Worship for Sunday 1st October 2023, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Invitation to worship

To you, O Lord, we lift up our soul
O God, in you we trust.
Open our ears to hear you, O Lord,
our hearts to love you and our wills to follow you.

Hymn: The splendour of the King, StF 15

The splendour of the King,
clothed in majesty;
let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice.
He wraps himself in light
and darkness tries to hide,
and trembles at his voice, and trembles at his voice.

How great is our God,
sing with me: how great is our God.
And all will see how great, how great is our God.

And age to age He stands,
and time is in His hands;
beginning and the end, beginning and the end.
The Godhead, Three in One,
Father, Spirit, Son,
the Lion and the Lamb, the Lion and the Lamb,
How great is our God…

Name above all names, worthy of all praise;
my heart will sing: how great is our God.
How great is our God…

Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash & Jesse Reeves© 2004 worshiptogether.com


God of all truth, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are the source of all positive change;
you are the bringer of all lasting healing;
you are the inspirer of all life-giving choices;
you are the dismantler of all stubbornness;
you are the provider of all opportunities.
So, we worship and adore you
with our hearts, our minds and our lives.

Lord, as we come into your presence

may our worship bring joy to your heart,
may your Spirit breathe into our souls,
and may your Word reshape our thinking –
so that we might have the same mindset as Christ.

Hymn: Be still and know that I am God, StF 18

Be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God,
be still and know that I am God.

I am the Lord who saves and heals
I am the Lord who saves and heals
I am the Lord who saves and heals

In you, O Lord, I put my trust,
In you, O Lord, I put my trust,
In you, O Lord, I put my trust.

Reading: Matthew 21:23 – 32

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24 Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ 27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29 He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.


The Bible is full of stories of people who changed their minds. Exodus tells of how the people of Israel followed Moses out of Egypt into the desert, crossing the Red Sea and singing God’s praises as they did so. A month later they were cursing God and Moses because they were not finding enough to eat. Then God sent manna and quails and water from the rock, and all was well again (Exodus 16 – 17). And we can understand this, for one constant about humanity is that we are a fickle bunch who are expert at changing our minds.

Jesus told a story about two brothers – and anyone who has been involved in raising children will smile at this. We are all familiar with children who say one thing and do the opposite, and we can understand the motivation on both sides. One is eager to please his father but doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. The other’s rebellion reshapes into obedience.

Jesus tells the story as a straight contrast between the two sons, and applies the image to two sharply defined groups – those who accepted his word despite their way of life, and those who turned away from him despite understanding themselves as holy. The experience of most of us is less straightforward. Sometimes we find ourselves saying a whole-hearted ‘yes’ to God; sometimes we want nothing more than to run away; often we sit on the fence and pray, with Moses, ‘O Lord, please send somebody else’ (Exodus 4:13). Our choices are hard and conflicted.

The good news is that God always has room for those who change their minds and redirect their lives towards holiness and love, wherever life has taken them previously. The only requirement is that this change should be whole-hearted and authentic. There is no point in pretending that we are better Christians or more deeply committed than we really are. When we have a tough day and feel a million miles from God, there is no point in hiding that under a veil of fake holiness – God knows who we are and where we are. We should not make the choice of the second son, who looked good when he agreed to go but then pulled away from his promise. But if we find ourselves making the choice of the first son, and saying ‘no’ to God’s invitation, then we always have the option of turning back to the path God wants for us, trusting that God knows where we are going and will lead us in safety. 

Prayer of Confession

Merciful God, forgive us:
for times when we have denied your authority,
and gone our own way;
for times when we have tried to be someone we are not,
and hidden your image within us;
for times when we have not been true to you,
or to the gospel values you have entrusted to us.
Merciful God, forgive us, renew us, restore us,
that we may be what you have made us,
go where you will guide us,
and do as you would have us do.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Hymn: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, StF 416

1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.

2 There is plentiful redemption

In the blood that has been shed;

There is joy for all the members

In the sorrows of the Head.

3 There is grace enough for thousands

Of new worlds as great as this;

There is room for fresh creations

In that upper home of bliss.

4 For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind,
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.

5 But we make God’s love too narrow
by false limits of our own,
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.

6 If our love were but more simple,
we should rest upon God’s word,
and our lives would be illumined
by the presence of our Lord.

FW Faber (1814 – 1863)

Prayers for those in need


You are a God of compassion and love.

Time after time we have experienced your care and provision.

Time after time You’ve answered our prayers and met our needs—

often in ways we could never have dreamed possible.

We praise You for Your faithful love toward us.

Because we have known Your love,

we come to You with confidence,

offering our prayers for the world that You love.

We see so much pain and suffering;

so much anger and frustration and despair.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the needs around us.

But we continue to bring our prayers to You in faith,

because we know that nothing is impossible for You.

You are the God who rained down bread from heaven,

and made water flow from a rock in the desert;

the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead,

and who brings new life and hope to all who believe.

For You, all things are possible.

Hear our prayers.

We pray for those suffering the effects of recent  natural disasters….
especially the folk of Morocco, following the earthquake there, and of Derna in Libya where there have been devastating floods

Because nothing is impossible for You, O God, hear our prayer, and in Your love, answer.

We pray for the regions of our world caught up in violence and threats of violence:

especially the people of Ukraine and Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen

Because nothing is impossible for You, O God, hear our prayer, and in Your love, answer.

We pray for those who live with serious illness,

   those with chronic pain,

   those without access to proper medical care,

   those for whom treatment is no longer an option.

Because nothing is impossible for You, O God, hear our prayer, and in Your love, answer.

Merciful God,

You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to show us a different way to live—

the way of deep humility and obedience.

You’ve called us to love one another,

and to work together with one heart and mind,

balancing our needs with the needs of those around us.

Give us courage to follow faithfully, and with integrity—

with actions that bear witness to the words we speak,

and worship that overflows into our daily tasks and relationships—

so that our lives will bring glory and honour to You,

our Redeemer and Lord. Amen.

Closing hymn: Guide me, O thou great Jehovah StF 465

  1. Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
    Pilgrim through this barren land;
    I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
    Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
    Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
    Feed me till I want no more;
    Feed me till I want no more.
  2. Open now the crystal fountain,
    Whence the healing stream doth flow;
    Let the fire and cloudy pillar
    Lead me all my journey through.
    Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
    Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
    Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.
  3. When I tread the verge of Jordan,
    Bid my anxious fears subside;
    Death of death and hell’s Destruction,
    Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
    Songs of praises, songs of praises,
    I will ever give to Thee;
    I will ever give to Thee.

William Williams (1717 – 1791)


Be encouraged.
Go from this place united in Christ,
comforted by his love,
sharing his Spirit,
shaped by his mindset.
As humble servants,
bring glory to God the Father,
in Jesus’ name.