Didsbury URC – Worshipping Together – 27th September 2020

Today’s service is led by Revd. Dr. Rosalind Selby

(Note: Didsbury URC is beginning to move back to worshipping in the church building. We are tentatively planning to resume services on 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month starting in November. Beyond this, another decision will be taken in the light of Government guidelines. Please keep an eye on this website for details.

Written services will no longer be provided on a weekly basis for the website after the end of September, but where possible preachers will be asked to allow their service material to be made available to be added to the website.)

 

You may wish to google the hymns so that you can sing along with them.

 

Coming to Worship (based on verses from Ps 25)

          To you, O Lord, we lift up our hearts and minds and souls.

          In you, our God, we put our trust

and we lean upon your mercy and your steadfast love

for they have been from everlasting.

          We trust too, O God, in your forgiveness and in your teaching

                    so that we are guided in the straight paths.

          Good and upright is the Lord, and we bow before the Lord in worship.

 

Hymn: I, the Lord of sea and sky

(we are used to singing this hymn as think about responding to God’s call on our lives and our own response in the chorus. Can I suggest this time we align ourselves with the people God is talking about in the verses? See yourselves as the people whom God has heard cry, whom God will save, and whom God is calling others to minister to. This hymn will feel very different if we do that.)

          I, the Lord of sea and sky,

          I have heard my people cry.

          All who dwell in dark and sin

          my hand will save.

          I, who made the stars of night,

          I will make their darkness bright.

          Who will bear my light to them?

          Whom shall I send?

                    Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.

                    I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.

 

          I, the Lord of snow and rain,

          I have born my people’s pain;

          I have wept for love of them.

          They turn away.

          I will break their hearts of stone,

          give them hearts for love alone.

          I will speak my word to them.

          Whom shall I send?                     Chorus

 

          I, the Lord of wind and flame,

          I will tend the poor and lame.

          I will set a feast for them.

          My hand will save.

          Finest bread I will provide

          till their hearts are satisfied.

          I will give my life to them.

          Whom shall I send?                     Chorus

Daniel L Shutte © OCP Publications

Printed under CCL Lic No 293964

 

Prayers (the words are based on the epistle reading today, Philippians 2:1-13)

O God, you who encourage us in Christ and console us with your love.

We worship you.

 You who share the one Spirit with us, and complete joy in us, who gather us to be one together.

We worship you.

 For the times we fall short and have not had in us the mind of Christ.

God, forgive us.

 If we have acted from selfish ambition or conceit.

God, forgive us.

 Christ Jesus, risen and ascended at the right hand of the Father, but knowing our human lives.

We worship you.

 You are one with God from all time yet humbling yourself for our sakes.

We worship you.

 You whose obedience to the eternity-long will of the Father took you to the cross for us and for our forgiveness.

We worship you and give you thanks for forgiveness so dearly bought.

 O God, we would bow the knee to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and, in our turn, offer our obedience. Guide us as we work out our faith in you with fear and trembling and as we open our ears to hear your calling.

We would walk the way you set before us.

As the people of God, humbled by our frailties but raised up with grace and mercy, we share together in the words Jesus taught us to say together : 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: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

 

Reflection

This is an odd little saying, isn’t it? ‘the parents have eaten sour grapes but it’s the children’s teeth that are set on edge’? It’s clearly a little proverb (or saying) that was prevalent because Ezekiel is not the only prophet to quote it. Odd, yes, but it’s actually about corporate and individual responsibility. Some people did what was wrong, and other people have suffered for it and that’s an experience we too can see multiplied across the world. Yet God says it’s not going to be like that any longer. How does that work?

God is talking through the prophet about punishment. The ‘suffering for it’ is the punishment for the ‘crimes’ or ‘sins’ of others. No, that’s not going to happen any longer, says God. If you get it wrong, you will be punished. That’s fair and just, isn’t it?

But life is complicated, and despite Scripture telling us this about this aspect of the justice of God, it continues to be the case that some people act wrongly and others suffer, even if that’s not a ‘punishment’ but rather a ‘consequence’. That might be cabinet ministers making decisions that affect our lives, or businesses making financial choices that harm some of their workers, right through to deliberate neglect or real negligence that causes homes to catch fire because of the use of inappropriate cladding materials or the cutting of corners so that train tracks aren’t safe, or aren’t fixed when they should be. You see what I mean I’m sure. And, let’s be honest, it happens in our own lives in smaller ways. I’m sure you can think of something you did (accidentally or thoughtlessly) that hurt other people.

Let’s look at what’s happening in the renewed concern about Covid-19 spreading. Decisions have been made about children going back to school and young people to colleges and universities – but already I’ve heard of friends or colleagues whose children are back at home in isolation because another child or staff member has symptoms/has tested positive. We’re encouraged to ‘eat out to help out’, but then pubs and restaurants are having to close at 10.00pm because the virus is spreading again and there are going to be businesses in the hospitality industry going to the wall and people out of work.

I guess, like me, you’ve seen groups of people (often quite a number of youngsters) without masks, not social distancing with every likelihood that others they come into contact with may be put at risk – their grandparents, for example.

What does the Bible help us with in all this, specifically this reading? Well, I’m going to have a go:

  • I think this passage tells us we need to each take responsibility for ourselves and our behaviour because we will be answerable to God. We might very well be fed up of regulations and beginning to slacken our due care and attention, we might hate face masks or not seeing people (I get that!) but, let us not be those whose actions affect others and have their teeth set on edge;

 

  • I also think there’s an important sense in which this passage shows us it is God who will judge – everyone. So when we’re irritated by the choices that others make in this Covid situation, we could, perhaps, ask polite questions, but as far as possible, let’s try not to judge. None of us have any idea how anyone else has been affected by these past months in terms of their health (including mental health) and the isolation and their financial situations. I walked past a take-away with three staff members behind a not very wide counter with no masks, and customers with no masks. What if those staff were just worried stiff about their livelihoods? It’s not for me to say;

 

  • But though this seems to be able individual responsibility, I think there is something key about community here – God is speaking to “O house of Israel” not just each of us separately. We, as a church community, are responsible for one another before God – as we are as part of the neighbourhoods we live in, the shops we visit, the places we volunteer, and as colleagues in the workplace – all of these are about communities of sorts.

None of that gives us any easy answers, but I do think there’s an encouragement for each of us to take responsibility and, as far as we can and in our different ways, to play our part in the community (or communities) that we are a part of.

God also says “Know that all lives are mine”; all lives are God’s and in God’s hands. That is something precious to hold on to. However isolated we feel, we are God’s. However anxious, however work-concerned or church-concerned, we are God’s.

May that knowledge of being known and held and belonging be yours. Amen.

 

Prayers

   Bidding: Let your justice roll down like waters

   Response: and your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream     (Amos 5:24)

 

Loving and Holy God … we come before you with our prayers of concern for this your world and all her peoples.

We pray for those who hunger in this land … whose dependence is on benefits that don’t stretch to daily needs, and on foodbanks … and we pray for the hungry across the world, where economies are burdened by debt or governments are corrupted by personal greed and either cannot or do not respond to human need … and for low-waged workers courted by starvation because their fields are farmed for the benefit of western food tastes, or where trade protection by the richest force the poorest farmers off their land.

Let your justice roll down like waters

and your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream                            

 

We pray for those whose deepest hunger is for justice in one or more of its different guises … freedom … fairness … opportunity … inclusion … may they truly hear good news today. And we hold before you those who in their work and lives seek to make a difference … who document inequalities, challenge tyrannies, work quietly in community, live differently … or who are voices crying out to be heard, on behalf of others, or for themselves.

Let your justice roll down like waters

and your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream                       

 

We, with the world, hunger for the end of suffering for so many … our hearts break as we all continue to struggle with the challenges of Covid-19. We pray for health services and people who work in them; for leaders of nations seeking to make wise decisions; for people who are losing their jobs or whose businesses are having to close; for the lonely and isolated; for anyone who is anxious or afraid.

Let your justice roll down like waters

and your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream                             

 

We pray for those who hunger for wholeness of life … may there be healing for the sick, peace for the dying, comfort for the grieving, fellowship for the lonely, strengthening for the weak, faith for the doubting, and your presence in all our lives …

(Take a few moments to pray for people you know by name)

Let your justice roll down like waters

and your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream                              

 

We pray for ourselves in any struggles we have in our own lives, O God … comfort and uphold us each one … and the church and communities we belong to and live in, for the people we meet and interact with

Let your justice roll down like waters

and your righteousness like an ever-flowing stream                            

 

All these prayers we ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen

 

Hymn: Jesus is Lord! Creation’s voice proclaims it

 

Jesus is Lord! Creation’s voice proclaims it,

for by his power each tree and flower was planned and made.

Jesus is Lord! The universe declares it;

sun, moon and stars in heaven cry: Jesus is Lord!

          Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord!

          Praise him with alleluias, for Jesus is Lord!

 

Jesus is Lord! Yet from his throne eternal

in flesh he came to die in pain on Calvary’s tree.

Jesus is Lord! From him all life proceeding –

yet gave his life a ransom, thus setting us free.           Chorus

 

Jesus is Lord! O’er sin the might conqueror,

from death he rose; and all his foes shall own his name.

Jesus is Lord! God sends his Holy Spirit

to show by words of power that Jesus is Lord.            Chorus

David John Mansell © 1980 Springtide

Printed under CCL Lic No 293964

Blessing

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, now and evermore. Amen