Sunday Service Sheet 16th May 2021
Call: You who are passing through hard times: come! You who need strength to support those who are suffering: come! You who are full of happiness: come! You who are burdened and busy: come! Come; let us unite in worship of the one who offers us protection, comfort and joy.
Prayer: We come to you, Lord, ready to worship, ready to learn, ready for prayer, ready for action. May our worship here spill out into our every day. Gracious God, set apart as your people yet together in your world; emboldened by your power, protected by your promises and filled with your peace; upheld by your word, inspired by your truth and named as your friends, we worship you as one. Keep us safe in the world. Keep us praying for the world. Keep us serving the world. As one, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn: Father hear the prayer we offer StF518/R&S 495
Roots introduces this week’s material as follows: “Before his arrest, Jesus prays for his friends that they may be one as he is one with the Father. He asks that they may be protected in the uncertain times they face and made holy – i.e. set apart from the world’s unbelief – by the truth about who Jesus is. The way in which Jesus prays helps us to understand the breadth and potential of prayer – not a formula of words, but an ongoing conversation and relationship with God/Jesus that helps to inform and shape everything that we are and everything that we do.”
I am interested that the Spirit is not included in this relationship as we are bidden to turn to the paraclete and she will intercede on our behalf. Within the Godhead is the potential of prayer that we will explore through Jesus’ prayer for his friends in uncertain times.
This week will be my last chance to join in-person worship at ChristChurch before the summer and I will return there on 5th September 2021 when the service will include communion. I shall be supporting Maggie Kirkbride at Stamford next Sunday and be at Spalding URC the week after. Let me know if you would like a pastoral visit to discuss your journey with Jesus and I will do my best to organise this.
Prayer: God of yesterday, tomorrow and today, we are children
of the world you love and care for. We
praise you, heavenly Father, for calling us into relationship with you. We praise you, Lord Jesus, for the power
of your name and the protection of your prayers. We praise you, Holy Spirit, for your
guidance and gifts that enable us to draw others to you.
For you are faithful in times of uncertainty, strong when we are weak, and the breath of all our being, the energy of all our doing and the peace of all our resting.
Forgive us, gracious God, when we have turned away from your word and immersed ourselves in the distractions of the world. Forgive us, when we have sought to belong to the world and compromised your truth to fit in. Forgive us, when we have bickered among ourselves and not shown the world that we are one. Forgive us, when we have distanced ourselves from those you have called us to serve. Forgive us, O God; protect us and unite us.
Gracious God, we thank you for the enduring prayer of Jesus for his disciples which reaches and reassures us today as we walk in their footsteps, reminding us that we are not alone but protected, empowered, forgiven, and surrounded by your grace every step of the way. Amen.
Hymn: Lord of the Church, we pray for our renewing not in Stf or R&S
https://youtu.be/2Z__U5_ktdw tune: Londonderry Air
Readings John 17:6 – 19
Message: In Jesus’ prayer for his disciples there is a tapestry woven between Jesus, God, and the people following him. Threads, patterns, and connections interweave. Jesus, God, and the people following him are woven together. Through these threads flow love, care, and mutuality. Jesus names how they are connected. What connects them is the gift of God in Jesus. The gift of God swirls together in each being, forming a chain of correlations that affirms and enacts the gift in each participant: God, Jesus, and us. Although the Spirit is not mentioned I believe there is another strand of blessing adding to the richness of the relationship.
The Spirit will open the hearts of the people to receiving Jesus as the gift of God as they become bearers of the gift to the world. The unity of these participants shows the place where they belong, and that belonging shows the light of life that flows through these relationships. Jesus’ light was lit both by God’s light in him and also by the response of the people in accepting Jesus’ light, the light of God.
These correlations are only possible in the world, the material thread that also holds everything together. This world, created by God, is also a gift of God. Jesus came into the world to live God’s light fully. However, the world has also rejected the light of God, has denied the gift, subjugated people, and pushed down the poor, the women, and the oppressed. This is a dangerous world, so dangerous that Jesus asks God to protect his people from this world! This world of death and violence hated Jesus and his people. This world of sin tortured Jesus and put him on the cross. From this world of destitution, we indeed need protection. We live in this world but it feels like we don’t belong here because what gives life is constantly being destroyed.
The paradox is that God created this world and now Jesus is praying that his people are protected from it. We might find the answer in how we understand the κόσμος (kosmos) , the word that is translated ‘world’. It can be used in different ways. For example, all peoples of the earth (John 12:19), or the entire earth (Mark 16:15), or the entire universe including the visible and the invisible (i.e. angels, souls of humans, invisible and intelligible laws of physics according to which the visible universe operates etc.) like in Romans 1:20.
In the context of our reading today it could be that it is used as the opposite to αἰώνιον meaning ‘eternal’. The eternal being permanent and the world being temporary. By his death, Jesus is making the permanent a possibility but we continue to live in the temporary until the day comes that the eternal will supplant the existing order. Revelations 21 speak of a (re)newed heaven and a (re)newed earth indicating a time to come when our knowledge will be complete.
The reality is that humanity has to continue living in the world and elements of this existence are abysmal. Every day can be a challenge and news of wars and rumours of war are all around us. Temptations are manifold and evil lurches in the shadows. Jesus knows too well the reality and John’s Gospel presents us with Jesus’ High Priestly prayer of encouragement and protection.
I like the image of a tapestry woven between the Godhead and the people and can imagine the different colours stranding through the design, overlapping and combining all relationships resulting in a wonderfully rich design. Perhaps it cannot be all gold and purple?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as your disciples in the world
today, we thank you that your word of truth, your prayer of power and your
heart of love,
continue to protect, inspire and unite us as we live out our faith,
build up our relationships, and hold the world before you in prayer.
God, who understands our needs before we think and speak, we unload our pains
and joys, our sorrows and our celebrations, and bring our prayers before you: for
the hurting and the hurt; for the loved and the loveless; for the young and
old; for believers and non-believers; for those certain of their faith and
those who waver; for those of different faiths and identities from us; for the
ill and those in pain and distress; for the dying and those whose bodies are
etched with the marks of death and dying; for the grieving whose minds are
bewildered and burdened by grief. All-powerful
God, surround each and every one
with the circle of your protection. Amen.
The Lord’s prayer
Hymn: One more step along the world I go StF 476/R&S 549
Blessing: As we conclude our worship, Lord, may
our prayers be just beginning. May what
we have learned and what we have discovered,
lead us into action and lives full of worship every hour of every day.
We ask in the name of Jesus, whose whole life was an offering of worship to you. And the blessing of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with us. Amen.
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