Home Service for Sunday 13th February 2022

Prayers of Approach

Lord God, we come before you with heads bowed and hands open for your blessing, that our minds may be infused with loving thoughts and that we may use our words and our hands to bless others. Amen.

Father, we worship and adore you for the light you bring to this dreary time of year, when we long for spring. Lord, we thank you that we are blessed. Help us to recognise all that you have given to us. We pray that not only will we reflect on your blessings we will also seek to be a blessing to others, with your help and in your name.

Lord, we thank you for the blessing of every shoot and bud, the reminders of your presence and your ever-circling, ever-giving love. We thank and praise you for all the many blessings in our lives. For food and shelter, for family and friends, for the measure of health we have, and the many comforts we take for granted. Thank you also for your plain speaking; these blessings are not merited by anything we have done, just as the problems of many – of those who hunger, and are homeless, and sick – are also undeserved. So, Lord, in giving our heartfelt thanks, we ask that we might be a blessing to those whom the worldly-wise often curse. Amen.

Hymn Praise my soul the king of heaven (R&S104)

Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-10

Luke 6:17-26

Introduction

Jeremiah reminds us that to be blessed, to be living in God’s fulness and delight, is not a matter of appearances. The challenge is to work out the difference between trusting in God and trusting in that which cannot really satisfy. Blessings wait to be found but they won’t come easily. Jesus’ good news of the kingdom of God turns the world upside down. We are encouraged to live a blessed life. It is good to reflect on the blessings from God. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.

Hymn: Lord I have made thy word my choice (R&S 316)

Sermon/Reflection

In Luke, this passage takes place at the bottom of a hill (not on ‘the mount’ where we hear the parallel passage, the Beatitudes, in Matthew’s Gospel). Luke’s version has balanced sets of four blessings and woes. Jesus was not spelling out four ways to be happy. Rather, he was describing the way things are inside and outside the kingdom. There is both a present (such as the rich having had the rewards) and a future (such as you will be filled) reference in the blessings and woes.

You probably remember the Irving Berlin song ‘Count your blessings’ which he wrote for the film ‘White Christmas’ starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney (you can watch a clip of it on YouTube, https://youtu.be/DXKxazgio2s ). It has been recorded by many singers since, including Harry Secombe and Johnny Mathis among others.

It is an encouragement not to dwell on the misfortunes, disappointments or the nastiness, and even horrors, of life and the world around us but to envision the good, take comfort, and find courage and inspiration in them. It is a totally secular song which speaks to everyone whether they have a religious belief or not.

Christians however have even more cause to ‘count our blessings’ and take comfort in God’s promises. Too often though this has been used as an excuse to stand by and do nothing when people are suffering, a ‘pie in the sky when you die’ attitude which says to those in need you are so fortunate that God has blessed you so much and given you so much to look forward to. It absolves those more fortunate of any responsibility or sense of guilt at the inequalities and injustices of the world and their (our) complicity in it. Jesus’ words however are as much about the present as the future, and the stark warnings, or ‘woes’ that he pronounces against those self-satisfied and complacent, comfortable people are a ‘wake-up’ call. They, and we, are given a chance to look at our lives and those around us, to compare them, and to do something about the injustice and inequality. And if you are the one who is suffering, or the task seems daunting, or you encounter obstacles and difficulties then ‘count your blessings’.

When upon life’s billows You are tempest tossed When you are discouraged Thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings Name them one by one And it will surprise you What the lord has done
Count your blessings Name them one by one Count your blessings See what God has done
Count your blessings Name them one by one Count your many blessings See what God has done
Are you ever burdened With a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy You are called to bear?
Count your many blessings Every doubt will fly And you will keep singing As the days go by
Count your blessings…
So, amid the conflict Whether great or small Do not be disheartened God is over all
Count your many blessings Angels will attend Help and comfort give you To your journey’s end
Count your blessings…
Count your blessings Name them one by one Count your blessings See what God has done
Count your blessings Name them one by one Count your many blessings See what God has done

Songwriters: Edwin Othello Excell, Johnson Jr Oatman

· When do you feel full of God’s blessings?
· In what ways can you be a blessing to others?

Hymn: Brother, sister, let me serve you (R&S 474)

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, we pray for those whose hope is for this life only, especially those who are facing their own death, or that of a loved one. Enlighten them, we pray; pierce their darkness with rays from heaven that they might find faith and see beyond. We pray also for those whose faith has taken a blow due to circumstances – those who have fallen sick, or become unemployed, or who suffer the pain of broken relationships. Amid all their loss, Lord, remind them of the promise of resurrection, and the reality of lesser resurrections that point the way to it – restoration of health, new opportunities, and the rekindling of love – all leading to rebirth of hope. We bring before you a world of people with past regrets, bowed down by concerns in the present, and fears for the future. Help us all, we pray, to be uplifted by the reality of Christ’s resurrection, which leads to a bright tomorrow beyond all our tomorrows. Amen.

Hymn: The kingdom of God is justice and joy (R&S 200)

Blessing

Lord, as we step into this week, help us to cultivate our relationship with you. Show us our barriers to receiving your blessing. Help us not only to recognise how blessed we are, but also show us ways that your blessing can overflow to others through us. Amen.

Prayers © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission

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