Sunday 17th January 2020

Welcome, and Call to Worship

(from Psalm 139: 17-18, 23-24)
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand –
when I awake, I am still with you.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

HYMN 459 Crown Him with many crowns

Prayer

Loving God,
You have gathered us in,
and made Yourself present among us.

We come to worship You,
our Creator
who formed us in our mother’s womb.
You are our source,
our life, and our meaning.
Create in each of us a new heart
open to all that is lifegiving.

We come to worship You
our Saviour and Redeemer.
We bring before You pour fears and our hopes.
As we come before You
we entrust ourselves
to Your loving care.

We come to worship You,
our Sustainer.
We give thanks
that in the highest joy
and in the deepest depths
You are there.

We come to worship You,
father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
One God, forever.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures

I Samuel 3: 1-10
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’

But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’

‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’

Then Eli realised that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’

Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’



I Corinthians 6: 12-20
‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’– but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.’ The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.



John 1:43-51
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’

Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.

‘Come and see,’ said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’

‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you.’

Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’

Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig-tree. You will see greater things than that.’ He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on” the Son of Man.’

HYMN 97 O God, you search me and you know me

Reflection

“Who are you?” This is such a simple yet such a profound question. Its directness evokes the simplicity of language of a young child yet also raises deep questions of personal identity and understanding. It touches on deep things without any of the trappings of philosophy or theology. So, “who are you?”

Our sense of who we are is often attached to things that may be described as external. We are keen to know where someone is from, where they live, or their occupation. These things impact on who we are but do not define us. A friend of mine recently said that she used to define herself by what she did; recently she recently realised that what mattered was whose she really was.

The Psalm that forms the call to worship, and one of our hymns today, seeks partly to address the question of who we are. God is described as present at our beginning, even in our mother’s womb. Here we are knit together by Him before our existence is known through any human means. What comes from this is not a sense of self-satisfaction that we are created as images of God; rather, scripture demands we reflect on this allowing it to guide the life choices we make. Samuel, thinking he hears Eli calling him in the night eventually has to choose what to do with this very literal calling of God. The good news is that he chooses to heed his earthly master and answer affirmatively the voice of God. Further into scripture we find St. Paul cautioning us about what we do in our daily lives. He sees that what we do matters not just on a human level; it matters, too, on a divine level because we are a part of the body of Christ. In other words, we are His. What we then choose to do reflects on how we understand ourselves in the sight of God.

The importance of knowing who we are moves to a new level in the midst of a lockdown. Many of our usual ways of defining ourselves are not available. Places of work are closed and employees placed on furlough. Cafés where we meet our friends are closed to all but take-away. Gathering with family, even outdoors, is no longer possible. We can no longer worship together in one place. In this existence how do we maintain our sense of identity, how do we maintain our sense of community? In all of this we continue to have a means of identity. This is true not only as individuals but also as a community. As the scriptures tell us, what gives both identity and community is God.

At the present time, just like the time of Samuel, it seems that personal power, wealth, and influence are topmost in people’s thoughts. We see it in relation to COVID, in ongoing political turmoil, and in continuing poverty through much of the world. It is also there in fear around these matters. How, in this, do we hear the voice of God calling to us to come to Him. How do we be like the young prophet and respond, “speak for your servant is listening.”? In times like these we need to realise our identity in Christ. No matter how things may seem at present we can answer the call of God, choosing to make our decisions knowing we are all His.

Basing our life in knowing we belong to God may radically change us. In the gospel passage Nathanael, a man of faith, has his preconceived ideas and expectations dramatically changed. How do we see beyond our fears and prejudices and, instead, see people made like you and me? How do we know, hear, and see people as they are rather than as our prejudices dictate? The answer is to remember we are all made in the image of God. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made(PS. 139: 14). Just as we begin to find our identity in whose we are so we can bring God’s justice to bear by remembering this is true of all people. In Christ there is no them, simply us. By acting in this truth we begin to make a difference; the world begins to heal; and we give glory to the one who created it, the one whose “works are wonderful(Psalm 139: 14).
Amen.


Prayer

God of healing and wholeness,
we pray for a world in need;
a world in pain;
a world in need of You.

As we see a world divided,
may we learn to look beyond difference
remembering that all are one in You.
As we see a world that rages,
may we bring stillness;
may we seek our peace in You.

As we see a world of fear,
may we learn to walk in trust
and banish the use of threat.
As we see a world of poverty,
may we give of our resources
and fill each life in love.

As we see a world of sickness,
may we bring a healing touch
and see a world made whole.
As we see a world despairing,
may come bearing light,
and let Your love be known.

God who creates and sustains,
let us hear Your voice and call.
Let us be Your hands and feet
transforming the world we know.
Amen.

HYMN 543 Longing for light, we wait in darkness

Benediction

In each voice we hear may God be heard;
in each face we see may God be seen;
in each word we speak may truth ring out.

And as we go may God
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
go with us,
evermore.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.