Material for Worship on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Today we probably would have had an all-age service to mark the end of the school year for members of our Young Church. In view of this, our Gospel reflection and prayer of response are adapted from the Roots resource which our families with children are using from Sunday to Sunday and we have contributions from Julia Shanks and Peter Owen. You may want to have a cup or glass of water before you as you join with me in worship this morning. Nerys

I wonder how many different things you could do with a cup of water? You could, of course, drink it, or rinse your fingers, or water a plant, make a cup of tea, cook some rice, wash a patch of floor… or if you were a member of Young Church you could go outside and have a water fight!

In this week’s little passage from Matthew’s Gospel (10.40-42), a cup of water becomes a symbol of hospitality – a cup of cold water for a hot, tired and dusty traveller. To be hospitable, to be welcoming, is to provide another person with the basics of food and shelter. But it’s far more than that. A simple glass of water is a way of saying to another human being that they matter, that we are glad to see them, that we enjoy their company. To be welcoming is not simply a matter of handing over material goods. When we open the doors of our homes, we open our hearts. We show someone that they are of value by being prepared to share something of ourselves. We make ourselves vulnerable, thereby creating relationships. And here in Matthew’s Gospel we are told that in welcoming other human beings we are welcoming God.

Listen to Peter reading a paraphrase of the passage from The Message.
The opposite of a welcoming atmosphere is a hostile environment. The British government’s policy of creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants proved disastrous for society. It created fear, encouraged suspicion, perpetuated divisions, and demonised vulnerable human beings. All in the hope that people would voluntarily leave this country. It cultivated not welcome but rejection. And by shutting ourselves off from other human beings, we risk shutting ourselves off from God.

In this time of Coronavirus, hospitality, like just about everything else, can’t quite be what it was. We haven’t been able to invite people into our homes or into our church. We can’t give them a hug or even a handshake. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be welcoming – the challenge is to find inventive ways of telling people that they matter, of sharing the basics of life, giving reassurance and comfort, and opening our hearts. Something as simple as phone call, a picture in the window to make people smile as they pass by, a few groceries for the Food Bank. For in each welcoming gesture, we welcome God.

Having started with a question, I will finish with two. I wonder how many ways you can think of to be hospitable this week? And how can we at St Mary’s be a welcoming, hospitable church at this time?

Prayer of response
To give a cup of water to a little one is not a lot to ask,
it only requires a few simple actions, little time, no cost.

Lord Jesus, give me the eyes to notice the thirsty around me,
behind closed doors,
on the streets,
in my family.

Give me the strength to turn off my lukewarm self-absorption
and to turn on the refreshing tap
of your compassion,
your generosity,
your cleansing.

Give me the daring to offer a cup of my treasure,
my vulnerability,
my heart,
to another.

And give me the courage to step out of myself,
to place that cup into the empty hands of another in need,
acknowledging my own need to reach out for your living water day by day. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession (please add names and situations known to you)
Heavenly Father, we pray for those in need:
the sick …
the grieving …
the lonely …

We pray for those who are afraid:
those awaiting test results …
those who are vulnerable …
those whose livelihoods are at risk …

We pray for those on the fringes of society:
those who feel rejected,
those who are overlooked,
those whom others avoid.

We pray for your Church here and across the world
for our youngsters and their families,
especially those who are leaving or changing schools,
and for our Young Church leaders.
Loving God, as you welcome us, may we welcome others with warmth and steadfast love. Amen.

Listen to Julia singing the Welcome Song that is used at the beginning of every Messy Church meeting at St Mary’s.

Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love fulfils the law. May we love you with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength, and may we love our neighbour as ourselves, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.