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URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 15th November
Revd. Catherine McFie
Hello and welcome to worship. My name is Catherine McFie and I am a minister within Mersey Synod. Half my time is dedicated to being the minister of two congregations: St Columba, Hunts Cross and St George’s, Maghull both of which are in Liverpool. A quarter of my time is dedicated to the role of Pastoral Office within the Liverpool Area. The final section of my time is allocated to Synod Directed ministry. I moved to the area at the start of March this year and was inducted to this varied ministry, 2 days before the country went into lockdown.
I am recording this in the study of the Manse, which is in the Liverpool suburb of Wavertree. My study has patio doors, so the space is light and airy. While I am working, I often find myself looking out at the garden especially when I see the movement of a bird or squirrel out of the corner of my eye.
Let us come and worship God.
Call to worship
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
Hymn Jesus Is the name we honour Philip Lawson-Johnston
1 Jesus is the name we honour; Jesus is the name we praise. Majestic Name above all other names, The highest heaven and earth proclaim That Jesus is our God.
We will glorify, We will lift Him high, We will give Him honour and praise. We will glorify, We will lift Him high, We will give Him honour and praise.
2 Jesus is the name we worship; Jesus is the name we trust. He is the King above all other kings, Let all creation stand and sing That Jesus is our God.
We will glorify…
3 Jesus is the Father’s splendour; Jesus is the Father’s joy. He will return to reign in majesty, And every eye at last shall see That Jesus is our God.
We will glorify…
Prayers of approach, confession and forgiveness Loving God, what a delight it is to be in your presence once again, Even though you are with us every second of every day It is good to make time to come before you with our praise and worship. We come with hearts full of thanksgiving as we remember your generosity to us, Thank you for the gift of this new day and the opportunities it holds to serve you, Thank you for your faithfulness to us Thank you for your love which surrounds us and keeps us close to you
Thank you most of all for the gift of your Son Jesus. We remember his example and teaching We remember his sacrifice on the cross We remember the joy of the resurrection There are not enough words to express our gratitude for all that you have done for us, for all that you have given us But know that these simple words come from the depths of our hearts – thank you, Lord.
We also come to say we are sorry. We are sorry for the times when we have turned away from you to follow our own path We are sorry for the words we have said that have hurt others and have not glorified you We are sorry for the things we have left undone, thinking not of others but ourselves. Gracious God, we seek your forgiveness.
Sisters and brothers, Because we belong to Jesus we do not have to fear, He lived, died, and was raised for us, Believe the promise of his words when he says “your sins are forgiven” My we forgive each other and forgive ourselves. Amen.
Prayer of illumination God of words and action, As we prepare to listen to Matthew’s gospel, As we think about parables As we seek understanding As we wait for you to lead us, Open our hearts and our minds, Fill us with your Spirit that we may be ready to learn from you. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Reading – Matthew 25: 14 – 30 14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Hymn Lord for the years Timothy Dudley Smith (1926- )
1 Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided, urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way, sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided: Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.
2 Lord, for that Word, the Word of life which fires us, speaks to our hearts and sets our souls ablaze, teaches and trains, rebukes us and inspires us: Lord of the Word, receive your people’s praise.
3 Lord, for our world, when we disown and doubt you loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain, hungry and helpless, lost indeed without you: Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.
4 Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us self on the cross and Christ upon the throne; past put behind us, for the future take us, Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.
Sermon This week’s reading from Matthew focuses on Jesus’ teaching about the end times and is the third of four parables on this theme. Much has happened since Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem, earlier in the week. Jesus has cleared the moneychangers out of the temple and cursed a fig tree. He answered questions about paying taxes, resurrection and talked about which commandment was the greatest. Jesus denounced the Scribes and the Pharisees, wept over Jerusalem, and told the disciples the temple would be destroyed. Now it was time to prepare the disciples for the future, a future that would not include him, but a future that held the hope and promise of Jesus’ return. And so he began his parable.
The man in the parable was going on a journey and while he was away, he needed someone to watch over his property and ensure that his business interests were protected so he summoned three of his slaves. He recognised the different abilities of the three people and gave them each talents accordingly – to the first he gave five talents, the second two, and to the third he gave one talent. A silver talent was valued at six thousand denarii and would be about sixteen and a half years wages for a manual labourer. Looking at talents this way helps us to understand the large responsibility the man gave his slaves but also suggests an abundance that is difficult to imagine. No instructions are given with the money so the slaves must have known from experience, what the master expected of them.
Once the man left on his journey, the first two slaves began at once to trade and make more money. This was probably not a risk-free activity, but they were willing to take chances, put in the effort and their hard work paid off. Over time they both generated enough of a profit to double what they have been given. The third slave took a different approach and was focused on just keeping the money they had safe. At a time when safety deposit boxes did not exist, the safest place to keep such a large sum of money was in the ground. So the third slave dug a large hole, buried the talent and waited quietly for the master’s return.
A long time passed but the master did return and he was anxious to settle accounts with those he had trusted to look after his property. Each slave had the opportunity to speak to the master and give a summary of what they had been doing during his absence.
Although the first two slaves received a different number of talents, their story to the master was the same. They had taken the money, made some sound business decisions and had managed to double the money that they had been given. They were excited to tell the master that they now had ten and four talents respectively. The master was very well pleased with both these slaves and the work they had done. They had proven themselves to be hard working and trustworthy and as a reward they were to be given more responsibility. The master also invited them to share in his joy.
I wonder how the third slave felt as he listened to the others wax lyrical about what they had done and how much they had gained during the master absence. Now that it was his turn to speak about what he had achieved, did he regret simply burying the talent. As he began his account he didn’t tell the master about his actions, but instead began with a critique of the master’s business practices. He called the master a harsh man and accused him of stealing from other farmers, suggesting he was not a man to be trusted. The slave used this critique as an excuse for his inaction and admitted that he made his choices out of fear. He was afraid of losing any of the master’s money, so he simply buried it. He returned the 1 talent to his master and felt his duty had been adequately discharged.
There was no word of praise for the third slave as the master declared him to be wicked and lazy. This does seem a bit harsh considering the slave had not lost the master any money, but when his actions are compared to those of the other slaves we can understand the master’s point of view. The master does not confirm or deny the accusations levelled against him but the way he says “you knew did you…” suggests that maybe, the third slave’s opinions was not accurate. The slave is told that the bank would have been a better alternative because there would have been interest that accrued. This slave had not proven himself trustworthy and the responsibility that he had been given was taken away. The one talent was given to the slave who had accumulated ten talents. This time the actions of the third slave had different consequences. He was to be thrown out into the outer darkness, away from the safety of the master’s home and denied the opportunity to share in the master’s joy with the others.
When I first read though this passage there was much that worried me. There is a sense that only those who work get the blessing. There is a sense of unfairness – why should those who have receive more and vice versa? There is a sense of confusion – why was the third slave described as wicked for keeping the master’s money safe? There is sense that this passage could easily be abused to justify a materialistic or capitalistic approach to life. Yet, while all these concerns are on my mind, I remember that this is a parable and so it isn’t supposed to be taken literally. The story has a deeper meaning beyond the obvious. We have to look beyond Jesus’ words to seek out what he is telling us about the end times.
The first lesson from the parable is that the waiting, the time between now and when Jesus returns, is not a time of inactivity. In our communities there is work to be done for the kingdom, and as disciples this is our work to do. The master did not treat the three slaves the same and God does not treat us the same. The work we are given to do will consider our abilities but we all will have work to do. The third slave faced the judgement of the master not because he hadn’t made any money but because he had been inactive, he had not made the most of the responsibilities and the opportunities he had been given.
Today, this parable is a prompt for us to think about how we are working for the kingdom. Are we making the most of the responsibility and the opportunities God has given us to build the kingdom in our areas?
The second lesson comes from looking the way the slaves emulated the master. I have assumed that the master had a successful business because he was able to hand over 8 talents to his slaves. The first two slaves emulated the master by trading, taking risks and by making a success of what they attempted. Their focus was on doing something for the master. The third slave made no attempt to trade, took no risks, and didn’t try to make any money. His actions were the opposite of the master. His focus was on himself and what was best for him rather than on what was best for the master.
So do we try to emulate Jesus in the work that we do for the kingdom? For example, do we challenge injustice, show compassion, question those in authority, help those in need, take risks to make a difference? It is easy to fall into a pattern of discipleship that is safe and based on what we need, what time we are happy to give and what we are willing to do. This style of discipleship that doesn’t reflect the characteristics or values of Jesus because it is focused on the wrong things. Our actions and view are centred on our needs and wants rather than on the will of God and the needs of the kingdom.
Finally, it was a surprise to hear the third slave being so critical of the master and openly accusing him of bad business practices. For someone who took no risks during the master absence he appears to be taking a big risk speaking in such a way publicly. We don’t know if the accusations were true or false but if they were false, why did the third slave have such a negative view of his master? While the third slave’s words are a surprise they shouldn’t really be. Experience has taught me that even within the church and amongst disciples there are those who have a false view or limited view of God or Jesus. This can occur when we are inactive in our discipleship, when we focus on ourselves and reflect the values of the world rather than the values of our master. While we will never truly understand God, we can be active in trying to know God more. As we seek answers and as we learn more, we gain a different and deeper understanding of God and we change as people. Our values and attitudes begin to emulate that of our master, and we are eager to work for the kingdom. The opposite is also true. If we don’t seek to know more about God, we can find that the little knowledge and understanding we do have, gives a limited idea of who God is and what God can do. We also stop seeing changes in our own lives, it becomes difficult to emulate the master and we struggle to actively work for the kingdom.
This parable teaches us how we, as Jesus’ disciples today, should spend our time while we wait for his return. How will the master respond when we are asked to settle our account? Will we be invited into the joy of the master or will be cast out into the outer darkness? Amen.
Affirmations of Faith
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
This is the faith of the Church! We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Hymn Lord of creation Words: John Copley Winslow, Tune: Slane
1 Lord of creation, to you be all praise! Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways! Your glory and might are beyond us to tell, and yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.
2 Lord of all power, I give you my will, in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfill. Your bondage is freedom, your service is song, and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.
3 Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind; rich truth that surpasses and knowledge to find. What eye has not seen and what ear has not heard is taught by your Spirit and shines from your Word.
Offertory introduction and prayer God has entrusted us with different gifts and resources Let us offer to God a generous measure of what we have received with a thankful heart and in an attitude of praise.
Generous God, for all that you are and all that you do We give you our heartfelt thanks We wait in hope for the return of your Son, Jesus, And offer our time, talents and the fruit of our labours And pray that you use them to further your kingdom on earth.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Almighty God, you welcome us into your joy and entrust us with your Gospel. In hope and with love, we bring before you our prayers for the world
For those who live in fear this day…may they have courage. For those who have questions and doubts…may they be reassured. For those who have little…may they receive a fair share of the world’s resources For those who have been enslaved…may they be given freedom For those who are out of work…may they find employment For those who seek your will for their lives…may they receive guidance For us, your church…may we be faithful workers for your kingdom. Faithful God, we offer up these prayers and the prayers of our hearts in the name of Jesus. Amen
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go Charles Wesley
1 Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go, My daily labour to pursue; Thee, only Thee, resolved to know In all I think, or speak, or do.
2 The task Thy wisdom hath assigned, O let me cheerfully fulfil; In all my works Thy presence find, And prove Thy good and perfect will.
3 Thee may I set at my right hand, Whose eyes mine inmost substance see, And labour on at Thy command, And offer all my works to Thee.
4 Give me to bear Thy easy yoke, And every moment watch and pray, And still to things eternal look, And hasten to Thy glorious day.
5 For Thee delightfully employ Whate’er Thy bounteous grace hath given; And run my course with even joy, And closely walk with Thee to Heaven.
Blessing God of patience and opportunities Guide us as we seek to learn more about you, Encourage us as we work to build your kingdom, Challenge us to know your will.
May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you today and always. Amen.
Thanks to Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith. Melanie Hall, Ray Fraser, Carol Tubbs, Anne Hewling for reading other parts. Evie Richardson (aged 5) for the offertory prayer.
Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist(“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
Jesus is the name we honour (CH4 481 – words + tune by Phil Lawson-Johnston) – Performed by Ingrid DuMosch Lord for the years (CH4 159 – words by Timothy Dudley Smith) – from BBC’s Songs of Praise Lord of creation, to you be all praise! (CH4 500 – Words by John Copley Winslow), performed by Seventh Day Adventist Choir from Sacramento Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go (CH4 529 – words by Charles Wesley), performed by St Michael’s Choir, Absolute Marketing Int. Ltd.
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762