Sunday Day Worship
Sunday Service Sheet 27 September 2020
Call: Into the mix of humanity, with friends and neighbours, visitors and strangers, together we join to worship you, O Lord our God.
Psalms: 25:1 – 9
Prayer: Generous, hospitable God, who turns no one away, welcome each one of us now in this time of worship and embrace us in your being. As the psalmist wrote: ‘Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me.’ Let us also seek the way and the truth of God.
Hymn: The Spirit lives to set us free StF 397/not in R&S
You have received two service sheets this week because Dawn and I are having holiday between 28th September to 3rd October so I am not about to prepare the service for next Sunday during the week. We are going to explore the Essex coast and Thames estuary and visit a dear friend in Witham on our return journey.
Today’s sheet continues our look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians exploring why living in faith matters: having the same mind as Christ. As we said a few weeks ago this often requires us to take up our own cross, but remember it doesn’t mean we take up another person’s cross and certainly not Jesus’. We are only told to take up the cross, not to be crucified on it!
Living right with God means making many, and often great, changes in our lives in order to adopt God’s values. This is what repentance is. It is a big thing to embark upon a lifelong relationship with Jesus and discipleship is costly.
We will concentrate in the sheet on the Epistle reading and discover what is said to be one of the earliest Christian poems or hymn (vv6 – 11). The podcast that is available on the Church website will include the Gospel parable on the two sons in the Temple.
Prayer: We sometimes think that the more we have the
happier we will be. ‘If only’, then all
will be well. We sometimes turn the
other way, closing our eyes and ears, ignoring what we see, choosing to
neglect those asking for help.
Sometimes we refuse a helping hand to those in need – we want to do ‘our thing’ instead. We do not want to confess these things but, Lord God, in this moment, in this place, in this space that we’ve been given,
give us the desire to confess our failings and our sins, renew us from within and set us free from all that shackles us. Set us free to be the human beings you would have us be.
I’m grateful, Lord God, that you love me and care for me, that Jesus lived and died for me. I’m grateful that you are interested in me, even me with all my faults and failings. Thank you for sharing my life and my living, for being within my hopes and dreams. Thank you for giving me purpose and meaning. Thank you for showing me how to live a life of goodness and truth, a life of caring and sharing. Thank you for your generosity and abundance even if I fail to see it. Thank you, God, for being you and thank you for making me, me. Amen.
Children’s Hymn If I were a butterfly Not in Stf or R&S
Readings Matthew 21:23 – 32
Philippians 2:1 – 13
The early church in Philippi faced a problem of difference. We do not know the exact nature of the clash between Euodia and Syntyche but this interpersonal conflict seems to concern Paul in this letter.
Paul insists that he would like to see the Philippians being “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (2:2). However, the idea of being of the same mind is not the end of the story in this letter. He writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (2:3-4).
Status was everything in the Roman world, but Paul says that it counts for nothing with God. And he ends not with a call to repentance, but with a call to humbly ‘work out your own salvation’. Here, ‘your own’ is plural – Paul is writing to the whole church in Philippi. It has an individual aspect to it, of course, but it is about a community working out their salvation with each person playing their individual part in that collective story. Think about a cake that has been cut into pieces, but not enough for everyone to have a piece. When we realised that there isn’t enough to go around do we adopt a first come, first served approach or do we work out a way of sharing the cake so that everyone gets a piece?
Psalm 25.1-9 tells us that God leads the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Similarly, in Philippians 2.13 Paul tells us God is at work in us. When we put our own ego first, it means we have no room for anyone else’s needs, because we are too full of our own. We are told in Philippians that Jesus ‘emptied himself’. What does that mean? What did he empty himself of? And, once empty, what did he fill himself with instead? If we were to ‘empty ourselves’, what would we be emptying ourselves of, and what might we fill ourselves with in its place?
I long remember the valedictory sermon preached by Revd Dr Peter McEnhill, to ordinands as we prepared ourselves to become Ministers of Word and Sacrament. He challenged us with the doctrine of kenosis explaining that we needed to be emptied of self in order to be filled with God. My nephew is a Kadampa Bhuddist priest and speaks about the need to empty oneself in order to be enlightened. You may have met people who are so full of themselves that there is no room for the other, and in pastoral encounters I encounter people whose problems are so big, they consume them entirely and the healing Spirit of God has little opportunity to penetrate and bring about a cure.
Paul’s letter brims with love for the people, the Christians, in Philippi. He tells them how happy they will make him by living like Jesus. This, he says, means a change in attitude, a new way of living. A life of paying less attention to your own wants and needs, and more to those of others. People whose needs might be different from our own. People whose needs are more important than our wants. (What is the difference between ‘what I want’ and ‘what I need’?) What Paul is not asking is for the Philippians – or us – to be doormats. As the Christian writer CS Lewis once said, it’s ‘not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less’.
We often find it hard to put the interests of others above our own, especially if that puts us at a personal disadvantage. But is it such a bad thing to allow someone else’s needs to come before our own? Does it matter if it is not advantageous to us? Does this include putting our planet’s needs first, too? If we know we are buying cheap cotton T-shirts that keep poorer people in sweatshops and degrade the environment, when we could actually afford to buy ones that are more sustainable, more fairly traded, albeit at a higher cost – what does that say about us and our attitude to others?
Offering: I simply pray that you, Lord God, will
help me show your love
to those around me. Amen.
Prayer: So often we want to pray for others. But
sometimes, God, we don’t know how. We can’t remember names or
numbers; other issues weigh heavily on our hearts. Thank goodness,
God, that you know what we mean when we pray. So, we bring in this
moment those names and faces, images and desires for others that pop
in and out of our minds throughout the day:
the old lady at the bus stop who needed a hand up the step;
the young mum at the checkout trying to contain her four kids;
the chap up the road who’s lost his dog and is calling for him;
the teachers struggling to understand the needs of those in their class;
the doctors who wants to give us more time but who simply can’t;
the young families who can’t make ends meet;
those without work, who can’t find new jobs;
those helping people to find work, knowing it is an uphill struggle;
those with mental health issues and seeking help,
or who are afraid and ashamed to seek help,
or who are ignored and can’t get help.
So, God, for all these people and countless others, we offer our prayers.
We know you do not need reminding, but you do need willing workers – even us – to help them know your love and have their needs met.
Hear our ramblings, O God. Amen.
Lord’s prayer followed by a time of silent reflection and self-emptying allowing the Holy Spirit to fill you and refresh you.
Hymn: Spirit of the living God StF 395/R&S 308
Blessing: May we go, Lord God, to meet the needs of others and share the love we have from you, and may the blessing of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with us now and always. Amen.
The URC has also provided audio services that can be found 'here'