Sunday 13th September 2020

Call to Worship (from Psalm 103: 1-5)
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

HYMN 110 Glory be to God the Father

Prayer

God of freedom and deliverance
You led Your people of old
with cloud by day and fire by night.
You parted the sea with Your breath,
and saved Your people from oppression.
Free us, O God, in our own age,
from
…indifference in the face of poverty,
…ignorance in the face of fact,
…disbelief in the face of evidence before our very eyes.
Deliver us good Lord.
Lord of the living and Lord of the dead,
we are conscious of our sin.
We are weak in faith,
quarrelsome in nature
and there is no health in us.
Give us time, O God,
even now,
to change,
to turn away from destruction
and back to You.
God is the fount of all mercy
and through the life, death, and new life of Jesus Christ
has shown us how to live,
calling us to renewal and commitment.
Through Christ
may you receive pardon, peace, and wisdom,
that you may use your time well,
be filled with grace,
and help to renew the earth.
Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures

Exodus 15:1b-11, 21b – Song of Moses and Miriam
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
‘I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

‘The Lord is my strength and my defence;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, Lord,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy.
‘In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.

By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted,
I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
and my hand will destroy them.”
But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.

They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you –
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?

Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.’

Matthew 18:21-35 – The Unmerciful Servant
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’
Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.
‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.
‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”

‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

HYMN 14 The Lord’s My Shepherd

Reflection

I don’t recall ever seeing them in my time in Edinburgh but back in Glasgow city centre they were common – street preachers. You would see them, sometimes congregated, in the pedestrianised areas of the city centre. Despite the hubbub of a busy city shopping street on a Saturday afternoon you would often hear them before you saw them. And what you heard was fascinating; it was the language of the sixteenth century, a form of words that were already out-of-date by the time that the King James Version of the Bible was published. The language was full of words like ‘repentance’, ‘sin’, and ‘salvation’. For many, these men were no more than a background noise; for others they were a curiosity, a throwback to a bygone age.

A bygone age – that’s what their language represented! Yet, in the not so distant past, the story was somewhat different. In the past our nation had a sense of community that was perceived as rooted in God’s presence – we were a God-fearing people. It was often taken for granted, but what of it today? Where, today, has gone the talk of ‘repentance’, ‘sin’, or ‘salvation’? Where today is talk of ‘deliverance’? Today’s readings each speak of deliverance.

The parting of the Red Sea and the journey of the people out of slavery in Egypt is well known, though perhaps better so through the Hollywood film of it. Images from the film will have shaped what you see when you read this story. Much of what it shaped will not be accurate but, for today, the details are not what matters. What matters more is the intense drama as the people of God are liberated. They are set free not just from physical slavery, but from a mental one that held them back from being all that God had formed them to be. Indeed, it is not until the Exodus that the people really begin to be shaped as the children of God.

As the water is crossed the scene is set for the clash between the people on one side, and the power of Pharaoh and his army on the other. A desperate plea is raised to God that they be delivered from their impending doom. The message then comes to the people: “Do not be afraid …..” This is the same message that is repeated by God many times throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the same message that Jesus also brings to the disciples when they cower in fear after his crucifixion.

What is it that we are afraid of? A lot has been written about where these events took place. Was it the Gulf of Suez? The Gulf of Aqaba? The Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds? While this is interesting, ultimately it is not important to the message. What is clear is that this people is learning what it means to live with God’s presence. As their Exodus continues the pillars of cloud and fire become a symbol of God’s presence. Later this will develop through the Ark of the Covenant, and later again the Temple.

Most people in our communities have a limited understanding of the presence of God in their lives. They have grown up outside the community of faith in which that understanding can develop and be nurtured. So where does the church begin in growing a community of faith today? We need to begin by living primarily as a community of faith. Yes, we can provide community resources and facilities but those are not our primary purpose. We need to start living our lives as people who have been redeemed. We do not need to use the language of the street preachers we thought of earlier; neither do we need to follow their practices. Note that the favoured words of the street preachers are not found in our translations of the two readings for today. What we do need to do is witness.

Sharing our faith in our words can be a daunting, sometimes frightening, challenge yet it is one that we are called to face. We can have strength and confidence as we witness, for the same God who rescued the Israelites from slavery is the same one who also says to us, “do not be afraid … “
Amen.

Prayer

Everlasting God, Lord of compassion and gracious understanding, we come with an openness to express our concerns for the Church and the world, and to thank you, for your goodness.

Creator God, we pray for our world, where through television, we see the misery and tragedy brought about by wrong choices and brought into our home day by day. We pray for wisdom and compassion in all negotiations and decisions taken by our world and local leaders; and ask that there be humility in leadership and responsibility for right action shared by all and we particularly pray that this may apply to all things associated with the Pandemic.

Father God, help and guide our colleges and universities as they return for a new educational year, especially with all their concerns about the Coronavirus and how they will cope with social distancing but still be with one another and learn with and from one another. May their teachers inspire a love of learning for its own sake and kindle joy in all subjects and help them to grow into caring and knowledgeable adults.

Gracious God, we raise before you those from our community who are ill, hospitalised or recuperating and for those we know within our families and circle of friends.

Merciful God, give us ears to hear and minds to understand the message of immortality for the children of your kingdom so that we may look forward with patience and confidence to that time when we will join you in the peace of eternity.

Faithful God, forgive us for those times when we treat ourselves with less kindness than you do. We want to believe in ourselves the way you believe in us and so as we go out to live the coming week show us more of the life you have designed especially for us to live.

Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen

HYMN 161 O God, our help in ages past

Benediction
Go from our time of worship
in faith, hope, and love.
Go from our time of worship
knowing that He who made you watches over you.
Go from our time of worship,
knowing that He who watches over you will redeem you.
And may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
go with you now and evermore.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible
, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Opening prayer adapted from ‘Church of Scotland Weekly Worship’.
Prayer for the World adapted from Costa Blanca Anglican Chaplaincy