Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 29 May 2022

by Adam McLoughlin 29 May 2022

Call to Worship

Psalm 97 is the set Psalm for today and begins with these words:
1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.
4 His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.
7 All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols— worship him, all you gods!

Good to be here with you this morning as we come together to celebrate the love and grace of our God. We sing our first two hymns together
Come, now is the time to worship and Bless the Lord O my Soul (10,000 Reasons)

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Opening Prayers
Father God, you give us so much, and yet we long for more.
Help us to open ourselves to you today, and draw us closer to you.
Help us to be open to one another, and draw us closer together.

Let us come and worship the Lord Most High, who guards the lives of his faithful ones.
Let us rejoice in the Lord and praise his holy name.

Creator God, you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, from the throne room with an invitation
to come, follow and see your glory. We come and we glorify your name.
You are the one true God, righteous and just. We come and we glorify your name. God of judgement, power and joy. Bright morning star, all-inclusive God.
We come and we glorify your name. Amen.

A prayer of confession
Your call to the very first disciples, Lord, was ‘Come, follow me.’
We follow you today, Lord.
But sometimes we can fall out of step with you.
Our longing to walk closely with you can get hijacked by our longing to belong to the ‘in crowd’ of the moment. And our behaviour makes us poor witnesses for you.
Lord, we are sorry; help us to live in your light.

At times our words may not be nice and we’re at fault of quarrelling with one another.
Lord, we are sorry; help us to live in your light.

Sometimes fear of the consequences of speaking out and sharing of you can silence us.
Lord, we are sorry; help us to live in your light.

Help us to make the most of every opportunity. To be better witnesses for you so that others will come and know the love and joy of belonging to your family. When we belong to the Lord. Salvation is ours. We are washed clean.
Forgiven and free to live in joy with the Lord. Amen

A prayer of thanksgiving and praise
Lord, you set us free from our shackles of sin.
A freedom that is available to all who believe.
You do not discriminate but love all inclusively.
Thank you for your free gift of salvation, for washing us clean
and quenching our thirst with your living water.
Thank you for reaching out to all who thirst.
How joy bubbles up in us when we drink!
A powerful joy that can be experienced in the most wretched circumstances.
When we come and open our hearts to you,
we are welcomed into your family, belonging and loved
as much as you, the Father’s beloved Son.
Our hearts are full of love.
Thank you for blessing us and lighting up our soul.
Thank you for our longing.
Thank you for our coming to you.
Thank you for our belonging.
Our hearts leap for joy as our thanksgiving praises ring out loud: Amen

We lift up our prayers today in the name of our living saviour, Jesus Christ who taught us to pray:-
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 this day 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 

Hymn: O Lord, the clouds are gathering 

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Bible Reading: Revelation 22:12-21

Our reading today is taken from the very last chapter of the very last book of ‘The Book’. 
I want to read for you a description of that final book – and a summary of the bible, from this book – ‘The Book of Books’ which is well worth a look if you have the time and inclination, bringing a simple and imaginative retelling of the stories of ‘The Book’ to life. 
We begin with God and we end with God, and we’ve been keeping God company all the way along.

I think those are some very powerful words and really help to bring together my thoughts over the past few days as I’ve prepared for today’s service.

There’s a theme that’s often brought to mind in the church world, that we are waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. But I want to challenge that view of the world and suggest that we don’t have to wait, because He’s here today – all around us – walking with us, walking through us, walking to support us – I bring to mind here the words of the poem Footprints in the Sand – you know the one that goes

One night I had a dream…
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life
This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You would walk with me all the way;
But I have noticed that during the
most troublesome times in my life,
There is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I
needed you the most, you should leave me.

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious
child. I love you, and I would never,
never leave you during your times of
trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.

I’m sure that if you take a few moments to think about it, there are times and places that you can think of where you know Jesus is with you, or Jesus is with us as a human race.
Think about the situation we were in just over two years ago.  We were just beginning to understand the enormity of this ‘COVID-19’ virus that was affecting the world.  It still is, but clearly we are in a much better position today than we were two years ago.  Think about the 8th December 2020 – Margaret Keenan  was a 90 year old grandmother who was the first person in the world to be given the COVID-19 vaccine – a vaccine that had been developed by scientists in this country.  I put it to you that we were only in that position because Jesus was walking with and carrying the scientists and clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry that were involved in the mammoth effort to start to bring the whole situation under some sort of control. Two years ago, like many other people, Jo and I had to cancel a holiday to Crete because of the pandemic.  Next Sunday afternoon, we’re booked on a flight out of Manchester that takes us on that very holiday – 2 years late but we get there eventually.  An in the mean time, instead of a holiday we ended up buying a Border Terrier puppy who gives us so much joy every day.  He’s now coming up to 2 years old and effectively we were able to go out and buy him because we didn’t go on holiday that year.  It brings to mind the saying every cloud has a silver lining – and I guess he’s one of our silver linings.

A second thought to explore of Jesus being with us today. 
Think about the horrors of Vladimir Putin’s ‘Military Operation’ in Ukraine, which the rest of the world, pretty much unanimously sees as a war. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that many of the scenes that we have seen on news reports over the past few months have appalled and saddened me.  I keep asking the question where is Jesus in all this?  Now I want us to think about Boris Johnson. Now, I’m not suggesting that Boris is the second coming of Christ – not for a minute – and I’m sure I’m not on my own again when I’m angered by some of the things that have been going on with him and his government over the last few months. But let’s take a moment to look at the way he’s taken the lead as a global statesman in working with various leaders all over the world to provide the means to Ukraine to defend itself against the military actions from Putin’s Russia. Whether you like him or not, Boris has stood up and corralled support from many many different countries providing defensive weaponry for Ukraine to protect itself.  Not completely successfully, but much more successfully than anyone could have throught at the beginning of the campaign.  Isn’t this similar to the way that Jesus brought people together?  Isn’t this an example of continuing fight of good versus evil that’s apparent all the way through the bible?

A third example that’s very much nearer to home.
Like every city in the country, Derby has an issue with homelessness and people that are forced, for whatever reason to sleep on the streets and in temporary accommodation on somebody’s sofa. We’re not here to judge – who knows why those people end up in that situation? And there but for the grace of God go many of us.

However, I want to make mention of a group that I’ve become aware of called Stopgap. I found them by accident on Facebook.  They are a group that’s come together to help out with feeding the homeless, and sofa surfers that are around Derby. Every Sunday evening at around 8pm, you can find them set up at the back of the cathedral – almost opposite Amen Alley over by the river. Billy comes along at about ten to eight – Billy is a Citroen Berlingo Van – and almost from nowhere, within 10 minutes, there’s a pop-up soup kitchen set up.  People turn up with polystyrene boxes of hot food, and people turn up with sandwich packs, crisps, cakes etc. etc. all of which is co-ordinated through Facebook.  About once a month, Jo and I take down a load of sandwich packs and cakes – it’s one of the only times that we think about ‘how can we increase the number of calories’ to help those people survive another day. And it’s quite humbling to see this group of people, coming together to help feed a group of strangers, who they refer to as their ‘visitors’.  At the moment, somewhere around 40-50 people are fed every week and they are extremely grateful for what’s been provided.

I’m sure that there are many more examples, that once you start thinking, you might also think – yes, Jesus IS walking among us today.  The second coming isn’t some way off event in the future – it’s with us in the here and now. He’s here in the work of the vaccine development.  He’s here in the leadership of Boris (in some of the more sensible things that he chooses to do)  He’s certainly walking with the people working with Stopgap every Sunday evening. 

Just to finish off. 
All our songs this morning are contemporary worship songs – in my 8 years as a local preacher, this is the first time that I’ve been lucky enough to work with a worship group, so I’ve taken advantage. What’s the common factor between each of the songwriters from this morning? 
Graham Kendrick, Brian Doerksen, Stuart Townend?
They are all alive today – and having seen Graham Kendrick and Stuart Townend perform live, I can say that they are testament that Jesus IS alive today – their testimony, their enthusiasm, their evangelism is something that is worthwhile to see. 
To prepare for this morning, I did something that I’ve only done once before in my preaching journey.  I sat at the computer and the words just came.  It’s my own evidence that Jesus walks with us today.

We too have something to celebrate – we are lucky enough to share a relationship with Jesus and it’s up to us – each one of us to go and share the good news of Jesus with the people that we meet.  So let’s walk out of here this morning, knowing that we don’t have to wait for the second coming – the second coming is here with us even as we speak.  Amen

Hymn: Beauty for Brokenness 

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Prayers for Others
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Risen Saviour Jesus Christ. 
We invite you to bring your own prayers today in the knowledge that he hears and responds…. Amen

Hymn: The Lord’s my Shepherd

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Psalm 97 concludes with these words……
11 Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name. Amen.

And let us share the Grace with one another:
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