Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12): The people complain because God does not seem to notice when they fast and pray, but Isaiah speaks God’s word that challenges them on their injustice and exploitation – that they have the appearance of penitence without a true change of heart.
Psalm 112:1-9, (10): Those who live righteously are compassionate, just and generous, and they have confidence that God will care for them.
1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16): God’s wisdom is Christ crucified, which cannot be understood without opening our spirits to God’s Spirit. But, for we who have received God’s Spirit, we are able to know and receive the wonderful blessing God offers us in Christ.
Matthew 5:13-20: Jesus calls his followers to be as salt and light in the world – allowing our good works to be seen in order that others may praise God. Further, Jesus calls his followers to true righteousness, beyond the external legalism of the Pharisees, but embodying the true spirit of the law.

In Isaiah a contrast is drawn between the indulgent spirituality of the people, which leaves them disconnected from God and from God’s purposes, with the result that they feel no answer from God when they fast and pray, and true fasting and prayer which are expressed in lives of justice and compassion. In the Psalm, those who live justly and righteously are celebrated, and are assured of God’s care. In Paul’s letter, we are reminded that God is not known by the usual means that the world tries to find life and goodness, but only in Christ and Christ’s crucifixion. It is as we open to God’s Spirit that we receive God’s presence and power, and that we receive “the mind of Christ” which will inevitably lead us into lives that emulate Christ’s selfless service and sacrifice. In the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s Gospel, we discover that true righteousness is not that of the Pharisees – legalistic, individualistic obedience to law – but is to be light and salt in the world, fulfilling the heart of the law by bringing life and goodness to others, and drawing them into healing and saving knowledge of God. Clearly, for the Lectionary this week, true spirituality is seen in a living, vibrant relationship with God through Christ, and by God’s Spirit, which is then reflected and expressed through actions of compassion, justice and service in the world. If we live this kind of spirituality, it will inevitably draw others to this God we serve – and that’s a huge bonus for us!
(Summary of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Textweek, Singing from the Lectionary, Starters for Sunday, Sacredise,

The Sermon on the Mount: A Worship Service of Lessons and Songs
This worship service by Carolyn Gillette is a wonderful way for a congregation to celebrate all of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s gospel in one worship service. Jesus’ most famous sermon is powerful when heard in one service, coordinating Jesus’ deep words with contemporary music and prayers. It could be done on any of the weeks when the Sermon on the Mount readings are included – perhaps as an introduction or summation.

Approach to God
Why do we come before God?
The Lord is good; his love is eternal, and his faithfulness lasts for ever.
Psalm 100:5
God, we have come to worship.
We may be here often, or this experience may be unusual,
but you are here, and we need your Spirit to make this time special.
God, we have come together to worship.
We may be in our own group, we may be by ourselves,
but we gather with angels and archangels, we gather with people of every colour and every nation, we gather as those who went before us gathered –
to worship, to reflect, to receive, though Jesus Christ.
God, we have come together to worship.
To declare your greatness and your goodness.
To feel the wonder of your presence.
To listen to what you have to say.
To resolve afresh to live as your people, with the help of your Spirit. Amen.
(Source: Starters for Sunday, Church of Scotland)

Call to Worship
If the human body, body of blood and muscle,
is to live, it needs salt.
If the body of Christ, body of peace and justice,
is to live, it needs us!

If the earthly creation, bustling and blooming,
is to flourish, it needs the sun’s light.
If the new creation we are in Christ is to flourish,
it needs the Spirit’s light!

Jesus says we are salt of the earth, light of the world.
Our faith, our love, our hope —
essential as salt and light.

But if salt isn’t salty?
It isn’t what it’s meant to be.

And if a light doesn’t shine?
It isn’t what it’s meant to be.

Jesus says we are salt of the earth, light of the world.
Briny and bright, we are God’s faithful people.
We shall be who we are meant to be in Christ:
a welcoming oasis, a compassionate community,
a justice-making people, giving glory to God!

Opening Prayer
God of mystery and delight,
who has made us to be salt and light
in a tasteless, shadowed world,
guide us in this time of worship.
Grant us understanding and spiritual discernment
so that others may see your good works through us,
give you the glory,
and be moved to serve you. Amen.

God, we are here not because we are good, and not because our lives are glorious.
We are here because we are sinners who mess up,
human beings who let you down, let others down and let ourselves down.
We know what you must think of us in ourselves, and so we seek your mercy.
We are here also because we have heard there is good news;
there is a man who is on our side, whom we call Jesus;
there is a man who has lived our life as it ought to be lived,
there is a man with whom you identify so much that we call him your Son, we call him Messiah, we call him wonderful, we call him God.
For his life, for his death on the cross, for his rising from the dead, for his return to heaven, for his gift of Holy Spirit, we praise you indeed;
we rejoice in being saved from our failure and folly;
we marvel in our new life as your adopted children.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.
(Source: Starters for Sunday, Church of Scotland)

Prayer of Confession
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette’s hymn ‘O God, Come Sunday Morning’ (scroll down below to MUSIC) could be broken into two sections beginning with vv 1&2, followed by silence for reflection, followed by the ‘affirmation’ in vv 3&4.

Prayers of Restoration and Renewal
It’s much easier, God,
to point fingers and speak with horror
about the darkness in our world,
than to live ablaze with light,
revealing the truth of our lives and world,
bringing the colours of those around us into vibrant life,
warming the hearts of all we meet with compassion and love,
But, we do not choose what is easy,
We ask you to flood us with your light,
and make us light-bringers in our world.

It’s much easier, God,
to separate ourselves
from those who believe and act differently from us,
to judge and exclude them
and preach about the bland lifelessness of our world,
than to live with salty spiciness,
preserving what is good and true and beautiful,
revealing the varied and exciting flavours
of different cultures and peoples,
healing and cleansing what is wounded and stained,
But, we do not choose what is easy,
We ask you to fill us with your saltiness,
and make us spice-bringers in our world.

We celebrate your grace and truth,
your compassion and self-giving,
your justice and righteousness,
and we offer ourselves to be those who follow your ways,
who become light and salt,
bringing life, justice and praise
wherever we may find ourselves.
In Christ’s Name we pray.

We are still the people walking.
We are still people in the dark,
and the darkness looms large around us,
beset as we are by fear,
loss –
a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.

We are – we could be – people of your light.
So we pray for the light of your glorious presence
as we wait for your appearing;
we pray for the light of your wondrous grace
as we exhaust our coping capacity;
we pray for your gift of newness that
will override our weariness;
we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust
in your good rule.

That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact
your rule through the demands of this day.
We submit our day to you and to your rule,
with deep joy and high hope.
(Source: Walter Brueggemann in Prayers for a Privileged People, p.163)

God of sweat, tears and sea,
God of these three salty places,
you have added a fourth
making us the salt of the earth.
God of sun, supernovas and stars,
God of all places of light,
you have made us the light of the world.
Give us courage to own our cosmic selves,
to step out to flavor and beam for others,
through Jesus we pray,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
(Source:  Bob Eldan. For reflection and haiku on 5 Epiphany go here)

Lead them to the water
to be salt,
to be tasty, moreish,
make them thirsty,
lead them hither
to drink, to quench,
to drench from lips
to depths; to be
salt dusted on the earth
he swept across;
you are salt, scattered
by the water that restores
your taste, your thirst,
for water.

to be light,
to be free and brightly
dancing on the water,
shimmer, glimmer all
hope and fresh renewal;
sweep the earth
with beams inviting,
guiding them, lighting
their turning to the Way;
point them hither, to
the shimmer of an ocean
deep beyond all dreaming,
gleaming mysteries to dive
for, whispered story to
revive the light that flickers
unextinguished in the dark.
(Source: Rev Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

God, we are grateful for the life you have given us.
For its opportunities, for its challenges.
For its memories, for its hopes.
For the food and friendships that sustain us.
For the media which entertain us, teach us, connect us.
For the arts and sports which stimulate mind and body and spirit.
For the time that remains before us,
and for eternity beyond us,
we give you humble and heartfelt thanks.
God, we are grateful for the faith you give us.
Without you, we may be clever but remain clueless.
With you we see ourselves and the world around us more clearly,
with you we have a direction and a destiny,
with you we have a Champion and a Friend, your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.
God, we are grateful for the people you give us to help us, support us, challenge us. We give thanks for this church family, on earth and in heaven,
and for all who seek to serve you in every land.
We give thanks for every good example, for all who have inspired us,
and for him who leads us to salvation, even Christ our Lord, Amen.
(Source: Starters for Sunday, Church of Scotland)

God, we desire your name to be hallowed.
As the first fruit of a new human race, we offer you our praise and prayers in the name of Christ. May your people honour your name in life and lip,
may your church be reformed and ready for your purpose,
may those who lead us be wise and committed in their life and example.
God, we desire your kingdom to come, your will to be done on earth.
We pray for those who rule our nation;
we pray for our Prime Minister and Government, that they preserve what is good,
and put proper boundaries around what is bad;
we pray for those who hold authority in public life,
that in business and in service they may do their work with integrity;
we pray those held up as leaders by the media,
that they learn humility and practice integrity;
we pray for those who serve the life of our communities in ordinary ways,
that they discover your purpose in the ordinary things of life;
we pray for our neighbours, our friends and our enemies, in the name of Jesus.
God, grant us and especially those who hunger, daily bread;
grant us and especially those in troubled places peace, and a safe home;
grant us and especially those we know who need our prayers, healing and help.
We have asked you to forgive our sins;
help us to be strong enough to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Do not bring us to testing that is too hard for us, and deliver us from every bondage of evil, because we trust in you, the one who is stronger than every power of evil,
the one whose kingdom will triumph in the end,
the one who will change even our weak bodies into what is beyond our sight and sense,
the one whose purposes for creation exceed everything we can imagine,
the one who has given all power to his glorious Son, in the Spirit.
Therefore we pray as Christ taught us, Our Father…
(Source: Starters for Sunday, Church of Scotland)

Prayers of the People
Let us now pray to the God of light
that we may truly become the salt and the light of the world.
Lord, let your light shine in us.

That there may be more love on earth, Lord,
we ask you to dispose people to be more understanding
and friendlier to one another
and to share more readily with those in need:
Lord, let your light shine in us.
That there may be greater justice on earth,
dispose governments and public officials
to make room in their priorities and budgets
for the socially deprived and those out of jobs:
Lord, let your light shine in us.
That there may be more peace on earth,
dispose all nations to put an end to words of hatred
and threats of revenge:
Lord, let your light shine in us.

That there may be more joy on earth,
dispose all those who follow your Son
to show sympathy and affection to one another,
to be faithful in our friendships
and concerned about our communities:
Lord, let your light shine in us.

That there may be more faith on earth,
dispose all your sons and daughters
to live as children of light before you
and in the sight of people:
Lord, let your light shine in us.
Lord God, we pray that your light may shine on all the earth.
However limited we are, let our words and actions
reflect the light of your love,
in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

Commission and Benediction
As people of faith we have gathered for worship.
As people of faith we now return to the world.
Go out to share the story of faith,
the story of life, with the world around you.
We share the faith in word and in deed,
in speech and in action.
As you go out to give a living witness,
as you go out to testify to God’s love active in the world,
go knowing that God goes with you,
sharing the laughter and the hope, the fears and the tears.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Source: Rev Gord, Worship Offerings)


A Little Bit of Salt    LEONI (“The God of Abraham Praise”)
A little bit of salt will quickly show its worth;
A little bit of faithfulness will change the earth.
God, make us worth our salt— a church that’s glad to be
The change that you desire in each community.

A lamp that’s in a house gives safety, warmth and light;
It’s set upon a table where it shines so bright.
God, make your church a light that bravely takes a stand
To bring your love and justice into all the land.

A garden is a place where so much beauty grows,
Where flowers bloom and food is raised and water flows.
When worship leads us out to care for the oppressed,
O God, you say we’re like a garden at its best.

When worship leads us out to love and serve the poor,
To welcome in the immigrant* at our own door,
O God, then we’ll be called “repairers of the breach,”
And we your church will be “restorers of the streets.”

It’s tempting to remain well-hidden, quiet, bland—
Yet, God, you make us salt and light to change this land.
You send us out to love, to build and to repair,
Till peace and justice flourish here and everywhere.

* “refugee” can be used instead of “immigrant”

Biblical References: Matthew 5:13-16; 25:31-46; Isaiah 58:1-12
Tune: Traditional Hebrew melody (“The God of Abraham Praise”)
Text: Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: New Hymns:
(Please email if you want the music and words as a PDF)

O God, Come Sunday Morning
LLANGLOFFAN D (“Lead On, O King Eternal”; “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers”)
O God, come Sunday morning, we offer you our praise.
We pray and take an offering; we seek to know your ways.
We love each morning service, yet wonder, when it’s through:
Lord, did you even notice our honouring of you?

On Monday, children hunger; on Tuesday, victims cry.
On Wednesday, gunshots thunder, and so the days go by.
Indifferent, even scorning, we turn from neighbours’ pain,
And then on Sunday morning, we worship you again.

O Lord, you spoke through prophets and told us what you seek;
For this is faithful worship — to help the poor and weak,
To work to bring your justice, to give the hungry bread.
In this we honour Sabbath — when all your world is fed.

We hear your wondrous promise, that as we follow you,
You’ll make of us a garden to bless the world anew.
We trust what you have spoken — that joy and worship meet
When we repair the broken, when we restore the streets.

Biblical Reference: Isaiah 58
Text: Copyright © 2012 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: New Hymns:
This hymn was written at the 2012 Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, following a Bible study led by Dr. Margaret Aymer.

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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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