Morning Worship 11 Oct 2020

Led by: Revd Trevor Jamison

Gathering Prayer

God of glory,
You call us to share in the mystery of worship
With your whole creation
And with all the hosts of heaven.
Grant that in adoring you with reverence
And praising you with sincerity
We may offer ourselves to you
In the service of your kingdom;
Amen.

Call to worship

Let us worship God

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, for God’s love endure for ever.

Psalm 106:1

O God, you summon the day to dawn,
You teach the morning to waken the earth,
Great is your name,

GREAT IS YOUR LOVE!

For you the valleys shall sing for joy,
The trees of the field shall clap their hands,
Great is your name,

GREAT IS YOUR LOVE!

For you the shepherds of the earth shall bow,
The poor and the persecuted shall sing for joy,
Great is your name,

GREAT IS YOUR LOVE!

Your love and mercy shall last for ever,
Fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise,
Great is your name,

GREAT IS YOUR LOVE!

Prayers and Lord’s Prayer

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done;
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.

Reading

Exodus 32:1-14
Chris Hales

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” ’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ’ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Music

Based on Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRWCCbN7yJw&vl=en

A piece of music written by Jason Silver, based on Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23, which in the lectionary is paired with our reading from Exodus. Selections from that psalm which praise God for what God has given ancient Israel, but also acknowledges the times humankind have failed to respond well, including the incident when ‘They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox’

Reading

Matthew 22:1-14
Chris Hales

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Reflection on the reading

What Sort of Invitation?

A wooden sign on a tree with the text "Eat, Drink and Be Married"“The king was enraged [by having his invitation spurned and by the mistreatment of his servants]. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (22:7) The king’s response is not a model for how I think ministers should carry out their ministry, or our government enforce Covid regulations, nor is it intended as a picture of God’s character either. Still, this a peculiar parable, even stranger than the story of about Israelites worshipping a golden calf.

Jesus’s parable has been interpreted as being about the relationship between Jews and Christians, suggesting the former reject God, and so the latter replace them. That’s an appalling misuse of Jesus’s teaching, sometimes used to justify doing terrible things to Jews. In principle, we should avoid interpretations that put us in the right and others in the wrong, no matter how attractive they might seem.

Anyway, how could a parable told by a Jew, to Jews, have such a meaning? If Jesus’s parable was directed against anyone, it was directed against the religious leaders of his day.  URC Elders and ministers should be particularly attentive then, but this parable is for all of us, because it tells us about how the God of all of works.

God is invitational: “The kingdom of heaven,”, says Jesus, “is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” (22: 2) to which he invited all sorts of people.  Some people in the parable free to turn down the invitation, preferring to spend their time working their land or carrying on with their business activities. In some cases they abuse and kill the king’s representatives. They must have thought that he had lost his grip on power.

This maddened and murderous king in the parable looks more like King Herod than he does King Jesus, or like the sovereign God of the universe. In contrast, when confronted by human rejection, God offers his son’s life rather than taking ours … but even then, people can still say ‘no’ to the invitation. And if that’s how God works then churches need to take note – we invite, not cajole, people into the life of faith.

And God’s invitation is a wide invitation. The king says, ‘The wedding banquet is ready but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So, the servants gather in all the people they can find, both good and bad, and ‘the wedding hall was filled with guests.’ (22: 8-10) We need to have a vision that is wider than the boundaries of our congregation. Jesus is our role model here, issuing God’s invitation to one and all;  not only to those within boundaries of religion and respectability, such as Israel’s religious leaders, but also to those deemed to be outside the fold, including, famously, tax collectors, prostitutes and foreigners; and he often did this through sitting down with them to eat … as at a banquet.

So, God is invitational; God’s invitation is a wide one; and God’s invitation is to something good. Remember though, the invitation to the ‘something good’ is not an invitation to Church as such. The invitation in the parable is to a wedding banquet. This had specific meanings for a Jews like Jesus. In the Old Testament, marriage was often a metaphor for the relationship between God and God’s people, Israel: “’In that day,’ declares the Lord,” according to the prophet Hosea, speaking to Israel, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’. (2: 16)

And the image of the banquet was used to speak of celebration of that relationship: “the Lord Almighty”, declared the prophet, Isaiah, “will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wine.” (25: 6) Or famously, from the twenty-third psalm: “My table thou hast furnished in the presence of my foes; my head thou dost with oil anoint, and my cup overflows.” (R&S 679)

The invitation to something good is not into the church, as such, but into a healthy relationship with God. At this concerning time for the present and future of the church we need to remember that. How, we should ask, does church does people to grow in relationship with God, as God has been made known to us through Jesus Christ? To what extent do the things we do enable others to hear God’s invitation to enter into this closer relationship?

For a church to try to be invitational, to try to be widely invitational, and to try offer that something good – that’s a big ask.  Yet we attempt it because God is invitational, welcoming us, both good and bad, and offering us something good. As one hymn puts it, drawing on images of banquet from a Christian perspective:

We come as guest invited
When Jesus bids us dine,
His friends on earth united
To share the bread and wine;
The bread of life is broken,
The wine is freely poured
For us, in solemn token
Of Christ our dying Lord.

We eat and drink receiving
From Christ the grace we need,
And in our hearts believing
On him by faith we feed;
With wonder and thanksgiving
For love that knows no end,
We find in Jesus living
Our ever-present friend.

Timothy Dudley-Smith (1926 – )

Offertory Prayer and Prayers of Intercession

Chris Hales

Almighty God, all that we are and all we have come from you and of your own do we give you. Take our time, our talents and our gifts of money, which we offer to use for the furtherance of the work of your kingdom in this place.

Amen.

We bring our prayers of concern before God.

Father of all, we give you thanks and praise. We thank you that through your intervention, we can still meet together to worship in your holy place.

We thank you, Lord, that you are still with us in the midst of the ongoing crisis.

We pray for all the peoples of the world, of any faith, or none, who are suffering at this time because of the pandemic. Bring comfort to those who are distressed; those who are ill; those who’s lives and jobs have been affected by the situation, and those whose lives have been diminished by the lack of contact with family and friends.

We think particularly of people who are in care homes, isolated, confused and separated from family, and we think of those who have dedicated their lives to care for them. Give them strength and courage to persevere until better times return.

We think of the students, newly arrived in universities, confined in unfamiliar residences, amidst strangers who share their adversity. We think also of the staff who teach and work in those places, who now feel so much at risk.

Comfort them in their time of need.

We pray for all in the medical professions who strive to heal the sick and who now dread a full return of the pandemic to hospitals and surgeries. Lord, strengthen them for the tasks which they they now face.

We pray also for our leaders at local and national level, whom we have entrusted with the huge tasks that now confront them and which leave them in seemingly impossible situations. Grant them wisdom and strength to plan a way through the turmoil, and the words they need to convince the many of the need for unified action and social conduct.

Lastly, Lord, we pray for ourselves. May we remain steadfast in our trust in your unfailing love and our belief that you will bring us through the storm to emerge stronger and always to work in your service.

All this we ask in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Closing words and blessing

May God be praised!

For this time and this place and these people,
May God be praised!

MAY GOD BE PRAISED!

For the beauty of this earth and all that live upon it,
May God be praised!

MAY GOD BE PRAISED!

Through this day and at every day’s dawning,
May God be praised!

MAY GOD BE PRAISED!

 

And the blessing of God,
Our Creator, our Saviour, our Support,
Be with you today and every day.
Amen

Exit Music

Bach’s Passion Chorale (Mission Praise 723 / Rejoice and Sing 140)

The music is most often paired with “We come as guests invited, when Jesus bids us dine” – an echo of the invitation to the heavenly banquet implied in the parable in our Gospel reading


Readings from https://bible.oremus.org. New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

CCL No. 213535 / One Licence A-632495  

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