Welcome… to this week’s service from the parishes of Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial. Today we continue our journey through the season of Epiphany. As we do we recall the love that God has for us, and seek to lean upon Him during these darker months and times.
Call to Worship (from Psalm 147: 1-3, 10-11)
Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the broken-hearted
and binds up their wounds.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
HYMN Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee(from the Royal Albert Hall.
(from the Royal Albert Hall. The words may be unfamiliar however the tune isn’t.)
Lord, our God
we come before You in praise and adoration.
You are ever present even when we do not notice you.
You are ever loving even when we feel at our lowest ebb.
You are ever leading even when we feel directionless.
We worship You today with all that we are.
With our minds we seek to know you better;
with our hearts we desire to love you more;
with our eyes we seek to see you at work in our world.
Take our worship,
reforming it into something acceptable.
Welcome us into Your midst,
and remake us as Your people.
Lord, our God
we come before You seeking Your mercy.
You are always near even though we pretend You are absent.
You are ever gracious even when we cry that You have deserted us.
You ever hold us even when we say we are unloved, unwanted.
Forgive us Lord, we pray.
Open our minds that we may know Your truth;
open our hearts that we may share Your love;
open our eyes that we may behold Your glory.
Take our lives.
Restore them as Your image.
Set us upon Your paths
and make us Your Holy People.
With the words that Jesus taught us, let us now pray together:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
Isaiah 40: 21-31
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
‘To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God’?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Mark 1: 29-39
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
HYMN 718 We cannot measure how you heal
Love songs have never really appealed to me though there is one that I like; it is a song of broken hearts. The verses ask a series of questions about events the former couple had enjoyed together, each beginning with the words, “Do you remember …”. Memory is such a strange thing. In our culture it is stretched and tested from childhood. Education provides us with so much information that many of us struggle to recall. Society, too, expects us to store up and easily remember so much trivia. Some of this had a point to it; it was practical and useful, while much of it was less so. Sometimes it seems so hard to remember. Even our faith makes demands on our memory, and at a much more significant level than recalling the kings of Judah and Israel in order.
Faith memory tends to work in the following way. When things are going well we tend to forget about God. When we feel that we have been lucky or fortunate we may “thank our lucky stars”. If we need something more tangible, we may reach out to a ‘lucky rabbit’s foot’ or ‘four-leafed clover’. Seldom do we instinctively or purposefully thank God. When things go wrong we seem to be better at remembering God. Sometimes it is along the lines of “God get me out of this”, often with some sort of bargain thrown in. Other times we rage against God with questions of “why” taking on an accusatory tone. Rarely, when life hurts, do we seem to reach out to God to thank him for His presence with us in our darkness. It is almost as if there was some form of selective amnesia at play.
We see elements of this in today’s passage from the prophet Isaiah. Here, forgetfulness of the Divine and His love towards the people prompts the questions, “Have you not known? Have you not heard?”. To emphasise his point the prophet repeats the questions. Have the people not known of the love that God has for them? Have they not heard of all that God had done to show His love? Through good times and bad, through times of faithfulness and betrayal there had always been signs of the presence of God. It was simply that the people had chosen not to see these things. The ancient Israelites didn’t use rabbit’s feet of four-leafed clover, but they had golden calves and foreign gods to fall before. They put their trust also in themselves and strength of arms. They forgot to put their trust in the God who brought them into being and who had brought them out of captivity into freedom. They were a people because God had created them as such. But they had chosen to forget.
Over two thousand five hundred years later we need to ask if the Church has done the same. Has the Church forgotten God? The Church is currently in a state of crisis, particularly in the ‘western world’. We see the numbers of the faithful dwindle; we can measure our resources decline; we feel the effect of our lessening impact upon our communities. In response we endeavour to reach out with ‘good works’, acts of kindness. We aim to be good neighbours. We experiment with new initiatives and structures. More than these we seek to be relevant. In the process we forget that we are, first and foremost, a people of faith. Have we forgotten what it is that we are called to be? Have we forgotten who it is that we are called to be? It is in our ‘forgetting’ that we will find the root of our spiritual malaise.
At the time of Jesus the people of God had also seemed to have lost their way. Instead of being one people under God they had split into a range of factions each with their own interests at heart. Jesus, however, brought memory to life. Through his ministry, in both the quiet and private events as well as in the larger public acts, he reminded them that they were the people of God. He resuscitated their faith memory making God real to them once more. In teaching and miracle Jesus renewed the spirit of the prophets and reignited the spark of faith. But note carefully that the works of Jesus were founded in prayer and not in manmade designs. He brought the written word of God to life. This time, though, the message was not just for the Israelites but for the world. It was time for the world’s memory to be reawakened to God. As a part of the world, we need to have our memory reawakened too.
When will we, as the Church, wake up and begin to remember? When will we remember that our existence, purpose, and future are bound up in the hands of God rather than the schemes of man? When will we remember in whose image we are made? The questions of the prophet to his contemporaries are relevant to us also. We need to hear again the stories of faith and let them invigorate us. We need to look once more to the example of Jesus, God made flesh, and be inspired not just to serve but to pray. We need to learn to remember once again.
God of the gift of light and life,
make us Your people this day
that we would share Your love
and heal this world
in Your blessed name.
May we be a blessing to those we love,
bringing both joy and peace to bear.
May our words and actions bring hope and light
that Your name would be praised.
We pray for our homes and neighbours,
may they know the completeness You bring.
May they know Your healing presence,
and the future that You promise.
We pray for our land and our leaders,
for the Queen, her ministers and parliaments.
May they act in wisdom
seeking truth and justice for all.
We pray for those in healthcare
as they seek to face the challenges of the pandemic.
May they find in you strength and courage,
and determination to carry on.
We pray for those who enable our daily lives,
those involved in retail and transport.
We give thanks for those who provide for our needs,
and seek Your blessing upon them.
We pray for those on the edge of society,
those for whom life is a constant struggle;
we remember those who are homeless or hungry,
those who are lost and alone.
We pray for ourselves.
You made us in Your image,
may we live as You meant us to be.
May we remember You in our daily lives
and so lift Your Holy name on high.
HYMN 363 We have a gospel to proclaim
(from the Chet Valley Churches, Norfolk)
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May He make His presence known to you.
May You feel His gracious touch upon your life,
and give you peace.
English translations of Lord’s Prayer
© 1988 English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC). www.englishtexts.org.
Used by permission.
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
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Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.