Sunday Worship 5 February 2023

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
 

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Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 5 February 2023

 
Today’s service is led by The Revd Catherine McFie

 
Call to Worship

We come into this space and time 

to meet and worship God.
 We bring our worries and our distractions 
and lay them down before our God
 We open our hearts and minds 
to the promptings of God’s Spirit
 We are the salt of the earth.  We are the light of the world.
Let us worship together in Jesus’ name.
 

Hymn    Light of the World You Stepped Down Into Darkness

Tim Hughes © 2000 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Integrity Music Ltd)
CCLI Licence No. 1064776 Sung by Tim Hughes

 

Light of the world,
You stepped down into darkness,
opened my eyes let me see.
Beauty that made
this heart adore You;
Hope of a life spent with You.
 
So here I am to worship.
Here I am to bow down.
Here I am to say 
that You’re my God.
And You’re altogether lovely,
altogether worthy,
altogether wonderful to me.
 
King of all days
oh so highly exalted;
glorious in heaven above.
Humbly You came
to the earth You created,
all for love’s sake became poor
 
And I’ll never know 
how much it cost
to see my sin 
upon that cross

Prayers of Approach and Confession

 
Amazing God, 
on the first day of creation you made light.
A light that enables us to see the beauty of your creation.
A light that enables plants to grow and flourish.
A light that is part of the rhythm of our world and our lives.
We thank you for light. 
 
When creation was struggling, 
you sent your Son Jesus, the light of the world.
His light illuminated the Scriptures,
defeated the powers of sin, and led us back to you.
We thank you for Jesus. 
 
In the light of flames you sent your Spirit into our world.
The Spirit lights our path and shows us your will.
She challenges and inspires us; we thank you for your Spirit. 
 
In joy and thankfulness we bring you our praise and worship. 
 
Merciful God, 
we have often asked you to judge others  
while failing to acknowledging that we too have sinned.
We have worshipped you with our lips
but dishonoured you with our actions.
We have prayed for you to end suffering
but have not practiced compassion or generosity towards others.
We have used our words to hurt and argue
rather than testify to your love and grace. 
Forgive our self-centredness 
and show us how to love you and our neighbour. 
Bring us back into your light.  Amen. 
 

Declaration of Forgiveness 

O God, your heart is full of mercy.
May we hear and trust your words to each of us: 
‘Your sins are forgiven.’
May we forgive each other and forgive ourselves.
Thanks be to God.  Amen.
 

Prayer of Illumination 

Lord, open our understanding by the power of the Holy Spirit, 
that as the Word is proclaimed we may receive holy wisdom 
to understand how to be salt and light in your world
In Jesus name we pray. Amen. 
 

Reading St Matthew 5:13 – 20 (NRSVA)
 
 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
 
‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.   In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
 
‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Hymn    This little light of mine
unknown origin.  Sung in English and various African languages by the Soweto Gospel Choir.

This little light o’ mine, I’m goin’ let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
 

Sermon
 
Our reading today comes from the Sermon on the Mount. It immediately follows the Beatitudes where Jesus speaks in broad terms about what the Kingdom of heaven is like. The reading can be split into two sections. In verses 13 – 16 Jesus uses common, everyday items to describe the impact being a disciples will have in the world. Verses 17 – 20 describes the relationship between Jesus’ teaching and the teaching contained within the Hebrew Scriptures and begins to set the scene for the rest of the sermon. 
 
Let’s consider each of these sections before looking at what this all means for us as Jesus’ disciples today. 
 

Verses 13 – 16

Like other parables in the Gospels, Jesus takes two everyday items to illustrate the influence of disciples. No matter how poor a household was it would have had salt and light – so these were items that everyone could relate to. By using these common items Jesus is saying that on the whole our discipleship is lived out in the everyday situations of life. 
 

“You are the salt of the earth” (v13)
 
Salt, or Sodium Chloride, has a number of common uses. It can be used as a seasoning, and when it is added to certain foods in an appropriate amount, it enhances the flavour of those food. Salt was also used as a preserving agent. In the days before refrigeration or canning, storing meat or fish in salt helped preserve the food. Salt was also used as a healing agent when added to water. 
 
By using salt, with its varied uses, Jesus was telling the disciples that they would be people who made a difference. They will enhance their world by encouraging people in their faith and so living the best version of themselves. They will tell others about God and so preserve the law and show how it can bring change for good in their community. They will show others God’s love and so heal the wounds that have been inflicted by sin. Through their work as “Salt”, they will transform the community around them into a place that reflects the kingdom of God. 
 
Today, our salt is pure, but in biblical times it would have been contaminated with other compounds when it was dried. Salt can be affected by the atmosphere. Even today if you leave salt open to the air it becomes damp. When salt is compromised in this way, it is less effective, especially at enhancing the flavour of food or as a preservative. The only solution is to discard the salt. This last statement comes as a warning to the disciples, that their effectiveness to bring change and transformation will become less if they become contaminated by the world and its ways.   
 

You are the light of the world (14 – 16)
 
Jesus used two illustrations to describe the way in which being light would influence the world around them. The first is that it is impossible for a city built on a hill not to be seen. Elevation helped a city with its defences but it also it made it more visible. Once a city was built, the number of buildings, the elevation of their location would mean that the city would be conspicuous for miles in all directions. Jesus was saying that by being a disciple you are different, different in your attitudes, different in our actions or behaviour and different in your outlook. Being different in this way makes you conspicuous especially in a world that holds or emphasises different views. 
 
Lamps in Jesus day tended to be small and made of clay so for them to benefit all the people in the house they had to be placed on a high surface so that the light that came from the small flame reached further. To cover a lamp with a basket, dimmed the light, reduced the area the lights shone in and risked the light going out. For the disciples this means that they must be visible in the community, in order to shine the light of God on as many people as possible. Keeping to oneself, limited the spread of the gospel was not an option. As God’s light shines through the disciples, in their words and actions, others will recognise God through them and so bring their own praised to God.  
 

Verse 17 – 20
 
When the scribes and teachers of the law spoke about Scripture or God they would make reference to the teachings of those who had gone before them, they were submissive in their interpretations and would never put their own name to their teachings. In contrast, Jesus spoke with authority and made no reference to others. As a result people began to raise concerns and an early criticism of Jesus was that his teachings were at odds to those of the Law and the Prophets. In these final verses Jesus begins to address these concerns. 
 
Jesus is very clear, his ministry is not about abolishing the law. In fact, he claims the exact opposite is true, rather an abolishing the Scriptures, Jesus states that he has come to fulfil them. To understand what Jesus means with such a claim we need to look at the different teachings contained within the Hebrew Scriptures in relation to Jesus. 
 
First there are the doctrinal teachings, the sections of the Scriptures that talk about God, humankind and salvation. These teachings are only a partial revelation however in Jesus as a person, in his teachings and his actions we see these partial revelations brought to completion. Prophecies about the future were focused on the days of the Messiah and anticipated things to come. Jesus fulfils these prophecies in that he is the Messiah, so all things that were anticipated have now come to pass. Finally, there are the ethical precepts which contain the moral law of God. These were frequently misunderstood and disobeyed. Jesus fulfils these texts because be obeyed the law but also, he rejected superficial or misinterpretations of the law and brought a fresher, truer interpretation in his teachings. 
 
As the law and the teachings of the prophets were important to Jesus and as he has explained he is the fulfilment of these Scriptures, it makes sense that adherence to these teachings would be an integral part of discipleship. Jesus warns that there are consequences for both breaking the commandments and for teaching others to do the same. Such people will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven. The opposite is also true, those who keep the commandments and teach others to do likewise will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus interpreted the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees as being one of ritual and one of exclusiveness and he cautions his disciples that their righteousness needs to be more than this. For Jesus righteousness is a state of being that is grounded in one’s relationship with God. It begins with the heart, with what is inside and when we are right with God, this is reflected in our actions and attitudes. 
 

For us today
 
As I have been preparing the service I have kept coming back to two things relating to salt and light and I think both challenge us as disciples today and speak into what Jesus meant when he said we are the salt of the earth and we are the light of the world. 
 
The first is the healing properties of salt, especially when dissolved in water. Salt water is good for cleaning cuts, but salt water is also good for bruises. I know this from experience when a car accident left me with some spectacular bruises that subsided more quickly than is normal for me, after I went for a swim in the sea. The saltiness of the sea helped my bruises. 
 
We live in a world where many are battered and bruised, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As salt in this world, we, the disciples of Jesus, can make a difference to those who need to feel loved, accepted, not judged or simply part of a community that cares. Being salt in these situations is about building relationships with others that reflect the relationship we have with God. As we experience God’s love and mercy, we learn to show love and mercy to others and help heal some of the bruising in people’s lives. 
 
The second is a property of light. While I have been preparing for this service I have been burning a candle and I find the flickering flame calming and inspiring. While the flame will light a large space to have the greatest benefit from the light you need to be close to the candle. If we are the light of the world, for us to be effective in this role we need to be out and among the people. We cannot be a light in the darkness if we are in our homes or buildings. If we want to make a difference then we need to get to know the people in our communities, we need to understand what challenges they face and we need to be opening to helping them in the way that makes a difference to them rather than a way that is comfortable for us. Light needs to be in darkness to be effective. Light in an area of light make little if any difference. 
 
As we come to the end of our reflection on these verses from the sermon on the mount I leave you with this thought – how are you being salt and light in your community? You can answer that as an individual, but you can also think about it as a congregation. What does being salt and light look like in your situation and what difference are you making? I pray that as you ponder this today, in the week ahead the Spirit will challenge and guide you.  Amen. 
 

Hymn    Christ, Be Our Light
© 1993, Bernadette Farrell. Published by OCP. All rights reserved.  OneLicence sung by the choir of Frodsham Methodist Church Cloud Choir, accompanied by Andrew Ellams and used with their kind permission.
 

Longing for light, 
we wait in darkness. 
Longing for truth, 
we turn to you. 
Make us your own, 
your holy people, 
light for the world to see. 
 
Christ, be our light! 
Shine in our hearts. 
Shine through the darkness. 
Christ, be our light! 
Shine in your Church 
gathered today. 
 
Longing for peace, 
our world is troubled. 
Longing for hope, 
many despair. 
Your word alone 
has power to save us. 
Make us your living voice. 
 
Longing for food, 
many are hungry. 
Longing for water, 
many still thirst. 
Make us your bread, 
broken for others, 
shared until all are fed. 
 
Longing for shelter, 
many are homeless. 
Longing for warmth, 
many are cold. 
Make us your building, 
sheltering others, 
walls made of living stone. 
 
Many the gifts, 
many the people, 
many the hearts 
that yearn to belong. 
Let us be servants 
to one another, 
making your kingdom come. 

 

Affirmation of Faith 

We are not alone,  we live in God’s world. 
We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, 
to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. 
 
We trust in God. 
 
We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, 
to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, 
to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus,
crucified and risen, our judge and our hope. 
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. 
 
We are not alone.  Thanks be to God. 

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, you have called us to salt and light, 
People who make a difference in your world, 
In this time of worship,
we bring before you people and situation that are in need…
 
We pray for those who are hungry and have no food to be flavoured with salt…  
 
As light and salt, 
may we be agents of change in our community 
 
We pray for those who live with the darkness of war and violence…
 
As light and salt, 
may we be agents of change in our community 
 
We pray for those who are in need of healing…
 
As light and salt, 
may we be agents of change in our community 
 
We pray for places where creation is struggling to thrive and be fruitful…
As light and salt, 
may we be agents of change in our community 
 
As we are your salt and lights in this world, 
give us courage to answer our calling,
the resources to enable change ,
the insight to understand your will, 
and a heart that cares. 
In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.
 

Offertory  

God calls us to share what we have received, 
Let us offer ourselves and our gifts to God.
 
Generous God, 
We thank you for all that you have given us.
Receive these tokens of our love for you, 
Along with our time and talents
For the ministry of your church, 
Bless our offering for the work of your kingdom
in our communities, 
In Jesus name we pray.  
 
Amen. 
 

Hymn    Let the Flame Burn Brighter
Graham Kendrick © 1989 Make Way Music (Admin. by Make Way Music Limited) CCLI Licence No. 1064776 Sung by the St Alban’s Salvation Army Corps.
 

We’ll walk the land
with hearts on fire
and every step 
will be a prayer.
Hope is rising,
new day dawning,
sound of singing
fills the air.
 
Let the flame burn brighter
in the heart of the darkness.
Turning night to glorious day.
Let the song grow louder,
as our love grows stronger,
let it shine, let it shine.

 

Two thousand years
and still the flame
is burning bright
across the land.
Hearts are waiting
longing, aching,
for awakening
once again.
 
We’ll walk for truth
speak out for love.
In Jesus’ name
we shall be strong.
To lift the fallen
to save the children
to fill the nation
with your song.

Blessing 

 
Lord, send us out into your world as salt and light.
Help us to 
shine your light,  show your love, 
and enable your healing in our communities.
As we go
may the God who created us,
Jesus who died for us,
and the Spirit who inspires us,
work in us and through us. Amen. 

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