Sunset by Val Atkinson
Welcome. Good morning! My name is Kate Hunt and I am studying to be a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the URC. I start 3rd year at Northern College in September. My sending church is St. Anne’s URC, but I have got to know quite a few churches around the West Lancashire Missional Partnership. I welcome this opportunity to plan and prepare services and share worship with you all.
Over these 5 Sundays we are going to do some travelling around to get to know our area better and celebrate our part in God’s work here on the Fylde. I’m using the lectionary readings and have found that these speak to us here and now in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in the middle of change and strangeness offering comfort, challenge, and hope.
Call. Mighty God of miracles
we come before you.
We imagine what it might have been like
being part of a crowd of more than 5,000.
Today, we are separate,
but we think about all the people
worshipping you, on the coast,
in the villages, towns, and cities,
in the countryside and on the hills.
Bound together by your great love,
we gather in spirit to meet with you, Jesus.
(Adapted from Prayers © ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.)
Gathering. Let us gather together in the words of the song below reminding us of words from two readings set for today – Psalm 145 and Isaiah 55.1-5
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
God’s mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning, new every morning;
great is your faithfulness, O Lord,
great is your faithfulness.
Edith McNeil© 1974, 1975 Celebration
Introduction. Today we start by the sea.
Here we are all so close to the sea – from the marshes at Freckleton, right round to edge of Morecambe Bay. I grew up by the sea too and I love to stay by the sea on holiday.
Isaiah 55 says,
Everyone who thirsts come to the waters
We know the sea water will not quench our thirst, but the sea can still refresh us.
Come to me;
Listen, so that you may live.
And just as listening to the waves bring us either excitement or peace, we come to hear God’s Word to listen to what God is saying to us and be revived, renewed, refreshed.
Of course, the sea is not always kind. There are disasters and lives lost at sea. Towns and villages flooded – homes destroyed because of global warming. Seas are rising, islands may cease to exist, livelihoods lost.
The virus has sometimes felt like a sea, washing over us, consuming us. Taking us away from where we want to be, destroying our normal.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
And raises up all who are bowed down
The Lord watches over all who love him.
Even though we may feel washed away by the waves of change and difficulty God is with us in it, guiding us, holding us, loving us.
Song. My Lighthouse by Gilkeson and Llewellyn is a joyful song I learnt at The Lighthouse Community Church where I was on placement last year. It contains the words –
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
Have a listen –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reAlJKv7ptU
Reading. Matthew 14.13-21
Reflection. We are now on the shore of a sea far away, but so familiar to us. Jesus has heard of the death of his cousin John the Baptist. He gets on a boat to find some rest, but the crowds follow him, they need him.
We know this story so well. At Messy Church, we printed many people to show the thousands who came. All of them were fed from 2 loaves and 5 fishes!! I love the idea that the miracle is not Jesus making the fish and bread go so far, but everyone sharing what they had. We have seen a generosity of spirit over the last few months. People going above and beyond, supporting others, especially the vulnerable, in more and more clever, creative ways.
Like the baskets shared in the gospel, we all have things to offer. Many churches are describing how Christians have been practically sharing God’s love, sharing what is in our basket.
I wonder what might be in your basket. Do you feel it is empty? Do you wonder if you even have a basket? But we all a basket with something in – prayer, song, making, cooking, cleaning, writing to local and national authorities to change unjust policies, listening, making a phone call, making others’ smile, holding someone’s hand. Last week, my friends’ 19-year-old son with severe autism, reached out to hold my hand. My first outside my family touch for nearly 6 months – such a joy.
In this story there are those who go uncounted. In the culture of the times, only the men are important enough to be counted. There are many in our communities and our world who are left out, left uncounted.
It is good to come and be fed abundantly by Jesus. But we must remember those uncounted. We have become aware of many of these people during Covid. Workers doing vital jobs, appreciated for the first time, workers without PPE, people without homes, people whose incomes have ceased. We see countries with poor healthcare provision. We witness those treated differently because of the colour of their skin, their faith, their sexuality. Recently, I have attended meetings online learning about the inequality in the Holy Lands, becoming aware of the suffering of the Palestinians there.
Just as Jesus fed and filled all, we must share our baskets with all, looking at what we can offer, what we can share with our local and global communities.
We have the abundance of God’s enduring love. Between us we can weave together baskets full of this abundance, to share with one another and to share with all, especially those who go uncounted.
Prayers. For our prayers I would like you to imagine those baskets full of bread and fish.
The baskets begin with brown, flattened,
thin strips of plants.
Alone they are not strong,
unable to carry anything,
Sometimes we feel like this,
Useless, alone, unable,
We forget our gifts,
Forget we are God’s wonderful creation.
Forgive us Lord
Now imagine these strips
being skilfully woven together by our Creator.
They become a beautiful basket –
A basket full of all the people in the partnership –
Coming together with all their Spirit-inspired prayers, music, kindness, patience, commitment, time, creativity, joy, and generosity.
Thank you, Lord, that when we come together, we have more than enough for all.
Together we bring to the Lord
those who have not enough food
those who are uncounted
those who are sick
those who grieve
those we have left outside
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer
Please say whichever version of the Lord’s prayer you are most familiar with.
Hymn. Lead us Heavenly Father Lead us
Sending on prayer. Lord be with us as we travel
on this journey round the Fylde.
Thank you for feeding us so abundantly
where we are, how we are.
Thank you for reminding us,
that as we travel together
we are more than we can imagine,
Because you travel with us.