Order of Service
Organ prelude: Voluntary in A – William Selby (1738 – 98)
Call to Worship Psalm 67: 3 – 4 (NIV)
‘May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.’
Tune: Church Triumphant – J. W. Elliott (1833 – 1915)
The Lord is King! Lift up your voice
O earth, and all the heavens rejoice!
From world to world the joy shall ring,
‘The Lord omnipotent is King!’
The Lord is King! who then shall dare
resist His will, distrust His care,
or murmur at His wise decrees,
or doubt His royal promises?
The Lord is King! child of the dust,
the judge of all the earth is just;
holy and true are all His ways;
let every creature speak His praise.
He reigns! O saints, exalt your strains;
your God is King, your Father reigns;
and He is at the Father’s side,
the Man of love, the Crucified.
Come, make your wants, your burdens known;
Christ will present them at the throne;
this world of ours and worlds unseen:
how thin the boundary between!
One Lord, one empire, all secures;
He reigns, and life and death are yours;
through earth and heaven one song shall ring,
‘The Lord omnipotent is King!’
Josiah Conder (1789-1855) altd.
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession, and Lord’s Prayer
Lord God almighty, King of all, we come to praise you along with all your creation and all your people this day. We praise you for all you do for us, for all your care for us, and for your faithfulness to us. We worship you in your holiness, ever mindful of how we are unfaithful to you, and dishonour you in so many ways. In this time in your presence, we confess those things to you now . . . in repentance we seek to turn from those things, so that we might honour you in our lives and in our witness to others. We also think of how we should be coming to you with nothing but praise in our hearts. Yet we come in our brokenness, with all our concerns and burdens. We lay those things at your feet. In your mercy we ask you to refresh us and renew us. Help us to worship you in spirit and in truth, and to be open for you to speak to us as individuals. For we come and we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
I invite you to join with me in the words of the Lord’s Prayer . . .
Introduction to the first reading
This passage comes after a stand-off between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees over ritual hand washing. The disciples are accused of not following this tradition before they eat, to which Jesus points to their own hypocrisy. Jesus then tells a parable and gives the disciples an explanation about true cleanliness being what comes out of the mouth. This encounter with the Canaanite woman shows they haven’t quite got it. It is read to us by Aleck Brownjohn.
Reading – Matthew 15: 21 – 28
Organ interlude: Prière du Matin – Joseph Jongen (1873 – 1953)
Introduction to the second reading
This chapter in Romans is part of three Chapters, 9-11, on God’s purposes for Israel. Paul’s heart, as a Jew himself, although seeing his calling as bringing the gospel to the Gentiles, is for his own people to come back to God. He yearns for it, and sees it as happening one day in God’s sovereignty, that they will one day all believe and return in obedience. It is read to us by Janette and Roger Morley.
Reading – Romans 11: 1 – 7 and 11 – 32
Back in Biblical history, as we know, the Hebrew speaking people became the people of God, the Jewish nation, the nation of Israel. God had chosen them, and in that early promise in the call of Abram, in Genesis 12, God says to him, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (v3b). As time went on, in the prophet Isaiah, the chosen are called to be a ‘light to the nations’, and this is the title given to the ‘chosen one’, the coming Messiah.
Fast forward to Jesus, and this encounter with the Canaanite woman. Jesus here, the Messiah, is a light to the nations, and this woman, in her greeting to Him of, “Lord, Son of David…” has recognized something about Him that’s different, maybe has seen that light, and trusts that He can heal her daughter.
Many writers on this passage see the woman as changing Jesus’ mind, that she caused Him to re-think His attitude and calling, as He grew in humanity. He says to the disciples when they complain about the woman shouting after them, that He has only been sent to the lost sheep of Israel, seemingly denying His role as the light to all nations. Yet if we take it as following on from the conversation with the Scribes and Pharisees, and the parable about cleanliness, this encounter, shows the disciples what’s really important, that of faith in the Messiah, whatever your background.
One comment on the passage I read this week in preparation, was from the Roots resource. The writer sees what Jesus says about throwing food to the dogs, to be Him offering her half of a parabolic saying and inviting her to complete it. The woman responds with the other half of the saying. This was apparently common practice among rabbis.
Whether this is really what happened or not, Jesus is pleased with her answer, discerns her faith, and heals her daughter. To the disciples looking on, who were trying to send her away, He shows that what has come out of the Canaanite woman’s mouth, a Gentile, is clean, is full of faith, and therefore, she is accepted by God. He overturns their expectations, and He turns the encounter into a learning experience of what is important to God.
In this encounter, we can find our own value in Christ, in whoever we are, whatever we’ve done with our lives, that we are accepted in Him. What is important of course, is to recognize who Jesus is, and to have that faith in Him.
We can see in part, the possibility of Jesus’ plan in this encounter, a plan to give the disciples a learning experience and to heal the woman’s daughter.
The other reading we had for today is all about God’s plans and purposes. Paul writes about how the Gentiles, that’s us, are grafted into God’s chosen people. He uses the image of an olive tree. The wording he uses is reminiscent of the vine in John’s gospel, with the branches that are good, and others cut out, and the root feeding the branches. Paul here is wanting the mainly Gentile Church in Rome to remember what they are a part of, and to convey that God hasn’t rejected Israel, but holds them in His plans.
This is one of the passages which Christians today draw upon who support the current nation Israel. Whatever we think of what’s happening with their proposed annexing of parts of the occupied West Bank, and the suspension of part of that with the peace treaty with the United Arab Emirates this last week, Israel is still seen by many Christians as God’s chosen people, and were by the early Church.
In this passage, Paul argues that they eventually will be brought back to God through the Gentile branches. God hasn’t rejected them. In any given time, there is a remnant of faithful people in Israel, a remnant chosen by grace. I love the words in verse 29 that, ‘God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable’. That verse is for us as much as for the original meaning. Paul’s meaning was that God still has hold of Israel. God too has hold of all who turn away from Him, including us in those times we leave God aside in our lives.
It’s not by works, the key theme of the letter to the Romans, but by God’s grace alone that we’re brought back to God. Paul reminds us that the promises are received through faith. Israel are seen as rejecting God because they put so much emphasis on the Law. But it is God’s grace, received through faith that brings us close to God.
I had a giggle in the week, something our daughter spotted online, about the Gobola Church in S Africa who believe the only way to get close to God is to drink alcohol in excess. As alcohol has been banned in S Africa during the pandemic, the article wondered how they were getting on. Sorry friends, it isn’t through alcohol, or good works, but through faith that we can come close to God.
We see this in Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman, that He chose to heal her daughter, not because she obeyed what the Jewish law under the pharisees, but because of her faith.
The early Jewish Christians found it difficult at first to believe Gentiles were being saved, or that the Holy Spirit was being poured out on them too. They hadn’t yet broadened their horizons. But in humility, they saw God was working, and realised God’s plans were bigger than theirs.
The Roots resource I mentioned earlier had a great example of this in our time in the British grime, hip hop rapping artist, Stormzy. Those musical genre terms sound unpleasant to start with, especially ‘grime’, something our oldest son was well into as a teenager! Stormzy’s first success, ‘Shut up’, is not a song many of us would feel comfortable listening to. Yet he is a Christian, and his faith has also come out in some of his other songs, like ‘Blinded by your Grace’, which he sang when he was headline artist at the Glastonbury Festival last year. God is working through people that we might be surprised by, and sometimes we need in humility to recognize that, and broaden our horizons.
So what about for us? God has a plan and purpose for our lives. God works out that through time and space. As we look back at our lives, we can often see how that has happened, and we wonder how we didn’t realise God’s part before.
And what about God acting in the lives of others? How do we perceive that? Do we hear and value the faith of others even when it is expressed so differently to our own? How do we broaden our horizons in humility to see God at work? When we listen to the viewpoint of others, we enrich our own lives of faith with new understandings and we are better equipped to see God at work in our world.
I pray that all of us have that opportunity to grow in our faith through the faith of those different to us.
Tune: Amazing Grace – Edwin O. Excell (1851 – 1921)
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
As grace first taught my heart to fear
so grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
God’s grace has brought me safe thus far,
and he will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures;
and, when this heart and flesh shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
a life of joy and peace.
John Newton (1725 – 1807)
The peace of Christ be with you, and in your homes
And also with you
Confession & Absolution
Let us confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness.
Lord God most merciful,
we confess that we have sinned,
through our own fault,
and in common with others,
in thought, word and deed,
and through what we have left undone.
We ask to be forgiven.
By the power of your Spirit
turn us from evil to good,
help us to forgive others,
and keep us in your ways
of righteousness and love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord says: See, I am making all things new.
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself
Through Him our sins are forgiven.
Amen. Thanks be to God.
Come then to this table, not because you must, but because you may;
Come, not because of who you are, but because of who God is.
Come, not because you are righteous, but because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
Words of Institution 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26 (NIVUK)
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Prayer of thanksgiving
Holy Lord Jesus,
We praise and thank you so much that you came to earth for us and gave yourself on the cross for our forgiveness. You, who are the same yesterday, today and forever, help us never to forget what it cost you, bearing the world’s sin in yourself, separated from the Father.
We praise and thank you for your promises which give us hope in our lives and for the future. We thank you for that assurance of new life in you, a new life we can share in many different ways at this time with others.
We give thanks now for this bread, symbolising for us your body, and ourselves as your body here, to be broken for others as we seek to serve others in whatever way.
We give thanks for this wine, symbolising for us your blood, poured out in love for the world, as we are poured out to bring new life to those around us.
We ask that as we share this bread and wine, we may be filled anew with your Holy Spirit, and refreshed in your resurrection life, to live for you, for your glory we pray. Amen.
Sharing the Bread and Wine
As we break the bread and share the wine, we will eat and drink together.
We break the bread to remember Christ’s broken body for us on the cross . . .
pause to break
Christ’s body broken for us
pause to eat
Christ’s blood was poured out that the world might have new life . . .
pause to lift the cup
And we have new life in His blood
pause to drink
Prayers for others from ‘Worship: from the United Reformed Church’ (adapted)
you have fed us generously at this table,
as we have remembered Jesus and rejoiced that He is with each of us today.
We are ready now to follow Him, and to be your people in the world.
May your Holy Spirit show us the way, make us holy and fill us with love.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the Church, for the great Church throughout the world,
and for our own church community gathered in our own homes to worship and pray.
May we remember Jesus every day, grow in understanding of Him,
and learn to love you and our neighbours.
Fill us with your Spirit, and make us people of peace,
of faithful prayer and loving action.
Give us wisdom to discern your will and ways for us in the coming weeks and months.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the whole world;
for the people, the animals, the earth, the sea and the air.
May all that you have made be sustained in peace and harmony,
and may all your creatures share in the goodness of creation.
Bring healing to all who are suffering, and may all your people share in hope.
We especially lift to you Malcolm Dewhirst, and Isobel and the family.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for ourselves, for our families and our friends,
for all those we love and for those we find it hard to love.
May young and old respect one another, and the generations honour one another.
May nothing divide us or come between us, but let your love bind us in affection.
Bless us with your peace, that we may praise you for ever.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Glory to God, glory in the highest, today and always,
Tune: Abingdon – Eric Routley (1917 – 82)
And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain;
for me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
‘Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
let angel-minds enquire no more.
He left his Father’s throne above—
so free, so infinite His grace—
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light,
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ, my own.
Charles Wesley (1707-88)
Blessing Psalm 67: 1 – 2 (NIVUK)
‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us –
so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.’
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Organ voluntary: Prelude in G – J. S. Bach (1685 – 1750)