Morning Service for Trinity 18

HYMN - Immortal, invisible, God only wise

1 Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,

Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

2 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,

nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;

Thy justice, like mountains high soaring above

Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

3 To all life thou givest--to both great and small;

In all life thou livest, the true life of all;

We blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree,

Then wither and perish--but naught changeth thee.

4 Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,

Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;

All praise we would render; O help us to see

'Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
God the Father forgives us in Christ and heals us by the Holy Spirit.

Let us therefore put away all anger and bitterness, all slander and malice,

and confess our sins to God our redeemer.   cf. Ephesians 4.30,32

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

we have sinned against you

and against our neighbour,

through our own fault,

in thought, and word, and deed,

and in what we have left undone.

We are truly sorry

and repent of all our sins.

For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,

forgive us all that is past;

and grant that we may serve you in newness of life

to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of love and power

forgive you and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by his Spirit

and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

Almighty and everlasting God,

increase in us your gift of faith

that, forsaking what lies behind

and reaching out to that which is before,

we may run the way of your commandments

and win the crown of everlasting joy;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen


FIRST READING - Exodus 32.1-14

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

HYMN - Rejoice the Lord is king

1 REJOICE, the Lord is King,

Your Lord and King adore;

Mortals, give thanks and sing,

And triumph evermore:

Refrain:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice.

2 Jesus, the Saviour, reigns,

The God of truth and love;

When he had purged our stains,

He took his seat above: [Refrain]

3 His kingdom cannot fail;

He rules o'er earth and heaven;

The keys of death and hell

Are to our Jesus given: [Refrain]

4 He sits at God's right hand

Till all his foes submit,

And bow to his command,

And fall beneath his feet: [Refrain]

GOSPEL - Matthew 22.1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

SERMON

‘And the people said to him, “Come, make gods for us.’”

It was a big problem for Moses, the God that he knew didn’t have an image.  There was nothing you could put your hands on, nothing to touch, nothing to bow down to.  There was just no comforting presence.  And it was very difficult when every other people had gods that you could point to and stare at. All Moses had to sell was the effects of God.  Like the wind you can only see from the leaves being ripped off the trees, there’s nothing to see but the effect of its passing. But what Moses knew, beyond all image problems, was that God was not negotiable.  He could not be forced to fit into any mould of man’s imagining.  Be it a golden cow or a set of attitudes and judgements.

We all adapt God to suit ourselves, whether it be to satisfy our masochistic tendencies, or to justify ignoring him completely.  So often we make his character fit our needs.  The genius of Moses was to realise that that just wouldn’t do.  God was neither imaginable or manufacturable - he is who he is - and he can only be related to on his terms.

Jesus was in a similar situation, his hearers had convinced themselves that they had it all right, they were the chosen ones.  Didn’t their history tell them so - didn’t their parentage tell them so.  Jesus told them various stories to try to put them right, to try to convince them that God would not apply their rules to his future.

In Jesus’s day a common analogy for heaven was a great banquet.  You can see that there is great potential for argument - who will be invited - who’ll be in and who’ll be out?  Jesus says, “that’s not the point, everyone will be invited - the question is, who will accept.”

We don’t come here out of choice.  Coming to church, week by week, month after month, year after year, is not what we do for fun.  We may get something out of it, we may find a stimulus for the week ahead, a context in which to live our lives, and give light to our darkness.  But we don’t do it for fun.  There may be fun to be had, there may be friendships to be made, love and laughter along the way.  But we don’t do it for any of that.

We come here week after week in response to an invitation from a God we can’t see, to celebrate a meal left to us by a man who was crucified.  We do so because we have felt the demand that goes with that invitation. To present ourselves here week by week before God does not make us any better than anyone else, it confers upon us no privileges, it is a pure act of obedience.  Obedience to the call to present ourselves before the living God and for just one hour to immerse ourselves in his prayer and praise, worship and wonder.  If for no other reason than it might just help us to realise that he is not negotiable, he is and will not be remade in our chosen image.

We come not to look upon a golden image - but to hear the whisper of the Spirit of God deep within, come to respond to the self offering of the Son of God, in the taking of bread and wine. Come to respond to each other in peace and fellowship, to be made ready for service and invigorated by praise and worship. To do that in our physical presence together is clearly what we most of us would chose to do, but whether online, in solitary thought, or whatever way we might devise, the important thing is that we give that time to be with the God who will always be with us.

HYMN - Lights abode, celestial Salem

1 Light's abode, celestial Salem,

Vision whence true peace doth spring,

Brighter than the heart can fancy,

Mansion of the highest King;

O, how glorious are the praises

Which of thee the prophets sing!

2 There for ever and for ever

Alleluya is outpoured;

For unending, for unbroken

Is the feast-day of the Lord;

All is pure and all is holy

That within thy walls is stored.

3 There no cloud nor passing vapour

Dims the brightness of the air;

Endless noon-day, glorious noon-day,

From the Sun of suns is there;

There no night brings rest from labour,

For unknown are toil and care.

4 O how glorious and resplendent,

Fragile body, shalt thou be,

When endued with so much beauty,

Full of health, and strong, and free,

Full of vigour, full of pleasure

That shall last eternally!

6 Laud and honour to the Father,

Laud and honour to the Son,

Laud and honour to the Spirit,

Ever Three and ever One,

One in love, and One in splendour,

while unending ages run. Amen.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - John Wilkinson

We are all invited to God’s wedding banquet; in accepting we must allow the rags of our old life to be exchanged for the freely given robes of holiness and right living.

Invited by our God, we have gathered here.                                                                                                     Let us now voice our prayers for the Church and for the world.

Father, we give you thanks for the opportunities to strengthen our faith; for those who preach the word and administer the sacraments. We pray for gentleness and graciousness in our mission and outreach. We remember those who work among the outcasts and the poor, and we pray for those who strive to bring your peace in a troubled world.                                                                                                   Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Father, we recognise how powerful the influences are in our world which distract many and lead away from your truth. We pray for the quiet whisper of your wisdom to be noticed and acknowledged in many lives. We bring before you for help those who are suffering as a result of war, for the injured, the dispossessed, the refugees,  all who have lost loved ones, and those whose memories are scarred by violence.                                                                                                                                                     Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Father, we pray that our homes may be places of peace and healing, forgiveness and joy. May this spread to the wider community and beyond. We pray for reconciliation and healing where there has been hurt and where people are divided. May we live in peace with all people.                                                    

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Father our hearts rail against the cruelty of and unfairness of suffering and disease. We pray for all those suffering from the pandemic and its wider consequences. We pray for those troubled in body, mind or spirit, for the distressed, over anxious and fearful. Bring them the balm of your healing touch and the strength to overcome adversity.                                                                                                           Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer. 

Father, we give thanks for all who have passed through death and are at peace in your nearer presence, May we with them share in the peace of your everlasting kingdom.                                                    Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Father, it is such an honour to be invited to your banquet, make us worthy of our calling.

Merciful Father, 

accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, 

your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive 

those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

BLESSING
The power of God be about you,

the love of Christ enfold you,

the joy of the Spirit be within you;

and the blessing of God Almighty, 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - Jerusalem the golden

1 Jerusalem the golden,

With milk and honey blest,

Beneath thy contemplation

Sink heart and voice opprest.

I know not, O I know not,

What social joys are there,

What radiancy of glory,

What light beyond compare.

2 They stand, those halls of Sion,

Conjubilant with song,

And bright with many an angel,

And all the martyr throng;

The Prince is ever in them,

The daylight is serene,

The pastures of the blessèd

Are decked in glorious sheen.

3 There is the throne of David,

And there, from care released,

The song of them that triumph,

The shout of them that feast;

And they who, with their Leader,

Have conquered in the fight,

For ever and for ever

Are clad in robes of white.

4 O sweet and blessèd country,

Shall I ever see thy face?

O sweet and blessed country,

Shall I ever win thy grace?

Exult, O dust and ashes!

The Lord shall be thy part:

His only, his for ever,

Thou shalt be, and thou art!

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen