Material for Worship on the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today Revd Jeanette Allan is celebrating the eucharist in church at 8.30 a.m. today and the Ven. Peter Potter is taking the Morning and Night Services while Nerys is away. Here is Peter’s reflection for today followed by a framework for intercession.

‘Eat out to help out’ seems to have been a success. I’m sure that offering a discount on take-away meals would not have had the same effect. Perhaps this thought helps explain the excitement and emotion that accompanied last Sunday’s resumption of services at St Mary’s. Live-streaming and the other technologies are all very well, but everyone I’ve met agrees that they’re not the same. Eating at home feeds the body of course but it does not provide the experience of eating out. In the same way, prayer at home is vital for our spiritual health but it cannot be a substitute for worship in church.

Worship is not ‘the flight of the alone to the Alone’, to quote Plotinus, a pagan philosopher. It is a shared experience that requires an ekklesia, the Greek word used in today’s Gospel reading for ‘church’. It signifies a congregation or gathering rather than a building, although you can’t really have the one without the other. Matthew 8.15-20 is part of a section on how the members of the church should behave towards each other and the passage from Romans 13 broadens this out into our conduct in general. We’ve all heard the argument “I can just as easily worship God at home on my own” but, as these last months have shown us, this individualistic attitude is not sustainable. From the very beginning the Bible stresses the importance of community and mutual responsibility: ‘It is not good for man to be alone’. (By the way, in Hebrew this sentence is gender inclusive.)

Listen to Mary and Anthony reading the passages: Romans 13.8-14; Matthew 8.15-20

People are sometimes put off from church because, they say, they don’t get anything out of the services. Well, yes, a service can sometimes fall flat and clergy do have off-days – Guilty as charged m’lud. But that is not the point. Worship involves the offering of each of us to God and God’s offering of himself to us. It is a two-way street, as the language of the liturgy makes clear. We speak about us and you/thee. We say ‘Our Father’, not ‘My Father’.

Some people who don’t go to church also argue that God must be like an oriental despot who requires his subjects to fall down and praise or flatter him. But that is easily countered once we realise the two-way nature of worship. By his presence in worship God not only accepts our praises but also ascribes worth to us. We can take this further. With its elements of mutual forgiveness, healing, peace and sharing, the gathering for worship is a model, a vision of the kind of community for which God created us.

This is a rather roundabout way of saying that worship gives us a vision of God’s kingdom, a trailer for the main picture if you like. Our weekly celebration reinforces this pattern, so that we can put it into practice in our daily life.

You are invited to sing or follow the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn and use it a prayer. Here is David playing the tune.

Jesus, Lord, we look to thee,
let us in thy name agree:
show thyself the Prince of peace;
bid our strife for ever cease.

Make us of one heart and mind,
gentle, pitiful, and kind,
lowly, meek in thought and word,
altogether like our Lord.

Let us for each other care,
each the other’s burdens bear;
to thy church the pattern give,
show how true believers live.

Free from anger and from pride,
let us thus in God abide;
all the depths of love express,
all the heights of holiness.
Charles Wesley

For intercession:
• the Church, that is all who gather for worship wherever they are
• all who would come to join in worship but are prevented from doing so for whatever reason
• the clergy and others who lead worship
• wisdom to know how we can best ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord’
• students returning or starting at universities and colleges
• Belarus, the USA, Yemen and other trouble spots in the world
• people who have been made redundant or whose jobs are at risk