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United Reformed Church Daily Devotions Sunday 20th June 2021
Photo Credit RA Dragon via Unsplash
The Rev’d Wayne Hawkins
Good morning. My name is Wayne Hawkins and I am the minister at Guildford United Reformed Church. Welcome to worship.
Call to Worship
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain, and heals our wounds. God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us. May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen.
HymnJesus calls us here to meet Him John Bell and Graham Moule
Jesus calls us here to meet him as through word & song & prayer we affirm God’s promised presence where his people live and care. Praise the God who keeps his promise; praise the Son who calls us friends; praise the Spirit who, among us, to our hopes and fears attends.
2: Jesus calls us to confess him Word of Life and Lord of All, sharer of our flesh and frailness saving all who fail or fall. Tell his holy human story; tell his tales that all may hear; tell the world that Christ in glory came to earth to meet us here.
3: Jesus calls us to each other: found in him are no divides. Race and class and sex and language – such are barriers he derides. Join the hand of friend and stranger; join the hands of age and youth; join the faithful and the doubter in their common search for truth.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
God our creator And lover of all, we come as your hope-filled people, bearers of your good news, seeking your wisdom for our living.
God our guide And inspiration, we come looking for support and strength, comfort and healing. Guide and direct us As we walk through this life Trying to live in the way You have called us.
God our lover And faithful friend, We come hopefully and sorrowfully, Comfortable and uncomfortable, Carefree and troubled, Coming clean about the ways we Try and fail, Act generously and hoard, Care and act selfishly.
In a world where the storms of life Threaten to overwhelm us, In a time where people have struggled With distance and isolation, In a place where difference and diversity Are viewed with suspicion, We strain to see and hear, To discern and discover Your presence declaring “Quiet! Be still!” And so, having heard and seen May we continue on life’s journey With your peace and presence Empowering our living.
Prayer of Illumination
Spirit of God, inspire us That we maybe steadfast In our hearing, in our speaking, in our believing, and our living.
Reading:St Mark 4:35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Hymn:Eternal father, strong to save William Whiting 1825-1878
Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm doth bond the restless wave who bids the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep; O hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril on the sea.
2 O Trinity of love and pow’r, thy children shield in danger’s hour; from rock and tempest, fire, & foe, protect them where-so-e’er they go; thus, evermore shall rise to Thee glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
I am not sure where you are listening but I hope you are sitting comfortably. Perhaps if you have some cushions nearby you might like to plump them up and get really cosy – though I’d appreciate you not nodding off to sleep at least for the next few minutes. That’s right – plump up your cushions, adjust them if you need to and settle down.
The gospel reading that we heard moments ago tells the story of Jesus sleeping peacefully on a cushion in a boat whilst the disciples are frantic at the storm which threatens to overwhelm and even drown them. The disciples know their Hebrew Scriptures with its graphic imagery of chaotic waters that bring pandemonium and panic. They recall Genesis and the myth-history of creations formation where with a word God divided the waters of chaos and brought forth life. They remembered Moses who had led the people through the sea on dry land, as the Psalm writers celebrate:
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; He led them through the depths as through a desert.
They remember how Job, whose own life experienced more than its fair share of turmoil, could still declare of God:
Who shut up the sea behind doors When it burst forth from the womb, When I made the clouds its garment And wrapped it in thick darkness, When I fixed limits for it And set its doors and bars in place, When I said, ‘This far you may come and no father; Here is where your proud waves halt’?
The disciples knew that the water and sea was physically dangerous but was a metaphor in the Hebrew Scriptures describing the watery chaos which was a constant threat and which God kept at bay. Now on this day, when Jesus invited them to ”go to the other side,” the sea threatens to engulf their little boat. And all this time Jesus is asleep on his cushion.
We will all have stories of different boat journeys we have made, perhaps as part of a hobby, sport or simply for fun. I recall when working for the Council for World Mission occasions when visiting a member church, especially in the Pacific, and you would be invited to take a boat to visit another village community and church. And of course, you ask yourself how safe it is and where are the life jackets.
This past week in the UK has been Refugee Week when we are invited to consider those whose life stories can involve far more hazardous boat journeys; long distance walks across hard going terrain; climbing into the back of vehicles to sneak across borders and simply arriving at a port of entry to trust a system as you ask for asylum. All united in making a trip “to the other side.”
Refugees fleeing war and conflict; persecution because of religion or ethnicity.
Economic migrants who seek a better life for themselves and their family.
Asylum seekers who seek safety from persecution in their own country because of their race, ethnicity, religion or political opinion.
People who experience trafficking and forced to migrate against their will.
Many words and categorisations to describe people who make dangerous journeys to travel “to the other side.” Shiar and his family who travelled on foot, boat and bus to escape Syria and find refuge in Europe. Amin who fled from Iran to Belgrade after his father reported him to the police for having a male partner. Buraq who came with his grandmother from Iraq when he was just a toddler and is now training to be a doctor in the NHS. The point being that behind every story of migration is a human face that is known, a name that is shared by others, an individual valued and cherished by God, family, friends and neighbours.
The diversities among us are, I suggest, something to be celebrated. The theme for Refugee Week has been “we cannot walk alone,” that we live in a multi-cultural society reminds us our diversities and that these enrich our common life. The presence of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is helpfully unsettling, perhaps a little like the presence of Jesus among the disciples, which calls for much soul searching and self-examination both individually and as a society. The welcome and hospitality, the compassion and care that the vulnerable and weak among us receive is a sign of the kind of society we are.
Pope Francis reflected in 2019: “…the presence of migrants and refugees – and of vulnerable people in general – is an invitation to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity that risks being overlooked in a prosperous society. That is why it is not just about migrants. When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow…”
The Jesus asleep on a cushion at the stern of the boat is a disturbing presence. The disciples awaken him and he rebukes the wind and waves and the disciples who are distraught at the danger they face and what looks like Jesus’ indifference to their plight. “Do you not care that we perish?” The disciples do not yet understand who Jesus is and so his presence is unsettling to what the disciples know of the world and assume to be the fixed order of nature – if you like the way things are round here. Who is this man who sits asleep in the stern and wakes up to silence and wind and waves? His unsettling presence disturbs our sitting comfortably on our cushions as he invites us to get into the boat and travel with him to the other side.
That Jesus is able to relax and even rest on a cushion throughout the storm indicates his keen awareness of God’s presence with him. While the storm rages all around him Jesus is able to find comfort and even peace. I wonder where it is that we find comfort and peace even in those times when we experience turmoil and trouble in our lives? We remember Jesus sleeping and discover what it means to be at ease in God’s love. Jesus doesn’t escape or evade the storm, but remains with his friends both in the boat and in the storm. His presence is a reminder of God who is present. The storm rages and God still loves. The storm brings chaos and God is still with us. The storm threatens to sink us and God is there.
Jesus and the disciples crossing over to the “other side” reminds us of how uncomfortable it was for the first communities – Marks’ readers – to cross the social divisions between Jew and Gentile. In this story, Mark’s faith community is being invited to make its journey towards integration – to travel to the Gentile shore on the other side. Battling with the wind and waves of opposition and resistance on the journey, the disciples are at first reluctant and perhaps the reality of including others felt like drowning or losing their own cultural identity.
In the same way, we are invited to make the journey to the “other side” towards inclusion of those who at first seem different. To include those who are pushed aside perhaps because of their orientation or identity, excluded because of economics or status, whose presence among us disturbs and challenges but who hold out fresh insights for us and new life that is itself a gift from God.
Hymn:Heaven Shall Not Wait John Bell and Graham Maule
Heaven shall not wait for the poor to lose their patience, the scorned to smile, the despised to find a friend: Jesus is Lord; he has championed the unwanted; in him injustice confronts its timely end.
2: Heaven shall not wait for the rich to share their fortunes, the proud to fall, the elite to tend the least: Jesus is Lord; he has shown the master’s privilege to kneel and wash servants’ feet before they feast.
3: Heaven shall not wait for the dawn of great ideas, thoughts of compassion divorced from cries of pain: Jesus is Lord; he has married word and action; his Cross and company make his purpose plain.
4: Heaven shall not wait for triumphant hallelujahs, when earth has passed and we reach another shore: Jesus is Lord; in our present imperfection: his power and love are for now and then for evermore.
Affirmation of Faith
We believe in God. Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives. Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world so that all would be happy in life. Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts, we believe in God.
We believe in Jesus Christ. Despite the centuries which separate us from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word. Despite our incomprehension and our doubt, we believe in His resurrection. Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in his reign.
We believe in the Holy Spirit. Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church; despite death we believe in eternal life; despite ignorance and disbelief, we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
Loving God, You care for all your people, Knowing each one by name; Knowing each home and every need. Give peace and love to all who call.
Bless all of us who share in worship today, Our homes, faith communities, our neighbourhoods That love and joy would dwell among us And that we will learn to live in peace with one another.
We share in prayers from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Written especially for today Refugee Sunday.
God of family, We bring before you the parents who are weeping and lamenting, Who are waiting for their children, Whose trace is lost in the sea, In the desert, in railway tracks, In shipping containers and uncertainty; Men, women and children Who had escaped from the war zones, the famine and poverty of this world, with the hope for a better, safer life.
God of life, We bring before you our lament for the dead, Stranded at the borders of safety, Who died fleeing through deserts, over mountains and seas. We call to you and join in the cry Of all those who sought justice And a better life for themselves and their children And perished in the process. God of justice, We bring before you political leaders, Advisers and decision-makers Who hold the fate of others in their hands. Make them aware of the causes of migration and flight. Keep their consciences alive so that refugees Are offered protection and dignity. Let them agree rules of residence That are based on human rights and guided by solidarity compassion.
God of peace, Give us strength to be witnesses of the suffering of the world And fill us with the fire of your spirit To renew our efforts to serve those in need And give us the grace to welcome, Learn and share our lives with people Who come to live in our communities. Amen.
The churches and good causes we support continue to need our generosity, through our finances and support. We are encouraged to continue that support especially at this time, as a sign of the abundance that enriches our lives.
God, giver of life and source of freedom, You invite us to be stewards of your abundance. You call us to use your gifts wisely and to share them generously. May this faithful stewardship Be a witness to the love of Jesus That fills our lives. Amen
Hymn:For the healing of the nations Fred Kaan (1929-2009)
For the healing of the nations, Lord, we pray with one accord; for a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords. To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word.
2: Lead us forward into freedom, from despair your world release, that, redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace. Show us how, through care and goodness, fear will die and hope increase.
3: All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned: pride of status, race or schooling, dogmas that obscure your plan. In our common quest for justice may we hallow life’s brief span.
4: You, Creator-God, have written your great name on humankind; for our growing in your likeness, bring the life of Christ to mind; that by our response and service earth its destiny may find.
May God bless us, our God, who called the world into being, who breathed us into life, who provides us with new strength.
May God bless us, our God, whose love does not know borders nor walls, whose justice will come.
Our God, who casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.
May God bless us, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, Amen.
Opening: Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Closing: Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)
Thanks to Jacqueline Kwawu, John Wilcox, Diana Cullum-Hall, John Young and Geoffrey Roper for reading various spoken parts of the service.
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