Sunday Worship – 7th August 2022 – A Methodist Way of Life

Welcome to worship with the Bradford North Circuit! This service has been prepared by Rev Philip Drake as part of the circuit’s exploration of A Methodist Way of Life. Each month, one of the twelve commitments included in A Methodist Way of Life is presented as material for worship, personal reflection, and group conversation. The commitment being explored this month is: ‘We will worship with others regularly’.

Call to worship (from Psalm 100.2):
Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing

Singing the Faith 24/Mission Praise 1040 – Come, now is the time to worship

For a more traditional hymn, you could use, O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
(Hymns and Psalms 505, Mission Praise 529)

Opening prayer:
Give us, O god, a vision of your glory,
That we may worship you in spirit and truth,
And offer the praise of glad and thankful hearts;
Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Old Testament reading: Isaiah 6.1-8 – a vision of heavenly glory

Reflections on the Old Testament reading:
A sense of wonder: Discovering a sense of wonder is an important part of being human; experiences which lift us out of the everyday into a response of awe and amazement; for some there is a ‘wow’ factor in entering a vast and towering cathedral as our gaze is drawn from floor to ceiling in an architectural achievement aimed at bringing glory to God; for others, it lies in the beauty and variety of nature, revealed for example in new and exciting discoveries at the bottom of the oceans. A sense of wonder is invoked in Isaiah as he is lifted up out of the ordinary into an extraordinary experience of God. Scholars argue about whether Isaiah was actually in the Temple when he had his vision; but the layout of the Temple and what went on there was certainly important for Isaiah in understanding what he saw. For the Temple was a place designed to give that wow factor of awe and inspiration. How can we be sure of discovering that same sense of wonder each time we go to join in worship in a church service on a Sunday?

An awareness of inadequacy: In the face of what he sees, hears and feels, Isaiah’s only response is to cry ‘Woe is me! I am lost.’ In this shout, Isaiah expresses his own inadequacy. He recognises that he himself is no better than others around him: ‘I am a man of unclean lips, amongst a people of unclean lips.’ Their lips have expressed words of praise, but have they shown the same praise through the way they live their lives? When our worship includes taking part in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are called to the Lord’s table with an expression of praise on our lips, as we echo in our communion prayers the angelic beings of Isaiah’s heavenly vision in proclaiming, ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, the whole earth is full of his glory.’ But we also come, acknowledging our unworthiness of being there; sometimes we use what is known as the prayer of humble access, ‘Lord, we come to your table, trusting in your mercy, and not in any goodness of our own. We are not worthy even to gather up the crumbs from under your table, but it is your nature always to have mercy and on that we depend.’ We are not worthy, but God is worthy (and that, after all, is what the word ‘worship’ means). And just as in the vision of holiness there is our ‘undoing’ – that realisation that we are indeed unworthy – so also there is our
‘remaking’, in the reassurance of the forgiveness of sins at the touch of this holy God. We make our confession, confident in the mercy of God to set us right.

Readiness for mission: in this, we seek to answer for ourselves the question asked of Isaiah, at the end of his encounter with the holiness of God: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ An encounter with the holiness of God has been described as both terrifying and compelling, it is both overwhelming and attractive at the same time. For it is the will of God that such an encounter should not leave us paralysed with fear, like a rabbit trapped in the headlights of an oncoming car but energised and released so that we may fulfil God’s purpose for us. As we open ourselves up to God in worship, we risk also opening ourselves up to the work God wants us to do. The end point of each time of worship, whether on a Sunday or at any other time is we are sent out in mission – to reach the point where we are ready to echo Isaiah’s words with our own voice as we say clear and loud, ‘Here am I, send me.’

Gospel reading: John 4.19-24 – Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well

Reflections on the Gospel reading:
From the lofty heights of Isaiah’s vision to the deep waters of the water well: from the heights to the depths of worship. This story of the encounter of Jesus and a Samaritan woman is set at the site of Jacob’s well. Today there is a church that has been built on top of what is said to be the site of Jacob’s well. One way of understanding the church where we go to worship is as a place of spiritual depth – a place to tap into these depths through prayer and worship. The liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez in Latin America talked about the people learning to drink from their own wells, from their own skills and experiences as a community, and to discover within that community a place of spiritual resource. Take a few moments to close your eyes and begin by imagining looking into a well. You cannot see how deep it is, the bottom is hidden from view. You drop a pebble into the well and wait to hear the sound of it hitting the water. The deeper the well the more refreshing and the purer the water.

Spend a short time in silence, considering the spiritual resource available to you

  • within yourself and within others around you
  • present amongst the congregation of your church
  • drawn upon from the tradition in which you stand, whether Methodist or otherwise.

The encounter of Jesus and the woman at the well recognises the differences and division between the Jews and the Samaritans – each had their own special place as a focus for worship. What is offered through this encounter with Jesus is something startlingly new. It does not fit into existing conventions as to where God is to be found. Instead, Jesus says ‘…the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…but the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth…’ We do not have to go to some special place to meet with God. The heart of the gospel message is that God comes to us and meets us where we are. Christians are not immune to the kind of rivalry expressed in John 4 – for example, consider the situation where two churches agree to combine, but there is contention over which building should be used for worship because each place is precious to those who go there. How can we make sure that church buildings do not become a distraction, which prevent them from becoming the places they are designed to be – as a site of encounter with the living God?

Prayers of intercession
To our sacred world of worship, we bring our secular selves,
with all the burdens of the people we know and love;
all the burdens of the people we hear of and see;
all the burdens of the people we laugh with and cry with.
All-powerful God, who understands our needs before we think and speak,
we unload our pains and joys, our sorrows and our celebrations,
and bring our prayers before you:
for the hurting and the hurt; for the loved and the loveless;
for the young and old; for believers and non-believers;
for those certain of their faith and those who waver;
for those of different faiths and identities from us;
for the ill and those in pain and distress; 
for the dying and those whose bodies are etched with the marks of death and dying;
for the grieving whose minds are bewildered and burdened by grief.
All-powerful God, surround each and every one with the circle of your protection. 

A prayer for ourselves
Lord, may we worship you in the beauty of holiness:
with music, dance, stillness, words and silence.
May the joy of your presence fill our lives, and overflow
into the lives of all around us. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

Singing the Faith 446/Mission Praise 990I will offer up my life in spirit and truth

If you would like a more traditional hymn you could use I cannot tell why he whom angels worship (Hymns and Psalms 238)

Blessing (from Jude verse 24-25)
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. 

Acknowledgments: Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright ©1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Opening prayer taken from The Methodist Worship Book, copyright TMCP 1999. Other prayers, copyright roots for churches Ltd. Used with permission.

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