Sunday 14th June 2020

Call to Worship (Psalm 116: 1-2)
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

HYMN 124 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation

Prayers

Lord, who called all creation into being,
the earth, sea and sky are the work of your hands.
Your presence is all around us,
empowering the world your energy.
Your Holy Spirit gives life to all who follow
in the footsteps of Jesus.
You cause your people to seek out justice for the oppressed,
to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless,
and to bring your peace to a troubled world.

We bow before you in prayer once more
giving thanks for your love toward us.
We celebrate your presence among us;
in creation around us we see your works.
As your people we bring you our prayers,
of joy and praise, struggle and suffering.
You call us by name to come before you,
and to journey in your ways.

Lord, your love to us is always true,
and we are left needing to say sorry;
sorry for our faithlessness to you and to each other,
sorry for our forgetting of the poor and the broken-hearted,
sorry for our failure to care for creation.
Lord, give us life to enable us to change
that in changing we might truly live.

In your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer
restore and renew us,
refresh and enliven us,
in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Bible Readings:

Exodus 19:2-8a
They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’ So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’

Matthew 9:35-10:8
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

HYMN 544 When I need a neighbour

Reflection:

Sticks and stones may break my bones … but names will never hurt me!”
Do you remember that rhyme from your childhood? It was something we said at those who tried to upset us by calling us names. These weren’t just any old names but ones that were designed to hurt. Children are good at name calling. In part it’s an element of their coming to terms with the world, and seeking to understand the relationships in which they find themselves. It’s also about testing boundaries and exerting power or influence. Either way it’s not a good feeling to be on the end of it. The things is, though, did it actually work? Even as you recited that rhyme, I imagine that you were hurting even if you hid it well.

Of course, there are names which may be good ones to be called. These may be the names that come with family origins, or perhaps our given names. They may speak to us of our heritage within a people at large, or simply within our family group. Sometimes names are given because they have special meaning. This is something we see routinely in the words of the Bible. There people are often named in relation to events around the birth, or in connection with something God is believed to have done for the parents. Sometimes the Biblical name is something of a theological statement; at its root, ‘Jesus’ means ‘God saves’.

Names are important in the Bible and in the world in which it was written. In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel we find the names of the twelve disciples to be fully itemised. The names tell us something of the men behind them. Reading the Gospel with the benefit of hindsight we may even react in certain ways to some of the names. As in a pantomime you may want to ‘boo’ or ‘hiss’ when hearing or reading the name ‘Judas’. In our Exodus reading the names are not as immediately recognisable as in the Gospel, but they are there. When we read of ‘treasured’, or ‘priestly’, or ‘holy’ we are reading names, titles, that speak of being special. They are names that proclaim love, and belonging, and significance.

We often, naturally, recoil from the violence that is “sticks and stones”, but words can be violent too. Sadly there are still names and words that are in use that should belong to the pages of history. Events in recent weeks have reminded us that some people, and groups, are still called names with the intent of diminishing their humanity. Words that were in everyday use decades ago, and should be left there, are still to be found in use today. I mean terms such as ‘darkie’, ‘paki’, and ‘chinky’. These aren’t ethnic identifiers but words that are derogatory or pejorative in their use. To refer to someone with these words is seldom to mean that they are seen as equals; more often it is to see them as inferior. It is to look down upon someone from a position of assumed superiority. To look down on someone because of the colour of their skin is called ‘racism’. For Christians this kind of language, and the actions that often accompany it, are not acceptable. After all, we are all made in the image of God. As Saint Paul wrote to the Colossians, “ … there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” There are none who are superior or inferior.

Matthew’s Gospel says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were … like sheep without a shepherd.” Our dealings with all people, irrespective of skin colour, has to be founded on the model of Jesus and the early church. We need to follow their example. Although Jesus seems to have had few encounters with people of different racial or ethnic groups, each one led to healing or awakening. The church of the early apostles and disciples began to transcend traditional ethnic and racial boundaries. If we are to be Christ’s flock in this time and place we need to do likewise. We need to let Jesus be our shepherd, leading us into being fully human. Racism, whether it be overt or covert, deliberate or incidental, personal or cultural, is a stain on humanity. It should be history, something that is in the past and from which we can learn so as not to make the same bad choices again. There is no place for racism, in word or in action, in the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Prayers

You walked this world in Christ,
because you love your creation,
and so we dare to pray:
God send your spirit to renew the life of the earth.

Teach us how to connect the words of scripture
to the life of the world in which we live.
Teach us how to let the call of Jesus
overcome our resistance to respond,
Lord, send your spirit to renew the life of the world.

Lord, awaken the hearts of those in power
to the realities of those they govern.
Lord, challenge our arrogance and privilege
with the vulnerability of the poor,
Lord, send your spirit to renew the life of the earth.

Lord, open our eyes to the fragile state of the planet,
confronting those who carelessly misuse it.
Lord, let the pain of those who are hurting
give rise to caring hearts in us all.
Lord, send your spirit to renew the life of the earth.

Lord, close the gap between our belief and our action;
close the gap between our possibility and our potential;
close the gap between the truth and reality;
close the gap that the world may be whole.
Lord, send your spirit to renew the life of the earth.

Loving Lord, show us that all creation matters,
and that in you there is both hope and renewal.
Make us true disciples, that we may bring hope and healing,
to a world in need,
and to do so in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

HYMN 533 Will you come and follow me

Benediction

Go from this time of prayer and praise,
to walk in the paths of Him,
to whom creed and colour and name do not matter,
that you may bless the world by your presence.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Bible readings taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Prayers based on resources from the Iona Community.