Service for 24th July 2022 The Rev’d Andy Braunston

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 24th July 2022

 

Opening Music –     The Touching Place by John Bell and Graham Maule
Sung by the Cathedral Singers

Introduction
 
Hello and welcome to worship.  My name is Andy Braunston and I serve as the URC’s Minister for Digital Worship ensuring we have a variety of resources on offer for local churches.  We’ve just moved to Orkney and are enjoying settling in to these lovely islands off the north coast of Scotland. 
 

Gathering Together
Call to Worship
 
Come, let us ring out our joy to the Eternal One;  hail the rock who saves us. Let us come into God’s presence, giving thanks; let us hail the rock of our salvation with a song of praise. A mighty God is the Most High, a great king above all gods. In God’s hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains belong to God. To God belongs the sea, made before time began; to God belongs the dry land shaped by God’s own mighty hands. O come; let us bow and bend low. Let us kneel before the God who made us, for the Most High is our God and we the people of God’s pasture, the flock that is led by God’s hand.
 
Hymn       Come All You Vagabonds
Stuart Townend, Mark Edwards & Phil Baggaley Copyright © 2011 Thankyou Music Performed by Stuart Townend.
 
Come, all you vagabonds,
Come all you ‘don’t belongs’
winners and losers,
come, people like me.
Come all you travellers
tired from the journey,
come wait a while, stay a while,
welcomed you’ll be.
 
2: Come all you questioners
looking for answers,
and searching for reasons
and sense in it all;
come all you fallen,
and come all you broken,
find strength for your body
and food for your soul.
  
Come to the feast,
there is room at the table.
Come let us meet in this place.
With the King of all kindness
who welcomes us in,
with the wonder of love,
and the power of grace.
The wonder of the love,
and the power of grace.
 
3: Come those who worry
‘bout houses and money,
and all those who don’t have
a care in the world;
from every station & orientation,
the helpless, the hopeless,
the young and the old.
 
chorus

 

4: Come all believers
and dreamers and schemers,
and come all you restless
just searching for home;
movers and shakers
and givers and takers,
the happy, the sad
and the lost and alone.
 
5: Come self-sufficient
with wearied ambition,
and come those who feel
at the end of the road.
Fiery debaters
and religion haters,
accusers, abusers,
the hurt and ignored.

 

Come to the feast, there is room at the table.
Come let us meet in this place.
With the King of all kindness who welcomes us in,
with the wonder of love, and the power of grace.
The wonder of the love, and the power of grace.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
O Most High, source of all truth,
we come to worship, learn, and reflect.
 
O Most High, love embodied in radical action,
You lifted up the lowly,
showed concern to the marginalised,
and dignified the shamed,
we come to be changed that we may be agents of change.
 
O Most High, energy of all creation,
You inspire and lead us to see what is really going on,
to uncover that which has been hidden,
to bring to light to those things which are done in the dark,
we come to be empowered that we may bring Your healing.
 
O Most High,
You are faithful and we are unfaithful;
You expose the truth, yet we prepare to turn away from it;
You embody dignity and worth, yet we prefer sin and shame;
You free and heal the victims, yet we prefer to blame them;
You invite us to be disturbed, yet we prefer the comfort of ignorance.
 
We are sorry,
give us the grace to turn our lives around,
and the time to bring about real change.  Amen.
 
Here is good news:
Like a father God runs to welcome home the estranged,
like a mother God gathers us into a tender loving embrace,
like a rock God is trustworthy and secure.
Know that God forgives you; have the strength to forgive yourselves.  Amen!
 
Breaking Open the Word
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Open your Word to us, O God,
as we listen to Scripture and introduction,
proclamation and challenge,
words – ancient and modern,
that in our hearing and thinking,
our reflecting and resolving,
we may see how to change our world.  Amen.
 
Introduction
 
Today’s reading is striking, famous and uncomfortable; Hosea – we are told – is called to marry Gomer who, many translators insist, was a prostitute.  The disastrous marriage between Hosea and Gomer parallels the unfaithfulness of Israel in its relationship to God. 
 
The problem is that translation is an inexact science and the Hebrew word for prostitute, zonah, is not used of her.  Neither is she called a kadesha – a holy one whom the male prophets saw as sex workers in pagan temples. 
Some think, like the translators of the Douai Rhiems and New International Version, that the writer of Hosea saw Gomer as a licentious woman, an adulterous partner. 
 
In many ways an unfaithful wife was more of a threat to an ordered society than a sex worker – it was men, after all, who used prostitutes.  Women, on the other hand, were to allow no one into their beds except their husbands.  Then, as now, poor behaviour which might be tolerated in men was not accepted in women.   Women who were, through abandonment and poverty, forced into sex work, then and now, are stigmatised and condemned but the men who buy their sexual services aren’t.  Women who tried to leave loveless arranged marriages were seen as out of control and challenging the social order.  If Gomer was a woman who sought love and fulfilment outside her marriage she would have been portrayed as a prostitute. 
 
The image of Israel as God’s unfaithful wife is superimposed onto this difficult marriage but leaves us with many questions.
 
Hosea  1:2-10
 
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”
 
So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the LORD said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.  On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
 
Gomer conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the LORD said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them.  But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”
 
When Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”  Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
 
Hymn       Psalm 85 4 – 13
Sing Psalms!  © The Free Church of Scotland’s Psalmody & Praise Committee,
recorded at Rosskeen Free Church, tune: Ebeneezer
 
God our Saviour, now restore us;   
from us turn away your rage. 
Will your anger burn against us?   
Will it last from age to age? 
Will you not again revive us,  
that we may rejoice in you? 
Show us, Lord,
your covenant mercy;   
your salvation grant anew.
 
2: I will hear what
God the Lord says:   
to His saints He offers peace;  
But His people must not wander   
and return to foolishness. 
Surely for all those who fear Him   
His salvation is at hand,  
So that once again His glory   
may be seen within our land.

 

3: Love and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace embrace.
Righteousness looks down from heaven;
from the earth springs faithfulness.
What is good the LORD will give us,
and our land its fruit will bear.
Righteousness will go before him
and his royal way prepare.
 
Sermon
 
Often in life there are many different ways to see the same event.  A few years ago there was an advert which showed a young man with a shaved head running down the street and pushing another guy over.  You saw the clip and assumed you were watching a mugging.  Then the advert changed perspective and the younger guy had seen something about to drop off some scaffolding and he did, indeed, run to push the older guy but to push him out of the way of certain death.  Perspective changes things. 
 
Many of us will read today’s passage and be a bit puzzled.  Hosea is commanded to marry a woman who is described in very unflattering terms.  Some translations have “whore” or today’s rather confusing “wife of whoredom”, others have “prostitute” or some simply say “an unfaithful woman.”  It’s a bit direct for church really.  We read on in Hosea and, as written, the story is about how Hosea is commanded to marry Gomer and their unhappy marriage is a metaphor for the unhappy marriage between God and the people of Israel.  Just as Gomer runs off after other men, so Israel keeps running off after other gods.  Hosea is heartbroken just as God is heartbroken.  It’s a powerful metaphor and one that has captured the imagination of God’s people for millennia.  Yet it’s very difficult for us to read now as we are more willing to think a bit more broadly and have different social attitudes to our forebears. 
 
Firstly, we are all too aware of how women in the ancient world were often treated and viewed.  In Hosea’s time women weren’t free to make the marriage choices that many women today make.  In Hosea’s time it wasn’t expected that you’d find what we’d call romantic love in marriage – instead one was lucky if one found companionship, loyalty and steadfast love – which was something that would have been thought to grow over time.  Marriages would have been arranged – in today’s case the author felt God has arranged the marriage.  We don’t know what Gomer thought – but women’s opinions on these things weren’t really considered. 
 
Secondly, we should think a little about the choices that women faced in the ancient world, and often in today’s world.  Women were always to be dependent on men – they were daughters, mothers or wives.  They were always in need of financial and social protection from men.  Fathers decided who their daughters would marry.  Husbands could divorce their wives very easily and if divorced the wife would have to fend for herself if her family would not take her back.  Widows were financially precarious and even if left money often other male relatives would administer that money.  So women were not allowed to choose their husbands but had to be financially dependent upon them.  If a woman was divorced she’d have little choice but make money by selling herself. 
 
And then think about how women who worked selling themselves were, and are, portrayed.  Sex workers are condemned, the men who use them aren’t.  Women who have to sell themselves are tolerated by men yet women who seek love outside arranged marriages weren’t as they bring dishonour and shame – yet the Bible is littered with stories of men going with sex workers without, it seems to me, any real sense of shame for the men.  Given that context we wonder what on earth is going on with Gomer and Hosea.
 
In chapter 2 of Hosea we read of God’s forgiving love.  God, who renews the covenantal vows with wayward, yet repentant, Israel punishes “his wife” to make her repent.  These punishments, to Israel portrayed as an unfaithful wife, make uncomfortable reading for us as all the images are taken from marriage.  Hosea has God stripping his wife naked, making her a wilderness, killing her with thirst, isolating her and refusing to provide for her well-being and humiliating her before her lovers.  Then, in Chapter 3, Hosea is commanded to love his wife just as God loves Israel. Hosea restores Gomer’s livelihood by giving her money for clothes, barley for food, and wine for drink; just as God isolates Israel from her lovers so Hosea segregates Gomer from hers and withdraws himself from the marital bed. 
 
In chapter 2 God punishes Israel in ways drawn from patterns of abusive marriages; in chapter 3 Hosea shows love to Gomer just as God loves Israel and punishment of Gomer isn’t mentioned – yet domestic violence is most often private.  The silence in the text about these “acts of love” mirror the silence in our public life about the abuse of women.  We can see what the writer thought were appropriate punishments for wayward women as they are seen as appropriate ways for God himself to punish Israel. 
 
Strikingly in Hosea we don’t hear from Gomer herself.  We are told about her, we are invited to make judgements on her behaviour, but we don’t know anything from her perspective. 

  • What would she say about life with this prophet who immortalises their marriage? 
  • What would Gomer think of being a metaphor for Israel? 
  • What would she think of Hosea who is comparing himself to God?

Gomer’s silence reminds us that women are often excluded from discussions that portray God as male and women as sinful.  Might Gomer have objected to having to marry an older man who was a bit of a religious zealot?  Had Gomer already taken a lover and was pulled away from him to marry Hosea?  Was Gomer actually unfaithful or did she just argue back and so treated as being an adulteress?  We’ll never know, just as we often never know what goes on behind locked doors.
 
The images, of course, offer a powerful way of understanding Israel’s relationship with God and the Church’s relationship with God.  God who is faithful calls His unfaithful people back to Him time and time again.  We can relate to that, we can see our own lack of fidelity in our relationship with God.  It is problematic, however, to read into our own spiritual journey a story which seems to sanctify abuse.  It is hard to see a story where Hosea takes on God’s role in relationship to Gomer as a pattern for how we may relate to God now.  We’ve had, after all, far too many centuries where men think they can act as if they were God’s own self. 
 
So what might we do with this passage?
 
Of course we can reflect on our own patterns of fidelity and infidelity in relationship to our own journey with God.  We’ve all had times when we’ve been close to God and kept our promises and we’ve all had other times when we’ve turned away and broken our promises.  We need to ask God to help us be more faithful to the commitments we make.
 
We might use this passage to reflect on what is in plain sight but ignored.  I’ve read Hosea many times; I’ve studied it at A Level and on my degree yet not considered what it tells me about male attitudes to women until more recently.  I’ve accepted it as written yet not considered who wrote it, the world view it portrays nor perpetrates.  Sometimes we miss what’s in plain sight and we need to ask God to open our eyes.
 
We can also reflect on how women are treated by men – not just in Old Testament times but now.  Women’s Aid point out that it is hard to get accurate statistics on the prevalence of domestic abuse due to its hidden nature.  The Office for National Statistics estimate that in the year ending March 2020 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse.  The police take 100 calls an hour reporting domestic abuse. It is estimated that only 18% of women who experience domestic abuse report this to the police.
 
Women in our churches will have experienced domestic abuse. 
 
Women who use our buildings will have experienced domestic abuse. 
 
Maybe we could put Women’s Aid posters up in on the back door of loo cubicles?  Often the toilet is the only space a woman could be alone and take details of where to get help.  We might need to show our love of God by finding ways for women to access help, healing and wholeness. 
 
Just like that advert which portrayed the same events as a mugging and a rescue, Hosea could be portraying both a powerful image of God’s fidelity contrasted with our infidelity, as well as ugly social realities that we prefer not to think about.   As we reflect on God’s truth for us within this reading we should be prepared for our comfort to be disturbed that we learn to see the world differently.  Will you pray with me?
 
O God help us to see the world as you see it
in its complexity and simplicity,
its nuance and its clarity,
that we may see what is going on in front of us
and, in faithfulness to you,
work for justice.  Amen.
 
Affirmation of Faith        My Only Comfort
©2016 Written and Sung by Joe Deegan, Reformed Youth Ministries.  Used with his kind permission. Adapted from the Heidelberg Confession
 

What is your only comfort
in life or in death?
That I belong body and soul
to the Lord who gives me breath,
to the Lord who gives me breath.
 
2. He has fully paid for my sins
with his own precious blood.
He has set me free from the tyranny
of the ruler of this world,
of the ruler of this world.
 
Oh I am not my own,
I am bound to Christ alone.
My only comfort in this life
is belonging to the Lord,
is belonging to the Lord.
 
3. I believe in the resurrection
and the promise that was made,
that my body and soul will be made whole
on the Lord’s Anointed Day,
on the Lord’s Anointed Day. 
 
4. No eye has fully seen,
no ear has fully heard,
no human heart can imagine
the world that is to come,
the world that is to come.

 

Fed at the Lord’s Own Hand
Intercessions
 
Eternal One,
we bring before you the praises and pains
of our Church,
of our world and
of our lives,
knowing you hear our prayers
and enable us to do Your will.
 
We pray for the Church around the world,
sustain her in hard places of persecution,
nurture her in places of growth and vitality,
comfort her in places of indifference,
that, in the end, despite suffering and pain
She may rise triumphant in Your glory.  (pause)
 
We pray for our world,
thanking You for its beauty, diversity, and vitality,
we acknowledge our part in the majesty of creation,
yet realise the ways in which we pollute and harm our world.
Bless with Your love and knowledge,
those who work to change our world for the better,
those who teach us to be responsible sharers of this planet,
those who seek to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, and
those who urge us to change our ways before it’s too late.  (pause)
 
We pray for those we know who are in any form of pain,
         women abused by men,
         children going to bed hungry,
         those worrying about how to heat their homes,
         those seeking to work for peace in a world plagued by war,
         those known to us who are ill in mind, body, and spirit (pause)
 
Help us to know and do Your will O God,
inspire us to be Your people,
both proclaiming and living Your Kingdom until it comes,
praying, with Jesus,
 
Our Father…
 
Offertory
 
Giving is a hallmark of our faith – the theologians of liberation reminded us that living the right way is as important as believing the right things.  One of the most important reflections of how we live is how we use our financial resources.  What we give to reflects our values; the charities and causes we support reflect our deepest desires for how the world should be – whether that’s preserving historic buildings and landscape or working to alleviate suffering; whether it’s supporting the lifeboats or our veterans, giving to support the work of a campaign or a political party – our finances tell our story.  In worship we are reminded to give as God gave.  As part of our faith we realise that not all we are given is really ours, that God has the first call on our resources and so, now, in worship we give thanks.
 
We give thanks O God,
for all You’ve given us,
for the loving kindness we experience
through love and fellowship,
through word and song,
through bread and wine,
through movement and silence,
and so we give back to you something of what You’ve given us,
bless it and enable us to use it wisely,
to your glory which is found, always,
in the poor and marginalised.  Amen.
 
Holy Communion
 
The Lord be with you;              and also with you!
 
Lift up your hearts:                   we lift them up to the Lord!
 
Let us give thanks                      It is right to give our thanks and praise!
to the Lord our God:
 
O Most High we give You our thanks and praise,
for before the ages You created our world and all that is therein,
in the dawn of time You created women and men to reflect your glory,
to be integral to Your created order.
In due time You called a people to be Your own,
You rescued them from slavery and led them dry shod through the sea,
in the wilderness You led them by fire and cloud,
fed and gave them drink,
nurtured them through precious Law,
and taught them to honour Your ways of justice.
In the Promised Land You raised up judges to protect Your People,
You gave them kings when they asked and,
through the prophets, taught them to hope for salvation.
You sustained them in the bitterness of exile,
and reformed Your people in new found freedom.
In the fullness of time You raised up Jesus from them.
 
Jesus proclaimed:
good news to the poor,
release to the captives,
recovery of sight to the blind,
freedom for the oppressed,
and the year of God’s favour.
yet he was
ridiculed and doubted,
tried and tortured,
mocked and killed,
and placed in a borrowed tomb.
 
But You, O Most High, raised him from the dead, breaking the power of injustice and sin, and seated Him in glory at your side.
 
And so, with all the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we praise Your holy name as we sing:

Holy, holy, holy the Lord!
God of endless power and might.
The earth, the heavens are full of your love,
Sing hosanna! Glory to God.
 
Blest is He, the One who is sent,
In the name of God the Most High,
O holy, holy, holy our Lord,
Sing hosanna! Glory to God.

 

On the night before he died,
Jesus shared in the simplicity of a meal with his friends,
taking the common things of bread and wine,
he prayed the ancient blessings,
broke the bread, gave it to His friends saying:
 
take this all of you and eat it,
this is my body which is broken for you.
 
After the meal Jesus took the wine, gave thanks for it and gave it to his friends saying:
 
take this all of you and drink from it,
this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant,
it will be shed for you and for all,
so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.
 
Let us proclaim the central mystery of our faith:
 
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again
 
Come, O Holy Spirit
and transform these simple gifts of bread and wine,
that as we eat and drink
we are lifted into your presence.
 
Come, O Holy Spirit,
and transform us,
that as Your people we will see the world as it really is,
and seek to change it.
 
Come, O Holy Spirit,
and renew the face of the Earth.
 
These are God’s gifts for God’s people;  come and join the feast!
 
Music for Sharing

Lamb of God
 

O Lamb of God, you take away our sins;
Have mercy, Lamb of God, have mercy.
 
O Lamb of God, You take away our sins;
Have mercy, Lamb of God, have mercy.

 

O Lamb of God, you take away our sins;
have mercy, Lamb of God, and grant us peace.
       
Psalm 104
sung by the Folk Choir of the University of Notre Dame
 
Prayer
 
Bless the Lord, O my soul;  and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits.
 
Loving God,
we thank you that you have fed us in this sacrament,
united us with Christ,
and given us a foretaste
of the heavenly banquet in your eternal realm.
Send us out in the power of your Spirit
to live and work to your praise and glory,
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Hymn       Bless the Lord O My Soul
Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman © 2011 Thankyou Music
Sung at Prom Praise in the Royal Albert Hall  
 
Bless the Lord O my soul,
O my soul worship His holy name
Sing like never before, O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name.
 
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
 
2 You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
 

3 And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore
 
Blessing
 
May the One who
created women and men in the divine image,
taught the people to respect the dignity of all creation,
and drove the People to seek justice,
create you anew that you may recognise your worth,
teach you anew that you may respect the dignity of all
and drive you to seek justice.
And may the blessing of Almighty God,
         Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be with you all now and always, Amen.
 
Closing Music           Tracy Chapman, Behind the Wall
 
Sources
 
Call to Worship adapted from the Grail version of Psalm 95, Sanctus by the Rev’d Michael Forster, Lamb of God adapted for the tune Plaisir D’Amour by John Ballentine – both sung by Lucy Bunce for Kevin Mayhew pubs.  Prayer after Communion from the Presbyterian Church in the USA.  All other liturgical material by Andy Braunston.
 

Thanks to Graham Handscomb, Sue Cresswell, Rhona Newby, Mandy Hibbert, Sarah Wilmott and John Wilcox for recording the 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

 

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