Short meditation before worship:
Call to worship:
God stands with arms wide open
Ready to welcome us home with an enormous hug.
God sits with hands held out
Ready to listen to our troubles and sooth our worries.
God whoops with hands punching the sky
Ready to delight and celebrate all that we can be.
So come, worship the God who first loved us.
Hymn 1: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in his justice
which is more than liberty.
2 There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more keenly felt than heaven:
there is no place where earth’s failings
have such gracious judgement given.
3 There is plentiful redemption
through the blood that Christ has shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the head.
4 For the love of God is broader
than the measure of our mind;
and the heart of the eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
5 If our love were but more simple,
we should take him at his word;
and our lives would be illumined,
by the glory of the Lord.
Frederick William Faber (1814-1863) and Jubilate Hymns
if I asked you for bread,
would you hand me a stone?
I’d believe in the stone, if it came from you!
Oh, God, where is the bread?
I’ve sat with open hands for hours.
Is my heart as open as my hands?
Or is this just an empty symbol,
devoid of meaning
devoid of reality?
Is my closed heart laughing at my open hands?
I hear the songs they sing in churches:
You satisfy the hungry with gift of finest wheat…
And I wonder, where is this gift of finest wheat?
Have I become the Canaanite woman to you, Lord?
Are you afraid to throw your bread to dogs,
to the unworthy
Well then, I’ll put on her mind instead of yours.
I’ll wear her faith instead of your arrogance.
Even the dogs get the crumbs, Lord.
God, you cannot hide from me.
You cannot scare me with your face of absence.
I scare myself with this hunger for your presence.
I will break all rules to possess you.
To be nourished by you,
I would go to every table in the world.
I would leave no stone unturned to find you
lest when I turn it over
it be changed to bread.
I come looking for bread,
But if you’re saving it for your children,
I’ll gather up the crumbs if you insist.
I’ll make a meal on leftovers
and rejoice that I have been so blessed.
I feel so powerless
so little and so poor
so terribly wide open
It hurts to be so hungry
so dependent on your bits of grace.
Even the dogs get the crumbs, Lord
I’ll gather up the crumbs
Adapted from: Macrina Wiederkehr, Rev Gal Blog Prayer Pals blog
Old Testament reading: 1 Kings 17,8-16
Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.
Gospel reading: Matthew 15,21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.
Hymn 2: You satisfy the hungry heart
You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat,
Come give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.
1 As when the shepherd calls his sheep,
They know and heed his voice;
So when You call Your family, Lord,
We follow and rejoice.
2 With joyful lips we sing to You,
Our praise and gratitude,
That You should count us worthy Lord,
To share this heavenly food.
3 The mystery of Your presence Lord,
No mortal tongue can tell;
Whom all the world cannot contain
Comes in our hearts to dwell.
4 You give yourself to us, O Lord,
Then selfless let us be,
To serve each other in Your name
In truth and charity.
One of the rules at the summer camps I attended as a little girl was: NO FOOD IN THE CABINS. And there was a good reason for it. That good reason was called ‘ants.’ Those cheeky little insects would follow the tiniest trace of a crumb straight to the source and then invite all their friends to line up, enter the cabin through cracks in the floor and walls, capture the treasure and quietly sneak back out.
Did me and my friends still stash banned chocolate bars, crisps and biscuits under our bunks? Of course we did. And sure enough, the ants followed the crumbs and found our snacks in a matter of hours.
Looking back, I envy the ants’ ability to find even the tiniest crumbs of food. Why? Because now, as a grown woman, I know that God leaves crumbs of His grace and glory to lead us in the right direction. And sometimes I find myself worried that I might not ever find the treasure – never fully becoming the person He wants me to be. It’s something we all struggle with during certain periods of our lives: we want to live out our purpose, be a caring friend, love our family well, serve faithfully in our local church, feel needed, valued and acknowledged, but how can we achieve all that? How do we know whether or not we are on the right path?
In the gospel text for today Jesus meets an extraordinary woman, someone who is very good at following the crumbs straight to the Source. The Canaanite woman knows exactly what she wants and won’t take no for an answer, she’s not ashamed to barge into someone’s house, to cry, shout, plead and beg. She desperately needs a crumb of Jesus’ attention. She knows that there is enough Heaven in one of His crumbs to answer all her prayers, to set her daughter free and make her whole again. The Canaanite woman is like a hungry little girl before God, she takes and eats what is provided and her reality changes forever.
This story reminds us that there are God’s crumbs out there for our miracle as well, but we need to reach out for them – this is our moment. It reminds us that God sees a treasure in each and every one of us. He understands that the breadcrumbs of our faith, personality, our skills and gifts are the path to the treasure He can use in His kingdom.
We may not know everything there is to know, but we don’t have to. God always has a destination in mind, all we need to do is follow the crumbs and watch new paths form in front of us. Why doesn’t God, the God of abundance and miracles, give us a whole loaf, nicely packaged, everything we need in one go? Maybe it’s because the thing with breadcrumbs is that they always leave us hungry, hungry for more of God, more of His presence. And He wants to be needed, followed and discovered anew every moment of each day.
Hymn 3: Empty, broken, here I stand
1 Empty broken here I stand,
Touch me with Your healing hand,
Take my arrogance and pride,
wash me in Your mercy’s tide,
Chorus: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.
2 When my faith is all but gone,
Give me strength to carry on,
when my dreams have turned to dust,
In You O Lord I put my trust,
3 When my heart is cold as ice,
Your love speaks of sacrifice,
Love that sets the captives free,
O pour compassion down on me,
4 You’re the voice that calms my fears,
You’re the laughter dries my tears,
You’re the music, my refrain,
Help me sing my song again,
5 Humble heart of holiness,
Kiss me with Your tenderness,
Jesus, faithful Friend and true,
All I am I give to You,
Prayers of intercession:
When the foreigner approached you, her need was great, her daughter ill, her desperation complete. She begged, she whined, she was impolite. She shouted out to you and you heard the cry of her heart – her daughter was healed and she was made whole again by you.
Today we lift up to you in prayer our loved ones and our friends, those who annoy us and those who we don’t get along with at all, we pray for those on the edge and the ones hanging on by a thread, for those on the fringe of our churches and our society. We ask the same for them – we pray that they will be healed and made whole again.
Have mercy upon them when they cannot see how they will make it,
Have mercy upon them when they are are sick and cannot get well,
Have mercy upon them when life hardens their hearts
and makes it difficult for them to cry out to you, to hope, to believe.
Have mercy upon them when they are treated unjustly and when they are misunderstood.
Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy upon them and upon us.
We come, confident that your promise to be with us always is true, confident that you are greater than the trials we face, confident that we are secure in the palm of your hands. We come to you today, knowing that you love us and have not forgotten our needs.
Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy upon us and grant us your peace.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
Hymn 4: I’m accepted, I’m forgiven
1 I’m accepted, I’m forgiven
I am fathered by the true and living God
I’m accepted, no condemnation
I am loved by the true and living God x2
2 There’s no guilt or fear as I draw near
To the Saviour and Creator of the world
There is joy and peace
As I release my worship to You, O Lord x2
God bless you and keep you,
God smile on you and gift you,
God look you in the face
and make you prosper.
May the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you now and remain with you always.
Some questions for you to reflect on during the week ahead: