Material for Worship on the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today Nerys will be celebrating the Eucharist at 8.30 a.m. and leading the Evening Service while Jeanette will be preaching at the Morning Service. Here is Jeanette’s reflection on today’s readings followed by prayers written by Jayne Manfredi which were spotted by Sheila Redwood in the Church Times.

Today both our bible readings are about forgiveness, very different stories with the same theme. First we have Joseph’s brothers getting scared in case Joseph takes revenge on them now that their Father has died, as they cannot believe that he has really forgiven them for what they did to him when they sold him into Egypt.

Listen to Matthew reading Genesis 50:15-21. (Matthew is reading for the first time in church.)

Our Gospel story first tells us of Peter’s question to Jesus, “How many times should I forgive?” which results in Jesus telling the parable of the slave who although he had been forgiven refused to forgive a fellow slave.

Listen to Peter reading Matthew 18.21-35.

Our picture is Sieger Köder’s depiction of the Return of the Prodigal, a powerful picture showing strong emotions. That is our problem with forgiveness, it does evoke strong emotions, and it is not easy, either for the person forgiving or the person forgiven. Even harder when the person who has hurt us refuses to admit it or does not think they have done anything wrong. Yet Jesus puts forgiveness at the heart of our relationship with God. Every time we say the Lord’s prayer we pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” The one is dependent on the other. If we cannot forgive what other people do which hurts us, then we place ourselves in the position of not being able to receive forgiveness. There are times when that puts us between a rock and a hard place, for it is not easy to forgive when we feel really hurt by what someone has done to or said about us but that is what we are called to do, seventy seven times, effectively saying, don’t even bother to count, just keep doing it.

I think I find it harder sometimes to forgive someone who has harmed someone I care about; how dare they! I remember having a great deal of difficulty forgiving someone who’s ill treatment of a friend of mine resulted in them losing their job. I was furious, it was so unjust. She, bless her magnanimous heart, had forgiven them long before I managed to do so, though I did try!

One thing is for sure, forgiveness is not easy, and we can only find the strength to do it with God’s help. Remember we follow the Way of Jesus who prayed “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”, as they nailed him to the cross. That is the model we follow, after all the first disciples were called the followers of The Way, and we follow in their footsteps as we walk in the way of Jesus, and we too are called to forgive those who wrong us or mistreat us.
The flip side of all this is that we are not to become doormats either. We are not to let people just walk over us and what we stand for. We still need to stand up and work for good stewardship of the earth we have been given, and for justice and equality in our world. In the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu,

Goodness is stronger that evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, victory is ours
through him who loves us.

With God’s help we can do this, we can forgive and yet stand firm for the things we believe in – and we will!

As you pause to reflect, you may want to listen to Moira playing ‘As water to the thirsty’ by David Haas.

As water to the thirsty,
as beauty to the eyes,
as strength that follows weakness,
as truth instead of lies,
as songtime and springtime
and summertime to be,
so is my Lord,
my living Lord,
so is my Lord to me.

Like calm in place of clamour,
like peace that follows pain,
like meeting after parting,
like sunshine after rain,
like moonlight and starlight
and sunlight on the sea,
so is my Lord,
my living Lord,
so is my Lord to me.

As sleep that follows fever,
as gold instead of grey,
as freedom after bondage,
as sunrise to the day,
as home to the traveller
and all we long to see,
so is my Lord,
my living Lord,
so is my Lord to me.

Beatitudes for a Global Pandemic
Blessed are those who stay indoors for they have protected others.

Blessed are the unemployed and the self-employed, for their need of God is great.

Blessed are the corner shopkeepers, for they are the purveyors
of scarce things.

Blessed are the delivery drivers and the postal workers, for they
are the bringers of essential things.

Blessed are the hospital workers; the ambulance crews, the doctors, the nurses, the care assistants, and the cleaners, for they stand between us and the grave, and the Kingdom of Heaven is surely theirs.

Blessed are the checkout workers, for they have patience and fortitude in the face of overwork and frustration.

Blessed are the refuse collectors, for they will see God despite the mountains of waste.

Blessed are the teachers, for they remain steadfast and constant in disturbing times.

Blessed are the church workers; the deacons, priests and bishops, for they are a comforting presence in a hurting world as they continue to signpost towards God.

Blessed are the single parents, for they are coping alone with their responsibilities and there is no respite.

Blessed are those who are alone, for they are children of God and with Him they will never be lonely.

Blessed are the bereaved, for whom the worst has already happened. They shall be comforted.

Blessed are those who are isolated with their abusers, for one day – we pray – they will know safety.

Blessed are all during this time who have pure hearts; all who still hunger and thirst for justice; all who work for peace and who model mercy. May you know comfort. May you know calm. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all. Amen.