Sunday, 24 January 2010

Prayers - 24th January

OK I really haven't put much material up here, in fact I have been producing stuff every week but I just rarely get round to posting it.

Today I have two prayers - one taken from parts of Wild Goose Worship Group's Wee Worship Book, the other adapted and developed from a prayer of Eusebius (3rd century).

In the beginning,
before time, before people,
before the world began –
God Was

Here and now,
among us, beside us,
enlisting the people of earth for the purposes of heaven,
God Is

In the future, when we have turned to dust,
and all we know has found its fulfillment,
God Will Be

Not denying the world, but delighting in it,
not condemning the world, but redeeming it,
through Jesus Christ,
by the power of the Holy Spirit
God Was; God Is; God will be

And so God, we pray:
Because you made the world,
and intended it to be a good place
And called its people your children
Because, when things seemed at their worst,
you came in Christ to bring out the best in us;
so, gracious God, we gladly say:
Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Truth is stronger than lies.

Because confusion can reign inside us, despite our faith;
because anger, tension, bitterness and envy distort our vision;
because our minds sometimes worry small things out of all proportion;
because we do not always get it right,
we want to believe
Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Truth is stronger than lies.

Because you have promised to hear us,
and are able to change us,
and are willing to make our hearts your home,
we ask you to confront, control
forgive and encourage us, as you know best.
Then let us cherish in our hearts
that which we proclaim with our lips:
Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Truth is stronger than lies.

Lord hear our prayer, and change our lives, until we illustrate the grace of the God who makes all things new. And hear us as we pray using the words Jesus taught his disciples, saying:
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever, Amen.

Gracious and Loving God,
May we be no one’s enemy, and may we be the friend of that which is eternal and abides
May we never quarrel with those nearest us, and if we do, may we be reconciled quickly
May we love, seek and attain only that which is good
May we wish for all people’s happiness, and envy none.
May we never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged us.
When we have done or said what is wrong, may we never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke ourselves until we make amends
May we avoid and repent of hypocrisy and legalism
May we win no victory that harms either us or our opponents
May we reconcile friends who are angry with one another
May we, to the extent of our powers, give all needful help to our friends, our neighbours, and to all who are in want.
May we never fail friends who are in danger
When visiting those in grief, may we be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain.
May we respect ourselves, and others.
May we always keep tame that which rages within us
May we accustom ourselves to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances.
May we never discuss who we call wicked and what wicked things they have done, but know good people and follow in their footsteps.
May we not simply hear about or see news from abroad, but feel, empathise and respond as best we can.
Lord God may our attitudes be changed by our prayers, so that our fine words lead to fresh actions, that benefit your people, your world, your kingdom. Amen.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Sermon - 3rd January (Christmas 2/Epiphany)

Did you have a great time, or are you glad it’s all over for another year?
Maybe you’re all past masters at sailing through the festive season without raised voices, stress levels or blood pressure, or lost opportunities, tempers or sellotape – but I suspect at least one or two of you can identify…?

Ironically even getting to church – who’s going, which service, will we get there on time? – can become a source of stress instead of a place of peace.
I won’t stand here and claim that I, we had no stresses – though I have to admit that my wife had most aspects of our family celebrations covered, including the presents.

Even when I’m doing it, I’m not great at present-shopping.
As you’re are getting to know me a little by now, you might be surprised – but I leave it too late, usually! Then I inflict on myself the crowds of pre-Christmas shoppers, the shelves with items left in the wrong places, the mental list of people to buy for with no idea of what to get or even where to start!

It’s always escaped my understanding why people will do all that, celebrate Christmas, then pile out to the sales and do the whole crowds, traffic and misplaced items experience – again!

Today, I’m looking forward a few days to the 6th, Epiphany, traditionally the day we remember the Three Wise Men. These gents have a solid ‘hold’ on our imaginations and our traditions – on our hymns, too – but if we stick to the Bible, (their only mention comes in our reading from Matthew’s gospel) we don’t know that much about them.

Were there three? We don’t know. There were at least two because the passage describes them in the plural, and we think of three because of the number of gifts they brought. Were they Wise? What did they do? Sometimes we think of them as Kings – who we hope would be wise! – or as astrologers – who might or might not be wise…

The only thing we can be reasonably sure of is that they were Men – as I’m sure you’ve heard before, even this Christmas seaon: if they had been Three Wise Women they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts like nappies!

So our Three Wise Men, or perhaps our Some Men of Indeterminate Occupation have arrived. Again, tradition, and maybe a tendency to squash the whole Christmas story together, puts them arriving in the stable, even just later that first Christmas night. But in the passage it simply states it was ‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem’ (v 1), it mentions the Men ‘coming to the house’ (v 11) (even the ‘stable’ was not mentioned either in Matthew or Luke, just a manger). And judging from Herod’s later actions, Jesus could actually have been anything up to a couple of years old by this point.

And they worship, and they bring their gifts. Suddenly we are in really strange territory. A baby who is lying in a cattle trough, born to parents who are – if not poor, certainly are not well off or powerful – is receiving homage and precious gifts from some people who at least speak with kings.

This is a major part of the story – the whole gospel story – the ‘upside down’ nature of God’s kingdom – that a humble baby should receive worship and precious gifts from these visitors.
And also, that the visitors were from a far-off land, highlighting that Jesus was to be for all people, not just the Jews.

We look, too at the gifts which traditionally and rightly have been identified with certain symbolism:
Gold – a gift suitable for a king
Frankincense – used by a priest, bringing people close to God
Myrrh – to embalm a body after death

Jesus was to be a great King, but also one who would bring people to God, and whose death, as well as his life, would be significant.

But imagine the Some Men, of Indeterminate Occupation, doing their shopping….

Look at this star, I’m sure it means a new king has been born, we should go and see!
OK but we can’t go without a present, what shall we take?
Well, I hate going shopping, I’ll just bring the currency I’ve got on me – here’s the gold that I’ve got, it looks nice don’t you think?, it’s worth its weight in gold, you know!

I just nipped out , there’s nothing left in the shops, just smelly stuff – and nothing suitable for a baby – look, this is a special commission for the temples, ‘Frankincense – by Calvin Klein’, and here’s one for undertakers, ‘Myrrh, by Hugo’.

Oh well, they’ll have to do, hope the parents don’t mind…

But I’d like to ask you – are you a Wise Man, or a Wise Woman? What are your plans for Jesus this New Year? Are you quite happy in your own country, pursuing your own occupation or interests, stargazing, or whatever? or are you ready to ‘up sticks’ and look (again) for Jesus, to bring him afresh into your life?

And if so, what gifts will you bring him? Will you just rummage around for something you’ve got spare and leftover, or whatever’s left, or cheap, on the shelves, or will you give consideration to what is suitable and appropriate?

This is Jesus in the manger, but it is also Jesus of the cross, Jesus of the Church – he doesn’t demand anything, but what gifts do you have that he might use in his church, in his world?

Maybe something you don’t consider a gift but he says ‘I could really use that’. Or a gift you’re not sure about using?
We can get hung up on Jesus parable of the talents, about being a good steward of our gifts, but a story like this can remind us that it is important just to come, that our availability, in all that we are, is more important to Jesus than our ability, how good we think we might be at something.

And here in this parish, or farther afield, there will be room and opportunity to use your gifts, whether ‘up front’ or behind the scenes, whether for a few minutes once in a while, or on a regular and frequent basis. Jesus calls and builds a church not to simply gather an audience for a message, but to gain a congregation, a community, that worships and listens and loves and serves and works together – each as they are able, and in that working together, builds relationships and ministries that are not just one-offs, oh we’re here to worship the babe but now we must go home, but are sustained and sustainable links with others who together go on and ask: What can I give him?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Wee prayer for Schools Carol service - 13th December 2009

Dear Father God, God of Advent and Christmas, God of Shepherds and Angels, God of Babies and Kings

Thank you for tonight, for this chance to gather together, to share together, to worship together.
Thank you for this special time of year, when we remember how you sent your son to become a tiny baby.
Thank you, too for the many blessings we have – times to celebrate, food to eat and presents to enjoy.
And thank you for the gifts we can share with each other – gifts of music and song, of love and friendship, of faith and hope.
We're sorry for times when we don't share, don't love, or don't have hope; sorry for times when we focus too much on what we have and not who gives to us, on spending time and money on ourselves instead of serving you.
Help us, we pray, to keep focused on you, to worship and serve you by helping and caring for others, and by keeping and passing on your (Christmas) love, your joy and your peace this Advent.

For all this we pray in Jesus' name,

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Sermon - 29th November (Advent 1)

OK so I'm a bad man, haven't posted for a month, but here's my sermon from Sunday past.
It's actually another re-jig but I liked it so much I thought it would serve again.
Comments welcome!

This week the Christmas TV schedules were in some of the papers – although as one comedian observed, there are a lot of repeats: ‘To be confirmed’ is on several times a day! But this is the time that we get previews of the major Christmas specials – and I notice that the costume drama ‘Cranford’ is one of those.

Perhaps you watched Cranford a couple of years ago – maybe just one or two episodes, or the whole lot – or none at all. But I imagine if you watched any BBC at all, you saw several ‘trails’, adverts, promoting it, between other programmes.

Perhaps you got tired of being told that Cranford was ‘The one to watch’…

This year, the trail I noticed most often was probably the trail for David Attenborough’s programme. ‘Life… as you’ve never seen it before’

But whether you get fed up of trails, or are just itching for the programme time to arrive, they are doing their job –informing you of what’s coming up this week, something that the BBC at least considers important that you should see: “Here’s something new, something of quality, an interesting story, or actors in it you’ll recognise” – they’re working at getting the message across.

Or do you go to the cinema? Having young children, I can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema, though my wife and I used to go quite a bit.
Before the main feature, you get a series of trailers, perhaps a couple of minutes each, and at the end of each one, you get maybe just the name or even just the logo of the film. The film company, the film distributor, have put a lot of money and effort into this film, and they think it’s worth you spending your money on to come and see it, so they spend their money on this trailer, which might run for months before the release date, to keep it ‘on the agenda’ in the mind of the ‘cinema-going public’.

Now maybe you don’t watch TV or go to the cinema, but you’ll perhaps have been to a wedding where someone has announced at the reception ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for the Bride and Groom’.

In each of these cases, you’re getting a foretaste of what is to come. It’s not a surprise to you that the happy couple then enter the room. You know in advance what the latest movie or TV programme is going to be and when it’s going to be on.

In our reading from Luke’s gospel, John is giving a trailer, an advert, for the coming Messiah. He is saying “Coming soon… someone mightier than I am”. And he has gone about it in an unusual way – going out to the desert or wilderness, dressing in odd clothes and eating things which may have been acceptable under Jewish law, but probably didn’t meet even that culture’s ideas of a balanced diet. In any case, it’s having an effect – he’s got (at least some) people’s attention, they are coming to hear the message that he’s trying to get across.

But it’s not just a matter of hearing the message – what do you do with it when you’ve heard it? What’s your response? If it’s the bride and groom coming in, you stand up. If it’s the TV or cinema – well, you make a decision about watching it, or avoiding it like the plague. You take a note of the time, and maybe you need to find out the cost. Some people might have to get a babysitter, or set the video/DVD recorder/Sky+ – anyway, if it’s a priority for you to see it, then you do what you have to do to see it. But apart from that, what else changes? Not much, life goes on as normal.

There’s the difference with John the Baptist. His ‘trailer’ is not just one you can ignore, or make a few arrangements for, then carry on as normal. It’s not just a case of standing up for a few minutes. He calls for change. Major, fundamental change.

The call to “Repent” is a word that probably now we just associate with old-time preachers, but the imagery conjured up by it at the time might best be represented by the phrase ‘Do a U-turn!’ In other words, you’re going the wrong way – stop, and go the other way.

John’s theme was ‘you’ve got to be ready for the One who is coming’, and that means living lives that are ethical, moral, lives that are in right relationship to God. ‘Sin’ is another word that isn’t used much outside the church, but we’re all familiar with the idea of failing to meet a certain standard – Quality Assurance, tests and exams, hearing someone say “I expected better of you” – or perhaps even feeling “I expected better of myself”. John is saying, in effect – your lives aren’t what they might be, and you need to recognise this – and here’s a public sign – a washing or baptism. He had taken a ritual which had been used by the Jewish faith and given it new meaning.

His message is particularly strong to the religious leaders – of both ‘parties’ of the time. You’ve got to show that you have changed – your lives have to produce ‘fruit’, evidence of your new thought and behaviour patterns, and he warns against complacency, or depending on history and heritage to save them from the consequences of their negative behaviour.

And what should they be doing? Luke ties John’s preaching up with a part of the prophecy of Isaiah, who also lists some qualities of the coming Messiah: wisdom, loyalty to the Lord, discernment, fairness to the poor and downtrodden, punishment to the wicked, justice, guidance and majesty. It wouldn’t seem too great a leap to suggest that those who have to produce ‘fruit’ should emulate these qualities – both internal and external, personal and relational – attitude towards God and attitude towards others.

To go back to our film trailers for a moment, one of the issues that people often have with trailers is the tendency to reveal if not the whole plot then certainly to show all the ‘action’ scenes in the trailer – and if the plot is thin or shaky to begin with then there seems little point in seeing the whole film. Some ‘James Bond’ movies have been accused of this.

But although there should be ‘no surprises’ about the fact of the movie being released, or the date of its release, it is probably good practice to not reveal the whole story in advance – impossible to do, with only a few minutes to give an impression.

This again has parallels in Scripture. There should be ‘no surprises’ for Judah, who have had not only John, but a whole series of prophets, including Isaiah, to tell them what God is saying, what God wants them to do, and that there is a Messiah to come in the future. However, the prophets are not the Messiah, and John makes it clear that he is not the Messiah. As prophets, they cannot see or tell the full story. John’s baptism is not the full baptism, the coming one will baptise in the Holy Spirit and fire – a prophecy that is fulfilled later, at Pentecost. The coming one is to ‘winnow’ to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is possible that this refers to (among other things) the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus takes on and extends the idea of ‘failing to measure up’ by looking at attitudes that lie behind deeds – that it’s the hatred of people that is the root problem, whether or not it inspires violence or murder. It’s the lustful thoughts that are wrong, not just the acts that they can inspire.
John’s baptism of repentance, of turning around people’s lives, is to prepare people for this teaching but it is not the full teaching, yet.

And what is our response to this trailer, this advance notice? We are looking back from the perspective of history, we are not hearing John at first hand. He can’t be preaching to us? No… and yes. In our Advent preparations, in a sense we re-enact and re-tell the Nativity story, we enter into it, and we too must examine ourselves to see if our lives are ready for the entry of God into the world. Further, Advent points us to the return of Christ, whatever form that will take – and in that sense we are in the same position as those who heard John’s message – “no surprises”, we know that this event will happen, but yes, some surprises – we don’t know the day or the hour, and so we must be in a state of readiness. If there are behaviours, attitudes, actions or lack of actions that do not line up in our relationship with God, or our relationship with people in the world, we need to review, revise and perhaps repent – turn ourselves around and go a different way, the way of the Psalmist, who put their trust in God, who asked for guidance, mercy, forgiveness, and help to follow God’s law.

The Reformers of our Church took as their motto ‘Reformed, yet always reforming’ – and this applies as much to individuals as to the church corporate. So let’s take some time to reflect and think about the trailers that we see and hear – which ones are we ignoring, which ones are we allowing to prompt us to make preparations, to think about our ‘fruit’, our behaviour towards others?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sermon - 25th October (Bible Sunday)

It was my supervisor's idea... but I agreed. Miraculously we got about 10 others who signed up too!

You have perhaps heard about the minister, who announced to his congregation one Sunday: “Next week my sermon will address the sin of lying. To prepare yourselves for it, please read the seventeenth chapter of Mark’s gospel.”
The following Sunday arrived, and he asked “Do you remember last week I asked you to read Mark 17 – how many of you read it?”
Most of the congregation raised their hands.
“Good,” he replied. “There are only 16 chapters in Mark. Now for the sermon on the sin of lying…”

Did you know that? Perhaps some of you, as I was telling that story, were thinking, ‘Hang on, is there a seventeenth chapter?’ while others perhaps wouldn’t have known. And you might say ‘well, that’s just Bible trivia’ – knowing the number of chapters in a given book. You might know the number of books in the Bible (66) – but what about the number of chapters in the whole Bible? 1189. The number of verses? 31102 (according to one count).
Although in other translations, languages and traditions, these figures would be somewhat different, depending on the inclusion or exclusion of certain books, chapters and verses – and the Jewish Bible does not count 39 books (as in our Old Testament), but just 24.

In our reading from Isaiah, we heard a broad invitation, issued by God, through the prophet: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, come without money and buy … without cost.

Those who would have heard this message were Jews in Babylon - technically exiles from their homeland, but were probably one or two generations removed from those who had been taken from Judah. They would have been settled, possibly happy – many would have been prosperous.

And they might have lost confidence in God, thinking that because they had been taken to Babylon, that meant God had been unable to help them – was unable to help them now.

I don’t know if this rings any bells with anyone? True, most of us may still be living in the country, even the area or town where we were born and brought up, but the world has changed around us. Effectively we are exiles from our history – as we grew up perhaps we had God, Sunday School, the church as constants, part of life we could depend on, something that was universal. And now? We see and hear (or we avoid hearing) news of declining membership, linking and uniting churches, redundant buildings. We hear the ‘new atheists’, loudly challenging and attacking religion, and perhaps we find it harder to hear the people who are arguing back.

Maybe we feel settled, comfortable, in this new world, where we have enough confidence to continue in our own faith, but not enough to share it with others, to put forward Christianity in conversations with our friends. It’s something we do, not something we talk about.

Our people in Babylon then hear this message:
– part of a greater message to them: Come, come and drink, come and be part of what your families were once part of – go out with joy and be led forth with peace – you can rely on God’s word, it will do what God intends!

And suddenly, earlier parts of Isaiah’s prophecy start coming true! God’s people would be freed from their captivity, they would get to leave Babylon, and God’s instrument for doing this was to be Cyrus the Persian leader.

God’s word starts to look a lot more dependable, something they could rely on. And in fact, if they had looked further back, even their captivity was foretold – God promised – if you obey the law, I’ll bless you, but if you don’t listen, there will be progressively worse consequences, ending in exile!

From our perspective there are even more reasons to depend on God’s word – notably prophecies of the Messiah which we see fulfilled in the life, ministry and passion of Jesus Christ.

However, it’s not just the Bible’s ability to tell the future that should convince us of its dependability, it is also its accurate portrayal of humanity, the human condition – that despite being made in the image of God, we ultimately stumble, fall and fail – whether you call that sin, or wrongdoing, or selfishness. Consider any local newspaper ‘police’ column, or perhaps any tv news bulletin – and need I mention the expenses scandal?

And generations of Christians have found that not only is the Bible dependable, it is the route to a relationship with God through Jesus, and to a process of change and transformation in their lives. From the Apostle Paul to CS Lewis, through to many current writers, thinkers - and church members today.

If the Bible’s reliability and dependability is recognised, is that as far as we go? What did the Jews in Babylon do? They took the word seriously, and returned to Judah.

And what do we do? The Bible is often quoted as being the bestseller of all time, but the least read book of all time.
I suggest – we suggest – that we can try and change that.
[My supervisor] and I are going to register for a scheme to read the Bible through in one year. Now as you may well know or realise, simply starting at Genesis and working on from there soon becomes self-defeating, but there are many reading plans which offer an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a Psalm and perhaps some of Proverbs. In the scheme we are going to register with, a copy of the Bible printed in the dated daily portions, under the banner of ‘Every Day with Jesus’ – a daily devotional written by Selwyn Hughes.

How long would that take, do I hear you ask?
Well, a former lecturer of mine at college used to start the Old Testament course with a class entitled ‘Through the Old Testament in 90 minutes!’ And he succeeded – although we didn’t read it all word-for word! But if you remember, the total number of chapters in the Bible is 1189 – so dividing by 365 days gives 3 and a quarter chapters to be read per day, on average.
Now you might consider that quite a lot – but remember, public readings of the Bible are often read at a slower pace than personal reading, and that can be good technique in a big church, to allow everyone to follow. But on your own, you might read a chapter in five minutes or less. You might want to take more time to think about it, but you could easily fit in a chapter in a spare few minutes – just after a meal, or in a break, or if you use public transport.

Ah but you might say, what if I don’t understand one part. The same Old Testament lecturer would say ‘don’t worry, put that issue ‘on the mantelpiece’ so to speak – not to ignore it, but to hold it for a while – it’s very likely that something you don’t understand now will become clearer later. If we continually stop and try to get it all perfected in our heads, we will not get very far.

Anyone who has tried any sort of daily discipline of Bible reading, or prayer, might just say ‘I’m bound to miss a day’ or end up giving up. However, this is not about ‘another thing to buy’ or having ‘another thing to fall down doing – whether in January 14th, or Feb, May, Oct, whenever. But an encouragement to do what many want to do – to know the Bible better – why? : to challenge the preacher?! – to understand the context – to do more than just take part in selective quoting of individual verses? (which almost everyone indulges in from time to time)

And imagine how you might feel, how you might be changed, by a daily 5 or 10 or 15 minutes of reading the whole Bible? Is it like Munro-bagging – do you do it, just to say ‘I’ve climbed them all?’ Or are there other benefits – the fitness and exercise developed by regular climbs; the going to places you don’t often go or haven’t been before; the unexpected sights and vistas that you discover along the way?

So here is our question, our challenge to you – will you join us? You can express interest today; or you can think about it – maybe try reading a chapter or three one day this week and see how long it takes. Or try working your way through one of the shorter books – Mark’s gospel for example! – before next Sunday. Then once we have an idea of interest, we can order the Bibles in November, get them in December, and start in January. The benefit of doing this as a community, should be clear – we can encourage and motivate each other, and talk about parts we found challenging. Then we may rediscover the truth of Paul’s words to Timothy:
(2 Tim 3:16) All Scripture is God-breathed, and useful for rebuking, teaching, training in righteousness
and be taken back by God to our ‘homeland’, our heritage as a country known to be steeped in the Good Book.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Prayers - 11th October

More recycling (from two different services - both Feb 08, placement 4) and both adapted of course!

Let us unite our hearts in prayer; Let us pray,

Lord God, we bring ourselves from a variety of situations, to this place and at this time, to pause, to draw close to you again, and to acknowledge that
You are God.

We may have a strong belief, or a new and slowly growing faith; we may have let things slip into mere habit, or be the most enthusiastic and committed member; but whoever we are, we say: you are the Almighty God, the Maker of our universe and our world, the One who wants to be in relationship with us, the One who would do anything for us, the One who did the utmost for us.

We cannot understand you or know exactly what you are like, except what you have shown us in the Bible, through the generations of the community of faith, and especially through your Son, Jesus Christ.

Thank you that your faithfulness is recorded from earliest times to now, from year to year, from century to century, from millennium to millenium. Help us to record and remember your own work in our lives, so that we can look back with surety and say ‘yes, God was there’, and look forward in hope, saying ‘yes, God will be there’.

We recognise that we continue to make mistakes, despite our best intentions, and we want to say sorry. Sorry for the times when we spoke but should have stayed silent, and the times when we stayed silent and should have spoken.
Sorry for the words and actions that didn’t match up. Sorry for the hurt caused to others – deliberate or accidental.
Sorry for the things left undone that would bring our family and friends closer to you, and that would bring your kingdom closer, here on earth.

Father God, we thank you that when we recognise our faults and failings, you forgive us and give us a clean slate to start again.
Help us to look back in order to look forward, to see your faithfulness and trust you for the future, and to spend more time listening for your voice and sharing our thoughts, hopes, dreams and lives with you.

We pray all these things in and through the name of Jesus, who taught us when we pray to say

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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever, Amen.

Prayer of Thanks and Intercession

Glorious and Almighty God,
We give you thanks for your written word, for all that we read in Scripture. For the ways in which your faithfulness to people is demonstrated. For the inspiration we can receive from reading from it daily or as we have opportunity. For the lessons we can learn. Please help us to take hold of it, trusting in your faithfulness, being lifted up by a daily thought or word, learning from it when we study it or preach it. Thank you, too, for your gifts to us - the water that we drink and the food we eat, and the living water of your love, grace, and mercy.
We bring you now our prayers for the church, for the world, and for others.
We pray for our congregation, parish, and area, that you will work through us and those in our neighbouring churches, so that our lives reflect our faith, and are attractive to our families, friends and colleagues. Help them to overcome images of Christianity that are wrong or misleading – whether gained from long distant experiences, or stereotyped portrayals in the media. Help our church locally and nationally to combine the best of tradition with the best new ideas, so that we remain faithful to the message yet communicate it in fresh ways, through new music and different forms of worship.

We pray for our world, remembering areas of war, tension, deprivation and disaster, whether at the top of the headlines or not: like Iraq and its many difficulties, including relationships with Turkey; like Zimbabwe and those who have either fled the country or continue to struggle in a very difficult economic situation. We ask for wisdom, help and encouragement for national leaders, for international organisations, and for mission and relief agencies – particularly the Disasters Emergency Committee and others working in Indonesia, the South Pacific and other disaster areas – and we ask for help ourselves to act, whether in changing our shopping habits, or writing to politicians and ambassadors. We pray, too for our politicians and other civic leaders, that with all that has happened over recent months, they will be enabled to rebuild public trust, and to work for the good of those on the edges of society.

We pray for those known to us – relatives, neighbours and friends, that are having a particularly hard week or month, or year. Be with those who mourn, those who are ill, in hospital, or housebound. Comfort those who are having a difficult time in a relationship. And give us wisdom, and eyes and ears to see and hear where we can help – to speak or to listen, to hug or to send a note.

We pray, Lord, that each person who is part of this congregation will hear your word, and grow in their relationship with You, becoming people whose words and actions are more like you would have them be.

We pray all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Saviour. Amen

Children's Address - Faithfulness

Although this is for today, 11th, it's not specifically tied to the (lectionary or other) readings for the day. Its original context was in a service whose readings were Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 and John 3: 1-17 (from Feb 08, Placement 4) but I haven't checked to see if it tied in with them either!

[Teaching point – God’s faithfulness to all, not just ‘then’ or just ‘now’ but all through time.]

Who has a family member here? A brother, sister, aunty, uncle, cousin, mum, dad, gran, grampa?

They’ve given you a lot – maybe birthday presents, Christmas presents, holiday presents? (Peter’s birthday – granny brought presents…)
And they do lots of other things for you too – especially mum & dad, gran & grampa – they make sure you’re not hungry, clothes, and that you’re ready for school. And they even bring you here!

What about your gran’s mum and dad, or your gran’s gran and grampa? Do you think they did the same thing before – they’ve looked after your gran, made sure she wasn’t hungry and went to school?

[Maybe show pictures of some of my family?]

Then talk about Abraham. Abraham is someone that lots of people in the world look back to. In a way, he’s where God started his ‘rescue plan’ for humans – God got Abraham to make a new start by moving to a new place – and Abraham did. Abraham started trusting God and did what God said. Now, that by itself might not have been much, but what happens next? Abraham passes it on to Isaac, his son. Not only does he make sure that his son is fed, clothed and taught lots of important things, but he tells him about God.
Isaac tells his son.
Each family passes it on down the line to their children.
Or to their nieces and nephews.
Or to their cousins or to their friends.
Right down to Jesus himself
And after Jesus, Jesus’ friends passed on the news about him to their children and their friends, down through the years, until it got to me and to you!

The great news is that God wants to know you, wants to speak to you and wants you to speak to him and to do the things he asks. And he wants you to pass it on – even now, to your friends, your cousins, and when you grow up, to your children too.

So let’s pray together – and if you like, you repeat each line after me.

Dear God
Thank you for family,
For the people who look after us and help us.
Thank you for Abraham
And for your rescue plan
Thank you for sending Jesus
and for speaking to us and listening to us.
Please help us
to live the way you want us to
and to tell others about you.