URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 5th September 2021 – The Revd. David Scott

United Reformed Church Daily Devotions Sunday Worship
5th September 2021

Photo credit: Alexandru Zdrobāu, Unsplash
 
The Rev’d David Scott
 

Introduction                                                                                    
 
Hello and welcome to this service that comes from the joint pastorate of Duke Street and Saughtonhall United Reformed Churches in Edinburgh.  Duke Street is situated down in Leith and Saughtonhall is located in the west of the city, close to Murrayfield stadium.  My name is David Scott and I am the minister in Duke Street and Saughtonhall, having been here since April 2018.   All of the contributors in this service are members of our joint pastorate. Let us come and worship God, apart and yet together, from wherever we are.
 
Call to Worship                                                                              
 
Come before the Lord with joyful songs, because God is good and generous, because we lack nothing. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
 
Serve the Lord with gladness, because of God’s greatness and justice,
because God puts an end to war, and to all forms of violence. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
 
Come before the Lord with joy because God is a faithful promises keeper;
God’s Word is eternal. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
 
Know that the Lord is God, and we are God’s own people, a community, the family of God. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
 
It is God who has made us to the praise of the Holy Name, and therefore today, in the same spirit, we have a festival to celebrate God’s peace. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
 
Hymn       For everyone born, a place at the table
Shirley Erena Murray (b. 1931)

 

For everyone born,
a place at the table,
for everyone born,
clean water and bread,
a shelter, a space,
a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star overhead.

And God will delight
when we are creators of justice

and joy, compassion and peace
yes, God will delight
when we are creators of justice,
justice and joy!

 
2  For woman and man,
a place at the table,
revising the roles,
deciding the share,
with wisdom and grace,
dividing the power,
for woman and man,
a system that is fair.
 
3 For young and for old,
a place at the table,
a voice to be heard,
a part in the song,
the hands of a child
in hands that are wrinkled,
for young and for old,
the right to belong.

4 For just and unjust,
a place at the table,
abuser, abused,
with need to forgive,
in anger, in hurt,
a mind-set of mercy,
just and unjust,
a new way to live.
 
5 For everyone born,
a place at the table,
to live without fear,
and simply to be,
to work, to speak out,
to witness and worship,
for everyone born,
he right to be free.

 

 
Prayers of Approach, Confession, and Forgiveness             
 
God of justice and joy, we come to this service, apart and yet together.  We come from various places, and even at various times.  But we come as one to give you our worship in response to your generous love and infinite wisdom. We come in our noisy, complex and fast moving world to seek comfort and receive your peace. God of every time and season, In the days when we have been uncertain you have given us certainty.  In the days when we have felt despair, you have given us hope.  In the days when we have felt anxious and overwhelmed you have been there to give comfort.  Inspire the worship we share today.  Let the abundance of your grace flow.  And grant us a sense of your presence in the places we sit, during this time of praise.
 
God of love and mercy, we bring you our lives as they are, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears. There are many things that are good in us but there are also many things that are wrong in us. So we turn to you now for healing and encouragement.
 
We know we have hurt others and you. We know we have missed signs from you. We know we have put things off and then been too late. We know we have let opportunities pass.
 
Set us fee from the guiltily memories of the things that we got wrong and by your kindness, compassion and patience, lift us up, change and renew our lives.
 
As we have been forgiven, so may we have the courage to forgive. As we are welcomed round your table, so may we offer hospitality.
 
In the times that lie ahead, give us what we need to make us useful and cheerful disciples; walking the way and living the life of Jesus today.
 
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your son and our saviour, who lives and reigns in unity with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and always.  Amen
 
Prayer of Illumination   
 
Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds; pour upon us wisdom and understanding;  so that we can receive  all that leads to fullness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 
St Mark 7: 24 – 37
 
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’
 
Hymn       Holy Spirit, hear us
William Henry Parker (1845-1929) (alt.) Sung by the choir of St Paul’s Bloor Street, Toronto                         

 

Holy Spirit, hear us;
help us while we sing;
breathe into the music
of the praise we bring.
 
2 Holy Spirit, prompt us
when we try to pray;
nearer come, and teach us
what we ought to say.

3 Holy Spirit, teach us
through the words we read;
bring to life the Bible
with the light we need.
 
4 Holy Spirit, give us
each a lively mind;
make us more like Jesus,
gracious, pure, and kind.

 
5 Holy Spirit, help us daily, by your might,
what is wrong to conquer, and to choose the right.
 
Sermon                                                                                    
 
Let these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord my rock and my redeemer.  Amen
 
What prompts a sigh?
 
Today we have quite a controversial passage from the writer of Mark’s Gospel that comes in two clear sections. It is a passage where we are given a glimpse of a side of Jesus’ character that is not revealed as clearly elsewhere. And it is a passage where we see Jesus move across many boundaries. Theological and geographical boundaries as well as boundaries of ethnicity, gender, and culture. And that’s particularly unusual to find in this Gospel.  When approaching a rich text like this, the challenge can often be where to start in the context of where you are and where I am today. And, in this service, there is an added challenge given we all come to worship from so many places across the United Reformed Church, which is of course a blessing in the way technology has enabled so many boundaries to be overcome over the past 18 months.
 
As I read this text for today, two words in verse 34 kept jumping out: “he sighed”. With so much going on in the first section, I wonder if we unconsciously treat this passage like an “old single”; with verses 24 to 30 as the “A side” and verses 31 to 37 as the “B side”? Perhaps we are not quite as focussed on section B as we are on section A?  Given the way Jesus has reacted to the woman who has come to him, that’s understandable, as it seems so out of character for the Jesus we have come to know.  Does our surprise and even shock, prevent us from wondering why Jesus sighed as he looked up to heaven and prepared to give hearing and clear speech to a man that had been brought to him?
 
Apparently sighing is actually good for us and it can sometimes be involuntary. Sighing forms part of the natural rhythm of our breathing and has many physiological benefits. However, I am not sure those receiving sighs would always see them in a such a positive light. A sigh can be a very physical representation of an emotional state. Possibly prompted by stress, despair, an anxiety, a frustration or a disappointment. Or prompted by a state of relief, satisfaction, pleasure, or contentment. I wonder what prompted your last sigh? I wonder how you received the last sigh you heard? And I wonder how you receive the sigh from Jesus today?
 
In our text this week, we encounter an exhausted Jesus who has been under attack. Immediately before this passage, we are told that the Pharisees and some scribes had travelled from Jerusalem to track Jesus down. They had an agenda. To nip this Jesus movement in the bud. No longer was this an inconvenience or a nuisance, but something that was gathering momentum and evolving into a credible threat that had to be stopped. When they find Jesus and his disciples, they criticise them for breaking the Jewish hand washing rituals. This is all controversial territory as Jesus begins to pull down the boundaries between Jews and Gentiles.
 
And, not only is Jesus under attack from the Jewish authorities, but we also know that Herod sees him as a trouble maker and Nazareth has made clear its dislike of him. So, Jesus leaves this all behind and heads to an area near the city of Tyre. This prosperous city and the surrounding area was Gentile country, far from the familiar territory of the New Testament narrative. Jesus withdraws from what is becoming a highly-charged situation as he seeks some anonymity in a different world for a temporary escape.
 
Sadly for Jesus, his hopes of getting some space are not to be. Why is the exchange between this woman and Jesus such a big deal for the writer of Mark’s Gospel? Well, for starters, this is a woman, unaccompanied by a husband or male relative. Initiating a conversation with a strange man was an unusual move. She is a Gentile. To Jesus, an outsider. And, given her daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, she with her daughter would have been side-lined, excluded and avoided in their community. This vulnerable woman is desperate. Yet she is bold, resilient, clever, and – most importantly – is drawn to Jesus because of her faith in him. Despite his initial response, the demon is removed from the daughter; and Jesus did not even have to be physically present to do this.  Jesus is still in Gentile country when people bring a man to him who is deaf and could hardly speak. His response is, however, different to the one he had for the woman. This time, there is no delay or clever argument. With the man present, Jesus acts. But why do you think he sighs after looking up to heaven and before saying to the man “be opened”?

Given all Jesus has been through and why he has seen the need to take time away, perhaps his sigh is prompted by despair and frustration that he can’t catch a break. Or perhaps the key to this answer may be in the look up to heaven? Is this a sigh prompted by relief and contentment in a realisation? Jesus recognises that he is not alone, he is on the right path, the time is right, and he is ready to get back to Galilee, knowing he has what it takes to complete the task God has set.
 
We don’t have to look far in the world around us to see so much stress, despair, anxiety, frustration, and disappointment that prompts a sigh from us. We live in a hard world and as we watch the COVID-19 dust settle with so much uncertainty, there is much to be concerned about. Yet we come, invited by Jesus, to a Holy meal in the places we sit, apart and yet together. A meal where there are no boundaries of participation and where you are welcome, just as you are. A meal that nourishes us and equips us for the road head. And a meal, that because of God’s abundant grace, can through the power of the Spirit prompt within you a sigh of relief and contentment. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 
Affirmation of Faith                                                                               
 
We believe in the one and only God, Eternal Trinity, from whom, through whom and for whom all created things exist. God alone we worship; 
in God we put our trust.
 
We worship God, source and sustainer of creation, whom Jesus called Father, whose sons and daughters we are.
 
We worship God revealed in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh; who lived our human life, died for sinners on the cross;who was raised from the dead, and proclaimed by the apostles, Son of God;who lives eternally, as saviour and sovereign, coming in judgement and mercy,  to bring us to eternal life.
 
We worship God, ever present in the Holy Spirit; who brings this Gospel to fruition, assures us of forgiveness, strengthens us to do God’s will,
and makes us sisters and brothers of Jesus, sons and daughters of God.
 
We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, united in heaven and on earth: on earth, the Body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit to glorify God and to serve humanity; in heaven, eternally one with the power, the wisdom and the love of God in Trinity.
 
We believe that, in the fullness of time, God will renew and gather in one all things in heaven and on earth through Christ, and be perfectly honoured and adored.
 
We rejoice in God who has given us being,  who shares our humanity to bring us to glory, our source of prayer and power of praise; to whom be glory, praise and adoration, now and evermore. Amen
 
Intercessions                                                                                   
 
Creator God, You breathed into the formless void and created this world on which we live. As we gather at the start of Creationtide, please help us to care for your planet during this season of creation. After so many years and decades and centuries of polluting the Earth, please help us to change our ways. Please help us to turn your church buildings into shining beacons in our communities.
 
Healing God, in today’s readings, we heard how Jesus healed sick people in Tyre and Galilee. Thank you for the gift of medicine and medics. In the midst of the pandemic, thank you for the health and care workers who have risked their lives to heal the sick and keep us safe. Thank you for the researchers who have developed treatments and vaccines, and the frontline workers who have rolled out those medical miracles at such speed. Please heal those who are sick. Please give strength to those who endure pain and suffering. And please send your Holy Spirit to comfort those who are bereaved.
 
Whispering God, please help to us listen for your word and for your guidance in our lives. Please guide those in positions of authority – our prime minister and our first ministers, our councillors and our mayors, our provosts and our lord provosts. Please give them the wisdom they need to save lives and to improve lives throughout our lands. Please make them put aside their petty squabbles and egos, so that they can serve the people who elected them.
 
Breath of God, Jesus looked up to heaven and sighed.  Please help us to share sighs of contentment with our families and our friends and our neighbours – and those friends we’re yet to meet – so that we can spread your good news throughout the world, by sharing our sighs of contentment in your love. Please give us the words to say and guide our actions as we share your story. And, in a moment of silence, we say a special prayer for all those people whose names you’ve placed on our hearts today.
 
We ask this and all these things, and praise you and thank you, in the name of your son and our saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Offertory                                             
 
Part of our worship is all that we offer back to God and this can come in many forms.  Our time, our skills and our money.  So as we give what we can, let us now dedicate all that we offer.
 
Generous God , we thank you for your many gifts to us. Accept and bless the gifts we offer to you. Take them and use them for the advancement of your Kingdom in this world. Through the power of the Spirit, make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in our ministry to the world. Amen

Invitation To Holy Communion                                                                             
Psalm 34:8: O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.
 
We come here in this moment, apart and yet together through the power of technology, and in the presence of Christ, to join in Holy Communion.
 
The God of all creation is not restricted by time or place.  The Holy Spirit transcends our physical distances and parts the veil between us, so that we may be together as we inhabit this virtual space. And so, in the mystery of this Holy meal before us in the places we sit, we become one creation, one body and one church.  Past, present and future.
 
The Lord Jesus Christ invites us to share a joyful feast where all are welcome.  How amazing it is to be loved and wanted despite the imperfections in each one of us.  How wonderful it is to be included; just as we are.
 
Revelation 3:20:  Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

Sung Psalm 24
The last three lines of each verse are repeated.
 
Ye gates, lift up your heads on high;
ye doors that last for aye,
be lifted up, that so the King
of glory enter may.

 

1: But who of glory is the King?
The mighty Lord is this;
even that same Lord
that great in might
and strong in battle is.

2: But who is he
that is the King,
the King of glory? Who is this?
The Lord of hosts, and none but he,
the King of glory is.

 

Alleluia!  alleluia! alleluia!  alleluia! alleluia!
Amen, amen, amen.

Communion                                                                           
 
The Lord be with you.     And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.          We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks             It is right for us to give thanks
to the Lord our God.        and praise.
 
As the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread and offered thanksgiving to God, so too, we now set apart what we have before us in the places we sit, for this holy use and mystery, and offer to God our thanks and praise. With joy we praise you, gracious God, for you created heaven and earth, made us in your image, and kept covenant with us— even when we fell into sin.  Creator, Saviour, Giver of Life, from the beginning you have made yourself known: the heavens proclaim your glory and the earth sings your praise.  In wisdom you made all that is and you bless us with earth’s fruitfulness. You are merciful and gracious, and abounding in love.  Yet from our first days we have disobeyed your will.
 
Long ago you called to yourself a people to shine as light to guide all nations to your presence. You led them to freedom; you revealed to them your Law and taught them through your prophets. Finally you sent your promised Son, Jesus Christ, who shared our human nature and understood our weakness.  Born of Mary, he showed forth your love by word and sign.  Therefore with all your people in heaven and on earth we sing the triumphant hymn of your glory:
 
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest.
 
He sought the unloved and the lost and welcomed all who came to him;
he taught us lessons of forgiveness he brought us healing for our sickness, and showed us how to live according to your will.
 
For this he was rejected, for this he endured grief and sorrow, for this he gave himself up to death upon the Cross.
 
But you broke the power of sin and death and raised him to the heights,
that through the blood of his Cross and by the gift of the Holy Spirit everything in earth and heaven might be reconciled to you.
 
Send down your Holy Spirit on us now, wherever we are, and on the elements before us; that Christ may be known to us in them and that we may be strengthened to serve him in the world. May we on earth be one with all Christ’s people, and, when all things are complete, be raised up to be with him, and with all your faithful servants in the heavenly places, the homeland which we seek by faith, and where he reigns in glory, with you and the Holy Spirit.
 
As we gather apart and yet together to share this holy meal, we come as one, and pray as one, using the words that Jesus taught his disciples to say;
 
Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
forever and ever Amen.
 
Hear the narrative of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper as it is recorded by St Paul: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me’.   In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,  ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’.  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
 
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world.  Have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world.  Have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world.  Grant us peace.
 
We do this in obedience to Christ’s example and appointment. Let us now receive what we have before us; the gifts of God for the people of God. The body of Christ, given for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.
 
Music:      I Watch the Sunrise sung by Daniel O’Donnell
 
The grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
 
Loving God, we thank you that through the power of the Holy Spirit you have fed us in this sacrament, a sacrament in which we have remembered. A sacrament that has united us with each other and with Christ, and a sacrament that has given us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet in your eternal kingdom. Send us from this service refreshed and renewed, ready to face the week ahead.
 
Gracious God, we thank you for encouraging us in our worship, hearing our prayers and for feeding and nourishing us with your Word and Sacrament. Take us and use us to love and serve you and all your people.
 
We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and always.  Amen.
 
Hymn       Forth in the peace of Christ we go
Fr James Quinn (1919-2010)

 

Forth in the peace of Christ we go;
Christ to the world
with joy we bring;
Christ in our minds,
Christ on our lips,
Christ in our hearts,
the world’ s true king.
 
2 King of our hearts,
Christ reigns in us;
kingship with him his servants gain;
with Christ, the Servant-Lord of all,
Christ’s world we serve
to share Christ’s reign.
 
3 Priests of the world,
Christ sends us forth
the world of time to consecrate,
our world of sin by grace to heal,
Christ’s world in Christ to re-create.
 
4 Prophets of Christ,
we hear his word:
he claims our minds,
to search his ways;
he claims our lips,
to speak his truth;
he claims our hearts,
to sing his praise.



5 We are his Church, he makes us one: here is one hearth for all to find;
here is one flock, one Shepherd-King;
here is one faith, one heart, one mind.
 
Blessing                                                                 
 
As we leave this service; go in peace, in the knowledge of God’s power.
Go in confidence, in the knowledge of God’s strength. Go in joy, in the knowledge of God’s love. And may blessing of the God the Father,  God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,  be with you, and those whom you love;
wherever you and they may be; this day and forever more.  Amen
 
Stay safe, keep smiling and goodbye from Duke Street and Saughtonhall United Reformed Churches in Edinburgh.
 
Sources and thanks
 
Thanks to the Revd. David Scott and members of Duke Street and Saughtonhall United Reformed Churches
 
For everyone born, a place at the table – Shirley Erena Murray (b. 1931) Words: © 1998, Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188, USA.  Sung by choir and people of the First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
Holy Spirit, hear us – William Henry Parker (1845-1929) (alt.) Sung by the choir of St Paul’s Bloor Street, Toronto   
Psalm 24, verses 7-10, The Scottish Psalter, 1929 Sung at a Psalmody Conference of the Free Church of Scotland
Forth in the peace of Christ we go – Fr James Quinn (1919-2010) © Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, sung by the OCP Session Choir
 
Organ Pieces
Opening: Lobt Gott Ihr Christen (“Praise God ye Christians”) by Johann Gottfried Walther (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing: Toccata from Suite Gothique by Leon Boëllman (organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2016)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
 

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