Home Service for Sunday 10th September 2023

Prayers of Approach

Lord God, as we gather today, help us to see the strength and unity in our church fellowship, to think about things that might strengthen it further, and to recognise things that might damage it.

God of our words and our actions, we come to you to learn that we may share with others, to grow that we may inspire others, to listen that we may learn from others, to be open that we may appreciate others, to become more like your Son, Jesus Christ, who invites us to care for others creatively, compassionately and constantly, in good times and in bad, in peace and in conflict. Amen.

Holy God, we reach out to you in thankfulness knowing that you will bless us with stability in turmoil, courage in conflict, and grace in unity. May we both challenge and change those things in ourselves, in our church, our community, and our world, that dishonour your love for us and spoil our relationships with one another, so that we may grow in the likeness of your Son, and bring peace where there is brokenness – to your glory. Amen.

Hymn God is love; his the care (R&S 274)

Readings: Romans 13:8-14

Matthew 18:15-20


Jesus says that those who live in a kingdom community should watch over one another in love, gently pointing out when a brother or sister fails to live by the values Jesus teaches. He suggests a three-stage path for reconciliation between people. This is practical advice but it is a way that has to be exercised carefully and considerately with love. If Christianity is to be distinctive we have to deal with our difficulties in a way that reflects the love of God.

Saying that ‘the one who loves another has fulfilled the law’, Paul reminds us that such love is greater than the human love that may come naturally to us, such as for family and friends. Because love for ‘the other’ fulfils the summary of the law, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ it is nothing less than divine since God’s nature is to love ‘the other’ in the continuing work of creation and salvation.

Hymn Bind us together Lord (MP 54)


The Jewish scholar Hillel was once challenged to sum up the Law and declared that he could do it standing on one leg. His summation said, ‘What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah’. Paul says very much the same: ‘love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law’. Both Hillel and Jesus echo Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18, which summarises the law as love for God and for neighbour, and in Matthew 7:12, Jesus also gives a ‘positive’ version of Hillel’s ‘golden rule’: ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’ Paul as a Pharisaic scholar would have been familiar with all these teachings and is probably referring to them in today’s reading as he reminds the Christians in Rome, many of whom would have been Gentiles, what it means to follow Christ.

As modern day Christians we are constantly reminded of the command ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18), but do we really believe that Love = all of Law? Love is difficult and costly, to love without reservation requires enormous sacrifice and even the most self-giving love doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict. We all know the saying, ‘good fences make good neighbours’ but in the early Christian communities living closely together, supporting each other was a necessity. Matthew is relaying Jesus’ words to a beleaguered minority community. Solidarity must have been very important. Perhaps some were shying away from their distinctiveness as followers of Jesus, or were they possibly enforcing difference to the point of being oppressive? Jesus insists on tact, empathy and adequate discussion before any decision is made.

Conflict can tear apart families and communities, leaving lifelong scars and this must have been a real danger for a minority community in an often hostile world. On the other hand, conflict – especially when it leads to reconciliation – can build greater strength. But how do we deal with and resolve conflict when it arises. After the end of apartheid in South Africa and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda work was done by many reconciliation groups to rebuild communities, to encourage the abandonment of longstanding divisions resulting now in genuinely united and strong societies.

Jesus teaches that there should be careful listening in a conflict situation but what does it mean if, as the consequence of disagreement, you treat someone as Jesus suggests: ‘as a Gentile and a tax-collector’? These were people on the margins of society; is Jesus saying treat the person as an outcast? Yet, Jesus had no hesitation in eating with tax-collectors and sinners, even though not everyone approved. In other words, if we ask: How should we treat a Gentile or a tax-collector? – the answer we have from Jesus’ example is ‘with compassion’, not making them an outcast but engaging with them more fully, even if not everyone approves.

Peace-making begins with not blowing the issue out of proportion. The process described in the Gospel suggests that we should tread softly but get to the root of the problem before it festers.

· How can a community deal with an issue without either ganging up on someone or splitting?

· How do you do conflict well?

· What does good communication look or feel like?

· What happens when you cannot all agree?

Hymn Brother, sister, let me serve you (R&S 474)

Prayers of Intercession

God of integrity and wisdom, you are the source of peace and the healer of conflicts within ourselves and our families, within our community and our country, within the nations of the world; so, we praise you for caring when we hurt one another, for grieving when we are divided, for rejoicing when we are reconciled to one another and to you, and for inspiring us to be the best we can be.

Eternal, ever-living God, we pray for those who this day need our prayers: those we see around us… those we have left at home… family and friends near and far… strangers and communities we will never meet or know, but whose peril we hear of and see on our screens… those whose life is ebbing away consumed by old age, frailty, illness or neglect… those who grieve deeply for lives and loves lost… those who cause grief and chaos in society and who live seemingly with different values from ours, for them and their victims and their families… those who are forgotten, unnoticed, unloved, unmissed… Lord God, in your abundance of mercy, hear these and all our prayers. Amen.

Hymn Let there be love shared among us (R&S 477)


God of peace, we pray for peace throughout the world. Send us out as peacemakers, people who help to set things right where there is disagreement, who try to resolve conflict. Show us the way of peace in our own lives, and in our homes and places of learning, in our streets and throughout our community. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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