Order of Service
Piano prelude: Allegro – Samuel Wesley (1766 – 1837)
Call to worship Psalm 8: 1 & 3 – 5 (NIVUK)
‘LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.’
Lord God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we praise you for who you are, the one above all, who created this wonderful universe. We are amazed as we look around us and look into the skies, at all the order and beauty, just as the psalmist was in awe of your works all those millennia ago. And what is even more amazing, to him and to us, is your love and care for us mere human beings. We are amazed that you love us so much, you came to live among us, and live with us still through your Holy Spirit, caring about even the little things of our lives. We give you thanks and praise, and lift this time of worship to you now, for your glory, Amen.
Tune: Nicaea – J. B. Dykes (1823 – 76)
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty
early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wast, and art, and ever more shalt be.
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy, there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
all thy works shall praise thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Reginald Heber (1783-1826)
Prayer of confession and forgiveness from Margaret Madill
We bring before You with grief in our hearts, the things we have said or done recently that have broken Your heart, Father God. We lift to You with joy in our hearts, the things we have said or done recently that have made You happy.
We bring before You with grief in our hearts, all the horrors that are still being carried out by our fellow men and women in so many parts of the world that have broken Your heart again, Father God. We lift to You all the acts of kindness and generosity that have been done by our fellow men and women worldwide that have made You happy and lifted our spirits.
We often fail to do the right thing Father God and we often surprise ourselves when we rise to a challenge. We thank You that You offer us forgiveness and give us the gift of Your Spirit. We now receive that gift.
We invite you to join with us in the words of the Lord’s Prayer . . .
Introduction to the first reading
This is the end of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Church at Corinth. For Paul the pastor it has been a difficult letter to write and a difficult one for the Church to hear. Yet the final greetings are warm and urging, written with a heart of deep love. It ends with the benediction we often say to one another at the end of a service or a meeting – the grace.
Reading: 2 Corinthians 13: 11 – 14
Piano interlude: Träumerei – Robert Schumann (1810 – 56)
Introduction to the second reading
Another ending, of Matthew’s gospel, the famous great commission of Jesus to the 11 apostles after the resurrection, when He sends them out to make disciples.
Reading: Matthew 28: 16 – 20
Today is called Trinity Sunday in the Church calendar. There’s a joke that it’s the Sunday Ministers avoid preaching, because it’s such a difficult theme.
While getting all the worship resources together to send around the Mission & Care Group, I read the Methodist short devotional service, sent to me by Christ Church Halton, which is produced centrally and sent to all Methodist Churches to distribute.
As it’s Trinity Sunday, of course, the person writing it, Rev’d Stephen Froggatt, addressed this theme. A few lines of what he wrote caught my eye. He reminds us that the word Trinity isn’t found in the Bible, ‘because’, and I’m quoting him here, ‘it is a summary of the whole of Scripture.’ He describes it as a word image, to capture, he says the ‘mystery and awe’ of some of the passages which describe God. He also says that we don’t need to explain it, it’s just a simple image.
In previous years of ministry I have tried to explain it a little. I’ve used various other ways to describe the Trinity, some more simple than others. One was from a retired American pastor, Hubert Beck, who focused on the name of God. And just as our names mean something, so all the names of God have meaning, and describe aspects of His being. There are of course, so many ways the Bible describes God, all of which enrich our understanding. But the three we use most in Christian worship is this Trinitarian use of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Yet these are not just ways of describing God. We see them as different entities within the one God. We often talk about them as the three persons of the Trinity. From that, we talk about the relational nature of God, that these three persons of God relate to one another, in a similar way in which people relate to each another.
Relational, yet one being. This idea begins in Genesis. In Chapter 1 verse 26, ‘…God said, “Let us make mankind in our image…” The plurals, us and our. And the following verses go on to say that God made them male and female in His image, further giving us the concept of relationship within the God-head.
Whether this helps our thoughts on the Trinity or not, I’ve no idea! I think I’ll personally stick with Rev’d Stephen Froggatt’s thought that the Trinity is a summary of God as seen in the Bible.
It’s especially seen in the New Testament. There, God has revealed Himself to us, certainly in part, in Jesus. And He calls us together. And so we go on in the passage in Matthew’s gospel, to Jesus’ words, sending His apostles out to make disciples and baptising in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today, as in the early Church, we’re all baptised into the name of God, all united as one together, that relational aspect of our faith coming into play. Jesus tells us here, in this passage known as the great commission, what the Church is about – to make disciples. He also promises to be with the disciples, with us, to the end of the age, that of course, being through His Holy Spirit.
I attended an online conference with the Northerly Synods on Tuesday morning, on ‘Life after Lockdown’. One phrase that was shared in the chat which goes on at the same time as engaging in the conference, a way of making comments on the proceedings, touched a lot of people. That included myself and our Synod Clerk, Tim Crossley, who referenced it in this week’s Synod briefing.
The phrase was, ‘Lockdown is not a Sabbath to rest, but a jubilee to reset’. It was written by Rev Mike Walsh of North Western Synod, a Special Category Minister in Manchester. I’ll repeat his phrase, ‘Lockdown is not a Sabbath to rest, but a jubilee to reset’.
As Jesus says at the end of Matthew’s gospel, He is with us to the end of the age. That means He is with us in this lockdown. He is with us if we see it as a Sabbath to rest, and He is with us if we see it as a jubilee to reset. Maybe it is both.
Many of us have been resting from our usual routines. Many of us have also been re-setting in our own lives, maybe having a good clear out, or a good spring clean! Some of us may have been rethinking priorities, how we use the environment, or thinking about our part in other global issues, the one this week, being racial justice.
The Church have been resting from our usual routines, slowly taking things up again, using media in various ways. And that has been good, because it has given us a chance to reset, and is an opportunity to think through what we do as Church, what we will take forward in the future, and who we are as Christians.
I posed a consideration a few weeks ago in my letter in the May Church magazine at Headingley St Columba. It was: ‘I wonder what your thoughts are of what the Church, the Church as people, and our calling by Christ to be His body in the world, is to you.’ I had a couple of responses, one about keeping the worship and fellowship aspects of Church, and the other with lots of suggestions of what we could be in the future for this community around us, maybe even minus a building.
Those replies encapsulate what Church is – a worshipping community and the body of Christ sent to go and make disciples. In this Jubilee of resetting, we have a great opportunity to think through both how we worship and how we reach out to others. The URC have produced a document, ‘Ready for the new ‘normal’, which is an invitation to Churches to discuss, not just about how we’ll open up Church again, but also about how we’ll be Church in the future. Take time to ponder that, the document is available on the Synod website.
The commission of Jesus to go and make disciples, is in the ‘go’. For so many years, traditional Churches have expected people to come to us. In this lockdown, we are sent. We are sent to be Church where we are, in our homes and to our neighbours, just like the early Church. And in this time of resetting, we can think of how we can be about Jesus’ business, not just of enjoying worship ourselves, but of making disciples.
To the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Tune: Repton – C. H. H. Parry (1848 – 1918)
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity
interpreted by love!
Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!
J.G. Whittier (1807-92)
Offering prayer from Margaret Madill
Our offering each day Lord is our perseverance in coping with our situation as well as we can; it is being patient with ourselves when something trivial goes wrong and forgiving ourselves when we make it into something far bigger than it is. Our offering is the love we show to others when we have the opportunity to do so. Accept these gifts Lord and our gratitude for always being by our side. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession
adapted from prayers written by Jill Baker, The Vine at Home, which is compiled and produced by twelvebaskets
We offer our prayers for others to the God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, already present in every place, already bringing good out of every evil, already holding in love every person:
We hold in our prayers those who feel surrounded by chaos at this time. We especially think of all the couples filing for divorce because they have not found living confined
We hold in our prayers those who walk in the valley of the shadow of death. We especially pray for the family of Nancy Houlgate, for all those who have the virus or have lost loved one, and all those in the democratic Republic of Congo with the latest outbreak of Ebola… Lord, give light.
We hold in our prayers those who are oppressed by violence and war. Especially we lift the protests against racism in the US and over here… Lord, give peace.
We hold in our prayers those who seek to lead our communities, our nations and our world. We pray especially for our Gov’t at this time, that they would do the right thing, and for our Queen as she continues to isolate yet keep abreast of state business… Lord, give wisdom.
We hold in our prayers those who find it hard to believe, who struggle with doubt… Lord, give courage, and grace to us as we share the good news of your love.
We rejoice in your promise to be with us always, to the end of the age, as we commend all those for whom we pray into the care of our Three-in-One God. Amen.
Tune: Moscow – Felice de Giardini (1716 – 1796)
Thou whose almighty Word
chaos and darkness heard,
and took their flight;
hear us, we humbly pray,
and where the gospel-day
sheds not its glorious ray,
let there be light!
Thou who didst come to bring
on thy redeeming wing
healing and sight,
health to the sick in mind,
sight to the inly blind,
now to all humankind
let there be light!
Spirit of truth and love,
life-giving, holy dove,
speed forth thy flight;
move on the waters’ face,
bearing the lamp of grace,
and in earth’s darkest place
let there be light!
Holy and blessed Three,
Wisdom, Love, Might,
boundless as ocean’s tide
rolling in fullest pride,
through the world far and wide,
let there be light!
John Marriott (1780-1825)
A message from Jane Bower
Blessing from Margaret Madill
At the beginning of this week may the Lord strengthen our will to succeed in our daily tasks, may He give us dreams to hold on to and the wisdom to discern the good that can come from our current situation.
Lord, lift your face to shine upon us and all those whom we love and care for this day and for ever more.
A musical greeting to Len Bower on the occasion of his 100th birthday.
Ian Lawrie: Choral prelude on “St Columba” – Robin Milford (1903 – 59)
Peter Sarkies: Oboe sonata – Alessandro Besozzi (1702 – 93)
Philippa Jones: Allemande from Cello suite in G major – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)