Worship for Sunday 14th May, by Rev. Ken Stokes

Hymn: StF 57 “Let all the world in every corner sing”

  1. Let all the world in every corner sing:
    my God and King!
    The heavens are not too high,
    his praise may thither fly;
    the earth is not too low,
    his praises there may grow.
    Let all the world in every corner sing:
    My God and King!

  2. Let all the world in every corner sing:
    my God and King!
    The Church with psalms must shout,
    no door can keep them out;
    but above all the heart
    must bear the longest part.
    Let all the world in every corner sing:
    my God and King!

George Herbert (1593 – 1633)

Prayer of adoration

Let us praise God.


Holy God, to you alone belong glory, honour, and praise.

We join with the hosts of heaven as we worship.

You alone are worthy of adoration from every mouth,

and every tongue shall sing your praise.

You create the earth by your power; you save the human race in your mercy,

and renew it through your grace.

To you, loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be all glory, honour and praise,

now and forever. Amen.

Prayer of confession and declaration of forgiveness

For fearing the unknown and failing to search and seek after truth:

Good Lord, forgive us.

For fearing the faith of others and limiting your love to people like us:

Good Lord, forgive us.

For being content with the outward forms of religion and being afraid to

change for good:

Good Lord, forgive us.

For placing our trust in money and status and failing to worship in openness and trust:

Good Lord, forgive us.


The Lord is good and quick to forgive. Let us trust in his word and make a new start, to the glory of God. Amen

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and give more than either we desire or deserve.

Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things,

of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things,

which we are not worthy to ask, save through the merits and mediation

of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Reading Acts 17: 22 – 31

(22)  Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.  (23)  For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  (24)  The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,  (25)  nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.  (26)  From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live,  (27)  so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.  (28)  For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’  (29)  Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.  (30)  While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  (31)  because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”


A friend of mine was telling me a story about how when he started working as a teacher in a school in Africa, he got his class to gather round and showed them some pictures of his home and his family and friends. The students who were in the late teens and early twenties admired the pictures, but when every picture was revealed, they would say “Is that you Roger? Is that you?” The problem for them was that they couldn’t recognise the strange and different white faces. As a Korean friend of mine says to me with a big smile on his face you know the problem with you, white people, is that you all look the same.

Whenever any of us are put in a strange situation, where we meet people who are different to us, whatever our race or our culture it can be hard to see what is in front of our noses. Sometimes this is because we find it hard to make sense of things that are unfamiliar, but it can also be because when we are in a strange situation we panic or feel uncomfortable.

If you have ever been to a baptism or a wedding in another Church denomination you know that you will know that it takes time understand how they do things and even longer to see beyond the apparent strangeness to recognise the love and faith that lie beneath the surface. Lots of people go to other Christian services and come out and say what was all that about? They never get beyond looking at the strangeness so they can’t see the love at all.

It is easy to react in fear when we encounter different people, cultures and ideas that we don’t understand.

It is easy to treat them with contempt or to laugh at them and pretend that our way is the best the superior way or worst of all the only real way.

Yet Paul says if we do this we are laughing at God, and treating God with contempt because God is found in what may seem the most unlikely places because God has left his mark on all that he has made we just need to open our eyes to see it and our ears to hear it.

Paul found himself invited to speak to the Areopagus that City Council in Athens – This was in many ways a great honour. Athens was one of the greatest of the Greek Cities. Today we think of Greece as a place which has become a playground for our young people go to drink too much, get sunburned and dance at wild parties. Or as some people say an economic basket case. Yet the truth we in the West owe a lot to Greece. The tradition of Greece is very rich. It has been described as birthplace of western civilisation and philosophy, cradle of democracy – great Greek philosophers like Socrates had once spoken in the place that Paul was invited to speak.

So, it is not surprising that Paul doesn’t talk down to the folk who are listening to him.
He knows that these folks are deep thinkers, but he also knows that they are not people who know anything about the Jewish Scriptures and so appealing to the Jewish scriptures which he often does when he is talking to people who are of Jewish background is not going to work in this situation. He needs a different approach. So, Paul who has kept his eyes and ears open when he has visited the city points to aspects of their religion and experience that seems to him to point to the truth of God that he knows.

He points out that amongst the thousands of altars that they have erected in the city there is an altar to the unknown God. Paul wants the Athenians to see that they have recognised that they knew themselves that the amazing collection of gods they worshipped didn’t really capture who God is. Paul talks to them about the unknown God who cannot be represented by statues or pictures but in the words of the hymn is in light inaccessible hid from our eyes. A God who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone. Because God is their creator as much Paul’s Paul can see that they have been able to get glimpse of God though he does not accept their religions as being sufficient in themselves – he is willing to use their culture and ideas as a bridge to enable him to be able to talk to these people with different faiths and ideas than him.


  1. When and where have you needed to keep your eyes open to recognise God at work?
  2. When have you had to be a “bridgebuilder” to talk to people who think differently from you? How did you build your “bridge”?
  3. What do you think Paul’s bridgebuilding has to say to us about the way we should engage with people of other faiths today?

Hymn: StF 699 “God of justice, Saviour to all”

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Came to serve and not be served.

And Jesus, you have called us
Freely we’ve received now freely we will give.


We must go,
live to feed the hungry,
Stand beside the broken,
we must go.
Stepping forward,

keep us from just singing,

Move us into action,
we must go.

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us what You require
Freely we’ve received now freely we will give.

Refrain (sung twice)

Fill us up and send us out,
Fill us up and send us out,

Fill us up and send us out, Lord.
Fill us up and send us out,

Fill us up and send us out,

Fill us up and send us out, Lord.


Tim Hughes ©2004 Thankyou Music

Prayers of Intercession

Creator God, we pray for the world:

your world, created by love, lit up by your glory;

our world, spoilt by selfishness and sin.

We pray for the world;

its land ravaged, its waters polluted, its resources squandered;

its people governed unjustly and oppressively;

its nations torn apart by war;

its children hungry and despairing.


Creator God, help us to obey your commands.

Fill us with your love:

that the world may see your glory.

Saviour God, we pray for the world:

your world, where we may seek and know you;

our world, of opportunity and temptation.

We pray for:

those rulers and leaders trying to serve their people well;

those communities divided by race, class or religion;

the church, witnessing to your gospel of saving love;

ourselves, on our spiritual pilgrimage through life.


Saviour God, help us to obey your commands.

Fill us with your love:

that the world may see your glory.

Comforter God, we pray for the world:

your world, suffused with your presence;

our world, a place of vulnerability and struggle.

We pray for:

those who are ill, sorrowful or bereaved;

those who can no longer feel you in their lives;

those seeking reassurance and guidance for the future;

ourselves, that you will fill us with love, joy and peace.


Creator God, help us to obey your commands.

Fill us with your love:

that the world may see your glory. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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.

Hymn: StF 350 “I cannot tell”

  1. I cannot tell why he, whom angels’ worship,
    should set his love upon us, now or then,
    or why, as Shepherd, he should seek the wanderers,
    to bring them back, they know not how or when.
    But this I know, that he was born of Mary,
    when Bethlem’s manger was his only home,
    and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured,
    and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.

  2. I cannot tell how silently he suffered,
    as with his peace he graced this place of tears,
    or how his heart upon the cross was broken,
    the crown of pain to three and thirty years.
    But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted,
    and stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
    and lifts the burden from the heavy-laden,
    for yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here.

  3. I cannot tell how he will win the nations,
    how he will claim his earthly heritage,
    how satisfy the needs and aspirations
    of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
    But this I know, all flesh will see his glory,
    and he shall reap the harvest he was sown,
    and some glad day his sun shall shine in splendour,
    when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.

  4. I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
    when at his bidding every storm is stilled,
    or who can say how great the jubilation
    when every heart with love is filled.
    But this I know, the skies will fill with rapture,
    and myriad, myriad human voices sing,
    and earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer: at last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King!

William Young Fullerton (1857-1932)


The blessing of God,

the Maker, the Redeemer and Holy Spirit,

be among us and remain with us always. Amen.

Go in the love of God who will keep you through any adversity.

Go in the peace of Christ who will sustain you when you are trampled by others.

Go in the light of the Spirit who will guide you through the entanglements of sin.

That the glory of God may be revealed in you, this day and forever.