Didsbury URC – Worshipping Together 6th September 2020

Today’s service is led by Revd. Dr. Rosalind Selby

(You can google the hymns and ‘sing along’ if you wish)

Coming to Worship (Psalm 119:33-35)

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
   and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.

(you may remember that Psalm 119 … is very long indeed. It’s a Psalm in praise of the law/God’s commandments/God’s word.

Hymn: Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am God.

 

I am the Lord who saves and heals.

I am the Lord who saves and heals.

I am the Lord who saves and heals.

 

In you, O Lord, I put my trust.

In you, O Lord, I put my trust.

In you, O Lord, I put my trust.

                                                                                          Anon. based on Ps 46

 

Prayers (our prayers are woven around what’s called the Venite – verses from Psalms 95 & 96).

O come let us sing to the Lord;

let us shout in triumph to the rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his face with thanksgiving,

and cry out to him joyfully in psalms.

For the Lord is a great God;

and a great king above all gods.

We offer you our praise this day, O God – we worship you as we remember your great creating works and your sustaining of our lives.

In his hands are the depths of the earth;

and the peaks of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his and he made it;

his hands moulded dry land.

We worship you as we remember your saving work, and the sending of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and all he bought for us.

Come let us worship and bow down,

and kneel before the Lord our maker.

For he himself is our God;

we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

We worship you as we know the presence of your own Holy Spirit surrounding us and upholding us, guiding and comforting us, inspiring us and holding us in community today.

If only you would hear his voice today;

for he comes to judge the earth.

He shall judge the world with righteousness,   

and the peoples with his truth.

We hold before you, our God, those things we know in sorrow about ourselves – the words spoken or left unspoken – the things done, or left undone. We are sorry when we’ve fallen short of anything you’ve asked of us, but we know you to be just and merciful and not to count our wrongs if we give them to you with honest hearts.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
   and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.  
(Ps 119:33-35 again)

 Rest assured, all we have confessed to God is forgiven for Christ’s sake. Amen, thanks be to God.

Let’s share together in the words that 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:  Romans 13:8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

 

Reflection

There’s such a sense of urgency in the New Testament, isn’t there, about sharing the good news of Jesus and celebrating people’s responses. Here’s Paul, writing to a church in Rome (and to people he’s never met) saying: “salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers”.

What does this mean for us when there doesn’t seem the same sense of urgency any longer?

 

I’m just going to offer a few thoughts, and I think my first point must be that the early church thought God was about to roll history up into the ‘end times’ and that Jesus would return very soon. As I write this, on Wednesday morning 2nd September 2020, that might very well be the case but we do not live as if we expect this soon. We might, as individuals, live in the face of our own mortality but we don’t live in the face of the end times in the way that the church did two millennia ago. (Though some sects and denominations do, of course.)

Secondly, what does it mean to look to our salvation? Does it mean something that will happen to us as God gathers us to himself at our death? I’m sure it does mean that – but I think it means more than as well. Consider Jesus’ teaching and actions: when people come to Jesus in their suffering he never says to them, ‘there, there, God will wipe away your tears when you die.’ Jesus responds in the here and now of each person’s need: he offers forgiveness and acceptance and he brings healing and wholeness, and everything Jesus does restores people to community. The leper who’s been an outsider can come back into the village; the woman who’s been bleeding for 12 years and spent all her money on doctors wouldn’t have been able to have a normal marriage or go to the synagogue or maintain friendships – now she can; the mentally ill man who lives amongst the tombs alone is now clothed and in his right mind and is sent back to his family. The Greek of Mark’s Gospel shows that the Gospel writers considered Jesus’ healing as ‘saving’ – that’s a word commonly used. And in John’s Gospel we’re told Jesus says, “I come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10). Surely abundant life is this life too. Salvation, then, is something that begins now … and has been close to us since the day we placed our hand in the hand of Christ and sought to follow him. Saved to what? To a sense of purpose and acceptance and belonging in the community that is the Body of Christ … and much else that I’m sure you can add for yourselves.

Thirdly, let’s notice the context in which Paul offers this thought about salvation being close, and that is his guidance for living this life well. It’s NOT because we earn the salvation that is to come by following the commandments he sets out, but because (I think) it makes a difference NOW, that we RESPOND to God in Christ by loving God and neighbour and following God’s will for our lives as nearly as we can.

Listening for God’s call on our lives is both a joy and a responsibility in which the Holy Spirit holds us and guides us. Thanks be to God. Amen

 

Prayers of Intercession

Loving and holy God, you know that we can be haunted by the things we hear, see or read about in the news … you know how we can feel helpless in the face of so many problems … how we wonder why and how people can act the way they do to fellow human beings … we can only, in humility, and in heartache, put all these concerns into your hands.

O God: when so many people have so little to eat;

when there is one well, or even one dirty stream, to provide water for a whole village;

when there is just one textbook for a large class of children;

Loving God, when the problems feel so huge, Lord have mercy, we pray.

O God, when the hospitals beds are full and the waiting lists long;

when children and parents and teachers, lecturers and students, have concerns about how education will work during these Covid times;

when so many people have no home, and others feel isolated in theirs;

Loving God, when the problems feel so huge, Lord have mercy, we pray.

O God, when there are too many boat-fulls of migrants;

when there is too small a welcome, and so much fear of “the other”;

when black lives don’t seem to matter;

Loving God, when the problems feel so huge, Lord have mercy, we pray.

O God, when climate change seems too huge for us to bother doing anything;

when the ongoing issues of Brexit, the economy and poverty are so swamped in the news;

when it gets so hard to trust those who are supposed to lead us wisely;

Loving God, when the problems feel so huge, Lord have mercy, we pray.

O God, when the church that is so important to us isn’t meeting normally;

when the not-enough ministers, members, children or families feels overwhelming;

when we feel isolated from the whole people of God;

Loving God, when the problems feel so huge, Lord have mercy, we pray.

O God, when sadness or worry for our loved ones or ourselves threatens to diminish us;

when our quality of life seems always to be waning and our capacity dwindling;

when we do not know how much more we can ‘give’ in service and response;

Loving God, when the problems feel so huge, Lord have mercy, we pray.

 

Take some time to offer your own prayers

 Loving and Holy God, take our concerns, for we place them into your hands, trusting that nothing, in the end, is too difficult for you.

In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

 

Hymn: Guide me, O thou great Jehovah

          Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,

          pilgrim through this barren land:

          I am weak, but thou art mighty;

          hold me with thy powerful hand:

          Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,

          feed me now and evermore; feed me now and evermore.

 

          Open thou the crystal fountain

          whence the healing stream shall flow;

          let the fiery, cloudy pillar

          lead me all my journey through:

          strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,

          be thou still my strength and shield, be thou still my strength and shield.

 

          When I treat the verge of Jordan

          bid my anxious fears subside;

          death of death, and hell’s destruction,

          land me safe on Canaan’s side:

          songs of praises, songs of praises,

          I will ever give to thee; I will ever give to thee.

 

                       William Williams (1717-1791) trans Peter Williams (1727-1796)

 

Before the Blessing, you may like to google “youtube Taize bless the Lord my soul” and sit quietly, or join in, with the sense of peace this blessing gives us (listen for as little time as you wish, or let the longer version still you).

 

Blessing

May God bless you with life.

May the Son of God bless you with love.

May the Holy Spirit of the Living God bless you with peace.