11 October 2020

This week, we welcome Rev Geoff Ellis, and thank him for leading our service. Music has been recorded at Headingley St Columba URC and, where it is not in the public domain, is used under the terms of our PRS LOML Licence LE-0020656

Order of Service

Organ prelude: Voluntary in D: Andante vivace – John Alcock (1715 – 1806)


Call to Worship
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say: REJOICE!

Lord God, faithful and loving,
we do not always feel like rejoicing.
Even as we gather to worship you,
our minds are sometimes distracted and elsewhere,
weighed down by the burdens of our lives.

Help us, in this moment, to find it within our hearts
to rejoice in your constancy and loving care for us.

People of God, let us rejoice, As we join in the hymn of praise:

Rejoice the Lord is King;
Your Lord and King adore.

Tune: Gopsal – George F. Handel (1865 – 1759)

Rejoice, the Lord is King:
your Lord and King adore!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,
and triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice:
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus the Saviour reigns,
the God of truth and love;
when he had purged our stains,
he took his seat above.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice:
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail,
he rules o’er earth and heav’n;
the keys of death and hell
are to our Jesus giv’n.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice:
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He sits at God’s right hand
’til all his foes submit,
and bow to his command,
and fall beneath his feet.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice:
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope!
Our Lord, the Judge, shall come,
and take his servants up
to their eternal home.
We soon shall hear the archangel’s voice:
the trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

Charles Wesley (1707 – 88)

Opening Prayers and The Lord’s Prayer

Lord God, we never know what the future holds
or where life will take us next.
We never know what is just around the corner
and what the outcomes of things will be.
But we know that whatever follows on from this moment, you are here with us, by our side,
above and beneath us, entwining your life with ours,
surpassing all human understanding.
In this moment, bless us
and awaken us to your abiding presence.

Eternal God, so often we give up if something goes wrong or doesn’t go our way.
So often we are overwhelmed by our own problems
that we forget to look out for others.
So often we are consumed with negatives and endings that we lose sight of the positives and beginnings.
Eternal God, forgive us for our self-centredness, our blindness and our deafness,
and reawaken your Spirit within us.

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

Introduction to the first reading
Our first Bible reading is taken from Philippians chapter 4 verses 1-9 and is read by Ishbel Jeuken, church secretary of West Park United Reformed Church in Leeds.
In Paul’s letter from prison to the Philippians he begins by addressing the unspecified issue that has arisen between two women co-workers with unfamiliar names who have been active in the ministry of the Early Church. Paul asks a loyal companion to help sort out the problem. What then follows is good advice and encouragement for us today on how to be and behave as followers of Jesus and so receive the blessing of God’s peace.

Reading – Philippians 4: 1 – 9 (read by Ishbel Jeuken)

Organ interlude: Prelude in G minor – Gustav Merkel (1827 – 85)

Introduction to the second reading
Our Gospel reading today is from Matthew Chapter 22 verses 1 – 14 and is known as the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. Once again Jesus seeks to explain the nature of the kingdom of heaven. In this parable the story of how people respond to a wedding invitation employs exaggeration by using a harsh and violent environment to make a point. In Matthew’s account we may see an allegory of the worst of Israel’s past responses to the prophets God sent to them. This prepares the way for Jesus being possibly rejected by God’s chosen people.

Reading – Matthew 22: 1 – 14 (read by Sara Henderson)


“Many are called but few are chosen.”

The words of Jesus after telling the parable of the Wedding Banquet.

What is the point Jesus wishes to make in this harsh and exaggerated story of a banquet which ends up for some with uncertainty, rejection, and even violence?
How would we respond when unexpectedly invited to such a feast?

Do we have sympathy with the man who does not dress respectfully?

What can we learn from Jesus’ parable to help us today?

As I mulled over this challenging parable and its significance, my mind took me to a walk I made in September to Spurn Point; to that spit of land at the edge of the East Riding that separates the Humber estuary from the North Sea.
It is now only accessible by foot since the winter storms of 2013 washed away the road linking it to the mainland.

It’s a 4 mile walk to the tip of this narrow stretch of land. It is a beachcomber’s paradise. There is much to see including the ruins of military and sea defences.

The pebbles on the beach tell their own story. There are such a variety of shapes, sizes and colours to choose from. Their surfaces have been shaped and smoothed by the rough seas.

Many of them come from the other side of the world. They have made their way there thanks to deep sea shipping often needing to take on a ballast of stones in order to be stable on the voyage to the Humber. Here they can discharge off shore their ballast of pebbles from around the world.

I walked along the beach under the protective gaze and safety of the lighthouse that is there to warn shipping to steer clear of the land.
I looked down wondering which pebbles to choose to photograph or pick up as souvenirs.

Some looked very attractive and eye catching. What story had they to tell about their journey to this resting place?
How had they changed in time?

So many but which ones to choose.

Is this the type of choice that Jesus had in mind when there are so many to choose from?
“Many are called but few are chosen”.

Surely it is not about our appearance and the clothing we wear?

And who is doing the choosing?

Back to the parable and the context in which Jesus lived. Then Jesus was faced by the prospect of the children of Israel and their religious leaders rejecting him, just as they had previously rejected the many prophets.
For those, who refuse to come and ignore the invitation, are doing their own choosing?
They exclude themselves from being part of God’s kingdom of heaven.

Then many others are invited into the kingdom in the invitation which goes out to everyone that the servants of the king can find. There is a call to gather people from all sections of society – including from the most unexpected, the poor, the nobodies and outcast of society, and ultimately from all cultures from around the world, not just from the nation of Israel into which Jesus was born.

A gathering of all shapes, sizes and types of people who turn up at the banquet.

Like the pebbles on the beach where such a variety called to come to rest in a new home under the safety of a lighthouse.

Then why make the point about the guest who does not treat the event with respect. Why has he been singled out?
The others honoured the king by how they came to this special event.
What was going through the man’s mind to dare to come unprepared and not change and show how much he valued what had been offered him?

Is this story in its harsh way a wake up call to us?

Do we need to recognise the difference between a wide-open invitation which we want to hear is for everyone and the responsibilities attached to being part of God’s kingdom?
We need to move from thinking God loves us as we are and does not want us to change.

When the invitation to the kingdom of heaven goes out to everyone there is still a need for people to change their behaviour and attitude when they accept the invitation.

The grace of God is not cheap grace.

The hard reality is that this generous invitation to be part of the kingdom of heaven which Jesus lived, died and rose again for was made possible at a great price and for a redeeming purpose.

Whilst the call goes out to many, those who choose to accept the invitation need to be and behave in a way that honours God.

It is a case of God’s love and invitation to the kingdom, reaching us where we are, but then refusing to let us stay as we are.
God wants the best for us with our lives transformed, healed and changed.

As in the words of encouragement that Paul offers to the Philippians the invitation to the kingdom of heaven is both a time for rejoicing but also one to embark on a programme of change as we let God shape our lives. Then as God smooths out the rough edges in our lives we can together strive to make the kingdom of heaven a reality on earth.

And with it comes that preparedness to accept the help of others to enable us to learn and grow in faith and be of one mind in Jesus Christ.

Like the two co-workers in the church in Philippi who were urged to do so with the help of Paul’s loyal companion.

A challenge to us now to carry on being worthy of being called and chosen by Jesus, as we continue to learn and receive all that we are invited to be part of, in the Spirit of Jesus, and to change and know that the peace of God in us. Amen.

Let us respond as we reflect on this with the words of the hymn:
“I heard the voice of Jesus say come unto me and rest”.

Tune: Kingsfold – arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958)

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down
your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me, your morn shall rise,
and all your days be bright.”
I looked to Jesus and I found
in him my star, my sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk,
till travelling days are done.

Horatius Bonar (1808 – 89)

Prayers of Intercession
Gracious and generous God, we come to pray not for ourselves, but for each other – for those we know and those we don’t, for situations we understand and for those that confound us.

The news tells us of trauma and heartache across the world and we try to grasp the intensity of it all.

Bless, O Lord, all involved in the hurting and the healing.

We hear of death and dying, of grieving and weeping . . .

We hear of pain, scarring and disfigurement.

We hear of anguish and confusion.

We hear of those in need of help, and those who struggle to find it.

We hear of the grieving and the sorrowful.

We hear of the lost and the alone.

And we know, Lord, there are so many others known only to you.

Bless them all in their hurting and their healing.

Source of all life and giver of all that is good, hear these prayers for all these people and situations, and for our families,
our friends and neighbours, and for all we care for and who care for us.
Bless us all – and make us one in heart and mind to serve you with joy forever.

Tune: Truro – Thomas Williams (1789)

Sing to the Lord a joyful song,
lift up your hearts, your voices raise;
to us his gracious gifts belong,
to him our songs of love and praise.

For life and love, for rest and food,
for daily help and nightly care,
sing to the Lord, for he is good,
and praise his name, for it is fair.

For strength to those who on him wait
his truth to prove, his will to do,
sing to our God, for he is great,
trust in his name, for it is true.

For joys untold, that from above
cheer those who love his sweet employ,
sing to our God, for he is love;
exalt his name, for it is joy.

Sing to the Lord of heaven and earth,
whom angels serve and saints adore,
the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
to whom be praise for evermore.

John S. B. Monsell (1811 – 75)

We travel the journey of life but do not go alone,
for God is with us.
We travel the journey of life with thankful hearts,
and God is with us.
We travel the journey of life with each other,
and with God, who is always with us.

God bless us and keep us safe;
God’s light shine upon us;
God’s peace be with us,
now and for ever.

Organ voluntary: Postlude – Alexandre Guilmant (1837 – 1911)