Sunday Service for 13th September 2020

Pentecost 15

“No one is undeserving of forgiveness, and this includes you.”   (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

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

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: the first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this:  “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.       Amen.  Lord, have mercy.

Gloria:   Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away
the sin of the world; have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.  Amen

Collect:   Almighty God, you call your Church to witness that in Christ we are reconciled to you.  Help us so to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may turn to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.  Amen

Reading:    Genesis 50:15-21
Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’ So they approached Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Gospel:  Matthew 18: 21-35
Then Peter came and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.  For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 
Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

Reflection:   There is much helpful material to ponder this Sunday on the website ‘The Edge of the Enclosure’ – http://www.edgeofenclosure.org/proper19a.html

Here is one passage quoted there, from The Book of Forgiving by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, who were deeply involved in the work of reconciliation after apartheid in South Africa:

“When we forgive ourselves, we also free ourselves from a cycle of punishment and retribution directed at ourselves.  This is not to say we are not responsible and accountable for our actions.  If I come into your house and steal your belongings, I cannot then go home and say, “Well, I forgive myself, so all is right in the world.”

Learning from the past is not the same as being held hostage by what we have been done.  At some stage we must let go of the past and begin again.  We have said repeatedly that no one is undeserving of forgiveness, and this includes you.

I know it can be difficult to offer ourselves the forgiveness we can so freely give to others.  Perhaps we hold ourselves to a higher standard than the standard to which we hold other people.  (If we think carefully, we recognise this double standard as a small piece of arrogance:  ‘I am a better person than he or she is, so I should behave better’.)

None of us is perfect, but we can perfect the art of learning from our past mistakes, and we can perfect the art of self-forgiveness.  This is how we grow and change, and, ultimately, begin anew.”

Prayers
Eternal God, we have learned so little from the ancient wisdom of Israel we find in your Word. Help us to turn and follow in your ways.

We pray especially for an end to war and violence, the demonising of enemies and the use of brute force to resolve differences.  May each side in world conflicts recognise their own faults and seek peace.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our own country and the communities around us. 
May we grow in wisdom through the struggles of this present time, changing what needs to be changed and holding fast to what is good and just.  Give us generous hearts that do not measure out limited forgiveness or hold grudges.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who cannot forgive themselves for what they have done.  Heal the hearts of those who have committed crimes, who have hurt others badly, who have not lived the lives they expected of themselves.  May we all learn how to begin anew.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for your Church, Lord, that it may be a place of forgiveness, humility and new life.  Open us to those we regard as outsiders;  help us to live in peace with those who have different views from ours, and bring us all under the gentle rule of your merciful grace.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers which we offer in the power of the Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen

Confession:
God is love and we are God’s children. There is no room for fear
in love. We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

                        Silence  

God our Father, we confess to you and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ that we have sinned in thought, word
and deed, and in what we have failed to do.  We are truly sorry.

Forgive us our sins, and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God, who is both power and love, forgive us and free us from our sins, heal and strengthen us by the Holy Spirit, and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord.  Amen

The Thanksgiving Prayer used for the Reserved Sacrament service:

We thank you, Lord our God, for this world which you have given us;
you never cease to make it new, and you call us to work with you; 
you accept the work of our hands.

R. Glory to you for ever

You have made humankind in your image;  each one of us is fashioned in your likeness, and we are able to recognise your face in the faces of our brothers and sisters.

R. Glory to you for ever

You have never desired to live apart from us, and you have taught us
to know you through the Law and the Prophets, the Apostles and Evangelists, who told us the marvellous story of your love.

R. Glory to you for ever

And you have come to us in your Son, Jesus Christ. In him you  
walked along our roads, looked at us with human eyes, did the kind of things that we do, and shared with us the joy that can never be lost.

R. Glory to you for ever

Now you give us his very life, and we give ourselves to you.
Through the death and resurrection of your Son, through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, we can make you our eternal home.

R. Glory to you for ever

So, with all Christians who are gathered together today everywhere, throughout the world, and with the great procession of your Saints,
as brothers and sisters we pray to you,

as our Saviour has taught us:

The Lord’s Prayer:   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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.   Amen.

The Communion:   draw close to Christ in spirit and thanksgiving,
and be nourished by his presence with you and within you. 

Closing prayer:  May the God of peace make us perfect and holy,
and may we be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God has called us and will not fail us. Amen   (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

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This well-known hymn was sung at Westminster Abbey at the Commonwealth Day Service in 2017 – you can see and hear it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1MN3chW1Hk

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise; in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard, beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee; rise up and follow thee.

Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace; the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm; O still, small voice of calm.