Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 22 May 2022

by Kirsten Lees 22 May 2022

Welcome to worship which reflects our service in church today. We begin with our call to worship, Psalm 67.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Our opening hymn is: Give thanks with a grateful heart

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Prayers of adoration and confession
Lord God,
We come to praise you
To lift our hearts and our voices in thanks for all that you have done for us
You are holy and perfect
Yet you know the desires of our hearts
You do infinitely more for us than we could ever imagine
Even though we do not deserve it.
Lord God,
We have turned away from your paths
As we have grown older we have forgotten how to trust you 
We have tried to hide from you
And in doing so we have turned inward
Caring only for ourselves and ignoring the needs of the world.
We are sorry.
Lord God, 
Thank you for your endless mercy and forgiveness
No matter how far we stray from you
You will always bring us home.
We could never deserve the abundant gifts you give us
Yet you continue to pour out your love upon us
We praise you Lord

John 5:1-9  The Healing at the Pool
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath.

Hymn - Father hear the prayer we offer

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In our gospel reading for today we heard the story of Jesus visiting the pool of Bethesda, where there were many people waiting for healing. 
Jesus asked one man if he wanted to get well. He didn’t look at the man and assume that he wanted to be healed.

Sometimes we can look at others and make assumptions about what they want or need. When we look at a disabled person, do we assume that they want to be ‘made well’? 
The concept of want vs need is important here. Jesus doesn’t declare ‘you need to be made well’, he asks what the man wants. 
During lockdown in 2020 I started watching an American YouTuber who posts devotional talks. One of her talks was that God wants to give us the ‘desires of our hearts’ (concept from Psalm 37). 
This was a radical concept for me, because sometimes I think we subconsciously divide our wants into things we ‘should’ pray for, and things we ‘shouldn’t’. Shoulds: healing, peace, forgiveness; Shouldn’ts: a holiday, a car, a life partner. 
We ask for concepts rather than concrete results. Why? 
God already knows what we most want in our lives. Why shouldn’t we ask Him for those things? God is our Father and delights in our happiness. 
We don’t deserve anything from God, but He gives to us with abundance.

Something else that struck me about today’s reading is that there were ‘a great number’ of disabled people at the pool of Bethesda, yet Jesus only healed one. 
The first thing to say is that none of them asked. It’s clear from the reading that when Jesus entered the area people didn’t know who he was – they weren’t crowding around Him for healing as they did in other places. 
But surely once they had seen Jesus heal one man, they would have asked for the same for themselves? Maybe they thought it was a trick. Maybe they were so intent on watching the waters of the pool that they didn’t even see what had happened. Maybe they were afraid to ask.

We know that when we pray for healing, not all of those prayers are answered with a miracle. I have experience of what I believe to have been miraculous healings, but I also have experience of begging God for healing and not receiving it.
Some Christians say that those prayers which aren’t answered are due to a lack of faith. This isn’t the case. To go back to the gospel reading, if we read further, we learn that the healed man was asked by the Jewish leaders who healed him. He said he didn’t know. How could he have been healed through his faith when he didn’t even know who Jesus was? 
Other Christians say that we need to wait for God’s timing. You might have had a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) wristband several years ago. I also had a PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) wristband. 

The man in the story had been an invalid for 38 years. Was it this length of illness that made him the right candidate for healing?
I think we should Pray Until Something Happens, but we should bear in mind that the Something that happens isn’t always what we want to happen. Sometimes God’s answer to our requests is no. I don’t know why the answer is sometimes no – but I am getting better at listening. 

Getting a ‘no’ from God shouldn’t make us afraid to ask. I don’t understand why God sometimes says no and other times says yes, but part of trusting Him is knowing that He has a reason, even if I don’t understand it yet.

Hymn - Blessed be your name

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Prayers of intercession
Lord God,
We pray for all who need your healing
For those who need physical healing
We ask for your hand upon them
For the mending of bones and flesh
For the comfort of your love.
We pray for those whose lives are broken 
For people who struggle with difficult circumstances
For all who suffer from anxiety and depression
We ask for your wholeness
For the comfort of your love. 
We pray for relationships that need healing
For friends who have fallen out
For families who have lost contact
We ask for your reconciliation
For understanding and wisdom
And the comfort of your love.
We pray for communities and countries torn apart
We pray for those defending their homes in Ukraine
And we pray for refugees around the world who have been forced to flee 
We ask for your peace
For your strength and resilience
And the comfort of your love.
In Jesus name,

Hymn - Jesus Christ is waiting

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Lord God,
We dedicate to you now all that we have to offer
The money that we have put in the offering plate
Or that we have given online
The time that we have set aside for you
In preparing for worship
In showing your love to others throughout the week
The talents that you have given us
That we use to your glory.
Guide us, Lord, to serve you. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: Immortal, invisible God only wise

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The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and evermore. Amen