Morning Worship 15 Nov 2020

Led by: Dr Ann Sinclair

Today’s service was done via Zoom and streamed to YouTube


Music before service

Gathering Prayer

We gather at this time
and in this space
at the beginning
of another week.
O Lord of decades and days,
centuries and seconds
we stop now, for this time.
We turn to You,
You who holds all time in your hands
Hold out Your hands to receive us
make us ready to receive You
AMEN  

 

Call to Worship from Psalm 90: v 1-8 & v 12

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

and verse

12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. AMEN

 

Welcome

In the manner of this worship time I could not help but think of St Paul and the ways the young church grew out of followers gathering to worship in each other’s homes. In some ways we have turned the clock back this morning and although we are each in our separate homes we come together through technology to my home…you are very welcome, it is good to be able to see you through zoom; so to all of you on zoom and  youtube, those reading a paper copy of this service, the folks at St Andrews, and those we don’t know perhaps some from near or far- you are all welcome to worship.

Let us come together in prayer

Prayer of Approach

God of all time and space
You were with Your people of old
And You are with us now.
You promised to be with us until the end of time,
And in your presence, we are not alone.
Your love has held us from our very beginning
To who we are now.
Your grace has flooded into our lives, never letting go
Your hope leads us on, encouraging us to find You

As we turn to You God, we also turn towards ourselves.
We think of what we bring, and what we don’t.
And we know that even though you call us to be ready,
You also support us in bringing the little we have,
whether we feel ready or not.
Loving God we are here,
make us ready to receive You.
Amen.

And in Our Prayers of Confession

You call us to a life of mercy, justice and humility –
but we do not always live like this.
You call us to a life of welcome –
but we do not always welcome.
You call us to a life of solidarity –
but we do not always offer a helping hand.
Have mercy on us, O God, for the times we have failed,
and for the times we have failed to care.
Lord, if we have learned nothing else at this time,
may we never forget how connected we all are
across the world when one part of the body hurts…all suffer.
For your name’s sake, and your mercy’s sake. 
AMEN

And let us say together the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

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

Introduction

Hide and seek is a game we have probably all played as children…maybe even as grown-ups!  You know how it goes…One person hides their eyes while everyone else hides…and there can be some strange hiding places, behind a curtain, a sofa or chair under a table or chair or that great hiding place of all…a cupboard and a safe cupboard at that!  The at the end of the counting up to 10 or even 100 …the words ring out ‘here I come Ready or not!’  perhaps we could hold these words as we listen to the Readings this morning ‘here I come ready or not.’

Just to make it a little difficult this morning’s Readings are not easy to listen to.  The Reading from the Old Testament Reading is harsh; while the Reading from the Epistles might be easier to listen to but perhaps confusing.   But let’s not shy away from such Readings of Scripture.

READINGS

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

7  Be silent before the Sovereign Lord,
    for the day of the Lord is near.
   The Lord has prepared a sacrifice;
    he has consecrated those he has invited.

12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps
    and punish those who are complacent,
    who are like wine left on its dregs,
who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing,
    either good or bad.’
13 Their wealth will be plundered,
    their houses demolished.
Though they build houses,
    they will not live in them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they will not drink the wine.”

14 The great day of the Lord is near—
    near and coming quickly.
The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter;
    the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.
15 That day will be a day of wrath—
    a day of distress and anguish,
        a day of trouble and ruin,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
        a day of clouds and blackness—
16     a day of trumpet and battle cry
against the fortified cities
    and against the corner towers.

17 “I will bring such distress on all people
    that they will grope about like those who are blind,
    because they have sinned against the Lord.
Their blood will be poured out like dust
    and their entrails like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
    will be able to save them
    on the day of the Lord’s wrath.”
In the fire of his jealousy
    the whole earth will be consumed,
for he will make a sudden end
    of all who live on the earth.

 

 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 
for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

                Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
                Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM
                Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

HYMN: Do not be afraid

 

 

Do not be afraid, 
For I have redeemed you. 
I have called you by your name; 
You are mine. 

1 When you walk through the waters, I’ll be with you, 
You will never sink beneath the waves. 

Chorus

Do not be afraid, 
For I have redeemed you. 
I have called you by your name; 
You are mine. 

2 When the fire is burning all around you, 
You will never be consumed by the flames. 

Chorus

3 When you dwell in the exile of a stranger, 
Remember you are precious in my eyes. 

Chorus

4 You are mine, O my child; I am your Father, 
And I love you with a perfect love. 

Chorus

Do not be afraid, 
For I have redeemed you. 
I have called you by your name; 
You are mine.                                                          Gerald Markland 1978 from 1-4

 

Reflection

In the short Book of Zephaniah, the imagery from the very beginning of the Book is full of wrath, terror and judgement, destruction and desolation on those who have turned away from God.  Zephaniah’s words carried the warning of the ‘awesome day of the Lord’s judgement is near.’

Grim words to say the least.   But we shouldn’t shy away from such words.  As a prophet Zephaniah was going to speak the truth- he was God’s messenger.  And in his own right Zephaniah would carry some standing among the people, he was part of the royal court, he could even have been of the royal family at that time.

Putting the text into context goes someway to understand why such harsh words.   There were great changes going on in the eastern world during this period of time. With conquerors and powerful nations rapidly declining in power, Zephaniah’s prophecy may have instigated, and driven King Josiah to attempt to introduce great reforms in the land of Judah as a means to reverse the trend set by the previous two kings…reforms to a society that had not followed the commands of God and as such  the need for the prophet to speak God’s message and give such grim warnings.  

When they arrived in the promised land, God had commanded the Israelites to rid the land of its pagan people —but they didn’t…they began to worship the Canaanites’ gods that represented many aspects of life, for example Baal the god that symbolised strength and fertility.    Perhaps they had become a people hedging their bets with their worship, making sure all would be well, that nothing would upset their lives, they would be safe from oppression, slavery, famine and drought; in worshipping the pagan gods they had everything covered, protection for a smooth and plentiful life, perhaps they didn’t want God to intervene to disrupt their calm life after all they had been through in exile and years of wanderings, they were now a complacent people with a good life.

The prophet Zephaniah was sent to deliver this strong message….to shake the people of Judah out of their complacency and return to worship God and if they didn’t …well…we heard what would happen- the prophet delivered God’s clear thundering message of judgement and horrendous punishment  with the message that ‘the day of the Lord was near!’ a deafening warning.  Perhaps the people of Judah assumed that God was immune to their doing good or evil.

Yet in Chapter 3…Zephaniah leaves a whisper of hope for the ‘remnant ‘people of Israel.  

But not just with a whisper of hope from the Old Testament, this morning these dire warnings are tempered in the other lectionary Reading …the positive approach in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.  Although still serious words and a lessened warning that ‘the day of the Lord will come…like a thief in the night’(v2). 

The concept of ‘the day of the Lord’ was very common in the Old Testament an expression that goes back to Amos Chapter 5 v18 ‘woe to you who long for the day of the Lord…That day will be darkness not light’ and the New Testament writers would have been fully aware of this.  As William Barclay suggests the Jews understood time as divided into two ages, the present age that was bad and the ‘golden age of God’…when all would be well, the day between was the day of the Lord, the day of judgement, the day of redemption and New Testament writers acknowledged this as the second coming of Jesus Christ. 

Naturally the followers in the young church wanted to know when the Lord would return, who wouldn’t?  they did indeed expect the Lord Jesus to return very soon, they had been told… ‘the Lord Jesus will come down from heaven with a loud command’ (1Thessalonians 4:16).

 Paul’s letters follow the death and resurrection of Christ and take a different approach to the Old Testament and this was the focus of his letter. God chose to save us through the Lord Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, not to pour his anger on us. Paul was telling the people of the early church how to live during this time of waiting for the Lord to return.  To be ready… as Paul said, those who live in the dark with their evil ways, away from the light of the Lord will be caught unawares, they will not be ready for the return of the Lord.

Paul emphasises the importance to live as if Christ’s return were soon. For Christians to live in the light of the Lord and be ready for the return of the Lord through their belief, faith and actions.  Paul gives words of encouragement and the need to support one another in fellowship.

The Readings can link with the lectionary Reading from the Psalms. A recent study of the Psalms has drawn me back to bringing more of the psalms into worship and not just limited to a few lines on an order of service.  The theme of Psalm 90 contrasts God’s eternal nature, God’s eternal presence with human frailty.  Our time on earth is limited and we are to use it wisely with our eternal home as our goal.

The Psalm captures the other Readings together. The Psalm, attributed to have been written by Moses, is a prayer to the everlasting God, acknowledging guilt and a plea to have compassion on his people to give them His love, and in V12 these wonderful words: ‘asking to be taught to be the brevity of life to grow in wisdom’. (NIV). 

There are contrasts and links between the Readings:  the terror of judgement on the Israelites in Zephaniah’s prophecies on the Day of the Lord perhaps to shake us in the Western world out of any complacency, especially prior to the global pandemic of Covid 19.  Paul writes of the joy of living in the light of Christ and the Day of the return of the Lord. And we need these messages today, to share in Paul’s motivation and love for Christ’s people; whatever uncertain times we are going through in these times. Here are messages from trauma to grace in obedience to God; with hope and love in our actions; to responsibly work together and to live in the light, compassion and peace of God and the love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. To be prepared for the day of the Lord’s return.  Are you ready ………or not?

AMEN

Prayers of Intercession, concern for the world, our community and ourselves. 

Led by Andrew Cooke

We bring our prayers of concern before God.

Let us pray,

Father,

Once again we come to you with our concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
We pray for all those who have lost loved ones to the virus,
That you may comfort them in their grief;
That you may strengthen all key workers and NHS staff who are putting their lives at risk to care for and protect others;
That you may give hope and courage to those developing treatments and vaccines;
And that you may continue to motivate us as we do our part to slow the spread of this deadly disease.

We also pray for people around the world suffering through human rights abuses
Through poverty,
Through war,
And through the selfishness of others
That you may surround them with your love.
For those fighting to end this may you give them hope and strength and for us may you motivate us to be people who seek to end these evils and not continue them.

As ever, we also pray for all those who suffer through bereavement and illness at this time.
Father, please surround them with your love and empower us to reach out to those who are suffering in our own communities.

We pray for the ongoing climate crisis:
May you comfort those who are directly affected;
May you guide leaders to bring an end to the threat of climate change;
May we seek to protect our planet and not cause further destruction.

Father, as we turn to you for guidance, may you also guide our leaders at home and around the world.
May they act with dignity, respect and compassion as they look to the needs of others.
May we also seek to be leaders in our own communities and follow you in all which we do.

Finally, we pray for ourselves and our community.
Motivate us to continue to carry out your work and be a light to all people;
Empower us to work for all those in need of our help in this congregation and in the wider world;
Comfort, guide and protect us as we continue this journey with you, Father.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen

 

Hym: Christ, Be Our Light

Sung by the Virtual Cathedral Choir

Longing for light, we wait in darkness
Longing for truth, we turn to You.
Make us Your own, Your holy people
Light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

Longing for food, many are hungry
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us Your bread, broken for others
Shared until all are fed.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

Many the gift, many the people
Many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another
Making Your kingdom come.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.                        
Bernadette Farrell (1957)

 

Blessing

From words by Isobel Whyte and altd:

Give us the courage to follow your light
along the road of compassion, of peace, of community,
so that we be ready and become the people you created us to be.

And May the grace of God, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each and every one of us now and for ever more.

AMEN

Going out music


CCL No. 213535 / One Licence A-632495

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