URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 19th September 2021 – The Revd. Gethin Rhys

Order of Service

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United Reformed Church Daily Devotions Service
Sunday 19th September 2021
 
The Rev’d Gethin Rhys
 
Introduction
 
Hello, my name is Gethin Rhys, and welcome to worship from my back garden in Cardiff.  This week, in the middle of the Season of Creation, is Great Big Green Week, and as I am lucky enough to have a back garden I thought it would be good to lead worship from this little green sliver of God’s creation. Wherever you may be today, you are welcome to join with me as we worship in and think about this wonderful world which God has made.
 
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 thanksgiving and 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 thanksgiving and 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 thanksgiving and 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 thanksgiving and 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 thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise.
 
Hymn       O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Carl Gustav Boberg; Translator: Stuart K. Hine (1949)

 

O Lord, my God,
when I in awesome wonder
consider all
the works thy hands hath made;
I see the stars,
I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout
the universe displayed;
 
Then sings my soul,
my Saviour God, to thee:
how great thou art,
how great thou art!
Then sings my soul,
my Saviour God, to thee:
how great thou art,
how great thou art!
 
2 But when I think that God,
His Son not sparing,
sent him to die,
I scarce can take it in,
that on the Cross,
my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died
to take away my sin;
 
4 When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation,
and take me home,
what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
in humble adoration
And there proclaim,
“My God, how great thou art!”

 

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
 
We gather in the image of the Creator, who is a community of love.
We gather in the name of the Redeemer, who reconciles all of creation.
We gather in the presence of the Life Giver   who inspires new life and renews it.

Creator God, maker of heaven and earth,
We acknowledge our failure to live responsibly as part of your creation.
We have taken what we want, without considering the consequences;
we have wasted and discarded, without thought for the future.
Open our hearts and minds to the signs of our times, to the groaning of creation, so that we may turn from our greed and lack of vision
and see a world being made anew in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

May the Father of all mercies cleanse you from your sins, and restore you in his image to the praise and glory of his name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Praise be to the Holy Trinity!
God is sound and life, Creator of the Universe, Source of all life, whom the angels sing; wondrous Light of all mysteries known or unknown to humankind, and life that lives in all. 
 
Psalm 1
 
Happy are those who reject the advice of evil people,
who do not follow the example of sinners
or join those who have no use for God.
Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord,
and they study it day and night.
They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.
 
But evil people are not like this at all;
they are like straw that the wind blows away.
Sinners will be condemned by God
and kept apart from God’s own people.
The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord,
but the evil are on the way to their doom.
 
Reading: James 3.13-4.3
 
Are there any of you who are wise and understanding?  You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom.  But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter, and selfish, don’t sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom.  Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic.  Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil.  But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.  And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.  Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from? They come from your desires for pleasure, which are constantly fighting within you. You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it.  And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures.
 
Hymn:      All things bright and beautiful
                  Cecil Frances Alexander (née Humphreys) (1818-1895)
 
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful
the Lord God made them all.
 

Each little flower that opens,
each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings:

2 The cold wind in the winter,
the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden,
he made them every one:
 

3: He gave us eyes to see them,
and lips that we might tell
how great is God almighty,
who has made all things well:
 
Sermon
 
All things bright and beautiful is one of the best known hymns in the English speaking world (and there is a Welsh translation too!). When I ministered in the Rhondda in south Wales, it was sung at baptisms, weddings and funerals alike, so often that familiarity could easily breed contempt. I guess that’s why the editors of Rejoice & Sing left it out.
 
It’s also often regarded as old fashioned, especially perhaps because of the verse that runs:
 
The tall trees in the greenwood, the meadows where we play,
the rushes by the water we gather every day:

Now I don’t think that I have ever gathered rushes, and I have not often played in meadows. I only really renewed my acquaintance with the tall trees in the greenwood during lockdown. The hymnbook editors’ response has been to cut out the verse, if not the whole hymn. But the tragedy is not the loss of the verse, but the loss of the greenwoods, the meadows and the rushes. I think we should sing this verse much more often – and then commit to doing something to recreate that lost biodiverse world described so well by Cecil Frances Alexander in her hymn.
 
And why have these things been lost? Partly at least because we have failed to listen to the words of the letter of James – “You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight.” So indeed we have killed – we have sprayed weedkiller over the meadows and turned them into green monocultures, or simply built houses and factories all over them; we have polluted the watercourses and drained the ponds where the rushes used to grow; we have chopped down many of the tall trees in the greenwood, and air pollution and climate change have caused ash dieback and other diseases. We have done this to get what we want, to store up riches for ourselves, and as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “your heart will always be where your riches are” – so we don’t sing that verse because it’s old fashioned, not talking about the riches we care about.
 
But without God’s riches our life is not really any richer – we are in fact much poorer. According to Genesis and evolutionary biology alike, homo sapiens was created last, not because we are the best, but because we need all the rest of creation in order for us to survive and thrive as God and nature intend. That is why James tells us to ask God for the things we need – the things we need, not just “things to use for your own pleasure”.
 
James knows that we are so poor at sharing because we are so good at taking for ourselves. “Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil.” He calls on us to seek “the wisdom from above” which “is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.”
 
Now. if you have a garden but – like me – you don’t like gardening, I have some great news. Planting some peace in God’s creation and harvesting some good deeds is amazingly simple. Just stop cutting the grass, stop trying to make everything look neat and tidy and let nature clothe the wild flowers and the wild grasses and feed the birds in its own way. Here in our garden, we have stopped cutting our grass and we have our own meadow in which we and our cat can play – and in which the hedgehogs can find shelter and the birds can find insects and the bees can find pollen – and it’s all less work for us too! Often what we need to do is to stop doing things!
 
But there are things we can do. This is the right time of year to clear a bit of ground, or if you’re energetic to scarify your lawn and throw a bee bomb into it. These are balls of mixed wild flower seeds, which you can buy in many local eco shops or gardening stores, or you can go online. Make sure you buy one with only native wild flowers – and next year you should have your own meadow (as long as you remember not to keep tidying it all up!). And if what you’ve got is a window box or a planter, you can plant your bee bomb in that instead – the bees and pollinators will be so grateful.
 
You see, as James says, we weren’t made to try to improve on God’s handiwork. We were made to enjoy God’s creation, to be part of it, as the Psalmist says, like trees planted by the waters. If we stay rooted in God’s creation like a tree planted by a river, it will look after us – it will go on producing the food and medicines and everything else we need to sustain life.
As we sang earlier:
        
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
 
It’s when we interfere and try to take over, when we exploit the earth for profit, that’s when things go wrong, and the evil find they are on the way to their doom, because our selfishness will destroy us all – because in our generation God’s creation can no longer pollinate our food or grow the material for our clothes as it should.
 
So don’t sow jealousy and selfishness, sow a bee bomb instead, be rooted in God’s creation like a tree planted by the waters. And remember:
 
Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings,
he made their glowing colours, he made their tiny wings:
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful the Lord God made them all.
 
Thanks be to God for his amazing creation and his endless generosity. May we look after it and share it with other people and with all things bright and beautiful. Amen.
 
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
 
Intercessions
 
In peace let us pray to the Father, through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, who make, sustain and renew all things.
 
Heavenly Father,
we pray for your Church throughout the world
that we may be faithful to our baptism.
With the dawn of each day,
may we be awakened to the beauty of the earth
and rejoice in the wonder and diversity of creation in all its forms and colour.
 
Lord, hear us.  Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Lord of life, as all living things depend on the good quality of the air, the soil, and water, may your wisdom guide us as we care for the environment. Deliver us from selfishness and rapacious greed.
Help us to share the rich resources of this world gladly and justly,
in the cause of stability and peace between nations and peoples.
 
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Lord of mercy, we bring before you areas affected by chronic shortage of water, and pray for those suffering as a result of drought or the lack of safe water to drink. We pray for those suffering from the effects of extreme weather and whose environment has been damaged by cyclones, floods or destructive wildfires. May we better understand the effects of the changing patterns of weather on our planet.
 
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Lord of abundant life, we give thanks for the rich harvest of the seas;
may we cherish the good things you have created and be successful in reducing the pollution in our oceans, rivers and lakes that life may flourish.
 
May your wisdom help us to maintain the biodiversity of our fragile planet.
 
Strengthen our resolve and bless the efforts of all who seek to protect the marine, animal, insect and plant life that are threatened with extinction.
 
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Lord of creation, you have placed us on the earth to care for it,
and call us to be co-workers with Christ your Son. Bless our farmers, those who work in our nature reserves and National Parks,
in our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Scientific Interest and all who are custodians of our landscape.
 
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Lord of the universe, you have made us from the stuff of the earth, and to earth we shall return.  May we tread lightly upon this earth
and succeed in the innovation and development of sources of renewable energy and green technology.  By your grace, may we live our days wisely, live sustainably, and at the last come with all your saints into paradise and enjoy creation made new.
 
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
 
Offertory
 
God’s world needs our offerings of care, and for many of us that means sharing some of our money too.  So let us set aside our offering for the work of our church this week, as we dedicate ourselves anew to God’s work using James Ashdown’s prayer for this week from the Prayer Handbook – which links us back to Psalm 1 which we used earlier in the service.
 
May we be like trees planted by the river of God.
Our trunks straight, untwisted by envy or selfish ambition.
May we be like trees planted by the river of God.
Our leaves broad, giving shade to all who suffer chaos and evil.
May we be like trees planted by the river of God.
Our fruit sweet, bursting with mercy and Peace.
May we be like trees planted by the river of God.
Our roots deep in the ever-fertile love of God. Amen.
 

Hymn     God Who Spoke In The Beginning
Fred Kaan
 
God who spoke 
in the beginning,
forming rock and shaping spar,
set all life and growth in motion,
earthly world and distant star;
he who calls the earth to order
is the ground of what we are.
 
2 God who spoke 
through people, nations,
through events long past and gone,
showing still today his purpose,
speaks supremely through his Son;
he who calls the earth to order
gives his word, and it is done.

3 God whose speech becomes incarnate 
Christ is servant, Christ is Lord!
calls us to a life of service, 
heart and will to action stirred;
he who uses our obedience 
has the first and final word.
 

Blessing
 
May God the Father, who clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air, provide you with all we need for life in its fullness. Amen.
 
May God the Son, who fed the five thousand and turned water into wine,
feed you with his life and transform us in his love. Amen.
 
May God the Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters of creation
and formed the world from chaos, form you in the likeness of Christ and renew the face of the earth. Amen.
 
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship by Andy Braunston.  Prayers of Approach from (From Jubilee for the Earth – Season of Creation 2020 – https://23100d34-ff98-46f5-ad81-a296cc22d25b.filesusr.com/ugd/e828e0_cd8cf9ce255d4f288d1d39fa01bc61a3.pdf)  and (From Church of England Climate Sunday service – https://23100d34-ff98-46f5-ad81-a296cc22d25b.filesusr.com/ugd/e828e0_4a0730f562654dedaf1b6e38b58622e2.pdf )
 
Prayer of Illumination (Hildegard of Bingen, 13th Century – used in Jubilee for the Earth, as above)
 
Intercessions and Blessing from the Church of England, A Time for Creationhttps://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/time-creation#calibre_link-36)
 
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder – Carl Gustav Boberg; Translator: Stuart K. Hine (1949) – BBC Songs of Praise
All things bright and beautiful – Cecil Frances Alexander (née Humphreys) (1818-1895) – BBC Songs of Praise
God who spoke in the beginning © Fred Kaan 1968, Hope Publishing Co. All rights reserved. Played by the Revd. Paul Robinson
 
Opening Organ Piece – Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing Organ Piece – Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
 

Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
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