Online Sunday Service – 26th July 2020

26 July 2020

ONLINE SERVICE

 

Please find this week’s Sunday service copied below should you wish to read it. I extend my usual weekly invitation for a cup of tea or coffee, a comfortable chair and a time of peace and quiet to relax and read today’s message.

I know that not every message touches everyone every week.  Some weeks you might feel a particular service is meant just for you – and maybe not so on other weeks. That’s okay – someone else will be finding that week helpful for them. But either way, I hope that you will gain something from simply relaxing, reading God’s word and absorbing the prayers – you may get more from it than you think.

 

 

Good morning folks, I hope this finds you well.

How has your week been? Not too stressful, I hope.

As I mentioned on my Midweek Meditation, taking time, MAKING time to chill out is important. Recharging our batteries, counting our blessings, are necessary if we are to keep healthy and well.

 

Our Lesson for today is about appreciating and giving thanks what we have been blessed with.

 

But before that – let us pray ~

 

 

PRAYER

 

Living God,

we have come together to worship you, to meet here with our families and friends – and we come, in love and humility – to worship you – our great and glorious God.

But we come, not simply because we feel we should do, nor because it is expected of us, but because we want to praise you.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

 

Help us to bring you our heartfelt worship -to reflect on you and not ourselves, to think about your love rather than our problems, to seek your will for us rather than our expectations of you.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Help us to draw close to you, rejoicing in your presence, receiving your love, reviving our faith.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Help us to put aside everything that comes between us -our foolish deeds, our trivial concerns, our unpleasant ways.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Living God,

there is so much in our lives that is not as it should be, not as it could be, and not as it would be if only we walked more closely with you.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Forgive us the unkind words, thoughtless actions, and unworthy thoughts, that deny our faith.

 

Forgive us the self-centred lifestyles, half-hearted commitment, and careless discipleship, that undermine our witness.

 

Forgive us the lack of devotion, lack of faith, and lack of love, that demean your name.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Living God,

As we pray in the name of Christ, assure us, as we worship you, of the forgiveness, the guidance, the love, and the life you offer through him.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Hear us now Listening Lord – as we bring to you our own personal prayer of confession – things we may have said, thought or done which we know is not in accordance with your ways – and we ask for your forgiveness Father.

Hear now – our prayer –

……..is there something that you wish to be forgiven?………… for………..hand it over to God by apologizing from the heart – and you will be forgiven…………God hears your words………….   

 

So may we worship you not just through our words but in our lives, not merely now but always, not simply here but everywhere.

 

Hear our prayer dear Lord – and hear us now as we pray the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the  Lord’s prayer –

 

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.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.

 

Our 2 Readings this morning are ~

 

Deuteronomy 21 : 15 – 21  &   Luke 15 : 11 – 32

 

Our O.T. Reading is part of the Judaic law which lays out the entitlements and birth rights of the sons, when the Father passes away. It seems old fashioned and not how we would deal with things today – but of course, we are talking about many centuries ago.

And our N.T. Reading is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Another well know Parable, but there is so much more to this story than meets the eye…..

 

Let’s read them now ~

 

Deuteronomy 21 : 15 – 21New International Version (NIV)

 

The Right of the Firstborn

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

And ~

 

Luke 15 : 11 – 32 from the New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus told this Parable : “There was a man who had two sons.12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything, so he has to eat the pig food.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.27 ‘Your brother has come home,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes and wild living comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.’”

Amen.

This is the Word of the Lord thanks be to God.

 

SERMON

Today we look at another very well know story – the Parable of the ‘Lost Son’ – sometimes called the Parable of ‘the Prodigal Son.’

It’s a well known story – we may have heard it many times before – but today I would like us to look a wee bit deeper to see what we may have missed previously.

 

And to understand it – we must take a look at the culture in which this story was told.

 

It’s a story which, at first, we might struggle to understand.

How can this wild youth who disrespected his father – be so lovingly welcomed home – while the loyal brother who stayed at home and worked the farm?

 

And to be fair – the early listeners of Palestine would have struggled with it too.

 

Ask any Palestinian what they think of this story and their reaction would be – “It would never happen ! – no son would dream of asking for his share of his inheritance – it would be like saying “dad, I wish you were dead, so I could get your money !!”   Which makes this narrative all the more intriguing.

 

So – what  is his Parable all about?

 

Well – first – let’s remember  – as I explained last week – this is a Parable – a story within a story, so we know that it has a deeper meaning.

 

So let’s have a look to see what it is saying to us, today –

 

We are clearly dealing with a rebellious young man who showed no respect for his father or his traditions…. And sadly, there are many, aye too many – like that in our society today.

 

We heard in our reading from Deuteronomy that the older son gets a double share – meaning two-thirds of his fathers estate – while the younger son gets a third…..

 

And so – this young rebel was looking for a third of his fathers estate…… which he could convert it into cash and live an independent life – ‘doing his own thing’.

 

But of course, it didn’t turn out too well for him……he lived a wild life – and was now paying the price for his waywardness.

*

We know that Jews regard the pig as an unclean animal – not only would they not eat one – but were not allowed to even touch one.

So for this young Jewish boy to stoop to actually feeding pigs and eating the food that they had touched – was to be degraded beyond belief – He really had, sunk to the lowest depths.

 

And so we see that when things were about as bad as they could possibly get – that he turned to his father – and his father did not reject him.

 

For many of us – it is at times when we are at our lowest – when life seems at it’s worst – that we turn to God, our Father – for comfort and help. And like this boy’s father – He does not turn us away – but welcomes us with open arms.

 

“That which has been lost – has been found”

 

And this is the usual interpretation of this parable ~

God – the Father – welcomes us all – as wayward as we may be – and rejoices as we turn from our sinful ways and return to him – asking for his forgiveness – He too welcomes us with open arms.

 

And while that is the major theme of this story,   I believe that this story has another important lesson for us –

 

And it’s found when we realize that this Parable is not just about one son – but two.

Perhaps it should be called “The Parable of the 2 Sons.”

 

The younger one who ‘goes off the rails’ and is reunited with his father and given a great party –

 

While the older brother – who, let’s not forget – “worked hard for years and never once disobeyed his father’s orders” – seems to be treated rather harshly by his father – after all – should loyalty not be rewarded too ?

 

Again – if we look at the culture in which this story was set – we learn that at every big family party – it was the elder son’s duty to act as head waiter.

So – by refusing to take part in the festivities – he was not only dishonouring his brother – but his father and his culture too.

 

His anger – his emotions – his ‘self righteousness’ had stopped him from doing what was the right thing to do.

 

But even here – we see the father coming out and pleading with the older son to come and join in the party in honour of his young brother, but he refused.

So, twice in one day – the father had held out his hand to a son – but only one had gratefully accepted it – the other (the elder) rejected it.

 

In these 2 sons – we see reflected, 2 types of people.

 

Those who are far from perfect – and can recognise their failings – yet come to God and ask for His forgiveness.

(Typified by the younger Son).

 

And those who are far from perfect – but cannot see it….. and so lose out on the blessings of God – because of their own stubbornness and failure to appreciate what they have been blessed with.    (Typified by the older son).

 

God the Father does not reward arrogance and intransigence.

But He does reward genuine humility and sincere repentance.

 

But you know – I think that these two sons – are also a representative of one person – ourselves – you and I – all people.

 

Showing the two sides of our own human nature,

 

One – impulsive and frivolous at times.

 

The other – inflexible and set in our ways.

 

If you don’t recognise yourself in any of these descriptions – may I ask you to give it some more thought….. I can see myself in there – and so, I think, will most of us.

 

There’s story about a man who was beginning to fall into a life of sin and was finding it increasingly difficult to fight temptation.

 

It bothered his conscience so went to see his doctor. “can you give me something that will help ?” He said to the doctor.. “oh, you want me to give you something to  strengthen your will power, do you ??” Said the doctor….

Oh no !” said the man – “I want you give me something to weaken my conscience !!”

 

*

And so  – this parable is not just about a young man who goes of the track and is re-united with a nice dad –  it’s about much more than that – as we have seen.

 

This parable tells us that we are all accepted, loved and precious to God – and we can all live in harmony as God’s family – no matter our background or upbringing – or personal circumstance.

 

He loves the Nationalist as well as the Conservative (honestly!) Labour or Green (yes!) – Black lives matter to Him as do White and any other colour of human being.

 

Because, you see, we are ALL His beloved children – it is we, in our limited, human ways, who make differences between ourselves.

 

We choose who we like, love and care for.

Whereas our heavenly Father – loves us all, without fear or favour.

 

A powerful lesson for humankind.

 

He doesn’t concern himself with our petty squabbles, the way we divide ourselves through race, political persuasion, colour or creed.

 

God loves us – simply because we are all his children, all “made in His own image.”

“Love others as I love you” the Bible tells us, aye but do we?

 

The Bible also tells us that no-one is guaranteed a place in heaven – just because of long service or loyalty to the church.

 

Selling lots of Tombola tickets or making delicious scones will not assure you a place  in the hereafter. (Mind you it might give you a few extra Brownie points with the Minister!J)

 

It’s the love and humility in your heart, your acceptance of God’s precious Son – the heartfelt love for one another that will get us into heaven.

 

Everything the 2 sons had – was due to the generosity of the father – but they didn’t appreciate it…

 

Do we – I wonder – appreciate how much our Father loves us and all that He has done for us?

 

Do we – I wonder – appreciate just how everything we have – however much or however little – is due to the Father’s generosity ?

 

Or do we just take it all for granted?

 

This story talks of God’s pure unbounded love for us – for you and for me – but it also leads us to consider – our love for Him – and therein lies the very heart of this parable……….

 

Because, you see – it’s not just about how much God the Father loves us – but how much we love Him!

 

Perhaps you might like to read this parable again sometime this week and then give it some thought for yourself ?………….

*

So, which Son are you most like ? – And if you are anything like me – perhaps you’ll see that we all have a bit of both in us..

 

But be absolutely sure  – absolutely sure – that  you are precious and treasured by your Heavenly Father – He knows your name – your faults and failings – mine to – and He still loves us so very much.

 

How blessed we are!

 

Amen.

And may God bless this preaching of his Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.

 

PRAYER –

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

Heavenly Father,

You sent us your Son

To make all things new;

We have, in your Spirit,

A new relationship with you,

A new way of seeing,

a new way of life.

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

With new eyes we look

At the world around us

And see the old ways re-enacted

Time after time after time:

The tyranny of the powerful;

The greed of the wealthy;

Injustice, cruelty and aggression.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

But we also see

God’s Spirit at work,

Disturbing the dirt of ages,

Challenging, stirring people up;

And we pray

For that new, clean world

To which he calls us on,

Where lands are ruled with wisdom,

Justice and mercy and compassion;

Where honesty lays open

The thoughts of those in power.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

With new eyes we look

At the faces of the people of the world

And we see those age-old expressions

That haunt humankind:

The gaunt, listless look

Of the lost, hungry, child;

The lines of pain and suffering

On the faces of the sick;

The startled, nervous twitching

Of the victim of a disaster;

The contortions of grief and anguish

In the features of the bereaved.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

But we also see

God’s Spirit at work,

Bringing new hope into tired despair,

Feeding, comforting, healing,

Giving strength and peace.

And we pray

For a newer, greater concern

For the suffering of the world;

For a search for better priorities

In the use of our resources and love;

For new reasons to smile

And new causes for laughter.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

With new eyes we look

At ourselves, at the church

And see ourselves clinging

To the pillars of the past,

Afraid of where we will find God

In this fast changing age;

Fearfully hiding behind

Our traditions and worship,

Nervous of that new life

That is the life of faith in Christ,

Lived in union with one another.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

But we also see

God’s Spirit at work,

Constantly surprising us

With the beauty of old truths

Revealed in new ways.

 

And we pray

That through us, God’s church,

Breathed into life by his Spirit,

Others may hear the Gospel Word

As disturbing, fresh and new,

That together we may walk in hope

Towards the unseen paths of tomorrow.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

And be with us now as we sit together, each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayer for those we know and love – and for those we OUGHT to love … be with us Lord in the peace of our silence …………

 

Hear our prayers for we pray in Jesus’ name.

Amen

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

There’s a story about a church who were enjoying a summer fete in the lovely gardens of the church grounds.

 

It was in the ‘better’ side of town – and as they sipped their tea from beautiful china cups – they admired the great spread of  lovely food which was laid out for them on wooden trestle tables.

The sun shone and the congregation were enjoying themselves as they chatted and nibbled away at the scones and lovely cakes.

 

But then, a scruffy looking man, much in need of a wash and some fresh clothes – entered the church garden and made his way over to the table. His mouth watered as he spied all the  tasty food on offer.

 

He was obviously very hungry for he crammed two cakes in his mouth at once – and he began to fill his pockets with food.

 

The members of the congregation stood, horrified – and looked over to the Minister, mouthing “DO SOMETHING!”

 

The Minister went over and spoke to the man.

He then looked under the table and took out some empty boxes and began to fill the boxes with food, gave them to the man who thanked the Minister and then walked away smiling.

 

The onlookers stood in shock as the Minister walked over to them and said –

 

“That IS what you meant, wasn’t it!?”

*

There are those who are blessed but rarely give thanks to God the Father.

And there are those who have so little – yet give heartfelt thanks for every small blessing that they receive.

The question is – which one are you?

 

Something for us all to think about.

Amen.

 

BLESSING

Whoever you are, wherever you go, whatever your strengths, whatever your weaknesses, be assured that God will be with you, to hold, and to heal, to guide and to bless.

 

Go, then, in peace – assured of his love.

 

And may the Blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you love – and ought to love – this day and every day.

 

Amen.

Take care and May God Bless you

And those who you love.

*

Be sure to see my ‘Midweek Meditation’ which is  posted online every Wednesday Morning.

*

Keep safe