This service has been provided by Rev. Dr. Rosalind Selby. If you would like music for the hymns, please look on YouTube….thanks
We held our first service last Sunday since lockdown started and had a good attendance.
God of our past – be our firm foundation
God of our present – be with us and draw us together in spirit
God of our future – be the promise and hope of renewed abundance of life
O God – be present with us in this time of worship and sacrament.
HYMN: God is love, let heaven adore him (Blaenwern)
God is Love: let heav’n 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 heav’ns above,
he who breathes through all creation,
he is Love, eternal Love.
God is Love: and he enfoldeth
all the world in one embrace;
with unfailing grasp he holdeth
every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow’s iron rod,
then they find that selfsame aching
deep within the heart of God
God is Love: and though with blindness
sin afflicts the souls of all,
God’s eternal loving-kindness
holds and guides us when we fall.
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 (1922) © Continuum Int Pub Group
CCL Lic No 293964
PRAYERS OF APPROACH
Loving and Holy God, with awe we worship you … the One who made us and sustains us, the One who knows us, has always known us, and in whose intimate knowing we will be held always.
Help us to know your presence in this moment.
With awe we worship you, Jesus, our brother and our Lord, and the one in whom we meet our God most intimately.
Help us to know your risen glory surrounding us.
With awe we worship you, inspiring, guiding Spirit.
Be very present, we pray, through our worshipping, and in our opening of the word, and hold us in all the concerns we bring with us.
Help us to know your power upholding us.
Hold us, too, we pray, as we carry on our hearts the knowledge of what we get wrong. There are things we have said that would have been better not said, and kind words we might have spoken that we have not shared.
There are things done that we know we got wrong, and things that we have failed to do that we know you have wished of us, O God.
Take our sadness in ourselves and forgive us, we pray. Renew our hearts and spirits and strengths, by your Spirit, that we might walk more closely with you.
Praise be to God for the love and mercy poured out upon us. We are forgiven, and as God’s beloved and restored children we share together in the words of the prayer Jesus taught us:
OUR FATHER, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever Amen.
READING: PSALM 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
READING: Philippians 4:1, 4-9 (this is a mixture of two versions – beginning with the NRSV and moving to the Authorised Version for the last few verses)
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Paul tells the church in Philippi … “don’t worry about anything”. I’m really not sure about that!
Actually, there are all manner of places in Paul’s letters when he shows he’s worried … he’s worried about false teachers going to the Galatian church; he’s worried about the divisions in the Corinthian church; he’s worried about why the Jews didn’t all turn to Jesus as their promised Messiah and he writes about that at length in Romans; and he’s really worried about whether Philemon will take back his runaway slave as a brother in Christ (Onesimus).
If we said we hadn’t been worried over the past few months … or that we weren’t still worried about the future … I don’t think we would be being honest with ourselves or with each other.
I wonder what sort of messages you’ve been hearing – or have been sent to you … there’s the old “keep calm and carry on” … that appears on mugs and t-shirts and has done for quite a while. I’ve seen the message “this too shall pass” shared a lot too. It’s a saying of Persian origin, and actually refers to the fact that all physical life changes and eventually dies. Taken out of its original context, there is something wise and a little comforting about these words: “this too shall pass”.
I wonder how many times you’ve had something stressful or challenging happening in your life and you’ve thought to yourself “it’ll be fine when that’s over” … “I’ll be okay when that’s dealt with”. Does that sound familiar? There’s a danger in projecting our sense of our lives into the future and forgetting to appreciate and to live in the present.
Being anxious, I think, is part of being human … even if we aren’t worried for ourselves, we get worried for our loved ones. Stress is natural too … and some stress is good for us … it gets a healthy amount of adrenaline pumping and we have our get-up-and-go. Too much, of course, and our get-up-and-go will get-up-and-leave and we’ll be “stressed-out” as the saying goes.
Given that fact that he does write about his own anxieties, I think Paul must be talking about something else here. I think he’s talking on a sort of larger scale about the meaning of our lives … about the way God holds us whatever is happening and however we’re responding to it.
Being IN CHRIST, belonging to the Son of God who pours out such love and mercy and care of, is something that WE ARE in the core of our being even in the reality of all the things that are happening to us and around us. Nowhere does the Bible tell us that by believing in Jesus do we escape the challenges of life. Jesus didn’t! His followers didn’t! The church down the years and across the world hasn’t! But if we know God is holding us, if we trust that our prayers are heard, then we can hold onto the lovely things of life that are God’s gift to us in the knowledge that God walk with us by the still waters and even through the darkest valleys.
We may not feel we have much to rejoice about in our lives at the moment, but we can rejoice in God’s steadfastness and presence and fatherhood and strength and in God’s deep, self-giving, all-embracing love for us. That love that will hold us until we take our last breath and welcome us home; it’s a love that will bind the church together even in these saddest of times in fresh ways and odd ways, but still, we are the church, and we can rejoice.
We CAN celebrate the things that are true and honest and just and pure … the things that are lovely … the things that we can hold onto with integrity … in these things we can praise God always. Let’s remember how God’s goodness has always been a part of our lives and hold fast to that. As Paul says, learn and receive and hear and see all that God has done in your life, trust that God is still doing those things, and the peace of God will hold you.
Thanks be to God. AMEN
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
O God, our God – we are thankful for this opportunity to gather together – but we bring to you now the burdens of pain that the last few months have brought – and that we will probably carry with us for some time to come.
We offer our heartfelt prayers, now, for the sharp pain of the burdens so many have carried
- the loss and grief
- the isolation
- the anxiety
- the financial worries of those whose work or businesses are under strain or have already come to an untimely end
- the stresses of the Health and Care Workers
- the challenges of getting children and young people back to schools, colleges and universities.
We pray for those who, for reasons of age, underlying health conditions, or ethnicity are more at risk if they do catch the virus.
We offer you the ups and downs of our hopes raised only to be dashed again – and all the uncertainties as we seek to understand and respond to changing advice.
We pray wisdom for the politicians of this world – courage and strength for the Health and Care workers – and your safe loving arms wrapped around each one of us when no human touch can comfort us.
We pray for ourselves in the coming days and weeks … for God’s presence with us as we walk into more of the unknown. Take a few moments to pray for yourself.
O God, our God … you who have promised us that your burden is light when we lean on you … grant us your peace … help us to take from this place and this time in a sort-of-togetherness a greater sense of calm … a little more awareness of your love for us … and the comfort of having been fed with the bread and wine of your coming Kingdom.
We pray, too, for those whom we know and love whose needs are on our hearts Take time to pray for those whom you know.
In Christ’s name we offer these our prayers. AMEN
HYMN: I heard the voice of Jesus say (Kingsfold)
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Behold, I freely give
the living water, thirsty one;
stoop down and drink and live.’
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright.’
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my star, my sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk
till travelling days are done.
H Bonar (1808-89)
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
rest and remain with you, and all those you love,
this day and always.