Sunday Worship 4 June 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
 

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 4 June 2023

 
Today’s service is led by the Revd Andy Braunston

 
Call to Worship
 
With cherubim and seraphim, we bind unto ourselves this day
the strong name of the Trinity!

By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation, baptism, death 
and bursting from the spiced tomb, we bind unto ourselves this day:
the strong name of the Trinity!

By virtue of starlit heaven, glorious sun’s lifegiving rays,
pale moon’s slivery light, flashing of lightening free, 
whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks and earth’s old stable rocks, 
we bind unto ourselves this day: the strong name of the Trinity!

Christ be with, within, behind, and before us.
Christ be beside us, comforting and restoring. 
Christ be beneath and above us, in quiet and in danger, 
in mouth of friend and stranger.  
We bind unto ourselves this day: the strong name of the Trinity!
 
Hymn    Holy, Holy, Holy
Reginald Heber (1826) BBC Songs of Praise

Holy, holy, holy! 
Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning 
our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy, 
merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, 
blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! 
All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim 
falling down before thee,
which wert and art and 
evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth, and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Pardon

Eternal Trinity, You are holy and our songs rise to Thee.
Eternal Trinity, You are holy 
and we join the saints in casting our crowns before Thee.
Eternal Trinity, all Your works praise your name, in earth, sky and sea. 

God, Eternal Majesty,
we praise You knowing You are our beginning and end,
the changeless One who calls us to dance with all of creation.

Jesus, Enfleshed Word,
we praise You yet know we resist Your call to dance,
preferring to go our own way and stay in the dark.  Forgive us.

Holy Spirit, Flame of eternal love,
You dance with us, filling us with joy, laughter, and inspiration,
help us to know Your presence,
bringing forgiveness and allowing us to forgive others.
Give us the strength to forgive ourselves.  Amen.

Prayer of Illumination

Before the ages, O God, You breathed over the formless void
and brought all things into being.
Breathe on us now,  as we hear Your word read and proclaimed,
that we might hear, understand, and follow where You call.  Amen.

Reading    Genesis 1:1-2:4a

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Hymn    I Sing the Mighty Power of God
Isaac Watts based on Psalm 8 sung by St Andrew’s Kirk, Chennai
 
I sing the mighty power of God that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines full at his command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord that filled the earth with food;
he formed the creatures with his word and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
if I survey the ground I tread or gaze upon the skies.

There’s not a plant or flower below but makes Thy glories known,
and clouds arise and tempests blow by order from Thy throne;
while all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care,
and everywhere that we can be, Thou, God, are present there.

Reading    St Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Sermon

Where’s the beginning; where’s the end?

The image on today’s order of service is a Celtic knot design intended to convey something of the mystery of the Trinity.  As you look at the knot you can see three distinct shapes in the one design but there’s no obvious beginning or end.  Something I’m sure took the carpenter some time to perfect.  This sense of no end or beginning is a useful one to play with today as we think about that long reading from Genesis.

At some point or other in our lives we may have though it would be good to read through all of the Bible and, if we’ve tried that, we, of course, start with Genesis.  It’s a good place to start, the stories are interesting, often unfamiliar, fast moving, and introduce us to a different world and understanding.  Of course the next book, Exodus, is as interesting but if you make it that far you might just want to skip Leviticus which often reads like a legal text.  Placing Genesis at the start of the Bible is good in that it shows God doesn’t have favourites, isn’t the deity of a single race, isn’t just the God of Abraham and Sarah, and is a counterblast to some tendencies amongst religious folk to think that God is our God and no one else’s.  Yet the stories in Genesis, whilst looking back to the start of humanity, were collected and written down during the exile of the Jewish people in Babylon – about 500 – 600 years before Jesus.  The stories might have been told for generations but it’s not the earliest of the Biblical books – Job might be, or the source document that was used to write up the first few books of the Old Testament.  

Genesis was written as a prequel to Exodus which told the story of the formation of the Jewish people from being slaves in Egypt, being set free by God’s saving power, wandering through the wilderness and then establishing themselves as a people in the land of Israel.  Genesis helped the people look back whilst they were enduring the pain and horror of exile in a strange land.  In the chaos and confusion of warfare, deportation and destruction the ordered nature of Genesis’ creation stories were comforting.  The logical order of night and day, the sense of light breaking through the darkness, God’s creative power were all good things to dwell on in dark times when no one was sure what the next day will bring.  Just as God has allowed the people to be moved over the Tigris and Euphrates, God delivered them from Egypt through the Red Sea but, before that,  God’s own Spirit had breathed over the waters bringing light and life.  In a time of dislocation faithful Jews learned to read this story of creation with it’s almost liturgical resonance and find comfort.  God ordered the days of creation, so God would order things aright now.  

The Psalm set for today, Psalm 8, echoes our Genesis reading.  It might be a little earlier than Genesis but, as ever with the Psalms, it’s more or less impossible to date them.  The Psalm gives a sense of the glory of God in creation and the seemingly insignificance of humanity yet, at the same time, records the Psalmist’s wonder that God would have raise humanity to little less than a God.  Like the creation passage these verses would have given comfort in hard times, reminded folk that despite the chaos and confusion of the age God is at work bringing order out of chaos.  

God’s Work at Creation

In our Genesis story God acts and creation is formed.  God, in Genesis is separate to Creation – creation comes into being at God’s command – yet at the same time God is intimately entwined within Creation.  God speaks, breathes, and wills Creation into being.  God interacts with Creation, ensuring that on each of the days of Creation new things – animate and inanimate – are called into being.  Genesis gives us a glimpse into the creative work of God’s Eternal Majesty and of the ever imaginative work of the Holy Spirit, hovering over the waters, dancing at creation’s start.  

This work of creation also gives us a sense of community.  God uses the royal “we” in the passage – something rather strange to our ears now in an age of less deference – but we’ve this community idea going on – God breathes, the Spirit moves, humanity is created.  God’s creative activity isn’t a solitary one just as God isn’t solitary.  

Interestingly, we often muse not on how God made creation but why.  God made the world out of love, God’s specialism is love.  God looked at every aspect of creation and declared it good – not in the sense of being pleased with himself but in seeing the beauty, majesty, and glory of creation as good.  And God then gave humanity the task of carrying on this work of love.  God created women and men in the divine image; centuries of male dominated society and theology forgets this.  Eve was created in the divine image, just as Adam was.  Eve was to be a strong helper in the creative order, not subordinate to Adam.  Eve shared with Adam the mandate to be fruitful, to rule and subdue the earth.  

Here, in these stories of Creation we see an equality at play which mirrors the equality in the life of God’s own self, an equality in a communion of what we often call the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  An equality of love and dynamic creativity to be modelled in Eve and Adam’s love, a creativity to be modelled in our own lives now.  Neither sex at creation was to be superior to the other; both are given shared sacred duties, both are to be equal partners.  

These ideas were played with by the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart who, when writing of creation felt that when God the Father laughed, God the Son was born, and when they both laughed the Holy Spirit came to be.  Further,  when all three laughed humanity was born.  It’s a lovely image, an image showing we’re born in joy and laughter, the joy and laughter of God’s own self.    

The Commission

It’s an image that can sustain us as we ponder Jesus’ command to the disciples, and to us, in the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel where we’re called to go to all peoples to baptise and make disciples in the name of our Triune God.  

Faithful Jews learned to trust in God in the gloomiest of days through the regular breaking through of the sun each morning reminding them of the gracious ordering of creation.  That liturgical pattern of the Genesis story reminded them of God’s design.  The creative dance that God started at creation, which gave the Jewish people of old hope and sustenance in the bitter days of exile, propels us forward now in our work of evangelism where we invite people to join in that creative dance, to see the life, energy and community of God reflected in our own lives, endeavours and communities.  It’s a command to imagine what a new community might look like, a community of equality and delight, of joy and laughter born from the joy and laughter of God’s own self.  

Will you pray with me?

Eternal One, before the ages began You knew and loved us.
Risen Lord,  You commission us to draw others to Yourself.
Fire of Love,  You move within us to inspire, guide and energise us.  
Help us to follow, to see You at work in our lives and our world,
that we may reflect Your love, now and always, Amen.

Hymn    Praise With Joy the World’s Creator
John Bell & Graham Maule WGWRG sung by members of Peninsula United Church, 
Surrey British Columbia, Canada
 
Praise with joy the world’s creator,
God of justice, love and peace,
source and end of human knowledge,
force of goodness without cease.
Celebrate the Maker’s glory,
power to rescue and release.

Praise to Christ who feeds the hungry,
frees the captive, finds the lost,
heals the sick, upsets religion,
fearless both of fate and cost.
Celebrate Christ’s constant presence –
friend and Stranger, Guest and Host.

Praise the Spirit sent among us
liberating truth from pride,
forging bonds where race or gender,
age or nation dare divide.
Celebrate the Spirit’s treasure –
foolishness none dare deride.

Praise the Maker, Christ, and Spirit,
One God in Community,
calling Christians to embody
oneness and diversity.
This the world shall see reflected
God is One and One in Three.

Affirmation of Faith

Today, Eternal One, we rub the sleep from our eyes 
and discover more of who You are. 
Today You give well-aimed hammer-blows 
at the clay jars of the gods we want, 
the gods who reinforce our own pride or prejudice, 
until they fall away and reveal You.
A different God, a dangerous God, a subversive God, 
a God who comes to us like a beggar with wounded hands, 
a God who comes to us in wind and fire, 
in bread and wine, in flesh and blood:  a God who says to us, 
‘You did not choose me; I chose you.’

Today, O Christ, we rub the sleep from our eyes
and discover more of who You are.
We realise You don’t fit neatly into all our little categories –
if you did You’d simply be someone we’d invented,
a neat theological answer laid out on a cold slab 
in response to age old questions.
We know that when You are laid on a slab, You rise again.

Today, O Spirit, we rub the sleep from our eyes
and discover more of who You are.
You are a signpost in the dark, pointing the way.
You are the assurance of love which holds us in our pain.
You are the flame which burns in our gloom.
You call us to be people of the light.

Today, Trinity, we rub the sleep from our eyes
and discover more of who You are.
Today You remind us that You always transcend our grasp,
even our most intelligent grasps.
We know, love, and adore You, Holy Trinity of Love.  Amen.

Intercessions

God of creation, 
we praise you for the beauty, diversity and energy the earth,
our wounded mother.  
We give thanks for the life of our planet, for its ecosystems and creatures, the vegetation, insects and animals with whom we share this our fragile habitat.
Increase, O God, our understanding of creation,
the wondrous ways in which You have knit our world together,
give us a greater love for Your creation,
that we may learn to live in harmony and peace with each other,
and with our fellow creatures.

pause

Suffering God, we lift to You today all who are in pain:
those living with the ache of grief,
those fleeing war, oppression, and poverty,
those whose burdens are too much for them,
those rejected and despised 
for how they live, who they love or what they are.
Enable us, Suffering One, to help shoulder our share of pain,
to work for a world where there will be no more suffering, crying, mourning, or oppression, a world where You dwell in our midst.

pause

Spirit of Laughter and Love, we pray for those who seek to lead 
through elected or appointed office, in religious or civic life,
that You may inspire them to live and act justly and wisely,
that the poor may be lifted up,  the oppressed run free, 
and the wounded healed.
Help us, O Spirit, 
to play our part in the better administration of our society,
help us to call our leaders out when they let us down,
reject Your ways of righteousness and oppress the poor.
Help us, too O God, to see our own failures and woundedness,
and to see Your healing.

pause

Holy Trinity of Love, we bring to you now, all those we know and love
in any type of need or pain
longer pause

Accept our prayers, Triune One, as we pray together:

Our Father…

Offertory

Worship always involves giving – making the effort to be here, to attentively listen, to open ourselves to God and our fellow worshippers, to pray for the needs of the world are all forms of giving.  The Christian life is all about giving – giving up some of our own needs and desires in order to live as Christ calls us.  In the process of giving and receiving we model the life of the Trinity whose self-giving love nurtures, sustains, and inspires us.  Through the giving of our financial gifts we give practical expression to God’s work in our world and so we pray:

Eternal God, known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
as Majesty, Word, and Flame of eternal love,
as one who creates, redeems, and sustains,
bless these gifts we offer for Your glory,
and make us into a people who work and yearn
for your Kingdom to come.  Amen.

Hymn    Womb of Life And Source of Being
Ruth Duck © 1992 GIA Publications, Inc.  Sung at St Michael’s Anglican Church, Banff, Canada

Womb of life, and source of being, 
home of ev’ry restless heart, 
in your arms the worlds awakened;
you have loved us from the start. 
We, your children, gather ’round you,
at the table you prepare.
Sharing stories tears and laughter, 
we are nurtured by your care.

Word in flesh, our brother Jesus,
born to bring us second birth, 
you have come to stand beside us,
knowing weakness, knowing earth.
Priest who shares our human struggles,
Life of Life, and Death of Death,
risen Christ, come stand among us, 
send the Spirit by your breath.

Brooding Spirit, move among us;
be our partner, be our friend.
When our mem’ry fails, remind us whose we are, 
what we intend. Labour with us, 
aid the birthing of the new world yet to be,
free of servant, lord and master,
free for love and unity.

Mother, Brother, holy Partner;
Father, Spirit, Only Son:
we would praise your name forever,
one-in-three, and three-in-one.
We would share your life, your passion,
share your word of world made new,
ever singing, ever praising,
one with all, and one with you.

Holy Communion

The Eternal One be with you.  And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Most High.

Let us give thanks to God’s Eternal Majesty.
It is right and just for us to offer praise.

It is indeed right, our duty and our joy,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
holy, almighty, and eternal Majesty,
crucified, yet risen, Enfleshed Word,
Flame of Love breathing through all creation.
Three-in-One we praise and adore You,
revealing Yourself again and again
in glory, suffering, and new life.
We, Your holy Church, acclaim You,
we, Your stumbling people thank You,
we, Your impaired witnesses cry to You.
Holy Trinity of Love,
known to us in so many ways,
yet one in being and equal in glory,
we join with the angels and archangels 
in their unending hymn of praise…

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Word was with God in the beginning.
Through the Word all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through the Word.
All that came to be had life through the Word,
and that life was the light of humanity,
a light that shines in the gloom,
a light that the gloom could neither understand nor overpower.

The Word became flesh, and tabernacled amongst us.
He came to his own people, who did not accept him,
but to all who did accept him,
he gave power to become the children of God.

And now this Word, who was born not out of human stock,
or urge of the flesh, or will of a man,
but of God, comes to us in bread and wine.

For we remember the night, when Jesus, 
the Enfleshed Word, born as one of us,
met with his friends and shared in the simplicity of a meal.
During the meal he took bread, blessed it, broke it
and gave it to his friends saying: 

“Take this all of you and eat it, this is my body,
which is given for you, do this and remember me.”

In the same way after supper,
he took the cup filled with wine, 
gave thanks and gave it to his friends saying:

“Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting promise of God,
for you and for all people. Do this and remember me.”

Let’s remember Jesus as we celebrate the central mystery of our faith……

Christ has died!  Christ is Risen!  Christ will come again!

Holy Spirit, Flame of Eternal Love,
come upon these simple gifts of bread and wine,
and, as we receive them,
lift us beyond them into Your presence,
and enable us to enflesh Jesus in our lives.
Let us be, O Triune God,
words which tell of Your Word,
lovers showing Your love,
and heralds proclaiming Your presence,
that with all creation,
we may sing of your praise for ever,
Eternal Majesty, Enfleshed Word, Abiding Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever, Amen.

To prepare ourselves to meet the Lord in Holy Communion let us sing the Lamb of God.   

Lamb of God, Lamb of God
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

Music for Communion      Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth 
by Jean Janzen, after Mother Julian of Norwich, sung by Oxford Girls’ Choir (Oxford Youth Choirs). Harpist: Genevieve McCauley

Post Communion Prayer

God of a love stronger than death,
you have given us new birth into a living hope
through the gift of your Son.
God with us, like a mother you have fed us with yourself
and strengthened us for journeying ahead.
God of truth and power, you take our weakness and our sin
and refashion us by grace.
Gracious God, may the love which bids us welcome at this table
gather all your children into one,
in your eternal presence, whole and free at last. Amen.

Hymn    God We Praise You, God We Bless You
Scottish Festival Singers, Ian McCrorie Conductor © Christopher Martin Idle (b.1938) / Jubilate Hymns from the  Te Deum Christopher Idle

God, we praise you.  God, we bless you.
God, we name you sovereign Lord.
Mighty King whom angels worship,
Father, by your Church adored:
all creation shows your glory,
heaven and earth draw near your throne
singing ‘Holy, holy, holy, 
Lord of hosts and God alone!’

True apostles, faithful prophets,
saints who set their world ablaze,
martyrs, once unknown, unheeded,
join one growing song of praise,
while your Church on earth confesses
one majestic Trinity:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God, our hope eternally.

Jesus Christ, the King of glory,
everlasting Son of God,
humble was your virgin mother,
hard the lonely path you trod:
by your Cross is sin defeated,
hell confronted face to face,
heaven opened to believers,
sinners justified by grace.

Christ, at God’s  right hand victorious,
you will judge the world you made;
Lord, in mercy help your servants
for whose freedom you have paid:
raise us up from dust to glory,
guard us from all sin today;
King enthroned above all praises,
save your people, God, we pray.

Blessing

May the One who created all things, set the stars in place,
moves the planets in their heavenly dance, and who created you 
from the dust of the stars, bless you.

May the One who humbled himself to be born as one of us,
walked through the dust of earth, endured betrayal, torture and unjust death, and rose again from the grave, wounded yet victorious, bless you.

May the One who danced at creation’s start, lifts us from the dust,
fills us with energy, joy, and laughter, and who called the Church into being, bless you.

And the blessing of the Three-in-One, our Holy and Undivided Trinity,
be with you, and all whom you love, now and always,  Amen.

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