Service – Sunday 28th June

Minuet from Water Music by GF Handel played by Canadian Brass
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Call to Worship
God rejoices at our presence here today
and welcomes us home with a celebration.
We come from different places bringing different needs
and God’s love accepts and provides for us all.
God, help us extend your extravagant welcome
and share the gift of true Christian hospitality.

StF 249 – Hymn – Jesu, Jesu fill us
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Jesu, Jesu,
fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbours we have from you.
Kneels at the feet of his friends,
silently washes their feet,
master who acts as a slave to them.

Neighbours are rich and poor,
neighbours are black and white,
neighbours are near and far away.
Jesu, Jesu,
fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbours we have from you.

These are the ones we should serve,
these are the ones we should love.
All these are neighbours to us and you.

Kneel at the feet of our friends,
silently washing their feet,
this is the way we should live with you.
Jesu, Jesu,
fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbours we have from you.

North Ghanaian song
adapted by Tom Colvin (1925-2000)

Let us pray together
Hospitable God, you invite us to a banquet
where the last may be first, and the humble
and the mighty trade places.
Let us share your abundance with
no fear of scarcity; let us greet
strangers as angels you have sent.
Send your Spirit now so that
we may find a place at your
table and welcome others
with radical hospitality.
We pray in the name
of the Father,
of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.

God of the Widow at Zarephath,
God of Joseph the Forgiver,
we stand in awe of people who showed hospitality
in the midst of sacrifice and betrayal.
Take us deep into the heart of hospitality.
Help us to understand that the generosity the world needs
often demands sacrifice on our part.
Be with those who have never known a table
blessed by laughter and welcome,
who have seldom heard affirmations
and who do not know your abiding love.
Remind us, O God, that we are to set many tables,
to speak blessings often
and to be your love in the world.
In the name of Christ, we pray.

Oh God, you have made us to be free,
But we crave the cheap comforts of our chains.
You have made us to serve others,
But we have eyes only for ourselves.
You have made us to love,
But we are encircled with fear.
You provide that we may be generous,
But we greedily hoard as if your well will run dry.
You forgive time and again,
But we hold fast to the sins of others.
You offer light for our path,
But we insist on making our own way.
You are the God who saves.
Lord, save us from ourselves.
In your great mercy,
restore and heal us,
and grant us your peace.
We pray, knowing you are
our God in community, Holy in One,

Come to God, know the fullness of his grace
As Christ speaks these words
‘Our sins are forgiven’.
Receive, rise, go and forgive as you have been forgiven.

Matthew 10 v40 to 42
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

StF 611 – Hymn – Brother, sister let me
Click here to play the music (includes introduction)

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant too.

Richard A. M. Gillard (b. 1953)

Click here to listen to the Address presented by Rev Mark Barrett

Hospitality is a word with a spiritual history. Monasteries grew up around the 5th century. Strangers in need could come there for care. The first primitive hospitals, in fact, began there. Hospital, hospice, hospitable, hospitality—all from the same root word, meaning generous, caring, sustaining.

Radical is an interesting word to use in relationship to hospitality. It means “drastically different from ordinary practice, outside the normal,” it provokes practices that exceed expectations, to go the second mile, to give your coat as well as your shirt.

Radical hospitality begins when we understand that God loves us. It didn’t matter whether you dwelt in the palaces of men, or the Temple of God or begged by the gates of Jerusalem, Jesus offered His hospitality without condition. His invitation was the same to Nicodemus who held a place of prominence in Jewish society as it was to Peter the fisherman and Matthew the Tax Collector and the Blind Beggar who called out to him. Everyone can come. Everyone can follow. His love and grace is for all.  Even you. Even me. When we have received the radical hospitality of Jesus, then we can do nothing else but extend that same hospitality to others.

Surely, we believe that in every person there is that part of him or her that desires, that longs, to be transformed by the radical love of Jesus. John Wesley called it prevenient grace, or grace that goes before preparing souls for Jesus’ love.

We need to accept that we are accepted and we need to accept that our neighbours are just as accepted as we are. Sometimes churches can get consumed by debating who we should be extending hospitality too.  On occasion, the disciples tried to limit who could approach Jesus, but he always rebuked them in those efforts.  Hospitality becomes radical when it is extended to everyone.

The Old Testament tells us: “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19: 33-34).

In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger for “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters of mine, you do to me” (Mathew 25:40).

In the traditions shaped by the Bible, offering hospitality is a Godly imperative. There is an expectation that God’s people are people who will welcome the stranger. Just as God protected the people of Israel, God insists on proper care for resident foreigners, treating them like citizens. To welcome the stranger is to acknowledge them as made in the image of God.
The story of Abraham and Sara is a story where the practice of hospitality is most clearly described as an experience of transformation, of mutual gift giving. Abraham warmly welcomes the three strangers. The three turn out to be angels who have come to give a blessing, the good news that Sara will indeed be a mother after all. To offer hospitality, sometimes means to welcome something unfamiliar, new and unknown into our world. In Hebrews 13 we are reminded that we should not neglect to show hospitality to the stranger for “by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Some have even walked with Christ himself and not known it as did the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Hospitality, then, not only welcomes strangers but also recognizes their holiness and receives their blessings.

In Greek the word xeno means stranger, guest, and host. We make one another guests or hosts by how we treat one another. Let us remember that Jesus was not the host at the table of the sinners, tax collectors, or prostitutes. He let himself be loved by those who had become strangers relative to the religious communities and institutions of his day. He accepted their invitation. Jesus was and is also the perfect guest, the welcomed stranger.  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, for I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, for I was a stranger and you took me in.” (Mathew 25: 34-35)

In our reading today Jesus says “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones.” A cup of cold water is not only a gracious act of hospitality but it is a dangerous act. It assumes that we have noticed that someone is thirsty and that we are willing to go to the well and draw water and offer it.
This is the hospitality of the heart and it begins here with us when we accept that we are all wanderers, we are all guests invited into the tent, all welcome at the table.

Jesus chose also to make the table the place where he, too, would meet with us: he tells his friends at their last meal together to remember him whenever they gather around a table together. Our sharing of bread and wine is simply the sharing of a meal; yes, with each other, but Christ also is present in the eating and drinking itself. God chooses to meet with us around a table where He welcomes the world to experience communion both with him and each other.

Again and again in the gospels we see Jesus around a table – eating and surrounded by the most diverse range of people: priests and prostitutes, the religious elite and the common person, with his friends and disciples – and also with those who despised him. There at the table they were all treated with equal dignity and they all left his presence with that dignity intact – even if he had sometimes had harsh words for them.

You see, in the time of Jesus, eating with someone was a sign of respect and a sign of fellowship. Jesus’ diverse choice of table companions made the religious authorities really angry. A number of times we hear them saying “Look at him! This man eats with sinners!” Jesus had loving fellowship with those on the margins.

Now hospitality is not tolerance. If someone is tolerant, they may accept your physical presence but emotionally may keep you at a distance. Tolerant coexistence isn’t a worthy aspiration for those of us who claim to follow Jesus. Someone said hospitality is love in action – and Jesus calls us to love one another – never to tolerate one another.

In Romans, Paul says: ‘practice hospitality’. Hospitality is not about the quality of your house or cutlery, or the state of your bank balance – but the warmth in your heart and your passion to be an apprentice of Jesus. Hospitality is first about who you are – not what you do.

What Jesus did in the whole of his ministry, was demonstrate that there can be no conditions on those to whom we show hospitality. Radical hospitality is directed to those we are offended by, angered by, disagree with; those we are least inclined to welcome. It means that whatever caveat we would add as a condition to welcoming or serving another whether race, status, sexual orientation, gender, religion, political affiliation, ‘they’re not my type’, ‘I don’t get on very well with them’, will need to be removed. Why? Because that is what Jesus did.

Read the gospels. The ‘radical’ in Jesus’ hospitality was in the shocking wideness of his welcome and invitation. Read and note the people Jesus welcomed, loved, healed, forgave. It is those outside, those excluded by the community, often those outside the religious community.

Radical hospitality is costly – all love is costly – the cross proves that. But radical hospitality, the simple act of sharing space with people is a sacred offering – a sacrifice. In Matthew 25 look at the list of people who represent Jesus: the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, the unclothed, the sick, the prisoner, the poor.

To make room for others, all others, will force those of us who are comfortable with what we have, to overcome some of our fears and biases and insecurities.

We, the people of God, are the church, and it is appropriate that we ask ourselves, what is the spiritual dimension of our hospitality, the spiritual dimension of our reception of others, of our standing with and for others, who may not look like us or share the same assumptions or values?

It is not about being politically correct, or legalistic. It is about hospitality as spiritual practice. It is not about just opening the doors. It is about opening our hearts.

StF 256 – Hymn – When I needed a neighbour
Click here to play the music (includes introduction)

When I needed a neighbour, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty, were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

I was cold, I was naked, were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

When I needed a shelter, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

When I needed a healer, were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
were you there?

Wherever you travel I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
wherever you travel I’ll be there.
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
I’ll be there.

Sydney Carter (1915-2004)

A time of prayer
Let us pray for the church, for the world and for ourselves.

Loving God,
We pray for your guidance and wisdom as your church finds new ways of reaching out into the world with the good news of your generous love and forgiveness. Gift leaders with the innovation and inspiration that comes from your Holy Spirit so that your church may be more effective witnesses of your saving grace.

Lord Jesus, as the world continues to suffer the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, we pray for compassion and fairness in sharing practical resources and medical expertise so that there might be healing and wholeness for all.

We pray that all those who have influence over the lives of others, might make decisions based on kindness and for the common good. We pray Holy Spirit that you infuse with love the hearts of those who use war as a weapon of power. Hear our prayers for an end to all conflict, and for recognition and support to be given to refugees and displaced people around the world.

Compassionate Christ, we pray for comfort and strength for those who are still isolated, for parents and children, for the elderly and those suffering long term illness. Lord, lift anxiety from those who are worried about the future, their jobs, businesses and their financial situation. May they know that they are not alone, that Jesus is always with them.

Holy Spirit we pray for ourselves, for our plans that have been changed, for the people we have lost and miss still, for our hopes and dreams for the future. Strengthen our faith, deepen our commitment to your ways and help us to better serve God and to see Jesus in everyone we meet.

Thank you Lord that you that your love never fails.

The Lord’s Prayer
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.
Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and forever.

StF 239 – Hymn – Sent by the Lord
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Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.
Sent by the Lord am I;
my hands are ready now
to make the earth the place
in which the kingdom comes.

The angels cannot change
a world of hurt and pain
into a world of love,
of justice and of peace.
The task is mine to do,
to set it really free.
Oh, help me to obey;
help me to do your will.

Jose Aguiar

A blessing
May the word of Christ guide you.
May the light of his Spirit bless
the work you do with the love
and warmth of your heart.

May people see in you the reflecting beauty of the image of Christ.

May your work never weary you.

May the Holy Spirit within overflow with the
wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and
excitement that all may know how good
and gracious is our Father in heaven.

In the name of the Father,
of the Risen Son
and of the Holy Spirit, we pray.

Carillon-Sortie by Henri Mulet
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