Service for Sunday 13th June
The Rev’d Sarah Hall
Hello! My name is Sarah Hall and I’m a minister working alongside Mark Robinson with three churches and some University chaplaincy in Southampton and Chandlers Ford. Before Coronavirus one of our churches operated a weekly drop-in service for asylum seekers and refugees, in partnership with three local charities, which we hope will be able to resume once restrictions are eased. Usually we hold a big party for Refugee Week, with song and dance, music and drumming, and lots of pizzas and samosas. So at the beginning of Refugee Week 2021 I’m glad to be able to share worship with you, and in particular to be able to share the feast of Communion. Though we cannot physically be present to each other, first appearances can be deceptive. For through the power of God’s Spirit, we each of us and all together can join in with Jesus and his friends, as they shared prayer and food, two thousand years ago in Palestine.
Call To Worship
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love
who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain,
and heals our wounds.
God is our light and our salvation.
In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us.
May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen.
Hymn In Christ there is no East or West
Words: William Arthur Dunkerley (John Oxenham) (1852-1941)
in him no South or North,
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.
2 In him shall true hearts everywhere
their high communion find;
his service is the golden cord,
3 Join hands, then, people of the faith,
whate’er your race may be;
who serves my Father
as His Child is surely kin to me.
4 In Christ now meet both east and west,
in him meet south and north;
all Christ-like souls are one in him,
throughout the whole wide earth.
Wondrous and holy God, creator of the universe, you make all people in your own image. You bless us with an immense variety of cultures and ways of responding to you. You show us new patterns of living and loving in Jesus. You give us strength by your Holy Spirit.
Forgive us when we seek to put boundaries around your presence, love and work; when we use diversity to divide people – to demonise some and give privileged status to others; when we seek to dominate or destroy those who are different from us. Have mercy on us all.
Listen: here is good news. Christ Jesus came into the world
to forgive us in our failure, to accept us as we are,
to set us free from evil’s power and make us what we were meant to be. Through him God says to each of us:
You are accepted. You are forgiven. I will set you free.
Amen. Thanks be to God.
Prayer of Illumination
Guide us, O God,
by your Word and Spirit,
that in your light we may see light,
in your truth find wisdom,
and in your will discover peace,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Samuel 16:4-13
Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil…
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
* I’ll start with a question for you: what do these people all have in common? Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury, Olivia Newton-John, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, David and Ed Miliband, Jesus, Albert Einstein, Ben Elton, Marlene Dietrich, Jackie Chan and Victor Hugo?***
That’s right. It’s obvious really, isn’t it? They’re all either refugees or the children of refugees.
OK, so it’s not quite so obvious. Some of those I knew about, vaguely. After all, we all know Jesus was a refugee, don’t we? That worrying time we don’t preach on much, just after Christmas, when Joseph gets a dream, warning him to get out of Israel with the family before Herod’s soldiers can slaughter Jesus with the rest of the local toddlers. But the others? In many cases I had no idea that they or their parents had begun life in a different country, that they’d had had to leave behind everything they knew and put their talents and energy to work somewhere new. We don’t even categorise most of them as foreign, let alone as refugees, but admire them for their great achievements, whether in music, politics, science, drama or literature.
Hindsight is always 20-20 vision. But I wonder what we might have thought of any of these high achievers if we’d met them when they were younger, struggling to adapt to their new culture. Would we have seen the seeds of future greatness in them? I’d like to think so – but to be honest, I’m not sure. Any more than I’d be sure I’d have picked David out of the line-up when Samuel came to Bethlehem looking for a new king to replace Saul. In fact, to start with, I’d have had no hope at all – because David wasn’t even there. He was out looking after the sheep – because somebody had to, and his father Jesse must have reckoned that when it came to Samuel’s unexpected visit, David was the most dispensable.
I imagine the scene a little like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, without the girls. Seven fine, strapping young men – surely one of them will be king material? But a still small voice in the back of Samuel’s mind keeps on saying: Don’t be impressed by how tall he is, or how good looking either. God doesn’t care about external appearances. God’s more interested in the heart. So from one to the next Samuel goes down the line saying, No. No, not this one. Nope, not him either. Next, please! Don’t call us, we’ll call you. He holds his nerve, but when he’s got to son number seven and God still hasn’t said yes, he must have been panicking a little bit. ‘Don’t you have any more sons?’ he demands of Jesse. Jesse, shrugging his shoulders, gets someone to fetch David, still in his working clothes and smelling strongly of sheep. And finally God says to Samuel: This is the one! The least expected candidate. The one nobody bothered to fetch. It’s him.
Now I always think this story is spoiled a little bit by the text reassuring us right at the end that David is a handsome broth of a boy, with beautiful eyes. Yes, we know God looks on the heart – but even before the invention of TV, we human beings looked for a bit more by way of appearance in our leaders, a bit of eye-candy. Till Donald Trump, anyway…
Be that as it may, it’s the God’s-eye view that our next reading, from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, wants to explore further. From now on, therefore, Paul writes to his friends in Corinth, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. Which leads in my mind to the question: if Paul and his readers once did know Christ from a human point of view, what did that look like?
Well, we have a man in his thirties. Not highly educated – or at least, we don’t know anything about his schooling. Trained as a carpenter, though he can argue with the scribes. Not married, no job, no children. Not obviously handsome – or at least, that’s not come down to us in the records. Good talker, bit of a medic. Gained a lot of followers, moved on the capital, betrayed by a close follower, arrested, tried and executed for a failed leadership attempt. Oh yes – and executed by a method specifically cursed in the Scriptures.
Now looked at from a human point of view, without inside knowledge, would we have thought there was anything particularly remarkable in Christ? Not if we reckon Isaiah was talking about him: he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
For most of us, I hope, that feeling of being despised, held of no account is not part of our experience. Yet many who seek refuge and asylum in this country are met not by welcome but by a hostile environment among officials assuming they are at the best freeloading or at the worst criminal. They may well also recognise the dangers which Paul, in his own following of Jesus, describes in the previous chapter of his letter: being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. It is not easy for those of us who have led more comfortable lives to understand even some of what they have faced; though sadly some of you may have known prejudice and discrimination, even within churches, if you didn’t fit in. Maybe it was because of your race, your gender or gender identity, your sexuality, your ability… Let’s face it, there are all too many reasons people, even Christians, can find for rejecting one another. Basically: you were different, and therefore unacceptable.
Yet according to Paul, willingly undergoing such a process of humiliation was Jesus’ aim; and so that we may be transformed. He died for all, Paul writes, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. It’s for that reason we, Christ’s followers, no longer need to see him from a human point of view.
But it goes further than that. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view… if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
We regard no one from a human point of view, Paul says; we do not value them less or more because of their race or gender or pronouns, their sexuality or age, their bank balance or health or family status. We recognise each of them as someone whom God loves; for whom Christ died; who, through the Spirit’s power is becoming a whole new person. And that applies to everyone, whether their family has been here since Stonehenge was built or whether they came here last week and are looking for the chance to offer their strengths and talents for the common good.
Some refugees will give us outstanding service. Others will manage to mess things up in the usual human way – even David, let’s face it, was no stranger to that problem. But beneath every appearance, both those we find attractive and those that repel us, God sees the heart. So at the beginning of this Refugee Week, let’s practise the art of seeing all people as God sees them. For then we can joyfully sit down at table with them and with the Lord. Even when our table fellowship is the virtual variety.
Music for Reflection Redemption Song
Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Affirmation of Faith
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason
and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in his reign.
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all.
God loves a generous giver. And our giving can sustain not only our church communities in this difficult time but can also, through charities such as the British Red Cross or the Refugee Council, demonstrate in a practical way our recognition of refugees as people for whom Christ died. Let us pray as we offer to God our money, our time, and ourselves.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour and the majesty, for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you. Amen.
Hymn: I come with joy to meet my Lord
Words: Brian Wren (1936- ) © 1971 Stainer & Bell Ltd
I come with joy
to meet my Lord,
forgiven, loved, and free;
in awe and wonder to recall
His life laid down for me.
2: I come with Christians
far and near,
to find, as all are fed,
the community of love
in Christ’s communion bread.
3: As Christ breaks bread
and bids us share,
each proud division ends;
the love that made us,
makes us one,
and strangers now are friends.
4: And thus with joy
we meet our Lord,
His presence, always near,
is in such friendship
we see, and praise him here
we’ll go our different ways;
and as his people
in the world,
we’ll live and speak his praise.
Narrative of the Institution
Jesus often shared food and drink with those he loved. Outcasts and ne’er-do-wells, fishermen and tax-collectors, deniers and traitors, his friends and his family. Today, Jesus wants to share bread and wine in your own home with you. So I invite you now to prepare yourself to eat and drink with each other and with him.
Lift up your hearts
WE LIFT THEM TO THE LORD
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
IT IS RIGHT TO GIVE OUR THANKS AND PRAISE
Generous host, you made the whole world for us to enjoy and to share. You came in Jesus to teach us how to be your guests.
Your Spirit joins us together in the joy of hospitality.
So we praise you, saying:
All: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Leader: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
All: Hosanna in the highest.
Come to us where we are, God our Host,
Worshipping, may we meet around your table
as we remember Jesus, who, on the night before he died,
took bread and wine, blessed them
and gave them to his invited guests,
saying: ‘This is my body; this is my blood.
Eat and drink to remember me.’
And I invite you to join with me in saying:
Pour out your Holy Spirit,
on this bread and this wine; and on these your people.
May we worship you with body, heart and soul
Gathered around our tech and in the whole of our lives. Amen.
Let us proclaim together the mystery of faith.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.
As Jesus taught his friends, let us pray together:
Among friends, gathered around a table, Jesus took bread [take bread] and broke it and said, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’
Later he took a cup of wine [raise cup] and said, ‘This is the new relationship with God made possible because of my death.
Take it, all of you, to remember me.’
So eat this bread. It is the bread of life [eat]
And drink this wine. It is the cup of blessing [drink]
Prayers of thanksgiving and concern
As we come to our prayers of thanksgiving and concern,
I invite you to pause the recording as you pray.
If you were to finish the sentence:
In spite of Coronavirus I thank God for… how would you end it?
Give your thanks to God. [pause]
If you were to say the sentence:
These people, this place, this situation,
needs God’s healing touch: how would you begin it?
Give God the concerns of your heart. [pause]
All our prayers, all our fears, all our hopes,
we give to Jesus,
who knows what it means to be a refugee. Amen.
Hymn Jesu, Jesu
Tom Colvin copyright © 1969, 1997 Hope Publishing Company
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbours we have from you.
1 Kneels at the feet of his friends,
silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.
2 Neighbours are wealthy and poor,
varied in colour and race,
neighbours are near us and far away.
3 These are the ones we should serve,
these are the ones we should love,
all these are neighbours to us and you.
4: Loving puts us on our knees,
willing to wash other’s feet;
this is the way we should live, like you.
May God who is light shine in our darkness.
May God who is love be the love between us.
May God who is life be our life, everlasting.
And the blessing of God, Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit
is with us and all people, now and always. Amen.
Sources and thanks
In Christ there is no East or West Words: William Arthur Dunkerley (John Oxenham) (1852-1941)
sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
I come with joy to meet my Lord Words: Brian Wren (1936- ) © 1971 Stainer & Bell Ltd unknown performers on YouTube.
Jesu, Jesu Words: Tom Colvin copyright © 1969, 1997 Hope Publishing Company sung by the First Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
Opening: Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
Closing: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
Thanks to Sue Cresswell, Graham Handscomb, Helen Sharpe, Tina Wheeler and Anthony Denman for reading various spoken parts of the service.