6 September 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: Invention No 1 in D – Heinrich Gerber (1702 – 75)


Call to Worship Psalm 148: 1 – 2
‘Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise Him in the heights above.
Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.’

Tune: Angel Voices – Edwin Monk (1819 – 1900)

Angel voices ever singing
round thy throne of light,
angel harps for ever ringing
rest not day nor night;
thousands only live to bless thee,
and confess thee, Lord of might.

Lord, we know that thou rejoicest
o’er each work of thine;
thou didst ears and hands and voices
for thy praise design;
craftsman’s art and music’s measure
for thy pleasure all combine.

In thy house, great God, we offer
of thine own to thee,
and for thine acceptance proffer,
all unworthily,
hearts and minds and hands and voices,
in our choicest psalmody.

Honour, glory, might and merit
thine shall ever be,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
blessed Trinity;
of the best that thou hast given
earth and heaven render thee.

Francis Pott (1832 – 1909) altd.

Prayer of Praise & Thanksgiving & Confession
Lord God almighty, creator and ruler of creation, we come to bring our praises, in our own places, yet together. We praise you for all your creation, for those things we can see and touch, or hear, taste and smell, and also for the hosts of heaven which are hidden from our eyes. When we think of our universe, of all the amazing intricacies of it, we stand in awe of you.

And yet, you care for your creation too, not leaving it to decay, but coming yourself to bring wholeness, and wholeness to us, made in your image. We confess we are broken people, so often rejecting your grace and compassion for us, your desire to bind our wounds and heal us from our transgressions. Help us to be open to your grace and forgiveness, we pray.

And in this time set aside for you, help us to worship you in spirit and in truth, giving you all our burdens and cares. Speak to us we pray in the stillness, in the music, the words, that we may renewed as your people where we are, empowered to witness to you to whoever we may meet this coming week. For we pray in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.

Introduction to the first reading
This Psalm is the longest of the psalms, and yet the author is unknown. Most of the psalm is about God’s law, and the writer’s desire to keep it and to meditate on it. In Hebrew, each section is 7 verses long and starts with a letter of the alphabet, in sequence.

Reading – Psalm 119: 33 – 40

Organ interlude: Lento cantabile – Carl Czerny (1791 – 1857)

Introduction to the second reading
The lectionary is currently going through Romans, leaving the occasional passage out. So we’ve jumped from the end of Romans 12 to our 2nd reading for today, continuing the same subject in Romans 12, with just a bit about governing authorities in-between.

Reading – Romans 13: 8 – 14

I often like to read through a psalm in my own prayer time, but Psalm 119 can be a bit hard going to read all at once. It’s best split up into sections. Each section is actually fairly similar, in praise of God’s laws, mostly ending with a desire to keep the laws and statutes, or to meditate on them. Sometimes the psalmist speaks of a love for them.

This reminds me of that passage in Acts 2, which Holy Habits is based on, where we read the believers were ‘devoted’ to the apostles’ teaching. They lapped up their words, and wanted to grow in their understanding of what this new faith in Jesus was about. The apostles would have been explaining how Christ was foretold in Scripture and what Jesus said and did. That was the basis of their faith, and what the new believers took with them when they were scattered after the start of persecution. We get the sense that they were not just devoted, but delighted to do so.

That’s the same devotion of the psalmist. He – almost certainly but not definitely a he – asked the Lord to teach him all that God wanted from him, and not just in rote learning, but to gain an understanding of the laws and statutes. He says he delights in the Lord’s commandments, just as the new believers delighted in the teaching of the apostles.

I’m reminded of a small prayer group I belonged to at our Stuart’s Catholic primary school, to pray for the children and staff. A Muslim mum came along and joined us one week. She was asked at the end if she’d like to share prayers from her tradition the following week. She replied that she couldn’t as she didn’t understand the prayers. She knew them by heart, but didn’t know what she was saying.

That isn’t typical of all of the Muslim community, many are taught what they mean. But it reminds us that we do need to know what we’re signing up to, what we believe, and have some understanding. That isn’t only for our own benefit, but in case we’re asked to say something about what we believe to others. As it says in 1 Peter 3: 15, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’ (NIVUK) If our lives are shining Jesus, then we will get asked, and we do need to know what to say.

The psalmist then goes on to ask the Lord to turn his heart away from vanities and selfish gain. He wants to bathe in God’s ways instead.

The question which comes out for me from the psalm is, how much do I desire to learn of God’s ways, to gain understanding, to turn from looking at worldly things or selfish gain?

Our world is so full of everything beckoning us to spend and to make ourselves look good. When I was growing up, there was the phrase to, keep up with the Jones’ – I always wondered who they were! Maybe you had the same phrase used where you grew up. It was all vanity, the latest gadgets, the latest hairdo or style of clothing. The newsfeed on my mobile phone is really annoying as it has adverts in between the news items, all very new and interesting gadgets, that often make me think, ‘ooh, that looks good’. Fortunately, I can’t be bothered to order them! But these things are a draw away from what we should be doing or looking at.

The passage in Romans has echoes of the thoughts of the psalmist. It follows on from the long list we had last week in Romans 12: 9 – 21, of all those ways we should be as believers. Today’s passage almost starts with a list, but then Paul turns his attention to the word ‘love’. The word used is the one which speaks of God’s love, in Greek, ‘agape’. Every word in these verses for love is this word, agape. It’s a self-giving love, like the love God has for us in Jesus.

Paul sums up the commandments he quotes, and all that he has said in the previous chapter about how we should be to others in and outside the body of Christ, with this word, in the one commandment, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ That reminds us of course, of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 22, to the expert in the Law. Jesus summed up the commandments in two commands, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and to love your neighbour as yourself.

Paul is reiterating that here, with his concern in this part of the letter about how the Christians in Rome relate to each other and to others. He then turns to a similar thought to the psalmist about selfish gain and vanities. He puts it in terms of turning away from darkness, and not to give in to our worldly desires, or the desires of gratifying self – the flesh, as Paul puts it.

In all of these verses today and those last week, to me, the most important thing Paul says, the climax of the passage, is in the positive: v14, ‘Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ  . . .’

In all our striving, in trying our best to follow Jesus, we struggle to match up on our own. As Paul said in Romans 7: 25, after speaking about his own difficulties in following the Law, ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!’

In putting on Christ, we put ourselves under Christ’s way, to follow him. This means that we don’t have to strive to be Christ-like in the sense of worrying when we get it wrong. In putting on Christ we are aware of his Holy Spirit working in and through us, to make us more like Christ.

What we really have to work at is allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, to be attentive in prayer to the Spirit’s prompting in how we should live our lives, and be the witness for Jesus in our lives.

I love the phrase to, ‘let go and let God’. To me that says it all: ‘let go and let God’. In our faith we don’t have to strive to be good enough. Rather, our response to the grace of God is to follow Jesus, to allow him to work through us to love others. We so often get it wrong, and need to come back to the Lord, but ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!’

Tune: Capel – arr. R. Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958)

Your words to me are life and health
put strength into my soul;
enable, guide, and teach my heart
to reach its perfect goal.

Your words to me are light and truth;
from day to day I know
their wisdom, passing human thought,
as in their truth I grow.

Your words to me are full of joy,
of beauty, peace and grace;
from them I learn your perfect will,
through them I see your face.

Your words are perfected in one,
yourself, the living Word;
print your own image in my heart
in clearest lines, my Lord.

G. Currie Martin (1865 – 1937)

Prayers of intercession
written by Jane Bingham, The Vine at Home, compiled and produced by twelvebaskets

Loving and everlasting God we bring to you our concerns for others.

We bring before you the complexity of our world at this time. The horrors of conflict and war. The political landscape and all its arguments. The poverty and famine that affects people all over the world. The changing environment that is causing many challenges. The impact of living with a devastating virus.
Help us to be still and ready to notice you – So that we might know how to do your will.

We bring before you our local community and those known to us who are struggling with life. Particularly we think of those affected by loss of income & independence and all of the upheaval in their lives.
We think of those who are ill or grieving and in the silence we name them before you. (pause)
Help us to be still and ready to notice you – So that we might know how to do your will.

We bring before you ourselves. All we are facing. All we are rejoicing in. All that we are wondering about. All that we are worrying about. All that we are considering.
Help us to be still and ready to notice you – So that we might know how to do your will.

We bring all these things to you in the name of Christ who gave so much that we might know you better.


The Lord’s Prayer . . .

Tune: Will your anchor hold? – William Kirkpatrick (1838 – 1921)

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar and the reef is near?
While the surges rave, and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves your boat o’erflow?

Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
when the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail;
while your anchor holds you will still prevail.

Will your eyes behold through the morning light
the city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
when life’s storms are past for evermore?

Priscilla J. Owens (1829-1907) altd.

Benediction Jude v24 – 25
‘Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for ever . . .’
And may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with each one of us and those we love, now and always, Amen.

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