URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship 11th September

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 11th September
This is a communion service.
You may wish to have bread and wine at hand.

 
Today’s service  is led by The Revd Nigel Uden.

Welcome

The Lord be with you. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Timothy 1.2
 

My name is Nigel Uden and, through Daily Devotions, it is a privilege to be able to share in worship with people throughout these islands. As their minister, I am delighted to bring you the greetings of the United Reformed Church congregations in Cambridge and Fulbourn.
 

Call to Worship

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55.6-9

Prayers of Approach

Eternal God, we come seeking you, but not to test you, nor in finding you to bind you to an image or a gesture. We need from you no tricks to prove you exist. No miracles. Just a clearer sense of your love, by which all things are made and we are each brought to completion. Let it be so, in this sacred hour, and in our every hour, through Jesus Christ,
Amen.
 

Hymn How shall I sing that majesty?
John Mason (1646-94) Coe Fen BBC Songs of Praise
 

How shall I sing that majesty which angels do admire?
Let dust in dust and silence lie; sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.
Thousands of thousands stand around
thy throne, O God most high;
ten thousand times 
ten thousand sound
thy praise; but who am I?
 

Thy brightness unto them appears, 
while I thy footsteps trace; a sound of God comes to my ears;
but they behold thy face:
They sing, because thou art their Sun;
Lord, send a beam on me;
for where heaven is but once begun,
there alleluias be.
 

How great a being, Lord, is thine, which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line to sound so vast a deep:
thou art a sea without a shore,
a sun without a sphere;
thy time is now and evermore,
thy place is everywhere.
 

Prayer of Confession

“Fools say in their hearts, ‘there is no God’.”

God, you are beyond our ken; your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts; for you are very big, ‘a sun without a sphere, and a sea without a shore.’

And that’s right. Why would we put trust in a god so small that the poor reach of our mind could contain you?

But to acknowledge your mystery is not to deny your existence; nor to refute that you are responsible for ours; less still, is it to pretend that we do not need you.

So, with the Psalmist, we are sorry when we live as if we aren’t accountable to you – as if our lives aren’t examined by your call to truth, justice and love.

We regret any time that we fail to see you in people who are poor, people who are marginalised, people who are disadvantaged, people who are weak. In this penitential moment, we confess how our abuse of those around us is an affront to you, the one who is within us.

Above all, we confess how our disrespect and naivete, our pride and hypocrisy, our self-sufficiency too often give the impression that we do not seek to do your will, to enjoy your freedom, or to accept your salvation.

Silence
 

By the work of your Spirit in us we ask you to preserve us from that folly which says there is no God, and rather to look to you to deliver us and restore our fortunes, that we might rejoice and be glad.
 

Assurance of Forgiveness

‘The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Your sins are forgiven for his sake. Thanks be to God.

I Timothy 1.15

Prayer for Illumination
 

Eternal God, we are aware that sometimes our unbelief is born of ignorance. As we turn to the Scriptures now, we pray that your Holy Spirit will interpret them to us, so we discover the grace of our Lord overflowing for us with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Amen

I Timothy 1.13-14

Reading St Luke 15.1-10

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 
And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ 
So he told them this parable: 
‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. 
‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 
Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

Introduction

“Eeyore’s birthday didn’t get off to a good start. No one remembered it, and it seemed he’d have no presents. He was being particularly Eeyorish about it all. But when Pooh Bear was also unhappy that Eeyore’s birthday had gone unnoticed, the old grey Donkey was even more. We read, “‘It’s bad enough’, said Eeyore, almost breaking down, ‘being miserable myself, what with no presents and no cake and no candles, and no proper notice taken of me at all, but if everybody else is going to be miserable too’ … ”

A few pages later, how lovely it is to read of his surprise and happiness when both Pooh and Piglet turn up with gifts. An empty honey jar, for putting things in, and a burst balloon for putting into a jar for putting things in. Eeyore ended up “taking the balloon out and putting it back again, as happy as could be…”. He didn’t think anyone cared, but then found they did.
 

I wonder if the lost sheep was like that donkey, and thought no one cared? Imagine that sheep’s amazement when realising that the shepherd had decided to ‘go after the one that is lost until he finds it’. Could it be that, in the same way the jar and balloon helped Eeyore believe he mattered to Pooh and Piglet, so the ‘lost and found sheep’ story enables us to believe that we matter to God – matter so much that God sent Jesus to find us and bring us home, even as we were still wandering?

The hymn helps to express how wonderful that is to us.
 

Hymn It Is A Thing Most Wonderful

W W How (1823 – 1897) The Choir of St Michael and All Angels, Bassett used with their kind permission

 

It is a thing most wonderful,
almost too wonderful to be, 
that God’s own Son should come from heav’n
and die to save a child like me:
 

And yet I know that it is true;
He chose a poor and humble lot,
and wept, and toiled, and mourned, and died,
for love of those who loved Him not.
 

 I cannot tell how He could love,
a child so weak and full of sin;
His love must be most wonderful
if He could die my love to win.
 

I sometimes think about the Cross,
and shut my eyes, and try to see
the cruel nails and crown of thorns,
and Jesus crucified for me.
 

 But even could I see Him die,
I could but see a little part
of that great love which like a fire,
is always burning in His heart.
 

It is most wonderful to know
His love for me so free and sure; 
but ‘tis more wonderful to see
my love for Him so faint and poor.
 

And yet I want to love thee, Lord;
O light the flame within my heart,
and I will love thee more and more,
until I see as thou art.

 

Reading Jeremiah 4.11-12, 22-28

At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem:
A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert towards my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse— a wind too strong for that.
Now it is I who speak in judgement against them. ‘For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.’ 
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the LORD:
The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.

Sermon

In an era of soundbites, it is all too easy to think we must sum up what we believe and what we have to say in brief, uncomplicated phrases. And some of them work really well. ‘There’s no planet B.’ ‘Hands off Ukraine’. ‘Fight poverty, not the poor’. ‘God is love.’ And so on.

Maybe part of the wish for brevity is because we don’t want to confuse or cloud what we are trying to express by using more words; the soundbite is manageable. But actually, there’s lots in life which isn’t that straightforward. That’s obvious as we debate refugees, utility bills, gun laws, Israel/Palestine, or integrity in public life. They’re multi-layered, complex matters, which often are ill-served by soundbites. Speaking of Christian faith is the same. However simple we want our God talk to be, might there not be times when it’s the sophistication and nuance that give it credibility? After all, Isaiah underlines how God’s thoughts and ours are different. A god so small that I could sum them up in a few well-chosen phrases doesn’t seem to be much of a deity. No, for me, questioning, grappling, and accepting mystery are not a hindrance to faith but signs that we take seriously the wonder of God as God is in Jesus Christ.

Sometimes it’s the Bible itself that introduces the complication. The words we read from Jeremiah 4 are such a case. The prophet senses God’s anger with the people because they have rejected God’s way, and turned their backs on God. Desolation is inevitable. ‘I have not relented, nor will I turn back,’ the prophet hears the Lord say. To the point. Little more than a soundbite. The people may not like the word, but it is clear.

Then, however, three times in less than twenty verses, the very same text says, ‘yet I will not make a full end.’ Where did that come from? “You’re all for it … but not really.” Little wonder that for centuries people have tried to explain away this apparent contradiction. Perhaps it was added by a later editor, because they knew that things ended differently, that they didn’t come to ‘a full end’?

Or are we supposed to embrace the ambiguity as true to life? We are learning to live with Covid-19, and with the stark realisation that an immediate end to the Ukraine war is not very likely. Those traumas of our time are very different from what the Israelites were enduring in the sixth century before Christ, but maybe they have a similar impact. Do they not make us wonder what is going on, are there not times when we can be persuaded that God’s righteous anger has been stirred by our inhumanity to one another, and a ‘full end’ seems round the corner? And yet, on another morning we wake up and can bring ourselves to trust that God will not make a full end – that, in God’s providence and grace all will be well … eventually. It seems to me that that is an entirely authentic range of ideas for the person who is living through difficult times: one day we fear God’s wrath, whilst on another we trust God’s covenant love.

As a boy, I could cope with my father’s anger; it was normally justified. What I couldn’t bear was when he told me I had disappointed him. And there are days when I can’t help feeling that God is disappointed, bitterly disappointed by how society orders itself and individuals comport themselves. Indeed, what sort of a God wouldn’t be as disappointed by our behaviour as they were by the Israelites’?

And then I think of Jesus as the one in whom we are invited to see this God having a heart to rescue creation, and therefore pitching the divine tent amongst us. The famous Gospel story earlier in this service was about a shepherd going out of their way to find the 1% of the flock that was missing. It’s an exquisite intimation of how God chooses not to be defined by giving in to the disappointment that writes us off, ‘a full end’. Rather, the God whom Jesus makes known sees more point in remaking us than in writing us off. After all, a full end is just what it says, the end. There’s no more. Remaking, on the other hand, is about renewal, fresh opportunity, the 490th chance. My father wouldn’t have been disappointed in me if he couldn’t have cared less about how I was behaving. His sadness was because of his love – he wanted the best for me, and to see the best in me. He wanted me to try again, to do better, to thrive, to live abundantly. And I believe that is why God – as described by Jeremiah and embodied by Jesus – expresses rejection but makes possible recovery.

I’ve often wondered what happened to the Millennium Goals we so eagerly adopted as the year 2000 dawned. It’s disappointing to see how little fruit there seems to be despite the Goals’ vision for humanity’s common good and the environment’s renewal. Similarly, having worked in South Africa in the years immediately before Nelson Mandla became president, with those dreams and vows of being a rainbow nation, it is easy to be sad at how too little has changed there, how corruption and violence still rob the new South Africa of prosperity and harmony. But disappointment cannot leave us shrugging our shoulders in despair. The aspirations remain worth pursuing.

Just as we have to live with the reality of disappointment, but not give in to it, so I believe that is what we encounter of God in Christ. Both the bitter disappointment and the determined rescue are expressions of the ‘love that wilt not let us go’. I am willing to live with that tension, even though it defies the soundbite. What is more, if we can accept that God knows these mixed feelings towards us, maybe it can give us hope that God understands our mixed feelings towards God. Yes, there’ll be days when we are disappointed, and maybe unbelieving, but they do not have to be the end of our faith and following.

With the lost sheep and the prodigal one of a few verses later in Luke 15, we can turn back to the Lord, confident that God is already facing us, with arms outstretched, not just in welcome but also in embrace.

So may we live, trusting that God will not make a full end, and will forever love.
 

Affirmation of Faith
 

Lord, you have always given bread for the coming day;

and though I am poor, today I believe.

Lord, you have always given strength for the coming day;

and though I am weak, today I believe.

Lord, you have always given peace for the coming day;

and though of anxious heart, today I believe.

Lord, you have always kept me safe in trials;

and now, tried as I am, today I believe.

Lord, you have always marked the road for the coming day;

and though it may be hidden, today I believe.

Lord, you have always lightened this darkness of mine;

and though the night is here, today I believe.

Lord, you have always spoken when time was ripe;

and though you be silent now, today I believe.
 

Hymn Have Faith in God, My Heart
Bryn A. Rees (1911-83) altd © Mrs M Rees sung by Paul Coleman and used with his kind permission

 

Have faith in God, my heart,
trust and be unafraid;
God will fulfil in every part
each promise he has made.
 

Have faith in God, my mind,
though oft your light burns low; 
God’s mercy holds a wiser plan 
than you can fully know.
 

Have faith in God, my soul, 
His cross for ever stands;
and neither life nor death can pluck
His children from his hands.
 

Lord Jesus, make me whole;
grant me no resting-place,
until I rest, heart, mind and soul,
the captive of your grace.
 

Prayers of Intercessions

Today’s Psalm regrets how easily people turn aside from God, and forget their accountability to God. It uses several images, which offer the hooks upon which our intercessions are hung. In the silences, we have space for personal prayers.
 

As the Psalm says, ‘they are corrupt’, let us pray that by God’s grace at work in us corruption no longer twists our motives until all live for others’ advantage.
 

Silence
 

As the Psalm says, ‘they do abominable deeds’, let us pray that by God’s grace at work in us atrocious behaviour is replaced by compassionate charity, and those who suffer are helped and comforted.
 

Silence
 

As the Psalm asks, ‘are there any who are wise?’, let us pray that by God’s grace at work in us knowledge and understanding might grow for our reconciliation to God, and for the common good.

Silence
 

As the Psalm says, ‘they eat up my people as they eat bread’, let us pray that by God’s grace at work in us none shall be consumed by another’s neglect or cruelty nor any be content with having too much until all have enough.
 

Silence
 

As the Psalm says, ‘they do not call upon the Lord’, let us pray that by God’s grace at work in us we might all know our need of God and how, in Jesus, God meets that need until our cup overflows.
 

Silence
 

As the Psalm says, ‘the Lord is their refuge’, let us pray that by God’s grace at work in us we might make provision for vulnerable people who have no home as a refuge from destitution, no friends as a refuge from loneliness, nowhere to seek asylum as a refuge from war, no faith in Christ as a refuge from guilt about sin or fear about death.
 

Silence
 

As the Psalm says, ‘when the Lord restores the fortunes of his people’, let us pray that, by God’s grace at work in us, we might emerge from recent years of trauma, tragedy and shadows, into a season of peace, prosperity and shalom until the Kingdom comes, and God brings all things to completion, on the day of Jesus Christ,
Amen.
 

Offertory
 

The resources we have to fund the church vary from person to person. Some have a widow’s mite, some a king’s ransom. Some spend plentifully, some save carefully. Some have experienced theft, some have lost their coins. Whatever we have available, and feel moved to offer for the work of the church, and for other charitable purposes, comes to us first from God. So we dedicate it in prayer:

Generous God, everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your own hand.

I Chronicles 29.14

So we dedicate it to be used for your purposes
in and through the Church,
to source of new beginnings and resilient love,
because of Jesus Christ, Amen

Communion Liturgy

Invitation
 

Hear the gracious words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

I am the bread of life; those who some to me shall not hunger, and those who believe in me shall never thirst. Those who come to me I will not cast out.

Matthew 11.28 and John 6.35-37

Words of Institution

Hear the narrative of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper as it was recorded by the apostle Paul.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I Corinthians 11:23-26

Anthem Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness – Psalm 5.8

S. S. Wesley The Choir of Somerville College, Oxford; Robert Pecksmith, organist; David Crown, conductor used with their kind permission

Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness;
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Following the example of Christ and having set apart from their ordinary uses our bread and our wine for this sacred use and mystery, we too give thanks.
 

Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord 
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise
 

With joy we give you thanks and praise,
Almighty God, source of all life and love,
that we live in your world,
that you are always creating and sustaining it by your power,
and that you have so made us that we can know and love you,
trust and serve you.
We give you thanks that you loved the world so much
that you gave your only Son so that everyone who has faith
in him may not die but have eternal live.
 

We thank you that Jesus was born among us;
that he lived our common life on earth;
that he suffered and died for us; that he rose again;
and that he is always present through the Holy Spirit
 

We thank you that we can live in the faith that your kingdom will come,
and that in life, in death and beyond death you are with us.
Therefore with all the company of heaven, and with all your people,
of all places and times, we proclaim your greatness and sing your praise.
 

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 
Hosanna in the highest.
 

Holy Lord God, by what we do here in remembrance of Christ
we celebrate his perfect sacrifice on the cross
and his glorious resurrection and ascension,
we declare that he is Lord of all;
and we prepare for his coming in his Kingdom.
 

We pray that through your Holy Spirit we may be your people,
this bread may be for us the body of Christ
and this wine the blood of Christ.
 

Accept our sacrifice of praise;
and as we eat and drink at his command
unite us to Christ as one body in him;
and give us strength to serve you in the world.
 

And to you one holy and eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we give you praise and glory, now and forever. Amen
 

The Lord’s Prayer
 

Breaking and Sharing

The body of Christ was broken, the blood of Christ was spilled, for us. Let us eat and drink in faith and in thanksgiving.

We eat and drink.
 

Prayer after Communion
 

God, you allow us to see such marvellous goodness
and have spread it before our eyes in the sacrament.
God, enlighten more and more the eyes of our understanding
so that we may grasp what is the height and depth,
the length and breadth of your love toward us.
 

What depth, that your love is real however low life plunges us.
What height, that your love cannot be bettered.
What length, that your love knows no limits.
What breadth, that your love embraces us all.
 

Grant us to contemplate that goodness with such delight
that we may be transformed into the image of your own graciousness
and may be all love toward you
and toward one another.

Amen
 

Hymn All My Hope on God is founded
Robert Bridges (1844-1930) altd* based on Joachim Neander (1650-80) BBC Songs of Praise

All my hope on God is founded;
He doth still my trust renew.
Me through change
and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone
calls my heart to be his own.
 

Pride of man and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray our trust;
what with care
and toil is builded,
tower and temple, fall to dust. 
But God’s power, hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.
 

God’s great goodness
aye endureth,
deep His wisdom, passing thought:
splendour, light,
and life attend him,
beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore from His store
new-born worlds rise and adore.
 

Still from earth
to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ his Son.
Christ doth call
one and all;
ye who follow shall not fall.
 

Blessing

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honour and glory for ever and ever.
And may grace be with you. Amen

I Timothy 1.17, 6.21

Sources: Prayers of Approach inspired by the words of Rainer Maria Rilke 1875- 1926. Prayer of Confession based upon Psalm 14. Affirmation of Faith from the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Daily Prayer. Prayer after Communion inspired by the words of Jen Mestrezet 1592-1657.

Thanks to Christopher Whitehead, Graham Handscomb, Pam Carpenter, Kathleen Haynes, Anne Hewling and Ray Fraser for recording the spoken parts of the service.

Hymn lyrics are public domain, the music in the podcast is delivered subject to the terms of the URC’s licence.

Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

 

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