Uniting together, Caring for all, Seeking God

Service Sheet 20.09.20

Uniting Church Sketty and Wesley Church Clydach ‘Worship from Home’ 20 September 2020

This ‘Worship from Home’ has been prepared by Rev Leslie Noon

Introduction

Last week Linda helped us to think about mercy. We are building on that today, as we recognise that just as God seeks the best for us, so we are called to actively seek the best for others. This grace, this generosity must work itself out in how we treat others and how we share resources. May our worship this week lead us deeper into God’s generosity and lead us deeper into lives of generous grace.

Prepare to worship

If you have a candle, you might like to light it now. Otherwise sit quietly for a few moments and ask God to come close.

Prayer

Your generosity is extravagant, Jesus;

your grace and mercy so freely given,

your love and presence so readily available,

your Spirit and strength so reliable.

We are so grateful for all of these blessings that we enjoy, and for the goodness they bring into our lives;

we praise you for your always coming Kingdom,

and the abundant life it offers.

But, Jesus, we are also fearful,

that your gifts may not be enough,

that things may change

and we may find ourselves in need,

and so we hoard your goodness,

and separate ourselves from others;

Forgive us for our little faith, and our selfish grasping;

forgive us for our failure to understand

that your blessings are always meant to be shared;

teach us to stay always awake to your coming,

and always ready to invite others in

to the blessings you so freely share with us.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sing: Make me a channel of your peace (StF 707)

Our hymn sets the scene for all that we are thinking about today. Sing or read or pray these words:

Read: Jonah 3.10 – 4.11 and Matthew 20: 1-16

Reflection

The central theme, that flows through this week’s readings, is both simple and profound – God is compassionate and merciful, generous and forgiving. We have seen in our readings that God seeks the best for people, and that God encourages us to do the same – which takes us from a faith that we assent to with words, to a faith that we assent to with our lives.

Jesus’ parable demonstrates God’s generosity and challenges us not to resent generosity shown to others, but to rejoice in it. Jonah is a mirror for us showing how bitter we can easily become when God shows mercy and generosity to others, and how easily we become ungrateful for what we have enjoyed, especially when we fall into a feeling of entitlement.

I want to highlight two ways that this week’s readings challenge us, as followers of Christ. The first relates to how we understand our faith, and our place in God’s grace and generosity, in a multi-faith world. Some Christians adopt a rather ungenerous view of people who are not “part of us”, stating categorically that God’s mercy and grace cannot extend to them unless they join our religion. It’s like we’ve taken the message of God’s grace and invitation and turned it into a message of “Christianity is the only way”, which is not what the Scriptures say. It’s like we want to determine who God can show generosity to and who not (like the first workers in the parable).

A second way in which we are challenged is in the practical use of the world’s resources and how they are shared and distributed in the world. On a national and international level (as well as on a personal level) it is common for us to hoard our wealth for ourselves and share it only with our “allies” or those from whom we expect to receive something in return. It is also common for us to deny adequate resources to those with whom we disagree or from whom we can gain nothing. Because of this, the world’s resources, which are more than adequate to address the needs of the entire planet’s population are not fairly shared, with the few enjoying more than they need, and the vast majority living with great lack and need. In the light of God’s generosity, we cannot help but be challenged to change how resources are shared. And it is a challenge – we only have to consider the examples that Linda shared with us last week of migrants risking their lives to find safety and security.

Perhaps it’s time for Christ followers to be more vocal and visible about embracing lifestyles of simplicity and sharing. Buying fair trade, reducing our consumption, and contributing to respected and effective aid organisations are all ways of participating in sharing God’s generosity with all. But we must also go beyond even that, and work for structures which are just. Reflect on this cartoon for a few moments. The first image shows inequality. One person has access to the apples falling from the tree and one person does not. The second represents equality. While both people are given ladders of equal height, the tree leans to the left, making the apples accessible for one person but not the other. The third represents equity. The person on the right of the tree is given a taller ladder to access the apples while the person on the left has a shorter one that allows her access. Finally, there’s justice. In this we see that the tree is straightened, removing the barrier for the person on the right. He no longer needs a taller ladder to access the apples.

But having said all that, we must also remember that God’s generosity (and therefore ours) goes beyond economic realities. God’ generosity is extended as an inclusivity to all people, even those who may appear, to our eyes, not to deserve it. This means that as we encounter those who work, live, believe or behave differently from us, we are called to show generosity and kindness, rather than judgement. If we can be generous with grace, with seeking the best for others and with welcoming all people into God’s community, we might find that through our generosity, God’s generosity will be made manifest in our world. May it be so! Amen

To Ponder and Pray

I bought this picture from an Amish community we visited when on holiday in America. It lives in our dining room, a visible reminder of what we have been exploring this morning.

Ponder and pray for those in our world who need God’s grace and generosity and our grace and generosity:

• For refugees and asylum seekers, that they may experience generosity of spirit.

• For politicians, that they may lead with integrity and honesty.

• For our world amidst this pandemic, especially those responsible for working out guidelines.

• For those known to us, and unknown to us, who are in need of the touch of God’s grace, that we might show it in the way we live.

• For ourselves, for those times when we need to hear and experience God’s grace.

• End your prayers with the ultimate prayer of grace which Jesus taught us, saying ‘Our Father…’

Blessing

Picture in your mind others in church, as we say, together though apart: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and ever