Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 20 February 2022

by Rita Wright 20 February 2022

Welcome to worship as we continue our preaching series on the Apostles Creed. Our approach to worship is taken from Psalm 11

Praise the Lord!
I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the lord.
All who delight in him should ponder them
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.

Hymn: Thy hand O God has guided

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Opening Prayers
God of the written word, open your word and speak to usaf the one who is your word.

Your word of life, of peace. Grant us minds to learn, ears to listen, eyes to see and hearts to Lovell that you are and all that you give. Teach us your truths - the facts of spiritual life that will flow through us and fuse our lives with yours. Teach us to be -  until we are all you desire for us.

God the Word, make us receptive, illuminate each page until it shines with golden lettering that You are Life -  until we learn to trust you and place our lives in your care. Amen.

Old Testament reading: 1Kings 8:54-61

Hymn: God is working his purpose out

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We use Psalm 51 as our prayer of confession
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; You taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,  in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar. Amen

The Collect for today
God of pardon and deliverance,
Your forgiving love, revealed in Christ, Has brought to birth a new creation.

Raise us from our sins to walk in your ways,
That we may witness your power which makes all things new.
In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

New Testament reading: Acts 2:42-47

Hymn: For the healing of the nations

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When Rev Jacky gave me the two lines of the Apostles Creed to work with for today, I thought there would be very much I could say that wasn’t already obvious! However, after researching them and their meanings I went on a terrific journey from the Old Testament into the New Testament and then, around the world (not in 80 days!) until I arrived back in 2022 and post pandemic church life!

After all I had heard and read, I decided to treat today as Church Unity Sunday. I thought I had better clarify the meanings of the two lines of the Apostles Creed that I’m talking about.

“I believe in the Holy catholic church and the communion of saints”.

The stripped back meaning of this is that I have faith and trust in God’s worldwide band of followers and also includes the community of believers now in heaven, those on earth and those yet to come in the future.

When I was a newly qualified Local Preacher, I recall one of my colleagues from the bowls club coming to me. She had made the promises as a Godparent at her her baby niece’s baptism that weekend. However, she was a bit confused about some of the words. She asked “Why did I have to say that I believed in the holy Catholic church, when I was in an Anglican church?” I told her that it was something I had only recently had it explained to me! That we lazily miss of the description of Roman Catholic when we talk about that particular denomination. The word catholic encompasses all the believers in God’s church worldwide. So when we say the holy catholic church we mean the global community of believers - our brothers and sisters in Christ irrespective of their denomination.

When we become children of God, like any other family we feel the need to to be with and share with our brothers and sisters and that’s why we get together to gain more knowledge and support in our Christian lives.

I watched a series on tv recently called “Sacred Wonders”The different episodes showed places around the world that are considered holy by the followers of different religions. The Jews at MASAD, the Sikhs at Amritsar, the followers of Shinto at the Nachi waterfall, the Roman Catholics in St Peter’s Square, the Great Mosque in Mali, and the Orthodox Christians at the Holy Sepulchre  in Jerusalem were among those featured, all showing how believers gather together in their thousands to worship and give thanks.

To us, in our modern Christian gatherings, we like to think that we have moved on perhaps forced a little by the effects of the pandemic. Another programme showed “A Church without walls” where the young people of a church had what they called a “Serving Sunday” where they were helped and encouraged to do acts of kindness to improve the environment and facilities for their community. They planted trees as part of the Queen’s Platinum Green Canopy campaign, repaired and painted a local schools outdoor equipment and did litter picking on the local park.

So what does that have to do with the Apostles Creed?

Well, I was impressed that thousands of people all over the world gather together to offer praise and worship to God. They are part of the holy catholic church, the worldwide followers of God. I found a small verse in Deuteronomy chapter 33, part of Moses’ final blessing for Israel. 
The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir, He shone forth from Mount Saran and He came with ten thousand saints.

Even then, God showed he thousands of followers in heaven! Then I remembered and re-read part of John’s revelations chapter 7:9-11
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’

All the angels were standing round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God.

I was keen to connect all this to our Methodist way of life, so I turned to John Wesley and found this in his sermon 34, called “The Catholic Spirit”
Although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.

Wesley relates this back to 2 Kings 10 where Jehu met Jonadab and greeted him saying ,
“You and I think alike, will you support me?”  “I will” said  Jonadab, “Give me your hand then” replied Jehu.

For though they had different upbringings they could still work together in unity.

I was encouraged by the recent arrival of the Connexion magazine and inside was a very relevant article entitled “Interfaith encounters for Joy and Hope”. It was written by a Rabbi, a Muslim teacher and a Methodist minister and tells how, despite their ‘religious’ differences, they identified a common sense of God’s calling and were able to inspire each other in their mutual studies.

Another recollection from earlier times helps to clarify that. During my training as a Local Preacher, I was sitting at my husband’s hospital bed doing some studying with a bible when the lady with shop trolley approached and asked what I was doing. My husband proudly answered for me, whereupon she said “You must be able to help me then. I’m a church-going Christian, but my husband doesn’t come with me. He says, “You show in the bible where it says that you need to go to church to be a Christian, and I’ll willingly go with you” She said she hadn’t found it yet and asked if I knew of such a passage. Fortunately I had just encountered a Hebrews 10, which says,

“Let us consider how we can spur each other on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let’s encourage one another - and all the more as we see the day approaching”

I wrote the reference down and she went off with something to show her husband later.

I feel now, as in Paul’s time that it is still important to meet together, to give encouragement and love to one another and thereby strengthen our bond with Jesus. So the communion of saints, the gathering and fellowship of believers, however that may come about, is something we can all believe in! Amen

Hymn: Let all the world in every corner sing

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Prayers for others
We have been asked by the Connexion to share in this prayer from and for the Ukraine

God, we pray for the Ukraine
We pray for the people, forgive them, save them, and show them your grace.

God, we know that you will be with them in your heavenly temple. You have given them joy and peace and have written their names in the book of life. Amen

We pray to you God, our loving father with simple trust and humble hope, bringing before you all our needs. We pray for our friendship in the church and among all Christian people, as we devote our lives to bringing the values of God’s kingdom into the world, may we share the gift of friendship with every race, colour and religion.

We pray for friendships in our homes and families, as we grow together in love and respect, may we also grown in understanding about what t means to share the friendship of Christ.

We pray for greater friendships to be shown towards the poor, the homeless and the outcasts, as we follow in the footsteps of Christ may our actions and words show the compassionate friendship of Christ.

We pray for friendship between the nations and religions of the world. As children of God may we respect and accept our neighbours far and near, forgiving past mistakes and working to fill our world with peace and understanding.

Father, may your loving friendship guide our daily lives. By knowing an loving you, may we know and love our neighbour and become a friend to everyone we meet.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Hymn: An army of ordinary people

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Closing Prayers
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. Amen

The blessing of God the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among us and remain with us always. Amen.