Sunday 1st November 2020

man wiping his tears

(Photo from unsplash.com @tompumford)

Call to worship

We rejoice and praise Your holy name today, O Lord,
Because you have kept us from a destructive path.

We give thanks because Your word gives us hope,

And we reflect on Your word at all times.

You are the Source of deep seated faith,

And our spirits are refreshed in your presence! Amen!

from the Lectionary Sermons Archive page

HYMN: StF: 264 Make way, make way

Prayers

Wonderful is the God of Christ,

who gathers the poor of the earth.

Glorious is our God,

who wipes away the tears of sorrow.

Wonderful is the God of Christ,

who gives inheritance to the meek.

Glorious is our God,

who satisfies the hunger of the just.

Wonderful is the God of Christ,

who gives mercy to the merciful.

Glorious is our God,

who gives vision to the pure in heart.

Wonderful is the God of Christ,

who adopts the peacemakers.

Glorious is our God,

who lifts high the persecuted.

Wonderful is the God of Christ,

who finds the lost.

Glorious is our God,

who awakens the dead

written by Bruce Prewer and posted on Bruce Prewer’s Home Page.  http://www.bruceprewer.com/

Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

Beatitudes for a global pandemic

Blessed are those who stay indoors for they have protected others.

Blessed are the unemployed and the self-employed, for their need of God is great.

Blessed are the corner shopkeepers, for they are the purveyors of scarce things.

Blessed are the delivery drivers and the postal workers, for they are the bringers of essential things.

Blessed are the hospital workers; the ambulance crews, the doctors, the nurses, the care assistants, and the cleaners, for they stand between us and the grave, and the Kingdom of Heaven is surely theirs.

Blessed are the checkout workers, for they have patience and fortitude in the face of overwork and frustration.

Blessed are the refuse collectors, for they will see God despite the mountains of waste.

Blessed are the teachers, for they remain steadfast and constant in disturbing times.

Blessed are the church workers; the deacons, priests and bishops, for they are a comforting presence in a hurting world as they continue to signpost towards God.

Blessed are the single parents, for they are coping alone with their responsibilities and there is no respite.

Blessed are those who are alone, for they are children of God and with Him they will never be lonely.

Blessed are the bereaved, for whom the worst has already happened. They shall be comforted.

Blessed are those who are isolated with their abusers, for one day – we pray – they will know safety.

Blessed are all during this time who have pure hearts; all who still hunger and thirst for justice; all who work for peace and who model mercy.

May you know comfort. May you know calm. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all. Amen.

By Jayne Manfredi @TheWomanfredi

HYMN: StF: 372 Come down, O Love Divine

Sermon

Why do these blessings actually sound like curses? None of us want to be poor, or grieving, or meek, or hungry or persecuted. And the only reason we’d need to be merciful is when someone has wronged us; we’d only need to be peacemakers in times of conflict. Why on earth would we rejoice at any of this?

I have heard many bereaved people to say something like this: ‘I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t be crying. My faith is strong. I know my beloved is safe with God. I know we’ll meet again someday. So why am I so sad? I shouldn’t be like this. I shouldn’t be upset if my Christian faith means so much to me.’

It’s as if people feel guilty when they are not rejoicing all of the time, as if grief is something to be ashamed about.

The feelings grief brings are not the antithesis of faith. Grieving is not some kind of religious failure, nor an indication of a lack of commitment or belief. The natural, human responses to loss are integral to any faith system we might have, and real human feelings should be embraced and not suppressed by beliefs.

We all experience grief at some point in our lives. It’s the consequence from loving so intensely. Jesus call us blessed because we have thrown ourselves into these relationships, given our hearts away, and are bereft when that person is no longer with us. Jesus knows there are risks involved with loving – it would be easier to build a wall around our love and not to let anyone in. That way we can’t be hurt. But that is not the way of blessings.

So we take on these risks, let our guards down, allow another person to break down our barriers. And what joy we experience when we do this. We don’t even want to think about possibility of them not being around, because joy is to be found in their presence, we can’t imagine how we would function without them. We don’t ever want to imagine how life would be.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted, Jesus says.

I want to suggest we should all be grieving something else this morning. Grieving the loss of the rainforests. Grieving the loss of eco systems in our seas. Grieving the extinction many species of life on earth are facing. Grieving the death of the polar ice caps.

Blessed are those who mourn.

If we knew the people closest to us were ill and that something we could do would save them, we’d do it in a heartbeat. We’d do it to keep them safe, to make them well, to keep them with us. As well as our relationship with those we love, we also each have a relationship with the space we take up on earth. The earth sustains our life and we are dependent upon it. And yet, when we hear that our climate is changing, that we will experience greater extremes of temperature, more flooding, more droughts, and that all of this will have a devastating effect on life, when we hear this, do we grieve? We might be inconvenienced when flooding closes some roads, or begrudge when petrol has yet again gone up in price, but do we enter a state of mourning, grieving the loss of something precious and beloved. And does this propel us into saying I’ll do anything to stop this from happening?  I truly believe that it is only when all of can be so moved , so saddened, so grieved by the destruction to this planet, that we will each step up and demand, no more, and in so doing our action will mean that collectively we will be comforted by the outcome. The outcome of us collectively grieving, is that our tears will be wiped away and will be no more, because we have each ensured the flourishing of all life.

Grief is not the opposite of faith. It is not an indication of a lack of commitment. Grief tells us we have loved. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19) – our response to God’s love is to love what God has created and loves. And I believe that extends to our commitment to the whole of creation.

Last weekend I listened to part of the Green Christian Conference online. We heard a talk from Bishop James Jones, speaking about the text, blessed are the meek, for their will inherit the earth. What if in our humble, meek relationship with God, our faith extended to the earth itself? As Christians, Bishop James challenged us to reimagine the future for the earth itself. The earth that we can only continue to share in through a right relationship. Bishop James pointed to the moment when Jesus dies on the cross, there was an earthquake, and again at the point of the resurrection, there is an earthquake. The earth itself could not remain silent.

In the morning prayer by the Iona community, the liturgy says this:

The world belongs to God

the earth and all its people

Love and faith come together

justice and peace join hands

If Christ’s disciples keep silent

these stones would shout aloud

The earth is quaking, it is shouting to be heard. The fabric of life is being threatened. We need to grieve, we need to live in a humble relationship with God’s creation, for this is the way to be comforted, to inherit and crucially to pass on this inheritance. Amen.

Intercessions

God of all blessedness,

we turn to You now with our prayers for others,

seeking Your blessing on all for whom we pray.

You tell us: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So we pray for those whose spirit fails them,

that they might be strengthened in their faith;

for those whose poverty is physical,

that they might have an equal share in the fruits of Your kingdom;

for those whose outlook on life is poor,

that they might have a glimpse of hope and purpose.

You tell us: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

So we pray for all who are cast down by grief

 – from recent losses or a deep-seated sorrow over many years

– that they might know the comfort of hope, the comfort of love, the comfort of new life.

You tell us: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

So we pray for leaders and followers,

for big people and little people,

for the proud and the humble,

that in acceptance and grace, we might work together for the good of all.

You tell us: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

So, we pray that we, who seek to live in that very righteousness,

might indeed be filled with wonder and joy in this very place.

You tell us: Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

So, let us forgive others that we might know and understand the true meaning of forgiveness.

You tell us: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

So, make our hearts pure with us,

that we might know Your love all the more.

You tell us: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

So we pray for all who work for peace:

peace in relationships;

peace in communities;

peace in politics;

peace in places of conflict;

peace for the body, mind and soul …

that all might see themselves and others as God’s children.

You tell us: Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So we pray for the broken and despised,

the marginalised and the downtrodden,

the victims and the dispossessed,

the refugees and the homeless …

this kingdom, our precious kingdom, belongs also to them.

And as we pray for others, we pray also that You will hold us always in communion with the Saints of all the ages,

those who have been blessed and whose memories, example and closeness bless us,

even at this present time. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

HYMN: StF:563 O Jesus I have promised

Just to give you something to smile about…

Blessing

Give me, O God, this day: 

         humility, 
   so I can see you in the 
      most vulnerable; 

         a cup 
   to catch the tears 
   of all who weep; 

         an arm 
   for the long-suffering to 
   cling to as they walk 
      through life; 

         a broken heart 
   which can heal those 
   who have harmed me; 

         guilelessness 
   which looks at the other 
   and sees your beloved (not 
      an object); 

         friendship 
   which embraces those 
   we are taught to fear; 

         hospitality 
   which welcomes those 
   who are ridiculed as 
      they shadow you; 

         words 
   of hope, of comfort, of grace 
   whispered in the ears 
      of all who are slandered 
      for your name. 

written by Thom M. Shuman, copyright  © 2014 Thom M. Shuman.  Posted on Prayers 4 Today. http://prayersfortoday.blogspot.ca/  

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