30 August 2020

Music for this service has been recorded at Headingley St Columba URC. Music not in the public domain is used under the terms of our PRS LOML Licence LE-0020656

Order of Service

Organ prelude: Air and Gavotte – Samuel Wesley (1766 – 1837)


Call to Worship Psalm 105: 1 – 4
‘Give thanks to the LORD, proclaim His greatness; tell the nations what He has done.
Sing praise to the LORD; tell the wonderful things He has done.
Be glad that we belong to Him; let all who worship Him rejoice.
Go to the LORD for help; and worship Him continually.’

Tune: Lobe den Herren – Anon. Last verse arr. Noel Rawsthorne (1929 – 19)

Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation:
come ye who hear,
brothers and sister, draw near,
praise him in glad adoration!

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
bears thee on eagle’s wings, and through all troubles sustaineth
hast thou not seen
all that is needful hath been
granted in what he ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee!
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee:
ponder anew
all the Almighty can do,
who with His love doth befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath come now with praises before him!
Let the amen
sound from his people again:
gladly for aye we adore him!

Joachim Neander (1650-80)
tr. Catherine Winkworth (1827-78) and others

Prayer of Praise & Thanks from Margaret Madill
As we get up each morning Lord, you have given us such a gift – a new day – a clean sheet to fill. What we make of it Lord depends on what we put onto it, what other people contribute to it but most of all it’s how we use the extra gifts that you give us which will make us use the time, to enjoy the time and to benefit from the time which will make it a full and useful day. We praise you Lord that each day can be an adventure and an exploration of what the gift of life can be for us. You, Lord God, are our rock – we praise you and thank you for everything and we ask that our recent experiences will teach us to value your gift of life. Lord, you said, “Do not fear, I will help you”. May we carry these words of hope continually in our hearts, we pray.

Introduction to the first reading
This story of the burning bush and God speaking to and calling Moses from out of the fire, is one of those images of mystery surrounding who our God is. The passage comes a chapter into the whole of the story of Moses, from his birth to leading the oppressed Hebrew people out of the slavery of Egypt and to the brink of the promised land. It is the beginning of who Moses is in God, and gives us the first time in Scripture when God gives us His true name!

Reading – Exodus 3: 1 – 15

Organ interlude: Prelude in G – William H. Harris (1883 – 1973)

Introduction to the second reading
This passage is within three chapters of what can be considered as Paul’s ethical teaching to the Christians in Rome. There is a lot in these few verses to take in, and it’s best read ourselves again in private reflection. Yet the verses are part of a whole, and they are not meant as a means for us ourselves to strive to be morally good, rather to allow God’s Holy Spirit to work through us.

Reading – Romans 12: 9 – 21

I know a little of what Moses must have felt when he was called by God. When I first felt called to ministry, my first response was that I’m too shy, with other responses following over the years.

But that’s the whole point of God’s call on our lives: none of us are worthy, none of us have got what it takes to do what God calls us to. Thankfully, the Lord has got what it takes, and equips us for whatever we are called to. My mind always goes to 2 Corinthians 12: 9a, words the Lord said to Paul about his thorn in the flesh, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Praise God that it is so.

Paul talks about the grace of God in the preceding verses to the Romans passage. He says that it is God’s grace which gives us the different gifts and abilities we need to serve in the way we are individually called. And it is in that thought, that we are helped through the Holy Spirit, in this long ethical list Paul gives.

In the Sunday Devotions sheet, I put each on a separate line, creating a visible list. That came to 23 lines, 23 instructions for living as Christians with one another, in witness to others and to serve God. Well that is an awful lot of instructions.

In the week, Ministers of Word & Sacrament, Church Related Community Workers and others got through information about a new URC directive that we should all have a pastoral supervisor, which in this day and age is quite appropriate, and will be enormously helpful. However, with it came a list of what Ministers are expected to be, a foreboding list of 11 headings, some doubling points, with a hidden list in each paragraph underneath, making us to need to be super-human. You will know that I am not!

But as with that list and the list Paul gives us all, we can only do and be what and who we are by the grace of God, as we are enabled by the Holy Spirit. That goes for each one of us. We can only serve God, witness to his mercy, love and grace, because the Spirit lives in us and works through us. Praise God, it’s not up to us.

For Moses, God had chosen him to serve in a certain way. It was what he was prepared for from his conception; from the time his mother hid him until he was too big; from the time she put him in that basket in the river; from the time the Egyptian Princess found him and raised him as her own. That reminds me of Psalm 139, a psalm which tells us how God has known us from before we were born, and knows everything about us.

You may know from the story of Moses, that he killed an Egyptian who was beating up one of his fellow Hebrews. So he fled from Egypt, as others had witnessed what he did. His record wasn’t squeaky clean, yet God called him.

Believe it or not God has called each of us in the same way. The Lord is not interested in beating us up over what we’ve done in the past, but asks us to follow from this moment on, and to serve as He desires. God has a plan for our lives, equips us for it, and brings it about.

For Moses, what God was asking of him was hard, was something he felt he really couldn’t do. He was afraid too. We only read his first two excuses to God why not to obey, with the declaration by God of being, ‘I AM’. Moses goes on to argue with God that the Hebrew people might not believe him or listen to him, and that he doesn’t speak well enough. Despite all his excuses, God still works things around to use Moses as intended.

We often have feelings of self-doubt or discern that we have a way to go that goes against what we’d want for ourselves. Many of us are not physically in a place to be able to go out and serve. Yet God equips us and can use us despite it all, in however hard for us it might be.

In turning again to the Romans passage, we can see that we are all called, in whatever stage of life, to serve the living God, to allow God to work in us through his grace and mercy, making us into his likeness, making us into lights in the darkness of the world around.

What that looks like for each of us is different, and it will be different at different stages of our lives. It is in careful prayer, opening ourselves to listen to God, to what that might be, and to test it out, that we discern what God is saying.

That call for us may simply be in how we live our lives showing God to others. It can always be in prayer as we pray for others, for those we agree with and those we don’t agree with. We may feel called to pray for politicians, for example, or students coming back in September, or those we know who don’t believe in God.

For all of us though, whatever we are called to in this moment in time, we cannot do it in our own strength. We can only follow God’s call on our lives to be and to do, through the strength of Christ within us, as we give ourselves over to his way for us.

Tune: Caithness – from Scottish Psalter (1685)

O Jesus Christ, grow thou in me
and all things else recede;
my heart be daily nearer thee,
from sin be daily freed.

Each day let thy supporting might
my weakness still embrace;
my darkness vanish in thy light,
thy life my death efface.

Let faith in thee and in thy might
my every motive move,
be thou alone my soul’s delight,
my passion and my love.

Fill me with gladness from above,
hold me by strength divine!
Lord, let the glow of thy great love
through my whole being shine.

Make thoughts of self grow less and less,
be thou my life and aim;
O make me daily, through thy grace,
more worthy of thy name!

Johann C. Lavater (1741-1801)
tr. attrib. Elizabeth L Smith (1817-98)

Prayers of intercession
Prayer by Jan Berry, from ‘Worship: from the United Reformed Church, Encircled by prayer’.

When we hear the voices of self-doubt, telling us we are worthless,
that we are weak and can do nothing and change is beyond our grasp:

God, who has made us in your image
give us the power of your Spirit to learn and grow,
and to work with you towards a new creation.

When the vulnerable are exploited, and the trust if the innocent betrayed.
When the strong seem invincible and the weak have nowhere to turn:

God, who sides with the poor
give us the power of your Spirit to resist evil
and to work with you towards a new creation.

In a world crying out for peace, where conflicts seem hardened into steel
Where war and poverty uproot families and homes, and those seeking refuge are treated as criminals:

God, who made the world to be one,
give us the power of your Spirit to struggle for justice,
and to work with you towards a new creation.

In a church that is afraid of difference, and sets up barriers against the outside,
Where people are fearful of change, clinging to outworn ways:

God, who calls us to be your people,
give us the power of your Spirit to witness for you,
and to work with you towards a new creation.

The Lord’s Prayer . . .

Tune: Angels’Song – Orlando Gibbons (1583 – 1625)

Forth in thy name, O Lord I go
my daily labour to pursue,
thee, only thee, resolved to know
in all I think or speak or do.

The task thy wisdom hath assigned
O let me cheerfully fulfil!
In all my works thy presence find,
and prove thy good and perfect will.

Thee may I set at my right hand,
whose eyes my inmost substance see,
and labour on at thy command,
and offer all my works to thee.

Give me to bear thine easy yoke,
and every moment watch and pray,
and still to things eternal look,
and hasten to thy glorious day;

for thee delightfully employ
whate’er thy bounteous grace hath given,
and run my course with even joy,
and closely walk with thee to heaven.

Charles Wesley (1707 – 88) altd.

Blessing from ‘Encircled by Prayer’ by Terry Oakley
May the strength of God surround us;
the promise of God protect us;
and the grace of God guide us;
so may we be markers of God’s mercy
to those whom we love and serve.

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

Organ Voluntary: Choral Song – Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 – 76)