As it was the second Sunday of the month we began by declaring our faith with our favourite hymns and then we were welcomed and the notices were given, followed by the Call to Worship where Helen led us in a responsive declaration:
We are hungering and thirsting for hope and peace.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Our hearts long for the nourishing presence of God.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Give to us the living bread of your peace that we may hunger no more.
Open our hearts to joyfully receive your life-sustaining love.
I am grateful for opportunities such as this, when I am able to say aloud the vague thoughts and inner aches, after they have been pinned down by the words of someone else, allowing me the relief of offering them up in a coherent way.
Hymn 3 "All creatures of our God and King" followed, echoing the confidence of the call to worship, that our Lord can satisfy every longing and provide every need: that our Lord is owed thanks by each one of us and all creation for our abundant blessings and that all of creation should burst out in praise.
Kid's Time followed with a message for all of us about being careful with our words and remembering not to become so entangled in the trivia of life that we forget who is really at the centre of it.
Hymn 105 “The great love of God" promised us that God's love which makes everything possible and which was revealed in Jesus, can make us what we can't be under our own steam. Given this is so, you would wonder why we are so determined sometimes to keep such a strong grip on the steering wheel of our lives.
Ruth then read Ephesians 4:25-5:2
The Prayer of Confession gave us the opportunity to admit how we have failed in carrying out the commands given in Ephesians: to admit our childish behaviour, refusing to accept responsibility for our own failures. We were also given the words to express our confession of a wrong attitude to God, forgetting that our lives are meant to be lived to God's glory, not for our own tinny, so-called successes. Having opened our frailty to our Lord we were able to ask for forgiveness and healing and the will to truly worship and work for God's ends in this world.
How precious is this time - to lay it all out before the Lord. He knows anyway, but we cannot be healed until we acknowledge and confess our every wavering from His will.
Having bowed with humility before God we were then able to claim the
Words of Assurance. "God has heard your cries and knows your anguish, In Christ Jesus you are loved and forgiven" restored our relationship with our Lord. This was followed by
Helen's reflection, firstly reminded us of our continuing theme, that Jesus is The Bread of Life: the Bread that is Life by which we are nourished so that we are able to put off our old selves, leaving behind our old ways and becoming our new selves. In this state we are able to completely turn around to God and do what he wants us to do. And what that is, as given in today's reading, is to act as a community, to act as one. Together we are the body of Christ and when one hurts, we all hurt and so we should support each other, being careful what we say, helping, forgiving, with each pulling our weight.
Helen then moved on, speaking about communities that exist and pointing out that in a community like one she had lived in, where everything is interdependent, there is no time to indulge petty likes or dislikes because if the town was to function healthily, people just had to get on with each other. In the city we can avoid others and our connections are spread from one group to another, so how do we build community?
Helen cited a Mamre community that started out making land available for domestic farming as a service to the refugee community but found instead that the activity actually made community as the people met and shared their stories and as their time working with the land brought them healing and peace.
And the message to us?
How do we at Marsden Road serve our community? How do we at Marsden Road form community? Anyone expecting an answer to be provided was disappointed as Helen marched off, leaving the answer for us to find. It is crucial that this becomes our chief concern.
For anyone drifting off-target
Hymn 607 "Make me a Channel of Your Peace" allowed us to continue, through song, to pray for God's strength to give of ourselves in bringing about His will for peace among all people. The freewill offering was a practical expression of this same prayer.
The Time of Meditation is always a challenging time. Just me and my Lord. No time for polite conversation; no time for a little pretend smile; no time for the public persona.
Just the real me looking at my inner self and being open to whatever God has in mind.
The Pastoral Prayer followed with a plea for the courage to accept God’s power in our lives and for us to remember that God is with us at all times. (or is that to remember at all times that God is with us?). We also continued the prayer that we will reflect God's love and compassion in service to others which we began by praying for the needs of those close to us, followed by the Lord's Prayer, the basis for a life lived according to God's will.
Hymn 478 "Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah" was sung in the knowledge that we had heard God's message for us and that our prayers had and would continue to be answered.
We were then sent out:
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen
And then we left,
Singing the blessing "May the feet of God walk with you"
ensuring our safe way.