The Wyre at Stannah by Mr. McKnight
Welcome. This week’s service focuses on our countryside. We have moved from the coast, through our towns and villages and now wander amongst the diversity of our lovely, Fylde countryside. In our readings today we consider our call to meet and serve all.
Call. Come, with purpose,
into the presence of the living God.
Come to worship, to be refreshed,
to discover and learn new things.
Come, knowing that God
welcomes us all with open arms.
(Adapted from Prayers © ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.)
Gathering. Let us come together in prayer with these words that reflect Psalm 67, set for today. I have combined verses of this song, sung to the tune ‘Morning has Broken’. We know that we are all here together, wherever we are, and however we come, in God’s presence.
Praise and thanksgiving,
Father, we offer,
For all things living
You have made good;Sowing or tilling,
We would work with you;
For daily bread.
Food for your children,
Your wisdom guiding
Teaches us share
When you are reigning
No one will hunger:
Your love sustaining
Fruitful the land.
© 1988, Oxford University Press
Introduction. We are blessed with beautiful countryside where we live. I am always surprised at friends who know little about this Fylde we’re part of. I particularly like the diversity of landscapes. Sandy shores, woodlands, moss, arable and animal farming, market gardens, canals, ditches and dykes, rivers, estuary and sea. Of course, we lack hills, but there are areas that are elevated that give us a viewpoint.
On a clear day, I love going up to Beacon Fell and looking back over the Fylde. Blackpool Tower is always prominent, and the landscape in between looks samey, flat, and perhaps uninspiring. However, if you begin to explore, the lanes, pathways, and roads there are many hidden corners waiting to be discovered.
When our churches are looked at from the outside – they too can seem samey. Perhaps
architecturally different, but seen as a symbol of faith, that is thought by some to have got stuck in the past, with no relevance to the world outside. We know that the church is not the building, it is the community, working, worshipping, and witnessing together. We know that we are as individual, as varied as the different countryside around us. But, just as we can all be lumped together as those people who go to church on a Sunday and nothing more, I think often we are in danger of looking to those outside our communities and doing the same.
It is so easy to group people together-it makes life simpler for us – the poor, the homeless, the black, the old, the deaf, the refugee, the transsexual. We can easily forget each person’s individuality, our being made in the creator’s image, the delight of difference. So often when we do this, we can dismiss others, disregard, and exclude.
We have seen the value in biodiversity, a variety of plants and animals for a healthy and vital ecosystem. So too we need to consider how we can open our arms of service wider and in doing so we may be surprised at how we will be served and nourished in turn.
Song. This week’s song is by Jason Gray. It is called ‘Remind Me Who I Am’. Have a listen – it reminds us of each person’s value
Reading. Matthew 15.21-28
Reflection. I think this reading first came to my notice at college. I was horrified at Jesus’ response to the woman. It sounded to me like he was describing her as a dog. I could not understand this at all. This was not my understanding of ‘Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild’. Why was this woman treated like this? Then I learnt that she doesn’t take this lying down. She dares to answer him back. She makes him change his point of view. Jesus, the Son of God, being wrong? Wow.
This piece follows a passage where the disciples tell Jesus that the Pharisees are not happy with him. He’d been telling them that the food laws, created to keep the population healthy, are not as important as they thought. It is more important to consider what we say and do rather than how and what we eat. The Pharisees’ anger stops them hearing Jesus’ message. I wonder if there are people we don’t listen to, because of who or what they are.
Then Jesus is pulled up short by a woman he has dismissed as being outside those he has come to serve. I love this evidence of his humanity. Doesn’t it make you feel better that sometimes even Jesus got it wrong?
But Jesus listens to her. She proves herself to be a skilled debater and stands her ground for the needs of her daughter. Would we challenge those with authority to stand up for the rights of someone vulnerable? Many of us in churches do this every year with our support of Fair Trade, Christian Aid, The Children’s Society, Eco Church. Perhaps our voices need to be louder. Our reading from Isaiah 56 states that God tells us to,
‘Maintain justice, and do what is right’. Perhaps we can find more ways of speaking out. Getting involved with groups that are campaigning on behalf of others with no voice, or on behalf of God’s creation.
Jesus listens to the voice of the outsider and hears something new – he is transformed by this experience. Every year we watch as our countryside is transformed through the seasons, a landscape with multiple elements and features – creating a whole that is incomplete without each piece. This is one of the joys of living in Britain.
Can we imagine our churches, our world, transformed by listening to the voices of the hidden, the unheard? This growing together, rejoicing and celebrating our different qualities-each enriching the other. Paul reminds us in Romans 11.29
‘for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.’
We are called to this service. If Jesus himself can be inspired by the outsider, then who are we to close our ears and turn our backs.
Prayers. For our prayers I want you to imagine the landscape of the Fylde.
From a distance it may look samey,
bland with no interesting details.
Forgive us Lord, for forgetting the intricacy of your creation. Forgive us when we dismiss others with a simplistic label. Forgive us when we forget your call to serve all.
As our focus increases, we begin to see the complex pattern of fields, roads, rivers, and trees.
Help us to see more clearly where your call is taking us. We pray for all who feel lost in the midst of others, the lonely, the homeless, the grieving, the dispossessed. We pray for those who need to see the clearness of your love, feel the healing touch of your hand.
Now we can see each leaf, each flower, each person, beautiful in their individuality and diversity.
Thank you for the beauty of each part of your creation. Thank you that you have created all of us in your image. Thank you that you have created us to need the difference we find in others. Amen
Please say The Lord’s Prayer in your familiar version
Hymn. Let us build a house where love can dwell. Our final hymn today may be a new one to you. It speaks of re-imagining our church to become a welcoming community to all.
Sending on prayer.
May God be gracious to us
and bless us.
May God’s face shine upon us
as we go on from here
to make God’s ways known upon the earth
to praise God in our homes and in our streets
to bring God’s gladness and joy
to our nations and neighbours. Amen
Prayers adapted from Church of Scotland Worship