Service of the Word for Sunday, 18 October 2020

Led by Revd George Mwaura

Prelude: Andante from Sonata no.6 (opus 65) by Mendelssohn (1845)

Introit: How beauteous are their feet

How beauteous are their feet
who stand on Sion’s hill,
who bring salvation on their tongues
and words of peace reveal!

How happy are our ears
that hear this happy sound,
which kings and prophets waited for,
and sought, but never found!

How blessèd are our eyes
that see this heavenly light,
prophets and kings desired it long,
but died without the sight!

The Lord makes bear his arm
through all the earth abroad:
Let every nation now behold
their Saviour and their God

Isaac Watts (1674–1748)
Isaiah 52: 7–10; Matthew 13: 16–17

Welcome and Greetings

Sing to the Lord, and praise him, proclaim his glory to all the world,
for the Lord is great and highly to be praised!

Good morning, church, and a warm welcome to this morning service wherever you are listening.
I pray that the spirit of the Lord who has been with you all the week
will lead and guide our hearts as we fellowship together.

Opening Phrases

We come together today, as the people of God;
called to be friends of Christ;
living in unity and acting with compassion.

We are here together.
We are here with God.

God is still engaged in a process of creation and is revealed through the world around us.

Open our eyes and help us to see.

God continues to speak through other people and through the living and incarnate Word.

Open our ears and help us to hear.

God sets the Holy Spirit within us so that our inmost being dances to the rhythm of Heaven.

Open our hearts and help us to love.

Creator God inspire us to reshape the World according to the pattern revealed by your love.
Incarnate Word be with us as we follow you and teach us what it means to be your body.
Living Spirit, dwell more deeply in our hearts and help us to live together as the people of God.

Help us to hear.
Help us to understand.
Help us to respond.


Hymn: Let all the world in every corner sing

Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King.
The heavens are not too high,
his praise may thither fly:
the earth is not too low,
his praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King.

Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King.
The church with psalms must shout,
no door can keep the out;
but above all the heart
must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in every corner sing,
my God and King.

George Herbert (1593–1633)

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession

We thank you, Merciful God, for the gift of your Spirit among us as we meet to worship.
May this very Spirit be with us as we sing, read, listen, speak, hear, learn and begin to understand.
But Lord, we are also creatures of this world and we are conscious of our failures.
So we confess, Lord, that we are not always a good example of what it is to be a Christian.
We do not feel worthy that others should follow us.
And yet, Lord, you encourage us to share your love and reveal your truth and lead others to you.
We confess that we fail, and we are sorry.
We confess our inadequacies and carelessness in standing up for what is right against what is wrong.
Forgive us, Lord, and guide us in the ways of truth and justice.
We want to be a good example, a shining example
of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus.


[Please take a moment and make your personal confessions to the Lord.]


God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church,
may God pardon and absolve us from our sins
in the name of Christ our Lord.



Prayer of the Week

We praise you, Lord, for witnesses through the ages
who have told your story and made you real to the next generation.
We thank you for people whose names are well known and prominent,
and we thank you for those whose names are long lost in the annals of history –
but who are known to you.
We praise you for all whose good Christian lives have impacted on who we are,
and what we are, and where we are.
We praise you that in every generation there are witnesses who stand out,
who stand up to be counted, who make a difference to the Christian path.
We praise you, Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
that we have been brought by word, by deed, by action to follow you.


Bible readings

Psalm 96

Read by Cheryl Montgomery

1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
  sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
  proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
  his marvellous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
  he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
  but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendour and majesty are before him;
  strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
  ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness;
  tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’
  The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
  he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
  let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
  let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
  he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
  and the peoples in his faithfulness.


This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Hymn: Through all the changing scenes of life

Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.

O magnify the Lord with me,
with me exalt his name;
when in distress to him I called,
he to my rescue came.

The hosts of God encamp around
the dwellings of the just;
deliverance he affords to all
who on his succour trust.

O make but trial of his love,
experience will decide
how blest are they, and only they,
who in his truth confide!

Fear him, ye saints, and you will then
have nothing else to fear;
make you his service your delight,
your wants shall be his truth care.

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
the God whom we adore,
be glory, as it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Nahum Tate (1652–1715) and Nicholas Brady (1659–1726)
Psalm 34

Matthew 22: 15–22

Read by Chibby Chima-Okoro

Paying the poll-tax to Caesar

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?’

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’

21 ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.


This is the Gospel of Christ.
Praise to Christ our light.


By Revd George Mwaura

Psalm 96 and Matthew 22: 15–22

Kingdom currency

Lord may I speak in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of your name
and may our collective meditation be acceptable in thy sight.


A young lady was sunbathing on the beach in Cornwall when a little boy in his swimming shorts came up to her and asked: ‘Miss, do you believe in God?’ She was surprised by the question, but she replied, ‘Yes, I do.’ Then he asked her, ‘Do you go to church every Sunday?’ Again, she said, ‘Very regularly.’ ‘Do you read your Bible and pray?’ ‘Yes, almost every day,’ she said, her curiosity very much aroused. The boy sighed with relief and said, ‘Will you hold my pound coin while I go swimming?’

The little boy was straightforward and honest in his questions, because he wanted to entrust the lady with something obviously valuable to him. But the people in our Bible passage today are not being honest. They have no intention of entrusting Jesus with anything valuable. The Pharisees and Herodians, who held opposite views on paying taxes to Rome, join forces here to try and trap Jesus. You see, Jesus had attacked them through the parable of the two sons, by suggesting that they were the son who did not do the father’s will. Then he compared them to the wicked tenants who killed the son, and in the story of the King’s wedding feast we looked at last week, they were the guests who turn down the invitation.

At this point they have just about had enough of this troublesome Rabbi from Galilee and they begin their counterattack by asking him embarrassing questions in public. So, tell us Mr Knows-it-all: ‘Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ Jesus found himself in a Catch-22 situation. The Pharisees opposed paying taxes, because paying it would be an admission that Israel was in bondage to pagan foreigners. The Herodians, on the other hand, supported taxation out of necessity, since no one could rule any part of the Mediterranean world without Rome’s approval. So, if Jesus said a simple yes or no, he was damned either way.

Sensing their trap Jesus says, ‘Fetch me a coin, will you,’ and then he asked them: ‘Whose image is on this coin?’ ‘The emperor’s,’ they responded. ‘Well then,’ Jesus said, ‘give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor.’ I would want to think that Jesus paused here to let the significance of what he was about to add sink and then added, ‘And give to God what’s Gods.’

The coin in question used for taxation was a silver denarius with the image of Caesar on one side, and on the reverse, the image of a woman named Pax or personified peace. The coins were against Jewish law, which prohibited graven images. I am convinced that those Bible translations which use the word ‘head’ miss Jesus’ argument. The Greek word used by the Gospel writers is ‘icon’ and is better translated as image or likeness; and so, when the Herodians and Pharisees respond that it was Caesar’s image on the coin, Jesus told them: then give him back what rightfully belongs to him. But when Jesus added that they were to give back to God the things that are God’s, it left everyone confused and wondering what exactly he meant.

And in case you are wondering too, the clue was the word icon or image and likeness. Jesus’ answer was derived from the creation narrative in Genesis chapter 1, where God spoke and said, ‘Let us make a man in our own image and likeness.’ Here is the logic: Just as the coin that has Caesar’s image on it is Caesar’s, we who were made in the image and likeness of God, are God’s. So, Jesus affirmed the tax while making it all but irrelevant. His implication is that, though we do owe governments, there are limits to what we owe. But to God we owe everything.

This text is often used by some churches and ministers to talk about stewardship in terms of what we give to the church. But to be fair to the text, it has nothing to do with tithing at all. Let’s assume that all you do is give 10% of your income faithfully every month; in that case, you are short-changing God by 90%, because everything we have and everything we are belongs to God according to this passage. While this would certainly apply to the money we make, the formula is not that we give 100% of our income to God; that would be daft. God knows very well that we need the money for the necessities of life. Rather, the idea is that once we have given God some of the money we earn, let’s not imagine that we’ve bought off an obligation. God wants to share in some of our time and energy as well. So, the 100% formula relates to our time as well as our wallets.

What God wants is nothing less than our permission to come and abide in our hearts. Since he made us in his image and likeness, God loves us dearly and wants to be part and parcel of our everyday life. Jesus did not care much about the taxation in Israel; he understood the practicality and politics behind it. His real concern, however, was that we live into the image and likeness of the God who lovingly created us. And we begin to live into that image and likeness of God by following Jesus’ footsteps closely every day.

But do not get me wrong: giving back to God through the church matters a lot. This church would not be here if you did not believe in giving God your money and your time. Whether you give God a tithe, 20% or whatever fraction, you and I understand that giving is part of our responsibility as followers of Christ. We owe money to our government because somebody must pay for the roads, hospitals, schools, military and all the benefits that come with living in a free modern welfare state. In the same way, we give to God in order that the Gospel may be proclaimed and that future generations may have the same spiritual benefits that we enjoy.

What we owe to God is infinitely more than we owe to Caesar. The Words of 1 Peter help put the issue into perspective: He writes: Fear God and honour the king. There is a world of difference between those two obligations, no matter where we draw the line. In the end, Caesar is Caesar, and God is God. Ladies and gentlemen God has given us everything; including governments: how dare we give Him any less; how?


Choral Reflection: Nature with open volume stands

Nature with open volume stands
to spread her Maker’s praise abroad,
and every labour of his hands
shows something worthy of our God.

But in the grace that rescued man
his brightest for of glory shines;
here on the cross ’tis fairest drawn
in precious blood and crimson lines.

Here his whole name appears complete;
nor wit can guess, nor reason prove
which of the letters best is writ,
the power, the wisdom, or the love.

O the sweet wonders of that cross
where God the Saviour loved and died;
her noblest life my spirit draws
from his dear wounds and bleeding side.

I would for ever speak his name
in sounds to mortal ears unknown,
with angels join to praise the Lamb,
and worship at his Father’s throne.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748)


By Adrian Boynton

Heavenly Father, hear us now as we come to you in prayer.
Father we pray for the peoples of Armenia and Azerbaijan,
where recent conflict in the border regions has seen the deaths of more than five hundred people,
including many civilians, in just over a fortnight.
We remember also the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine, where on-going long-term conflicts
have killed many thousands over the past six months.
And we pray also for the people of the United States,
where in Chicago alone more than sixty people were shot last weekend, many of them fatally.
Heavenly Father enter the minds and hearts of all who would seek to do harm to their fellow men and women,
that they may be urged to seek the ways of kindness, compassion and peace.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father, we pray for countries across the world who face the challenge of increasing infection and a rising death toll
as Coronavirus enters its second wave.
Guide leaders and governments as they grapple with the intractable dilemma of balancing public health and economic well-being.
May we all play our part responsibly in doing everything we can to reduce the spread of the virus,
and so quicken the day when life can return to some kind of normality for all.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father we ask your blessing on our young people at this time,
especially those facing important examinations at the end of this year,
whose education has been severely disrupted by the pandemic,
and those who have recently embarked on courses at university or college, where they face enormous challenges.

We pray also for older people in our society whose lives have been significantly affected by the pandemic –
those who are shielding, those who are vulnerable and isolated,
those who are in care homes or in hospital, and then prevented from contact with those closest to them at a time of real need.
Be with them, Father, and give them the comfort and assurance of your love and care.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Finally, Father, we pray for our own community here at Christ the Cornerstone
and especially for our new Church officials and Ecumenical Council members, elected at out AGM last week.

We thank you for the privilege of worshipping once again in our beautiful building,
and for the wonderful work of our ministerial, technical and musical teams
in providing the additional benefit of a rich flow of weekly online worship and comforting daily prayer.
Through this we may hope that the caring arm of our City Church may stretch even wider
to embrace people with the community and way beyond.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father, we ask you to accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.


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.
And forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory

are yours now and for ever.


Harvest Gift Appeal

Hymn: The kingdom of God is justice and joy

The kingdom of God is justice and joy,
for Jesus restores what sin would destroy;
God’s power and glory in Jesus we know,
and here and hereafter the kingdom will grow.

The kingdom of God is mercy and grace,
the captives are freed, the sinners find space
the outcasts are welcomed God’s banquet to share,
and hope is awakened in place of despair.

The kingdom of God is challenge and choice,
believe the good news, repent and rejoice!
His love for us sinners brought Christ to his cross,
our crisis of judgement for gain or for loss.

God’s kingdom is come, the gift and the goal,
in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole;
the heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call,
and all things cry ‘Glory!’ to God all in all.

Bryn Rees (1911–1983)

Benediction and sending out

Into a world of confusion and disbelief,
into a world of welcome and rejection,
we take the grace of God that is among us
and the peace of God that dwells in our hearts.

Stay well and safe, my dear friends,
and may the blessings of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit rest and remain upon us all.


Postlude: Fugue from Sonata no.6 (opus 65) by Mendelssohn (1845)