October 3rd, 19th Sunday After Pentecost

A downloadable version of this page is available for anyone who would like to save or print it out.

The Faith Nurture Forum would like to thank Rev Howard Hudson, Minister of Glasgow Bridgeton St Francis in the East, for his thoughts on the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

Weekly Worship, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, is for everyone – in any capacity – who is involved in creating and leading worship.

It provides liturgical material that can be used for worship in all settings. Our writers are asked to share their approaches to creating and delivering this material to equip leaders with a greater confidence and ability to reflect on their own worship practice and experience and encourage them to consider how this material might be adapted for their own context.

We would encourage continual reflection on the changing patterns of worship and spiritual practice that are emerging from disruption and how this might help identify pathways towards development and worship renewal.

We may not all be gathered in the same building, but at this time, when we need each other so much, we are invited to worship together, from where we are – knowing that God can hear us all and can blend even distant voices into one song of worship.

Introduction

October is a month with a particular focus on tackling poverty. Sunday 17 October is the United Nations' International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and 4-10 October is Challenge Poverty Week. The resources for the first four Sundays in October have been written by Priority Area congregations. You will also find more Challenge Poverty Week resources on the Priority Areas Facebook page, including videos, prayer memes and links to webinars being held throughout October, with a particular focus this year on poverty and the climate crisis. We would encourage you to share these with your congregation as a way of highlighting how the church is engaging in anti-poverty work at a local level.

Since the early 1990s the Church of Scotland has placed a priority on putting resources into the most deprived communities. However, while there is great work happening in Priority Area congregations (those in the 5% most deprived parishes), it is important to recognise that the priority for the poorest and the most marginalised is the gospel imperative facing the whole church.

During this month we are asking every congregation in the country to look at poverty in their own community. Every parish will contain people who are in poverty, even if some of it is hidden. "Deprivation Stats" have been produced to show this for every parish, and new expanded versions of these will be launched in October, including maps showing relative deprivation in your parish and its neighbours​. These can be found via the Church Finder on the Church of Scotland website and we would encourage you to use these as a conversation starter with your congregation or Kirk Session.

I have to admit that I don't usually use the lectionary but tend to take a series of services through a bit of the Bible or on a theme. However, when I am taking a service in a church which does use the lectionary, I first look at the Bible readings prayerfully to see if any theme(s) stand out. Looking at these Bible readings the overall theme that stands out for me is "People Matter", which is so appropriate for the start of Challenge Poverty Week. For sadly all too often poverty can diminish the dignity and value of people so that they are looked down on, misunderstood or ignored, sadly even by those who should know better in the church.

I have decided to use the alternative lectionary readings of Genesis 2:18-24 and Psalm 8 as I think that they tie in better with the other Bible readings and the overall theme of: "People Matter".

Genesis 2:18-24

Two subthemes in this foundational Bible text are surely "Women Matter" and "Marriage Matters". And what a corrective to so many people's views both in Bible times and in today's world.

At the beginning of some traditional daily morning prayers you could find this blessing: "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not created me a woman." Sadly even today women can be viewed as inferior to men. For instance, how often are the lowest paid jobs for women? And even at times women are paid less than men for doing the same job? But this text shows how God sees women as equal partners with men, and that men and women need each other and need to value and appreciate each other. If that's how God sees this, so should we!

Verse 24 follows on from this to say that for God "Marriage Matters". This cuts through how so many people view marriage today, treating it so lightly, or as irrelevant, or having no time for it at all. How different from God, who sees marriage as a creation ordinance, part of the foundations that from the beginning God has set in place for the good of humanity because "People Matter".

Oh how we need to value marriage as God values it. Sadly though all too often people, including in Priority Areas, think that you need to spend thousands of pounds on a wedding if you are to be properly married. So over the years people have said to me that they can't get married because they can't afford it. Also, I can think of at least one marriage I took that broke up years before the couple had paid up the wedding. But one of the happiest weddings I took was of an older couple who started coming along to our PALS group (People Are Lonely Sometimes). They couldn't afford an expensive wedding, so I married them in our church for no cost. The people who came to PALS were the guests; one of them took the wedding photographs and after the wedding we went downstairs to our hall for something to eat. The total cost of all this was minimal, but it meant a lot to the happy couple, who remained married till death did them part. Yes, we need to value marriage as God values it, not in terms of how much people pay for a big, fancy wedding, but instead realising that people and relationships matter more than things and money.

Of course, we have to be sensitive as to how we talk about marriage. For God makes it clear in the Bible that not all will marry and so we must not talk about these things in a way that makes people who are single feel that they are inferior to those who are married, because they are not. They matter as much to God, and so should to us, as those who are married.

Psalm 8

What a wonderful psalm this is, inspiring the first two verses of that great Russian hymn, "How great Thou art!" It speaks of the majesty, sovereignty and greatness of God, and how we need to open our eyes to see the greatness of God in creation. As we realise that God created all, what does that tells us of God?

The more we realise the majesty and sovereignty and greatness of God, the more amazing it is that such a God cares for us and has made human beings only a little lower than God, crowning them with glory and honour, calling us to be co-stewards of creation with God. Human beings matter to God, who views us highly, giving us dignity. This is how God calls us to view and treat our fellow human beings. How sad that so often we don't.

How often we use and abuse our fellow human beings and God's creation. Many from an early age have been treated terribly. I spoke to someone whose mother had no interest in her from birth except for training her at the age of three to be a shoplifter. Unwanted, abused, in and out of court all her life she was afraid of what might happen to her. In the conversation that ensued, I found myself saying to her that Jesus died for her on the cross. To which she replied, "Jesus couldn't have died for someone like me!" But eventually she realised that He had, and it blew her mind! Written off by most people throughout her life, she realised that she had not been written off by God. She turned and trusted Jesus, finding that she was valued and cared for by God, that she had a dignity that she had never known just as this psalm speaks of. If, as this psalm tells us, that's how God treats people, then so should we, writing no one off, but caring for them and treating them with the dignity God has given them, because "People Matter".

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

Inspired by Psalm 8, this text reminds us that God values human beings so much that God became a human being through the Son, Jesus, to do all that was needed to enable those who entrust themselves to Jesus to be forgiven and cleansed from their sins. How amazing, that God did all this so that we who trust ourselves to Jesus can end up sharing in His glory in heaven for ever as family, as His brothers and sisters with God the Father as our Father. As David Peterson comments on this passage in the New Bible Commentary – 21st Century Edition, "The Son had to share our humanity, to suffer and die, so that we might share in His glory." People matter so much to God that God has even done all that in Jesus.

But this letter was written to Christians who were suffering for their faith and being tempted to give up. In Priority Areas there tend to be fewer Christians and they can often face ridicule from those around them for going to church. So one of the themes of this letter, which is first introduced in 2:9, is the theme of suffering, reminding us that Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and so knows what we are going through and can help us as we share it all with Him.

Not only that, here as elsewhere in the Bible, the certainty that those who trust themselves to Jesus will end up sharing in His glory in heaven is stated not so that we have a ‘pie in the sky' mentality, but to spur us on to keep trusting and obeying Jesus now.

And finally, especially to the African members of my congregation, this understanding of church as God's family is so important and something we need to take far more seriously. Do we treat our fellow Christians as family, as brothers and sisters? Do we support and help each other as a good family does? This is immensely important to members of our congregation rejected by their family or who quite literally do not have any family other than their church family. It is once again part of living out the theme that "People Matter".

Mark 10:2-16

From the beginning of the first century AD there was a great debate amongst Pharisees as to what were lawful grounds for divorce according to Deuteronomy 24:1. According to Shammai and his followers it was adultery, whereas Hillel and his followers said it was anything which caused annoyance or embarrassment to the husband, even including his wife burning his toast! This seems to be the background to verses 2-12.

When asked His view on this, Jesus takes them back to Genesis 2: 24, which He clearly sees as the foundational text on marriage. Jesus stresses that marriage matters, and women matter – wives are not to be discarded for the flimsiest of reasons. Jesus doesn't just say this: the way He treats women in the gospels shows that women matter too. Does the way we treat others as well as our words to others, show that they matter to us? And do we hold as high a view of marriage as Jesus clearly does?

In verses 13-16 Jesus goes on to stress that children matter too, having no time for His disciples treating them as if they were of no importance. Jesus takes the opportunity to point out that coming to Him with a childlike (not a childish) faith is the key to receiving the greatest blessing anyone can receive, before fervently blessing these children (which is what the Greek word used here for "blessed" means). Again not only by His words, but also by His actions, Jesus makes clear that children matter.

How much do babies, children and young people matter to us? I remember a young girl who came to a Youth Club when I was the leader there. Everyone, including her parents and teachers, told her that she was useless – and she believed them! Then one day our arts worker, noticed that this girl kept drawing cartoons on bits of paper. The arts worker made a large grid on a bare wall in the arts room and then helped the girl to transfer one of the cartoons she had drawn onto the grid covering the whole wall. Over the following weeks this girl painted in the outline until her cartoon was there in full colour permanently on the art room wall. The difference made to that young girl's view of herself was totally transformational. How do we treat children and young people in our church and community – like the disciples, or like Jesus in today's Bible reading?

Sermon ideas

In your sermon, Bible study or however you engage together with scripture, do you use questions? Jesus often uses questions to challenge people. So at the start of this year's Challenge Poverty Week it may be appropriate to use questions like:

  • What do our values suggest is more important – money or people?
  • How do we view people who are poorer/richer than us?
  • How do we treat people who are poorer/richer than us?

And when asking questions like that, it's important that we don't just ask how do we as individuals…., but also how do we as a church….. and how do we as a community….. And beware of letting people think that we do better than, in fact, we do!

How we really value and treat people in our nation who are poorer than ourselves often needs to be challenged. I grew up in suburban Glasgow and then for the last forty years have been ministering in the Inner East End of Glasgow, first as leader of Calton Youth Club and assistant minister of Calton New with St. Andrews, and then as minister of Bridgeton, St. Francis-in-the-East and convener of Church House, Bridgeton. This is one of the poorest areas in Scotland and I am aware that all too often people in more affluent areas of Glasgow can have wrong ideas, thoughts, and understandings of people in poorer parts of Glasgow, and vice versa.

These misconceptions and stereotypes can also be present in our church as well, not only in Glasgow, but also more widely in the Church of Scotland. How do we ensure that stereotypes such as, "people looking for a job aren't really interested in working but just being able to show the DWP that they had at least looked for work so that they could continue to get their benefits", do not shape our understanding of others. Even the notion that "That may be true of some of them, but not all of them!" is pejorative and difficult.

How do we as the Church of Scotland and as the General Assembly ensure things like our M&M system are equitable and just, and do not benefit richer churches at the expense of the poorer churches?

Here is one possible sermon outline:

Introduction

What do our values suggest is more important – money or people?

In reflecting on what we say and do, what seems to be of more importance to us/our church/our community – money or people?

How do we view people who are poorer/richer than us?

How do we treat people who are poorer/richer than us?

How does God view and treat people? How does this compare with our values?

People Matter

Psalm 8 and Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 speak of the value and dignity God gives all human beings in contrast to how some, particularly poorer people, are treated today. If that's how God treats people, so should we. The difference that can make.

Because all people matter to God, that includes:

  • Women – Genesis 2:15-24 and Mark2:2-12 speak of the contrast between Jesus/God's view and how some women even in Scotland are still treated today. As followers of Jesus, how should we respond?
  • Marriage – Genesis 2: 24 and Mark 10:2-12 speak of the contrast between Jesus/God's view and how marriage is viewed and valued/undervalued today. As followers of Jesus, how do we view marriage?
  • Children – Mark 10:13-16 speaks of how the disciples and how Jesus saw and treated the children. Do we see and treat children and young people (including poorer children and young people) like the disciples, or like Jesus in today's Bible reading?

Conclusion

Today is the start of Challenge Poverty Week. Sadly all too often poverty can diminish the dignity and value of people so that they are looked down on, misunderstood or ignored. How will we as individuals, communities and as the, church treat people who are poorer than us?

Prayers

Opening prayer of adoration, confession and supplication (based on CH4 154)

O Lord our God, how great Thou art!
When we look up at the stars on a clear, dark night
and see the vastness of space
and realise You made and designed all that,
we see something of Your greatness and awesome power.

When we see the clear blue sky on a summer's day
and the bright sunshine showing everything in glorious technicolour
and realise You made and designed all of it,
we see something of Your greatness and awesome skill in creation.

When we see on the television nature programmes
highlighting the amazing variety of animals and environments
and realise You made and designed all that,
we see something of Your greatness and awesome skill in design.

And when we remember that You gave Your son,
Your nearest and dearest,
to die for us on the cross to take away our sin,
we see something of Your greatness and awesome love for us.

O Lord our God,
how great Thou art,
and how we praise You, worship and adore You!

We confess:
Although Your greatness and power and love can be seen all around us,
so often we don't see it.
So often we tend to see the bad rather than the good,
the negatives rather than the positives,
the problems rather than the way forward,
the things that pull us down rather than what lifts us up.

We can let out troubles, fears and doubts take over
and stop looking to You,
floundering in the dark
rather than walking in the light,
and being led and guided by You.

So often we can let life get on top of us
instead of sharing it all with You,
looking to You to lead us through it.

Sorry, Lord.
Forgive us.
Work in us by Your Holy Spirit.
Speak to us through Your word.
Open our up hearts and minds to You,
to who You are and to how great You are,
and to what You can do when we love You, trust You and follow You.

Meet with us now
and help us to know You with us
to know the difference that You make in our lives,
and to worship You and learn from You.

For we ask this for Your glory and praise.
Amen

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Our gracious God and loving heavenly Father,
we thank You that we matter to You
and that everyone matters to You so much
that You even gave Your son,
to become one of us and die for us.
You raised Him back to life to sit at Your right hand,
crowned with glory and honour,
so that all who trust themselves to Jesus,
can end up sharing in His glory in heaven for ever as Your family.
We thank You that in Jesus,
we see how much we matter to You.

When we think of these things,
what can we do but be amazed?
And gladly give You these offerings of our money and of ourselves,
asking that You use them to help others know how much they matter to You.

Loving Father,
we ask that You guide our feet
that we may walk in the footsteps of Your son Jesus.
We ask that You guide and council those
going through hard times
and struggling to find solutions.

Send them a Comforter.
Soften the ‘hardening hearts' of those in difficult relationships.
Help them to make the decisions that are right for them.
Where people are suffering injustice,
we cry out for wrongs to be righted and for there to be justice.

Bless all children and those who care for them.
For those suffering abuse – a place of safety
that they may know love.
For children in warzones – peace.
For those suffering hunger – food from Your great world's bounty.

And this Challenge Poverty Week
we pray that You would open people's eyes and hearts
to see that people matter, no matter how poor they are,
help us to treat them with dignity and respect,
valuing and appreciating them,
and playing our part to help people out of poverty
and build a fair and just society.

All this we ask in the name of Your Son Jesus,
who died for us that we may be forgiven our sins.
Amen

Alternative Material for Creation Time

With Christians around the world, we dedicate this month to a reflection on our often troubled relationship with the Earth.

This year EcoCongregation Scotland and the Joint Public Issues Team (Methodist, URC, UK Baptist and CofS) have worked together to provide a bank of valuable resources for congregations, in a variety of media, to facilitate ‘Creation Time' (also referred to as Creationtide or the Season of Creation).

After a year's postponement, the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November has become the stimulating backdrop to prayer and preaching in 2021, drawing together many churches and faith traditions. Under the harsh light of greater awareness of global crisis, the scriptures blossom with meaning and significance as resources for encouragement and reflection for congregations and communities throughout Scotland.

This is an exciting time to be church, and one which requires courage, faith and cheerfulness – perhaps even playfulness – as changing global conditions demand us to more profoundly and authentically dedicate ourselves to prayer and commit to action in light of the manifold green threads of the Bible, emerging like shoots of God's Word for today.

You can find resources as they are posted on the EcoCongregation Scotland website.

Creation Time themes from this week's lectionary readings

Job provides perhaps the most profound meditation on our place in a Creation, the management of which is God's agenda over and above our individual needs, which God is mindful of, nonetheless. Psalm 26 promotes shameless honesty about the good we do, which needs to be seen and not hidden. Genesis 2 prioritises the relationship between humans and others in the powerful giving of names to each creature. Psalm 8, the pre-eminent Creation Psalm, nonetheless needs to be read with care if we are to grasp our special responsibility as beings in the image and likeness of God. Hebrews 1 takes us into heady territory of global threat, and appropriate spiritual response. Mark 10 suggests the abusive relationship of humankind with the Earth is the result of our "hardness of heart". That's why we need to receive Christ's warnings "as a little child", rather than pretend that the so-called adult behaviour, which has done such damage, should in any way be the norm.

Musical suggestions

Our online music resource is on the Church of Scotland website; you can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship. You will also find playlists for this week and liturgical seasons and themes on the Weekly Worship and Inspire Me tabs.

You can find further musical suggestions for this week in a range of styles on the Songs for Sunday blog from Trinity College Glasgow.

  • CH4 4 – "How excellent in all the earth" – a version of Psalm 8
  • CH4 5 – "O Lord, our Lord, throughout the earth" – another version of Psalm 8
  • CH4 154 – "O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder" – the first 2 verses are based on Psalm 8
  • CH4 181 – "For the beauty of the earth"
  • CH4 253 – "Inspired by love and anger"
  • CH4 259 – "Beauty for brokenness"
  • CH4 265 – "Pray for a world where every child"
  • CH4 684 – "The Lord created families"
  • CH4 685 – "For everyone born, a place at the table"
  • Mission Praise 606 – "Soften my heart, Lord, soften my heart"
  • CH3 151/Junior Praise 63 God, who made the earth – suitable for a talk to the children about God's greatness in creation and love and care for us, using suitable pictures/photos, including of a cross and of a heart
  • Cheeky Pandas – "Oh Wow!" (Awesome God) (Music Video) – as above

Suggestions for hymns during Creation Time

Reflecting on our worship practice

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the way we worship has changed and we need to reflect on the changing or newly established patterns that emerged and continue to emerge as a result of the disruption.

We can facilitate worship for all by exploring imaginative approaches to inclusion, participation and our use of technologies in ways that suit our contexts. This is not an exhaustive list, but some things we could consider are:

  • Framing various parts of the worship service in accessible language to help worshippers understand the character and purpose of each part. This is essential for creating worship for all (intergenerational worship) that reflects your community of faith.
  • Holding spaces for reflection and encouraging prayer to be articulated in verbal and non-verbal ways, individually and in online breakout rooms
  • In online formats the effective use of the chat function and microphone settings encourages active participation in prayer, e.g. saying the Lord's Prayer together unmuted, in a moment of ‘holy chaos'
  • While singing in our congregations is still restricted, we can worship corporately by using antiphonal psalm readings, creeds and participative prayers
  • Using music and the arts as part of the worship encourages the use of imagination in place of sung or spoken words
  • Use of silence, sensory and kinaesthetic practices allow for experience and expression beyond regular audio and visual mediums.

The following questions might help you develop a habit of reflecting on how we create and deliver content and its effectiveness and impact, and then applying what we learn to develop our practice.

  • How inclusive was the worship?
    Could the worship delivery and content be described as worship for all/ intergenerational? Was it sensitive to different "Spiritual Styles"?
  • How was the balance between passive and active participation?
  • How were people empowered to connect with or encounter God?
    What helped this? What hindered this?
  • How cohesive was the worship?
    Did it function well as a whole?
    How effective was each of the individual elements in fulfilling its purpose?
  • How balanced was the worship?
    What themes/topics/doctrines/areas of Christian life were included?
  • How did the worship connect with your context/contemporary issues?
    Was it relevant in the everyday lives of those attending and in the wider parish/ community?
    How well did the worship connect with local and national issues?
    How well did the worship connect with world events/issues?
  • What have I learned that can help me next time I plan and deliver worship?

Up-to-date information for churches around COVID-19 can be found in our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice for churches section.

You can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship in our online hymnary.

You can find an introduction to spiritual styles in our worship resources section

You are free to download, project, print and circulate multiple copies of any of this material for use in worship services, bible studies, parish magazines, etc., but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.