Uniting together, Caring for all, Seeking God

Service Sheet 30.08.20

Uniting Church Sketty and Wesley Church Clydach ‘Worship from Home’ 30 August 2020

This ‘Worship from Home’ has been prepared by Jeff Coleman

Related Lectionary (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time): Responding as God’s people to our world

Gathering Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, we are glad to be able to worship together in this unusual situation, each with our own troubles, joys and puzzles. We pray that we may know that we are in the presence of the God who loves us and the Holy Spirit who sustains us as we gather in Jesus’ name. Amen

Hymn: Sing or recite: Father God I wonder (StF 72)

Prayer followed by Lord’s Prayer

Creator God, maker of all that is, we come before you in wonder that you have chosen us human beings in all your creation to be your special people and to have stewardship of this precious planet which is our home. We thank you that you have sent your only Son Jesus Christ to live among us, to teach us and through his death and resurrection to give us hope for eternity. We thank you for calling us to be His followers and to seek to live in the way He showed us. We ask your forgiveness for the ways and occasions when we have fallen short, most especially when we have failed to show love to our fellow human beings. –silence- Grant us the grace to repent and change our ways, and to know ourselves renewed by your Spirit and given strength to live to your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Introduction

Our first reading is from the prophet Jeremiah who lived about 600 years before Jesus. Jeremiah understood that God was angry with his people for their wrongdoing and that of their ancestors, in a time of impending crisis, and didn’t hesitate to tell them. The words Jeremiah gave to the people were quite harsh – eg ”You have rejected me,’ declares the LORD. ‘You keep on backsliding. So I will reach out and destroy you; I am tired of holding back. I will winnow them with a winnowing fork at the city gates of the land. I will bring bereavement and destruction on my people, for they have not changed their ways.”

(Jer15:6-7) and “‘Your wealth and your treasures I will give as plunder, without charge, because of all your sins throughout your country. 14 I will enslave you to your enemies in[a] a land you do not know for my anger will kindle a fire that will burn against you.” (Jer 15:13-14). Like Abraham pleading with God for Sodom in Genesis 18, Jeremiah did plead with God for his people “Why have you afflicted us so that we cannot be healed? We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there is only terror.20 We acknowledge our wickedness, LORD, and the guilt of our ancestors; we have indeed sinned against you. 21 For the sake of your name do not despise us;” (Jer 14:19b-21a). However, not unsurprisingly, Jeremiah was not enormously popular for saying this sort of thing, and the people and their rulers gave him rather a hard time. That is the context of our reading, as Jeremiah prays and receives a response from God.

Read: Jeremiah 15:15-21

Jeremiah pleaded with God because of the difficult situation he was in – and God answered him’ :“If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me. If you utter worthy, not worthless, words you will be my spokesman.” (Jer 15:19b). Are we ‘God’s spokesmen’?

Our reading from the Gospels has some parallels with Jeremiah. Jesus had said and done things which upset those in power who were intent on maintaining the status quo.

Read: Matthew 16:21-27

Reflection

God has made a world in which human actions produce results, causes have effects. In Jeremiah’s time inept attempts of a small nation to play power politics with alliances with great powers, while ignoring ingrained dishonesty and neglecting injustice at home, led to the destruction of their capital city, Jerusalem, and the forced exile of their elites to the land of a conquering empire. Jesus knew that his declaring and showing the simple virtues of loving and trusting God, and living out that love in everyday life with people round about, would evoke a negative response from those in authority. They wanted people to follow what they said about God and rules for life, rather than what God showed about Himself in Jesus. Jesus knew this would lead to suffering and his own death. Peter quite understandably did not want to believe how hard it was going to be. But Jesus made clear that following Him was not a soft option that you could tack on to an unchanged worldly life –the commitment could involve suffering and sacrifice.

In our day most of us here have had quite a cushy existence able to live comfortably and go where we want and do what we want. But in the world God has made the rapid burning of fossil fuels (that took millions of years of photosynthesis to create) results in changes of climate, unstable atmosphere, droughts and wildfires, torrential rain, fierce winds. Chopping down forests in the mountains sends the rainwater rushing down rivers and creating floods. Continual exploitation of wild species and habitats leads to increased human contact with animal diseases- Bird flu, Ebola, Zika and COVID-19. Like Jeremiah we can do our best to understand and tell out what is going wrong, and what seems likely to result from the consequences of generations of headlong pursuit of short-term pleasures, comfortable lifestyle and ‘progress’. And we can plead with God for ourselves and our fellow human beings. And like Jesus disciples we may have to learn what it is to carry a cross. As we pray that God’s will may be done we recognise that God’s will may not be at all what we may expect.

Our final reading from St Paul is his advice about how we, as people redeemed and called by Christ, should live. It has so much in it that we can apply to our everyday lives, and challenges for us to see how we measure up. We pray that with God’s help we can.

Read- Romans 12:9-21

To Ponder

In a photo from a BBC report of anti-government marchers in Minsk, Belarus on 15th August, the Russian words on the cardboard placard say ‘GOD EXISTS’.

• How does our knowledge and understanding of God shape our responses to the world around us?

Prayers

Gracious God, grant us the witness of your Spirit as we evaluate our own lifestyles and priorities in the light of the life of Jesus and the teaching of Paul, and help us to come to you in prayer for all humanity.

We pray for your world, for leaders of nations and governments and of public opinion called upon to make difficult decisions which affect people’s health and livelihoods, asking that they may be informed by your wisdom and compassion. – silence

We pray for our communities, for the places in which we live and the people whom we love, recognising our inter-dependence on each other, and our shared vulnerability in this time of crisis. – silence

We pray for your Church, seeking to proclaim your message of life and hope, yet struggling to find new ways of witnessing and worshipping together, asking that we may be strengthened to live out the truth of your kingdom. – silence

We pray for all people everywhere, for those who are struggling with illness and isolation, for those fearful about jobs and livelihoods and life itself, and for all those who face an uncertain future. – silence

Lord you know the depths of our hearts and the needs of our suffering world. Be with us as we face this coming week, and always, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessing:

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen