Sunday Worship 17 March

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 17 March
The Fifth Sunday of Lent

 
Today’s service is led by the Revd Catherine McFie

 
Introduction

Hello, my name is Catherine McFie and I have the privilege of being a URC minister, serving in Mersey Synod. I have a varied roll; part of my time is dedicated to being minister of two congregation in the Liverpool area and part of my time involves work within the wider Synod. I live in Wavertree in the beautiful city of Liverpool, but my ministry takes me around the city. I am delighted to share worship with you and pray that wherever you are and whenever you are listening, God’s Spirit will bless our time together. Let us worship God. 

Call to Worship

Our call to worship comes from Psalm 51 and as we gather to worship God may this be our prayer

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Hymn     Yet Not I But through Christ in Me
Michael Farren, Jonny Robinson, Rich Thompson © 2018 Integrity’s Alleluia! Music/Farren Love And War Publishing/Cityalight Music Sung by Saemie Nam, Saerom Nam, and Danny Jung.  OneLicence # A-734713

What gift of grace is Jesus, my redeemer;
there is no more for heaven now to give.
He is my joy, my righteousness and freedom,
my steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace.

To this I hold: my hope is only Jesus,
for my life is wholly bound to his.
O, how strange and divine, I can sing: all is mine!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me.

The night is dark but I am not forsaken,
for by my side the Saviour he will stay;
I labour on in weakness and rejoicing,
for in my need his power is displayed.

To this I hold: my Shepherd will defend me;
through the deepest valley he will lead.
O, the night has been won and I shall overcome!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me.

No fate I dread: I know I am forgiven,
the future sure, the price it has been paid;
for Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon
and he was raised to overthrow the grave.

To this I hold: my sin has been defeated!
Jesus now and ever is my plea;
O, the chains are released; I can sing: I am free!
Yet not I, but through Christ in me.

With every breath I long to follow Jesus,
for he has said that he will bring me home;
and day by day I know he will renew me
until I stand with joy before the throne.

To this I hold: my hope is only Jesus,
all the glory evermore to him;
when the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat:
‘Yet not I, but through Christ in me!’

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Creator God, 
How wonderful it is to be in your presence,
To come as your people, 
Gathered from the north and the south,
the east and the west, 
with the sole purpose of spending time with you in worship. 
As we open scripture together,
As we pray, and declare our faith, 
Receive our worship, 
And may all we say and do in this time, 
Bring glory to your name. 

Saviour God, 
We come seeking to know you better, 
We are amazed by the miracles you performed
We are challenged by your teaching, 
We are humbled by your willingness to die for us. 
Walk alongside us today and in the days ahead, 
Show us how we can best live our faith, 
and work through us 
so that others can come to know you as Saviour.

Spirit God, 
In the presence of our triune God, 
We become aware of the times 
when we have not lived into our calling. Forgive us 
For the times we have hurt rather than encouraged.
For the times when we have ignored our neighbour
and thought only of ourselves.
For the times when we have followed our own path 
and ignored you will.  Create in us a clean heart, we pray. Amen

Declaration of Forgiveness

Friends hear these words and know them to be true
by the faith of Christ, 
your sins are forgiven. 
May you delight in the joy of your salvation.  Amen. 

Prayer of illumination

Your Word, O God, 
holds words of promise and challenge, 
and stories that inspire and give hope. 
As we read and meditate on your word, 
Fill us with your Spirit, 
that the words we read will change us and prepare us 
to be your hands and feet in our communities. 
In Jesus name we pray
Amen. 

Reading     Jeremiah 31:31 – 34 

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 3It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the LORD’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Hymn     Jesus Take Me As I Am
Luke Finch © Song Solutions Daybreak (Adm Song Solutions www.songsolutions.org)

Jesus Take Me As I Am
I Can Come No Other Way
Take Me Deeper Into You
Make My Flesh Life Melt Away

Make Me Like A Precious Stone
Crystal Clear And Finely Honed
Life Of Jesus Shining Through
Giving Glory Back To You

Reading     John 12:20 – 33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’  Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’  Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.  Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 

Reflection

Jeremiah had warned the people time and time again that they needed to turn back to God or face the consequences. Now they had experienced the consequences, their king had been taken into exile in Babylon and the temple in Jerusalem, the house of God, had been destroyed. With the change in circumstances, Jeremiah’s focus changes. Our reading begins with the Lord saying that the “days are surely coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah”. Speaking to the people in exile, speaking to a people whose spirits were low, speaking to a people who were wondering not if their God had abandoned them but whether their God had been destroyed, these words would have brought hope, hope that God was still with them and hope of a new and different future. 

This covenant was for a specific group of people – the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This is a reminder to us, that the people of Israel that we often speak as one collective group were now two distinct kingdoms. The covenants that had been made with Noah and Abraham and the people after the Exodus applied to both kingdoms, so it was only right that this covenant also applied to both groups. After the exile there was only one kingdom, so this covenant anticipated that shared future. 

This covenant would not be like the covenant made after the Exodus. That covenant hadn’t work and had been continually broken by the people, so it was time for something different. Previous covenants had symbols associated with them; with Noah it was the rainbow, with Abraham it was circumcision and with the people after the Exodus it was the tablets of the law. The new covenant was to be written onto people’s hearts. With this new covenant there would still be continuity, God would still be their God and the people would still be God’s people. 

Teaching of the law would become a thing of the past. The law would now be written on to each person’s heart, the people would know God in a new way and God would “forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more”. This was a fresh start for the people. Everyone, from the king to the commoner, from child to adult would know God and be part of this new covenant. 

There was change in the air for the people in our reading from Jeremiah and there was change in the air in our Gospel reading. This reading takes place in Jerusalem, after Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city. The Passover is approaching and so there are many visitors to the city from all over the world. We are told that some Greeks approached Philip asking to see Jesus. We are not told who these people were or why they wanted to see Jesus, in fact we are told whether they actually meet Jesus. They seemed unwilling to approach Jesus directly and go through an intermediary. Some say they approached Philip because he had a Greek name, and he was from the bilingual town of Bethsaida. When Philip and Andrew approached Jesus, Jesus answered with a prediction about the future. 

Throughout John’s gospel “the hour” is a prominent motif signalling the timing of Jesus’ death. Until this reading the hour was said to be coming or to have not yet come but now the hour had arrived. Jesus uses an agricultural metaphor to talk about his impending death and the consequences of that. A grain of wheat would always be a single grain of wheat unless it falls into the earth and dies. Being in the soil, doesn’t kill the seed but changes it, it brings about germination and with germination eventually comes many grains of wheat as the plant bears fruit. In Jesus case, death would reconcile the world to God, and so many would bear the fruit of this renewed relationship in their lives. Jesus then spoke about the cost of discipleship. This is not new, as we see similar teaching in the other gospel readings. Here. Jesus emphasises a life of service. 

In the second half of the reading, we hear that Jesus was troubled. Jesus’ death was the culmination of the work he was sent to do but that does not mean it came without struggles. Jesus didn’t ask for a different outcome or a change of plan. His plea was that through his work and his death God was glorified. God does not keep silent and answers Jesus with the promise of glorification, not just of God but of the Son. Some of the crowd heard God’s voice, some simply heard the sound of thunder and that may demonstrate the difference between those who were open to hearing God speak and those who were not. Jesus warns the people that things were going to change, worldly rulers would be driven out, judgement was coming but also that as he was lifted up this would not be the end but the time when people would change and come to him. 

As we come to the end of Lent and prepare for the events of Holy Week, the word that is crying out from these readings is change. Change is such an integral part of our everyday life yet when it comes to change within the church or our faith then we tend to dig our heals in. Why is that? Why do we accept change in everything else we do, often without a second thought, and yet we are reluctant to change when it comes to matters of faith? 

In Jeremiah God tells the people the new covenant will be written on their hearts. The heart in biblical times was not related to emotion as it is today but it was seen as the place of reason and intellect. I wonder if this change in style of covenant was to get the people away from just simply following a list of rules and regulations and to get them to stop and think about why the law was in place, what it meant to them as a person, and to their relationships with God and others. We have accounts from the prophets in which God says enough with the worship and the sacrifice, these are meaningless when you neighbour is oppressed or living in poverty or hungry, caring for people is more important than a sacrifice. The people had been so caught up with the letter of the law that they had forgotten the essence of the law. By changing the focus, by writing the law on people’s hearts it becomes more than mere action, it becomes something that is believed, thought about and experienced. 
 
Change is present in the gospel reading. The presence of the Greeks at the start of the reading in John suggests that Jesus work has a wider audience than simply the people in and around the villages of Palestine. The metaphor Jesus tells is all about change, the wheat germinating and bearing fruit. The idea of discipleship being about service was a new idea. Most disciples would eventually become teachers but not Jesus’ disciples, their role is one of service, not glory. And of course, Jesus’ life is about to change, as the cross, the grave and the resurrection loom ever closer. 

Change in the readings is not change for changes sake, but it is change that speaks about growth and development and new life. Faith, is not a static thing, it should change as we know more about God, as we learn new insights from Scripture, as we rise to the challenges that life and God put in our way, as we think and experience life in all its fullness through Jesus. So I encourage you to embrace change, open your mind to new possibilities with God, consider that what you know already is only a small fraction of what it is possible to know about God and see where that journey and adventure takes you and see what new fruit your life will  bear. 

Hymn     Make Me A Captive Lord
George Matheson (1890) sung by members of Lobethal Christian Fellowship, Lobethal, Australia
 
Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword
And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within thine arms,
And strong shall be my hand.

y heart is weak and poor
Until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure,
It varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move
Till thou hast wrought its chain;
Enslave it with thy matchless love,
And deathless it shall reign.

My pow’r is faint and low
Till I have learned to serve;
It lacks the needed fire to glow,
It lacks the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world
Until itself be driv’n;
Its flag can only be unfurled
When thou shalt breathe from heav’n.

My will is not my own
Till thou hast made it thine;
If it would reach a monarch’s throne,
It must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent
Amid the clashing strife
When on thy bosom it has leant,
And found in thee its life.
 
Affirmation of Faith – The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, we come before you with our prayers for others,  write on our hearts the names of people, places and situations that are in need of change, so we can pray with hope.

Lord we pray for those for whom even the smallest change is difficult and upsetting… (brief pause)

We pray for those whose lives have been changed because of illness…(brief pause)

We pray for those whose who want to change but find taking those first few steps difficult…(brief pause)

We pray for those who make changes to policies and laws…(brief pause)

We pray for ourselves that we will be embrace the change you bring in our lives…(brief pause)

God of hope, we offer up our prayers in the name of Jesus as we pray together the words he taught us saying:

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, 
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
Forever and ever Amen. 

Offertory Prayer

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground
and takes on new life, it remains just a single grain.
With grateful hearts,
let us bring the fruit of our lives to God.

Dedication of Offering

Generous God, 
Thank you for all that you have given us, 
As a token of our love and appreciation
We bring you our offering, 
Use our money along with our time and talents, 
to change the world by building you kingdom. 
In Jesus name we pray
Amen. 

Hymn     One More Step Along the World I Go
Sydney Carter  © 1971 Stainer & Bell (admin. Hope Publishing Company) Printed and Podcast in terms with OneLicence # A-734713  Sung by Frodsham Methodist Church Cloud Choir produced by Andrew Ellison and accompanied by Andrew Ellams and used with their kind permission.

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go,
from the old things to the new,
keep me traveling a long with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see,
you’ll be looking at along with me:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
Where I see no way to go
you’ll be telling me the way I know:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough,
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me,
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Blessing 

People of God, 
Go out into the world
As agents of change
As bringers of hope
As beacons of God’s love
And the may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit 
with you now and forevermore, Amen. 

 

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