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Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church Service for Sunday 17th October
Photo Credit John Cameron Unsplash
The Rev’d George Watt
Good morning. My name is George Watt. I am Moderator of Thames North Synod. I am married to Linda and have three sons, Nathan, Jacob and Reuben – some of you may know that Reuben is currently Youth Moderator. I have been in ministry for 29 years and served in Southampton, Cheam and Reigate and I am now finding my way around Thames North Synod – so if you see me driving aimlessly around the M25 do point me in the right direction!
Call To Worship
We lift up our eyes to the hills— from where will our help come? Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
God will not let your foot be moved; God who keeps you will not slumber. The One who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; the Eternal One will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore. Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Hymn O Lord My God When I In Awesome Wonder Russian hymn tr. Stuart K Hine (1899-1989)
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hand hath made, I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, thy power 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: 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:
3: And 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 shouts of acclamation and take me home – what joy shall fill my heart! Then shall I bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, ‘my God, how great thou art!’
Prayers of Approach, Confession And Forgiveness
Lord as we meet together this morning – we are in different places, but we are united in your presence. You are so much bigger than local geography because this is your wonderful great world. You reign above everything, and deservedly take the highest place and become the focus of our worship. And yet you humbled yourself and became in Jesus a servant who washed his disciples feet.
Lord we confess that we are so full of our own importance and confused your grace with thinking we have a right to status and preferential treatment. Put us in our place so that we might worship you as Lord and not lord it over other people.
Listen everybody, here is Good News Jesus came not just as a Servant but also as Saviour. As we turn and confess our sin, he enables us to make a fresh new start. Thanks be to God.
Prayer of Illumination
As we come to listen for God’s Word to us, we pray: Lord, open our eyes to see the truths in your Word.
Readings read by Revd Shahbaz Javed, Minister in Thames North Synod
And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that! Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured, and who set the cornerstone, While the morning stars sang in chorus and all the angels shouted praise?
St Mark 10:35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
HymnBrother Sister, Let Me Serve You Richard Gillard
Brother, sister let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
2: We are pilgrims on a journey and companions on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.
3: I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.
4: I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh I’ll laugh with you; I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.
5: When we sing to God in heaven we shall find such harmony, born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony.
6: Brother, sister let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. But if you ask you might get more than you bargained for! James and John had been following Jesus for some time and found themselves in the inner circle amongst the twelve. So it was not perhaps surprising that they made their request of Jesus since they deemed themselves to be favoured by him. Perhaps there was also an element of insecurity. Jesus had been talking about his crucifixion and resurrection and they didn’t want to be left behind or forgotten when it came to the happy ending.
As God calls us and makes us feel special then it can leave us with the impression that no one else matters to God. The focus is on us. But of course God’s capacity to love is not confined to just me or you but God loved and loves the whole world. So we should not expect preferential treatment.
This episode feels like a bunch of folk jostling to be at the front of the queue. ‘I’m first!’ What James and John had failed to recognise was that if they were in that privileged position then others would be pushed back or even excluded.
This last year has brought home to me what it means to be privileged because I am white and male. I have to be honest and say that I find myself at the front of the queue and haven’t thought enough about those who are behind me or even at the back, out of sight and out of mind. I could argue I didn’t push my way forward but found myself where I am because of the circumstances of my birth, so it isn’t my fault. When I went for my flu jab in the autumn a huge queue snaked its way down the nearby street from the entrance of the Doctor’s surgery. An Elderly couple appeared and they clearly would have struggled to walk down the length of the queue far less being able to climb back up the incline of the road and having to stand for a substantial length of time waiting. Fortunately decency prevailed and everyone urged them to join the front of the queue even if it meant a slightly longer delay for the rest of us. But too often our eyes and ears are closed to the plight of others behind us. And this isn’t about pity it is about justice, more than that it can also be about the need for positive discrimination.
An Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting the city where he had previously taught. The great and the good were there. Just before the service started a homeless man came in and in true church style the only free seats were at the front and much to the consternation of the organisers that’s where he plonked himself down. When the time came for the peace to be shared much to the surprise of everyone the Archbishop ignored the dignitaries and headed straight for the dishevelled worshiper and greeted him by name. That is the upside down nature of God’s kingdom and we need to be prepared that although of course Jesus does see us and love us, he also looks past us too at the ignore and marginalised, which we see time and time again in the Gospels. We might think we should be seated at his right or left hand but we will be surprised who has ended there – not who we would expect!
But Jesus is also saying something else profound to James and John. Even if you are privileged you are called to live a life of sacrifice. In one of my first churches for evening services and Church Meetings we used a smaller side room which had an old fashioned communion table in it which, as Minister, I was privileged to sit behind. The only problem was that you couldn’t get your knees under the table. So for the duration I would have to contort my legs to sit at the table. A small example of privilege and sacrifice, and not really anything to complain about when in our world today there are those who truly suffer. There is the staggering statistic of 245 million Christians today who are suffering or persecuted…245 million in 145 countries. And of course it isn’t just Christians who are persecuted other religious and ethnic minorities are also suffering today. And yet we still ask that we might sight on the right or left hand side of our Lord.
Job did suffer, he suffered horribly. Although he had good reason to complain or argue with God, God reminds him that he is in charge. Being told to ‘pull yourself together’ is not the most pastorally sensitive thing to say to someone who is suffering but there is a more important message here – Job shouldn’t wallow in his own self-pity but ‘stand tall’ and look forward to what God will do for him. He may feel at the bottom of the heap but that isn’t where God wants him to stay. It isn’t where he wants the marginalised of our world today to remain. And God wants us to play our part to enable them to stand tall, along with us and with our help.
And so we are challenged as we pray ‘your kingdom come’ to make room for the least, accepting and affirming them even it means that rightly we are put in our place – a blessed place but not a privileged place at the expense of other.
Hymn: Hear The Call Of The Kingdom Stuart Townend, Keith Getty & Kristyn Getty
Hear the call of the kingdom, lift your eyes to the King, let His song rise within you as a fragrant offering, of how God, rich in mercy, came in Christ to redeem all who trust in His unfailing grace.
2: Hear the call of the Kingdom to be children of light, with the mercy of heaven, the humility of Christ. Walking justly before Him, loving all that is right that the life of Christ may shine through us.
King of Heaven, we will answer the call, we will follow, bringing hope to the world, filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim salvation in Jesus’ name.
3: Hear the call of the Kingdom to reach out to the lost, with the Father’s compassion in the wonder of the Cross, bringing peace and forgiveness, and a hope yet to come; let the nations put their trust in Him.
Affirmation of Faith
The risen Christ is the Saviour of all people. Those joined to him by faith are set right with God and commissioned to serve as God’s reconciling community. Christ is head of this community, the Church, which began with the apostles and continues through all generations.
Prayers of Intercession led by Lorraine Downer CYDO Thames North
Let us pray.
Lord, we pray for those who find themselves in positions of power:
For those who are heads of state, asking that they might rule their people with wisdom, seeking their protection, prosperity and good.
For those who govern their nation, including our own government, asking that they will ensure justice and equality for all, so that no one goes hungry or lives in substandard housing.
For those who are chief executives or company directions, asking that they don’t just seek profit but ensure that they help to build a better world of fairness, free of exploitation.
For parents and teachers, asking that they might nurture younger generations, encouraging them in the way to go, supporting them as we recognise many are facing mental health issues.
For those in the medical and caring professions who have faced unprecedented challenges this last 18 months, praying that they might find new strength and fresh resources so that those in their care might know healing and wholeness.
Lord, we pray for those who find themselves in positions of powerlessness:
For those who are on low wages or find themselves out of work, praying that they would have all that they need to live on and be able to provide for their families.
For those who are discriminated against because of their race, gender or sexual orientation praying that they would know that in your eyes they are precious and loved and asking that others would reach out to them in support.
For those who are suffering as a result of the climate emergency, praying for their protection and asking that those making decisions would bring us back from the brink of disaster and focus their power in caring for your planet. We pray for our world leaders who will be meeting shortly to set targets and challenge all the nations to make the environment a priority.
We pray for those who are suffering in body, mind or spirit, asking that they might know healing and in a moments silence let us pray for those who are suffering and those we promised to pray for…..(silence)
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.
So we pray that the powerful would use their power wisely and that the powerless would be lifted up into a place of justice and mercy. Amen.
We gather up our prayers as we join in the prayer that Jesus taught us.
You bless us richly, O God – with life, gifts, and wealth. In gratitude for all that you have given us we want to use all that we are and all that we have to serve you and others to your praise and glory.
HymnWill You Come And Follow Me John Bell & Graham Maule
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name? Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
2: Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name? Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same? Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare, will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
3: Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name? Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same? Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around through my sight & touch & sound in you and you in me?
4: Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name. Let me turn and follow you and never be the same. In your company I’ll go where your love & footsteps show. Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
Go and be the servant of others, lifting up the lowly and following the example of Christ so that his kingdom shall grow. And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and forever.
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