Didsbury URC – Worshipping Together – 5th July 2020

The Psalm set for today is Psalm 145:8-14. I’m using this partly in the gathering, partly in a very short reflection at the beginning, and partly in the prayers.

Gathering for worship

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Hymn: listen or join in: All creatures of our God and King

 

 

Short reflection

The Gospel reading (see later) has Jesus talking about children playing in the marketplace, and I thought we’d reflect on ourselves as children of God today.

These words from the Psalm …

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.

… made me think of the times when our parents or grandparents, friends or neighbours or teachers picked us up. Spend a few moments recalling a time, or times, when, as a child, you needed this care. Did you fall when learning to ride a bike? Or trip up on sports’ day? Or tumble in the street? I remember when I had a fall, and the grit got into my knee (I still have the scar to this day and I was only about 5), the blood pouring down. I remember sitting on the draining board with my feet in the kitchen sink, the wound being washed, the Dettol on a wad of cotton wool, the plaster. And, years later, I did the same thing for my youngest daughter, who also still has a scar on her knee – the sink, the washing, the plaster – the cuddles and reassurances, the little treat to take her mind off things.

Think of God as that kind of ‘hands on’ parent, teacher, neighbour. God cares just as a caring adult did for you, just as you have done in your turn. God doesn’t want the pain for the child – for you – but is there when it happens. If God didn’t let us learn to walk, then run, for ourselves we might never experience the pain, but we would never experience the freedom and the dignity of being who we are that God gives us either. God is with us in our falling down, and in helping us to rise up again. There’s a verse of a hymn (the original version has been adapted in Rejoice & Sing)

“God is love: and he enfoldeth

All the world in one embrace;

With unfailing grasp he holdeth

Every child of every race.

And when human hearts are breaking

Under sorrow’s iron rod,

Then they find that self-same aching

Deep within the heart of God.”           (Timothy Rees, 1874-1939)

Prayers

God within us,

you are the gentle tenderness of our breathing

and the passion of our enthusiasm.

You know our hidden thoughts and secret hopes

and the dreams of our imagination.

We praise you for your intimate love,

and so joyfully we say        Alleluia!

 

God surrounding us,

you are in the ties of affection and friendship,

and in our struggles to learn and communicate.

You bring healing and hope to your creation,

and restore justice and peace to your people.

We praise you for your transforming love,

and so joyfully we say        Alleluia!

 

God beyond us,

you are in the stretching of our minds and intellect,

and in the depth of our feelings and emotions.

You shatter our words and arguments with your silence,

and dance out of reach of our unanswered questions.

We praise you for your mysterious love,

and so joyfully we say        Alleluia!

(This prayer is by Revd Dr Jan Berry, Naming God, p83 She originally wrote ‘and so we sing’)

 

God, when the You within us is tarnished by the things we get wrong,

we are sorry and seek your forgiveness.

When the You who surrounds is hindered from communicating your love to others because of our unkindness or neglect,

we are sorry and seek your forgiveness.

When the You who calls us on does not find in us the response to your leading,

we are sorry and seek your forgiveness.

 

God is faithful and just, loving and merciful – God has lived our human life and understands our needs and our weaknesses – God forgives us and welcomes us home for Jesus’ sake. Thanks be to God.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made. (from Psalm 145)

Let’s now, as God’s beloved and forgiven children, share together in the words that Jesus taught us: 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: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

 

 

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Short Reflection

Children’s play should be care-free, shouldn’t it, and fun, though Jesus seems here to be picking up on the falling-out and complaining that can also happen.

So many things can happen that cut across a real childhood – I was trying to work out if some of you will still remember any war years and I think one or two might. For this generation of children, the Covid year when their schools shut down and they had to learn at home will be a memory that lasts a long time – and there are the children in migrant and refugee families, and those living in war zones. But there are painful things that affect us as individuals too: the loss of a parent far too soon, bullying at school, abuse of different kinds. Like the scars on my knee and that of my daughter, these hidden scars can touch our lives for a long time if not forever. For some, seeing the celebration of mother’s or father’s day around them just makes those memories more painful.

But I said I wanted us to reflect on ourselves as children of God. As we mature and life’s experiences make us wiser (and sometimes cynical), we are still children of this perfect parent. Still God loves us, is there to lift us up, to wash the grit of sin our of the wounds of our lives, to keep being patient and teaching us, to be loving us whatever – unconditionally.

 

(Ronald Rae, The Return of the Prodigal)

I like this statue more than I like the Rembrandt picture of the prodigal’s return. In the classic picture the old man who is the father (God, as we surmise from the parable) is a white, western man wearing a red robe as if (to my eyes anyway) he’s a cardinal of the church. In this much more abstract statue, what I particularly sense is the intimacy of the embrace – God wrapping God’s self around us, shielding us as well as welcoming us. The figures could be of any race, and any gender and any age. “Every child of every race” enfolded in “one embrace”.

The end of the Gospel reading offers us some of the most comforting words Jesus spoke – yes, we, God’s children, should be free to live their lives abundantly and joyfully, but there are burdens and Jesus knows that. It is a wonderful promise – that we can lay all our burdens upon Jesus. We can. But sometimes it’s not easy, is it? Sometimes those burdens don’t feel as if they’ve shifted even when we’ve offered them to God in prayer. And, you know, that experience (of not feeling lightened) too is a burden that Jesus shared – who prayed to his Father, ‘if it is possible let this cup pass from me’ (paraphrase of Mark 15:36) – it wasn’t possible, and it didn’t, but there was Resurrection life the other side of the pain.

Know that, as God’s most-precious child, God is holding your hand through the darkest times and out into the light, even though we don’t know exactly when and how that will be for us all.  AMEN

 

Prayers of Intercession

Let’s pray together:

 Loving, heavenly Father

we offer our prayers for ‘every child of every race’

 

for the places where Covid is still raging, and for wisdom for the Governments who

do not seem to be acting appropriately.

 

For the people of this country who are still grieving, anxious or shielding,

who are still feeling isolated from friends and family,

who are struggling to cope.

 

For the people getting back to work, or finding their jobs have changed or come to an end.

For business owners and employers feeling the responsibility to those they employ as well

as to their own families.

 

For the children getting back to school, and the children having to wait until September.

For the absence of natural play and social interaction.

For the teachers who may be feeling anxious for themselves and their families too.

 

We pray for those crying out for justice, and perhaps their voices are drowned in the media storm around Covid

for the “Black Lives Matter” campaigners

for all who experience prejudice

for transformation for those who perpetrate it.

We give thanks for all who have continued to use their skills and experience and concern for others – for the community spirit, may it continue – for the scientists racing towards treatments and vaccines. O God, may your Holy Spirit continuing her gifting.

O Lord, hear our prayers, let our cry come unto thee for we offer our concerns in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

 

Hymn: listen or join in: Thou whose almighty word

 

Blessing

Be blessed in the name of the God who parents us

the Son who is our brother

the Spirit who holds us together.

 

Be blessed in our thoughts for one another

in our hopes for the future

in dreams of newness of life.

 

Be blessed.

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