Prayers of Approach
We come together: to listen to God’s voice, to listen to each other, to speak what is on our hearts, to be held and heard, to find our voices, and to hear God’s call.
Lord, help us to hear your word, and to speak it. Help us to know your truth, and to show it. Help us to feel your love, and to share it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We come to your house for comfort and certainty, Lord. We want to hear words of reassurance. But you are the God who calls us out from our comfort zones, and sometimes we are unsettled by your word to us. Help us to be open this day, we pray – to dare to hear, in order that we may dare to speak as Jesus did, when the times demand. Amen.
Hymn God is love, his the care (R&S 274)
Readings: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
After reading the Scripture in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus continues by telling stories about Elijah and Elisha and how it was outsiders that they served; that sometimes God chooses Gentiles over Jews. The people are enraged and they respond by trying to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus responds by walking away.
We are encouraged to listen: to the voice of God, and to the voices of those we often ignore, even when their messages are disquieting. And we are encouraged to find our voice: to speak God’s word, and to speak for those whose voices need amplifying.
Paul says that spiritual gifts are worth nothing without love. Love is patient, kind, enduring and more; it is not envious, selfish or resentful. Love knows no boundaries, it is eternal and reaches completion in God.
Hymn Let there be love shared among us (R&S 477)
A few years ago the following all-age talk appeared in ‘ROOTs’ magazine of worship resources for churches:-
“You have probably seen the ‘Love is…’ series of cartoons? They have been appearing in newspapers for almost 50 years. Can you remember any of the punchlines? The cartoons started out as love notes that a woman made for her future husband. But they are not the original ‘Love is…’ sayings! Many centuries ago St Paul wrote a set – as we hear in today’s reading. I wonder how we might illustrate Paul’s sayings – any ideas?
As well as ‘Love is…’, we also read in the New Testament that ‘God is love’. So, using Paul’s words, we could say, ‘God is patient; God is kind’ and so on. Then again, we are called to be like God. So perhaps we can put our own names into Paul’s words – or maybe just ‘I’. I am patient. I am kind. I am not envious. I never insist on my own way. I rejoice in the truth. And so on.
How far can you get through the list before you know you are saying something that isn’t quite true? None of us is that perfect! Try it now! It is hard to live like this. How might we change our lives to be better at loving in ways that Paul describes? What difference might it make to us, and to others, if we do? What actions might this kind of love lead us into taking?”
Even in an age when fewer people go to church regularly the passage from 1 Corinthians is well known. It has become part of our culture, widely used at weddings and funerals and even in mainly secular settings. But why has it become so popular? Could it be that in a world that has become so self-centred and inward looking people are seeking a love which is all-inclusive, generous and embracing? Perhaps its power lies precisely in the way it places love at the very heart of the well-lived life. Paul reminds us that no matter how much faith we might have, or how gifted we might be, without love we are nothing.
That’s something which the people of Nazareth seem to have forgotten. When Jesus begins to preach they start by being impressed but then the mood changes as they question who he is and where this teaching comes from. We can sometimes see similar attitudes in our own communities. A ‘local hero’ comes home and is feted but as soon as they say something which the crowd disagrees with, refuse to do what the crowd wants or point out something selfish or which needs to change then it’s ‘who do they think they are?’ – ‘they’re getting too big for their boots’ – ‘they’re no better than us!’
When Jesus makes it clear that he is not going to perform miracles in Nazareth just because they want him to the dissatisfaction begins to mount. And when he tells two stories from the scriptures about Elijah and Elisha they get even more angry. By using these examples, Jesus suggests that God sometimes favours Gentiles over Jews, and that a true prophet does not hand out favours to family and friends. The people’s reaction shows that their admiration for him was selfish rather than a genuine willingness to learn from him. It was a desire to ‘own’ him, to claim him for themselves, and increase their own prestige rather than wanting to listen and learn from him.
On the other hand the love of which Paul speaks is the sacrificial love that invites us to empathise with each other, to look beyond ourselves and to grow in mutual generosity. When Paul tells us that even if we have faith that can move mountains but lack love we are nothing, he offers a profound cautionary tale – without the generosity of love, terrible things can happen. Jesus reminds his hometown that God’s grace and generosity is not reserved for those who – whether family, friends or neighbours – think they deserve it. Jesus is called to speak God’s words, whether or not they are well received. We are challenged to stand up for what we know is right, and speak with confidence, regardless of the consequences. In the end, it is love that will save us.
Hymn Bind us together Lord (MP 52)
(Prayers and other material © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.)
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray for the world and the Church, thankful of God’s goodness. We pray for the poor and for prisoners, for the unemployed and for the homeless, for those who will go without sustenance today, and for those who have the power to feed them. Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for those who live in places of conflict, for refugees and those fleeing war, for those who experience conflict at home or at work, and for those with the power to negotiate peace. Lord, hear our prayer. We pray for those who have been oppressed, for victims of crime, both disclosed and secret, for children, women and men who feel unsafe, and for those who administer justice. Lord, hear our prayer. We pray for those we know who are in need, for those who are ill or housebound, for the very young and very old, and for all those who care for them. Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for ourselves, for faith and hope and love to flood our lives, and for the grace to pass those gifts of God to others. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.
Hymn Will you come and follow me (R&S 558)
God of love,
as we go through this week help us to be loud, to speak your word, to spread your love, to be a voice for the voiceless. Help us to be quiet, to listen to you, to listen to those that most need to be heard.
and may your blessing, the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
go with us, and remain with us, always.