July 8, 2021

Sunday Worship Service for 11th July 2021

Passage: Psalm 24

A prayer of adoration
Mighty God, we adore you.
We thank you that we can come to you
knowing that you care about each and every one of us,
and all our needs, however big or small.
You created the heavens and the earth.
You put stars into space and filled the mighty seas.
Your power and your greatness is all around us –
from mountain-tops to the intricacies of a tiny flower.
Thank you that your power is limitless.
We are so small in comparison, but you love us all the same.
We adore you, Creator God.
A prayer of confession and an Assurance of forgiveness
Powerful God, forgive us
when we have not used our power to influence for good,
but for our own purposes;
when our actions have hurt and excluded others;
when we have allowed greed, fear and pride
to get in the way.
God, forgive us.
Let our thoughts, our words and our actions
glorify you and reveal your presence and purposes.
Assurance of forgiveness
The almighty and powerful God forgives your sins.
When you have put yourself before others,
God forgives you and heals you,
giving you grace and mercy
and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Read Psalm 24
Sermon by Rev Peter Lyth
Although travel has been curtailed by the Covid Pandemic, we have still had many opportunities to marvel at the wonder of God’s creation. Whether it is the beauty of the flowers that we see in the Botanic Gardens, or the miracle of the new ducklings that we see every spring, or maybe it’s the vast twin expenses of sand and sky that we encounter as we look out from the esplanade, we see God’s work. There are many places in the Bible that celebrate the greatness of God and amongst them is the psalm that we focus on today – Psalm 24.
I love the book of Psalms. It is a diverse collection of 150 poems, some of which are attributed to King David. They were written for all sorts of purposes and reflect many moods. Some are songs of triumph, others of lament. Psalm 137, written during the exile in Babylon writes of the struggle of the Jewish people to come to terms with living in a land whose customs are very different and where God does not seem to have the cultural pre-eminence that he has in their homeland. Others are individual laments, “My eyes waste away because of grief; they grow weak because of all my foes” writes the author of Psalm 6 (maybe David himself) as he feels under attack from his enemies.
Other psalms are ones of thanksgiving – they are worth reading from time to time as they remind us of our reliance on God and that we should be constantly grateful to him. The writer of Psalm 111 tells us, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation”. He is not afraid to thank God publicly for his blessings.
The Psalm that we heard today belongs to a different category – that of an Entrance psalm. It was to be sung or proclaimed as the people entered the Temple for worship. Like so much of the Bible, it is a reminder of truths that are eternal and would have served to focus the minds of the multitudes as they entered the Temple.
There are a few things that I would like to draw attention to.
The first is the way in which the Psalm opens, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it”. This is a salutary reminder that we are entrusted with the world and all its contents. I sometimes think that we are in a situation similar to having been loaned something, (a book for example) and have not treated it with the care that it was due. Maybe there’s now a coffee stain on one of the pages, or perhaps the dust cover is torn. Even worse, it might be lost completely – I confess that this once happened to me and I was wracked with guilt as I searched Amazon for a replacement whilst promising to myself that I would be much more careful in future. The original was unearthed before the replacement arrived and so I was able to return it to its owner. But still it was a lesson taught and learned – that I should always take great care of other people’s possessions. But how much more so should we take care of the earth. After all, not only is it the possession of God, but also it is his handiwork. It feeds into the current debates on climate change and such issues as plastic pollution. As we are custodians of the planet, we are obliged to take care of it and this takes on to my second point – that the next verse underlines that the earth in all its glory is God’s creation. One of the things that is helpful is that it does not tell us how God did it – thereby avoiding controversy about the historical accuracy of the story of the creation. Instead the writer tells us, “for he has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers”. The world is founded by God, is God’s handiwork and a reflection of God’s creativity. The mechanism by which the world was created is open to debate and our view of it will change as scientific exploration continues. However the fact that God is behind it all is fundamental to our belief.
But having established that the earth is the Lord’s and that he is behind its creation, we move on to the whole purpose of this psalm in that it is one that is all about worship. The second part is all about the temple, which is situated on a hill. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” asks the psalm writer.
We are told “Those with clean hands and pure hearts”.
For the last 16 months, we have been told to clean our hands at every opportunity. When we go into and out of the church, we use hand sanitiser. When the pandemic started, we were urged to sing “Happy Birthday” twice whilst washing our hands in order that we washed them for the requisite amount of time. Here, we are told that those with clean hands and pure hearts are able to stand in the holy place of the Lord. But this means something rather different. It means that the community is one that is shaped by God. It works to principles of integrity, both in how it relates to God and how the people relate to each other. The clean hands are ones that have acted according to God’s will. We often have prayers of confession in a service before Holy Communion. In that way, we approach God having made a fresh start. The people who worship God are part of his community and their values and focus are moulded by Him.
Finally, we return to the theme that the God whom we worship is a great God. God is both creator and King. God creates life with its order and hope our response as we approach God with awe is to become the community that he intends – one that is called to wholeness and integrity. This psalm – a song in fact, reminds us that God is above and around us, He is ahead of us and supports us. He is the architect and king of all there is. And we are blessed to be called his people responding to his call by living according to his rule – revealed to us in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayers of intercession
Lord, words and actions have consequences. They can hurt or heal. Build or break. Herod’s rash words and subsequent actions had dire consequences.
We pray for all people today whose words and actions have led to negative life-changing results. We pray for those who have succumbed to peer pressure. All who have been pressured into doing wrong and find themselves living with the consequences.
God of all power, love and faithfulness, hear our prayer.
We pray for people of all ages trapped in toxic relationships. For victims of abuse. For the lonely and the elderly in our communities. All those whose vulnerability is exploited by the actions of others.
God of all power, love and faithfulness, hear our prayer.
We pray for the government and all those in power arguing about the timing of lifting all Covid restrictions. We pray for Christians in parliament. For ambassadors. For peacemakers everywhere. May they speak your truths and be heard.
God of all power, love and faithfulness, hear our prayer.
We pray for Afghanistan as troops prepare to leave. We pray for the young people in Israel who are used as pawns in government-run schools. And for Nigeria where the number of student kidnappings by rebels keeps rising. Bring them safely home. We pray for our own children’s schooling at this time, interrupted as it is by Covid rules. Protect the futures of the innocent. Guide them in all they do.
God of all power, love and faithfulness, hear our prayer.
The beginning of July saw the marking of the 73rd anniversary of our NHS. We pray for all NHS staff. That more doctors and nurses will be recruited as many leave due to demanding workloads and the exhausting toll of the pandemic. We pray for the sick, the exhausted, the bereaved. For all care givers everywhere.
God of all power, love and faithfulness, hear our prayer.
We pray for the church that it will stand and act upon your Word without compromise. We pray for all who minister and lead us. For all who you call to speak out. That we, your people will, like Amos, listen, hear and respond in the power of your Holy Spirit. We pray you will strengthen, guide and guard.
God of all power, love and faithfulness, hear our prayer. May your love and truth direct us in all things. Amen.
Prayers are © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2021. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

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