Didsbury URC – Worshipping Together – 13th September 2020

This week’s service is led by Revd. Dr. Rosalind Selby

(you can google the hymns to sing along if you like. If you want the ‘modern’ tune for the second hymn, that’s called Camberwell; if you want the traditional tune, that’s called Evelyns)

Before you begin, you might like to google “Jesus in different languages” (there’s a Wikipedia site, for example and scroll down to the list and have that ready)

 

Coming to Worship (Psalm 103:8, 11-12)

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
   so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
   so far he removes our transgressions from us.

Hymn: Angel voices ever singing (you might find verse 4 is poignant, or a little sad; if you do, then pause and pray for the people in the congregation that you have felt distanced from)

 Angel voices ever singing

round the throne of light,

angel-harps for ever ringing,

rest not day nor night;

thousands only live to bless thee

and confess thee

Lord of might.

 

Thou who art beyond the farthest

mortal eye can scan,

can it be that thou regardest

sinful woman, man?

Can we know that thou art near us,

and wilt hear us?

yea, we can.

 

Lord we know that thou rejoicest

o’er each work of thine;

thou didst ears and hands and voices

for thy praise design;

maker’s art and music’s measure

for thy pleasure

all combine.

 

In thy house, great God, we offer

of thine own to thee;

and for thine acceptance proffer

all unworthily

hearts and minds and hands and voices

in our choicest

psalmody.

 

Honour, glory, might, and merit

thine shall ever be,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

blessed Trinity.

Of the best that thou hast given

earth and heaven

render thee.                                                                                   

Francis Pott (1832-1909) altd.

 

Prayers (the response is a line from For the beauty of the earth by F S Pierpoint (1835-1917))

Creator of ocean and river … rain forest and wilderness … and all that teems with life.

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.

Maker of humankind in your own image … artist of creation that is good in itself … provider of sufficient.

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.

Giver of law … sender of prophets… inspirer of wisdom.

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.

Dweller in our flesh … mercy seat of our salvation … power and promise of resurrection.

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.

Drencher, surpriser and inspirer Spirit … gifter and bearer of fruits in your church … groaner of prayers within us.

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.

Presence in the wilderness … strength through our tempting … guide in the heat of the day.

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.

Hearer of our sincere confessions… merciful, faithful … unconditionally-loving

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.

Let us each make our own confessions before God ….

Forgiver of our trespasses … holder-out of ever-welcoming arms … giver of peace to our troubled hearts.

Gracious God to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise for all we have received through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ

Who taught us when we pray to say: 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: Romans 14:1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. 11For it is written,
‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
   and every tongue shall give praise to God.’
12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Reflection

The picture above the reading is an Orthodox Icon of Jesus called “Christ Pantocrator” (“all powerful”). Icons can be relatively small, and hang on the wall of a home, or hand-held. Sometimes they’re larger and hang on a church wall, and sometimes they are enormous, and fill the curved ceiling of an Orthodox Church. This image of Jesus seems to focus on the judging persona ascended in power, doesn’t it? I think I’d feel quite intimidated with a huge picture like this bearing down on me as I tried to worship.

Overwhelming as such an image is, it does remind us that it is God who judges, not human beings. But that can be hard. I listen to the news and can’t help thinking that Donald Trump is such an idiot! How can they have voted for him! On a smaller and nearer-at-home level, it’s hard not to judge by appearances, or on the first words a person says to us, or some of the practices they, or their church, are involved in. I can’t imagine going to formal confession, for example, and having a priest tell me I have to pray to the Virgin Mary before God forgives me. 

Paul says our beliefs and opinions shouldn’t make someone else stumble in their faith. The first example here is food. Former pagans who had become Christ-followers knew that the meat on sale in the markets had almost certainly been sacrificed to idols in pagan temples. Even though they now followed Jesus, still there was a danger in their minds of being associated with their former lives so they ate vegetables to avoid ‘temptation’. Other Christians, apparently, were saying to such folk – you know idols are just nothing at all, therefore there’s no danger in having anything to do with them and it’s okay to eat meat, don’t worry about it.

Another example was the keeping of certain festivals (days). We certainly do that: a denomination might celebrate “Lady Day” or “Candlemas”, others don’t. I’ve been to hear URC students preach for a number of years now and I met one who didn’t know what Epiphany was … it just wasn’t in the tradition of the particular church the student had grown up in to call the visit of the wise men ‘epiphany’ and look at the story separately from Christmas. Orthodoxy celebrates saints days every day of the year. Does it matter who celebrates what days?

Some of the debates of the early church might not seem relevant to us, or at any rate they might not seem like ‘a big deal’, but there are still times when it’s too easy to pass judgement. The person who’s still nervous about going out, even with protection against covid-19, shouldn’t be judged … that would be bang up to date. And the person who’s felt so isolated they can’t wait to get out and about again, they shouldn’t be judged either. Go back to my example of different religious practices; who am I to judge whether someone who has been brought up a Roman Catholic is receiving something ‘real’ when a priest confers absolution even when I don’t believe a human being can do that and it’s only God who can?

For the sake of unity, Paul says, accept those God accepts (and, frankly, who are we to say who God doesn’t accept! Anyone!?). I feel this reading helps us look afresh at the complete family of God that is the Church … all who call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Within a local church, within a synod, within a denomination, across denominations and even across faiths (we don’t know if Christ is active amongst them): all those who turn to God in all sincerity; we do not know them as God knows them, and it is not for us to judge. It is for all of us to bow before the Name of Jesus and look to our own hearts. Amen

 

Before the prayers

Here’s the opportunity to look up the list of the different languages translations of “Jesus”, which is the same name as Joshua (Yeshua) and it means ‘Yahweh saves’, or ‘Yahweh is my help’. And Yahweh, is the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush (as we saw in an earlier week).

Now choose one or two of those languages and try and imagine the people of that nation/tongue praying with you – praying this Sunday just as you are and asking that their prayers be answered “in the name of Jesus”.

Prayers of Intercession

          Come, all who look to Christ today, stretch out your hands, enlarge your mind,

          together share his living way where all who humbly seek will find.

Loving, welcoming God, we pray for Christians across the world of whatever denomination or culture, whatever race or sexuality, whatever age, educational or economic situation. May we humbly welcome one another as you, in Christ, have welcomed us into your fold. May we be held together in our love of you and our concern for our neighbours.

Pray for the countries you chose from the ‘names of Jesus’ translations.

 

          Come, young and old from every Church, bring all your treasuries of prayer,

          join the dynamic Spirit’s search to press beyond the truths we share.

God-in-Christ whose arms were nailed into a wide welcome on the cross, we thank you for all we can learn from one another in our journeys of faith. We pray for young people who want to make sense of today’s world and their own lives alongside you. We pray for older folk, who sometimes feel that all they have valued is melting away. May all feel held together in your Holy Spirit.

 

          Come, trust in Christ and live in peace, anticipate that final light

          when strife and bigotry shall cease, and faith be lost in praise and sight.

 We pray for Christians, and people of other faiths, who are persecuted. We remember too those people of all faiths who turn to violence, terror and threats to press a particular point of view. Help us all to live in the light of the future that you hold out to us to light our steps and call us on.

God-in-Christ who promised that where two or three were gathered together you would be present with them, hold us together as we worship in our homes with a presence that passes our understanding.

Take a few moments to pray for people in our church.

 

Now bring your own needs before God.

  … pray for more, since God delights to meet fresh needs.

 

O God, we place all these our prayers and concerns before you in the Name of Jesus. Amen

 (the words are extracts from the hymn: Come all who look to Christ today, by Richard G Jones CCL No 293964)

Hymn: At the name of Jesus

At the name of Jesus

every knee shall bow,

every tongue confess him

King of Glory now.

‘Tis the Father’s pleasure

we should call him Lord,

who from the beginning

was the mighty Word.

 

Humbled for a season,

to receive a name

from the lips of sinners

unto whom he came;

faithfully he bore it

spotless to the last,

brought it back victorious

when from death he passed:

 

Bore it up triumphant

with its human light,

through all ranks of creatures

to the central height,

to the throne of Godhead,

to the Father’s breast;

filled it with the glory

of that perfect rest.

 

In your hearts enthrone him;

there let him subdue

all that is not holy,

all that is not true;

crown him as your captain

in temptation’s hour:

let his will enfold you

in its light and power.

 

For this same Lord Jesus

shall return again,

with his Father’s glory

with his angel train;

all the wreaths of empire

meet upon his brow,

and our hearts confess him

King of Glory now.

Caroline Maria Noel (1817-1877)

Blessing

May the love of God rest upon your soul throughout the coming days.

May God’s loving gaze rest upon you and draw you into God’s graciousness.

May the Son of God walk beside you.

May the Spirit of God be upon you always. Amen