Sunday 15th November 2020

Call to Worship and Opening Sentence

God who is the ground of hope, fill you with joy and peace as you lead the life of faith until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope.
(Romans 15:13)

HYMN 132 Immortal Invisible God only Wise

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

Loving God, thank you for bringing us together for worship today. Thank you for the beauty of this church and for all the people who have worshipped here over the years that makes this sanctuary a place where we can experience love, joy and peace.
God of all time and space,
You were with Your people of the Old and New Testament.
You are with us now.
You have promised to be with us until the end of time.
We give You thanks,
that in Your presence we are not alone.
Your love has held us from before we were born,.
Your grace has infiltrated our lives, never letting us go
Your hope leads us on, encouraging us to find You
in new and ever surprising ways.
We confess that sometimes we lose faith and trust.
We look at our lives and our world
and do not like what we see.
We are impatient, ungrateful and sometimes angry.
and we question the meaning of life.

In this time of worship,
remind us of Your promise never to forsake us.
Help us to trust Your promise that You will be with us.
Teach us again about your mighty power and your unfailing love.
In Jesus Christ, you revealed your salvation in all the world, which gives us confidence of the heavenly world to come.
Through your Holy Spirit, you give us love, joy and peace.

Keep us firm in faith, that we may serve and praise you all our days.
But gracious Lord, so often we fail to do and say what you have taught us to do and say, so forgive us for getting things wrong –
sometimes we know we are selfish or unhelpful to others, so hear us now as we pray to you in silence with penitent hearts as we seek your forgiveness

……. SILENCE

As we worship you again this day forgiving God, we gladly say together the prayer that your Son and our saviour taught us to say, by saying:

Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

Amen

Introduction to readings:
Our Old Testament Reading is from Judges 4: 1-7.

The book of Judges probably comes to us from a series of songs, poems and stories about the history of Israel and the ‘heroes of the faith’, known as the judges, one of whom is Deborah the Prophetess.

The book was probably written in about 550 BC when the Jews were in exile and covers the period between Joshua and King Saul that is about 1300 years to 1051BC

Very little is known about Deborah. However in today’s reading her role is to motivate Barak, the military leader of the Israelites, to attack a much stronger force led by a ‘superior-enemy’, Sisera. The passage reveals Deborah’s role and Barak wins the battle, against the odds.

The story lends itself to a consideration of what can be achieved with God’s help.

The gospel lesson is from Matthew 25: 14-30 and is the parable of the three servants, often known as the Parable of the Talents. It makes it clear that God expects us to use whatever talent and energy we have in His service.

The three servants had different talents, but they are expected to use them fruitfully and not waste that which has been given to them.

Let’s hear the Word of God now.

Judges 4: 1-7 (Good News Translation)

After Ehud died, the people of Israel sinned against the Lord again. So the Lord let them be conquered by Jabin, a Canaanite king who ruled in the city of Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived at Harosheth-of-the-Gentiles.Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots, and he ruled the people of Israel with cruelty and violence for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help.

Now Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet, and she was serving as a judge for the Israelites at that time.She would sit under a certain palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel would go there for her decisions.One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam from the city of Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given you this command: ‘Take ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them to Mount Tabor. I will bring Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to fight you at the Kishon River. He will have his chariots and soldiers, but I will give you victory over him.’”

New Testament Reading: Matthew 25: 14-30 The Parable of the Three Servants

“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to leave home on a trip; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property. He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave five thousand gold coins, to another he gave two thousand, and to another he gave one thousand. Then he left on his trip. The servant who had received five thousand coins went at once and invested his money and earned another five thousand. In the same way the servant who had received two thousand coins earned another two thousand.

But the servant who had received one thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.

The servant who had received five thousand coins came in and handed over the other five thousand. ‘You gave me five thousand coins, sir,’ he said. ‘Look! Here are another five thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’

Then the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, ‘You gave me two thousand coins, sir. Look! Here are another two thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’

Then the servant who had received one thousand coins came in and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not plant, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed. I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you.’ ‘You bad and lazy servant!’ his master said. ‘You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not plant, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed? Well, then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned. Now, take the money away from him and give it to the one who has ten thousand coins.

For to every person who has something, even more will be given, and he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him. As for this useless servant—throw him outside in the darkness; there he will cry and gnash his teeth.’

CH4 HYMN 502: Take my life, Lord, let it be

Reflection: Matthew 25: 14-30

I imagine many of you know the Parable of the Talents sometimes called the Parable of the Three Servants, but let’s recap on the story and see if God speaks to us afresh today.

A wealthy landowner is ready to go on a long journey. Before he left, he entrusted various amounts of money to his servants. He gave five thousand coins to one, two thousand to another, and one thousand to another – each according to his ability.

When the landowner returned from his travels, he called the servants to give an account of what they had done with the money. The first two put had invested wisely and as a result, they doubled the original investment.

The third buried his money in the ground. The landowner was furious: “At least you could have deposited in the bank where it would have gained interest,” he said.

In a fit of anger, he took back the one thousand coins and gave it to the servant who now had ten thousand coins. As for the one-thousand-coin man, the landowner told his servants to cast him into outer darkness, where men weep and gnash their teeth.

That’s the story, and the lesson that follows is sometimes summarised like this:
Use whatever talent you have, however much or little, to the best of your ability to the glory of God.

That is one of the messages of the Parable of the Talents. But let’s take a closer look at this one-thousand-coin man. He might be like you and me.

First, he didn’t do anything wrong.
In fact, knowing what we know about Jewish law in Jesus’ day, he did the most prudent thing he could do – he buried it in the ground because that was the safest option.

So, if he didn’t do anything wrong, is it not harsh that he was thrown into the darkness given that he acted responsibly in keeping with the custom of his day?
His failure was he wasted this opportunity – he had the opportunity to do something to make a difference, but he played it safe.
That’s the reason for the landowner’s condemnation – not that he did something wrong, but that he didn’t do anything at all.

Why not, – because of fear.

He was afraid of incurring the wrath of the landowner. Here’s what the servant said:

Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not plant, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed. I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground’ (verses 24 & 25a)

The servant was afraid of his master, and his fear led to the paralysis of mind. And so, the question that arises for us is: what are we afraid of?

Fear affects people of every age and walk of life.
What are you afraid of? What keeps you from taking a chance to make a positive difference to someone or to your church?

Are you afraid that, if you venture out of your comfort zone, all will go wrong? A lot of people are afraid of failure.
Surprisingly some people are afraid of success. Often a successful man or woman has less free time, less freedom, greater responsibilities and more stress.
A common fear is about our health. We fear getting sick or being diagnosed with a crippling, even terminal illness such as Covid 19.
There are lots of things – both real and imagined – to be afraid of.

The question is what are you afraid of? Naming your fears is the first step to overcoming them.

And the second step is turning your worries over to God.

The point is, with God on our side, we have nothing to fear.
We are free to live without worrying about failing in life because we have the assurance of God’s sustaining grace and love.In today’s Old Testament reading, Deborah tells Barak:

God will bring Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to fight you at the Kishon River. He will have his chariots and soldiers, but God will give you victory over him. (Judges 4: 7)

And that is what happened. The story lends itself to a consideration of what can be achieved with God’s help…. even when the odds are against you.

Food for thought for each of us at the personal level perhaps? What is God calling you to do?

But also consider this:

As a church family in this parish church, God has given you some very committed Christians with considerable talent and abilities. God has blessed you with assets and resources. God has given you the freedom to use them any way you see fit to build up this church family here and across our city and nation. And, if that weren’t enough, God has promised to be with you and watch over you.

What are you going to do with the talent, and resources in this church family?

Are we going to sit back and let the coronavirus pandemic overwhelm us and just let the church fade away?

We need new members, worshippers and supporters of our Parish Churches. How are we going to make these relationships?

Phoning people, meeting for coffee one to one, praying for them…. inviting them to coffee get-togethers and quizzes using computer conference facilities. It is indeed hard but not impossible when God helps us as he will surely do when we pray for his help.

The pandemic has given us the opportunity to restructure the church and grow our church families again……that is what the message of the Parable of the talents is about for us today.

Conclusion

Finding hope in Christ in the face of some very bleak situations can be a profound demonstration of God’s power against the odds. The fact that no matter what happens, we are not alone – we always have God with us…..and nothing can separate us from God:

Paul wrote in Romans 8:38 & 39

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So what are we afraid of in building up our church family again here and throughout our country?

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Loving Lord,
We thank you for our talents.
The gifts You have given us
The people You have made us.
Knowing that You accept us and love us,
even when we fail you.

Use our lives to build Your people.
Use Your people to build a better world
Use this world to show the beauty of life with You.

When we get complacent or downhearted
teach us to count our blessings.
When we count our blessings,
teach us to pray for those who need Your blessing.

We continue to pray for our church family.
For all who serve you faithfully here.
We pray for our minister Alex as he fulfils his many duties and ministry.
We pray for our elders and all the leaders of this church that they will continue to manage our finances, property and administration in these changing times.

We ask you to bless our offerings today and those given through the banking system to build up the church here and in the wider world.
May you encourage us all to be joyful givers of our time, talent and resources.

We give thanks for all our church family whether they read this service on-line or are here today. We pray for all those known to us in silence who need your comforting presence and healing power…Silence

We pray for people everywhere throughout your world.
So many people suffering the great loss of life from war, famine, strife and now from the coronavirus pandemic.
Bring the nations together to overcome all these problems
and give all people peace in their souls.

May our hearts and arms be opened to you and to one another.
May our imagination be filled with Spirit inspired creativity
To become the church, you mean us to be tomorrow
To become the church, you call us to be today.
To become the church, you have been planning to build since yesterday.

For these prayers and all the unspoken prayers of our hearts, we pray though your son and our saviour Jesus Christ,
Amen.

CH4 517: Fight the good fight with all your might

Benediction
Let us go from this place
with hearts that grow in hope,
with lives that shine Christ’s light.
Let us go to serve,
to reconcile, to bring peace,
and to stand united
as people of the light.

And now may the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

And the blessing of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you this day and evermore.

Amen

Acknowledgements:

Holy Bible, Good News Bible Translation
Church of Scotland weekly worship
The Gospel of Matthew – The Bible Speaks Today –
Michael Green/John Stott