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Minister News Prayers

Hard Change: 14 February 2021

Did you enjoy the snow? Just enough to look good, but not deep enough to cause any trouble. Which is fine – except when we want it deep enough to cause trouble or give us stories we can recite in the future – I won’t bore you with mine, you will have your own! As I write this the sun in shining, it is hinting at the spring that is coming and I do enjoy these cold bright days. I am going to be on holiday next week, so if this weather continues it will be a good time to take Ben on some good long walks – it’s not as if we can go anywhere else. So the plan is some good walks, switch the computer off and eat pancakes on Tuesday. 

I’m sure that St. Columba’s folk will be glad to hear that we have found a new home for the organ. It will be going to St John the Baptist,  Hilmorton, Rugby, so another congregation will be able to enjoy hearing it. Thank you to Lynne for asking the right people and finding somewhere for it to go. 

When I return from holiday we will launch into a number of Lenten events – all designed to be done online. The Chapel of Unity will offer a 20 minute poem and reflection each Monday evening at 7pm via zoom (please contact Craig for the link). It will follow the poems set for each Monday in The Heart’s Time ed by Janet Morley. Those who use the telephone can join on the numbers below. 

The Coventry URC’s Lent Group will meet on Tuesday evenings 7pm – 8:15pm. It is called Living as Disciples, It has been put together by Nick Stanyon, Kirsty Mabbott and myself. We will begin on 23rd February with Disciple as Worshippers. Again it is on zoom (please contact Craig for link)

I hope some of you will be able to join us on those occasions. 

This Sunday is a Communion Service at 10:30am on our usual link. Please bring some bread and wine/juice.

On Thursday we will meet for Prayers at 7:00pm on the same link.

be blessed, 

Craig

A poem for Ash Wednesday 

The poem that Janet Morley sets for Ash Wednesday in The Heart’s Time is by R S Thomas. It is a reminder that to keep Lent is to turn away from the ordinary patterns we have fallen into and give ourselves the opportunity to see something afresh. It is like watching a familiar film and seeing something we hadn’t noticed before, or travelling along a familiar route but at a different time of day and seeing the way new shadows fall. 

The Bright Field 

I have seen the sun break through

to illuminate a small field

for a while, and gone my way

and forgotten it. But that was the

pearl of great price, the one field that had

treasure in it. I realise now

that I must give all that I have

to possess it. Life is not hurrying

 

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning

aside like Moses to the miracle

of the lit bush, to a brightness

that seemed as transitory as your youth

once, but is the eternity that awaits you. 

R S Thomas

However you mark this Lent, may it be a time  to discover something new and beautiful.

Worship for 14 February 2021

Hymn

Great is Thy faithfulness,  O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Thomas O. Chisholm, 

Prayers

I have a dream that with our faith 

we will carve out stones of hope from the mountains of despair

We have a dream of a kingdom to come

I have a dream that with our faith 

we will transform the discords of nations 

into a beautiful symphony of friendship

We have a dream of “God’s will be done.”

I have a dream that with our faith 

we will together achieve the day of freedom.

We have a dream of heaven coming to earth

I have a dream of people singing a new song of hope and love, 

dancing together the way of full life

We have a dream of abundant life for all

I have a dream of heaven on earth, enough bread for everyone, reconciliation and God’s forever ‘amen’ chorus.

We have a dream of living in God’s love and embrace

It is a dream we can share when we live the prayer that we say: 

Richard Becher https://urc.org.uk/images/mission/Intercultural/documents/RJ_Sunday_2018.pdf

Generous God,

open our eyes, ears and hearts to see your love transfigured 

in the world you love so much.

May your word speak to us showing us the way,

telling a story, your story,

Jesus’ story, our story. Teach us

trust in the midst of fears,

hope to overcome our despairing. Lead us up,

lead us down and

lead us out…

Lead us to listen to the voice of your beloved, 

LOVE incarnate.

Michael Jagessar

https://urc.org.uk/images/mission/Intercultural/documents/RJ_Sunday_2018.pdf

Bible Reading 2 Kings 2:1-14

                        Mark 9:2-9

Reflection Change is hard. We get used to the way things are done and when those anchors shift the new landscape becomes uncomfortable. Elisha has been mentored by Elijah, he knows the role he is to take, the way in which God is calling him and the way Elijah has trained him for the role. But when the time comes he still wants to squeeze out every last moment with Elijah. Perhaps he is hoping that he will stay a little longer, perhaps he wants to make sure that every lesson that can be learnt is learnt. Elijah knows that there is one last gift, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” That spirit would be represented in the form of the cloak (mantle) Elijah carried. With Elijah’s mantle Elisha demonstrates that leadership has changed, this will be Elisha’s moment.

On the mountaintop Peter, James and John are given a reminder of history and insight into the new life that God is bringing into being. Moses and Elijah represent the past; the giving of the law and the word of the prophets. But Jesus is the beloved one, who overshadows even Moses and Elijah, the one to whom we should listen. The past is gone, Jesus is the present and the future. The landscape is changing, the old ways have gone and new ones are emerging. Peter may want to linger, to hang on to what  has been as well as to bask in this beautiful moment. And we could focus on the beauty and wonder of God and ignore the world around us – but Jesus will always lead us back into the reality of life. 

Today is earmarked as Racial Justice Sunday. I wasn’t sure what to do with that, I didn’t find the material produced by the URC particularly helpful, partly because it’s mainly been prepared by white people and here I am another white person venturing into a world I’ve heard about, read about, taken an interest in, but can never really experience. That could be an excuse to do nothing – to go back and wallow in the beauty of a God-moment and ignore the beast that is racism. Yet, every day I find myself coming across stories in which racism is at the core and so I am also impacted – even if it is one step removed. I can not use whiteness to ignore the issue because too often it is whiteness that is at the core of the problem. 

We live in changing times, old ways are being challenged and that makes some people uncomfortable. Particularly when the questions about race still come back to issues about power, control and the worth of human life. Do black lives matter as much as white lives matter? A report released this week had discovered that “for black women, the risk of stillbirth was one and a half to two times higher at all stages of pregnancy. Although the study did not look into causes, the potential reasons cited for the stillborn race gap included “low educational and socio-economic status, reduced access to antenatal care, and increased rates of fetal growth restriction”. A different study had also found that the rate of maternal mortality (death in pregnancy and childbirth) was five times higher for black women than white.” https://patient.info/news-and-features/black-women-twice-as-likely-to-experience-stillbirth. 

Another story this week was that of Jarel Robinson-Brown, whose questioning of the motives for the clap for Captain Tom, was met with a flood of racist abuse. His words may well have been mistimed, but sadly the Diocese of London, where he serves as a curate, waded in with a statement that heaped more abuse upon him. Looking at the responses it’s hard not to come to the conclusion he would have been treated very differently had his skin been white. Incidents like this are a stark reminder that the church is not a safe place either and that is why, uncomfortable as it is, we need to address our own prejudices and be aware of the different ways we each respond to people whose ethnicity and experiences are starkly different to our own. It is the reason why those of us who are white, can not hide away from the subject as if it has nothing to do with us or we have no experience – because the way we have each reacted just to these words on this page will be coloured by our own expectations about whose voice can be heard.

Elisha has taken on the mantle. Peter, James and John are being prepared for future leadership, our world is changing and that means that those who we once expected to stay quiet, sit in the background and only sing when invited to do so, are emerging as the voices of a new generation that expects an equal role in the present. In the midst of all those voices, Jesus is still the one we look to, still the one whose voice we listen for, still the one who rises from death and leads us into life. 

Hymn

Take this moment, sign and space;

Take my friends around;

Here among us make the place

Where your love is found.

 

Take my talents, take my skills,

Take what’s yet to be;

Let my life be yours, and yet

Let it still be me.  

John Bell & Graham Maule

© WGWG

Prayers

For the hungry in our world, and for those who have too much, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For the lonely, and for the crowd,

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For the sick, the weak and the lost,

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For the new life striving to be born,

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For those who lead and carry heavy burdens, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For your church, that she might be faithful, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

 

For ourselves, that we may be the women and men you create us to be, 

God who hears earth’s cry, Feed us or we die.

Carla Grosch Miller

 

Hymn

When I survey the wondrous cross

on which the Prince of glory died,

my richest gain I count but loss,

and pour contempt on all my pride.

 

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

 

See from his head, his hands, his feet,

sorrow and love flow mingled down!

did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,

 

spreads o’er his body on the tree;

then am I dead to all the globe,

and all the globe is dead to me.

 

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

love so amazing, so divine,

demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Categories
Minister Prayers

Setting Priorities: 7 February 2021

I’m finding myself in a few conversations about the way this time is changing our perceptions on life, the ways in which it may shift the way we live. Is it an opportunity to live differently? Some see it as an opportunity to reverse the climate catastrophe, or to re-focus how we work as churches or a moment when we shift work patterns or a time when we get our life/work balance into harmony. There are some of those (and other) things that I warm to. Yet I also hear people desperate to get back to how everything was before and treat this time as a little blip in history. 

The lesson of history, is that for those living through this period, it will be hard to force the changes that we want. It may well be that as historians look back they will see the shifts in lifestyle, the opportunities grasped and the impact upon the years to come. I was reminded of the major shifts that came from the Black Plague in the 14th Century, for those who survived it created prosperity as the value of labour increased and much of Europe moved from serf based societies to ones based on the free movement of labour. At the time, I doubt anyone was rubbing their hands in glee at the economic opportunities before them – they were mourning those they had lost whilst grasping the opportunity to live. Closer in time, I’m reminded by the programme It’s a Sin that the Aids epidemic brought the lives of LGBTQ+ community into sharper focus for many of us. As some people fought for life they also created an LGBTQ+ civil rights movement that has vastly changed the landscape for the community. It’s still not perfect and many face discrimination and misunderstanding, but it is vastly different from the world many of us remember. I’ve no doubt that this epidemic will bring some major cultural shifts, but I’m not sure that we are in a position to anticipate them all. What we can do is to look out for one another, hold one another in prayer and be ready to respond in whatever way God calls us as we emerge into the future. 

be blessed, Craig

 

This is the poem I wrote on the approach to Easter 2017. Shortly after writing it there were a number of terrorist attacks – Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge. I thought the poem might be about those times. But re-reading it, I wonder if it can also speak to this moment. 

Silence

In the silent garden,

we stood with graves laid out

as if disbelief could turn back time.

Sometimes, silence is all we have to express ourselves;

awed, astonished, ashamed, ashen,

silent as the grave.

 

In the hushed corner plot,

woeful folk quietly plant raised beds

as if peace could descend with new blooms.

Sometimes, silence sings collusion’s victory dance;

soft, scented, scared, scarred,

hushed with inaction.

 

In the secret terrace, 

weans play a raucous hide ’n seek

as if solemn tongues could break into laughter.

Sometimes silence is the comma, as life explodes –

caught, caressed, carried, carved,

gleeful Easter’s fête.

 

In festival garden,

world-weary ones feast on merriment,

as if lament will be heard no more.

Sometimes, silence proclaims extravagant garlands,

plaited, pretty, presented, pricey 

fanfare of rebirth.

Craig Muir  20 March 2017

Worship for 31st January 2021

Prepared by Margaret Marshall

Call to Worship

We’re waiting!  Actively waiting for the Lord!
Our strength renewed, no longer weary and faint!
For our God does not faint or grow weary,
but gives power and strength to those who wait.
Beyond the Zoom, the quarantine, the COVID, the cold, we’re gathered to lift our eyes to the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth!

Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn

Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes, 

The Saviour promised long; 

Let every heart prepare a throne, 

And every voice a song. 

 

He comes the prisoners to release, 

In Satan’s bondage held; 

The gates of brass before Him burst, 

The iron fetters yield. 

 

He comes from ignorance and doubt 

To clear the inward sight, 

And on the darkness of the blind 

To pour celestial light.

 

He comes the broken heart to bind, 

The bleeding soul to cure, 

And with the treasures of His grace 

To enrich the humble poor. 

 

Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace, 

Thy welcome shall proclaim; 

And heaven’s eternal arches ring 

With thy belovèd name.

Philip Doddridge (1702-51)

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession 

Lord God, high in the heavens, yet kneeling at our feet,

let us pray quietly, let us listen attentively, let our words praise you,

let our actions praise you.

Living, loving eternal God, as we draw near to you, may we find that you are already on your way to meet us. Come with healing light to open up and reveal to us not only who you are, but what your love might be.

Our eyes feast on the beauty of the sky and the scenery around us. Words are not enough to express our heartfelt wonder of the beauty of creation. However, thankfully, you know our hearts and our motives. We do not always understand your motives, Lord, but then you are God and who are we to question you when you see the bigger picture?

We thank you, that we can come to you in order to recharge our batteries. And that we can come alongside others in your strength and serve our community.  

People everywhere and everyday are seeking you, Lord.  Following you, hunting for your presence, wanting your attention. Yet not once do you complain.

We are sorry, Lord, that the weight of life’s demands causes us to stumble, to lose our temper and at times buckle under the pressure. Help us to be more like you.  We admit that we do not always get our priorities right. Help us to know the importance of spending time with and drawing refreshment from the Father.

We are sorry for allowing other people and things to take over and squeeze out our time with you. We ask Lord, because of your love, healing us and setting us free, we are forgiven.

We ask this prayer through the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.   

Bible Reading: MARK CHAPTER 1 VERSES 29-39

Sermon

When politicians or chief executives commence a new role, they often set out a list of priorities for their first 100 days, this is giving them a sense of the direction of their thinking. Then, we may critically evaluate their achievements against their stated hopes and goals. I must admit that I during the recent years have a list of the tasks in priority order that I have to undertake.

As we read through this first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we observe that he wastes no time telling his story, and his urgency comes through, even when we try to divide his Gospel into neat little passages, that we can consider one by one. Mark very often uses the word ’immediately’

Here is what Jesus has done so far -he called four fishermen to follow him, and they left their boats and nets immediately; Jesus with those four men went to Capernaum, where the four men had lived; on the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach with authority. A demon possessed man challenged him, and named him as the Holy One of God – in other words, the Messiah – but Jesus told the unclean spirit to be silent and leave the man. It obeyed immediately.

We have read today that they left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. However, as they entered the house, they found Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus was immediately told. He did not say a word but puts out his hand and takes the hand of the woman, immediately the fever went and Jesus lifts the woman up. 

As soon as the Sabbath draws to a close, a stream of people makes its way to Simon’s door, asking for healing, asking Jesus to do for them what they had seen him do for the man in the synagogue.

However, Jesus feels that he wants some quiet time for prayer and he goes off alone. He goes to some deserted location, reminding us of his time in the desert at the commencing of his ministry, when he was preparing to refuse Satan’s temptation.

Even Jesus struggled to find his purpose at the beginning of his ministry, but he knew how to discover it. He prayed. He set time aside to be alone with his Father in the darkness, to seek God’s will.

Jesus never went out looking for people to be healed. That was never the priority part of his mission. People came to him, seeking his healing touch, asking for his help, and he had compassion on them. Some of them did believe. Some did repent and follow Jesus, and their lives were transformed for ever. These were the ones who, like Simon’s mother-in-law, responded with gratitude.

However, Jesus had to choose between becoming the local healer and reaching to as many people as possible with the good news of God’s love for them. Jesus led the disciples into the unknown territory of introducing others to the Kingdom of God.

The disciples quickly learnt that they could not be true followers of Jesus by staying in their own homes and communities. They had to get up and join with others in the work of the Kingdom.

We are the only ones who can show people what it means to be transformed into Christ’s image through the daily disciplines of quiet times for prayer, service and sacrifice. 

We are the only ones who can show people what it really means to be followers of Jesus Christ. We are the only ones who can love them as Christ loves us.

Jesus had no stated list of priorities, aims and objectives. People could see from his actions what he wanted to achieve. What do our words and actions, say to people about us being followers of Jesus Christ?  Do we make it a priority to show others about God’s love for them?  Amen.

Hymn:

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,

    forgive our foolish ways!

Reclothe us in our rightful mind,

in purer lives thy service find,

    in deeper reverence, praise.

 

In simple trust like theirs who heard

    beside the Syrian sea

the gracious calling of the Lord,

let us, like them, without a word

     rise up and follow thee.

 

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!

     O calm of hills above,

where Jesus knelt to share with thee

the silence of eternity,

     interpreted by love!

 

With that deep hush subduing all

     our words and works that drown

the tender whisper of thy call

as noiseless let thy blessings fall

     as fell thy manna down

 

Drop thy still dews of quietness,

     till all our strivings cease;

take from our souls the strain and stress,

     and let our ordered lives confess

the beauty of thy peace.

 

Breathe through the heats of our desire

    thy coolness and thy balm;

let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;

speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,

     O still, small voice of calm!

J G Whittier (1807-92)

Prayers for other people and the world

Creating God, we pray that the world may be led into new ways of seeing and perceiving human life; we ask that humankind may not gaze in awe at the trappings of wealth and power, but look in compassion at the suffering of the poor, the refugees and the powerless.

We pray for people who have to leave and possibly lose their homes through war or natural disasters: for those who struggle to survive and no longer know where they belong or where they are going. We pray for the people in this country who are homeless, we give thanks to the Foodbanks as food is provided for meals for many families.  

Father, we pray for those who suffer turmoil of mind or spirit, those in physical or mental pain and the bereaved, we think of those known to us. 

We ask for your healing on those suffering from COVID, that they might be open to receive your healing, peace and comfort. We pray that all may be aware of your arms always surrounding them.

We ask that you will give strength to all those in the Medical profession at this time and we give thanks for the vaccine that will help in this time of challenge.

Re-creating God, we pray that your church may be given new ways of living, in discipleship to Christ. We pray that we may walk boldly with the Lord of Life along the way of self-giving love. We ask that we will leave behind the old ways and follow you along new paths. 

Help us to make the priority of finding a quiet time for prayer with our Father. Give us unity of heart as we pray, that we may pray as one with you and one with each other and one within ourselves. Let your Holy Spirit cover us and bind us and draw us close together, that we may be whole within our minds. Save us from caring about small things that do not matter in the light of your eternity and helps us to pray for things of everlasting consequence.

We bring to you these prayers along with all the unspoken thoughts and prayers from our hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Hymn:

Brother, Sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.

Richard Gillard (1953-  )

BLESSING

Lord Jesus, go with us into the world this week. Help us to remain focused upon you and to make your priorities our priorities in all the places you are send us.

And the blessing of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, remain with us today and forever. Amen.