After the welcome, which was extended to all but particularly to any visitors (of which we had a few, it being the baptismal service of little Dylan) and after the notices Helen summoned the congregation with the
Call to Worship.
which was taken from 1 Kings 8: 27, Solomon's words at the dedication of the temple he had built.
Will God indeed dwell on the earth?
Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you,
much less this house that I have built.
Solomon, knowing that God is everything that is good without any hint of diminishment; that God is beyond anything that could be imagined; that God is beyond anything created; that God is beyond...was staggered at the prospect of this God dwelling in the temple he had built. Equally so, the prospect of God entering with us today in this building or entering these temples of our spiritual bodies is just as staggering...but all it takes is an invitation.
The Prayer which followed asked for God's help in forgetting our everyday concerns to take advantage of this time in God's house to focus on all that He has to say to us, knowing His promise to come to us and be amongst us.
Hymn 80. “Immortal, invisible, God only wise" acknowledged the incomprehensibility of the nature of God and His hand moving through creation and asked that through Christ's story we might see him and open our hearts to him. It seems such an easy thing to do, but sometimes it takes us so long to get over our need to control our own lives.
Adelyn and David presented Dylan for baptism and they, with the whole congregation were reminded that we, as Jesus' disciples have been commanded to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, incorporating the baptized into the body of Jesus Christ.
Not a matter to be taken lightly and to make everything even clearer the Apostles Creed was said, declaring the beliefs that underpin the church. Dylan's baptism proceeded with the purpose of the sacrament kept uppermost and afterwards the congregation sang
The Aaronic Blessing to our newest little member.
The parents and the congregation were separately asked to pledge their continuing support for Dylan in his Christian journey and the service finished with the presentation of the Baptismal Candle and the words:
Dylan, you belong to Christ, the light of the world.
May you always walk as a child of the light.
Let your light shine before the world,
that all may see your good works and give glory to our Father
who is in heaven.
These were words to us all. Have we been seeking to walk in that light? Have we been nourishing our relationship with the source of that light? For some, a time to take stock.
Hymn 509. "Stand up, stand up for Jesus" reminded us to let our light shine forth - and made no bones about it.
The Prayer of Confession. We were able to ask forgiveness for the times we had failed to live the life of a loving community, failed to nurture each other, or to uphold one another or to encourage those around us. We then focussed on our private concerns - the things between ourselves and God.
The Words of Assurance sung in the hymn "Search me O God" gave comfort in the knowledge that our prayers for forgiveness were answered before the words left our mouths and that God's healing work was happening in our hearts.
The Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6: 10-20 was delivered by Jack, telling us to don the armour of God, so as to fight the forces that oppose our Lord, relying on God's strength.
The Reflection, "Just Stand". delivered by Helen explored this idea in depth. Helen spoke of the different perspectives on this theme she had encountered, beginning with the idea that "putting on God's armour" entailed prayer, Bible reading and spending time being in relationship with God.
This was seen as a way of ensuring protection against spiritual darkness. The assumption is that we will experience opposition and so we must put on this armour and stand against such opposition.
Paul was in chains when he wrote this, but spoke out as an ambassador for Christ. (remember hymn 509?) He was speaking of a battle between good and evil and Helen pointed out that this continuing tension is not something we can fight in our own strength.
Clive Pearson saw these shadows as the economic, financial and trade policies; as the power of the media and as the influence of the new technology. To this Helen now thinks we could add the way the Health system is run.
But how can ordinary people hold sway against such odds? The answer is the same as it always has been-in God's strength.
It was suggested that this could also refer to an internal battle. A battle within each of us between the side that wants to act for God and the side that feels defeated before any effort is attempted.
Helen then said that God's armour is the thing that gives hope when everything looks bleak, describing common situations where that can be so and giving an example of how sharing with each other what God is doing in our lives can help build the armour of others.
Much of our beliefs are moulded by what others have shared with us and so we are beholden to tell of our knowledge of God's work to support others.
Then together we can stand in strength-whatever. It sounds impossible. But we won't know unless we give it a go.
Hymn 481 v. 1,2,4 " Soldiers of Christ arise" stressed the positive - encouraging us all as we sang, exhorting ourselves and each other to just stand.
We then gave the Freewill Offering, acknowledging God's generosity to us, being thankful for a place to worship together and asking that our giving should reach out into the community around us.
We were then given a time of Meditation to consider the place of all that we had heard in our lives, which led into
The Pastoral Prayer was led by
who prayed for families everywhere and who also beautifully described the range of families that exist, asking for support for each in their particular circumstances, following with The Lord's Prayer. Laurel
Hymn 109. " Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord" said it all again in different words, the strength of the music and the words giving us all the opportunity to declare our intention to just stand and make the message of God's greatness known.
Having heard the message, renewed our commitment in the baptismal service, and taken upon ourselves the strength of our Lord, we were sent out...to face each day.
The Blessing "For you deep stillness of the silent inland" was a salve that we each applied to the souls of the others as we left together to face each day, putting on the armour of God, to resist those shadow forces that work against His will.