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Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church Worship for Sunday 12th Sept 2021
Photo Credit Mads Schmidt Rasmussen Unsplash
The Rev’d Jayne Taylor
Introduction Hello, my name is Jayne, a minister currently based in the Cotswolds. Before I was ordained, I spent many years as a Research Scientist in Cambridge. Today I’m speaking from my home in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
Call to Worship
Come before the Lord with joyful songs, because God is good and generous, because we lack nothing. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgivingand God’s courts with praise. Serve the Lord with gladness, because of God’s greatness and justice, because God puts an end to war, and to all forms of violence. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgivingand God’s courts with praise.
Come before the Lord with joy because God is a faithful promises keeper; God’s Word is eternal. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgivingand God’s courts with praise.
Know that the Lord is God, and we are God’s own people, a community, the family of God. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgivingand God’s courts with praise.
It is God who has made us to the praise of the Holy Name, and therefore today, in the same spirit, we have a festival to celebrate God’s peace. Let us enter God’s gates with thanksgivingand God’s courts with praise.
Hymn: Great God, Your Love Has Called Us Brian A. Wren, b. 1936
Great God, your love has called us here as we, by love, for love were made. Your living likeness still we bear, though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed. We come, with all our heart and mind your call to hear, your love to find.
2 We come with self-inflicted pains of broken trust and chosen wrong, half-free, half-bound by inner chains, by social forces swept along, by powers and systems close confined yet seeking hope for humankind.
3 Great God, in Christ you call our name and then receive us as your own not through some merit, right, or claim, but by your gracious love alone. We strain to glimpse your mercy seat and find you kneeling at our feet.
4 Then take the towel, and break the bread, and humble us, and call us friends. Suffer and serve till all are fed, and show how grandly love intends to work till all creation sings, to fill all worlds, to crown all things.
5 Great God, in Christ you set us free your life to live, your joy to share. Give us your Spirit’s liberty to turn from guilt and dull despair, and offer all that faith can do while love is making all things new.
Prayers of Confession and Forgiveness
Loving God, you are always calling people to spread your love and share your word with others.
You call ordinary people to do the most unexpected things. You need so many people to do your work here on earth.
Help us always to be ready to listen to your call, and to know that you will give us the gifts, courage, energy and enthusiasm to do the things you need us to do.
Help us to overcome worries, doubts and indeed anger, and to be ready to respond to your call like the disciples did when Jesus called them to follow him. Loving God, forgive us when we turn our backs on you, when we think we’re in the right and others are wrong, when it’s easier to be irate than to admit we may be wrong or say sorry. Forgive us when we think only of ourselves, when we fail to see the sufferings of your world, when we are so caught up in our own troubles that we do not reach out to help others.
Forgiving God, you do forgive us. Help us to forgive others; indeed help us to forgive ourselves. As we ask in Jesus’ name, and following his example we pray…
The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
St Mark 8:27-38
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’
The question of identity is one of those big questions in life; ‘who am I?’ Am I simply a clone of my parents and grandparents, for example, or am I my own person? How do you perceive yourself, and is that how others perceive you? Or are you trying to live up to the person others see you as?
“Who do you say I am,” Jesus asks of his disciples? Our reading comes about halfway through Mark’s gospel and is the pivotal point in it.
The Gospel of Mark can be thought of as being in two halves, often called the light half and the dark half. In the first half Jesus, goes about his ministry of preaching, healing and teaching– the light half. But after chapter 8, the tone changes, and Jesus’ face is set on Jerusalem, his arrest and crucifixion – the dark half.
This passage is the turning point because it’s here that Jesus takes stock of the teaching that his disciples have been given. Have they got it yet?
Who do you believe I am?
Our Isaiah reading is one of the so-called suffering servant passages, which have long been associated with the person of Jesus Christ. In our reading, the passage points to the teaching ministry of that suffering servant, when God ‘wakens my ear to listen to those who are taught.’ This, essentially, is what Jesus is doing in Mark. Have they got it yet? Have they understood?
Who do you think I am?
And Mark sandwiches this event between two others:
Before this, a blind man partially recovers his sight before being fully healed (8:22-26) mirroring the disciples partial understanding of Jesus.
After this, a blind man, Bartimaeus, is healed fully and at once asks to follow Jesus (10:46-52) mirroring the disciples new understanding of Jesus. So, Peter says that others believe he is John the Baptist, or Elijah or one of the prophets; in other words a figure from the past, come to bring back the good old days.
But its dawning on the disciples that the person before them is not a throwback to the past, but a new being who represents their future; God’s anointed one.
‘You are the Messiah’ Peter says. The penny has dropped. But don’t tell anyone, commands Jesus…not yet. They still haven’t got it. This is the first time that any ‘human voice’ has called Jesus the Messiah. But now Jesus can reveal to his disciples just what his mission really is, and for the first time ‘he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.’ Still too much information for them to take in, and they will have to be reminded of it again soon, but now Jesus knows that the time is right for him to set his sights on Jerusalem, at last, and the cross. Who do you say I am?
Jesus goes on to tell his followers that they must deny themselves. Is this some kind of attempt at brainwashing? Do we really have to deny ourselves, our pasts, the stuff that makes us who we are? I don’t think so.
I think that when Jesus tells us to deny ourselves he means for us to deny what society has made us. To deny the masks that we wear in order to please others. And to be the person that we were made to be.
This is a society which plays by different rules. A society in which too many people struggle with issues of self-esteem, a society where you are seemingly worth nothing unless you have wealth and power. To deny yourself, I believe, means to find your true identity, your true self in Jesus, by Jesus’ rules and values.
God sees things very differently from us. From God’s vantage point, everyone is of equal worth, everyone has equal value.
We have to make a special effort in order to see the world that way, God’s way, to see someone, for example, who is very different to ourselves, as being of equal worth.
For Christians, it’s an acknowledgement that we are all created in the image of God. As a former scientist it strikes me that there are around 7 billion people in the world today, and yet everyone is unique. Even so-called identical twins, who share the same DNA, are different people with different personalities. God has created us to be unique, to glory in divine diversity, yet too often we try to be like others, try to conform to stereotypes.
When Jesus asks; “Who do you say I am?” it is an invitation to us all to discover more about the person who we describe as The Christ. It is also a question inviting us to be true to ourselves, I believe, true be the people God wants us to be.
HymnJust As I Am Without One Plea Charlotte Elliott
Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.
2 Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come.
3: Just as I am poor, wretched, blind, sight, riches, healing of the mind yea all I need, in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come.
4: Just as I am, thy love unknown has broken every barrier down; now to be thine, yea thine alone O Lamb of God, I come.
5: Just as I am of that free love, the breadth, length depth and height to prove here for a season, then above, O Lamb of God I come.
Affirmation of Faith We believe in the one and only God, Eternal Trinity, from whom, through whom and for whom all created things exist. God alone we worship; in God we put our trust. We worship God, source and sustainer of creation, whom Jesus called Father, whose sons and daughters we are. We worship God revealed in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh; who lived our human life, died for sinners on the cross; who was raised from the dead, and proclaimed by the apostles, Son of God; who lives eternally, as saviour and sovereign, coming in judgement and mercy, to bring us to eternal life. We worship God, ever present in the Holy Spirit; who brings this Gospel to fruition, assures us of forgiveness, strengthens us to do God’s will, and makes us sisters and brothers of Jesus, sons and daughters of God. We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, united in heaven and on earth: on earth, the Body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit to glorify God and to serve humanity; in heaven, eternally one with the power, the wisdom and the love of God in Trinity. We believe that, in the fullness of time, God will renew and gather in one all things in heaven and on earth through Christ, and be perfectly honoured and adored. We rejoice in God who has given us being, who shares our humanity to bring us to glory, our source of prayer and power of praise; to whom be glory, praise and adoration, now and evermore. Amen
Loving God, we thank you for the many blessings you give us. We owe you everything we have. Help us to in turn to give back a token of your love for us in the giving of our time, our efforts and also in our offering, as we seek to love our neighbour as we do ourselves. May our offering be used wisely, we ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Gracious God, as your Jesus reached out to those on the margins, so now in our prayers we do likewise: We pray for all who have little love in their lives those who are lonely and isolated, those who are addicted and feel trapped, those who grieve and mourn, those whose relationships have been shattered.
Loving God, We pray for those who love things which are unhelpful those who worship their wealth or possessions, and where greed has taken over, those who find love only in the approval of others, in flattery, or in power, those who can only love themselves those for whom bitterness and hatred reign
Compassionate God, We pray for those who give totally of themselves for the sake of others those who are persecuted or outcast those who face prejudice because of the colour of their skin, those who face discrimination because of their gender those who face harassment for their sexuality
Merciful God, help us to strive to see others as you see us, help us to reach out in love to our neighbour help us to live as Christ would have us live help us to walk the way of Jesus As we ask these things in his name, Amen.
Hymn Give To Me Lord A Thankful Heart Caryl Micklem
Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart and a discerning mind; give, as I play the Christian’s part, the strength to finish what I start and act on what I find.
2: When, in the rush of days, my will is habit-bound and slow, help me to keep in vision, still, what love & power & peace can fill. A life that trusts in you.
3: By your divine & urgent claim, and by your human face, kindle our sinking hearts to flame, and as you teach the world your name let it become your place.
4: Jesus, with all your Church I long to see your kingdom come: show me your way of righting wrong and turning sorrow into song until you bring me home.
May God watch over you, Christ walk with you, and the Spirit give you peace. And the blessing of God three in one, one in community be with you this day, and evermore, Amen. Sources and thanks
Thanks to those who read spoken parts of the service.
Opening Organ Piece – Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Closing Organ Piece – Procession by Arthur Wills (organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014)
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