17 January 2021

This week’s service, led by our Minister, Rev Clare Davison, includes a celebration of Holy Communion, and you are invited to prepare bread and wine, or whatever alternative you prefer.

The accompaniments for To God be the glory, and Wolvercote are provided by Richard M. S. Irwin (https://play.hymnswithoutwords.com) and are used with his permission. The remaining music was recorded at Headingley St Columba URC. Where the words and music are in copyright, they are used under the terms of Headingley St Columba’s CCLI Licences 214974, 110169 and PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0020656.
You can watch this video in full-screen mode by clicking the symbol at the bottom right. To follow the order of service as the video plays, scroll to the bottom of the page, and adjust the size of your window to accommodate the video and the scrollable text.

If you prefer to listen to an audio-only version, you can do so here.

Order of Service

Organ prelude: Invention No 1 in D – Heinrich Gerber (1702 – 75)


Call to Worship
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ [ John 3: 16]

To God be the glory, great things he has done!
Text: Fanny Crosby (1820 – 1915) altd.
Tune: To God be the glory – W. H. Doane (1832 – 1925)

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
Lord God almighty,
We come before you to worship you, to bow before you, the one there in the beginning, eternal, creator God, source of all. And yet the one who came to be among us. We thank you especially, on this Communion Sunday in Epiphany for the gift of yourself, revealed to us in Jesus. We praise you that Jesus came because you love the world so much, and you love us so much, a love which draws us to yourself, and which bought redemption for the whole world. Glory to you!

We pray that you will be glorified in our lives and in our worship, and that as you ever draw us to yourself, we would follow you more gladly. Help us, we pray in this short time in your presence, as you reveal yourself to us, to be expectant that you will meet with us this day and speak into our hearts. For we ask and we pray in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour,

I invite you to join with me in the words of the Lord’s Prayer . . .

Introduction to the first reading
We may know the story of Hannah praying for a child, whom she then gives, once weaned, back to the Lord to serve Him under the priest Eli. This was at Shiloh, an ancient place before worship was centred on the Temple at Jerusalem, and where the ark of the covenant was being kept. Our first reading follows on from this, an event in the life of Hannah’s child, the boy Samuel.

Reading – 1 Samuel 3: 1 – 10

Organ interlude: Voluntary in B flat – Andante Maurice Greene (1695 – 1755)

Introduction to the second reading
Our second reading comes after the baptism of Jesus, where John announces, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”, and sees God’s Spirit rest on him. Then Jesus calls his first disciples, and again John says to his own disciples, “Look, the lamb of God!” Jesus calls them to “come and see”. The passage we have today follows on from this, the calling of Philip and Nathanael.

Reading – John 1: 43 – 51

These two readings we have for this morning are both great epiphany stories, of God breaking into the lives of individuals: the child Samuel, and the true Israelite, Nathanael.

Samuel heard what seems to have been an audible voice, calling his name. It’s not surprising he went first to Eli, there was no-one else around. Sometimes when we’re dreaming, we can hear our name being called, and this may have happened to Samuel. But the fact that it happened 3 times got Eli thinking that it wasn’t just a dream, and he thought about why it was happening. He realised that it must be the Lord calling. That seemed to him to be the logical explanation. So he tutored the young Samuel on what to say in response when it happened again.

I wonder if any of us have heard our name called audibly? Maybe we’ve thought it was a dream. I did once, hearing my name called twice. There was no-one else there who could have spoken it. It was a short time in my life when I felt the Lord especially close. But if it was the Lord and not a dream, unlike Samuel, there was no-one around at the time who could suggest what it could be. Maybe it was a dream, maybe it was the Lord. I certainly felt a sense of peace.

Most of us would more readily get a sense of a call, a sense of a purpose, something we really feel we should be doing. Sometimes we can feel a real urge to phone someone, or visit in pre-lockdown times, and it turns out to be just the right thing we could have done. We’re often not conscious of being open to the Spirit working through us in those times, but as we trust in Him, we can realise God is speaking to us, and is using us in those ways. It’s that realisation which is epiphany, God revealing Himself to us.

For Samuel, it was the elderly Eli who revealed God to him, the God Samuel would serve the rest of his life. And that’s an important point. What would have happened if Samuel had just thought to himself, ‘well that’s nice, God was calling me’? He needed to allow that to make a difference to his life, otherwise he wouldn’t have done the things he did.

It was also about, not just following, but continuing to listen to the voice of God, continuing to listen and look for those epiphany moments. We can recall the story of the anointing of David in 1 Samuel 16. Samuel was led to go to the family of Jesse in Bethlehem. Every son came before him, but in each case, Samuel knew it wasn’t the one God was choosing. And so David, the youngest, was called in from watching the sheep, and God revealed it was indeed David whom God was choosing. Samuel didn’t hear the Lord audibly, but sensed what the will of God was, through the Holy Spirit revealing it to him.

Listening to God and being aware of what is happening around us are important points for our own faith journeys. It’s about listening for what God is saying to us, in whatever way that comes, sometimes in the looking around us. Epiphany isn’t a one-off revelation of God, a one-off moment, but something which affects our whole lives. Listening to God is a major part of our relationship with Him, being open to be nudged or moved by His Spirit.

What about the reading we had from John’s gospel? It’s in a whole passage about Jesus calling the first disciples. One of the readings for next week in the lectionary is Mark’s version of Jesus calling the disciples. In John’s gospel we get a detailed description of this conversation with Nathanael. It gives more of a pointer to who Jesus is too, showing us how God is revealed in Him.

In the verses before those we read, John the Baptist pointed Jesus out as the Lamb of God, and two of his disciples went off to follow Jesus. One was Andrew, and he went to find his brother Simon. As soon as Jesus sees Simon, He speaks to Him and tells him, he’ll be called Peter. I’m sure he wondered what on earth Jesus was on about at that stage.

In the passage we read today, Jesus calls Philip. And Philip goes off and tells Nathanael they’ve found the Messiah. Nathanael is sceptical at first, but when Jesus speaks to him, and tells him what He can see in Nathanael’s heart, Nathanael realises it’s the Lord Himself speaking. God is revealed to Nathanael in Jesus.

If only we were there and Jesus was speaking to us! It would be so much simpler to have that physical presence with a real voice. Then we would know Jesus really is from God, and God really is speaking to us. Yet Jesus of course does speak to us in different ways. He breaks into our lives. He tells us things about ourselves we’d rather hide, when our consciences are pricked, because He knows us all through. He shows us the way He wants us to go. He reveals Himself in the little moments of our lives, the sense of His presence, or the thing we’ve prayed about which is resolved – not that all our prayers are answered as we wish.

Yet we find it difficult to know if it is God being revealed to us, whether it’s God’s voice, for example, or just our own deep desires, or wishes, or ideas. So often I find myself ignoring that still small voice because I think it must just be my own thought. But we’re more often than not, called to step out in faith. Faith sees God, hears God and moves us to follow. We can also check out if we think it is the Lord speaking to us with others of faith, or with whether it matches up to what the Bible teaches. But it is up to us to follow, to step out in faith, to take the hand of Jesus and go wherever He takes us in our faith journey.

And we are each, as Christians, given God’s Spirit to help us. And because of that, as long as we go prayerfully and humbly, we can have confidence to follow Jesus, and to know that what seem to be those epiphany moments really are God Himself breaking into our lives!

It is a thing most wonderful
Text: William. W. How (1823 – 97) altd.
Tune: Herongate – English traditional melody, arr. R Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958)


The peace of Christ be with you, and in your homes
    And also with you

Confession and Absolution
Let us confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness.
    Lord God most merciful,
    we confess that we have sinned,
    through our own fault,
    and in common with others,
    in thought, word and deed,
    and through what we have left undone.
    We ask to be forgiven.
    By the power of your Spirit
    turn us from evil to good,
    help us to forgive others,
    and keep us in your ways
    of righteousness and love;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Lord says: See, I am making all things new.
    If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.
Through him our sins are forgiven.
    Amen. Thanks be to God.

Come then to this table, not because you must, but because you may;
Come, not because of who you are, but because of who God is.
Come, not because you are righteous, but because of God’s grace through Christ Jesus.

Words of Institution 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26 (NIVUK)
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Prayer of thanksgiving
Holy Lord Jesus,
We praise and thank you so much that you came to earth for us and gave yourself on the cross for our forgiveness. You, who are the same yesterday, today and forever, help us never to forget what it cost you, bearing the world’s sin in yourself, separated from the Father.

We praise and thank you for your promises which gives us hope in our lives and for the future. We thank you for that assurance of new life in you, a new life we can share in many different ways at this time with others.

We give thanks now for this bread, symbolising for us your body, and ourselves as your body here, to be broken for others as we seek to serve others in whatever way.

We give thanks for this wine, symbolising for us your blood, poured out in love for the world, as we are poured out to bring new life to those around us.

We ask that as we share this bread and wine, we may be filled anew with your Holy Spirit, and refreshed in your resurrection life, to live for you, for your glory we pray. Amen.

Sharing the Bread and Wine
As we break the bread and share the wine, we will eat and drink together.
We break the bread to remember Christ’s broken body for us on the cross.

Christ’s body broken for us

[pause to eat]

Christ’s blood was poured out that the world might have new life.

And we have new life in His blood

[pause to drink]

Prayers of Intercession
Loving Lord God,
you have fed us with the bread of life as you have shown yourself to us today.
We are ready to hear your call, to discern your presence in our world
and to follow Jesus once more.
May your Holy Spirit reveal your way to us,
that we may show others your love and grace.
Lord, in your mercy,
    hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church, for the great Church throughout the world,
as we go into this week of prayer for Christian Unity.
We pray as all Churches grapple with the effects of the pandemic in their own situations and begin again to look to the future in this new year.
May they know your will and seek new ways to work together for your Kingdom come.
We pray too for the persecuted Church, all those who also have the added weight of fearing for their lives as they stand up for their faith in you.
Bring them your joy and peace, we pray.
Lord, in your mercy,
    hear our prayer.

We pray for situations in our world where your presence and healing is needed.
We think of the families of those lost in the plane crash in Indonesia,
and lay other situations before you that are on our hearts.
May your Spirit move to bring all that is needed for those people and places.
Lord, in your mercy,
    hear our prayer.

We pray for our own church community gathered in our own homes to worship and pray. We remember the families of Len Bower and Margaret Baulch, and pray your comfort for them.
We pray for those who are unwell among us, for strength and peace.
May we show your love to one another
and bring your love to our families and neighbours.
Fill us with your Spirit, and make us people of peace,
of faithful prayer and loving action.
Give us wisdom to discern your will and ways for us in the coming weeks and months.
Lord, in your mercy,
    hear our prayer.

We pray for ourselves, with all the concerns on our hearts and minds.
Bless us with your peace and a trust in you which overrides difficulties with the joy of knowing you.
Lord, in your mercy,
    hear our prayer.

We bring these prayers, and the prayers of our hearts, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

O Jesus, I have promised
Text: John E. Bode (l8l6 – 74)
Tune: Wolvercote – W. H. Ferguson (1874 – 1950)

by Tim Baker, The Vine at Home is compiled and produced by Twelvebaskets copyright © Twelvebaskets 2021, adpt.
You have called us to worship, O God,
And now you call us out, you call us on, you call us forwards.
As we go on from this day, O God,
We know your Spirit goes before us.
Guide us, by that Spirit, to know your voice when you call, to follow in your way,
and to bring your Kingdom closer.

And may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us and with those we love, now and always,

Organ voluntary: Prelude and Fugue in C – Georg Böhm (1661 – 1733)