28 June 2020

All the music for this week’s service has been recorded on the Headingley St Columba organ!

Order of Service

Organ prelude: Voluntary in G – Henry Heron (1738 – 95)


Call to Worship Psalm 89: 1 – 2 (NRSVA)
‘I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.’

Tune: Praise my soul – John Goss (1800 – 80)

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven
to His feet Thy tribute bring
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
who like me His praise should sing?
Praise Him! praise Him!
praise the everlasting King.

Praise Him for His grace and favour
to His people, in distress;
praise Him still the same for ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless:
Praise Him! praise Him!
glorious in His faithfulness.

Father-like He tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame He knows;
in His hands He gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes:
Praise Him! praise Him!
widely as His mercy flows!

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
blows the wind and it is gone,
but while mortals rise and perish
God endures unchanging on.
Praise Him! praise Him!
praise the high Eternal One!

Angels help us to adore Him,
ye behold Him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before Him,
dwellers all in time and space:
Praise Him! praise Him!
praise with us the God of grace!

H.F. Lyte (1793-1847) altd.
Based on Psalm 103

Opening Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
O Lord our God, we come into your presence to worship you, the holy, creator God. We come to praise you for who you are, the king of heaven, the one who came to us to live among us, to die for us, so that we can be restored and forgiven. We praise you that you are the God who has been there all along, that you were as much the God of Israel as you are our God, that you have taken care of your people throughout history, and still care for us today, as a father tends his children, keeping them safe from harm. We thank you so much for that love for us. As we respond to you in our worship and in our lives, we are conscious that we don’t honour you as we should, or follow your way in our lives. We ask for your forgiveness, assured of your grace towards us. As we worship you now, together yet in our own homes, may we be open to your Spirit leading and guiding. For we ask in the name of Jesus, our Lord and our Saviour, Amen.

Please join with me in the words of the Lord’s Prayer . . .

Introduction to the first reading
It is a short passage from the prophet, set within the prophecies that the people of Judah would be taken into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and the beginning stages of that. When Jeremiah has finished his prophesy, which included warnings of false prophets, the prophet Hananiah gives a counter prophesy. This passage, and following, is how Jeremiah responds.

Reading: Jeremiah 28: 5 – 9

Organ interlude: Pastorale – Léon Boëllmann (1862 – 97)

Introduction to the second reading
Jesus’ words in this short passage come at the end of a commissioning and instructions chapter to the twelve disciples. Set in a time when it was normal to arrive unannounced at someone’s house to stay, it is how to discern a genuine welcome and openness to God’s good news..

Reading: Matthew 10: 40 – 42

For about 18 months, until the coronavirus stopped us in our tracks, and in online worship we were drawn to address that, we were following Holy Habits. I’m not sure when we will take it up again, but I did wonder about reflecting on those things we’ve looked at so far, as we seek to grow in our faith and discipleship. In lockdown, we are in a very different situation than listening to sermons and ideas in Church, and in this time out of traditional Church, we can reflect maybe in a different way.

It is a good time to reflect on how the Bible has helped us during this time. I wonder which passages have really been of benefit to you? Which passages have you held on to in this time? Which have given you reassurance and hope? Which have you struggled over? Which have maybe made you angry or confused?

You could pause the podcast for a few minutes, and have a think about those.

2 Timothy 3 v16 says, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’. Even in those difficult passages, we can see meaning, or hear God speak as we open ourselves up to His Word.

In the lectionary each week, you may know, there are six readings to choose from. Sometimes I choose the Psalm, as this week, to bring us into worship with images of God’s majesty, His creative will, or other aspects of His character. This week I’ve chosen two other short readings. If you have the email of worship resources, the one from Christ Church Halton uses one of the other passages, from Romans 6. The writer, A Methodist lay preacher, reflects a little on slavery, with the important and topical anti-racism campaign of ‘Black Lives Matter’. He also reflects how Paul uses the image of slavery to remind us we are no longer slaves to sin.

Then there are two lots of free resources during lockdown which I look at, from rootsontheweb, an ecumenical resource, and The Vine at Home, a Methodist resource. They both chose different Old Testament readings this week. The Vine at Home chose the reading from Genesis about the attempted sacrifice of Isaac, to bring out about all the sacrifices made by key workers during this time, even putting themselves in the way of death to help others. Whereas the Roots resource chose the Jeremiah reading, but focused on the gospel passage, and on the idea of welcome.

And that’s the thing with the Bible – there is so much in it, so much to learn, so much to ponder, that it will take more than a lifetime of learning for us to gather everything it teaches, or every little way it can be applied. Sometimes when we hear familiar passages, we think we know it all, and can miss what God wants us to hear and how He wants us to grow. If we think we know it all, we fall short of all that God has in store for us.

So this morning, just to give a glimpse of what I heard from the passages we’ve read today. We heard the words firstly then of praise from the Psalm to bring us into worship. It is always good to start worship with praise, just as the prayer Jesus taught us begins with praise. I only used the first two verses of that reading, about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The psalmist says both are everlasting. That’s good news to hear in any generation, whatever is happening around us.

Many times we might feel God is far away, or wonder if He’s abandoned us. These verses give us re-assurance that God’s love is steadfast, the same, unchanging, for ever, that He is indeed faithful, that He will never let us down or let us go. These are promises of Scripture we can hold on to, even though they were written so long ago.

If we were to read the whole Psalm – and maybe you want to pause this podcast again and read it now – it’s one of the longer Psalms, and from verse 38 we read that the people felt then that God actually had abandoned them. It’s all about what God has done in wrath to His people, allowing them to be taken into exile. So the Psalm is full of the praises of God and about all He has done and promised, and yet, this is how they are feeling now. How do we hold on to hope and to the promises of Scripture when we do genuinely feel like that, when we can’t see the steadfast love of God in the things that are happening to us, or His faithfulness to us? Maybe it is in the pouring out of all our pain and disappointment that we can then come to a place to hear God again.

The Jeremiah passage is set near the beginning of that time in exile, that time of feeling God had abandoned them. Initially when we read it, or when I read it, the last verse about the prophet of peace, struck me to be about Jesus, whom we often call the Prince of Peace. When I read the passage in context, however, I realised Jeremiah is referring to his prophecy as against Hananiah’s, that if they didn’t rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, they would have a time of peace. Jeremiah calls Hananiah a false prophet.

There’s a lot of that about at the moment. As we read or hear news reports of lockdown being eased even more in the coming weeks. The end of our current troubles seem to be in sight. The way news is reported, such as the coming in of the 1m rule, which actually is only in certain circumstances, puts people into confusion. We read all sorts of different articles, including the scientific evidence, and we wonder who to believe. To me, this Jeremiah passage is suggesting we take time to listen to all the voices and attempt to discern what God might be saying in it all.

The gospel reading on the surface is about welcome. Some would use it to remind us to welcome others. It seems to me to have a slightly different beginning though. The disciples are to look out to see who welcomes them, because whoever welcomes them, welcomes Jesus. This reminds us that we carry Jesus to others. For those of us who can be out and about, or working from home, in all our interactions, we are to carry Jesus to others. Even for those of us who are still unable to go out at this current time, we are interacting with others – maybe with the person who drops the shopping off, or the neighbour who phones to check if we’re ok, or the one who comes to sit outside for a chat.

How are we to that person? Are we carrying Jesus in how we interact with them? And in that sense, it’s about welcoming others, being open in our conversations and time. We may even be called to see Jesus in them, to recognize that they may be carrying Jesus to us in what they are doing or giving. A very wise Minister I worked with when I was expecting my oldest, Jonathan, over 30 years ago, and was having problems, said something like, even when we’re used to giving out all the time, sometimes we need to be gracious enough to receive. And that sometimes for us maybe now, in the giving of others to us, in Jesus’ name.

So as Paul says to Timothy, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’. I wonder what you got out of those passages. Maybe find a notepad and write it down.

Tune: Theodoric – Gustav Holst (1874 – 1934)

God is love, His the care
Tending each, everywhere,
God is love—all is there!
Jesus came to show Him,
that we all might know Him:

Sing aloud, loud, loud,
Sing aloud, loud, loud,
God is good, God is truth,
God is beauty: praise Him!

Jesus came, lived and died
for our sake, crucified,
rose again, glorified:
He was born to save us
by the truth He gave us:

Sing aloud, loud, loud,
Sing aloud, loud, loud,
God is good, God is truth,
God is beauty: praise Him!

None can see God above;
Jesus shows how to love;
thus may we Godward move,
joined as sisters, brothers,
finding Him in others:

Sing aloud, loud, loud,
Sing aloud, loud, loud,
God is good, God is truth,
God is beauty: praise Him!

To our Lord praise we sing—
light and life, friend and King
coming down love to bring,
pattern for our duty,
showing God in beauty:
Sing aloud, loud, loud,
Sing aloud, loud, loud,
God is good, God is truth,
God is beauty: praise Him!

Percy Dearmer (1867-1936)

Prayer for help and forgiveness from Margaret Madill
Lord, in the last few weeks we have been appalled, outraged, upset and frightened by many incidents abroad and here. For the most part Father we can do nothing to alleviate the problems except to pray about them but we struggle to accept that many people do think they can do something which we disagree with. We find our reactions puzzling and confusing and we ask that we will be able to reflect on these times in positive ways.

In our own situations Father, we often think we can see the faults of the other people in our lives: help us to choose to love them regardless of their attitudes, faults and quirks and make us realise that they can see in us all the faults we deny we have. May we all try harder to understand one another and to become more tolerant of each other’s foibles.

Father, we have often undertaken tasks because we have felt that it is our duty to do so but Father, because we have not poured love into those tasks we have failed
ourselves and especially You. May we not be afraid to say no on occasion Father but
may we always be open to the next opportunity You give us to serve.

We often fail to thank others for their generosity with their time and talents when what they have done benefits us in some way. A word of appreciation means so much and we know too that a prayer of thanks to You should be offered as well.

Thank You Father that You offer us forgiveness and the gift of Your spirit. We now receive that gift.

Tune: University – Charles Collignon (1725 – 85)

O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great redeemer’s praise
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of His grace.

Jesus, the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life and health and peace.

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and listening to His voice
new life the dead receive;
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
your loosened tongues employ;
ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
and leap, ye lame, for joy!

My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honours of thy name.

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Blessing from Margaret Madill
As we start another week of lockdown Lord, bless all those who are still shielding with Your comfort so that they may wait patiently; Lord bless those who are now freer to make choices about their way of life with the courage they need to decide what they wish to do and when to do it; and Lord, bless those who, long ago, decided not to follow any of the guidelines and advice, bless them with Your wisdom to think of others as well as themselves.

Bless us all Lord this and every day, we pray.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Organ Voluntary: Wir glauben all an einen Gott – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)