URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 1st May 2022 – The Revd. Nicola Furley-Smith

Order of Service

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Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Worship for Sunday 1st May 2022
The Third Sunday of Easter

Photo Credit Jakub Kapusnak/unsplash
 
The Rev’d Nicola Furley Smith
URC Secretary for Ministries
 
Introduction
 
Good morning, my name is Nicola Furley-Smith and I am the Secretary for Ministries.  This morning’s service comes from Purley.
 
Call To Worship
 
One:         Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
 
Many:      He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 One:        Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!  Exult, all creation around God’s throne!  Jesus, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn       Will You Come And Follow Me
John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

 

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 let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean
in you and you in me?
 
4 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
you and you in me?

 

5 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 and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.
                 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
 
Creating God,
you are present in all things and surround us with your love,
give us grace to know that you are near us
and strengthen our resolve to share the good news of Jesus Christ
through all the actions of our daily lives.
 
Loving God, forgive us our betrayals when we fail to speak for you,
when we fail to share your love with others,
when we live our lives as if you did not exist.
Inspiring God, fill us now with your lifegiving breath.
Grant us the vision to see the world through loving eyes
and the energy to work for your peace and your healing justice. Amen.
 
Jesus continues to meet us where we are, He is beside us as we toil and as we rest.  His mercy and forgiveness are as vast as the ocean and as numerous as the fish in the sea!  Your sins are forgiven!
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out on us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that our hearts and minds may be opened. Amen.
 
Reading   Revelation 5.11-14
 
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour, glory and blessing!”
 
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”  And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
 
Hymn       Hark How the Adoring Hosts Above
                  Scottish Paraphrases 1781 based on Rev 5: 11-14
 
Hark how the adoring hosts above,
with songs surround the throne!
Ten thousand, thousand
are their tongues;
but all their hearts are one.
 
2 Worthy the Lamb
that died, they cry,
to be exalted thus;
worthy the Lamb, let us reply;
for he was slain for us.
 
3 Thou hast redeemed us
with thy blood,
and set the prisoners free;
thou mad’st us kings
and priests to God,
and we shall reign with thee.
 
4 To him who sits upon the throne,
the God whom we adore,
and to the Lamb
that once was slain,
be glory evermore.
 
Reading   St John 21.1-19
 
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.  Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.
 
That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”
 
Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
 
Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”  (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
 
Hymn       Jesus Calls us! O’er the tumult
Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) (alt.)
 
Jesus calls us!  o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild restless sea,
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying, ‘Christian, follow me’.
 
2 As, of old, Saint Andrew heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home & toil & kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.
 
3 Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, ‘Christian, love me more’.
 
4 In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
‘Christian, love me more than these’.

 

5 Jesus calls us!  By thy mercy,
Saviour, make us hear thy call,
give our hearts to thine obedience,
serve and love thee best of all.
 
Sermon
 
The disciples have returned to their previous vocation and head back to shore with empty nets after fishing all night. And in the light of the resurrection here stands Jesus.
 
His call to them is to go back out and try again and he gives them instructions as to the next step. He tells them to put the nets out on the right side of the boat. They follow his instructions and the result is the miraculous catch.
 
Whereas Luke’s gospel also contains this story right at the very beginning of his gospel in that call of the first disciples as they are commissioned when he says  – come and follow me – John tells this story here as part of the resurrection appearances of Jesus where we experience a re-commissioning of sorts – come and follow me says Jesus..
 
What were they thinking? They had fished through the darkness of the night but their nets were empty. Nothing. That’s when Jesus, still unrecognized by the disciples, shows himself and says, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” That’s not so much a question as it is a statement. Empty nets. no fish, no life. That’s when Jesus shows himself.
 
In the same way, the empty net is not only descriptive of their fishing efforts it’s descriptive of the disciples themselves. They are as empty as their nets.
 
Who here hasn’t experienced that darkness and emptiness? You know what that’s like. You fish, you work, you do your best but you still come up empty. On a bad day, welcome to my world! In those times we have come to the limits of our own self-sufficiency. We have nothing to show for our efforts and nothing left to give. We’re empty. Nets cannot be filled unless they are first emptied. In the same way we can never be filled with Jesus until we come to recognize the limits of our own self-sufficiency. The emptiness is not the end or a failure but a beginning. 
 
The amazing thing to me is that the disciples who do not know who he is at first go back out. Is it their desperation for a catch, a love of task, a desire for success, a sense of the specialness of the stranger calling them to return to their task, or something else? I think it’s the something else: Jesus shows up when the nets are empty. They believe but they don’t see.
 
Whatever it was, they venture back out and find huge success. Their nets are overflowing. 153 fish seems a very specific number.  Many have guessed what the significance of the 153 might be but it may simply imply all of the community of believers. In other words many were caught.

They have breakfast with the man they now recognise as Jesus. It is a Eucharistic event despite the lack of wine and there’s fish rather than bread. But, more importantly, it is at this meal that they receive a recommissioning for the task ahead. They are reminded of who they are and what they were originally called to be. They are challenged to get back in the boat and try again — in more ways than one. Following the call of Jesus means putting your nets back into the sea even though you may be tired and wonder what it has all been for. You believe even though you may not see.
 
For Simon Peter, the change is clear. A new day and a new name. Jesus wants Peter to start again. Simon, son of John, do you love me?  Three times over. As if to undo, to erase, the three times that he denied Jesus. The memory does not need to be voiced; it just needs to be acknowledged and put away with the opportunity to move on. No longer will Peter be defined by his worst mistake.
 
So let me ask you this. What are your empty nets today? And when you have answered that question don’t abandon your nets. They are the very places Jesus is showing himself to you. They will be places of resurrection nets filled with large fish, all 153 of them; to nourish your life.
 
One more thing. Do you notice that all this happens at daybreak? The light always overcomes the darkness. In the light of this new day, in the light of the full burst net in the light of the 153 fish it isn’t just about the rising of the sun (S-U-N) but the rising of the Son (S-O-N). Jesus will show himself to you in the context for your resurrection and the raw material from which new life will be fashioned. The last supper has become the first breakfast and the charcoal fire of denial has become a charcoal fire of welcome and invitation. What looked like endings will become new beginnings.
 
This is the kind of text that allows for some creative discussions of what church and ministry might look like if we dropped our nets on the other side and if we really followed Jesus. And that excites me! You’re probably thinking – well it should you are, after all, the Secretary for Ministries. But it also terrifies me Because it will take us into paces which make us uncomfortable.
 
But what if, in our jubilee year, we thought of the church in our context
in terms of a recognition that our nets are empty and we need a change of plans? For many, and not just in our denomination, there is much talk of

  • declining numbers
  • a lack of ministers
  • the burden of necessary compliance issues
  • a general tiredness as we emerge from the pandemic into what new church looks like
  • the fear that the church as we know it will not be here much longer
  • shall I go on?

But what if, what if, we allow the presence of Jesus to unleash a creativity in us which allows us to realise the gifts God has given us to craft newly accredited ministries where we see need which is not about plugging gaps but genuinely and intentionally trying to find out what God is calling his Church to be and do.
 
For Peter, the call is to fish, then tend and feed. It is the same for us. But how?
 
Revelation chapter 5 might help us here. In verse 9 it asks us the question: Where can we hear the Lamb’s “new song” being sung in the world today? It proclaims that, when all is said and done, of the considerable noises we human beings are capable of, it is the Lamb’s new song that will endure. We need to listen for that song in our midst. I find this a cause for hope.
 
I’m a great fan of Marie Kondo’s art of decluttering. Her question is always what sparks joy for you?  What gives you energy? If it sparks joy, hold on to it.  If not, thank God for it and lay it to one side.  When Jesus comes into our midst perhaps we need to risk what we have held onto the past 50 years that we may see clearly.
 
Whatever God calls us to in the next 50 years needs to bring joy and energy as we walk his Way. Amen.
 
Hymn       Lord You Have Come To the Seashore
Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991) translated Robert Trupia
 

Lord,
you have come to the seashore,
neither searching
for the rich nor the wise,
desiring only that I should follow.

O Lord,
with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling,

you have spoken my name.
All I longed for

I have found by the water,
at your side

I will seek other shores.
 
2: Lord,
see my goods, my possessions;
in my boat you find
no power, no wealth.
Will you accept, then,
my nets and labour?
 
3 Lord,
take my hands, and direct them.
Help me spend myself
in seeking the lost,
returning love for
the love you gave me.
 
4 Lord, as I drift on the waters,
be the resting-place
of my restless heart,
my life’s companion,
my friend and refuge.

 

A Statement of Faith With Room for Creation
 
We trust in God beyond us  before us and after us;
Creator and Companion of All: decisive, collaborative,
 
Shaper of Earth, Breather of Life at work from the Beginning;
By choice, for justice,  assigning work for Creatures too.
 
We trust in Christ our God who shares our being;
God who Spoke Flesh
befriending us in Jesus;
Flesh, blood, and birth
in common with all life.
 
Jesus loved, healed, warned
turned tables, spoke for the poor
saw Wisdom in Creatures.
Welcomed with branches but nailed to the Tree.
Abandoned to Death,  Earth alone received him.
 
On the third Day he rose to New Life
to be with us as the Sky above us;
constant, present, Companion still.
 
We trust the Breath of Life, our God
The Wind that blows where they will;
Interpreter of Scriptures
Gifted like fire to the Church
seen in healing, peace, forgiveness
God in us and beyond us too.
 
Intercessions
 
Jesus called Peter to fish, tend and feed.
 
Lord, You know us better than we do.  You know that we love youand we know that we can show you that love by loving one another and all the world.  We pray for humility, wisdom and insight as we seek to meet the needs of world.
 
In a world that cannot hear your new song because of the boisterous voices of the strong over the weak we pray for those who hunger after justice, who long for freedom, who yearn for peace.  We pray especially for areas of our world where intentional injustice has made the innocent hungry, homeless or destitute.  We pray for the leaders of nations and all in authority that they may use their skills and the power entrusted to them responsibly and for the good of all people.
 
Lord, in your love and mercy, help us to tend and feed those in need.
 
We pray for all those whose spirit is crushed that they may know your healing and be restored in faith and confidence in God’s love.  We pray especially for those who are ill in body or mind, anxious and afraid, for those who are grieving, lonely, abused.  We pray for all the people we meet in our daily lives that we may recognise and serve Christ in each other and hear God speaking in the voice of friends and strangers.
 
Lord, in your love and mercy, help us to tend and feed those in need.
 
Heavenly Father, you reached out to Simon Peter despite his past failure and appointed him to be a shepherd of your flock. With faith in your compassion and mercy we commit ourselves and those for whom we have prayed into your care. We ask that our lives may be renewed and directed by your loving wisdom so that we may follow Christ, not in our own strength but by your grace and blessing. Amen.

Offertory
 
Accept, O God, our gifts and our giving as tokens of your love, and grant that they may be used wisely for the extension of your kingdom in and through this place and for the greater glory of your holy name; through christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Hymn       Eternal God, Your Love’s Tremendous Glory
                  The Rev’d Alan Gaunt
 

Eternal God,
your love’s tremendous glory
cascades through life
in overflowing grace,
to tell creation’s
meaning in the story
of love evolving love
from time and space.
 
2: Eternal Son of God,
uniquely precious,
in you, deserted,
scorned, crucified,
God’s love has fathomed
sin and death’s deep darkness,
and flawed humanity
is glorified.
 
3: Eternal Spirit,
with us like a mother,
embracing us in
love serene and pure:
you nurture strength
to follow Christ our brother,
as full-grown children,
confident and sure.
 
4: Love’s trinity,
self-perfect, self-sustaining;
love which commands,
enables, and obeys:
you give yourself,
in boundless joy, creating
one vast increasing
harmony of praise.


5: We ask you now,
complete your image in us;
this love of yours,
our source and guide and goal.
May love in us
seek love and serve love’s purpose,
till we ascend with Christ
and find love whole.

Blessing
 
Go now in the name of Christ
to walk his way, to feed, and care for all God’s people.
 
And the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be amongst us and remain with us
This day and for evermore. Amen.
 
Sources
 
Call to Worship adapted by Andy Braunston from the Exultset.  Affirmation of Faith written by the Rev’d David Coleman.  All other liturgical material by the Rev’d Nicola Furley Smith.
 
Will You Come And Follow Me – John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958) © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH Scotland.  Everingham Music used with their kind permission
Hark How the Adoring Hosts Above – Scottish Paraphrases 1781 based on Rev 5: 11-14 sung by the Scottish Philharmonic Singers
Jesus Calls us! O’er the tumult – Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) (alt.) Sung by members of the Church of the Advocate, Chapel Hill, North Carolina and used with their kind permission.
Lord You Have Come To the Seashore – Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991) translated Robert Trupia © 1979, Cesáreo Gabaráin.  Translation: © 1987, OCP Publications sung by Hannah & Emily Beimesch, with Song Hun Nam on the piano from Immaculate Heart of Mary Music Ministry, Burlington, Kentucky used with their kind permission.
Eternal God, Your Love’s Tremendous Glory – The Rev’d Alan Gaunt Hope Publishing Co. Sung by the Rev’d Paul Robinson
 
Opening Organ Piece: Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger
(organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
Closing Organ Piece: Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to Christopher Whitehead, John Young, Sylvia nutt, Graham Handscomb, Hilary Eveleigh and Diana Cullum-Hall for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 

 
 
 

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