Morning Worship for 16th August 20201 month ago
As we begin this act of worship for the first time in one of our churches we remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing on-line. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping
We come in this service to God, In our need, and bringing with us the needs of the world. We come to God, who has come to us in Jesus, And who walks with us the road of our worlds suffering. We come with our faith and with our doubts; We come with our hopes and with our fears. We come as we are, because it is God who invites us to come, And God has promised never to turn us away.
The Iona Community Worship Book 1991
Collect for the day:
Let your merciful ears, O Lord, Be open to the prayers of your humble servants; And that they may obtain their petitions Make them to ask such things as shall please you; Through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, Who is alive and reigns with you, In the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. Amen.
Our Declaration of faith
We believe, O God of all Gods, That you are the eternal God of life, We believe, O God of all Gods, That you are the eternal God of love. We believe, O God and Maker of all creation, That you are the creator of the high heavens, That you are the creator of the deep seas, That you are the creator of the stable earth. We believe, O God of all the peoples, That you created our souls and set their warp, That you created our bodies and gave them breath, That you made us in your own image. We are giving you worship with our whole lives, We are giving you assent with our whole power, We are giving you our existence with our whole mind, We are giving you kneeling with our whole desire.
(From a Celtic Liturgy: Iona Community.)
Hymn: All hail the power of Jesus’ name.
Readings: Isaiah 56:1.6-8, Romans 11:12a. 29-32
Gospel Reading: Matthew 15: 10-20. 21-28.
“Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
I mentioned in my address last week that I can get a bit grumpy at times especially if I am hungry! I love my food and thankfully my wife is a very good cook who likes to be creative and explore new things in the kitchen, so I often get to eat things which are rather different.
It is good to try new things but in Jewish culture food has to be prepared in a certain kind of way and some things are clearly believed to be things which should not be eaten at all. The Rabbis over a long period of time had written down hundreds of examples of such things and created many ritualistic rules and regulations for the faithful to follow. It is not therefore surprising that they found this bit of teaching from Jesus terribly hard to accept!
Jesus’ teaching is of course very revolutionary and seen at times as being heretical by those who had been trained in Rabbinical Law. So what was it that Jesus was saying to them here which caused them so much offence?
Looking at the first part of the Gospel message we can see that Jesus is trying to express the view that wrong thoughts and sayings are more defiling than forbidden food. I for one tend to agree with Jesus. The food we eat simply serves to feed our bodies and enable us to function. That food can be simply sustaining or it can be a real treat. Whether we are eating something simple like one of the great staples such as bread, rice, or potatoes, or whether we are enjoying fresh asparagus with poached eggs, one of my favourites! The result is the same, we are fed and that which goes into us is simply the means by which this is achieved.
What comes out of our mouths however is very different. We are all guilty at times of speaking out of turn, and not thinking things through as carefully as we should. Often things can be a lot worse than that, and the things we say or even the things we may think secretly in our minds can often cause others great pain and personal upset. What is even worse than that, is when we deliberately say or think things of others not accidently or whimsically but with deliberate intent to cause offence. Clearly it is those words and even our thoughts which defile us before God. As God knows all the secrets of our hearts. Each time we sin in this way we defile ourselves before God who wants us to love one another constantly.
Jesus seeks to use his argument to express this very point, but the Rabbis are not convinced, and I scratch my head here and think well why not it is surely not that complicated!
However complicated it is to them, because they are learned men, and they know and believe that what has been revealed to them through the teaching of rabbis of the past is seen as being the revelation of God’s will. So in abandoning the ritualistic expectations of Jewish Law, Jesus is clearly seen as suggesting that it is perfectly in order to ignore the will of God!
This is why Jesus then elaborates the story by referring to the Commandments of God which are so freely disregarded by the looseness of the tongue. If we can through our desires and indulgences stray away from the Commandments of Moses, how greater a sin is that than merely ignoring ritualistic cleanliness?
Jesus gets rather a hard time in this exchange and so goes off to recover and the Gospel then places him in Gentile Territory. The exchange with the Gentile Woman then ensues, with many people both then and today finding this piece of teaching equally difficult to accept. This woman has been following Jesus and his Disciples for a while and was starting to become rather tiresome, his disciples ask him to dismiss her and so he does in a very harsh way. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Ouch! What a rebuke, most of us would have wilted at such a response and walked away either deeply hurt or significantly affronted. But not this woman, she has a need and her need is so strong that she kneels before Jesus asking for his help! He rebukes her again calling her a “dog” but instead of responding negatively she responds with a beautiful humility. Yes Lord, but a crumb of your grace will be sufficient to heal my daughter.
Then Jesus responds with healing grace. Not because she has worn him down, but out of her mouth has not come forth that which defiles, but out of her mouth have come the words of faith, a faith so strong that Jesus recognises perhaps for the first time in all its fullness, that he has not been called by God to seek out the fallen amongst God’s chosen people, but rather that he has been called to reveal to all humanity that God shows no partiality.
The result of the food of faith is instantaneous healing. Jesus reaffirms his original instruction to the rabbis that surely cleanliness rules and elitism must give way if they are found to stand in the way of real need or moral obligation.
So enjoy the fruits of the earth, enjoy the food you find before you, eat well and sensibly with due regard to your health and wellbeing. Think on those who have no food or cannot afford the choices which so many of us take for granted, and seek to do what you can to aid them in their distress.
But think seriously about what you say and think of others, let your words be words of kindness and support, and think only on how by the life that you live you may become like Jesus, and offer the gift of healing love to all whom you meet.
Thanks be to God.
Hymn: Happy are they, they who love God.
Prayers for others:
This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.
We come boldly to the throne of grace, Praying to the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for mercy and grace. Heavenly Father, we pray today for your faithful people, we heard how freely the grace of your forgiving love given to us by Jesus was given to all those whose faith proved strong and secure. We pray that our faith in Jesus may continue to bring us strength and hope at this time. As we continue to live in a world of change, we pray that you will send down your Holy Spirit upon us, that we may be guided to respond to your call, be prepared to be directed into new approaches that will enable the societies of the world to flourish and to stay safe and secure from illness and pain. Father hear us as we continue to pray for the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those who are so dependent upon them. For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from their neighbours. We continue to pray especially at this time for the travel, hospitality and tourism sectors facing so much disruption and uncertainty, for those small businesses which are crumbling, for all who face financial ruin and all whose future prosperity and security are now under threat. And finally we hold before you all whom have lost loved ones throughout this period of change, may they be comforted by your love, and supported throughout their time of sadness.
And so we pray
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn: I cannot tell why he whom angels worship.
God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love, Defend you on every side, And guide you in truth and peace; And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always. Amen.