Worship for Sunday 12th February 2023, by Rev. Catharine Hughes

Today, churches the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland are marking Racial Justice Sunday.

In our worship, we are reminded of our duty towards each other – to be treated with dignity, respect and honour – because we are of infinite worth to God.


Let us come boldly before God’s throne in prayer, worship and thanksgiving.

Let us come in the rawness of our imperfections and with gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness.

HYMN: STF 18 – Be Still and Know

 Be still and know that I am God,

Be still and know that I am God,

Be still and know that I am God.

I am the Lord that healeth thee (x3)

In thee, O Lord, I put my trust (x3)


Almighty God,

In the steady silence of worship, we acknowledge you

As king,

As Lord over all,

As God.

We humbly bow before you.


Loving God,

In the steady silence of the cross, we acknowledge you

As Jesus,

As Saviour,

As the bearer of our sins.

We humbly bow before you.


Merciful God,

In the steady silence of the flickering flame, we acknowledge you

As Holy Spirit,

As giver of life,

As sustainer and guide.

We humbly bow before you.


Compassionate God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Forgive us

For failing you, and failing each other.

In the silence, may we embrace your forgiveness,

And learn to live and love to your praise and glory,

And may we bring justice in your name.


From Churches Together in Britain resource for Racial Justice Sunday 2023:

The 1804 Bible offered to ‘Negro West Indians Slaves’ omitted many chapters of the Bible that we have in our possession today. For example, the Book of Exodus contained only chapters 19 and 20; most chapters from Deuteronomy were omitted, including our text today; the entire Psalms and much more were also excluded.

Therefore, as we read this passage today, we remind ourselves that God’s faithfulness had been hidden from some generations (our ancestors). We remind ourselves that people of every nation, tribe and tongue need to hear the good news of Christ, have access to the whole counsel of Scripture and experience the power of God’s Word.

We read these words with confidence, humility and thankfulness; not as passive listeners but as sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ, who died to set us free from sin and reconcile us to God.


See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

HYMN: STF 63 – Over all the earth

Over all the earth, you reign on high,

Every mountain stream, every sunset sky.

But my one request, Lord, my only aim

Is that you’d reign in me again.

Lord, reign in me, reign in your power

Over all my dreams, in my darkest hour.

You are the Lord of all I am,

So won’t you reign in me again?


Over every thought, over every word,

May my life reflect the beauty of my Lord;

‘Cause you mean more to me than any earthly thing,

So won’t you reign in me again?



Concerning Anger

21 ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Concerning Adultery

27 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

Concerning Divorce

31 ‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Concerning Oaths

33 ‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.


‘Choose life.’

Sometimes life seems like a long list of rules: as a child (‘Don’t touch that!’), as a teenager (‘Don’t drink that!)’, and into adulthood (‘Don’t do that!’). There are regulations that come from the state, which are intended to be for our communal good, such as to drive on the left hand side of the road or to stop at red lights. And there are more moralistic rules which are to govern our community life.

Todays readings are setting out the importance of living by the rules. In Jesus’ case, the rules written many years before in the time of Moses – the Ten Commandments – are taken as read, then expanded upon to make the rule-follower purer in the eyes of God. ‘But I say to you…’ Jesus repeats. His implication is that you may think you are obeying the rules, the Law, but it is of no benefit if you are simply following rules for the sake of rules. What matters is your attitude, your heart.

And the writer of Deuteronomy tells of the fate of those whose heart turns away and do not hear God. They would not inherit the promised land, the land promised to their ancestors. Disobedience to God has consequences.

There is always choice. We have been given free will. We have the choice to live for God, or not. Follow the rules, or not. Bring justice and peace, or not.

There is a famous quote from ‘Thief of Time’ by Terry Pratchett:

“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”

Even when we know rules are for our own good we can be tempted to break them! The most amazing thing is the grace of God, for we are already forgiven. Through Jesus – his life, death and resurrection – our sins are wiped clean and we are assured of eternal life.

‘Choose life,’ the writer of Deuteronomy tells us: love God, obey God and hold fast to God. God’s rules are all for our benefit, bringing blessing not destruction. The choice is ours.

Here are some bible verses to dwell on, as you consider what it means to choose life through Jesus.

Love God:

Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.’ (Matthew 22.37-38)

Obey God:

‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28.19-20)

Hold fast to God:

‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you.’ (John 15.4)

Choose life.

HYMN: STF 440 – Amazing Grace

(Or try Chris Tomlin’s version https://youtu.be/Y-4NFvI5U9w  – written specifically for the film ‘Wilberforce’, about William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery in the UK)

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound –

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.


God’s grace has taught my heart to fear,

His grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!


Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come;

God’s grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.


The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.


And when this heart and flesh shall fail

And mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess within the veil

A life of joy and peace.


When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.

John Newton (1725-1807)


Loving God,

We bring before you all our cares and concerns for the world.

We remember those we know and love, those who are ill or grieving, those who are worried or afraid, those who carry burdens that no-one should bear.

(Take a time of silence.)

We remember those in our country who suffer racial discrimination; those still caught up in the Windrush scandal; and the family of Stephen Lawrence thirty years after his death.


We remember those who are caught up in the war in Ukraine, the women who are suffering under the Taliban in Afghanistan, and all those who are suffering as a result of the earthquake in Turkey.


Sometimes emotions of sadness and anger are overwhelming. We feel like helpless witnesses to droughts and floods, tornadoes and fires, earthquakes and tsunamis, as they spread homelessness and trauma.

And yet we know you are there, even in the midst of every tragedy, every challenging situation, strengthening the rescuers, comforting the bereaved and, through humankind, striving for a world where justice and fairness are paramount. Whatever our circumstance, may we always feel you near, helping us to support others’ needs.


 (Adapted from a prayer by Hilary Evans in the Methodist Prayer Handbook 2022/23)

HYMN: STF 550 – Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go


Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go,

My daily labour to pursue,

Thee, only thee, resolved to know

In all I think, or speak, or do.


The task thy wisdom has assigned

O let me cheerfully fulfil,

In all my works thy presence find,

And prove thy good and perfect will.


Thee may I set at my right hand,

Whose eyes my inmost substance see,

And labour on at thy command,

And offer all my works to thee.


Give me to bear thy easy yoke,

And every moment watch and pray,

And still to things eternal look,

And hasten to thy glorious day;


For thee delightfully empty

Whate’er thy bounteous grace has give,

And run my course with even joy,

And closely walk with thee to heaven.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)