Welcome to this time of worship and community. We hope you find the service helpful and encouraging.
Call to Worship - (D Sokolove, Abingdon 2016)
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Strengthen us, Holy one. Let your face shine upon us, and keep us safe.
By faith, God’s people passed through the Red Sea. By faith, the walls of Jericho fell.
We come in faith, calling on the name of God to save us.
Is a cloud rising in the west? Is the south wind blowing?
We come in faith, calling on the name of God to save us.
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, who show us the way to run the race set before us.
Strengthen us Holy one. Let your face shine upon us and keep us safe.
HYMN TIS 119: “I sing the almighty power of God
Using a number of metaphors, John praised God for his guidance, nurturing and his enlivening being. He acknowledged the need for God to shape us according to his will and asked for his help in carrying out his commands, that love and justice should prevail in this world.
A Prayer of Confession
Continuing the use of metaphor of God planting, nurturing and pruning vines which will yield sweet fruit, John thanked God for his preparations for us but confessed that even with such care we somehow fall short of what God intended,
"Forgive us, Holy One, for ignoring the cries of anguish that rise up to you.
Restore us, God of hosts, that we might yield good fruit to feed a hungry world. Amen."
Declaration of Forgiveness
"God fills us with life and love, offering us forgiveness and grace whenever we call on the name of the Holy One. In the name of Christ, you are forgiven.
In the name of Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God. Amen."
"As forgiven and beloved people of God, let us offer one another signs of peace.
The peace of Christ be with you all.
And also with you."
"God of All, we are so thankful for this opportunity to give. Our joy is tempered by the knowledge that so many of your children suffer in war-ravaged countries and impoverished cities. Multiply these gifts so that those oppressed by injustice may experience your care. Awaken us so that our need to act faithfully against all injustice is reflected in how we speak and how we serve. In your holy name, we pray. Amen."
The First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7 This reading echoed the theme of the prayers: God has prepared the ground and nurtured the crop but is not rewarded for his efforts as we people simply ignore his guidance. And God withdraws his care and all descends into ruins.
The Epistle Reading: Hebrews 11: 29 - 12: 2 Recounts all those who have suffered in God's name and for his sake. Then, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God"
The Gospel Reading: Luke 12: 49-56 A warning that the coming of the kingdom will be very disturbing and will not be an easy thing to experience.
For the Word of the Lord: Thanks be to God
Preaching of the Word - Hard Sayings.
John spoke on today's lessons including the hard sayings and pointed out that God makes it clear that our behaviour is important - our readings today make that very clear.
"This is the other side of the Gospel, the other side of the faith; the side that we don’t embrace quite so willingly. Yet it is very much a part of the whole Christian message."
God calls us to live in obedience to him: to live according to the truth with God at our centre. To live not for ourselves but to live for others and for our planet.
"The bottom line is the imitation of Christ—Jesus living his life again in us and through us. God is very serious about this vision of life and expects us to strive to have our lives reflect this vision."
And the reason we are be disciplined and moulded is that God wants us to live life to the fullest. I remember an old joke: When all else fails, read the instructions!
"The way we are created to live is not always the way the world around us says we should live. The values are different and holding onto those values and the vision of our faith will show us what Jesus meant about division, and conflict, and fire. Our reward will be a life, lived in its fullest, and its most abundant. God loves us, and wants that life for us. God gives us through Jesus, this vision of how human beings should live—for our own sake."
John told us how people were challenged to a new life through Jesus and that our lives should be such a challenge today. We must open our hearts so that Jesus can transform us to be that challenge.
TIS Hymn 598: “Dear Father, Lord of humankind"
Music to lead us to prayer
Intercessory Prayers (Selected)
"Faithful God, you hear our cries and answer when we call on you: give us faith to believe that with you all things are possible...
You have shown us ways of justice and righteousness, but we have chosen paths of violence and greed: hear our prayers for the nations of the world...
You have offered us gifts of redemption and life, but we have clung to old ways of sin and death: hear our prayers for your church and its mission...
You rescue the weak and save those in distress, but we have abandoned the vulnerable and neglected those in need: hear our prayers for the people of this community...
You are generous and loving to all your people, but we have been selfish and uncaring towards each other: hear our prayers for all who suffer...
Your people rejected your love and turned from your ways, but you endured death on a cross to bring us eternal life: we give you thanks for all who have died in the faith."
THE LORD'S PRAYER
TIS Hymn 456: “Your hand, O God, has guided”
Like the martyrs who suffered and died, witnessing to the power of Christ in their lives, let your lives be a witness to the power of Christ in your lives, as you go out in faithful service to the world.
And may the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the life of the Spirit be with you, in you and around you this morning and into the future. Amen.