Order of Service
Organ prelude: Cornet Voluntary – anon. 18th century
Call to Worship
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118: 1
Into the mix of humanity,
with friends and neighbours, visitors and strangers,
together we join to worship you, O Lord our God.
Generous, hospitable God, who turns no one away,
welcome each one of us now
in this time of worship and gathering
and embrace us in your being.
Great is thy faithfulness
Text: Thomas O. Chisholm (1866 – 1960)
Tune: Faithfulness – William M.Runyan (1870 – 1757)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Glorious and gracious God,
you are with us, and call us into your presence.
We lift our hearts in response to your love;
we raise our songs in praise of your goodness;
we offer our adoration in response to your holiness.
Summon us, voice of God, with words of challenge and grace
calling us to courageous discipleship and urgent witness.
Speak to us, breath of God,
with forgiveness for the many occasions
we have hidden behind weakness,
belittling your power and denying your presence.
In a moment of stillness, we seek God’s forgiveness for our mistakes and sins of the week past,
And the know of God’s over following love and mercy to renew us for the week ahead.
Jesus said, ‘Friend, Your sins are forgiven.’
Thanks be to God,
Introduction to the first reading
This morning our readings are along the theme of encounters.
Our first reading comes from the beginning of the book of Job, in the Old Testament. Job, we are told, was a faithful man who feared God and turned away from evil. And yet we are told Job became the subject of great testing.
Job is a story set on two planes, the earth and the spiritual. It is a story of great drama of riches to rags and back again, and the resilience of faith.
On the earthly plane we have Job who was a prosperous farmer, he had thousands of livestock, a large family, and many servants. In the spiritual plane we have a heavenly court between God and the ‘accuser’.
The claim is brought before God, that Job was only faithful to God because he was wealthy, and everything was going well for him. God challenged the accuser for evidence, and so the trial begins with Job’s testing.
We enter the story as Job hits rock bottom, all he had has been destroyed, his livestock, his servants, even his children were taken away from him in death. When this failed to provide evidence of Job’s lack of faith, he was cursed with great physical suffering and ill health. But this still failed to yield the desired results.
We enter into Job’s story as he sits in the tatters and ashes of his former life . . .
Reading – Job 2: 11 – 13
Organ interlude Antienne – Ernest Chausson (1855 – 99)
Introduction to the second reading
Our second reading comes from the Gospel of Luke. It may be a familiar reading, often heard in the weeks following Easter Sunday. It forms part of our resurrection narrative, where Jesus makes himself known to his followers in the days and weeks following his death and resurrection and before his ascension.
We meet two disciples on their way home after witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus, their friend and Messiah. We assume they had not talked to Peter, or heard of the discovery of the empty tomb that morning, but were in the throws of grief and shock, because no one had expected Jesus to die in this way; even at the last hour there was a hope, as Jesus hung on the cross, that a miracle was going to happen.
Into this story comes a stranger, who overhears their conversation and stops to ask what had happened . . .
Reading – Luke 24: 13 – 29
Who has been an important part of your faith story?
Can you recall the name of a person who has impacted on you being a Christian? Someone who has helped you know something of God?
What was it about them? Did they do something that had an impact on you? Did they say something? Or was it their presence? Did they come alongside you during a challenging time?
It might be hard to recall this person or what it was about them. Don’t worry too much, but it might be worth thinking about the next time you pause to pray and give thanks to God for who they are.
There has been a number of people over the year who have had an impact on my faith journey. There were Sunday school teachers who encouraged us to explore the different bible stories; there was a minister who encouraged me to start leading worship. But maybe more importantly than these was one person, who didn’t know me very well (we had said hi a couple of times) saw me. She noticed me and noticed when life was particularly challenging, and came and sat with me. She listened to my story, listened to what was happening at that particular moment; she held the silence when I didn’t want to talk; and she shared some of her story, offered an alternative narrative (God’s narrative) and suggested where God might be present in my current narrative.
Now all of this sounds quite complicated, when in fact it was probably a 45 minute conversation, but in that moment she was present with me in the place where I was.
Over the last two years, I have been serving as University chaplain and exploring what young adults think about faith and church and how the church or a local congregation might be able to reach out to them.
In a nutshell, young adults are looking for places where they can belong; places where they can have an impact and connect with other people. They are looking for safe places where they can explore ideas – about themselves and the world (both local and global) – where they can push boundaries.
They don’t want to be told the answers, to fit in a precast mould, but to forge their own way in the world, to find their own path and make a difference. They believe they have something to offer, something to give, but it might not be what we expect or wish for.
We just need to look at the response to the call for climate action with the school strikes (this included universities too) and the Black Lives Matter protests. Young people will not be silent when they believe in a cause and seek for real change to happen.
But they do not believe the church is the place for any of this to happen – they don’t see the church as a safe place to express doubts or to ask questions. They don’t believe that they or their friends will be accepted in a church, and they don’t recognise a church as a place to belong to explore their identity.
Churches are old fashioned, out of touch with the real world. They are places where people are criticised, told how to behave, what to think. They don’t see what difference being a Christian makes – they are not seeing the transformative presence of God within the life of the church or the lives of its members.
And that is the problem and the challenge – because I think a lot of churches are wanting these sorts of people – they want the enthusiasm and life; they want to be places where young people (or indeed anyone) can grow and learn about the love of God for themselves. And even more importantly I believe that God is wanting these sorts of people to be builders and stewards of the Kingdom of God.
I don’t want us to get too caught up in the doom and gloom, or to argue about whether we feel as a church we are welcoming and accepting. Instead I want to offer a model – a biblical model of what it might look like for a church and for us as individual Christians to engage with young adults, or actually what is might look like for us to engage with anyone – because we are all looking for somewhere to belong, to identify with and experience something of love, mercy and grace; and the unique thing about a church is that this is the only place where those things can be found all together. No other community group can offer the same thing.
Our readings this morning offer a model of being intentionally present with another person – what it might look like to come alongside someone else, not to fulfil our own need but to accompany another person on their journey.
Job had lost everything, he is scrapping the bottom of the barrel low. He has lost his home, his wealth, and his health; he goes into a state of mourning – grieving for the life he once had. Three friends come and sit with him – simple as that. At this part in the story the friends are present with Job, where he is in his grief. They don’t try to lift him out of his sorrow, they join him in it. Their comfort comes from their presence and in waiting until Job is ready to speak first. As the story progresses, they try and suggest ways in which Job could pull himself out of his stupor, offering another narrative, ways in which God might be active in his life. But for Job these were not the answers. And yet his friends stayed and listened.
In the same way, Jesus, the stranger to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, was present. He joined the disciples where they were and listened to their story. It was only after listening to their story that he offered a different perspective. He retold their story in light of the Gospel story, showing where God had been active, what that story has revealed about God in their lives. It was only after he journeyed with then, got to know them, understood their story and what was important to them, that he then offered an alternative narrative and helped them see the glory in their own story.
Jesus didn’t invite the disciples to come to “church” with him, or promise that he would have all the answers. Neither did Job’s friends. In the first instance they were present – they listened, they asked questions, they took the time to hear their story. And then offered something of their own story and how God had been alive for them.
This is something I have learnt from my work in the chaplaincy, this has become my approach to talking with students and staff. I have needed to learn what it means to be intentionally present, being in a place to watch, look and listen; rather than having my own agenda.
But to create time and space where folk feel comfortable and able to share something of their story; I invite them to tell me what is going on in their lives (just like the ‘stranger’ asked the two disciples what was happening in their lives) and I listened; and then if it felt right I would share something of my story, something of God’s story or something of how God had been a source of strength for me. Or I will share a bible story which had something in common with their story – I’d offer another narrative.
Now I don’t always get it right. Sometimes the story I share doesn’t find a connection, sometimes I don’t feel it’s right to share something of God and sometimes I regret not doing so. But each time the intention is to be present in that moment for that person and to recognise God in that encounter.
The joy about this approach is actually you can’t get it wrong. We often hide behind the fear of not knowing the ‘answers’ but in this case there are no wrong answers because we are sharing something of our own story and something of who God is to us. Now that’s very personal and everyone has their own story. It is unique to you just as their story is unique to them.
It’s a challenge, and may feel unnatural to begin with, but this, I believe is part and parcel of being a disciple, of the calling each one of us has in sharing the Good News. Its about sharing stories of what God has done in our lives and invites others to do the same.
A good place to start is with friends and family, or when we are able to during coffee after worship – to start with someone you know quite well, ask how they are, listen to what has been happening in the last week, ask if there are any challenges, even ask if they have felt close to God this past week. And then share your own story. Maybe you feel able to pick up the phone this coming week and ring someone just to talk, ask for God to help you as you dial the number and be open to God’s prompting in that conversation.
Our starting point must always be to meet people where they are and to listen to their story – this is modelled time and again in Jesus’s story. And it is the only way we can begin to break down the barriers which divide us.
Let us pray.
You came and lived in the world around us,
You came and walked beside all people, offering something of love and mercy
Showing each person, you met that they were worthy of your time
We give thanks for all the people who have been a part of our journeys so far,
Those who encouraged us
Those who listened to us
And those who sit with us showing something of your love and mercy in their presence.
You call each one of us to be your disciples,
to be your hands and feet in this place.
May we be open to encounters with others,
And have the courage to share our own story with those we meet.
Led by your Spirit, we pray
The Kingdom of God
Text: Bryn A. Rees (1911 – 83)
Tune: Out Skerries – Paul Bateman (b. 1954)
Prayers of intercession and Lord’s prayer
So often we want to pray for others.
But sometimes, God, we don’t know how.
We can’t remember names or numbers;
other issues weigh heavily on our hearts.
Thank goodness, God,
that you know what we mean when we pray.
So, we bring in this moment
those names and faces, images and desires for others
that pop in and out of our minds throughout the day:
the old lady at the bus stop who needed a hand up the step;
the young mum at the checkout trying to contain her four kids;
the chap up the road who’s lost his dog and is calling for him;
the teachers struggling to understand the needs of those in their class;
the doctors who wants to give us more time but who simply can’t;
the young families who can’t make ends meet;
those without work, who can’t find new jobs;
those helping people to find work, knowing it is an uphill struggle;
those with mental health issues and seeking help,
or who are afraid and ashamed to seek help,
or who are ignored and can’t get help.
So, God, for all these people and countless others,
we offer our prayers.
We know you do not need reminding,
but you do need willing workers – even us –
to help them know your love and have their needs met.
Hear our ramblings, O God. Amen.
A prayer of intercession taken from rootsontheweb.com
At this time, we pause using the prayer from Churches Together in England, and pray for all those affected by the Coronavirus.
God, our rock and shield, we pray for our land, and all nations and places in our world, as many endure the effects of the illness Covid-19 and the Coronavirus pandemic.
For those who are ill, grant healing;
for those who mourn the death of loved ones, bring comfort;
for those who care for the sick, grant strength and endurance;
for those who are isolated or whose livelihoods are threatened, give courage and hope;
for all who take difficult decisions, from governments to health practitioners, give wisdom and compassion to accompany the knowledge and experience that they bring.
Deliver us from this disease, we pray, and enable all nations and communities to grow in collaboration and unity as we face this challenge together.
Grant a legacy of enduring common purpose in facing all that threatens our global common good.
We pray in Jesus’ name, in the unity of the Spirit, Amen.
A prayer taken from cte.org.uk
We unite our prayers, as we join together with Christians across the globe, as we pray
Our Father . . .
Go forth and tell
Text: James E. Seddon (1915 – 83)
Tune: Yanworth – John Barnard (b. 1948)
May we go, Lord God,
To meet the needs of others
And to share the love we have from you.
And may the blessing of God Almighty,
Creator, Saviour and Sustainer
Be with us now and for ever.
Organ voluntary: Sortie – Louis Lefébure-Wély (1817 – 69)