Prayer of Approach
Lord, we gather now as we have not done before, in different places, and apart from each other.
Help us to remember that although we can’t physically be together that our spirits meet in you as surely as if we shook hands and embraced.
You remain through all this turmoil, our calm centre, and our touchstone.
Help us to set aside now our fears and anxieties, and rest in confidence, in your strength. Amen
Hymn (StF 28)
Jesus calls us here to meet him,
As through word and song and prayer,
We affirm God’s promised presence,
Where his people live and care.
Praise the God who keeps his promise;
Praise the Son who calls us friends;
Praise the Spirit who among us,
To our hopes and fears attends.
Jesus calls us to confess him
Word of life and Lord of all,
Sharer of our flesh and frailness,
Saving all who fail or fall.
Tell his holy human story;
Tell his tales that all may hear;
Tell the world that Christ in glory
Came to Earth to meet us here.
Jesus calls is to each other,
Vastly different though we are;
Creed and colour, class and gender
Neither limit no debar.
Join the hand of friend and stranger;
Join the hands of age and youth
Join the faithful and the doubter
In their common search for truth.
Jesus calls us to his table
Rooted firm in time and space
Where the Church in Earth and heaven
Finds a common meeting place.
Share the bread and wine his body;
Share the love of which we sing;
Share the feast for saints and sinners
Hosted by our Lord and King.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
In preparation for prayer, look around your home and find three objects that represent things you are thankful for.
This could be an item of food from your kitchen, the medicine that you need to keep you healthy, a photograph of family or friends, or even an obliging spouse or child, if you live with others!
Sit quietly with each item, acknowledge its importance to you, and thank God for providing.
Prayer of Confession
Lord, in our small spaces, locked down, it is easy to become consumed by our own small routines and needs. We draw apart from others with absence making our hearts grow forgetful as well as fonder. Forgive us then, if we have forgotten our neighbours, forgotten our friends and family in favour of our own needs.
Without being able to join our brother and sisters in Christ to worship, it is easy to forget you in the stress and anxiety of our day-to-day lives. We do not honour you as we should, as the disruption to our daily lives disrupts out spiritual lives as well. Forgive us Lord, if we have drawn back from you, and lead us back now into an ever-closer relationship with you. Amen.
Today’s Reading: Romans 5: 1.8
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Reading Romans 5: 1-8 is challenging. Over the past few weeks we have been greeted with images of brutality from the Black Lives Matter protests, and we have been reminded more and more of the daily struggles of people of colour.
At times like this, being asked to “glory in our sufferings” (or “rejoice” as some translations have it) it will strike a difficult note with many of us. As the scripture says, suffering may produce perseverance and character in some, but others will understandably struggle with it, and not all “character” developed under suffering will be positive.
But perhaps we can read this in a slightly different way. Instead of being asked to rejoice because of our sufferings, perhaps we are to rejoice in spite of them. Paul tells us that we can do this because we are secure in the knowledge of God’s love; that no matter what goes on in the world around us, we can still rely upon God’s love; it is this that we should hold on to through life’s trials.
It is right and proper to celebrate God’s love of us all, but we should also remember that we have a responsibility. We are commanded as Christians not to hoard God’s love like a treasure in the vault of a bank, but to share it and ensure that others too can feel its warmth. This is particularly crucial at times like this.
How, then, can we respond when politicians speak divisively or promote hatred whilst posing with Bibles? I would suggest that we should respond by declaring, and by demonstrating, that our faith is one of peace and inclusion. Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, our President of Conference, recently called on all of us to “be brave, speak out, speak up and challenge racism wherever we find it, especially when we find it in ourselves”. If we do not, then how can we claim to follow the example of Jesus, a person of colour himself, who came to save all peoples, regardless of ethnicity?
The ‘Wales Window’ is a stained-glass window donated to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, by the people of Wales, to commemorate the bombing of the mostly African-American church by the Klu Klux Klan in 1963. Four young girls were murdered in this horrific attack, motivated by racial hatred, and 22 others were injured.
The window is one of the earliest works of art to show Jesus as a Black man – he is pushing away hatred and injustice with his right hand, and offering forgiveness with his left. The window includes the words ‘You do it to me’, based on the verse from Matthew: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
It is not enough to sit secure in our own knowledge of God’s love – we must seek to reflect that love to those around us. Jesus puts the importance of loving our neighbour as only second to loving God. During such times of trial, we must love fiercely, act compassionately and pray for justice. Then, even when we suffer, we may give others cause to rejoice. Amen
Prayers of Intercession
If you are in front of a computer, find a place in the world on Google Maps that you particularly wish to pray for. Spend a few moments looking at the place and street names that you see there, perhaps using the satellite view to really get a feel for the location.
Alternatively, use a world map or atlas to find the place that you wish to pray for.
Then, hold the place and its people in your heart as you sing, prayerfully, the next hymn: StF 696
For the healing of the nations,
Lord we pray with one accord;
For a just and equal sharing
Of the things that Earth affords.
To a life of love and action
Help us rise and pledge our word.
Lead us forward into freedom;
From despair your world release,
That, redeemed from war and hatred,
All may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness,
Fear will die and hope increase.
All that kills abundant living,
Let it from the Earth be banned;
Pride of status, race, or schooling,
Dogmas that obscure your plan.
In our common quest for justice
May we hallow life’s brief span.
You Creator-God have written
Your great name on humankind
For our growing in your likeness
Bring the life of Christ to mind;
That by our response and service
Earth its destiny may find.
when we make our offering in church,
we offer you gifts of money,
but also other gifts –
As we pray to you now,
we offer ourselves and our gifts anew,
asking you to help us understand the potential of our gifts,
and use them to bring about your Kingdom
of justice and joy, love and peace. Amen.
In heavenly love abiding,
no change my heart shall fear;
and safe is such confiding,
for nothing changes here:
the storm may roar without me,
my heart may low be laid;
but God is round about me,
and can I be dismayed?
Wherever he may guide me,
no want shall turn me back;
my Shepherd is beside me,
and nothing can I lack:
his wisdom ever waketh,
his sight is never dim,
he knows the way he taketh,
and I will walk with him.
Green pastures are before me,
which yet I have not seen;
bright skies will soon be o’er me,
where darkest clouds have been;
my hope I cannot measure,
my path to life is free;
my Saviour has my treasure,
and he will walk with me.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant us to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.