Call to worship (from psalm 81)
Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song, sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our festal day.
1 I sing the almighty power of God,
that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad,
and built the lofty skies.
2 I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day ;
the moon shines full at his command,
and all the stars obey.
3 I sing the goodness of the Lord
that filled the earth with food ;
he formed the creatures with his word,
and then pronounced them good.
4Lord, how your wonders are displayed
where’er I turn mine eye,
if I survey the ground I tread,
or gaze upon the sky !
5 God’s hand is my perpetual guard,
he guides me with his eye ;
why should I then forget the Lord,
whose love is ever nigh ?
Isaac Watts (1674–1748). Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 107
Prayer of approach
Loving God you are beyond our imagining, yet we are made in your image and likeness.
You created the world and all that is in it. Yet call us to be stewards of your creation
You who are all powerful, came to us as a helpless child. Placing your trust in feckless humans
Showing us the way to live and to love, Teaching us how to be good neighbours
Embracing death for our sakes, Rising to new life so we can know life eternal
Blessing us with your Holy Spirit that your kingdom may come on earth
To you be all praise and glory now and forever, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Prayer of confession (based on psalm 81)
I hear a voice I had not known:
‘I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the
basket. In distress you called, and I
Hear, O my people, while I admonish
you; O my people, if you would but
listen to me!
But my people did not listen to my
voice; they would not submit to me.
Gracious and loving God help us not
only to hear and to listen to your word
but to do your will.
Hear Christ’s gracious word, your sins
are forgiven. Amen. Thanks be to God.
Ecclesiasticus 10: 12-18
The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker. For the beginning of pride is sin, and the one who clings to it pours out abominations. Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities, and destroys them completely. The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place. The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations, and plants the humble in their place.
The Lord lays waste the lands of the nations, and destroys them to the foundations of the earth. He removes some of them and destroys them, and erases the memory of them from the earth. Pride was not created for human beings, or violent anger for those born of women.
Hebrews 13: 1-8, 15-16
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’ Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
1 Tell out, my soul, the greatness of
the Lord !
Unnumbered blessings, give my
spirit voice ;
tender to me the promise of his
in God my Saviour shall my heart
2 Tell out, my soul, the greatness of
his name !
Make known his might, the deeds
his arm has done ;
his mercy sure, from age to age the
his holy name — the Lord, the
3 Tell out, my soul, the greatness of
his might !
Powers and dominions lay their
glory by ;
proud hearts and stubborn wills are
put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted
4 Tell out, my soul, the glories of his
Firm is his promise, and his mercy
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of
to children’s children and for
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926) Based on the Magnificat. Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 186 Words: © Timothy Dudley-Smith in Europe and Africa; © Hope Publishing Company for the United States of America and the rest of world. Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
Gospel Luke 14: 1- 14
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?’ And they could not reply to this. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’
Sketch – “I know my place”
Online we are gong to watch the old sketch with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbet. I look down/up to him. With Ronnie C’s refrain – I know my place and the punchline “I get a pain in my neck”. That parody of the British class system – a system still with us!
I know my place. I’m sure we have all had those experiences when we were uncertain where we should sit and have ended up embarrassing ourselves by sitting in the wrong place! There are horror stories of long term members of congregations making visitors move because they have dared to sit in their seat/pew. Not I think at Manley Park, well not that I’ve noticed. Visiting a friend, Anthony, who sang in the choir at St George’s Chapel Windsor we all attended matins on the Sunday but only his father and I decided to stay for Communion. We were the only two left, early for the next service. Enter a somewhat indignant verger demanding to know why we were there. Having explained, he asserted his authority by making us move two spaces further down the choir stalls. I know my place! But most of the time other people are gracious and go out of their way to put us at ease, ensuring that we are comfortable.
Some years back two of the students got married at St Peter’s and I did the flowers and was invited to the reception. I easily found my name on the seating plan – along with a non-existent plus one. But one of the students, James, could not find his name anywhere, so we decide he could have my plus one seat. After taking our places we discovered that the top table was not as convention dictates (parents etc) but contemporaries of the couple – that was where James should have been. But unlike the guest in the Gospel story he did not move up – but kept me company.
But what a strange story Jesus tells. Why should we be worried about who sits where at a wedding? What has knowing your place in the social order got to do with the Kingdom of God? Well weddings and banquets are metaphors for the coming of the Kingdom representative of God’s generosity and grace. Jesus is reminding his listeners that it doesn’t matter how important we think we are, in the kingdom of God we are all equals and God decides on the seating plan, so to speak. A necessary reminder to disciples like James and John whose mother asked for them to have the places of honour in the Kingdom and to the religious leaders of the time with their sense of their own importance. The only response to those who demand special treatment and deference with the opening gambit of “ Do you know who I am?” Is no and I doubt I’d be impressed if you told me! Jesus is of course speaking spiritually and not offering a blue print for a social structure where places of honour matter – no your place is to know your inclusion by the grace of God whoever you are!
There is though with any story in the Bible a risk that it will be taken out of context and misunderstood or used not as a means of grace but as a means of control. The sketch we watched/outlined above, reminds us that for too long Britain has been a society divided by class. There was a period not that long ago when we celebrated social mobility, the ability of people through education and other opportunities to improve their economic position, to share in the wealth of society. That is not to disown your roots and background but not to be defined by them either. I will still say that I come from a working class background – proud of those forebears that worked down the mines or in the mills, but like the rest of you I’m more than the sum of the parts.
In recent years though it has seemed that there has been a return to the old outdated idea that we should know our place. We speak of old families, by which we mean those who can trace their ancestors back over generations and have accrued power and wealth to themselves by right of birth rather than any merit. Of course, the internet and a growth in the interest in family history means that many more of us
know we come from old families – it’s just that someone else has the money!
In the social and political arena, its seems that there are those who are determined that the majority of us should know our place and the chances of being asked to take a seat of higher honour is fast disappearing.
It seems to me though that when it comes to the values of the Kingdom, when it comes to making a stand for justice, we sometimes need to chose the seat that we not supposed to be occupying or hold on to the one that is ours in the face of opposition and persecution. That making a stand for justice by sitting down is exemplified by people like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parkes who refused to give up their seats for a
white person on a bus.
Sometimes it can be a case of here I sit, I can do no other.
The Government has made a big deal of its levelling up agenda, it is permutating evet part of policy and influencing funding decisions – even if we struggle to see the results as yet. It is part of the mechanism by which the Arts Council England will decide which arts organisations are to be funded for the next three years from April 1 2023. I suspect much will actually depend on the ability to write a good bid and speak the
The idea of levelling up economically and socially seems like a good idea – having justice and equality at its heart if done well. But it strikes me that the size of the cake is limited. Surely some people are going to have to give up advantages and wealth for this to work? Is there any real sign that the really rich and powerful will?
Entertaining angels unawares
It used to be said that the chapel was one of the few places where people mixed freely irrespective of class and position in society. In the congregation may be the owner of the factory where the preacher earned his living and bosses and professionals might find themselves with class leaders who in other contexts would be considered their social inferiors. I suspect that that is a rose tinted view of the past and that we are not quite as social diverse as we once were. But I think it is important that we remember that we are all equal before God and that we can learn from each other.
A few years ago, at a church meal, I found myself at the end of the table a long way away from those who I would have chosen as my dinner companions. But to my surprise, I found the conversation entertaining and informative. I learnt about the fascinating lives of my fellow diners, and had the best time. I’m not sure I entertained so much as was entertained by angels, messengers of God.
At its best, we make space within our communities of faith to let the voices of everyone be heard with respect and patience – even when we think that they cannot possibly have anything to say to us.
That openness to others needs to persist beyond our fellowship in church. To let us hear the stories of those who marginalised and excluded from society. To learn from their lived experience, to be ministered to by other people.
And we need to be ready to move outside our comfort zones and to be challenged by the views and ideas of other people. We even need at times to hear what those we think are completely wrong have to say – the anti-vaccers, the racists, the conspiracy theorists etc. We might find debating with them a futile task but we might help protect others from being sucked in by their dangerous and destructive views.
Guest at the dinner
In the vision of the Kingdom as the banquet, Jesus reminds us that we are to be concerned for and about those in most need in our society – represented in his story as the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Those who in his time were the most economically and socially disadvantaged – to them belongs the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t take much to realise that the poor are still with us and with the cost of living
crises set to get poorer. I’m not sure that in our society some of them are even being offered a seat, never mind a place of honour.
As our harvest celebrations approach we will once again be supporting the relief and development charity All We Can with donations of money and the South Manchester Food Bank with donations of food. We are inviting the community to join us for lunch on the 17th September and/or craft activities afterwards. But as we celebrate God’s generous bounty, we are faced again with the stark question as to why there is so much poverty and inequality in our society. As we relieve the symptoms we also need to ask how do we tackle the causes?
I have spent the last thirty years acting as an accountant to a range of charities. I rejoice in the good work they do, but look forward to the day when those who deal with homelessness, abuse, rights etc are no longer needed, when the work is complete and justice prevails. I fear I may not live long enough.
So my question to you, is who are the people in our society who believe that they and no one else are entitled to the best seats, the positions of power and privilege, who deny justice to others? And what are you going to do about it?
1 I will speak out for those who have
no voices ; I will stand up for the rights
of all the oppressed ;
I will speak truth and justice ;
I’ll defend the poor and the needy ;
I will lift up the weak in Jesus’ name.
2 I will speak out for those who have
no choices ; I will cry out for those who
live without love ;
I will show God’s compassion
to the crushed and broken in spirit ;
I will lift up the weak in Jesus’ name.
Dave Bankhead, Ray Goudie, Sue Rinaldi and Steve Bassett Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 702 Words and Music: © 1990 Authentic Publishing, Administered by worshiptogether.com Songs, excluding UK & Europe administered by Kingswaysongs, a division of David C Cook <email@example.com> Used by permission.
Prayers of intercession
Take time to pray for
Those on the prayer list
The people and events in the news
Your family and friends
You don’t need lost of words –
sometimes it is good to sit in silence
The Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of dedication
Loving God may we who have an
honoured place in your kingdom
welcome others with the same grace
you have shown us.
May we remember that all that all that
we have comes from you.
Accept the gifts we offer, and bless us
and them for your service though Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Author of faith, eternal Word,
whose Spirit breathes the active flame ;
faith, like its finisher and Lord,
today as yesterday the same :
2 To you our humble hearts aspire
and ask the gift unspeakable ;
increase in us the kindled fire,
in us the work of faith fulfil.
3 By faith we know you strong to save
save us, O Saviour always near !
All that we hope, by faith we have,
future and past subsisting here.
4 To those that in your name believe
eternal life with you is given ;
then they into their lives receive,
pardon and holiness and heaven.
5 The things unknown to feeble sense,
unseen by reason’s glimmering ray,
with strong, commanding evidence
their heavenly origin display.
6 Faith lends its realising light,
the clouds disperse, the shadows fly ;
the Invisible appears in sight,
and God is seen by mortal eye.
Charles Wesley (1707–1788) Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 457 .
Go now in the strength of God, to do
good, to seek justice and to rescue the
And may the blessing of God, Father,
Son and Holy Spirit be upon you now
and forever. Amen