Home Service for Sunday 12th February 2023

Prayers of Approach

Holy God, whose way is blameless, today, as we come to worship you, we seek you with our whole hearts, we choose to walk in your way, we choose life in you. As we stand in your presence right now, we are confident that you will grant us grace and wisdom to be your true servants. Amen.

God of Integrity, God of truth and wisdom, we worship and adore you. Jesus who lived without sin, who lived life in all its fullness, we worship and adore you. Holy Spirit, who leads and guides us to live with honesty and sincerity, we worship and adore you. Amen.

Lord, help us to see others as you see them. To pay attention to how we act, not to what others do. Keep us always focused on you, Lord, so that we cannot turn from you because you are all around us. Amen.

Hymn Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart (R&S 489)

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Matthew 5:21-37


The passage from Deuteronomy is presented as a sermon delivered by Moses. He reminds the people that life in the Promised Land is not just a matter of geography – crossing the Jordan and taking the land – it is also dependent on a covenant relationship with God. There are moral and spiritual choices to be made, the people need to obey the commandments given to them in the wilderness and to give their love and loyalty to God.

In our Gospel reading Jesus addresses his followers’ behaviour, and the thoughts and feelings that give rise to it. Disciples of Jesus must be faithful, trustworthy and reliable. Right thinking – what is in the heart – is as important as right action. There are no half measures with God, so we shouldn’t need to think about what is right or wrong. When we have chosen life with God, his standard of integrity should always guide our actions and reactions.

Hymn Make me a channel of your peace (R&S 629)


Today’s readings are all about choices – choices which have been offered to God’s people again and again down the centuries. Moses offered the people the choice just before they crossed the River Jordan and entered the ‘promised land’, a choice between good and evil, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, between life and death. After the Israelites had taken the land Joshua again asked the people to choose, ‘who will you serve – the God’s of this land or the Lord?’ It is a question that was repeated by prophets all the way to John the Baptist, by Jesus himself and by disciples, apostles and teachers ever since, and is still asked of us today, ‘who will you serve?’ but it is not just ‘who’ but also ‘how’ will you serve?

Earlier in the chapter from Matthew’s gospel the beatitudes remind us that it is the merciful who will receive mercy, not those who conform to some strict requirement of law. Verses 21-37 however put all of us in the uncomfortable position of needing to change and improve. We are taken from rule-based, exterior ethics based on obvious actions to interior attitudes and choices. Suddenly our interior world where we fume against someone else, calling them an idiot, is as real as the exterior world in which we might commit an act of violence. The point isn’t that the vocal outburst is equivalent to an act of violence; it’s that, if we ‘live by the rules’, we can excuse ourselves of some pretty horrendous things because external rules give us the leeway to do this. We might never hit anybody, but if we batter them again and again in our mind, judging, condemning and despising them, dismissing them as not fit to live – what has happened to our soul? Do we not have the soul of a murderer?

It is possible to keep outward rules and yet not allow them to impact our inner selves very much. In fact, it is possible to use the rules to keep a small pocket within ourselves where we are free to follow our sinful desires because ‘I have never done that.’ Jesus’ aim is not that we follow a more intense set of rules, but that we enter into a process of getting real with ourselves, working to bring our thoughts and feelings into line with our beliefs, with a willingness to look into an inner mirror and work seriously with the faults that we see.

There is a ‘spiritual’ that begins, ‘Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer’. That seems like a good way to approach Matthew 5.21-37. We are all shown up by this inner spotlight in some way. We have certain ways of behaving where we excuse ourselves, either because we consider what we do is ‘not that bad’ or because we keep the letter of the law but are blind to its spirit. There is no huge guilt trip in this teaching however just an encouragement to act and change things. Let’s do better and be better!

Hymn Seek ye first the kingdom of God (R&S 512)

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Jesus, we thank and praise you, that you have taught us another way, that you have given us life in all its fullness. Thank you that when we seek you with all our heart, we are choosing that life. Thank you that you have offered us a different path: a path of truth, a path of humility, a path of wisdom, a path of integrity, a path of honesty. Through your example here on earth you showed us how to live peaceful lives, how to reconcile with others, how to follow you and seek wholeness. Thank you that we have all of that in you. You reconciled us on the cross and we are truly grateful. Amen.

We pray for all those whose growth has been stifled. For children abused, neglected, criticised and bullied: God of growth, may they know your love.

For those in war zones, whose lives and homes have been destroyed: God of growth, may they know your love. For those suffering from illness, whose choices have been taken from them: God of growth, may they know your love.

We pray for churches, communities and nations where division and prejudice have undermined trust and where pain and discord go unhealed: God of growth, may they know your love.

We pray on this Racial Justice Sunday for those who have been discriminated against and mistreated because of their race or colour: God of growth, may they know your love.

We pray for ourselves, in every area of our lives, where we have not grown into the people we could be: may we know your love. Amen.

Hymn The kingdom of God is justice and joy (R&S 200)


Loving Lord, we want to use our strong feelings to bring change; our words to encourage; our gifts to heal; our eyes to see as you see; our hands to give help. Lord, we choose life, we choose you,

Give us your strength and your blessing

as we strive to live the way you would have us live this week. Amen.

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

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