Categories
Minister Prayers Sermon

Calling, Character, Community

Dear Friends

I do enjoy the Olympics. The first one I remember was 1968 in Mexico when I would get up in the morning to find out what had been happening through the night. I kept a scrap book full of stories, but was also fascinated by the stories from previous events and learned much of the history. We would then go out and run our own events, turning our street into our own athletics track and cycle course. In the days when cars were at a minimum of course and you could play in the street! I wanted to be Kip Kieno, the little guy outrunning everyone in the 1500m. It was the event I would eventually run at school athletics meetings when before my growth spurt I was always smaller than everyone else. I was quite good, but never ran as well as Kip Keino! 

I love the stories that emerge, the people who shock themselves and everyone else, like the Cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer getting ahead in the women’s Road Race and all the favourites forgetting she was there. The amazement of what a human body is capable of-  in the gymnastics, how can anyone twist, turn, somersault and leap like that? Or the people who have overcome injury, set backs and disappointments to emerge as the best they can be. It’s not always about the winners, it’s about the resilience and determination of the human spirit and this year every athlete has had to overcome Covid in one way or another and then deal with a strange situation where there’s no audience and still create wonderful competition. My resilience comes with deciding whether to stay up late at night or get up in the morning. It’s a hard life, rooted in an understanding of ourselves as being made in the image of God – whether we can run at amazing speeds, deal with adversity by turning towards another new day or bear one another with humility, gentleness and patience. 

Otherwise, we continue to prepare for our own future adventure and our house is beginning to be a collection of boxes. You are invited to a leaving and a welcome; my last service at Ansty Road is on Sunday 15th August, I’ve heard a a rumour of cake, it would be lovely to see people there. My induction in Loughborough is on Saturday 18th September at 3:00pm and there is a general invitation to you all, but they need to know numbers. If you would like to go would you please let Isabel McIntyre or Tony Pedley know by Sunday, or sign the list in the Welcome Area. They also need to know who would need some transport in order to get there. 

 

Worship for 1st August 2021 

Hymn

Great God, your love has called us here

as we, by love, for love were made. 

Your living likeness still we bear, 

though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed. 

We come, with all our heart and mind 

your call to hear, your love to find. 

Brian Wren (1936-  ) © Hope  Publishing

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayers

O God You know each of us well, love us deeply

and are able to sustain us in an enormous variety of ways.

We are humbled by our awareness of Your profound concern

and involvement in our petty concerns and worries,

and your keen interest in our welfare.

Given so many gifts in our daily lives to enrich us

and opportunities for love and companionship,

we come anticipating a deeper appreciation of

and wider perspective of Your grace and power.

We know your mercy for the penitent, O loving God.

Let us experience it once again

as we place the record of our past week before You.

We recall our lack of respect and care for others

and those set in authority over us.

We acknowledge our abuse and neglect of our particular talents and gifts.

We have lived as if the world and its wonders were under our control,

and needed no reference to You.

We have failed to measure up to the standard expected of Your disciples,

and our example has not influenced the world for good.

In certain ways we have lived as if this earth and life upon it

was the limit of our horizons

and have disregarded Your encouragement to strive forward

and live as mature human beings made in Your likeness.

Hear us, O God, as in silence we now confess our individual sin before You.

Listen to the word of promise :

If we confess our sin,

God is faithful and just and will forgive our sin,

so, I declare unto You, our sin is forgiven.

Thanks be to God.

Generous provider of every good gift,

Prod us awake to the opportunities and invitations You lay before us.

Give us magnanimity in defeat and denial,

so that we may trust You rather than our own wisdom and wit.

Give to those who lead,

the loyalty and support they deserve,

and to those who follow,

willing spirits and a sense of purpose of their part in Your plan for this world,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/worship/weekly-worship/monthly/2021-august/august-1-tenth-sunday-after-pentecost#prayers

Bible Ephesians 4.1-16 

Hymn

Touch the earth lightly,

use the earth gently,

nourish the life of the world in our care:

gift of great wonder,

ours to surrender,

trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

Shirley Erena Murray

© 1992 Hope Publishing Company, 

CCLI 1280770

Calling, Character, Community

We pick up this letter at its midway point. Paul has used the first part of this letter to remind his gentile readers of who they have been and the way in which coming  to know Christ has changed their identity to those who follow Christ. Now, they are immersed in God’s grace through Christ’s death and so are citizens and members of God’s household. They have become one with Christ, in whom God is uniting the entire cosmos. And they are now members of the Church which is the Body with Christ as its head. Now Paul turns to spelling out what this means for them, “I therefore, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

We are called as individuals to follow the way of Jesus. For some there will be a strong sense of when that first happened for us, and the ways in which that has had an impact on our lives. For others it may have sneaked up on us – and yet to be part of this community of Christ we have made decisions along the way, that bring us into this particular community at this particular time.

Paul reminds us that however we arrived in this community we are “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called”   and then pulls out a list of qualities he expects such a calling to produce. Perhaps this is the preacher, preaching to self. Leadership requires a certain arrogance to be able to assume that you have something interesting to say or that your decisions are worthy of being followed by others – so Paul reminded us (and perhaps himself) that there needs to be a humility, gentleness and patience  in the way we encourage people to follow Christ, a humility to accept that the whole community has something to contribute, a gentleness in the way we treat one another – sometimes we can be too robust in the way we make our point or try to ensure that we are heard, a patience with one another,  some people may not be ready to make changes as quickly as others, and that can be frustrating for some and a cause of anxiety for others. The suggestion here is that the mark of a Christ centred community is one in which all people are valued and in which we maintain unity and the bonds of peace.

This sense of everyone being valued develops through into another list, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” We have reached a point in the life of the church where we are having to re-think how we function and what roles we expect from people. There was a time when we were very good at sharing these roles around a number of different people, of expecting different people in the life of the church to take on these roles. Yet,  at some point we came to an expectation that the person called to be the Minister of Word and Sacrament would be the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher and so when we reach a point where we are saying to churches that we can not afford to provide a Minister to every church, then for some churches that sounds like a crisis for there is no one to fulfil these roles. In 2004, the URC received a report to general Assembly in which the focus was to change to the final role on Paul’s list “equipping the saints.” It was an acknowledgement that we could not carry on in the way ministry had developed, that the responsibility for effective ministry had to be shared across many different people and that any Minister of Word and Sacrament who is available to a particular church would bring there own specific gifts rather than be expected to be able to do everything on their own.

I believe you have the ability to work together to continue growing this church and fulfilling your calling to be God’s people in this community. Often when we think about church growth we imagine it only refers to the number of people who join the church but one commentator suggests that “church growth involves how the one Church and its multiple members are equipped by Christ to reflect the qualities of its unity and growth in love (note how “love” bookends the focus on growth in verse 15-16). So the more we grow in love for one another the more that we reflect Christ and the more fruitful we become. 

Hymn

Put peace into each other’s hands

And like a treasure hold it

Protect it like a candle-flame

With tenderness enfold it

Fred Kaan © Words: Stainer & Bell Ltd

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Categories
Minister Prayers Sermon

Discipling like Mary of Bethany

Dear Friends

It is Wednesday as I write this. Chris has gone off for her last day at school and I am on the last two days of the course that I have been engaged in this year. We are talking about how we make good endings and I’m trying to pay attention! 

When Chris started at work forty odd years ago, she didn’t expect to be working with children. Her love of numbers had led her initially to work as an audit clerk and then switching to being a Finance Clerk. I interrupted that work, but in Bolton she quickly got similar work in the Rates Office before finishing to raise our children. It was when she looked to return to work that she began working with other children, initially childminding as it fitted well with caring for Graham and Hannah whilst I worked shifts and then went to College. She took her NVQ’s, yet despite discovering she was good at working with children, when we moved to Rochdale she tried to return to finance related work – but it had all moved on to computer and Chris hadn’t. Now her experience and skills made getting work with children easier than working in finance and so she moved into a family Centre Playgroup setting, and then into being a Teaching Assistant and has discovered a love of seeing the way children grow and thrive, and has done so herself. Sometimes the path we set out on isn’t the one we end up on.  Yet, life takes us where it takes us and hopefully we can all grow and learn along the way. Now that work is coming to an end and she has ideas for retirement – but who knows whether it will map out the way we plan and what opportunities that lie ahead. Only time will tell.

Worship for 25 July 2021

Hymn

Light of the minds that know Him

May Christ be light to mine

My sun in risen splendour

My light of truth divine

My guide in doubt and darkness

My true and living way

My clear light ever shining

My dawn of heaven’s day

 

May it be ours to know Him

That we may truly love

And loving fully serve Him

As serve the saints above

Till in that home of glory

With fadeless splendour bright

We serve in perfect freedom

Our Strength our Life our Light

Timothy Dudley-Smith

  • © 1976, 1984 Dudley-Smith, Timothy (Admin. by Oxford University Press)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayer

God of peace

In our hearts

in our lives

in our flesh

in our souls

May peace break out within us and around us,

May peace break through dividing walls

May peace break into dwelling-places

May peace break the chains that bind.

God who reconciles

heaven and earth

life and death

near and far

us and them

 

May your cross create one humanity

May your cross put to death hostility

May your cross proclaim love

May your cross make peace.

God of friendship

among strangers

among citizens

within households

in your holy places

May the household of God embrace humanity

May the household of God embrace creation

May the household of God embrace peace

May the household of God embrace hope.

 

God who forgives

we bring brokenness

we bring hatred

we bring misdeeds

we bring divisions

May your mercy flow within us

May your mercy shine in our hearts

May your mercy blow into relationships

May your mercy grow peace.

So then we are no longer strangers and aliens, 

We are citizens with the saints 

members of the household of God, 

built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, 

with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. 

The whole structure is joined together 

Growing into a holy temple 

in whom we are spiritually built together 

into a dwelling place for God.

 

God of grace

we praise you

we thank you

we follow you

we dwell within you.

Amen

Ephesians 2:11-22

Bible Luke 10: 38 – 42  John 12:1-7

Song: https://youtu.be/p_k771zhwfs

Come all you vagabonds,

Come all you don’t belongs,

Winners and losers

Come people like me.

Come all you travellers,

Tired from the journey,

Come wait a while, stay a while

Welcomed you’ll be.

Mark Edwards | Phil Baggaley | Stuart Townend

  • © 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Integrity Music Ltd)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Discipling like Mary of Bethany

Making time for Jesus

Mary could have spent the time rushing around with her sister getting the house ready, cooking for at least 15 and whoever else turns up – as Jesus has a habit of gathering a crowd. But we find her making time to ensure she is in the best place to listen to whatever Jesus is going to say this day. Sometimes the easy option is to keep busy, to fill our time with activity and make our excuses when we don’t have time to listen. We each have different ways of doing that – in my case it comes with the pressure of finding something to say each week. The theory is that I speak in the name of Jesus, but I know that sometimes there are so many deadlines to keep that I don’t make time to listen and I simply rely on something I’ve heard or what I think needs to be said. Each of you will know the ways in which you do not have time for Jesus and claim “Busy, too busy!” 

To be a disciple is to be one who makes time to listen to the one we follow. To do so expands our horizons, lifts us out of our own self-contained world and allows us to see the world from the perspective of the one we follow. The first step in that process is to make sure that we have time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. 

Making space to learn

Mary could have taken the option of staying on the edge of the crowd, listening from a distance, perhaps whilst still doing a bit of the housework that Martha was demanding. It would be the hospitable thing to do, ensuring that their guests had the best seats in the house. But instead she creates her own space to learn. We will each have different ways to do that, those that like to be at the front of the class under teacher’s nose, those at the back who don’t seem to be paying attention. Those who like their papers and pens all set out very neatly with the right colours to make appropriate notes and those who manage with whatever scrap of paper and pencil  they pull from their pocket. At Greenbelt there is an older man who always ensures that he sits at the foot of the stage. sometimes he leans back on it, sometimes he lies on the floor. He usually has his eyes closed and when I  first spotted him a number of years ago,  I wondered what he was doing there or whether he was capable of following the talks. But sometimes, in the Question and Answer sessions he will ask to speak and when he does he is articulate and learned with a keen sense of social justice. He clearly follows the many talks he is present at with a keen interest having ensured that he is in a space where he can make himself comfortable to do so. 

To be a disciple is to make space to learn. It is being aware of our own learning styles and ensuring that we have the opportunities to make best use of them. If is being aware that we are always learners and there is always something new to discover when we are the disciples of Jesus.

Creating beautiful moments

In Luke’s gospel, Mary seems to be a very passive soul, who doesn’t even get a speaking part in her own story as Jesus and Martha talk over her. It’s the sort of belittling behaviour that can happen to a child, or a wheelchair user or someone who we don’t believe can talk for themselves. In Johns account we get a different view of her – active, brave, creative – shocking those who don’t expect such behaviour from sweet little Mary. In doing so she creates a powerful image of commitment. That smell must have lingered for weeks and weeks as it clung to clothing and memory. 

To be a disciple is to throw our lot in with Jesus, it is to respond to extravagant love with extravagant energy and to create memories that people will talk about for as long as the memory lasts. I remember the people who have shown me how discipleship brings moments of great joy – sometimes in the midst of great difficulties. I think of the stories I’ve had the privilege of telling, the people whose lives have been full of grace and wonder. It is these moments that carry me forward, even amongst those who are always complaining about the cost or the embarrassment. May those who create beautiful moments always be a blessing for us.

Hymn

A prophet woman broke a jar

By love’s divine appointing.

With rare perfume she filled the room

Presiding and anointing.

 

The Spirit knows, the Spirit calls

By love’s divine ordaining,

The friends we need to serve and lead

Their powers and gifts unchaining.

The Spirit knows, the Spirit calls

From women, men and children,

The friends we need to serve and lead

Rejoice and make them welcome

Brian Arthur Wren

© 1993 Stainer & Bell Ltd

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Intercessions

God our Shepherd

May all who hunger for nourishment

find green pastures.

 

May all who thirst for peace & justice

find still waters.

May all uncertain about the next steps

be led along the right path

 

We remember those walking deep valleys

– may we fear no evil

– may you walk with us

– supporting and comforting.

– may we find healing, 

– may we stand proud amongst your flock

 

We remember those who meet with enemies

May peace come to our world 

where nations and communities are at war, 

sit behind walls and fences, 

May you anoint them with grace

 

We remember those who sit down to eat 

with those who abuse them, 

assault them,  

exploit them.

May they find refuge and sanctuary

May abusers know justice

 

We seek the goodness and mercy you promise

The gift of your indwelling

The promise of home our whole life long.  

 

Hymn

God is love: let heaven adore Him;

God is love: let earth rejoice;

Let creation sing before him,

And exalt him with one voice.

He who laid the earth’s foundation

He who spread the heavens above,

He who breathes through all creation,

He is love, eternal love

 

God’s eternal loving-kindness

holds us fast and guides us still.

Sin and death and hell shall never

O’er us final triumph gain;

God is love, so Love for ever

o’er the universe must reign.

Timothy Rees Public Domain

 

Blessing

May the God of peace,bring peace to this house.

May the Son of peace, bring peace to this house.

May the Spirit of peace, bring peace to this house, this day and all days.

Categories
Minister Mission Prayers Sermon

11 July 2021: Witnessing Like Mary Magdalene

8 July 2021

Dear Friends

I’m writing this the day after the Prime Minister announced that from 19 July all Covid restrictions would be lifted despite the infection rate steadily rising. We are each to “make informed decisions” about masks, distance, numbers, travel, events and learn to live with Covid. Many people are jumping for joy, but for others there is an increased anxiety, we need to listen to those concerns and be mindful of them. We might chose to wear a mask and keep a distance, but if people around us do not, are we placed in more danger of catching or spreading the virus? We will each find ourselves making daily risk assessments about where we should go and how we should behave for the sake of ourselves and for those who are still vulnerable. 

At the moment it looks like we will be permitted to sing in church and to return to sitting in an un-distanced way. But the question for us will be, “Should we?” We have an Elders’ Meeting on 12 July and I’m sure this will be a topic of conversation, so it would be good if people could let Elders have a sense of how you are feeling and whether you would still like some restrictions in place when we meet in church. We also have a Church Meeting after our service on 25th July. At the moment I would prefer to hold that service using the same restrictions we have in force at the moment and then let Church Meeting discuss the way we worship for the coming months. The reality is that our own informed decisions have an impact on everyone else, so we need to return at a pace that we can manage together. 

Craig’s Last Quiz Night on 16th July will still be within the time when restrictions are in force. So we will open up the screen and the doors. We will spread the tables a good distance apart, teams/tables of no more than 6, require masks to be worn when not eating and serve food in a way that is compliant with the restrictions. Apparently the price I quoted in my last letter was incorrect – but the Magazine was right. £5 per person. Please let Isabel know if you are going to come. 

This Sunday our Communion will be led by Craig at 10:30am in church and on zoom.

We will also be on our usual ZOOM LINK. Worship for Sunday 11th July

partly based on material produced for URC General Assembly 

 

This is the day that the Lord has made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord;

His love endures forever.

 

Hymn

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 shall grow.

 

The kingdom of God, Is mercy and grace,

The prisoners are freed, The sinners find place, 

The outcast 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.

© 1973, words by Bryn A Rees, OCP,

 One Licence A-632955

 

Prayers of Praise and Confession

Creator God,

You are holy beyond our wildest imagination.

You called everything into being and saw that it was good.

As we come to Your presence, 

You gather us together with the whole of creation.

Creator God, we worship You;

Creator God, we worship You.

Lord Jesus Christ,

Just as we are, you invite each one of us to your celebration feast, 

You greet us each by name and welcome us into your family.

Lord Jesus Christ, we worship you;

Lord Jesus Christ, we worship you.

Holy Spirit, breath of Life,

You fill us with your love for all,

So that we are enabled to witness with and to your Word.

Holy Spirit, we worship you;

Holy Spirit, we worship you. Prayer of Confession

Loving God,

As we draw near to you, we are painfully aware of our faults and failings,

We confess that we have been greatly influenced by other voices than yours, 

We have been seduced by the superficial glamour of the culture of the world, 

We have not spoken out against injustice and inequality in our society,

We have filled our own plates whilst other plates are empty,

We have been indifferent to the damage our way of life has caused to your creation.

Forgive us, Lord God. Help us to listen only to your voice, to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly in your way.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

To all who turn to him he says: ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ 

He also says: ‘Follow me.’

 

Bible Luke 8:1-3, Luke 24:1-11

Witnessing like Mary Magdalene: Having used the prayers and hymns from General Assembly which is meeting online over the weekend, I move away from their material to return to the people who inspired our mission priorities. Mary Magdalene is the first witness to the resurrection, yet is that what first comes to your mind when you think about Mary Magdalene? I suspect that the image that first comes to mind for many people is the one that has seen her misrepresented through history and sidelined by patriarchal narratives. The first evidence of this misrepresentation comes in a series of Easter sermons delivered in 591 by Pope Gregory in which he conflated the story of an unnamed woman with long hair who anoints the feet of Jesus with the description of Mary as one of the women who followed Jesus and myth was born that took away her status as the first witness to the resurrection. The one who God trusted to tell the disciples that Jesus was risen becomes the fallen woman, depicted in a whole variety of ways that emphasise her sexuality rather than her role as a leader within the early church. Anyone would think that they had a problem with a woman in such a prominent role!

So let’s look at her again. Luke tells us that she is part of a group of women who travel with Jesus and have been cured of evil spirits and infirmities. He then highlights her as the one from whom seven demons have gone. So it sounds as though she had much to be grateful to Jesus for. This is the sort of language we have seen gospel writers using for people with a variety of mental illnesses, but no one then assumes that the men who were healed in the synagogue or the graveyard were sexually promiscuous, they are seen as people with an illness. So it should be for Mary, and with those other examples, we do not hear of them again, but Mary is so important to the gospel writers that they speak of her again, as one of the women who follow Jesus all the way to the cross and then the empty tomb. What a story! What a life to live! Not just to be cured of an illness that must have made life so difficult, but to have the opportunity to forge out a new life as one who follows the way of Jesus. That could have been enough, but then she (along with Joanna and Mary, the mother of Joses) is entrusted with an important mission“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen”. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.

So if we are to be inspired by Mary and her friends it is surely to find ways to witness to Jesus however much the message may be sidelined or ignored. We know that our message is acceptable when safe and uncontroversial, but when we start to stray into messages that are deemed too political, too radical, too challenging of those who wish to assert power over others then suddenly we may find that we are no longer welcome to share our message because it is far too mischievous. This week I went to the opening of an exhibition highlighting three years of research by “Life on the Breadline.” It is hosted by the Chapel of Unity for Coventry University and highlights the very detailed report that can be found at https://breadlineresearch.coventry.ac.uk. This is work that spells out the gravity of the situation for 14 million people caught in poverty by the deliberate economic policy of creating austerity. It highlights the way in which poverty creates physical and mental ill health and explores the impact of faith communities who take the lead in many communities in providing the resources that help people manage life on the breadline. The report makes some hard hitting recommendations that will not be popular amongst those who prefer to cosy up to the architects of austerity or who would prefer the church to stay out of politics. 

But there is more mischief going on than that – those who are challenging the church and wider society on how we treat the vulnerable – especially as we lift Covid restrictions. Those challenging our attitude towards Downs Syndrome and whether it is right to be able to terminate a pregnancy beyond the limit for any other termination. Those who are challenging the new bill that will criminalise any attempt to support an asylum seeker. There is so much holy mischief for us to get up to – but when we do we are standing in the tradition of those who have been misrepresented through history despite have a clear mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Amongst our aims is to network and partner with people of good will in creating loving communities. Mary formed a community with other women who shared a desire to support the people who gathered around Jesus. We know enough about them to know that they came from a variety of backgrounds, that some had financial resources and others didn’t, that they had different political ambitions, that they were leaders and followers, that most had risked much to follow Jesus and life could never be the same for any of them.  Can we witness like Mary Magdalene, naming the good news we have experienced and the goodness we see emerging from the struggles to manage life?

Hymn

Take this moment, sign and space

take the friends around,

here among us make the place

where your love is found

Take the time to call my name

take the time to mend

who I am and what I’ve been

all I’ve failed to tend.

take the tiredness of my days

take my past regret,

letting your forgiveness touch

all I can’t forget.

 

Offering 

We bring this bread and this wine to the table of Jesus.

With them we bring ourselves,

all that we are and all that we own. May the ordinary become holy,

and heaven be opened to the people of earth.

May God be blessed forever!

We praise you that we are here today, around the table of Jesus.

We have heard the good news of your love; 

the cross is the sign of your arms stretched out in love for us

and the empty tomb declares your love stronger than death.

 

Prayer

Loving God,

you have fed us generously at this table, 

as we have remembered Jesus

and rejoiced that he is with us today. 

We are ready now to follow him,

and to be your people in the world. 

May your Holy Spirit show us the way, 

make us holy and fill us with love.

We pray for the Church,

for the great Church throughout the world, 

and for our own church community gathered today for worship and prayer.

May we remember Jesus every day,

grow in understanding of him,

and learn to love you and our neighbours. 

Fill us with your Spirit,

and make us people of peace,

of faithful prayer and loving action.

We pray for the whole world;

for the people, the animals,

the earth, the sea and the air.

May all that you have made

be sustained in peace and harmony, 

and may all your creatures

share in the goodness of creation. 

Bring healing to all who are suffering, 

and may all your people share in hope especially…….

We pray for ourselves,

for our families and our friends,

for all those we love

and for those we find it hard to love.

May young and old respect one another, 

and the generations honour one another. 

May nothing divide us or come between us, 

but let your love bind us in affection.

Bless us with your peace,

that together we may praise you forever.

URC Worship Book, Second Order of Holy Communion

Hymn

Eternal God, your love’s tremendous glory 

cascades through life in overflowing grace, 

to tell creation’s meaning in the story

of love evolving love from time and space.

 

We ask you now, complete your image in us;

this love of yours, our source and guide and goal.

May love in us seek love and serve love’s purpose,

till we ascend with Christ and find love whole.

© 1991, words by Alan Gaunt, Stainer & Bell Ltd, Hope Publishing Co, 

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Blessing

Go into the world to speak with courage.

Go into the world to act with compassion.

Go into the world to encourage your neighbours. 

Go into the world to share the good news.

And may God – creator, son and spirit –

inform and inspire our thinking,

our speaking and our actions

and bless us today, and every day to come. Amen

URC General Assembly 2021

Categories
Minister Prayers Sermon

27 June 2021: Celebrating like the Dancing One

22 June 2021

Dear Friends

This Sunday we will celebrate our fifth anniversary as a church. It has felt so natural to be together as one church that I was surprised when I did that maths and only needed one hand to count it up. We did originally have big plans to always have an invited preacher on these occasions, but the uncertain nature of the last year has meant that we haven’t been able to plan that far ahead, so you are going to have make do with me this year. Hopefully we can begin to look further ahead now and you can begin to plan who to invite in forthcoming years. Thinking about pulpit supply matters, Isabel is putting together a worship plan to lead the weeks I will no longer be here and then we have an offer of someone willing to take over. We thank them both, but if you are aware of people who you believe would be good at leading worship at Ansty Road, please let Isabel know and she will add them to the potential invitation list.  

There are many skills we need to keep a church running, another is people who can clean. We are creating a cleaning rota, so as to save us having to employ anyone. At the moment there are 4 volunteers, but another two would mean that the frequency was less often. If that is something you can do please speak to Isabel.

At the last Church Meeting we decided that we wanted to restart our Quiz Nights. So the first of the new season will be Craig’s Last Quiz Night on Friday 16th July, 7pm. Teams of no more than 6, on socially distanced tables answering the usual mix of easy questions. £5 per person, and an indication of who will be coming to Isabel please. 

Hymn

Blessed be Your name

In the land that is plentiful

Where Your streams of abundance flow

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name

When I’m found in the desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I’ll

Turn back to praise

When the darkness closes in Lord

Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your glorious name

Beth Redman | Matt Redman

  • © 2002 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Integrity Music)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayer

God of lakes and landfalls

boats and beaches;

we gather around your presence;

intrigued, enthralled, curious.

 

God of named and un-named

led and followed

we fall pleading at your feet;

craving, pressing, hoping.

 

God of parent and child

healthy and ailing;

we seek the life you provide;

flourishing, thriving, savoured.

 

God of patient and physician

seen and hidden;

we press against you in the crowd

silent, noticed, touched.

 

God of powered and disempowered

released and recharged;

we feel your energy within us 

tender, merciful, beautiful

 

God of knowing and unknowing

faithfulness and trust 

we sense your glance upon us

peaceful, transforming, easy.

 

God of receiving and sending

encouragement and forgiveness

we taste your zest for life 

risen, resplendent, wellspring.

 

God of teaching and troubling

hearing and noticing

we fear your assured pace

unwavered, untroubled, certain.

 

God of belief and disbelief

questions and quietening

we scoff with misunderstanding;

opened, taught, gentle.

 

God of dawn and dusk

midnight and midday

you take our hand and raise us to life

restored, rejuvenated, rejoiced.

 

God of kitchen and bedroom

study and nursery

You feed us with goodness

replenish, rework, reseed. 

Craig Muir based on Mark 5:21-43

Commitment 

We come to worship

All that we are will flow into and out of our worship of God

Like Martha, we come to welcome and seek welcome

We commit ourselves to create welcome, hospitality and friendship

Like Hannah, we come to pray and share prayer

We commit ourselves to put prayer at the heart of our presence in this place.

Like Mary Magdalene, we come to witness to God’s good news

We commit ourselves to seek ways in which we witness to Jesus  

Like Mary of Bethany, we come to disciple and be discipled

We commit ourselves to learn and worship at the feet of Jesus

Like Barnabas, we come to encourage one another

We commit ourselves to create moments of reconciliation and peace. 

To find God’s Spirit in one another and care for the most vulnerable

Like the Dancing One, we come to celebrate life’s moments.

We commit ourselves to celebrate a love shared and find reasons to dance.

When we go our separate ways 

We will do so by taking our worship into our daily lives of welcome, prayer, witness, discipleship, encouragement and celebration.

© Ansty Road United Reformed Church

 

 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name

Christ alone cornerstone

Weak made strong in the Saviour’s love

Through the storm He is Lord

Lord of all

Edward Mote | Eric Liljero | Jonas Myrin | Reuben Morgan | William Batchelder Bradbury

© 2011 Hillsong MP Songs (Admin. by Hillsong Music Publishing UK) CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Celebrating like the dancing one: Acts 3:1-10

A man’s life is turned around when he meets the risen Christ through Peter and John. His reaction is to dance with joy and amaze those around him. We need to celebrate life’s moments, celebrate the good news of Christ, celebrate a love shared. 

When we were thinking about the way we wanted to develop the new church Dorry Dear  told us, “These moments are like a comma changing the flow of a sentence.” I loved that image, and the way a well placed comma makes such a difference to the way in which we understand text. There is a story told by Oscar Wilde that he had spent the whole day waiting and when asked what he had done said “I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.” 

However, what language shall we use? We have in the past referred to this encounter as Celebrating like the dancing Cripple. Now cripple is a perfectly correct word  from the Old English crypel, “one who creeps, halts, or limps, one partly or wholly deprived of the use of one or more limbs.” The problem is that like so many of these words it has been abused and it has been abused. Some will use it of themselves, “Crip” is a term used by people who are disabled – but it’s not a term that is regarded as acceptable for those of us who are not particularly disabled to use. So what might we say instead, could we refer to the dancing paraplegic or person of disability? We could and many of those who are disabled in some way prefer that term, yet still I hesitate to describe someone by what can not be done rather than by their achievements.

So for the moment, until someone suggests something better, I’m going to refer to the Dancing One. It is a bit gneric, perhaps too bland bland, yet it puts our focus on the dancing and perhaps we can then associate this moment with others who dance …Miriam, Psalm 30 149, 150 , Jephthah’s daughter, David, Thessalonians – “We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.”

Sometimes, moments of celebration will be immediate and unexpected.  At other times we need to plan ahead, make the date, form plans, send out invitations, prepare the food, arrange the music, agree the outfit, greet the guests, surprise the one whose achievements we are celebrating and then relax and enjoy the day. It is good to celebrate together. 

This is our 5th church anniversary a time celebrate all that we have done over the last five years. 

  • congregations come together, support one another and become one body. 
  • CRCW post and called Kirsty, 
  • redevelop the building whilst also making plans for Ball Hill. We have met the disappointment of those plans not coming to fruition by reimagining how we can concentrate our work at Ansty Road and I know that you will produce good projects. 
  • We have registered for equal marriage and celebrated a number of weddings. If you want to see the impact that can have read this story https://metro.co.uk/2021/06/15/pride-week-nigerian-man-who-sought-asylum-because-being-gay-is-a-crime-14769294/  Victor was one of the people whose wedding we celebrated in May, growing up in Nigeria, it was beyond his imagination. I’m so pleased that we could be with them in that moment.

In our story at the Beautiful Gates, the begging one  – did not wake up that morning imagining that he would be able to dance into the temple that afternoon. 

He came expecting charity and discovered it was time to walk!

He came into the hour of prayer – with dancing feet.

Sometimes God’s grace is beyond our imagination and when that moment happens we have to take it and dance with it. We have to give thanks for the goodness that we have experienced or witnessed. We need stand with those who celebrate and against those who want to belittle everything or strain the joy out of those dancing feet. It means that some times we need to adapt, be light on our feet and always open to saying “Yes” to the moments God offers. For it may be in such moments that God’s Spirit creates new commas that change the flow of the narrative. 

 

Thanks be to God, whose Church on earth 

Has stood the tests of time and place, 

And everywhere proclaims new birth 

Through Christ whose love reveals God’s face. 

 

Thanks be to God, whose spirit sent 

Apostles out upon his way; 

From east to west the message went; 

On Greek and Roman dawned the day. 

 

Thanks be to God, in whom we share 

Today the mission of his Son: 

May all his Church that time prepare 

When, like the task, the world is one. 

© Caryl Micklem

Loving God,

We live in this waiting time,

Wondering what will happen next.

Asking, questioning, searching.

Will we return to the old normal?

What new things do you have in store for us?

Creator God, grant us hope in the midst of a confused and troubled world.

Redeemer God, pour out your gift of love, that our lives may bear fruit.

Sustainer God, free us from fear about what the future might hold

and give us power to live whole-heartedly for others and all creation.

Amen.

Revd Dr Elizabeth Welch, member of St Andrew’s URC in Ealing

https://urc.org.uk/general/3729-prayers-during-the-pandemic.html

Categories
Minister Prayers Sermon

20 June 2021: Praying Like Hannah

16 June 2021

Dear Friends

We had a gathering in our garden last Saturday! As Ministers, we were finally able to welcome Debbie Brown and her husband Clive, to Coventry. It’s been 15 months since Debbie came to be minister of the North Coventry Group, but we hadn’t had the chance to meet in person. So, we kept our distance – for the most part, had some lovely food prepared by Chris and generally just enjoyed getting the ministers together and spending some time away from zoom. I know that for many of us it has been the social isolation that has been hard and so it has also been good that some have felt able to meet at church on Thursdays and Sundays. When you feel ready to join us, please do. But we will also do all we can to support those who need or prefer to stay at home. 

This Sunday is a bit of an experiment. I am leading the worship for West Orchard and Warwick Road, but we were unable to find anyone to lead worship at Ansty Road other than asking the Elders. But they may need to do that quite frequently once I have left, so we are going to stream the service from West Orchard to zoom and show it on the big screen at Ansty Road. I appreciate there may be a temptation to simply stay at home and watch on zoom, but if you can make it to Ansty Road please do. This is a method that may be used more often in the future, so we would like to know how it feels for you and whether being together for fellowship, even if the worship leader is elsewhere, could be a way of working. 

I’ve also managed to confirm when we shall move. Our last Sunday with you will be on 15 August and I shall lead that. We will then go on holiday for two weeks and I will start in Leicestershire on 1st September. The manse in Loughborough will not be ready for us until January, so we plan to move to the house we are in the process of buying in Burbage and work from there for the rest of the year. 

Meanwhile we are making lists of what goes where and when!

This Sunday our Service will be led by Craig via a Live-stream from West Orchard at 10:30am in church. 

Worship for 20 June 2021

Hymn Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord

Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice

Tender to me the promise of His word

In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice

 

Tell out my soul the glories of His word

Firm is His promise and His mercy sure

Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord

To children’s children and for evermore

Timothy Dudley-Smith

© 1961 Dudley-Smith, Timothy (Admin. by Oxford University Press)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayer

Thank you,

Creator of goodness

Ever-running love

Releaser of grace

Thank you,

The set-free speak out 

Exposed love broadcasts

Goodness gathers

Have mercy

on foolishness

on erring ways

at self-inflicted pain

Have mercy

on loathing

on despair

at misery

Healing word

Salvager of life

Destroyer of death

Gleaner from the brink

Healing song

Praiser of goodness

Miracle of mercy

Thanks-giver of joy

We sing 

We praise

We dance

We offer ourselves,…

Craig Muir, based on Psalm 107 

Bible 1 Samuel 1:1-28

Mark 4:35-41

Song: Waymaker www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4XWfwLHeLM

Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu

  • © 2016 Integrity Music Europe (Admin. by Integrity Music)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Praying like Hannah,  Hannah’s prayer was soaked in pain, bitterness, anguish and grief. It was a prayer of one who did not feel fulfilled in the role she expected of herself – to be a mother. Elkanah, couldn’t see the problem, he had children from his other marriage and Hannah had him – what more could she want? I see a million or so palms hitting heads – “Typical man!” Whatever we might feel about the rights and wrongs of a woman being fulfilled by being a mother – it was important for Hannah, so important that she was pouring our her anguish and prayer and offering her child back to God. Earlier this week there was a piece on the radio about the lack of medical support for woman who have a number of miscarriages, apparently you have to have three miscarriages before any medical support is offered. The women who were speaking were distraught about their situation and I found myself amazed that despite the fear and pain they were going to put themselves through they kept wanting to try again. The instinct to give birth is so strong, and they will know the pain of this ancient story, for we may have more ways in which medicine can intervene, but the grief remains the same. I know that some of you will know that pain for yourselves and that some of us will never quite understand it. 

Others will have other pains, sources of bitterness, anguish and grief that you live with on a daily basis. You respond in your own ways to manage that hurt, sometimes with prayer but so often in ways that take courage to manage each day. Your resilience amazes me. In Hannah that resilience produced praise, power, potential, prophecy, proclamation. Just as it does in so many people who campaign for justice and in doing so change the world  we know – yet still we can turn to a 3000 year old story and learn something of what it means for the human spirit to carry pain. Hannah, like so many women, had to carry that pain alone. And sadly, when she did share it with the priest he misunderstood. But this ancient story tells us that God heard, God understood and eventually God acted and Hannah gave birth to a son who would be leader within their nation. 

As church communities, prayer has to be central to who we are and how we open ourselves up to God. It is the place where healing begins, where we can give voice to all that burdens us, where we can share with God, and sometimes with each other the things that are on our heart and begin the process of finding some resolution. It is the place where we can be reminded of our role in a community, where we can offer something intangible, yet deeply spiritual. Occasionally we may also be pleasantly surprised with the results and be able to come back to God offering thanksgiving instead of pain. May we learn to pray like Hannah. 

The disciples on the other hand found themselves sharing a storm. Terrified, despite having skilled, experienced sailors in their company, they turn to Jesus. Jesus calms the storm – but more than that Jesus calms the fears of all who share this particular boat, and perhaps others out on the same sea, but unseen. Jesus has been teaching the crowd about the Kingdom of God, there have been lots of pastoral parables and they are now taking a break from the crowd, but it seems that chaos is following them. This new kingdom is not going to come easily, because the old ways will not give up without a fight and the old ways enjoy the chaos of a storm. We live in stormy times, we know it, but we can’t always make sense of what is happening or be certain of the way forward. The invitation of the gospel is to turn to Jesus to guide us through the storm, yet the new way that Jesus offers can feel like it invites the storm upon us. Again, in such moments we need to learn to pray like Hannah and discover the calm amidst the storm. 

Hymn Beautiful Lord wonderful Saviour

I know for sure all of my days are

Held in Your hand crafted into

Your perfect plan

You gently call me into Your presence

Guiding me by Your Holy Spirit

Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life

Darlene Zschech

  • © 1997 Wondrous Worship (Admin. by Song Solutions www.songsolutions.org)
  • CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayers

We come before you 

calm-bringer, peacemaker, painkiller;

may hearts leap,

may strength be praised,

may love overcome all things.

 

We seek your holy presence

storm-shaper, stone corner piece, anger-grinder;

may boasts cease,

may arrogance fall silent,

may actions be wisely weighed.

 

We turn to your strength

might-breaker, reinforcer, grief-holder;

may all who labour know plenty,

may all who hunger be satisfied,

may each who yearns be fulfilled,

may life be restored,

may what seems poor be raised up,

may what seems high, gently stoop.

 

We rejoice in your challenge 

life-changer, dust-shaker, ash-kindler;

may all in need be fanned to life,

may wild flames give gentle heat,

may landless families inherit seats of honour,

may strangers be welcomed as kin,

may anxious souls be wrapped in care,

may silenced voices sing out with pride.

 

We walk in your byways 

earth pillar, world setter, faithful-guider;

may we tread gently upon your earth,

may we faithfully steward all that is given,

may light prevail over all kept hidden,

may wickedness be exposed and swept away,

may deceit be shattered by truth,

may God’s whisper thunder with promise.

 

We come home to you

wind-rebuker, fear-stiller, faith-giver;

may we minister in rightways,

may we dwell in your care,

may we pray like Hannah, praise-proclaimer.

Craig Muir, Based on 1 Samuel 2: 1-10

 

Hymn 

How good is the God we adore,

Our faithful unchangeable friend,

His love is as great as his power,

And knows neither measure nor end.

For Christ is the first and the last,

His Spirit will guide us safe home,

We’ll praise him for all that is past,

And trust him for all that’s to come.

Joseph Hart (1712-68)

 

Categories
Minister Prayers Sermon

13 June 2021: Welcoming like Martha

Dear Friends

Well I managed to get sunburnt in Scotland last week, which is a rare occurrence! It was good to get away for a few days. I also managed to see my parents for the first time in 15 months, albeit through a window and talking on phones. They seem well and it felt a little like us returning to a world that we recognised from before Covid. However, it was difficult to bring them up to date with family news as there is so much changing and after sharing so many of our life-changes with them it was strange to accept that they can no longer be part of that. Life moves on, we may accept that reality, but we can also grieve a little for what has gone.

Wednesday was going to be the first service back in Chapel of Unity since last December. But somewhere along the line there was a miscommunication and when we arrived the doors were still locked. But undaunted, we gathered around the new benches along St. Michaels Drive, switched on a couple of phones so that those at home could join us and worshipped God in the open air. The theme was Pentecost moving to Ordinary Time and it seemed appropriate to be outside, amongst people heading for work, workmen rebuilding the City Centre, the birds and squirrels. The Cathedral were very apologetic when they realised what had happened but I think those of us that were there were quite glad it had – God takes us to interesting places!

Meanwhile, we begin the journey into returning to life in our own building. Coffee Morning has restarted. We are confident about numbers on a Sunday morning now so no need to tell us beforehand that you are coming, we can manage. On 20th June we are going to try an experiment – I’m due to lead worship for West Orchard and Warwick Road, but we have no one available to lead at Ansty Road. So we are going to live stream from West Orchard and I will appear on the screen at Ansty Road, as well as via zoom. I know there might be a temptation to stay at home and just watch on zoom, but I would encourage you to be in church, enjoy fellowship there and be available for those who can’t watch on zoom. 

I would still like to encourage you to return your Skills Audits and Mission Priorities. It will really help the Elders to plan their way into the future. We are also aware there may be people who would like to join us on a Sunday morning but have no transport. If that is you or if you think you can offer a lift, please let Isabel know. 

Hymn

Great God, your love has called us here

as we, by love, for love were made. 

Your living likeness still we bear, 

though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed. 

We come, with all our heart and mind 

your call to hear, your love to find. 

Brian Wren (1936-  ) © Hope  Publishing

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayer

O God who creates each new morning

who is at the heart of life

who dances with the rising sun

We call to you on this new day

We come before you,

open to all this moment brings

to catch the dance of your word

to match the beat of your heart

to be in step with the rhythm of life.

O God who hears our voice,

who is attentive to the people’s cries,

where we call from the depths,

from the pit of despair

hear our cries, match our lament

bring us into your place of harmony.

O God who knows each heart

our souls wait upon you

on your word we hope 

as others wait upon the morning

we wait upon you O God

Where we have failed to love

we wait upon you

Where we have caused despair

we wait upon you

Where we have failed to hope

we wait upon you

Where we have fallen out of step

we wait upon you

and seek your mercy

Come, hope in God!

For with God there is steadfast love,

and in God is great power to redeem

It is God who will redeem you

from all of your sin.

Bible: John 11:17-43, 12:1

Reflection:

I’m going to stray away from the lectionary for the services I have left with you over the next 10 weeks and concentrate on the six bible characters that we identified as forming our mission background. They are all people who teach us something about what it is to respond to Jesus and follow the way of Jesus. Around whose stories we wove some principles that would guide the way we went about being Ansty Road church.

The first person we will consider is Martha. In Luke’s gospel we know her as the housekeeper rushing around trying to provide hospitality for their guests whilst her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. But here we see Martha as grieving sister and as a theologian, disciple and witness discussing with Jesus what it means for him to be Messiah. So here she is, a practical woman who together with Mary creates a culture of welcome and worship. In our mission priorities we state that “we will be committed to creating welcome, hospitality and friendship where people are inspired to worship and witness.” 

Duties of Elders – spiritual, pastoral, practical – 

– housekeepers and theologians 

Chapt 12 – presiding at Communion?

creating a culture of welcome – a place where tired, hungry, emotional travellers can rest and be refreshed, so that they can set out on the  next part of the journey can be 

These things don’t always come easily, to get them right they require hard work, organisation and an attitude that is truly welcoming. 

Every church I know claims that it is welcoming, but the proof is in the pudding, and I do like a good pudding! 

But can we be a place that welcomes and a community that can engage with theology. what does it mean for us when we hear that Jesus claims to be the resurrection and the life. I want us to be a people who can meet with people who are grieving, angry, confused, uncertain and help them to rebuild their lives. 

I want us to be a community where we can welcome those who have been treated differently, those who have felt excluded elsewhere, those who have been led to believe that Jesus would never grief for them them the way he grieves for Lazarus. 

I want us to be a community whose understanding of the bible, whose communion with God leads us into acts of social justice, that understands our role caring for the environment, 

In order to that we sometimes need to work through our theological thinking, I’m glad that we have done that with regards to same-sex relationships, it has allowed us to welcome some couples into the church to be married who would not have been able do so otherwise. 

It is helping us to this about what it means be an Eco-Church – what are the things we do that create resurrection and life for eco-systems – from local – a bug hotel and perhaps some deliberate wildflower gardening 

It is helping us think through how we can generate activities that focus on physical and mental well being, but we also need to support peoples spiritual well-being for then we will hear Jesus declare “unbind them, let them go.”

This is the work of the Martha’s – just as comfortable in the kitchen baking cakes as standing on the street discussing life, the universe and everything. 

Just as comfortable standing at the door welcoming people as ploughing through a host of health and safety material trying to figure out how to mitigate the risk of Covid and trip hazards, 

Just as comfortable preparing financial spreadsheets and preparing a time of prayer.

Our Elders are to take the role of Martha’s in this congregation, but the role of all of us is to help and support them, fill in the gaps in their gifts and skills help them  to lead you in being a whole community that welcomes like Martha. 

Welcoming like Martha, Luke 10, John 11 & 12

Martha; housekeeper, theologian, disciple, witness – who together with Mary creates a culture of welcome and worship. We will be committed to creating welcome, hospitality and friendship where people are inspired to worship and witness.

Hymn

Put peace into each other’s hands

And like a treasure hold it

Protect it like a candle-flame

With tenderness enfold it

 

Put peace into each other’s hands

With loving expectation

Be gentle in your words and ways

In touch with God’s creation

Fred Kaan © Words: Stainer & Bell Ltd

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayers

Plant, grow and flourish

God of the rich and the poor, of the powerful and the vulnerable, 

we pray for the leaders of the G7 nations meeting in Cornwall, 

for the people they govern, 

for the people of other nations they can support,

and for the world they can protect through their decisions.

May wisdom be planted, generosity grow, and co-operation flourish.

We pray for a growth in resilience, awareness and togetherness

across all the nations of the world 

as they continue to tackle the covid pandemic, 

as they confront environmental issues.

and as they reach out to communities crippled by need, war and natural disasters.

May integrity be planted, urgency grow and healing flourish.

We pray for the church in this place and around the world 

as we seek to serve those around us, 

to reach out to those in trouble,

and to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

May faith be planted, compassion grow and hope flourish.

We pray for those in the charity sector 

who seek to support those in crisis, 

to feed the hungry, 

to embrace those displaced by war, 

to protect wildlife and the environment, and planet that we all call home.

May trust be planted, resources grow and lives flourish.

We pray for those in sport, 

for those they inspire, 

for the enjoyment they bring, 

especially all the nations taking part in the Football Euros, 

for those preparing for and hoping that the Olympic Games will take place,

for all those at grass roots level struggling to keep their clubs going.

May respect be planted, opportunities grow and talent flourish.

And we pray for those whose faces we have seen on our screens

and in our papers this week.

for the family of Sarah Everard, 

for little Artin and his family, 

and all those who have died crossing dangerous waters,

for Jimi Olubunmi-Adewole and his family 

and all who have died trying to save others,

for all who have enriched our world and for all who are at the mercy of others.

May justice be planted, goodness grow and peace flourish –
in Jesus name. Amen.

©  rootsontheweb

Hymn As a fire is meant for burning with a bright and warming flame 

So the Church is meant for mission, giving glory to God’s name. 

Not to preach our creeds or customs, but to build a bridge of care, 

We join hands across the nations, finding neighbours everywhere. 

Ruth Duck (b. 1947) © 1992 GIA Publications,.

One Licence A-632955

Categories
Minister News Prayers

Vine Branches: 2 May 2021

Dear Friends

One of the by-products of just having Ansty Road to work with on a regular basis is that I’m catching up on some reading. I’ve just finished reading Sacraments after Christendom, by Andrew Francis and Janet Sutton. Andrew and Janet are both URC ministers and Janet has been a friend since we worked together in Manchester. It is a book they have been working on for a couple of years, but the pandemic has allowed them to reflect more urgently on the way the pandemic has re-shaped the church and in particular our use of sacraments to be “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible means of Grace” (Cranmer). They explore the different ways that we have viewed Sacraments across traditions and wonder about their use in a culture that is no longer predominantly Christian, to be moments of grace. 

As ever, there was much to think about, particularly how this human-divine encounter has been experienced as we have met through computer screens or in some cases not met at all. Part of the hope of these letters and the worship material attached is that we each have the opportunity to experience God in our own homes in a way that is distinctive from the zoom services and at the time of our choosing. Is that a sacred moment? Could it be regarded as a Sacrament if we are not meeting together? And for those who do meet on zoom and who have continued the practice of sharing bread and wine together once a month, does that feel as sacred in the way that it might when we gather in a church? 

The book concludes that whether these moments are Sacraments or not will be determined by our understanding of “how one believes God acts in the world through the Holy Spirit.” But that essential in any action is the way in which we are allowed to remember our stories of faith and use such remembering as a point as which we begin again. “If we look closely, we can see, in each historic church tradition, the movement of God’s Spirit – “Behold, I do a new thing.” – unfolding fresh patterns of the human-divine encounter. Today is no different. The journey of God’s people is never static but ongoing,  more evidently now than ever. Our primary task is to follow the words, works and ways of Jesus faithfully in our gathering and in our scattering … and – unnerving as the thought might be – to be open to all that God promises us through the power of the Holy Spirit.” ( Francis, Sutton, p135)

We are preparing for a post-pandemic church, and it feels good to be preparing to begin again. We are preparing for a new way of working in a building that has also been transformed. In doing so we must be open to all that God promises us. The path forward still feels uncertain, a little unsettling –  yet we can step onwards in faith.

As we head into May we would normally be gearing up for Christian Aid Week which this year runs from 10- 16 May. But once again we will not be doing door to door collections. This means that our contribution towards Christian Aid this year will be highly dependant uponour own giving, although we do hope to arrange an event when we feel we can.

Our service on May 9th will focus on Christian Aid but the issues they are encouraging us to engage with are there all the year round. Once again CA are focusing on climate change. Here is one person’s story:-

I am 19-year-old Glory, from the Philippines. I want to share my story to urge you all to take care of our environment, our Earth … we must act on the crisis of climate change. I live on a small island of Tabugon, Carles with my family. It’s beautiful and peaceful, with fresh air, coral reefs, and fresh seafood. But it is changing. Living on an island is very challenging. I really feel the impact of climate change. … As local fisherfolk, our lives depend on the sea.

Climate change has made the weather … unpredictable. At times we’ve not had enough to eat due to a low fish catch. My parents cannot afford to provide food or a school allowance. At present, water is very scarce, so we need to cross another island to buy water, even though it’s very risky for us. I feel so sad every time I witness senseless and uncaring people destroying our environment. … It also breaks my heart when I see children in our community suffering from poverty, because their livelihood is so affected by climate change, just like my parents. … I campaign to protect our ocean, like spreading the word for people not to throw their garbage or dump used motor oil in the sea. I also plant fruit trees and flowers in our yard. … residents in our village are involved in environmental and coastal management, like mangrove planting and sea patrolling to keep away the illegal fishermen.

We still remember typhoon Haiyan. We were so scared of the strong winds. The roof of our house was blown off. We sheltered in our kitchen, but then strong winds blew the coconut trees onto our kitchen. We panicked and cried. We decided to evacuate to our church but we couldn’t go immediately because of the falling trees and other debris flying around. With our trust in God, we were able to evacuate despite the danger and cold. 

My message for the world is that, we need to be responsible. We should be concerned on protecting our surroundings because this have been created for us. We have the wisdom to know what is right and what is wrong. When I found out about Greta Thunberg, I realised how important it is for us young people to be involved in climate change. Especially for us who live on isolated islands and rely upon fishing. I feel angry at those who are abusing our natural resources.

https://donate.christianaid.org.uk/Donate/

This Sunday our Service will led by the Elders  at 10:30am on our usual ZOOM LINK. 

On Thursday, I will lead prayers in church at 10am, and Isabel will lead Prayers on the Sunday zoom link at 7pm

be blessed,  Craig

 

Worship for 2 May 2021 

– put together by Craig and will be different from the service led by the Elders on zoom.

Hymn

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,

a place where saints and children tell

how hearts learn to forgive;

built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;

here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

All are welcome,

all are welcome,

all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard

and loved and treasured, taught and claimed 

as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries and laughter,

prayers of faith and songs of grace,

let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

All are welcome,

Marty Haugen (b.1950)  © 1994, GIA Publications, Inc. Text: © 1994, GIA Publications, Inc. 

One Licence A-632955

Prayer 

God who births love

revealed amongst us

shining from companions;

May love flow through our hearts,

be present on our lips,

flow through each encounter.

God who reveals love,

sent among us,

abiding with us;

May the Beloved Word

remain in us,

restore our souls.

God who abides in love,

dancing with the Spirit,

testifying to hope;

May we live through love

speak out with love,

act as children of love. 

 

God who encourages love,

casting out fear,

making life perfect;

may we be bold before judgement,

aware that love renews

that we belong to God

Before your love

we bring our pain, our lies,

the wrong we know is within us,

our brokenness 

all we struggle to love;

May we receive your forgiveness,

your mercy and grace.

God who commands love,

as the one who first loved us,

as the one who loves all creation;

May we love all that is created by you,

all who abide in you,

all whose love is birthed in you.

Craig Muir, based on 1 John 4 

Bible: John 15:1-8

Reflection Christ is the vine, we are the branches and on this vine there is room for diversity, for a variety of ways of being connected to Christ. The central issue is are we connected? Is Christ abiding in us? and how will anyone know? This vine creates space, a home for all sorts of people. Some we are comfortable with for they are like us. They look and speak like us, we share values and imagine a future much like the one we have known.

Sometimes, we look across at another branch and wonder if we belong together. Are we really connected to the same vine. They look different, act differently, have language and mannerisms that don’t feel right, yet we can see that their fruit is loving and people are being nourished in love.

I love the diversity of the vine; the ability to learn from those who might be considered very conservative or very liberal and finding the same deep love that takes us into working against social injustice, and supporting those who are in need, learning from so many different people with a deep love of  scripture that roots their ethics in those of accepting people for who they are and how they see themselves, discovering that Christ abides in each of us  even if sometimes we struggle to abide each other. 

I believe there is room for diversity on this vine, space for us to grow together, learn together, to model a way of living with different views, of reading scripture in different ways and yet still being connected to Christ the vine.  The fruit of such diversity is love, and that love is the nourishment our communities need. Fruitful branches are places filled with love and the fruit that a vine grows is not for the nourishment of the vine, but for those who will pick it, eat it and be nourished by it. May we be people who nourish. 

Hymn

Jesus the Lord said I am the Bread

The Bread of Life for the world am I

The Bread of Life for the world am I

The Bread of Life for the world am I

Jesus the Lord said I am the Bread

The Bread of Life for the world am I

 

Jesus the Lord said I am the Vine

the true and fruitful vine am I.

 

Jesus the Lord said I am the Life

The Resurrection and the Life am I

Dermott Monahan © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God of abundant life, we see your goodness all around us 

and we thank you for every part of it;

from the plants and animals which play their part in complex ecosystems,

to the dry deserts and stormy seas which test the limits of life.

We pray that in this time of climate crisis and ecological emergency,

you may help us to rediscover your love of creation 

and to reflect that in our own lives.

God who speaks through unexpected people,

We thank you for contemporary prophets

 who are challenging us to act on climate change;

for indigenous people and their invaluable knowledge

 of the land and sea where they live,

for scientists dedicating their careers 

to warning us about changes to the planet,

and for young people striking for their future.

We pray that you will help those in power to hear their prophetic voices.

Help them to see beyond short-term political priorities and business plans. Give, wisdom and courage when they face difficult decisions.

God of second chances,

we recognise the damage we have done to the Earth

and the injustice we see in society every day,

all of it fuelled by worship of profit and possessions.

We pray for the coming of a better world 

with justice, kindness and humility at its heart.

We ask that you guide us to be co-creators of this new world.

Give us confidence to follow the prophetic voices

to stand against injustice to people and to the planet.

So that together, in your strength, we stop this climate crisis.

From Christian Aid Worship Resources

https://www.christianaid.org.uk/resources/appeals/order-service-song-prophets

Loving Lord Jesus,

You told the disciples not to be afraid on the first Easter Sunday.

Help us not to be afraid as the restrictions are eased

but to trust in Your strength.

Give us the strength we need to move 

towards the uncertainty of a new normal.

Enable us to speak of you to those in distress and those who are afraid.

Fill us with The Holy Spirit and empower us to live our lives for You.

Amen

John Collings, Lay Preacher, Rutherglen URC 

https://urc.org.uk/general/3729-prayers-during-the-pandemic.html

Hymn

The love of God comes close

Where stands an open door

To let the stranger in

To mingle rich and poor

The love of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

 

The grace of God comes close

To those whose grace is spent

When hearts are tired or sore

And hope is bruised or bent

The grace of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

 

The Son of God comes close

Where people praise His name

Where bread and wine are blest

And shared as when He came

The Son of God is here to stay

Embracing those who walk His way

Graham Maule | John L. Bell

© 1988, 1997 WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland (Admin. by Wild Goose Resource Group) CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Categories
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.

Categories
Minister News Prayers

Jesus, Holy One of God 31 January 2021

Praise the Lord!

Sing praises

Let joy fill lungs, hearts and minds

God of songful joy

build your people

gather outcasts 

heal the broken hearted,

bind wounds.

God who counts each star

Calls us by name

understand without measure.

lift up the meek;

cast out wickedness

hear our confession

[Silence]

God of thankful song

hear the love melody

let grace fall like rain

let mercy grow like grass

let love sustain like fodder

hear the ravens call

take delight in the awe of creation

in those who hope for mercy.

Hymn    

Be still, for the presence of the Lord,

the holy one, is here;
come bow before him now with reverence and fear.
In Him no sin is found, 

we stand on holy ground.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, 

the holy one, is here.

David Evans (1957-);© 1986 Thankyou Music

Bible Mark 1:21-28

Reflection We all have our demons. Things that disable us, frighten us, demean us. I have a little voice that says, “You can never do that.” I have a bright idea, I get all excited, start to plot, plan, scheme and then suddenly. “Don’t be stupid, no one is going to get involved in that.” I start to imagine what could be, the big thing that is going to really change everything – “You can’t afford it, there is no time, that isn’t what you should be concentrating upon.”

Sometimes that little voice is external, the teachers who said I couldn’t spell well enough to write anything. The athletics coaches who were always more interested in others. Those in congregations who claim, “None of us agree with you.” Often their voices are much louder than the ones who have encouraged me over the years. The negative memories loom larger than those that brought achievement. 

Jesus stands in front of the congregation and they are amazed by his authority. I wonder what preconceptions they had that didn’t expect that level of eloquence and wisdom? Was it where he came from? The way he looked? His family background? So often we are judging people before they even open their mouths, we think we know whether they are worth listening to. How often have we been surprised by a voice that doesn’t meet our preconceptions?

Jesus speaks with authority, and one of those demons decides to interrupt. Is this someone who believes they have so much privilege that they have the right to be heard? Is this someone whose own demons are too much for them and they need to intervene? Is this someone who is so frightened of the good news that Jesus brings, that they just have to close it down? For good news disables the fear that demons thrive upon.

Jesus draws out the demons and the demon proclaims who Jesus is, they just can’t help themselves – Holy One! They speak with such authority that the people have to look again, search their own response. For the recognition of holiness can both delight and appall. We can gather to it, or we can circle wide keeping our distance. Which is it to be?

Jesus recognises this demon. “Be silent.” He commands. For the demons believe that those with loudest voices get to decide the agenda, determine who has access to the community, create the narrative that all must believe. Those who keep speaking know that therefore they do not need to listen to other voices, for all other voices are silenced, ignored, irrelevant. When Jesus commands silence, now there is the opportunity for other voices to be heard, other stories to come to the fore, other ideas to emerge and be fertilised. A space for new teaching to be absorbed as fresh memory.

What are we to do with our demons? How do we create space to hear the voice of Jesus, the Holy One of God, bring us new teaching? Where is the silence that fills our heart? Where does the fame of Jesus astound and astonish all who hear?

Hymn 

Loving Spirit, loving Spirit,

you have chosen me to be–

you have drawn me to your wonder,

you have set your sign on me.

Shirley Erena Murray (1931-2020)

 

Prayers

Where death dominates 

may life be found.

Where fear enslaves 

may life be found.

Where grief overwhelms

may life be found.

Where hunger impedes

may life be found.

Where injustice breeds

may life be found.

Where anger embitters

may life be found.

Where prejudice disables

may life be found.

Where disease grows

may life be found.

Where greed impoverishes

may life be found.

Where disability encumbers

may life be found.

Where evil darkens

may life be found.

Where belief falters

may life be found.

Where love’s lost

may life be found.

Where doubt whispers

may life be found.

Where ideas wither

may life be found.

Where eloquence deceives

may life be found.

Where wisdom stutters

may life be found.

Where bias decides

may life be found.

Where privilege intervenes

may life be found.

Where hints divide

may life be found.

Where agendas silence

may life be found.

Where holiness appalls

may life be found.

Where accents cleave

may life be found.

Where stories collide

may life be found.

Where teaching tears

may life be found.

Where destruction dictates

may life be found.

Craig Muir

 

Hymn

The voice of God goes out to all the world;

his glory speaks across the universe.

The Great King’s herald cries from star to star:

With power, with justice, he will walk his way.

 

The Lord has said: ‘Receive my messenger,

My promise to the world, my pledge made flesh,

A lamp to every nation, light from light’:

With power, with justice, he will walk his way.

Luke Connaughton  (1917-1979)