Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship, including Holy Communion, for 7 November 2021

by Rev Jacky Quarmby 7 November 2021

Welcome to our worship today. Our opening hymn is Great is thy faithfulness

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Opening Prayer
Lord God, we come to you with hearts that are cold
That they may be warmed by your selfless love.
We come to you with hearts that are sinful
That they may be cleansed through the blood of Jesus
We come to you with hearts that are weak
That they may be strengthened by your Holy Spirit.
We come with hearts that are empty
That they may be filled with your divine presence.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us now.  Amen

Introduction to Isaiah Reading
This passage dates from about 590BC – it was written by a prophet living in exile in Babylon with the Jewish people – after Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians.

The Jewish people were looking forward to a time when God would give them back their land and they would become a nation to be reckoned with once more.  They believed this would happen with the arrival of God’s chosen one – the Messiah.  Some thought that the Messiah would be a great warrior, who would drive the enemies of the Jews out of Israel.  But here is another picture of God’s chosen one – the picture of the servant.

Christians believe that these words written 590 years before Jesus was born, foretell the coming of Jesus and the kind of man he was to be.

First Reading:  Isaiah 42: 1 – 4  

Theme:  Are we religious or are we godly?
Today I want us to think about the difference between being a religious person and being a godly person.

Jesus was a good Jew – he attended the Synagogue regularly – he read the Jewish scriptures – he prayed.  And yet he was different from the religious leaders of the day … he even dared to criticize those religious leaders.  Listen to these words of Jesus taken from our lectionary reading from Mark’s gospel …

Second Reading: Mark 12: 38 – 44   

Monologue:  The Church of St Palmolive’s
Oh, hello.  There’s nothing quite so satisfying as “dusting in the house of the Lord” is there?  I do the cleaning on Wednesdays and Fridays.  We have a full cleaning rota here – at St Palmolive’s – and everyone on that rota is strictly monitored.  I had to go on a two day training course you know –  it was called 101 things to do with Cillit Bang.  It was very interesting.  There’s a follow-up course next month – “Making the most of your Squeegee” – that I’m hoping and praying that I shall get onto.  Our church’s mission statement you see is “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and I really do believe that.

My name is Purity by the way – pure by name and pure by nature – at least I like to think so.   I’ve only been a member of St Palmolive’s for a year or so, but I do love it.  We’re not a large church –  because it’s not the place for everybody – we are quite particular, actually.  

Take my neighbour, Janine – three small children and a very smelly dog.  Now to be honest with you – she’s a bit of a scruff – no, no -  I mean that kindly.  If you go round to her house you’ll see what I mean.  There’s unwashed mugs on the draining board, dog hairs on the sofa, kids shoes and toys scattered willy-nilly across the living room – and as for the state of the bathroom – well, I kid you not –  last time I went, I made sure I took my wet wipes.

Anyway Janine invited me round for a coffee – I went, to be neighbourly.  “Purity”, she said, “You always look so radiant – so happy.  Why is that?”   Well, I explained all about St Palmolive’s – and then she said, “Do you know, Purity, I think I’d like to come with you next Sunday.  See what’s it like.  Maybe bring the children.”  My heart sank.  We don’t have children in our church – all those sticky fingers and scuffed up shoes – and of course there’s always the risk of headlice.  It just wouldn’t do.  We have such nice tapestries.  I had to tell her.  Of course she was terribly upset – but I said to her “Cleanliness is next to godliness, Janine.  Put your house in order and find a babysitter then you’ll be welcome.”

You know – we’re not being unfair – it’s the same for all of us.  Take last Sunday – Camay, one of our regulars turned up  - five minutes before the service  - in a terrible state.  Camay is a nurse and she’d been working the night shift.  One of her patients – a young man in his twenties – had had a major operation and hadn’t pulled through.  Oh, she was devastated, poor woman – she’d rushed straight out of hospital and into church to pray for the young man and his family and to seek some peace and consolation.  Well, we’ve all been there.  But you should have seen her.  She’d got a hole in her tights, some unseemly wet stain on her nurse’s uniform and as for her face – there were great black mascara runs all the way down her cheeks, where she’d been crying.   Well, Daz who was on the door – said to her “Camay, you can’t come in looking like that – look at the state of you.  Go home and come back when you’ve cleansed and moisturized.”   And she did – she had to.  As I say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Yes, it’s good here.  We have a wonderful pastor – Pastor Jif.  Such a holy man.  The first thing he said when he arrived was, “Ladies and gentlemen, sheep of my flock, I cannot pastor you properly in the ways of godliness, unless my own life is a model of hygiene and cleanliness.”   Then he gave us all plans for remodelling the vicarage – they were quite extensive – each bedroom had new ensuite facilites – there was a double sink and waste disposal in the new fitted kitchen – and an outdoor Jacuzzi.  That’s what the appeal is for at the moment – to pay for that – oh and Pastor Jif’s new housekeeper and maid.  As he says, quite rightly, it would not do for the vicarage to be anything less than spotless.  Our lives are meant to be an example to others.  And after all – cleanliness is next to godliness.    

Well, I really must get on – I have the toilets to clean – before I start on the bronze candlesticks.  Now where did I put that Cillit Bang…

Reflection:  Are we religious or are we godly?
What is the difference between being “religious” and being godly?  Would you say that Purity was a religious person or a godly person?

Jesus was very different from the religious people of his day … he wasn’t simply religious – he was also a man of God.  So what was it about Jesus that was so different from the religious leaders of his day?  I want to focus on three things this morning and they all come out of our passage from Isaiah.

Here’s the first … God says … My servant will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets.

In Jesus’ day, some of the religious people used to stand on street corners praying loudly and at length, in order to try and impress people with their “holiness”.  They also used to like parading around in long flowing robes, so that everyone would notice them  - and when they gave money to the poor, they made a big song and dance about it  - so that everyone noticed and thought how generous they were.  It was all about show.

But Jesus wasn’t bothered about making a show.  When he wanted to pray, he went off to be by himself.  When he wanted to teach, he liked to meet quietly in peoples’ homes.  And when he performed miracles, he asked people not to go around telling everyone.  

The first difference between a religious person and a godly person is that … a godly person wants to bring glory to God ... a religious person wants to draw attention to themselves. 

Here’s the second thing, from Isaiah.  God says … My servant will not break off a bent reed or put out a flickering lamp.

In other words, the person of God will not crush someone who’s already feeling down.

In Jesus’ day, the religious people were rather puffed up and full of themselves.  They were always congratulating themselves on how holy they were - and at the same time, they kept condemning other people for being sinners.  Ordinary people who were struggling to make a living and struggling to be faithful to God were made to feel they were inadequate so that what little faith they had was quickly snuffed out.  Jesus put it like this, “they tie up heavy loads and put them on other peoples’ shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

But Jesus was not like that.  Zaachaeus, the tax collector was up a tree – he wanted to see Jesus.  Jesus could have walked by (like the other religious people) with his nose in the air – but he didn’t. “Zacchaeus, come down, I want to eat with you tonight,” said Jesus.  And he did – and that night Zacchaeus was reborn.  The woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and washed his feet with her tears was a prostitute and the religious people were horrified.  She was a sinner!  But Jesus saw within her the spark of faith and said, “Your faith has made you well, your sins are forgiven; go in peace.” 

Jesus did not crush people who were down – he gently, kindly restored them, encouraged them, helped them to see that there was hope, because God still loved them.  

The second difference between a religious person and a person of God is that  … a godly person makes others feel better about themselves ... a religious person makes them feel worse.

The third and final thing from Isaiah.  God says In faithfulness my servant will bring forth justice.  He will not lose hope or courage until he establishes justice on the earth.

In Jesus’ day the religious people had status – and that was the way they liked it.  They loved the places of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues.  They loved to be greeted in the marketplace and to have people call them “rabbi”.  Many of the religious leaders also had considerable wealth.  Much of their wealth came from running the temple system – insisting on certain kinds of sacrifice that could only be bought inside the temple at very high prices – such high prices in fact, that it had become almost impossible for the poor to obey the Jewish Law.  In this passage, Jesus talks about the Teachers of the Law devouring widows houses – in other words, their actions were forcing the most vulnerable in society into desperate poverty. But did the religious people care – no. After all, they were alright. 

But Jesus was different.   He was a rabbi – a recognised Jewish teacher.  He could have joined the ranks of the religious elite and enjoyed a comfortable life.  But he didn’t agree with it. He didn’t believe that the religious people should make money out of the poor.  On the contrary he thought that those who had money should share it willingly with those who didn’t.  Jesus wanted to see a different kind of world - the kind of world we read about in the Old Testament prophecies - where everyone had homes and food to eat and people shared what they had and cared about one another. A world in which there is justice for all - not just those who can afford it.

The third difference between a religious person and a godly person is that … a godly person seeks justice for all … religious people seek status and wealth for themselves.

Jesus was a godly man - he was not simply religious - and that made him very different - even dangerous to the religious leaders.  But what about us – are we godly people or simply religious?

Do we like to draw attention to ourselves and be noticed?  Do we need recognition for the things that we do? Or are we content to work away in the background – doing the menial and mundane – without recognition and reward.  

Peter writes in his first letter, “Live such good lives among the pagans, that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God …”  Are we willing to give the best of ourselves to everything that we do – content in the knowledge that, whether appreciated or not, our lives bring glory to God.  A godly person wants to bring glory to God ... a religious person wants to draw attention to themselves.

 And how critical are we of other people?  When people join us in church for a baptism – do we tut when their mobile goes off or their children run around making a noise?  In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, “as God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”   Are we willing to accept people as they are – to make allowances – to see the best in one another.  

A godly person makes others feel better about themselves ... a religious person makes them feel worse.

And thirdly, do we ever fall into the trap of thinking to ourselves that the wealth and status we enjoy are things we have earned and things we that deserve, so we don’t need to share what we have with others less fortunate and less deserving.  

Paul reminds us in his letter to Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”  Do we understand that all the good things we enjoy are gifts from God, and we have a responsibility to use them wisely, and to share them well?  Do we recognise that life is unfair – and because life is unfair – those of us who have power and influence need to use it to help those who have neither?    A godly person seeks justice for all … religious people seek status and wealth for themselves.

In contrast to the self-serving religiosity of the Teachers of the Law - our reading from Mark’s Gospel points us in the end to the genuine godliness of the poor widow.  In an act of simple trust and faith in God, she places everything she has in God’s hands.

May we be willing to do the same – to place our lives and our wealth into God’s hands – so that through all that we have and all that we are – we may bring glory to God. 

Merciful God,
We are sorry when we have demanded recognition for the things that we do for others …
We are sorry when we have been unduly harsh and critical, assuming the worst, rather than believing the best …
We are sorry when we have been content to live with injustice, because we are able to benefit from it …
Merciful God, forgive us and help us through your Holy Spirit to be more Christ like …
To be content to give the best of ourselves, even if it goes unnoticed …
To be gentle and patient with one another, even when we feel let down …
To seek justice for all people, even when it means giving up privileges that we enjoy …
Loving God, may we like the widow, give fully of ourselves in everything we do 

For we ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen

Song: Meekness and Majesty

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The Children of Honduras Trust 
At our October Church Council, it was suggested that we support “The Children of Honduras Trust” this Christmas as we have done in previous years.  To update you on the wonderful work that they are doing in Honduras we are going to look at a slide presentation that has been put together by Jenn Cox or you can find out more about their work here

Prayers of Intercession 
Loving God,
We thank you for extraordinary people, who spend their lives willingly serving others without thought of reward.
We pray for those who are working to protect our environment and the creatures that share our planet with us.
We pray for those who are seeking to restore justice in trading relations
We pray for those who provide medical aid and food to those on the brink of starvation
We pray for those who work with the Children in Honduras Trust as they bring hope of a new life to those in need.
Loving God, may they never tire of serving others and may their efforts be crowned with success.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

Loving God,
We pray for those in this country, who work among the poor and vulnerable members of our own community – 
For those who provide shelter and friendship to the homeless and refugee … for those at Susanna Wesley House.
For those whose patience and care restores dignity to those struggling with dementia
For those countless volunteers who visit the housebound, who serve tea in our hospitals, who offer lifts to neighbours and friends.
Loving God, may their work be appreciated and may they know joy in serving others.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

Loving God,
We pray for our family and our friends.  In the silence we bring to you names of those in special need of prayer right now.  

Lord, where there is illness bring healing, where there is sadness bring joy, where there is anxiety bring a sense of peace and where there is mourning bring comfort. Lord, show us if there are things that we can do to help those for whom we pray.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer

For we ask all these prayers in the name of Jesus.  Amen

Dedication of Offering 
Lord and Giver of every good thing,
We bring to you bread and wine for our communion
Lives and gifts for your kingdom
All for transformation through your grace and love
Made known in Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen

Holy Communion
This is the table of the Lord
And Jesus invites all who love him
To sit with him and share in this joyful feast.

On the night before Jesus died
When darkness was beginning to fall
He sat at table with the disciples
In an upper room in Jerusalem.
At this last supper, he broke bread and took wine
And told his disciples to remember him
By following his example.

Today we gathered here, are his disciples
And we are glad to do what he has told us.
As the Lord Jesus took bread
I take this bread and this wine
To be set apart for this holy use
And as he gave thanks,
We too will give our thanks and praise

As we sing together …  There is a redeemer

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Loving God,
We thank you that you have brought us together at this table, to strengthen us by your love. Send your Holy Spirit on us and these your gifts of bread and wine that we may know Christ’s presence real and true. And be his faithful followers Showing your love for the world.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Breaking of the Bread and sharing
The Lord Jesus took bread
And when he had given thanks, he broke it
And said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.
Do this to remember me.”

In the same way he took the cup
Saying, “This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood.
Drink from it all of you.
Do this to remember me.”
Taste and see that the Lord is good
Happy are they who find refuge in him.

Final prayer 
Father of all
We give you thanks and praise
That when we were still far off
You met us in your son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love
Gave us grace and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body
Live his risen life
We who drink his cup bring life to others
We whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world.


Hymn: Lord of creation, to you be all praise  (Tune: Slane)

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The Blessing  
The blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,  be upon you and remain with you for ever.  Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ. Amen.