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Sunday Worship 15 January 2023

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 15 January 2023

 
Today’s service is led by The Revd Andy Braunston and student ministers of The Scottish College
 

 
Call to Worship
 


Come and hear the voice of Jesus say: 

Come unto me and rest!
Come and lay down your burdens upon His chest. 
We come & are glad!
Come and receive from Jesus who gives of himself to quench our thirst.
We come and are refreshed!
Come and live in Him: 
who calls us to follow.
Come to Jesus, our star and our sun, who calls us to come and see.
We will follow him ‘til travelling days are done.
 
Hymn    I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
Horatius N. Bonar (1808-1889) Public Domain Sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon my breast’:
I came to Jesus as I was, so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting-place, and he has made me glad.
 
I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink, and live’:
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched,  my soul revived, & now I live in him.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright’:
I looked to Jesus, and I found in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk, till travelling days are done.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Loving God, You have called people from every age and every generation
to bear witness to you and your way.  For this we are truly thankful.
 
You have called people from all walks of life, those with influence and those from the margins of society. For this we are truly thankful.
 
We are in awe of your greatness and grace to those whom you have called. For this we are truly thankful.
 
With heavy hearts and troubled minds, we confess that there are times 
when we have failed to see your call in those around us, and did not treat them as gracefully as you would wish us to. For this we are truly sorry.
 
In our own lives we acknowledge  that we have not always responded to your call to “come and see” or turned away from it. Often through fear, self-doubt or lack of faith. In our own lives we admit that at these times 
we have not trusted your guidance and your will for us.
For this we are truly sorry.
 
There have been times when we have heard your call, but failed to live up to it through our actions, words, thoughts, and the times we strayed from your path. For this we are truly sorry.
 
Today we give thanks for the grace you continue to offer us lovingly,
just as it was offered to Paul and others in the early Church. It is wonderful that you call us to “come and see” just as you called the first disciples, for this we are truly thankful.
 
We are strengthened by knowing that we are loved by you and called to follow you. For this we are truly thankful.
 
We continue to discover and develop  the spiritual gifts bestowed upon us, to be used in your service. For this we are truly thankful. Amen
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, be with us now. 
As you were filled with the Holy Spirit, 
move among us now and help us to hear your message. 
We know what the words mean, 
but we want to understand their meaning. 
Open our eyes, our ears and our hearts 
to receive Your word for us today, 
that we may respond and be used in your service.   Amen.
 
Reading 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
 
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
 
Hymn    I Waited Patiently For God (Psalm 40)
Bert Polman © 1987 CRC Publications / Faith Alive Christian Resources (Admin. by Christian Reformed Church In North America) CCLI Licence No. 1064776 Sung by Choir of Lansdowne Parish Church, Glasgow, Gordon Munro (Conductor), Stuart Muir (Piano)
 

I waited patiently for God,
for God to hear my prayer,
and God bent down to where I sank
and listened to me there.
 
God raised me from a miry pit,
from mud and sinking sand,
and set my feet upon a rock
where I can firmly stand.
 
And on my lips a song was put,
a new song to the Lord.
Many will marvel, open-eyed,
and put their trust in God.
 
Great wonders you 
have done, O Lord,
all purposed to our good:
unable every one to name,
I bow in gratitude.

 
Reading St John 1:29-42 
 
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 
 
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
 
Sermon
 
Our readings today explore calling.  Paul tells the troubled Church in Corinth that they have every spiritual gift they need – if you read on in Corinthians this is rather surprising as that congregation has been shockingly bad in how it lived out its faith.  Yet Paul, at this point at least, encourages them with warm words assuring them they have all they need.  It’s quite a contrast to how we often think about and describe our congregations now where, if we were to tell someone else about them, we’d probably not say that it has all the spiritual gifts it needs.  
 
The Psalm we’ve just sung reminds us that God lifts us from the bog and the mire, that God’s own self bends down to listen to us, and after being lifted to a more secure place we have a song of praise on our lips.  We know that in the various challenges of the last few years God did, indeed, bend down to listen and care for us and now, hopefully in a more secure place than we were, our response is to offer praise.
 
Our Gospel reading has ordinary people intrigued at the Lord’s invitation to “come and see” and we read of the first disciples doing just that – they followed Jesus eager to see what was in store for them.  These ones needed some encouragement from John the Baptist but the decision to follow was their own.
 
We’re all very ordinary people – well I know I am and I presume you all are too!  There’s little about us which is extraordinary but together we do some extra ordinary things.  Paul’s assertion that the church in Corinth had all the spiritual gifts it needed rings true for us and our congregations – we may not believe it but all that we need is there – if only we’re prepared to use our gifts.  I preach each month in a small Church of Scotland congregation here in Orkney; some years ago their organist retired and no one else in the congregation could play.  Loving music in worship the congregation decided to purchase a digital hymnal and a group of women decided they’d form a choir to lead the singing each week. They can’t read music, they aren’t musically trained, yet these 7 or so women do amazing things, not only leading the singing but also offering choir pieces in worship and then using their newfound skills to offer musical concerts in their village to raise funds – the last one to raise funds for Ukraine.  Their musical gifts have sustained, and improved, the worship that small kirk offers to God.   
 
Our three intrepid students are all long time church members who’ve been busy, so far, in their church and personal lives responding as best they can to Jesus’ invitation to ‘come and see.’
 
[Video of the three students telling us of their secular lives and local church involvement] 
Jesus isn’t too bothered by our educational attainment or jobs – just with who is willing to follow when He calls.  As we saw He’s called a child minder, an administrator and a secondary school teacher to explore what the call to follow him might look like.  Ordinary people doing quite extraordinary things given all the pressures on their time.  
 
When we read the Gospel story, we have a sense of its rapid immediacy.  Jesus invited the disciples to “come and see” and they did. Whether there was more to it, some question and answer sessions we’ll never know.  I suspect that, for most of us, a sense of calling to serve in the various ways in which we’re called is rather less immediate, if no less insistent, than the writer of John’s Gospel suggests.  Many people describe a nagging insistence in the core of their being, a sense that God is asking a little more of them, a realisation that fulfilment might not be found until this call is answered.  That call might be help out a bit more in some way at church, to assist in the foodbank, to befriend newcomers, to consider exploring a vocation to be an Elder, to look further at whether some of the other ordered ministries of the Church are what we’re being called to – Lay Preacher, Church Related Community Worker, Minister.  Our three students each spent years gently wrestling with a sense of call and it was the encouragement of others that led them all to explore further – and this new form of volunteer ministry seemed to be the key to stepping out and offering themselves.
 

 
I’m struck by how the encouragement that the students spoke of, which reflects Paul’s encouragement to the young, but quite dreadful, church in Corinth made a difference.  Who, I wonder encourages you to explore further where God is calling you – who do you encourage in your church to answer the call?
The firm assurance that the Psalmist assures us of is seen in the deep commitment our people have; we may be small, we may not be the most important church in the town or village, we may have our roots in churches the wider public has never heard of, yet across the length and breadth of the UK we’re there, offering our prayers, praise, and pain to God, seeking to serve despite the gloom and despondency of our world, offering the light and life of Christ.  All of us want our gifts and service, our witness and ministry to make a difference – our students are no different.
 
[Video of students explaining how they hope their ministries will make a difference.]
 
Jesus’ invitation to ‘come and see’ offered once to those disciples and offered again and again to us is ever fresh.    Like Derek we may see that our local congregation needs stability after a time of frequent change.  Maybe someone in your congregation could help to offer that stability – maybe you could.  Like Eilidh you may realise that if your church wants trained accountable ministry it might have to come now from within and maybe you, or someone you know, might need to start a process of discernment to see if you, or they, are called to that.  Like Margaret you may need to be encouraged that God uses the most unlikely of people to achieve His purposes – even us!
   
So as we think about those students and the ministries to which they are called do keep them in mind and prayer; it’s not easy to combine home, work, church and study.  But, further, think and pray a little about to what you might be called. 
 

  • What difference might you make in your church?  
  • What might you be called to?  
  • Might you offer to serve as an Elder, 
  • might you have a call to some form of ordered ministry – in particular this new form of volunteer ministry.  

 
The poet/singer Leonard Cohen struggled with many ideas about love, life and God in his music.  We started our service with him singing the song If It Be Your Will where Cohen offers himself to God even if in that offering things might be difficult.  As you discern and pray where God may be calling you, remember that the invitation to ‘come and see’ might not be easy, might cost you something but the journey is always about seeking God’s will.  Let’s pray.
 
Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfil.
Your bondage is freedom; your service is song;
and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong. Amen
 
Hymn    Lord of Creation, To You Be All Praise!
John Copley Winslow (1882-1974) (alt.) © Mrs J. Tyrrell. One Licence No 30247 sung by Gareth Moore of the Isle of Man Methodist Church and used with their kind permission.
 

Lord of creation, to you be all praise!
Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!
Your glory and power are beyond us to tell,
and yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.
 
Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfil.
Your bondage is freedom; your service is song;
and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.

Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind,
rich truth that surpasses our knowledge to find.
What eye has not seen and what ear has not heard
is taught by your Spirit and shines from your Word.
 
Lord of all bounty, I give you my heart;
I praise and adore you for all you impart;
your love to inflame me, your counsel to guide,
your presence to shield me, whatever betide.

 

Lord of all being, I give you my all;
if I should disown you, I’d stumble and fall;
but, sworn in your service your word I’ll obey,
and walk in your freedom to the end of the way.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
If it be Your will, O Most High, that we should speak no more; 
give us grace to abide. 
If it be Your will, Eternal One, that we should speak from our brokenness; 
may our voice be true and our praises sincere.
If it be Your will, Ancient of Days, that there is free will;
may Your mercy flow on all those who turn from You.
If it be Your will, O God of our Dreams, 
that we are to follow You, give us grace, in our rags of light, 
to come and see all that You have to offer us.
 
Intercessions
 
God of creation,
You lift us from the miry bog and set our feet upon a rock,
and so, we come before you this day,
as a people in need of your presence and mercy.
Lift us from those people and places
which mire us in the bog of despondency and gloom,
and set our lives firmly on the rock that is your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
God of compassion,
we know that you put a new song into the mouths of those who worry;
worry from poverty, poor education, or a lack of opportunity,
worry from war, natural disaster, 
or the lack of meaningful human contact,
worry from pain, ill health, or bereavement.
Help us all when we are worried, in pain, or dismay,
to be enriched in you, in speech, and in knowledge.
That we may be strengthened by your love and kindness.
 
God of deliverance,
You invite us to come and see your kingdom,
a kingdom where heaven breaks into earth,
where the rich are put to shame, and the poor are lifted up.
We thank you for the gifts and resources you have given humanity,
gifts so numerous we do not have the ability to count them,
but still, we live in a world where greed and inhumanity 
mean the rich grow richer on the back of the poor,
and the division grows wider and wider.
 
God of deliverance
help us to see injustice and to stand against it,
to feel the pain of the forgotten and downtrodden,
and to work to alleviate their suffering.
We pray for those who, this winter, 
are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.
Bless the work of foodbanks across our nation,
encourage those seeking to set up warm spaces this winter.
We ask that you give wit and wisdom to the leaders of trade unions,
and a compassionate and listening ear to government ministers,
that they may change
 – as once you changed the curious into your apostles.
 
God of compassion
we bring before you our own concerns,
people or situations that cause us worry,
people and situations for whom we ask your blessing,
and in a time of still quietness, 
we name them and bring them before you,
 
God of all our lives
as we come before you in praise and worship,
we bring these our prayers together 
in the words given to us by your Son our Lord Jesus Christ 
saying, Our Father…
 
Offertory
 
In Psalm 40 we read that God requires neither burnt offerings or sin offerings – rather to give of what we have. God wants us to respond, and bring something in offering as part of that response. For some that may be offerings of money to support the work of the church. For others it may be an offering of our time for church related tasks, as volunteers or in specific roles, or perhaps even offering ourselves for a broader role of spreading his word.
 
Let us pray:
 
Lord God, whatever we feel called to offer – 
our time, our talents, our treasure – 
we bring it to you now. 
We thank you for the gifts you give us 
and ask your blessing on our offerings today – 
and ask for you guidance as we discern how best 
these resources can be used to support your Church. 
Lead us, as your children, 
to follow in your way through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Blessing
 
May the One who called the universe into being,
the One who encouraged the disciples to come and see,
the One who sustains all who follow,
call, encourage, and sustain you,
that you may find peace and fulfilment.
And the blessing of Almighty God,
Eternal Majesty,
Enfleshed Word,
and Abiding Presence,
be with you, and all whom you love,
now and always,
Amen.  
 
Hymn    I The Lord of Sea and Sky
Daniel L. Schutte (b.1947) © 1981, OCP Publications, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213, USA.  All rights reserved.  One Licence Song No 231098  BBC Songs of Praise
 

 

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my Word to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

 
 
This material is only for use in local churches not for posting to websites or any other use.  Local churches must have copyright licences to allow the printing and projection of words for hymns.

 

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