Call to Worship (from Psalm 35: 9-10)
…. my soul shall rejoice in the Lord,
exulting in his deliverance.
All my bones shall say,
‘O Lord, who is like you?
You deliver the weak
from those too strong for them,
the weak and needy from those who despoil them.
HYMN 198 Let us build a house where love can dwell
Our souls sing out a joyful song, our souls sing out
how great Thou art.
We consider the works You have made;
the stars of the night, the leaves of the trees,
the birds of the air, the oceans and streams.
Our souls sing out a mournful song,
our souls grieve before our God.
We consider the works our hands have made;
the warming of the planet, the rising of seas,
the wilting of the harvest, devastating communities.
Our souls sing out a contrite song,
our souls bow down low.
We regret the works our hands have made
the impact on the poorest, the livelihoods lost,
the deepening of poverty, the environmental and human cost.
Our souls sing out a penitent song,
our souls turn back to what is right.
We consider the good works our hands can make;
the words of justice we can speak, the acts of love we can give,
the hand of solidarity we can extend, for others to fully live.
Our souls sing out a hopeful song,
our souls look to the Lord, where our hope comes from.
We consider the works you call us to;
the love of our neighbour, the stewardship of the earth,
the flourishing of all creation, the wonder of its worth.
As our Risen Saviour taught us, so we pray:
I Peter 2: 2-10
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner’,
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
John 14: 1-14
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going. ’Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
Common Ground #12 Be still for the presence of the Lord
We often hear selected verses of John 14 at funerals. In the context of bereavement, these words become ones of threat or promise relating to eternal life understood as life after death, with or without Jesus. The passage is concerned with leaving and loss, as Jesus prepares his friends for his death and glorification. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’, he says. In John’s context, and ours, hearts are troubled and afraid. Isn’t this true to the human condition, especially as we become more aware of our own mortality and that of those we love? Is there a sense of grasping, a familiar troubled, human, need to hold on to something or someone? When Jesus and Mary meet in the garden (John 20) he engages with Mary’s understandable desire to hold on tight, encouraging her to let go. How do we respond to the conversation involving Jesus, Philip and Thomas? Are we troubled, puzzled, comforted, or something else? For us, how do the words of Jesus address his disciples’ questions?
John’s Gospel begins with the hymn of the Word become flesh, pitching his tent among us (this is the actual meaning of the Greek words that are usually translated, ‘became flesh’). The Word of life: everything that truly matters and matters truly, at once beneath and beyond all things. The word of Life: intimately at one with God and yet intimately at one with us. We live in an individualised, consumer culture, where daily we are invited to desire, own, consume, covet ever more stuff. Is it any surprise that we struggle not to perceive everything in that way, even our faith itself? Has it become another lifestyle accessory that we ‘need’, have or aspire to?
John’s gospel begins with a creative relationship, with God and God’s Word. The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, the Word made human, who engages in relationships with the disciples and their situations. Thomas and Philip appear to be squinting off into the distance, as if they were peering off-stage. Jesus invites them to remain, to abide with the eternal in the here and now. He invites us to do the same. It is as if he was saying, “I am intimately related to my Father, here and now. You can be too.”
What is prayer, how do we pray? For what do we pray? If prayer is an expression of acquisitiveness, what would we pray for? If prayer is an expression of mutuality, what then would we pray for? If we enjoy a graceful, just and loving relationship with God, indwelling one another in God in Christ, then what kinds of things will we pray for?
Is Jesus a spiritual acquisition to be held tight? No, rather he is the one who invites us into deepening, growing, indwelling, life together. The Word of Life: the Way, the Truth and the Life, leading to the Father. It is this relationship with God, in Christ, that draws us to love our neighbour; this is equally true irrespective of whether our neighbour is stranger or known, friend or foe, near or far. It is this relationship with God, in Christ, that cries out to us to support the work of the agencies that stand up for the troubled and the fearful across our globe.
Whatever our response to these questions, the central fact is that Jesus embodies an intimate indwelling relationship with the God he calls upon as Father, and invites us and others to participate in his Way, his Truth, and his Life.
This prayer reflects Christian Aid’s focus on the Climate Emergency
‘There was a time when… the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.’ Martin Luther King Jr.
God of justice and love,
help us listen to our sisters and brothers
who are living with the reality of the climate emergency.
We pray for people who are hungry
because of failed harvests and dry river beds.
For people who are homeless
because of unpredictable and extreme weather,
for people who are struggling to make a living
in ever more challenging circumstances.
We pray alongside people everywhere
who show that another world is possible
through their words and actions.
We stand in solidarity with all those who are suffering.
Give us the strength we need
to play our part in restoring Your world
to act justly and to walk humbly.
May our love for our neighbours,
even for those far from us,
make known our love for You.
In the name of Christ,
HYMN 465 Be Thou my vision
May God bless us with wonder at creation’s glory.
May God bless us with fury at creation’s spoiling.
May God bless us with courage at this critical hour.
And may the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
rest upon us and on all creation,
this day and for the future to come.
Christian Aid Scotland Writing collective & Spill the Beans for the prayers, and basis of the reflection. Material published by the Church of Scotland.
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.