Sunday Worship – 29th January 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (STF) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our Circuit and with the congregation at St Andrews and led by Rev Christine Crabtree, one of our Circuit Ministers.

Click on the blue links to follow them for Bible readings and associated links.

Call to worship:

Come let us turn to our God, for he is merciful and will receive us:

Let us praise his name for he is love.

We will offer our whole selves in his service:

Let us praise his name for he is love.

Song – StF 499 Great God, your love has called us here

Prayers of approach

Lord God, your love has called us here.
We come to worship, to search for you,
And we find that you have been looking for us all along,
Gently seeking us out so that we might find you.
We gather in your name, for you are love.
Your love has sought us and found us,
Made a way for us to come to you,
And brought us along that way.
You call our name, O Lord, and we come to you.
We come as we are, not great nor proud but simple and humble,
bearing the marks that life has left us with.
We come to you, who gently traces our scars and lifts our heads.
We come to you, for you have promised to be with us,
To live with us, to fall with us and to rise with us.
Help us to open ourselves to you as we worship,
That we might be strengthened in love and purpose.
Hold us now, just as we are,
And, just as we are,
Help us to offer ourselves to you again,
And receive what you have to give us.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Micah 6:1-8

Song – StF 446 I will offer up my life in Spirit and truth

Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:1-12


When we think about having a calling, it is easy to think of ourselves as doing something grand, something that grabs people’s attention – perhaps speaking to a large crowd and having them agree with what we say and following us; or interrupting a political debate to make those in leadership take notice; or saving someone’s life in an act of bravery.  If we do, we are no different to many people God has called, who have dreamt of being knights in battle (St Ignatius and St Francis) or being the centre of attention (St Teresa of Avila). 

Greater experience of things of faith lead to an understanding that what God wants us to do is often smaller, simpler, more humble than we had expected, and we have to swallow our pride and be ready to get our hands dirty in adventures that are nearer to home than we had perhaps hoped.

Both the verses from Micah and the Beatitudes show a different way of looking at the world. God is not looking for grand gestures but for those who are prepared to walk in his ways. Blessings are promised not to those who are powerful, whose words carry weight, or who have followed the Law, but to those who are poor in spirit, meek, hungry for righteousness.

Look at this picture. A beautiful young woman has made herself ready for a special date. She has done her hair and put on a little coronet as a finishing touch. Now turn the page upside down and look again. Looked at from a different angle, the picture shows an old lady. The face has changed from serene to unhappy, and the beautifully-styled hair has been cut shorter and is covered by a practical cap.

Taking a look at things from different angles can totally change what we see.  This is what Jesus is asking us to do in the Beatitudes – to look at the world in a different way.  No longer will it be power and riches that win the day, but humility, peace-making and mercy.  When these are given pride of place the world will be better and safer for all.

Does this mean we are to be pushovers? I find this idea so unattractive, and I wonder if such behaviour will ever achieve anything in terms of change. The evildoers get free reign; pushovers become doormats, and doormats get walked on. So how can we live in the Jesus way, and be agents of change?

Here’s one story from Don’t forgive too soon – Extending the two hands that heal by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn (1997, Paulist Press, New York):

Guatemalan soldiers commonly send spies into local Indian villages to learn about ancient family feuds. They then use this information to divide the people and eliminate indigenous leadership. For example, the spies might learn that the Garcia and Reyes have been feuding over a land dispute for the past two hundred years.  The soldiers would take members of the Garcia family, especially lay catechists or organizers of co-ops, and force them to say that the Reyes family is supporting the guerrillas.  Then they would take members of the Reyes family and induce them to say something similar about the Garcias.  The soldiers would then arrest members of both families and use the false information as an excuse to torture and kill them all.

In one small mountain village the people realized that it was the unhealed hurts between them that made them vulnerable to the government soldiers.  They invited us [the authors] tongue a retreat on forgiveness.  They then spent the following year uncovering and healing the hurts between the families.  The next time the soldiers entered the village, all 2,000 of them came out into the square and silently stood in a large circle as a sign of their solidarity with one another. With their bodies they communicated to the soldiers, “We are one people and if you want to take one of us you will have to take us all.”  The soldiers left and have not returned.  This village is now one of the safest in Guatemala.

Sometimes we need to take a step back from the immediate issue and look for whatever is behind it all. Why is there conflict? What things haven’t been dealt with, and are festering beneath the surface? If we are prepared to look below the surface and deal prayerfully with what we find there, it can help us find complete healing, do things the Jesus way, and bring about change.

What is there in our lives that needs healing, humility, peace-keeping, mercy? Is there something that looks harmful, but when we look at the root of the problem, there is a hurt that needs healing? Can you think of one person you don’t like, and pray about why that might be, and see if there is anything you can do to bring reconciliation? Is there something in your church that needs examining, in order to find healing? Is there anything in our Circuit life that we could bring before God so that our life together could more closely reflect God’s values?

As we live with the challenge of doing things the Jesus way, May God give us discernment to see things as they are, and to treat them with love and gentleness, so that we might come closer to God and closer to one another.

Song – StF 249 Jesu, Jesu

Prayers of intercession

We will use some thoughts from Micah to lead us through our prayers for ourselves and others.

“With what shall I come before the Lord?”

Forgive us, Lord, when we fall into the trap of thinking you will be impressed by grand gestures and noble sacrifices. Help us to come before you as we are, in our poverty and nakedness, and to be held and healed by you. And having received, help us to share that same holding and healing, so that we can see the root of the problem and bring freedom and hope.

“What does the Lord require of you? To do justly ..”

It is easy to say “It isn’t fair” when something affects us, but just as easy to look past the injustices that others suffer.  We ask that we might stand for justice, speaking up on behalf of those who have no voices. Help us to notice when there is an injustice affecting a person or a group of people, and having noticed, help us to act. 

“ love mercy ..”

We thank you for showing us such great mercy. Help us to be people of mercy and compassion, loving our neighbours and also those who oppose us, that we might be kind in our dealings with others, and pave the way for healing and reconciliation for those who are hurting.

“..and to walk humbly with your God.”

God who has made us and shaped us and gifted us with so much, help us to walk with you, nit making ourselves more than we are, nor less than we are, but using all you have given us, to make the world around us that little bit better. Take our hand, and lead us where you will, and help us to walk in confidence and trust.

We ask all these things in the name of Jesus, who is still teaching us to say:

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 today 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,
For ever and ever, Amen.

Song – StF StF 713 Show me how to stand for justice


May we know the blessing of God, today and every day;

Creator, Redeemer and Abiding Presence be with us all. Amen.

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