Worship for Sunday 17th January 2021, by Rev. Krystyna Kwarciak

Call to worship

The Beloved knows you
and calls your name—not the name everyone says,
but the name whose saying brings you to life,
as surely as God brought Light into being
by calling its name.
The gentle shepherd knows your hurts and fears,
the wounds and frights that bind your will,
the bonds that bend you from your beauty.
The Beloved knows your infant and your toddler,
struggling to walk, to please the mighty ones, to stay upright,
and understands and forgives your stumbling tries
to be yourself in a treacherous world.
The Shepherd knows the precious soul within
and calls you by the name of God’s knowing,
and bids you come.
The Beloved goes ahead of you into your own beauty,
into the serene meadow of God’s green presence.
Listen for that voice, for the shepherd
who does not point but leads.
Follow that one, whose deepest delight
is to give you life, and give it abundantly.


Opening prayer

Lord, I want to follow your voice, the voice that knows me.
I choose to ignore the voices of expectation, that try to fit me to their liking. You never demand but accompany, you share my burden, you lead me to green pastures and restore my soul.

Lord, you walk with me, even through darkest valleys towards richer love, deeper life. I will try to ignore the voices of despair or fear, voices of blame or bitterness, that can only defend me by hurting others. I want to follow the voice that draws me more clearly to who I am created to be, the voice that is life-giving, your voice. Your voice invites me in, honours me despite my enemies, it offers goodness and mercy.

Lord, today I want to stop and listen. Be silent and listen in long stillness. Wait with all the voices for the One who stays with me and then follow.

StF 673: Will you come and follow me?

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown,

will you let my name be known,

will you let my life be grown

in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare

should your life attract or scare,

will you let me answer prayer

in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean
and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean
in you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?

Will you use the faith you’ve found

to reshape the world around

through my sight and touch and sound

in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

Isaiah 40,9-11

You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

John 1,43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’


Dear Friends,

In the Highlands of Scotland sheep often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they can’t get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, so they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then of course they can’t jump back again, and the shepherd can hear them bleating loudly, in distress. Sheep usually stay in those places for days, until they have eaten all the grass. What do the shepherds do? A smart shepherd will wait until the sheep are so weak they can’t stand anymore, then he will put a rope around himself and go over and pull the sheep up, out of the jaws of death, very often at the last minute. Why don’t the shepherds go down there when the sheep first get there? Why don’t they rescue them immediately? Well, the problem is sheep are so foolish they would panic, start running away, dash right over the precipice and be killed if they did!

Maybe in the past few months, weeks there have been times when you felt like one of those poor, lost sheep – like there is no going back to the way things were before, like there is no way out. We all feel this way sometimes, when we have health problems, when we worry about our loved ones, but also when everything seems to be alright and we know we’ve got so much to be grateful for, but just can’t help feeling down, can’t free ourselves of negative thoughts and feelings.

In times like that we quietly ask ourselves the question: Where is God in all this? Is He really watching over me like He promised in the Bible? Why hasn’t He done anything to help me?

The reading from Isaiah reminds us today that our Lord is not just an all-powerful king sitting on his heavenly throne surrounded by angels, but also a down-to-earth, hardworking shepherd who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. A shepherd who patiently, lovingly tends his flock and carries the lambs in his arms, close to his heart, who never tires of watching over us and is always within earshot.

This is what God wants to do for us as well, if we let Him. He is never too far away to hear our prayers, complaints, sighs or cries. He will bring us back the moment we give up trying to save ourselves and are willing to let Him save us, his own way. His promise for us today is that He will safely lead us, carry us and catch us before we fall.

I’m sure you know that early Christians were persecuted for their faith and had to meet in catacombs, a network of underground tunnels -nearly 400 miles long. Today, when you visit the catacombs in Rome, it’s a proper museum with lighting, air conditioning, vending machines and so on, but in the 1st century – catacombs were dark and damp, one could smell the odour of decaying bodies everywhere, it wasn’t the nicest place to have Sunday services. To make the catacombs a little bit more cheerful, early Christians would paint images on the walls, and interestingly – their favourite image seemed to be that of Jesus the Shepherd, there are 150 paintings of the Good Shepherd in the Roman catacombs. Early Christians were, just like us, city dwellers, and didn’t know much about sheep or shepherding, however they knew all there is to know about fear, uncertainty and loneliness. The image of a God who is within the reach of our outstretched hands, but at the same time always a few steps ahead of us, a God who rescues his children at the last minute, spoke to their hearts and gave them the strength to carry on. I hope this image will stay with you this week and help you through whatever lies ahead. Amen

Discussion questions:

  1. Jesus tells us that we should follow His voice and flee from the voice of “strangers.” What are some things in our lives today that we should be weary of leading us away from Him?
  1. As our shepherd, God goes ahead of us and provides us with guidance. What are some ways that He has guided you in the past? Is your current life more about following Him or making your own path?

StF 492: Christ be my leader…

Christ be my leader by night as by day;
safe through the darkness for he is the way.
Gladly I follow, my future his care,
darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.

Christ be my teacher in age as in youth,
drifting or doubting, for he is the truth.
Grant me to trust him, though shifting as sand,
doubt cannot daunt me; in Jesus I stand.

Christ be my Savior in calm as in strife;
death cannot hold me, for he is the life.
Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain
can touch my salvation: with Jesus I reign.

Closing prayers

Holy and Gracious God, you call us by name, Beloved One,
and beckon us to follow you. May we do so through your grace.
In your Name we pray, hear our prayer.
Like a shepherd tending the flock you tend to our needs.
Be present with those who struggle, suffer, are in pain or sorrow.

Guide those who are lost or filled with worry and fear.
Protect those who are in harm’s way
heal those who are ill,
mend those who are broken, 
as only your love can.
In your Name we pray, hear our prayer.

God of peace,

watch over those who lead us

in our various governments and churches.

Fill our leaders with wisdom, patience, insight, and mercy.
Help them to lead with kindness and strength.

In your Name we pray, hear our prayer.

God of love,

fill our hearts with the knowledge of You

that we can turn from the distractions of life

and be more like You.

May we be agents of your compassion,

offering kindness to those we meet and speak to this day.

God of all blessings,

we thank you for all the gifts of life.

In your Name we pray, hear our prayer.

For your Son, our Saviour, our great Good Shepherd,
the one who stands at the gate

of all life’s challenges and joys,
calling out to us in love.

Naming us, Beloved.

In His Name we pray, hear our prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, 

Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom

The power, and the glory

For ever and ever.


 StF 482: There is no moment in my life 

There is no moment of my life,
No place where I may go,
No action which God does not see,
No thought he does not know.

Before I speak, my words are known,
And all that I decide,
To come or go: God knows my choice,
And makes himself my guide.

If I should close my eyes to him,
He comes to give me sight;
If I should go where all is dark,
He makes my darkness light.

He knew my days before all days,
Before I came to be;
He keeps me, loves me, in my ways –
No lover such as he.


 May God our shepherd gather you in loving arms;
May Christ Jesus reconcile justice and peace within you;
And may the Holy Spirit baptise you into the life of God.