Call to Worship (Psalm 145: 8-9)
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
HYMN 145 All creatures of our God and King
Worthy of praise from every mouth,
of love from ever heart,
of devotion of every mind,
are you, our God.
Through love you created the world,
and in compassion you redeemed it.
Heaven and earth are full of your praises;
all glory belongs to you.
All of heaven worships you.
God, our Father,
your power we cannot measure,
your wisdom passes our understanding,
your love is beyond all.
You have put eternity into our hearts,
and made us hunger and thirst for you.
Satisfy the longings you have implanted
that we may find you in life,
and find life in you.
you made us in your image,
to know you, to love you,
and to serve you.
Yet each day we fail to be what you call us to;
yet you are slow to be angry with us.
In the name of Jesus,
do not hold our sins against us,
May the Lord forgive us,
cleanse us, and heal us,
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Give us a mind forgetful of past ill-will
and a heart to love one another;
through Jesus Christ,
your Son, our Saviour
The Lord’s Prayer
Romans 7: 15-25a
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do– this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
‘To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the market-places and calling out to others:
‘“We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.’
At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
HYMN 251 I, the Lord of sea and sky
No win situation?
Please indulge me for a few moments as I share a story. The ship Kobayashi Maru lies adrift without power, and is in a neutral area between disputed zones. You are the captain of the nearest friendly ship and, on receiving a distress call, head off to the rescue. It’s a trap, the call being faked as the enemy lie in wait seeking some form of provocation to war. You, and your crew, are killed. That’s the scenario in the story and, no matter how it is played out, the outcome is the same. It’s a no win situation, but that’s the point. It’s meant to be a training test to see how you, as captain, cope with defeat and death. It’s a test of character. This story comes from Star Trek, where the only person to ‘pass’ the test was Captain Kirk who did so by cheating! That, however, is fiction, while we live in the real world. In our world, we have to face up to no win situations.
Our readings today both address no win situations. For Paul it’s both personal and internal. He wants to do the right thing yet always seems to end up doing the wrong thing instead. He doesn’t want to do the wrong thing, yet his nature means that he often does. The parable told by Jesus illustrates a no win situation due to the behaviours of others. No matter what the children do the crowd never join in the appropriate activity It’s as if they are standing back, critical of all that they observe, the children never being seen to do anything right. As if the parable wasn’t enough for his hearers, he then drives home the point by outlining their responses to both him and the Baptist. John had been a model of godly behaviour yet they accused him of being demon possessed. Jesus, however, met the outcasts of his community, and so was decried as a glutton and drunkard. It was a no win situation.
There are times when we find ourselves in such situations. Like Paul our struggle may be internal, or like Jesus it may be caused by others. Yet these challenges are not confined to our relationships with other folk, rather they may also take place within our spiritual lives. When these things happen we need to find hope to enable us to carry on and carry through the difficulty.
It is common to feel or believe that we are not living life as we should; it may even cause us to struggle with faith as we come to doubt our relationship with God. However Paul’s letter shows us that our behaviours and our relationship with God are not the same thing. Note that as Paul laments his apparent inability to do what is right he does not doubt his relationship with God. Rather, he is right with God because he trusts in God. Paul is reminding us that being right with God is a gift not something we have earned. This means that we can err yet still be right with God. We do get things wrong, making poor choices and carrying out wrong actions but if our desire is to do the right thing as we trust in God then we need not stress.
Our difficulties may also arise from our relationships with others. Like Jesus we sometimes find ourselves in situations that, no matter what we do, we will always be deemed to be in the wrong. It is a sad fact that this form of rejection may also arise from others who cannot, or choose not to, understand our faith in God. In these kinds of situations we are like the children in the parable. Yet note that the children are seen as being in the right. As the gospel reading moves on to the way John and Jesus were treated it becomes apparent that there are some who will just not engage but will choose to turn away. In each of these it is those who seek to live as God intends, those who trust in God, who are not judged or condemned.
We live in challenging times, even without the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We may find ourselves doubting our relationship with God, or ‘salvation’ as we may call it. Others may choose to reject us because of it. Yet as we continue to strive for a godly life we will find ourselves in good company, such as St. Paul. Look back at our two readings and see if you find yourself reflected there. We need to learn to have a little compassion for ourselves just as we do for others. We all fall short of the standards to which God calls us. However our relationship with him, our salvation, is based on trust and faith through love; it is not based on degrees or moral perfection or understanding. Let us try to remember that. Let us try to live in that. Amen.
you care for all your children;
you know us, hear us, and see each need.
Give peace to those who call upon you,
and welcome us into your presence.
Empower your Church around the world.
Strengthen your people in the truth,
inspire them with your love,
and give them joy in your service.
Guide those who rule over us
that they may fulfil their service
for the wellbeing of all the people
and the glory of your name.
Bless the whole world with peace.
Nurture in all people the love of peace;
give wisdom to the leaders of the nations,
that your kingdom may advance
until the earth be filled with your love and justice.
Be with all who are in trouble or pain.
Comfort those who are sick;
give peace to those who are dying;
comfort those who mourn;
refresh those who are in need.
And be near to those whom now we name …..
in you may we find mercy and joy.
We thank you for your people
of every age and place,
who shared your good news,
built our places of worship,
and who kept the faith.
Inspire us by their example,
and bring us to join with them
in glory everlasting.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
HYMN 396 And can it be
Let us go in peace and serve the Lord.
And may the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be with us all,
Acknowledgements: Scripture readings taken from Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.