Genesis 12:1-9 God calls Abram to leave his home country, promising that his offspring will become a great nation. So Abram leaves with family and settles in the land of Canaan. Then God promises to give that land to his descendants.
OR Hosea 5:15-6:6The prophet calls the people to return to God with the assurance that God will raise them up. But God speaks through the prophet, grieving the fickle love of God’s people and declaring that God desires love and not sacrifice.

Psalm 33:1-12The psalmist calls God’s righteous people to praise God in music, song and shouting because God is true, righteous, just and loving. God made the earth and skies and God’s plan is eternal. The nation which worships God is happy.
OR Psalm 50:7-15God speaks to God’s people telling them that God does not need their sacrifices because the world and everything in it belong to God, and they must rather offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, fulfil their promises and cry out to God when they are in trouble.
(Psalm 50 paraphrase by Bruce Prewer here)

Romans 4:13-25God’s promise to Abraham did not come through the Law but through righteousness and faith. In faith, Abraham trusted in the promise and held on to hope and God credited him as righteous. In the same way when we have faith in the Risen Christ, it will be credited to us too.

Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26Jesus calls Matthew to follow him and shares a meal in Matthew’s home with many tax collectors and sinners. When the Pharisees questioned this, Jesus responded that he had not come to call the righteous but sinners. Then he heals a woman who had been suffering for twelve years with bleeding and raises a ruler’s daughter from death.

This Sunday we begin the season of Ordinary Time (from the Latin word ordinalis meaning ‘numbered’) in which we shift focus from God’s story as taught and revealed in Christ to our story and how we will live as faithful Christ-followers. Ss we begin this season the readings for this week challenge us to make a simple but difficult choice: will our faith be about religious sacrifice or mercy? Will we give ourselves to maintaining religious institutions or will we focus our lives and faith on sowing kindness, compassion, empathy, love, and support to the poor, excluded, oppressed, and broken people in our world? Ultimately this is a question of how we will interpret the Gospel of Jesus and how we will seek to live it out in our lives and communities. May our worship this week lead us into a deeper and more practical commitment to follow Jesus in his way of indiscriminate mercy.

(Lectionary reading summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Recommended resources for prayers and reflections on the lectionary
Church of Scotland Weekly Worship

Thoughts about Genesis reading & worship
(from Church of Scotland worship resources)
Abram is continuing a journey already started by his father. The record tells us, but does not explain to us, that Terah had his sights on Canaan when the family set out on their previous travelling from Ur as far as Haran. It’s good to bring our imaginations to this knowledge. How curious that God’s call does not name the land. Was it so obvious it could only mean Canaan? How did Abram ‘hear’ this non-naming? As an affirmation that this God already knew the family trajectory; as God’s unseating of Abram from any assumption about the path ahead; as God taking up position as leader and guide of Abram’s life?
Consider how to make visible this staged journey in worship, perhaps with a large cloth, tarpaulin or suchlike, repeatedly laid out then rolled up and carried, laid in a new place, and so on. Or repeatedly held aloft by four people at the corners, forming a makeshift ‘tent’ while stationary, then folding up and moving on.

‘Trusting the Unknown’

Our lives are full of transitions.
Everything changes.
Amidst all change,
at every stage of transition,
God’s saving love for us and all creation
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with you (us) and remain with you (us) always. Amen.
(A sign of peace is shared)

God of our ancestors,
You have wanted relationships with people
ever since the dawn of humanity
You have reached out in love
right from the beginning of our existence.
You are glad to be known as the God of Abraham
and as our God
You want us to know ourselves
as Your children, Your people.
You are the Ancient of Days
and as fresh as summer rain.
Steadfast and Surprising God,
You are younger and older than all that is
and before Your face,
we bow in wonder at You again.
What a gift
that You make Yourself known
and call us to You
and call out the best in us.
(Source: Church of Scotland Weekly Worship 2023)

Rough Translations
(inspired by Romans 4:18, ‘hoping against hope…’)
Hope nonetheless.
Hope despite.
Hope regardless.
Hope still.
Hope where we had ceased to hope.
Hope amid what threatens hope.
Hope with those who feed our hope.
Hope beyond what we had hoped.
Hope that draws us past our limits.
Hope that defies expectations.
Hope that questions what we have known.
Hope that makes a way where there is none.
Hope that takes us past our fear.
Hope that calls us into life.
Hope that holds us beyond death.
Hope that blesses those to come.
(Source: Jan Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook)

Opening words
In you alone we put our hope,
God the Father, Creator and Sustainer,
who gives all good things
seen and unseen.
In you alone we put our hope,
God the Son, Saviour and Redeemer,
who died for our sins
and rose again.
In you alone we put our hope,
God the Spirit, Teacher and Comforter,
who moves us to sing
“Our God reigns!”
In you alone we put our hope.
(Source: John Birch, Faith and Worship website)

Dear Lord, 
what a puzzle we are to ourselves
when we shut off the flow of Your Spirit;
when we become disconnected from You
and do not even think to say, “Help!”
Forgive us
our futile, self-defeating cycles of despair.
Forgive us
when we hurt others because we are hurting.
Forgive us
when we sit too long in the certainty we are beyond repair.
Help us, Jesus, to let You come near,
to let You lay Your hands upon us,
to speak to us clearly, saying,
‘My beloved child,
I forgive you,
I love you,
go on in peace.’
Holy Spirit, fire up Your pilot light within us again,
come alive in us with new warmth and energy!
Mended and hopeful,
keep us on your way. Amen.
(Source: Church of Scotland Weekly Worship 2023)

Thanksgiving and intercession
today we are thankful
for all that we know of journeys You made –
heaven to earth
conception to birth
growing up in years and in understanding
into the water of baptism and the wilderness of testing
into villages and out among fields,
teaching, storytelling, healing, confronting, discipling;
walking to Jerusalem,
sweating in a garden, stumbling under a cross.
You pitched Your tent and moved among us.
Thank You for Your courage and Your compassion.
Thank You for Your trusting and Your questioning.
Thank You for Your sorrow and Your integrity.
What an example You are, of how to walk,
how to face each stage as it comes,
how to know what is finished and what is unfinished.

Pilgrim God,
from long ago You have called people
to leave and arrive,
to move and to settle down.
Thank You for the saints of Scotland,
spreading the gospel here
especially Columba of Ireland and Iona,
for the community he led
the missions he undertook,
his prayer and peacemaking and evangelism.
Thank You for the unsung saints of our own lives,
those who have crossed our paths just when we needed each other,
convincing us of Your grace and timing and mystery.

Today we bring our prayers
for people we know and people we don’t know
who are at a difficult stage of a journey.
For those in anguished questioning,
God meet them.
For those in trembling doubt,
God, reassure them.
For those in endless, unfulfilled waiting,
God, bear with them.
We pray for those at times of change and transition,
not knowing what lies ahead –
approaching retirement,
beginning a new relationship,
preparing to move home,
applying for a new job,
summoning courage for a lonely decision…

God, come close as You came to Abraham,
go ahead and come behind,
make camp with Your people, and lead on.

Gracious God,
when we call on You in the day of trouble,
You deliver us.
So we call on You
in these moments of prayer
naming in silence the people
for whom we carry a special concern today…

(short silence)

You are with us as we trust,
as we waver,
as we trust.
Thank You, God.
(Source: Church of Scotland Weekly Worship 2023)

(inspired by events in Genesis 12-18)
Long before the change of name,
before the first signs of new life
showed the beginnings of promises fulfilled,
You asked Abram to make his home among foreigners,
and share the blessing that was to come.
And now, O God, you ask the same faith of us:
The faith to count ourselves among the least,
to find our place alongside the poor and broken;
The faith to trust in your mercy and your promises,
and to share what we have received;
The faith to wait expectantly for your reign of justice and equity,
together with those who most need its gifts.
Teach us to be children of Abram, sharers of the blessings we enjoy:
The blessing of plenty shared with those who have need,
The blessing of healing shared with those who are sick and wounded,
The blessing of joy shared with those who celebrate
and of tears shared with those who grieve,
The blessing of friendship shared with those who are excluded,
and of solidarity with those who fight injustice,
The blessing of peace shared with those in conflict,
and of confrontation shared with those who bring harm;
And in some small way, may our faith and our sharing,
help to bring your promises into being in our world.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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