Worship for Sunday 17th July 2022, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Invitation to Worship:

from Psalm 52

I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.

I trust in the steadfast love of God for ever and ever.

I will thank you for ever, because of what you have done.

In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.


Opening Song of Praise:

StF 64: Praise is rising, eyes are turning to you

Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You

We turn to You

Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You

We long for You


‘Cause when we see You we find strength to face the day

And in Your presence all our fears are washed away, washed away!


Hosanna, Hosanna

You are the God who saves us

Worthy of all our praises


Hear the sound of hearts returning to You

We turn to You

In Your kingdom broken lives are made new

You make all things new


When we see You we find strength to face the day

In Your presence all our fears are washed away, washed away!


Hosanna, Hosanna

You are the God who saves us

Worthy of all our praises

Hosanna, Hosanna

Come have Your way among us

We welcome You here, Lord Jesus.

Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche, © 2005 Thankyou Music


Prayers for stillness

Gracious God,

from the busyness of our lives

to the peace of this place,

we gladly come to rest with you.


Living God,

from the loudness around us

to the quiet of prayer,

we gladly gather in your calm.


Guiding God,

from the intensity of the world

to the stillness of your being,

we gladly meet with you.


Forgive, Lord, our crowded hearts, minds and lives,

filled with distractions that flatter and deceive –

drawing us into words and thoughts and actions

that grieve you, shame us and hurt others.

Forgive that same crowdedness

that draws us away from words and thoughts and actions

that would gladden you, honour us and heal others.


Help us find stillness and space,

in the rhythm of our days,

to pause and reflect

and find faith refreshed.



Reading: Genesis 18:1 – 10a

A Son Promised to Abraham and Sarah

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

9 They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ 10 Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.

Song: StF 186  Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord


Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;

Tender to me the promise of his word;

In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice


Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!

Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;

His mercy sure, from age to age to same;

His holy Name–the Lord, the Mighty One


Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!

Powers and dominions lay their glory by

Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight

The hungry fed, the humble lifted high


Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!

Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord

To children’s children and for evermore!

Timothy Dudley-Smith (b.1926), © Timothy Dudley-Smith


Gospel Reading: Luke 10:38 – 42

 Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’


The story of Martha and Mary always takes me back to my friend’s mum’s kitchen. There was a plaque on the wall called ‘Kitchen Prayer’. I don’t remember all the words, but I do remember these:

‘Though I must have poor Martha’s hands, give me sweet Mary’s mind’.

Even when I was ten, this struck me as unfair. Why should Martha be ‘poor’ while Mary was ‘sweet’? I spent lots of time helping wash up – did that make me ‘poor’ too?

Many commentaries on this passage suggest exactly that. Housework is bad, they say; sitting at the feet of Jesus is good. There are a number of problems with that approach, starting with the difficulty that we all have to eat (including Jesus) and the food has to come from somewhere. It is also the case that the work we do with our hands is just as valuable in God’s sight as the work we do with our heads and our hearts. They are complementary ways of sharing in God’s creative power to shape the world and to make sense of it.

So if Jesus wasn’t condemning housework, what was he getting at in his words to Martha? I think there is something else going on. The key contrast between the two sisters is not so much what they are doing as how they are doing it. We hear three times that Martha was too busy – worried and distracted, too many things on her plate, and all this making her liable to outbursts of irritation and, perhaps, envy of her sister who was behaving so unconventionally and getting so much out of her relationship with Jesus. Mary had chosen only one thing, and was fully focused on it, a silent, concentrated presence, immersed in Jesus’ words. Was this the contrast that Jesus had in mind? Are his words designed to encourage a single-hearted focus on one thing? There’s a saying: ‘if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’, reminding us of that same need to keep our attention on one thing, not try to do six at the same time.

Contemporary society tends to encourage people to look in several directions at once. On a phone, you can flip from news to Facebook to music in just a few seconds, all while having a conversation with your friends and boarding the bus. To counterbalance this, the wellness industry helps people focus on their inner selves – meditation is the name of the game, with mindfulness at its heart. It’s easy to become cynical about the growing market in training your attention and awareness, and yet there has to be something good about activities which encourage people to choose only one thing and stay with it, living in the moment rather than forever reaching backwards to the past and gazing forward into the future.

So is Jesus encouraging Martha to take a leaf out of Mary’s book, do one thing and do it well? It would make more sense to understand the passage this way. Preparing a meal doesn’t have to involve through-the-roof stress levels. It’s also possible to enjoy the cooking as much as the eating, with the satisfaction of making something which you know your friends will enjoy rather than something to impress them with your culinary skills. If Martha had cooked whole-heartedly, enjoying her skill in combining her ingredients, looking forward to seeing Jesus eating it, then her food would have been a gift to the Lord, the ‘better part which will not be taken away from her’.

Poor Martha, sweet Mary? Maybe not; and yet the story of these two sisters offers us an enduring picture of how to flourish – and it’s not about cooking versus listening. Rather, it’s about keeping ourselves focused on what we are doing – whatever it is – and recognising that we can, should and must do it for the glory of God.

Hymn: StF 530  To be in your presence, to sit at your feet

to be in your presence

to sit at your feet

when your love surrounds me

and makes me complete


this is my desire, o Lord

this is my desire

this is my desire, o Lord

this is my desire


to rest in your presence

not rushing away

to cherish each moment

here I would stay


this is my desire, o Lord

this is my desire

this is my desire, o Lord

this is my desire

Noel Richards (b.1955), © 1981 Thankyou Music


Prayers for the church and the world

We pray for individuals and communities

who offer a ministry of hospitality:

God of Mary and of Martha,

hear our prayer.


For those whose discipleship is in serving, like Martha’s,

for those who follow the way of Mary:

God of Mary and of Martha,

hear our prayer.


For our churches,

that they may be places of welcome and of nourishment:

God of Mary and of Martha,

hear our prayer.


For our homes,

that they be places where food is shared

and conversations are enjoyed:

God of Mary and of Martha,

hear our prayer.


For those who have no food to share,

no home to feel safe in, no one to talk to:

God of Mary and of Martha,

hear our prayer.


For those who find no pleasure in their work;

and those denied the opportunity to rest

God of Mary and of Martha,

hear our prayer.


For those who have shown us the way of service

and drawn us into the life of prayer:

God of Mary and of Martha,

hear our prayer.


For those whose tasks are all done

and who sit at your feet in your kingdom.

God of Mary and of Martha,

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



Hymn: StF 660  Called by Christ to be disciples

  1. Called by Christ to be disciples

Every day in every place,

We are not to hide as hermits

But to spread the way of grace;

Citizens of heaven’s kingdom,

Though this world is where we live,

As we serve a faithful Master,

Faithful service may we give.


  1. Richly varied are our pathways,

Many callings we pursue;

May we use our gifts and talents

Always, Lord, to honour you;

So in government or commerce,

College, hospice, farm or home,

Whether volunteers or earning,

May we see your kingdom come.


  1. Hard decisions may confront us

Urging us to compromise;

Still obedience is our watchword –

Make us strong and make us wise!

Secular is turned to sacred,

Made a precious offering,

As our daily lives are fashioned

In obedience to our King.

Martin Leckebusch (b.1962), © 1999 Kevin Mayhew Ltd.



Living God,

we have come to you in worship

and now we scatter for service:

we pray your blessing on all our days.

In the quiet and the noise,

in the space and the crowdedness,

in the peace and the conflict,

we pray that we may we make time, and give room,

to hear and heed your voice.