Greetings from the Worship Team,
Let us worship God.
Hymn CH3 32
Creator God, our loving heavenly Father,
The hedges are glowing with hips and haws,
And the gleaned fields shine in the sun of this Indian summer.
With the heavenly host, and the whole creation, we praise your Name.
We give thanks for all your goodness to us,
Remembering years of peace and plenty
In this lovely land of ours.
We give thanks for friends and family,
For teachers and health-workers,
For all who make our society work,
For all who keep us safe.
we confess that we often forget from whom these benefits come.
we forget to say thank you to you, and to those who serve the community.
We confess that we humans too often believe that we deserve our good fortune,
And that we are in control of the world.
Heavenly Father, forgive our pride and our ingratitude,
Our carelessness and our selfishness,
Our refusal to love our neighbour,
Our refusal to love you above all.
Hear us now, as in silence we confess our private faults to you. Pause
Merciful Father, you have promised that when we confess our sins, you will wipe them out, and remember them no more.
Praise and thanks to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Some Verses from Psalm 103
Reading – Matthew 6: 9 – 15
Hymn CH3 449 A hymn for all God’s children, young and not so young!
Last week we reflected on the passage in Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus teaches his disciples how to approach, and to prepare for, prayer to God; we also considered the general form of the special prayer which he taught his disciples, the Lord’s Prayer, saying that the first part relates to the glory of God, while the second part deals with the needs of humankind. This week we will reflect in more detail on the first section of that prayer, that part which relates to the glory of God. The second part, which deals with human needs, we will consider next week.
In Matthew 18:20 Jesus promises that: where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. It is with that promise in mind that we gather together in worship, and say the Lord’s Prayer together.
So when we pray, we say not my Father, but Our Father – and we say this even when we pray alone at home, for when we do this we acknowledge that we are never in fact solitary when we pray, but that we pray as members of the Body of Christ, members of the Church universal. And this comes about because of the Fatherhood of God. If God is Father to all humanity, it follows that every human being is our brother or our sister.
Jesus teaches us to address God as Father. The picture of God as Father is by no means unknown in Hebrew Scripture, as our reading of Psalm 103 showed us – As a father cares for his children, So does the Lord care for those who fear him: or, in the beautiful language of the King James Bible : Like as a Father pitieth his children, so the Lord pities them that fear him. And as we saw last week, one of the ancient prayers said daily by observant Jews addresses God as Father.
We know that, for some people whose experience of a human father has been unhappy, this terminology can pose problems: but we also know that God is the ideal, the perfect Father, who will never let us down: therefore we can trust him utterly. As a perfect Father, He loves us unconditionally, will provide for our needs, and will always want what is best for us. With such a Father our ultimate safety is secure.
Our Father in heaven
We address God as our heavenly Father. Though he is a parent to us, he is also creator and Lord of all that is. Ecclesiastes 5: 1 tells us: Never be rash with your mouth…for God is in heaven, you upon earth. This reminds us that, however intimate our relationship with God, we should never treat it lightly or casually. St Augustine of Hippo wrote: God loves each one of us as though there were only one of us to love. But because he is a wise Father as well as a loving one, God will not indulge us to our harm, as a foolish human parent might spoil a child.
Hallowed be your Name
In Hebrew thought the word ‘name’ does not just mean the word by which a person is called. It also refers to a person’s nature. Here are two verses from the Psalms which show how this works:
Those who know thy name put their trust in thee. (Ps 9:10)
Some boast of chariots and some of horses, but we boast of the name of the Lord our God. (Ps. 20:7)
Now, so far as the first verse quoted is concerned, it does not seem likely that simply to know what to call God would make an ancient Hebrew trust him – there were at that time many supposed gods whose names were known to the peoples in that part of the world.
The second verse quoted compares the situation of Israel at war with that of their enemies. The enemy tribe expected to win in battle because, unlike Israel, they had horses and chariots; but the people of Israel trusted in God’s power, and in his willingness to defend them, because they knew what he was like, and what he had done for them in the past.
So when the Bible speaks of the Name of God it refers to his nature or character, that part of himself which he has revealed to his people. And God’s nature as it has been revealed to us is that of a God of justice and of mercy; above all, as Charles Wesley wrote, his nature and his name is Love.
What do we mean when we ask that God’s name and nature be ‘hallowed?’ The Greek word which is translated ‘hallowed’ has a basic meaning of ‘different’ or ‘separate’. So a holy day is a day that is different; the Holy Table is different, set apart from other tables. And a Being who is holy is separate, unique, different from all other beings.
So when we pray that God’s name be hallowed, we mean not just that the word ‘God’ should be treated with reverence; we are praying that all people will come to acknowledge that God’s nature of love, justice and mercy, as has been revealed in Scripture and in His Son Jesus Christ, is different, unique. We are praying that he will be given, both by we who pray and by all humanity, that unique place in our regard, our hearts and our lives, which his nature and his character deserve, and demand.
When we revere God in this way, there are consequences for the way we think, and the way we behave, as Martin Luther understood when he wrote: God’s Name is hallowed when both our life and our doctrine are truly Christian.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In Psalm 103, which we heard in the reading, verse 3 reads:
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor repaid us according to our wickedness.
The second line repeats the idea of the first line, but expands on it in a slightly different way. This form, where the second line of a pair repeats the first, is very common in Hebrew poetry. The prayer, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, may be seen as another example of this. It means that God’s kingdom will come when his will is done on earth as, or in the way that, it is in heaven. And how is God’s will done in heaven? It is done completely and joyfully, without resentment or reservation, in perfect love and trust.
In the Gospels Jesus sometimes speaks of the Kingdom as already present, and sometimes as though it is still to come. It is both ‘now’ and ‘not yet.’ Where God’s will is done as perfectly as it is in heaven, there is the Kingdom; and whoever is able to submit to God’s will and to carry it out without reserve or resentment, but with perfect love and trust – that person is within the Kingdom of God.
When we pray for the coming of the Kingdom, we are praying not just that the world, but also that we ourselves, may submit our wills entirely to the perfect will of God.
This first section of our Lord’s Prayer proclaims the glory and holiness of God our Father, and commits us, his children, to honour that holiness in word and in deed, by seeking to do his will. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession
Holy and merciful God, in a time of trouble we turn to you.
Your world is troubled by disease, by war, by hatred, by injustice, by poverty
We pray the help and guidance of your Wisdom as nations across the world strive to find solutions to these problems.
We pray for all world leaders, that they may be ruled by wisdom and integrity
We pray for all who seek to help the powerless and distressed
We pray for all who are working to combat the pandemic,
asking that you will keep them safe, bless their efforts, and aid them in their struggle.
We pray for all affected by illness;
for all who have lost loved ones,
for all who are alone,
for all who are afraid.
Comfort by your Holy Spirit all known to us in special need of your blessing, as in moments of silence we bring to you our private prayers: Pause
Now let us join together in the Prayer which Jesus taught us:
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn CH3 462
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Christ Jesus; and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest and remain on each one of us, now and always. Amen.