Led by:Revd Dr Carla Grosch-Miller
25 October 2020 Ordinary Time (Proper 25)
Prayer before worship
Lift from our shoulders the burdens we carry
so that we may marvel at the wonder of the world
and the beauty and power of its creator.
Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
Call to Worship
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as we have been afflicted,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands –
O prosper the work of our hands!
We worship the living God, and we pray:
Prayer of Approach and Confession
Gracious God, you take our breath away! It is you who created all that we see: the autumn riot of gold, red and rust; a tempestuous sea and all her creatures; the blaze of sunrise and sunset; the cottony clouds that cocoon our skies; soaring birds and furry mammals busying themselves in preparation for winter. We give you praise and thanks for all of it, for sun and rain, springtime and winter, for the ordering of the seasons and the ordering of our lives. We praise and thank you too for the love of family and friends and for this community of faith, a living embodiment of your love in which we are accepted as we are and loved into fulness of life. Your gifts are many! Your love is greater than we can comprehend!
In truth, loving Lord, many come before you this morning weary and worried. The pandemic is taking its toll; the restrictions chafe; the losses mount. There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel. We are frazzled, fragmented, fractious. We take it out on those closest to us. We have lost the plot. We need you now more than ever. We need to drink from the deep well of your grace, to breathe in your peace and your patience, to be renewed by your love, and to be nurtured in your hope. Strengthen us, good God, for the days ahead. Call us into your presence, to rest under your loving gaze, so that we may be the people we can be: kind, compassionate, patient, courageous and resilient. We begin now: in this moment of silence, we still our anxious hearts and minds and breathe in your peace, letting go of all else as we breathe out.
Assurance of Grace:
We are loved into being. At every moment, God invites us to rest beneath a loving gaze. Our failures are understood; our sins are forgiven. We are granted the grace to stand and face the new day with hope in our hearts. Thanks be to God.
Hymn:Our God, our help in ages past (R&S 705)
William Croft, Choir of Kings’ College, Cambridge, from Hymns from Kings
Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:
under the shadow of thy throne
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defence is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame;
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.
A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all our years away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) altd.
based on Psalm 90:1-6
(New Revised Standard Version): Lucy Cooke
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea,
the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar. The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
He died before they got there. Moses had led the people for over forty years, up out of slavery in Egypt, pursued by charioteers and horses, through punishing wilderness, facing hunger and thirst. It was a struggle from the beginning. We remember the moment at the burning bush, his reluctance to respond to the call to leadership. We remember the complaints of the people, their looking back and longing for the fleshpots of Egypt, their bitterness and regret. Many was the time Moses asked God, What are you playing at giving me these stick-necked people? You have ‘em; do what you will. I’m done.
Yet he persevered. It was the vision of the Promised Land that kept him going. The hope of a new day, when a free people would drink and eat the milk and honey of the land and live peaceably beneath their fig trees. Life could be better. God would get them there.
Today we meet him on Mount Pisgah. He is a very old man yet still vigorous enough to climb. From his vantage point the Promised Land spread out before him….northward to the Sea of Galilee, west to the Mediterranean, south to the Negev desert and along the Jordan rift valley. He saw it all. But he would not cross over with his people. He died on Pisgah and it is written that God buried him there.
I love this story. I love the deep truth that we work our whole lives for what we may never see, that the longing for the new day drives us on, allowing us to persevere amidst the travails and trials of the journey. That the love of God and love for others fuels and feeds our longing, giving us water in the desert, strengthening our knees and backs when the way is tough and uphill. Moses’ death on Pisgah tells us that there are visions worth living for, a greater purpose. That we each have our part to play as we are swept into the current of love as it flows from the heart of God to bless the earth.
I am reminded of the prayer known as the Prayer of Oscar Romero,  the Salvadorean Archbishop murdered by government troops, a priest for the people. The prayer includes these lines:
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
This is what we are about: We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
It is the vision of the new day that gives us hope. Without vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).
From time to time I find our current situation difficult to cope with. It seems my bandwidth for dealing with additional pieces of bad or inconvenient news is getting narrower by the week. I get easily frustrated. The low thrum of anxiety from all the unpredictability and uncertainty in our lives ramps up and I find myself at the end of my rope more readily than I like to admit. Around me lies the rubble of dashed dreams– dreams of simple stability, of inviting friends to tea, of visiting family and cuddling grandchildren. Like the freed slaves, I keep looking backward with fondness and longing for what was. But Moses, on Pisgah, beckons me to look not backwards but forwards, towards the vision of the New Day, the greater dreams of God who holds the whole world in fierce and tender hands. He bids us to persevere, and to trust that while we may suffer and struggle now, this is not the end of the story.
There is nothing wrong with having a moan or naming the pain and losses in the moment. In fact it’s better to moan and grieve than to suppress those feelings and have them come out in inappropriate ways. And moaning and grieving helps us move through the uncomfortable feelings, opening our hands to new possibilities.
We look to the broader horizon. We seek to do what we can, with what we have, where we are…to participate in the great flow of love. We let the vision of the New Day blaze in our mind’s eye, knowing that most likely, like Moses, we will not see in it our lifetime. And it doesn’t matter, because we know that there is no other way we would want to live. To live in God’s great purpose, that is joy and fulfilment. As a psalmist sang, a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere (Ps 84:10). It is what we were made for.
A few years ago David and I were in Windemere for a church conference. On our day off we climbed Scafell Pike. When we came back, thinking about Moses on Pisgah and Jesus tempted to throw himself off the mountain, I wrote this poem:
A lifetime of scrambling towards holiness was to end here,
amidst a crowd of clouds and the perfect patience
of mountains carved by unseen hands,
a blaze of light breaking through slate grey skies,
mist rising from green sloped rock.
The dream of the promised land burned
onto the back of his eyelids,
he will die in hope.
scorched by holy fire,
resume the scramble,
lose our footing,
stop to catch our breath,
bruise our shins,
and toss restlessly in our beds,
hoping and praying
for the assurance
of things unseen.
I too would stand at Pisgah,
let hope sear my heart
and a vision of glory
burn the inside of my eyelids.
I too would gladly spend my days
trudging, slipping, sliding, scaling,
scrape my knees,
offer my hands to rock to tear,
let beauty break and bind my heart
that I might glimpse true holiness.
Let the Adversary depart from these heights,
its promises splintering on eternal peaks,
and let the angels come to minister in kindness.
© Carla A. Grosch-Miller, 2020
Lifelines: Wrestling the Word, Gathering Up Grace (Canterbury Press)
May we walk through these difficult days with kindness in our hands and hope in our hearts.
Though we may die before we see the New Day, we live and we strive, believing it will come. It will come.
 Written by Ken Untener, for John Cardinal Dearden, November 1979.
Hymn All my hope on God is founded (R&S 586)
The organist will play the tune quietly whilst Lucy Cooke reads the words
All my hope on God is founded;
he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth,
only good and only true,
God unknown, God alone,
calls my heart to be his own.
Human pride and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray our trust:
what with care and toil is builded,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.
God’s great goodness aye endureth,
deepest wisdom, passing thought;
splendour, light and life attend him,
beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore from his store
new-born worlds rise and adore.
Daily doth the almighty giver
bounteous gifts on us bestow;
his desire our soul delighteth
pleasure leads us where we go.
Love doth stand at his hand;
joy doth wait on his command.
Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call one and all:
ye who follow shall not fall.
Prayers of the People
Prayer of Dedication
Lord, you have entrusted us with the task of sharing the message of the Gospel. We accept that we cannot simply give money and expect this to happen. We must also give of ourselves by offering our time, talents, gifts, and service. Stir within us the courage to be Christian stewards throughout our daily living and accept all these gifts as a symbol of our love and commitment to you. Amen.
Prayers of Concern
Lord, we come to you this morning with much on our minds and in our hearts.
There is so much in our world, in our nation and on our own doorsteps that causes us worry and despair.
Help us to remember and be sustained by your boundless love, and to remember too that your love compels us to love in return.
We hold before you, all who are struggling, be that with their physical or mental health, with finances or bereavement. We remember especially those families for whom the approaching half term holidays bring extra struggles and hardship and we give thanks for the spirit and commitment shown by local people: businesses, schools and individuals, many of whom are under great pressure themselves yet are stepping up to offer assistance where authority has failed to do so.
We hold before you our nation’s leaders and government, asking that their decisions be motivated by kindness, compassion and a sense of social responsibility.
We hold before you teachers and all staff working so hard in our schools to ensure our children and young people continue to receive high quality education and are kept safe during these difficult times. May they find rest and renewal during the coming week.
We hold before You people across the globe, especially our brothers and sisters in the United States as election day approaches. May they be guided by your loving Grace to do what is best for their nation and the rest of the world.
We hold before you our church especially those within our congregation who are struggling at this time and in particular those feeling alone and isolated, unable to join us in worship either in person or online. May they know that they are in our prayers, feel our love for them and sense your presence enfolding them.
Finally Lord, we hold ourselves before you. Surround and enfold us with your living love and Grace that we may follow your path, loving others as you love us.
Having been fed by the hand of our generous God,
we go from this place to love and serve the Lord
with kindness and hope in our hearts and our hands.
God bless and keep us all. Amen.
Music for egress
CCL No. 213535 / One Licence A-632495