caused by Covid,  we pray for all pupils, that they may feel safe and happy, eager to learn and to enjoy the companionship of friends.  We especially pray for any starting new schools this week. As we all pick up the threads of daily routine may our words be carefully chosen and our actions always be kind and loving.                                                             
Lord in your mercy Hear our Prayer

 Loving Lord, we pray for our world. We know that there are many places where your values of justice and mercy are not upheld. We lift before you Fairtrade organisations, those fighting for climate justice, those seeking to rid the world of racism and inequality. Help us to think of small or larger actions that we can do this week, as individuals, families or a church, that will enhance the extension of your values in the world. .And we pray especially for Afghanistan. We do not know the true extent of what is happening there, but you see it all with compassion, anger and pain. Lord, protect all those who are in danger; help them to know that you are there. We pray for wisdom for the Taliban, that they may know that it is you who rule. We ask that your peace will reign in that land. We pray for safety for all who are fleeing and that, once it is out of the headlines, the world will not turn its back.

Lord, as we go forward into this new week teach us truly to seek you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to serve you with integrity and love.

Our closing hymn: All For Jesus

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The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen