Call to Worship
From time immemorial, God our Father has raised up prophets to proclaim his rule of love and justice.
And in Jesus, we have even more than a prophet. Christ, the ruler of the earth and heavens, comes to scatter the shadows in our hearts. In his light shall we see light, liberating all those who dwell in darkness. By his light shall the nations walk.
May that love which moves the sun and the other stars shine in us.
The Lord of glory be with us all.
I’m sure we are looking forward to the day when we can gather as a partnership of churches (all 600 of us):
- and we can praise God
- and remember those people we have lost to this dreadful virus
- and dance in celebration
- and gather round a campfire and tell each other stories
- and thank God for his steadfast presence over these last 12 months
we will eventually come out of our modern-day exodus self-isolations and the God of the ancient exodus will bless us with healing, transformation, grace and love.
A great place to look for instructions about how we should go about this is the Psalms.
Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart
in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
2 Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
giving them the lands of other nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise
This psalm would have been used in the worship of the gathered Jewish people, perhaps in daily worship or maybe just for special festivals – we don’t know.
It is carefully composed because it is written as an acrostic, that is, it has twenty-two lines (not verses), the first word of the first line begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (Alef), and each subsequent line begins with the next letter in turn (bet…)
The psalm begins by expressing the intent of the worshipper. The first line is in the future — ‘I will thank the Lord’.
Although the psalm is used to express thanks to God in the present, the content of the psalm stresses what God has done in the past, with a particular emphasis on the events of the Exodus.
Verse 5 (He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever) refers to God’s provision of manna in the desert after the people had left Egypt.
Verse 6 (He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations) is a reminder that this long journey led to the promised land.
Verses 7-8 (The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness) are reminders of the giving of the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai
Verse 9 (He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name) sums up this whole period of time, for God redeemed the people and made an eternal covenant with them.
It is God’s actions in the past that have brought blessing now.
The psalm celebrates a moment in history that was the foundation of Israel’s life and faith, and which marked them out as chosen people. God’s continuing care and concern is seen as an ongoing expression of the Exodus events.
Ongoing even until today. We are part of the continuing exodus story. The Israelites were the most unlikely of peoples to have stuck together, focussed on a common goal of recovery and reconstruction. The most unlikely of people to willingly follow God into a new future.
And so are we!
I pray that as a world, as a nation, as a partnership, as churches and as individual disciples of Jesus we will follow God into the new future that, perhaps, we all know will be very different from our past.
I pray that we can suffer the inconvenience of change and excel in the adventure of change. Knowing full well that Jesus will be hand-in-hand with us all the way.
I pray that we will be open to the healing and calmness that can only be found in the Holy Spirit as it passes between us all.
From Moses to Mark
people have told your story, O Lord.
From psalms to sacred songs
people have sung your praise.
From north and east and west and south
you have spelled good news for all nations.
Lord God, you maintained your covenant with us forever.
May we keep faith with you
by living out and telling the full tale
of your saving work
in the places we live and work.
Enrich our story-telling that it be attractive and true,
striking listeners by its conviction
People our imaginations with characters from the past
who have inspired not only their own generation
but continue to speak to countless others.
And give us the eyes to recognise the prophets among us today
and heed the stories they have to tell.
We ask all this in Jesus’ name.
A prayer for inward renewal
O holy God, you choose our humanity through which to share your divinity.
May each of us nurture the Christ-like love that you plant in us.
Out of our sometimes unpromising and erring ways may you make something beautiful,
a life worthy of our king, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Prayer of Pandemic Petition
God, as we enter this holy time, we bring into your presence the bewilderment and uncertainty engulfing our world.
As we light a candle of hope, we pray that our anxiety may soften.
We ask for calm, not only for ourselves, but for all people.
Give us all a spirit of love and compassion in this time of need.
And for all who are sick, isolated and afraid, embrace them with the assurance of your peace and love.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
And the love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all, evermore.
MIQEDEM – Psalm 111/112 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-7KNsAIy3k)
Holy and Awesome is His Name – Esther Mui (www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeHkhgQdyGI)
Psalm 111 – Adele Morgan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2arB6s0LSbo )