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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

Epiphany 3 Year C (Liturgical Colour white)


jesus preachingIntroduction

The reading this week from Luke tells us about the first sermon which Jesus preached and very radical it was indeed. It was all going rather well and people were astonished at the words of grace coming out of Jesus mouth. However Jesus began to teach the people and ascribed to himself the fulfilment of scripture. This provoked jealously and criticism and words which showed that people were sceptical about thinking that Jesus was anything other than just an ordinary person like everybody else.

Jesus went on in the following verses to quote two people

1. the widow at Zarephath who was dealt with by Elijah and

2. the soldier Naaman the Syrian who Elisha healed.

The thing about these two were that they were both Gentiles. Jesus was making the point that the poring out of God's grace was something which was going to benefit the Gentiles and not the Jews. Jesus is the Messiah mentioned in Isaiah, but he is going to shatter some of the traditional expectations. Jesus will not inflict punishment on the Gentiles but will bring God's grace and mercy.

The Jews would have to forget any ideas of the Messiah coming to restore them as a great military nation. No wonder that Jesus was unpopular!

 

Opening Verse of Scripture Psalm 19 v 7 - 10

The law of the LORD is perfect, the precepts of the LORD are right, the fear of the LORD is pure, and the ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty God, who’s Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen  Common Worship

God of all mercy, your Son proclaimed good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom to the oppressed: anoint us with the Holy Spirit and set all your people free to praise you in Christ our Lord. Common Worship Shorter Collect

Loving God, through your Son you have called us to repent of our sin, to believe the good news, and to celebrate the coming of your kingdom. Grant that we may hear the call to discipleship and gladly proclaim the gospel to a waiting world; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

First Bible Reading Nehemiah Chapter Chapter 8 v 1 - 3, 5 - 10

All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 

Second Reading 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 v 12 –31a

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.

Gospel Reading Luke Chapter 4 v 14 – 21

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

Post Communion Prayer

Almighty Father, who’s Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: may your people, illumined by your word and sacraments, shine with the radiance of His glory, that He may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; for He is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen


Commentary

Conviction and Action

The Old Testament readings take us back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah when the exiles return to Jerusalem. Ezra and Nehemiah were different individuals with different roles. Ezra was a scribe, and Nehemiah was a governor. Ezra is known for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem and Nehemiah is known for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem about 50 years later. Together they made a powerful partnership and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah forms an exciting and inspiring story. The book of Ezra begins with Cyrus of Persia’s decree, in 538 BC, permitting the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple and his order that the sacred vessels taken from the Temple in 587 be returned. Nehemiah is ashamed when he hears about what is happening. Ashamed because he knows the people have fallen away and forgotten the law but ashamed about what that might imply about a God whose faithfulness could be called into question as a result. Nehemiah sets out tto rebuild the walls, and, as difficult as this was, it was the easy bit. The harder part is to rebuild the people so they are fit to live in the city according to the manner God intended. So in today’s reading the scribe Ezra begins reading out loud from the book of the torah law, the Pentateuch, to all the people who are now assembled within the completed walls, just by the Water Gate as part of that greater rebuilding process. It’s a motley crowd gathered there. Some of them are the dregs of the population who were left behind in Jerusalem during successive waves of invasion, not even deemed worthy of the effort of taking them into captivity. Some are wealthy and independent and for whom the exile has served them well financially. Some are faithful Jews but who have forgotten some of the basic things about God. Some have wives and families from other nations and now have divided loyalties. But they are united as a nation once more and back in the land of the covenantal promises. The reading is therefore their story and rejoicing in God they celebrates their unity. But as they moved back it would have been very easy, and perhaps even understandable for factions and divisions to emerge. In the epistle reading too we can see that claims regarding different spiritual gifts had begun to lead to divisions and disunity in the Corinthian church. It’s a potentially very destructive scenario for the fledgling early church as it would also have been for the Jews on their return. Fortunately throughout the bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, the ultimate focus is in unity. People are all different, have different backgrounds and experiences of the world which brings them to where they are and who they are today. And all have difts and functions. As communities, both Nehemiah and Paul encourages the believers to focus on their unity, which stands behind them all, rather than anything else.

History and the bible teaches us that we are all part of that greater whole and that there can be significant dangers when we fall into factions and parties. One of our challenges is to see ourselves as a church which is the embodiment of Christ and His Kingdom in the world, not primarily as individuals. As local communities, which are part of God’s larger Kingdom and plan. It is important we acknowledged our differences; people are not all the same, we don’t all have the same abilities, gifts or perspective on the world. But we are held together by our common life in Christ. Our sense of identity lies not in the role we play, nor the status we have, nor the reward our role brings, but in the sense of who we are in Christ. How Christ sees us as individuals and as the united body of the church and as a community is far more important than how we see ourselves. On their return to Jerusalem many would need to learn again about God and His Kingdom. That they did so as a society together, reminded of their need to focus on worshiping God and, celebrating who they were whilst having a care and concern for justice and the less fortunate in their community, ‘to send some to those who have nothing prepared’ is a powerful model for the world today. It was about making God’s Kingdom real to all. In the gospel reading Jesus speaks about His mission in the world, which is ours too. A mission of creating God’s Kingdom of inclusion, justice, freedom, acceptance and love. A mission of conviction, proclamation, speaking out, and action as we make His Kingdom real in the seemingly fragmented world in which we live. Sam Cappleman

 

Meditation

We are half way through the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an event which is now part of the Bedford church calendar. It is marked by services in a variety of churches and provides a platform for building new relationships with Christians from other denominations or meeting up with old friends. It would be good to think that people from the Partnership might reaffirm our long-standing commitment to looking outwards by getting involved with the few remaining activities.  Perhaps you could fit in a visit to one of the lunchtime services? Or hear Bishop Richard preach tonight? We all desire closer links and better understanding with other churches and knowing how they worship is an important part of the process of dropping barriers.

 

Hymns

  1. To God be the Glory

  2. Give me joy in my heart

  3. Make me a channel of your peace

  4. O breath of God come sweeping through

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Let us worship the Christ
who draws near to each of us.
Let us praise the Christ
who loves the worst among us.
Let us bless the Christ 
who shares with the least among us.
Let us glorify the Christ
who intercedes for all among us
in the presence of God the Father. Amen.
Ann Griffiths (1776-1805)

God of the living, of the present moment, your word contains truth for each new generation. We pray for fresh and exciting reminders of the power and glory of your sovereign love. Speak to us anew, living God, of your concern for the poor and oppressed. Help us to announce your good news; to proclaim your liberty to those held captive; to work and pray for a better world. Help us to share the hope we have in you; to proclaim your love for every individual; to work and pray for a new life for all people. Help us to be united in love and respect for one another; to proclaim your salvation to the world; to work and pray under the guidance of your Spirit. Amen

Father we ask for your encouragement and inspiration in all areas of ministry in the church; pour out your blessings on all who work towards the spreading of your Kingdom, we ask for guidance and protection in all areas of conflict and confusion in the world; pour our your wisdom on all who lead, we ask for reassurance and comfort wherever people are hurting or crying inside the brave face; pour out your welcoming love and give them the peace they crave, we ask for your firm holding, wherever our journey leads. Amen continued page 7

As the beautiful, dew covered rose rises from amongst its thorns, so may my heart be so full of love for you my God, that I may rise above the storms and evils that assail me, and stand fast in trust and freedom of spirit. Amen. Hadewijch of Brabant - 13th Century

Bless to us, O God, the road that is before us, bless to us, O God, the family and friends who are around us, bless to us O God, the love that is within us, bless to us, O God, the light that leads us home. Amen

      

Additional Resources

Commentary

In the epistle reading we can see that claims regarding different spiritual gifts had begun to lead to divisions and disunity in the Corinthian church. It’s a potentially very destructive scenario for the fledgling early church. Fortunately Paul gives some very clear advice. He understands that people are different and have different gifts and functions, but he encourages the Corinthians to focus on the unity and community which stands behind them all. For Paul there is one body with many parts, all of which need each other, and all of which are vital for the life of the Christian community. We are all part of that greater whole. He challenges us to see ourselves as a church which is the embodiment of Christ in the world, not primarily as individuals, but as local communities, which are part of God’s larger Kingdom and plan. It is important we acknowledged our differences; people are not all the same, we don’t all have the same abilities. But we are held together by our common life in Christ. Our sense of identity lies not in the role we play, nor the status we have, nor the reward our role brings, but in the sense of who we are in Christ. How Christ sees us as individuals and as the united body of the church and as a community is far more important than how we see ourselves.

Building Communities The readings today are all about building communities, one of the key themes of the St Albans Diocese Mission Action Planning initiative in which we’ve been involved. The Old Testament readings take us back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah when the exiles return to Jerusalem. Ezra and Nehemiah were different individuals with different roles. Ezra was a scribe, and Nehemiah was a governor. Ezra is known for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem and Nehemiah is known for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Together they made a powerful partnership and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah form one story. The book of Ezra begins with Cyrus of Persia’s decree, in 538 BC, permitting the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple and his order that the sacred vessels taken from the Temple in 587 be returned. More than 42,000 leave Babylon for Judah and construction of the new Temple begins (a more modest structure than Solomon’s) and the walls of the city are rebuilt under the direction of Nehemiah. In today’s reading the scribe Ezra begins reading out loud from the book of the torah law, the Pentateuch, to all the people who are now assembled within the completed walls, just by the Water Gate. It’s a motley crowd. Some of them are the dregs of the population who were left behind in Jerusalem during successive waves of invasion, not even deemed worthy of the effort of taking them into captivity. Some are wealthy and independent and for whom the exile has served them well financially. Some are faithful Jews but who have forgotten some of the basic things about God. Some have wives and families from other nations and now have divided loyalties. Ezra reads but as the torah is read their initial responses are difficult to gauge. Are their tears of shame, having forgotten so much and have failed to keep God’s Holy laws, or are they tears of nostalgia for a life that is now past, the great days of Moses? Whatever their motivation and rationale, their leaders encourage them to look forward and not back, to celebrate their return and celebrate the unchangeable fact that they will always be the God’s chosen people, a community of faith. They are united as a nation once more and back in the land of the covenantal promises. The reading is their story and rejoicing in God they celebrates their unity.
The theme of community is one which Paul addresses in the epistle reading. It’s about building a new people. They need to see themselves less as individuals and more as community. The need to be less concerned with seeing themselves as the most important or most gifted person around, thinking of their individual needs, rights and privileges, but as contributors to a common community. He urges the Corinthians to focus on their unity whilst continuing to value their diversity, perhaps a lesson to be learned by the Anglican Communion at the current time. It’s certainly an apt theme for our society today.
Jesus too, in our gospel reading, focuses not so much on teaching better spirituality but about doing God’s justice and building God’s community in His statement of intent in the synagogue. It would appear that for both the returning Jews in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and the early Christians that Paul addressed at Corinth, sometimes it was difficult for them to see and experience that community. For them, like us there were different factions, factors and events which seemed to underline failure, disunity and division. The way forward for both was to be still and quiet amidst all the clamour of everyday life and to hear the voices of hope and unity which would guide the path to the future. To live out being God’s community on earth. In today’s fractured world we have the responsibility to both hear those same voices and to speak those same words. Throughout the bible, community is a fundamental concept to understanding God and therefore fundamental for us to live out (and in) as we live out His words and love. Sam Cappleman

Meditation

In the epistle reading we can see that claims regarding different spiritual gifts had begun to lead to divisions and disunity in the Corinthian church. It’s a potentially very destructive scenario for the fledgling early church. Fortunately Paul gives some very clear counsel. He does not deny that there are differences of gifts and functions, but he strongly encourages the Corinthians to focus on the unity which stands behind them all. He emphasises that there is one body, although it has many parts, all of which need each other, and all of which are vital for the life of the Christian community. Paul stresses that we’re all part of a greater whole. He challenges us to see ourselves as a church which is the embodiment of Christ in the world, not primarily as individuals, but as local communities, which are part of God’s larger Kingdom and plan. It is important we acknowledged our differences; people are not all the same, we don’t all have the same abilities. But we are held together by our common life in Christ. Our sense of identity lies not in the role we play, nor the status we have, nor the reward our role brings, but in the sense of who we are in Christ. How Christ sees us as individuals and as the united body of the church is far more important than how we see ourselves.

Commentary

It was John Wesley himself, who, from the very beginnings of Methodist Societies, invited Methodists to renew their covenant relationship with God, a covenant that promises new life in Christ. And, in renewing our baptism vows we confirm our allegiance to that new life in Christ and our rejection in all that is evil. Our service reflects these themes, as we praise God for his goodness to us, confess that our lives have not always adequately demonstrated the reality of our faith, and recommit ourselves to His work and service.

The covenant theme is one which pervades the whole of the bible, from the earliest covenant between God and Noah, His covenant with Abraham, which promises the multiplication of his offspring and inheritance of the promised land, the Sinai covenant with Moses remembered in the Passover as Israel escaped the bondage of the Egyptians, through to the covenant God made with David as the King of Israel and the new covenant we have in Christ, which we remember in our service of Holy Communion. Each of the covenants expands and builds on those already established. But it was not back to the existing covenants of the Old Testament to which Jeremiah looked, it was forward to the New Covenant, which would be fulfilled in Christ.

While continuing to build on those of the past, this covenant would be significantly different. It was not so much to do with material blessings and plentiful harvests, but concerned the hearts of the men and women who embraced it. It was about an intimate fellowship with God, where the old intermediaries of the priesthood and the prophets were no longer required. All could have immediate access to God. And, not only was it was for everyone, it spoke about the forgiveness we can know in Christ for our past wrongs. ‘…they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord… …and I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’.

As we renew our baptism vows and our own covenant with God, perhaps we should reflect on the changes that have affected us in the year since we last made our commitment. Did we achieve all that we set out to do, or did circumstances and human nature conspire against us? And perhaps, like Jeremiah, we too need to look forward, not just back. We need to cherish, build on, and learn from, our experiences of a past that is behind us, and, safe in the knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness, we need to gently move on as we look to the future and the year ahead. To let Christ do with ourselves, and others, far more than we dare think or ask as we recommit ourselves to Him. Sam Cappleman

Commentary

The Old Testament readings take us back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah when the exiles return to Jerusalem. Ezra and Nehemiah were different individuals with different roles. Ezra was a scribe, and Nehemiah was a governor. Ezra is known for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem and Nehemiah is known for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Together they made a powerful partnership. Indeed the books of Ezra and Nehemiah form one story. The book of Ezra begins with Cyrus of Persia’s decree, in 538 BC, permitting the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple and his order that the sacred vessels taken from the Temple in 587 be returned. More than 42,000 leave Babylon for Judah and construction of the new Temple begins (a more modest structure than Solomon’s) and the walls of the city are rebuilt under the direction of Nehemiah. In today’s reading the scribe Ezra begins reading out loud from the book of the torah law, the Pentateuch, to all the people who are now assembled within the completed walls, just by the Water Gate. Ezra reads in Hebrew; the Levites (priestly assistants) translate into Aramaic (the common language) so that everyone can understand the significance of what is being read to them. They are finally back in Jerusalem, back from being in exile, they are home. But as the torah is read their initial responses are of guilt, fear and regret at having fallen short of the law. They fall down to the ground in despair. Fortunately their leaders encourage them to look forward and not back, to celebrate their return and celebrate the unchangeable fact that they will always be the God’s chosen people. They are united as a nation once more and back in the land of the covenantal promises. This reading is their story and rejoicing in God they celebrate their unity.


The theme of unity is one which Paul addresses in the epistle reading. He urges the Corinthians to focus on their unity whilst continuing to value their diversity. It’s an apt theme for our society today. But it would appear that for both the returning Jews in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and the early Christians that Paul addressed at Corinth sometimes it was difficult for them to see and experience that unity. For them, like us there were different factions, factors and events which seemed to underline failure, disunity and division. The way forward for both was to be still and quiet amidst all the clamour of everyday life and to hear the voices of hope and unity which would guide the path to the future. In today’s fractured world we have the responsibility to both hear those same voices and to speak those same words. Sam Cappleman

MeditationHolocaust Memorial Day

In 1941 there were about 11 million Jews living in Europe; by May 1945 six million of these had been killed, one-and-a-half million of them children. These are the events we now call the Holocaust or Shoah. The biblical word Shoah which has been used to mean “destruction” since the Middle Ages became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of European Jewry as early as the 1940s. The word Holocaust, which came into use in the 1950s as the corresponding term, originally meant a sacrifice burned entirely on the altar. The selection of these two words by the Jews reflects recognition of the unprecedented nature and magnitude of the events. With either of these two words we should also remember whilst the Jews of Europe were the primary target, many millions of other people were also imprisoned, enslaved and murdered. These people included Roma, those with mental or physical disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, trade unionists, political opponents, Poles and Soviet prisoners of war. On the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, 27 January, we share the memory of the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent atrocities such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur in order to challenge discrimination, hatred and persecution in the world today. The theme of the Holocaust Memorial Day of 2016 is ‘Don’t Stand By’. The Holocaust and many subsequent events like it took place because insidious persecution took root. Many stood by silently, often afraid to speak out. Others perhaps were just indifferent. On the Holocaust Memorial Day web site http://hmd.org.uk/ Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has written powerfully about the impact of bystanders: ‘I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’ Speaking out can sometimes be uncomfortable, and sometimes feel like we are a lone voice. God still speaks to His world. Sometimes, however uncomfortable it may feel, He asks us to be His voice.

Prayers for Sunday

God of the living, of the present moment, your word contains truth for each new generation. We pray for fresh and exciting reminders of the power and glory of your sovereign love. Speak to us anew, living God, of your concern for the poor and oppressed. Help us to announce your good news; to proclaim your liberty to those held captive; to work and pray for a better world. Help us to share the hope we have in you; to proclaim your love for every individual; to work and pray for a new life for all people. Help us to be united in love and respect for one another; to proclaim your salvation to the world; to work and pray under the guidance of your Spirit. Amen

Father we ask for your encouragement and inspiration in all areas of ministry in the church; pour out your blessings on all who work towards the spreading of your Kingdom, we ask for guidance and protection in all areas of conflict and confusion in the world; pour our your wisdom on all who lead, we ask for reassurance and comfort wherever people are hurting or crying inside the brave face; pour out your welcoming love and give them the peace they crave, we ask for your firm holding, wherever our journey leads. Amen

As the beautiful, dew covered rose rises from amongst its thorns, so may my heart be so full of love for you my God, that I may rise above the storms and evils that assail me, and stand fast in trust and freedom of spirit. Amen. Hadewijch of Brabant - 13th Century

Bless to us, O God, the road that is before us, bless to us, O God, the family and friends who are around us, bless to us O God, the love that is within us, bless to us, O God, the light that leads us home. Amen

Gracious God, look upon a sinner who is yet created in your image. Look upon a disciple into whose heart you gaze. Look upon a child who longs to love you with a heart yet more perfect, and looking, forgive, and gazing, pardon and bless; for your truth and your mercy's sake. Amen. Francois Fenelon, 1651-1715

Almighty God, you have revealed the incarnation of your Son by the bright shining of a star, which the wise men saw and offered costly gifts on adoration; let the star of your justice always shine in our hearts, that we give as our treasure all that we are to you service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Gelasian Sacramentary 8th century)

Lord, teach me the silence of love, the silence of wisdom, the silence of humility, the silence of faith, the silence that speaks without words. O Saviour, teach me to silence my heart that I may listen to the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit within me and sense the depths which are God, today and always. Amen (Frankfurt, 16th century)

Let us rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life. By Him we are born into the family of God, and made members of the body of Christ; His witness confirms us; His wisdom teaches us; His power enables us; He will do for us far more than we ask or think. Amen

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realise that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus. As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbour that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others. Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, religious or social? Lord, help us realise that the walls that we erect for others only form our own prisons!

Will you fill us so full of your love that there is no more room for intolerance. As you have forgiven us much, will you enable us with your strength to forgive others even more? Will you enable us through your abiding Presence among us, communally and individually, to live our lives in a manner worthy of the Name we bear?

May we, through your guidance and our faithful obedience, find new avenues in ways that we have not imagined of holding the Light of your love so that it may be a Light of revelation for all people.

We thank you for your love, praise you for your Gift, ask for your continued Presence with us, and bring these petitions in the name of your Son, who has truly revealed your heart. Amen

God the Father, by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead, strengthen you to walk with Him in His risen life; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

O Holy Spirit,
come as the wind to forward our goings.
Come as the dove to launch us heavenward. Come as the water to purify our spirits.
Come as the cloud to abate our temptations. Come as the dew to revive our languor.
Come as fire to purge our souls;
for your truth and your name’s sake. Amen
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
 

God of the living, of the present moment, your word contains truth for each new generation. We pray for fresh and exciting reminders of the power and glory of your sovereign love. Speak to us anew, living God, of your concern for the poor and oppressed. Help us to announce your good news; to proclaim your liberty to those held captive; to work and pray for a better world. Help us to share the hope we have in you; to proclaim your love for every individual; to work and pray for a new life for all people. Help us to be united in love and respect for one another; to proclaim your salvation to the world; to work and pray under the guidance of your Spirit. Amen

Father we ask for your encouragement and inspiration in all areas of ministry in the church; pour out your blessings on all who work towards the spreading of your Kingdom, we ask for guidance and protection in all areas of conflict and confusion in the world; pour our your wisdom on all who lead, we ask for reassurance and comfort wherever people are hurting or crying inside the brave face; pour out your welcoming love and give them the peace they crave, we ask for your firm holding, wherever our journey leads. Amen

As the beautiful, dew covered rose rises from amongst its thorns, so may my heart be so full of love for you my God, that I may rise above the storms and evils that assail me, and stand fast in trust and freedom of spirit. Amen. Hadewijch of Brabant - 13th Century

Bless to us, O God, the road that is before us, bless to us, O God, the family and friends who are around us, bless to us O God, the love that is within us, bless to us, O God, the light that leads us home. Amen

Living God, we pray for all people: For those women shut off from a full life by tradition and practice, for those people who are oppressed and exploited, for those denied their freedom and dignity by systems and authorities, for those forced to leave their homelands because of their ideologies, for those seeking answers and meaning to their lives within their own cultures and religions, for those who labour too long and too hard only to barely feed and clothe themselves and their families, for those forced to sell their bodies to survive, for those women and men who live lives of quiet desperation at the hands of the powerful and prestigious, for these and all who suffer. We pray, asking that the Church may once again give joyful expression to your creative love which breaks down barriers and unites person to person and community to community, which gives meaning and hope to empty lives and allows us to reach out to each other in generous self-giving, which makes us more fully alive. O God, fulfill your promise in us for the sake of all human beings through Jesus Christ. Amen.
 

Hymns for Sunday

Praise my soul, For I’m building a people, Broken for me, To him we come, O for a thousand tongues to sing, God’s Spirit is in my heart, Take my life and let it be, Make me a channel of your peace, Go forth