18TH JUNE 2023

OPENING SENTENCE
I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living

HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God

to whom all hearts be open

all desires known

and from whom no secrets are hidden;

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you

and worthily magnify your holy name

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. Amen. Lord, have mercy.

CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children.

There is no room for fear in love.

We love because God loved us first.

Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you

and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ

that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,

and in what we have failed to do.

We are truly sorry.

Forgive us our sins,

and deliver us from the power of evil,

for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

May the God of love and power

forgive you and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by his Spirit

and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

GLORIA
sung by Sue Turner

COLLECT

O Lord,

in your mercy hear our prayers:

as you give us the desire to pray,

grant us your help and protection;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, world without end.

Amen

FIRST READING
Genesis 18:1-15
read by Annette Beagrie

A Son Promised to Abraham and Sarah

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared and set it before them, and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I be fruitful?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

SECOND READING
Romans 5:1-8
read by Kay Solaja

Results of Justification

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

HYMN

GOSPEL READING
MATTHEW 9:35-10:14
read by Rev Janice Aiton

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew chapter 9 beginning at verse 35

Glory to Christ our Saviour.

The Harvest Is Great, the Labourers Few

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The Twelve Apostles

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

The Mission of the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not take a road leading to gentiles, and do not enter a Samaritan town, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick; raise the dead; cleanse those with a skin disease; cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff, for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

This coming Tuesday 20th June is World Refugee Day. The aim of the day is to create empathy and understanding and to get political and practical support to help refugees. It is also a day to recognise the bravery and strength of people who have had to face many dangers and difficulties to rebuild their lives. World Refugee Day shines a light on the rights, needs and dreams of refugees as well as helping to raise awareness and to advocate for their rights. This year’s theme is “Finding freedom.”

Finding freedom is an increasing problem today. There are over 100 million people who have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of ongoing conflicts in countries like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen and most recently Sudan. We all have a duty and responsibility to do what we can for refugees- to offer in small ways hospitality. We need to be a voice advocating for change in our governmental attitudes towards refugees. Personally, I am dismayed at the UK government’s approach to migrants, asylum seekers and displaced persons. These people are coming to the UK because they fear for their lives, and as a country we should welcome and support such peoples, not be sending them off to another country or place.

Certainly, welcoming the stranger has always been a strong biblical principle. Many pieces of legislation in the Old Testament show how the alien, the sojourner, the stranger should be treated. For example, in the book of Deuteronomy we are to ensure that they are clothed and fed, and in Leviticus we are to ask for their judicial rights to be respected. In the Scriptures we are told: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Hospitality is not only mentioned in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament. Jesus emphasises the importance of hospitality to those in need- those who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison, and will warn that failure to show hospitality will have eternal consequences. Paul will include hospitality among the qualifications for a bishop. Peter will say, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”

Hospitality was highly valued in that culture. There were no hotels, cafes, and inns where you could stop, find something to drink, eat and be refreshed. Hospitality was so important because you never knew when you would be dependent upon the hospitality of others. Therefore, a stranger had the right to expect hospitable treatment. A visitor had no need to thank his host, since he was only receiving what was due to him.

In our Old Testament reading today we see Abraham offer hospitality to three visitors.

Abraham was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. In that hot climate people work in the relative coolness of the day and late afternoon, so that they can take a break during the hottest hours of the early afternoon. Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and saw three men stood opposite him. In more usual circumstances, Abraham would see the visitors as they approach from afar. The fact that these men suddenly are standing near him suggests that this is some sort of visitation rather than the mere approach of three ordinary travellers. It is possible that Abraham senses the special nature of this visit but then again, he may well be entertaining angels unawares.

Whatever the nature of the visit Abraham immediately springs into action when he sees them. This is normal polite behaviour for that time and place. In that rural setting, people would be glad to see visitors as they would enjoy some social interaction with them. You detect a sense of urgency in the way Abraham approaches his visitors- he ran to meet them from the tent door. This is the first in a series of hurry verbs used in the passage. Abraham will hasten into the tent and tell Sarah quickly to get ready three measures of flour. He himself ran to the herd to get a choice calf and asks the servant to hasten to prepare it. These verbs of hurry show Abraham’s eagerness to fulfil his role to these three travellers, who happen to be the Lord and two angels.

“Now let a little water be fetched, wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. I will get a morsel of bread so you can refresh your heart. After that you may go your way, now that you have come to your servant.”  These are the comforts that a traveller would appreciate—water for drinking and washing, a shady spot to rest, and something to eat. Abraham gives no hint of the feast to come but promises only a little bread. It might be that he is a modest man given to understatement—or he might prefer to promise a little and give a lot—or he might be concerned that, if he reveals his intentions for a feast, the travellers will insist that he not go to so much trouble.

Chrysostom sees the washing of their feet also as a humble offering made by Abraham. Abraham suggests the poverty of his hospitality instead of its extravagance “I have only water to offer you to wash and rest from your great weariness under the tree.”

It is also significant that Abraham asks Sarah to take care of the baking. Abraham is rich. He and Sarah have servants who could be expected to bake bread. When Abraham asks Sarah to attend to the baking, he is thus raising the task to the highest level rather than delegating it to a servant. Abraham has put the top person in charge of baking, has specified that she is to use choice flour, and has asked her to bake a quantity of bread far in excess of the amount that the three visitors can eat. Like the “hurry” verbs mentioned above, this verse conveys Abraham’s zeal to treat these visitors with extraordinary generosity.

“Abraham ran to the herd, and fetched a tender and good calf, and gave it to the servant. He hurried to dress it.” Some view this act as over-the-top generosity. In that time and place, most meals would be meatless, meat being reserved for special occasions. Most people could not afford to slaughter an animal for food on any frequent occasion—especially a large animal like a calf. A calf would feed dozens of people—not just three visitors and their host. Without refrigeration, a person who sacrificed a calf would have to salt the majority of the meat for future use or share it with a number of other families. If a person were going to slaughter an animal to feed three visitors, a smaller animal such as a lamb or goat would be more appropriate. It was not just any calf either. It was “a tender and good calf.” The quality of the meat is as significant as its quantity. Abraham is going far above what is required to take care of his guests.

In this hospitality, Abraham serves his visitors in a priestly way. He ran personally and selected the calf; he took and prepared the food and “set it before the guests.” He does not see himself worthy to recline with them, but he sits under the tree. “What a wonderful extent of hospitality!” Chrysostom writes: “What an extraordinary degree of humility! What a remarkable example of good attitude! This hundred- year- old person stands nearby while they are eating.”

Having received Abraham’s hospitality, the visitors address the business for which they have come. They ask Abraham where Sarah is, even though there is no indication that they have met her or heard her name. The fact that they know her name is another sign that these are not ordinary visitors but are instead heavenly emissaries. Abraham replies that she is in the tent.

Earlier, Abraham went inside the tent to ask Sarah to take the responsibility for baking bread and it would appear that she has remained inside the tent during this entire visit. The Lord promised Sarah a son.

“Sarah laughed within herself” Laughter is a normal human response to a ridiculous proposition—a healthier response than anger, which is the alternative. At least Sarah doesn’t fall on her face as Abraham did previously. She laughs to herself rather than making an outward display of her disbelief. Sitting in a tent by herself, her inward laughter would not be audible or visible to Abraham and his guests. The Lord challenges Abraham after overhearing Sarah’s quiet laughter. The fact that the Lord is aware of the quiet laughter is a sign that this is, indeed, the Lord.

“Is anything too hard for Yahweh?” This is the key to this text, and it offers great pastoral possibilities. The one who created the heavens and earth and all that lives can surely create another human life at will.

“Then Sarah denied, saying, ‘I didn’t laugh,’ for she was afraid.”  We tend to be startled when suddenly “found out”—when someone discerns and exposes our thoughts—when they succeed in drilling down to our inner sanctum where we felt safe from exposure. Sarah hadn’t intended for anyone to notice her laugh, which represented feelings that she preferred to keep private. In her old age, in her barren womb, she was now to offer hospitality to a child, promised by God. It sounded incredible but proved to be true for “Nothing is too hard for God.”

“Nothing is too hard for God.” This is a key verse in Scripture. Whatever we face, whatever impossibilities are before us, we must never forget that nothing is too hard for God. With God’s help we can do amazing things- including offering hospitality to refugees and being an advocate for their right for freedom. Amen.

NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one substance with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven;

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory

to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father.

With the Father and the Son,

he is worshipped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism

for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Let us pray to the God of heaven and earth for the growth of the kingdom.

May the kingdom grow

in the different Christian communities

all over the world.

May the kingdom grow

as hearts are warmed

by the encounter of the living God;

nourished by word and sacrament,

private prayer and public worship.

God of heaven and earth

let your kingdom grow.

May the kingdom grow,

in independent states, empires and monarchies,

in the crowded streets of cities

and in the scattered rural communities.

May it grow in all decision making

and in the stewarding of our resources.

God of heaven and earth

let your kingdom grow.

May the kingdom grow

in every home and shelter,

in every place of work and education,

in every conversation

and in our mutual care of one another.

God of heaven and earth

let your kingdom grow.

May your kingdom grow

in the hearts and minds

of those who are drifting in life,

feeling that life has no point or purpose.

May your hand guard them

and guide them into your love and truth.

God of heaven and earth

let your kingdom grow.

May the kingdom grow

to bring peace and healing,

wherever there is pain and sorrow.

Draw near to those in need

and bring comfort, courage and hope.

God of heaven and earth

let your kingdom grow.

May your kingdom grow

in those who have the authority to effect change.

We pray for our government ministers

and political leaders at home and abroad

that your wisdom and values will be

the benchmark of their decision making,

so that the lives of all,

especially the vulnerable will be cared for.

God of heaven and earth

let your kingdom grow.

May your kingdom be fully enjoyed

by those who have died in the faith.

We lift to you all who mourn today

and pray for them in their grief and loss.

Grant them your consolation and strength.

God of heaven and earth

let your kingdom grow.

Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

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.

Do not bring us to the time of trial

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

HYMN

BLESSING

The peace of God,

which passes all understanding,

keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,

and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord:

and the blessing of God the Father,

the Son and Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always. Amen

DISMISSAL

Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ.

Welcome

St John the Evangelist, Dumfries, is a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church also serving Methodist parishioners locally.

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Notices

Contemporary Service

Contemporary Service

The Contemporary Service is at 6pm, on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, followed by refreshments in the hall.

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