A Service for Trinity 4

HYMN - Immortal, invisible God only wise - St Denio

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
You made us to be one family,
yet we have divided humanity.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You were born a Jew to reconcile all peoples,
yet we have brought disharmony amongst the races.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You rejoice in our differences,
yet we make them a cause of enmity.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

God, the Father of mercies, 
has reconciled the world to himself
through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ,
not counting our trespasses against us,
but sending his Holy Spirit 
to shed abroad his love among us.
By the ministry of reconciliation 
entrusted by Christ to his Church,
receive his pardon and peace
to stand before him in his strength alone,
this day and evermore.  Amen.

THE COLLECT
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen


FIRST READING - Genesis 24.34-38,42-49, 58-67

So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also”—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men.

And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

“May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession

of the gates of their foes.”

Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

HYMN O God of Bethel, by whose hand - Martyrdom

1 O God of Bethel, by whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led:

2 Our vows, our prayers, we now present
Before thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race.

3 Through each perplexing path of life
Our wandering footsteps guide;
Give us each day our daily bread,
And raiment fit provide.

4 O spread thy covering wings around,
Till all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father’s loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace.

GOSPEL - Matthew 11.16-19,25-30
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

SERMON

The story of Isaac and Rebekah is a story of God’s providing - a story of trust and reliance in God rewarded - all comes good.  The passage offers a worldview in which there are no parts of experience which lie beyond the purpose of God.  

We are provoked to ask, does God in fact lead and guide in such a way?  The text takes as a given that if the way of God is followed then things will work out just as they should.  In this story of finding Isaac a wife everyone plays their part to perfection, from the faithful servant to the generous and incredibly trusting Rebekah.  Even Isaac is happy with God’s choice.  

At the heart of it all is Abraham’s servant’s dreadfully naïve prayer - ‘Let the woman who comes out to draw - let her be the woman appointed for my master’s son.’  How many times do you remember saying something of the sort.  A desperate need to find a way to follow a track of events that will make everything turn out all right.

Just like the servant, we know that our decisions matter, they will affect the course of our lives and those close to us, and perhaps many more.  We crave a way of knowing that our next step is the right one.

In hindsight many people do feel that they can look back on their lives and discern the gentle hand of God, turning everything right eventually.  I rather think it might depend on what sort of life you’ve had as to whether you take that view or not.

But the passage says to us that the details matter to God, that he is with us trying to help us so that things do turn out right - it would have us believe that God can make a difference, given enough trust and faithfulness, from enough separate parties.  The text is careful to point out that everyone in the story does the ‘right’ thing - it would seem to imply that any one of the individuals could have done the wrong thing and ruined everything.  God, it seems, must suffer our choices and wilfulness.  Rebekah was asked - ‘will you go with this man?’ the choice was made plain, she could have said ‘No’.  As for the servant he seems to understand that he wasn’t following some fatalistic, ‘its all laid down already’ providence, rather he was looking to be ‘led’ by his God.

Ge 24:26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the way to the house of my master's kin.

The word ‘led’ - ‘nachah’ occurs several times in Exodus, and lots of times in the Psalms but only here in the entire book of Genesis.  Most famously you can find it in the 23rd Psalm - ‘he leads me beside still water… he leads me in the paths of righteousness.’  It is a leading that may be ignored, or followed. There is always the option if you are led - to turn another way.

And that leads us to Paul.  In his letter to the Romans Paul admits his inability to do the good he knows he should do, instead he says he does the very thing that he hates.  What of course he is bemoaning is the human perversity that makes us want to do almost anything that we’ve been told we shouldn’t do.  It’s seen most clearly in children, because, I rather think, they do such a bad job of covering up their tracks. Paul sees the vicious cycle of command and disobedience broken by what God has done through Christ.  For Paul the new way of things means that we don’t follow a book of rules, a religious legal code, so much as the promptings of the spirit within us.  

In Paul’s communities some had the idea it meant that there were not more rules for them at all - they just didn’t apply. Paul was, of course, quick to point out that that isn’t the case, there are the laws and norms of human society which, usually, it would be most unwise to break. But that aside, when it comes to determining what is ‘right’, in those terms, behaviour is now governed from within, not cajoled from without. We look to the thrust of Jesus’ teaching, we look to the ‘most loving action’; and we hope to be close enough to the Spirit to feel its promptings, and wise enough to be obedient to them.  

So often we forget that our faith is not about knowledge of the rules, it’s about vision, or rather, revelation, the things hidden from the wise are the very things of God - the knowledge of who he is and what he is like and what he wants of us. 

It was a common analogy to liken the law to a yoke, something that was a burden.  Jesus says, lay down your burden, your law books and your rules and instead learn from me - for with me the burdens are light, for I am, like you, humble and lowly of heart.

And where do we find such vision, such revelation - usually on our knees, in the quiet, in the God directed silence, where we may look into the face of Jesus, and meet his answering gaze.

The nachah of God in the Way of Christ has become our rule and guide, and it is our faithfulness and loyalty to such leading as we are aware that will determine how far we will let God work in our lives - to our blessing, and the blessing of others.

HYMN Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us - Mannheim

Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
O'er the world's tempestuous sea;
Guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
For we have no help but thee;
Yet possessing every blessing
If our God our Father be.

2 Saviour, breathe forgiveness o'er us,
All our weakness thou dost know;
Thou didst tread this earth before us,
Thou didst feel its keenest woe;
Self denying, death defying,
Thou to Calvary didst go.

3 Spirit of our God, descending,
Fill our hearts with heavenly joy;
Love with every passion blending,
Pleasure that can never cloy;
Thus provided, pardoned, guided,
Nothing can our peace destroy.

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 - Vera oldham

On this first Sunday that our churches have re-opened after such a long period of closure, we have come before you, Lord, to offer our praise and our prayers. You are God the creator, Christ the Saviour of the world, the Spirit of truth and love. One god, eternal Trinity, be near to us and hear us, today and every day.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for your church throughout the world.  We pray for all those who because of this pandemic are still separated and isolated. Give them all the reassurance that you are with them so that they may experience your peace.

We pray for all bishops and clergy at this time, and especially for the team here in our Benefice who continue to work hard to maintain strong and meaningful links for us all and who are constantly searching for new and innovative ideas to keep us altogether.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, we bring to you all leaders and their advisers at this uncertain time for the whole world. We pray for our Queen, Prime Minister and government and all MPs and local councillors. We ask that you will equip them to lead and to listen and to act honestly and with humility and compassion as they seek to cope with the present and plan for the future.

We continue to pray for all those who serve us – all the key workers, from the delivery drivers and shelf stackers to those who work in the NHS and the care system. We pray too for the research scientists that through their skill and knowledge, a cure or a vaccine for this virus may be found. As they seek in their different ways to bring hope and healing, we ask that you will continue to encourage and energise them as they go above and beyond on our behalf.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

As people return to work and as some businesses begin to open up again, we pray for all who are concerned about their job security and livelihoods and for all those who are anxious and worried as they take these first tentative steps towards normality. We remember those whose jobs have vanished and those whose futures are in great doubt.

We pray for our schools, for the staff and the children, some already back in school, and those who still have to wait until they can be reunited with their teachers and their friends, safely back in their classrooms.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We pray for all those who are unwell at home or in hospital; those fearful for others, and for all who are experiencing distress and anguish at the present time. We remember especially those on our Benefice prayer list and those known to us personally. We thank you for all the efforts made on their behalf and pray that they may all receive your peace and love.

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we remember those who have died or who have lost a loved one recently and who may be isolated with no one to comfort them. We pray that you are there at their side, Lord, and that they may feel your loving presence. Jesus is the light of the world: a light which shines eternally and which no darkness can extinguish. 

Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, as we begin to emerge from this long period of isolation and as we meet again with our families and friends, let us not forget that some people are still very much confined to their homes. Life has not yet returned to normal and there are many who are still isolated, anxious, and lonely. For many of us there is still fear, doubt and uncertainty. Thank you that your peace reaches out to us today and every day, even in life’s darkest times. May we all know that we are always held in the embrace of your love.

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
May you find in Christ crucified
a guide in times of darkness,
a strength in times of weakness
and the assurance that life is eternal;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN Praise my soul the King of heaven - Praise my soul

1 Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
To his feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.
who like me his praise should sing?
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise the everlasting King!

2 Praise him for his grace and favour
To our fathers in distress;
Praise him still the same forever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise him! Praise him!
Glorious in his faithfulness.

3 Father-like he tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame he knows;
In his hands he gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise him! Praise him!
Widely as his mercy flows.

4 Angels, help us to adore him;
Ye behold him face to face;
Sun and moon bow down before him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise him! Praise him!
Praise with us the God of grace!

TO END
Come to Me by Dan Forrest