The Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott
Hello. My name is John McNeil Scott and I am delighted to be able to share today’s service with you. I hope that you will feel that we are bound together in a common love – those whose voices you will hear (if you are listening) as well as all who listen or read these words in a spirit of worship. My parts of this act of worship are prepared in Glasgow, where I am Principal of the Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College.
Call To Worship
Come and see the grace of God,
Christ our teacher and our friend.
Come and see the son of God,
Christ our healer and salvation.
God is moving in this place.
Come and see! Come and see.
Hymn As A Fire Is Meant for Burning
with a bright and warming flame,
so the Church is meant for mission,
giving glory to God’s name.
Not to preach our
creeds or customs,
but to build a bridge of care,
we join hands across the nations,
finding neighbours everywhere.
2: We are learners;
we are teachers;
we are pilgrims on the way.
We are seekers; we are givers;
we are vessels made of clay.
By our gentle, loving actions,
we would show that Christ is light.
In a humble, listening Spirit,
we would live to God’s delight.
3: As a green bud in the springtime
is the sign of life renewed,
so may we be signs of oneness
’mid earth’s peoples, many hued.
As a rainbow lights the heavens
when a storm is past and gone,
may our lives reflect the radiance
of God’s new and glorious dawn.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness
O God of Life and Hope
In these still early weeks of this year we gather in our different places,
and yet mysteriously together, not for a ritual of dead tradition
nor for a routine that is mere habit nor for a rite that holds no surprise.
We are here to renew ourselves, to be renewed by you, O God,
so that we may be able to renew others
to hear in the quiet places of our beings
that word of love and divine friendship
to gain fresh vision so that we may help draw others
into that circle of truth, life and service that is your Kingdom.
Our longings after you are deeply true, O God
but they are not wholly pure.
We are dusty with sin
we have compromised when we ought not to have
and in those things where love said “give way”
we have instead held fast.
Forgive us, and restore us in the many dimensions of our lives.
Make our longings for you and for the life of your Kingdom,
the truth of our lives.
Make the words of our hearts and mouths,
the actions of our hands,
more nearly match our true hearts.
The God of mercy who forgives all sin forgives us.
May this God also strengthen in us all goodness,
by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
Lord, may ancient words speak to the lives we are living.
May the testimony of those who saw you in those days
fit us for discipleship in these times. Amen.
Reading St John 1:43-51
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
Hymn: For Your Generous Providing
The Revd. Leith Fisher
For your generous providing
which sustain us all our days,
for your Spirit here residing,
we proclaim our heartfelt praise.
Through the depths
of joy and sorrow,
though the road
be smooth or rough,
fearless, we can face tomorrow
for your grace will be enough.
2: Hush our world’s
tempting us to stand alone;
save us from the siren voices
calling us to trust our own.
For those snared by earthly treasure,
lured by false security,
Jesus, true and only measure,
spring the trap to set folk free.
show us how to live and pray
till your kingdom’s way of living
is the bread we share each day:
bread for us and for our neighbour,
bread for body, mind, and soul,
bread of heav’n and human labour –
broken bread that makes us whole.
More than once in John’s gospel an episode begins “The next day…” And almost every time there is a scene of personal drama. There is, sometimes, a breathlessness about John’s telling of the story of Jesus. The words almost seem to tumble over themselves in their rush to pour out the experience of Jesus.
And sure enough, that’s just how it is here right at the beginning of the gospel. The witness of John the Baptist narrated and dispensed with. A small gaggle of disciples called. Simon’s name is swapped for Peter.
In every sentence there is drama. As John narrates it, wherever Jesus went in those days the ones who would follow him immediately recognised the God that was in him, the significance that he carried, and could not stop themselves from speaking it and sharing it – “Come and see.” Encounters, one after another in time compressed into days.
And… the next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. I wonder how many times in the last half of 2020 you have longed for that kind of easy spontaneous travel, with no restrictions to consider. Longed to just go somewhere – a conference, a holiday, perhaps even a meeting! Or just a day out! To decide and go. The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he just went.
He went to a fishing village on the northern shore of the lake. And there he encountered, John tells us, two friends in quick succession. First Philip. And then Philip’s acquaintance Nathaniel.
The way that John tells the story Jesus went looking for Philip. And at his invitation Nathaniel went looking for Jesus, just to see if what Philip said about the Nazarene was really true.
‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’
Can you hear Nathaniel snort? It seemed such a ridiculous thing to say. The one for whom history waited? Some Joe Bloggs from the back-end-of-nowhere. And that’s putting it politely! Unlikely wasn’t the word for it.
“Come and see”.
I picture them walking together towards Jesus, they crowds gathered around him. He spots them from the corner of his eye and with the smile of an “Aha!” he says “Here comes the plain-talker, a blunt and straightforward fellow-countryman” As a name, Nathaniel was characteristically local. “Nathaniel the Israelite” reads rather like Hamish the Scotsman, or Paddy the Irishman. Is Jesus getting his own back on one who though poorly of his home town? Or hinting that Nathaniel stands for a type of person.
“How do you know who or what I am?” “Where did you come to know me?”
“From under the fig tree.” Had Jesus spotted him on the way into town, or on some other day? Or, as some think, was this knowledge supernatural?
One way or another Nathaniel’s response was immediate, dramatic and unequivocal: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”.
And Jesus’ reply. This insight of yours is just the beginning of the wonders and the fulfilments and the turnings upside down that you will see.
Here at the beginning of John’s gospel – still in the first chapter, a few days before the wedding and the water and the wine – and Jesus is saying “Oh, hold onto your hat.” (The metaphor is mine and not the Lord’s.) “Oh, hold onto your hat! This is just the beginning.”
In imagination can you travel to that moment. The encounter with Nathaniel. Two Galileans, from Bethsaida and Nazareth. A conversation a bit spiky and wary at first from Nathaniel’s side. Playful and, as I picture, affectionate from Jesus’ end of things.
The hint of miraculous knowledge, and Jesus’ apocalyptically-framed promises of what Nathaniel would yet see. The promise of a story that is renewed a few weeks, so it seems into Jesus ministry.
And for us? Well, of course, the invitation to “Come and see”. And the model to follow… that we can say to others too “Come and see, come and see we have found him… and he is Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
But there is more too, I think. Here we are, a few weeks into a new year. With times of waiting and sadness and difficulty beginning – we hope – to give way to days of broader experience, freedom. The end of this year’s beginning and a new, continuing, epiphany… a showing forth again of promise for our lives and for this world in this unfolding year.
Affirmation of Faith
In Jesus of Nazareth, true humanity was realized once for all.
Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, lived among his own people and shared their needs, temptations, joys, and sorrows.
He expressed the love of God in word and deed
and became a brother to all kinds of sinful men and women.
But his complete obedience led him into conflict with his people.
His life and teaching judged their goodness,
religious aspirations, and national hopes.
Many rejected him and demanded his death.
In giving himself freely for them, he took upon himself the judgment
under which everyone stands convicted.
God raised him from the dead,
vindicating him as Messiah and Lord.
The victim of sin became victor, and won the victory
over sin and death for all.
For all who seek, may their path may be lit by the light of Christ.
For the homeless, for refugees and asylum seekers,
may they find shelter and places of safety.
For those who find themselves lost and confused,
may they find courage and the energy to change direction.
For those who have difficult decisions to make
may they be graced with clarity:
For those who are unwell in body, mind or spirit,
may they know your love through the warmth of others:
For those in all the governments of these lands,
for our neighbours and friends,
may they and we be servants of peace and the common good.
For healthcare workers and medical staff,
may they find strength when needed and blessing in the care they give.
For those whose journey on earth has reached its end
may they be filled with your welcoming light:
may we resolve to follow more closely your way of light and peace.
In quietness of heart we make our individual prayers…
In all things, O God, may your Kingdom’s purpose of love and justice be served. Amen.
Our response to the good news of God’s love is expressed first in the deep places of our hearts, but also in the sharing of our service and of our resources. You are invited to lay aside your offering,
and to dedicate it with all others who are likewise listening.
Loving God we set aside our gifts.
Let them be symbols of love returned,
make them effective in your service. Amen.
Hymn Jesus Calls Us Here to Meet Him
John L Bell & Graham Maule
Jesus calls us here to meet him
as, through word & song & prayer,
we affirm God’s promised presence
where his people live and care.
Praise the God
who keeps his promise;
praise the Son who calls us friends;
praise the Spirit who, among us,
to our hopes and fears attends.
2 Jesus calls us to confess him
Word of life and Lord of all,
sharer of our flesh and frailness,
saving all who fail or fall.
Tell his holy human story;
tell his tales that all may hear;
tell the world that Christ in glory
came to earth to meet us here.
3 Jesus calls us to each other,
vastly different though we are;
creed and colour, class and gender
neither limit nor debar.
Join the hand
of friend and stranger;
join the hands of age and youth;
join the faithful and the doubter
in their common search for truth.
4: Jesus calls us to His table
rooted firm in time and space
where the Church
in earth and heaven
finds a common meeting place.
Share the bread and wine His body
share the love of which we sing.
Share the feasts for saints & sinners
hosted by our Lord and King
In Christian tradition over many generations, people have responded to God’s drawing near, to God’s speaking, by sharing bread and wine in sacramental action. I invite you, if you wish, to prepare bread and wine, which we will break and share together.
Out of the richness of the world and from its poverty we bring gifts to God, the Creator. We bring bread – thank you our God for bread, for a harvest that did not fail, for hands that worked it and money to buy it.
We bring wine – thank you our God for wine; for vines that grew and bore fruit, for hands which made it, and money to buy it.
We bring ourselves – thank you God for life; for the work of creation carried through human generations, for ancestors and successors, grandparents and grandchildren, for the communion of saints, and of all humanity, for the hope of Kingdom banquet.
Send your Spirit on us and on these gifts
Hear our prayers, O God, as we pray together after the pattern of Jesus…
Our Father, who art in Heaven…
Here, now, as we gather in the places where we are, God with us all,
we remember another table long ago and far away. At that table Jesus gathered with friends to speak of hope in difficult days. And then at the end of the meal the Lord took bread, blessed it, broke it, and passed it among his friends saying:
Take, eat, this is my body, broken, for you. Do this remembering me.
Then the Lord took a cup of wine, blessed it and passed it to them saying:
This is the seal of the new covenant. Take and drink and remember.
These are the gifts of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Music for sharing the Sanctus from Missa Luba performed by the Tim Keys Consort
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits: who forgives all thine iniquities; who heals all diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Bless the Lord, bless the Lord, O my soul.
Hymn Love is the boat for the journey
You are the way
to heaven’s yielding fold.
You are the truth bringing freedom.
You are the life burning deep within our hearts,
for you are the boat for the journey.
2: You are the stream
where flows the path of life,
guiding the way for disciples.
Though storms may arise
you calm the fear inside,
for you are the boat for the journey.
3: You are our God, the living, saving Word,
You are the banquet of justice,
you know our pain, you lift us from our shame,
for you are the boat for the journey.
4: We’ll sing this song of never ending joy,
filled with the truth of your gospel.
With faith, hope, and love, we claim your living Word,
for you are the boat for the journey.
Love is the boat for the journey.
May you know God’s peace in your heart and in your home.
May you find God’s strength in the moments of your need.
May you be moved by God’s love for you and for the world
to “Come and See”, and in turn so to invite others.
May the love of the Father, the grace of the Son,
the friendship of the Spirit be yours today,
and for every day to come. Amen.
Sources and thanks
As a Fire is meant for burning – Ruth Duck © 1992, GIA Publications (Ruth Duck). Administered in the UK by Calamus, 30 North Terrace, Mildenhall, Suffolk
For your generous providing © The Rev’d Leith Fisher performed by the Scottish Festival Singers.
Jesus calls us here to meet Him – John L Bell & Graham Maule © WGRWG – Performed by Matt Beckingham
Love is the boat for the journey – Written and performed by Ian Callanan © 2009 GIA Publications, Inc Tune: Loch Lomond
Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Wir Glauben all’ an Einen Gott (“We all believe in one God”) by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2001)
Both pieces played by, and received with thanks from, Brian Cotterill: www.briancotterill.webs.com
Communion Prayer loosely adapted from
Jonny Baker and Doug Gay, with Jenny Brown “Alternative Worship” (SPCK, 2003)
Thanks to Alison Jiggins, Marion Thomas, Christopher Whitehead, Christine and David Shimmins, Kath Haynes, Ray Fraser, Phil, Carys and Lythan Nevard, Mandy Hibbert, John Marsh, Sarah Wilmott and Kirsty Knott for reading spoken parts of the service.