Worship for Sunday 19th June 2022, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Invitation to Worship

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,

    for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
    the face of God?


Opening Prayer

God of our hearts…here we are!

We’ve come with thirsty hearts,

praying that your Word will satisfy us.

We come with aching hearts,

praying for good news to comfort us.

We come with overflowing hearts,

praying for a chance to share your love.

You, who know our hearts and hear our prayers,

be with us now in this hour of worship.


Hymn: StF 544  As the deer pants for the water

As the deer pants for the water
So my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire 
and I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.

I want You more than gold and silver
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye.

You’re my friend and You are my brother
Even though You are the King
I love You more than any other
So much more than any thing

Martin J.Nystrom (b.1956), © 1983 Restoration Music Ltd

Prayer of Adoration

Almighty, powerful God,
who is full of compassion,
who rescues us from danger,
who strengthens the weak,
who feeds the poor:
we bow down and honour your name.

Almighty, powerful God,
who brings hope and healing,
who hears our cry,
whose heart feels our pain,
who heals us inside and out:
we bow down and honour your name.

Prayer of Confession

Jesus, you lived in a world where inhumanity and injustice existed. You showed us how to live.

Where we close our eyes to evil because we feel overwhelmed in the face of human misery and we can’t see what we can do,
forgive us and infuse us with hope and courage.

Where we close our ears to evil because we want to ignore the past and move on to a different future,
forgive us and infuse us with openness and integrity.

Where we close our hearts to evil because changing laws to transform the lives of others might disturb our own security,
forgive us and fill us with generosity and compassion.

Where we close our minds to evil because it’s too difficult to work out how to disentangle right and  wrong,
forgive us and fill us with faithfulness and wisdom.

With thankfulness we hear your promise of forgiveness.
Remind us that we are not alone and show us the small steps we can take, individually and together, with you.

Bible Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 10 He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’

11 He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 14 He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ 15 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.

 Hymn: StF 495 Dear Lord and Father of mankind

1 Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

2 In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.

3 O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!

4 Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

5 Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892)

Reading: Luke 8:26 – 39
26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.


Stress can do terrible things to human beings. When I was a child, people were still talking about shell-shock as a reaction to the horrors of war. Now we use the language of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and we know far more about the impact it can have on people, sometimes years down the line. The NHS website talks about flashbacks and difficulty sleeping, irritability, isolation, guilt – a set of massive challenges which often have a significant impact on someone’s life.

Was Elijah battling stress? He had faced hostility from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel for years before the final showdown on Mount Carmel, where God’s power had dramatically defeated the prophets of a false god – and as a result, Elijah found himself facing death threats from Jezebel. What about the homeless man from Gerasa? He named himself as ‘Legion’, the name for the biggest unit of the Roman army. Was he signalling that his illness was associated with a bad experience of the army? The Romans had a reputation for violently repressing any trouble in the Empire they occupied.

The language of demon-possession made sense to the people of Jesus’ day; it makes much less sense to us. This is why it’s helpful to look for our own entry-points into the story rather than allowing ourselves to be confused by the medical terminology of another era. What if both Elijah and the homeless man were struggling with something similar to what we would call PTSD? Is there anything we can learn from these stories as they unfold?

Perhaps the core discovery is that God cares about people whose stress is so bad that it drives them out of everyday society. That care is expressed in very practical ways. I love the detail in Elijah’s story which mentions that the angels left him a cake baked on hot stones – this confirms my view that cake can be a good answer to a great many problems! God knows that our physical needs matter if we are to regain any kind of emotional balance, and that it helps to feel that we are loved and cared for. We see a similar concern for the physical in the story of the homeless man, who is clothed by Jesus, his vulnerability removed, his dignity restored.

But God’s care goes beyond people’s physical needs to a focus on relationships. God speaks to Elijah in that still, small voice, the sound of silence. Jesus is not fazed by the violent way the homeless man approaches him. Instead, he speaks to him, asking his name – and when you know someone’s name you begin relating to them as another human being. The story moves on to give us a glimpse of Jesus and Legion sitting together, sharing a conversation, getting to know each other. After all the contempt he had endured, it must have been such a powerful moment of acceptance and grace.

Neither story ends with its hero allowed to become dependent. Maybe Elijah longed to stay in his cave, listening forever to the sound of sheer silence – but God sent him on to continue his life as a prophet. Legion wanted to stay with Jesus, but accepted Jesus’ direction that he should stay in his own place and share the good news. Both found that the dignity of a calling and a task were hallmarks of their renewed life.

The stories of the Bible are there for us to inhabit too. Who do you identify with in these two accounts? Maybe you know what it feels like to have stress boiling up and bubbling over in your life – listen then to the way God reaches out to you. Maybe you know what it’s like to have someone in your life who is struggling with all that comes their way – remember then that Jesus is with you, helping you engage with them as he engaged with Legion. The healing Jesus promises flows into every part of life, giving us the words to speak and the hope to hold – and don’t forget about the cake!

Hymn: StF 654 The love of God comes close

  1. The love of God comes close
    where stands an open door,
    to let the stranger in,
    to mingle rich and poor.

The love of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the love of God is here to stay.

  1. The peace of God comes close
    to those caught in the storm,
    forgoing lives of ease
    to ease the lives forlorn.

The peace of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the peace of God is here to stay.

  1. The joy of God comes close
    where faith encounters fears,
    where heights and depths of life
    are found through smiles and tears.

The joy of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the joy of God is here to stay.

4. The grace of God comes close
to those whose grace is spent,
when hearts are tired or sore
and hope is bruised and bent.

The grace of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the grace of God is here to stay.

5. The Son of God comes close
where people praise his name,
where bread and wine are blest
and shared as when he came.

The Son of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the Son of God is here to stay.

John L.Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958), © 1988 WGRG Iona Community Glasgow

Remembering how Jesus clothed Legion, we pray that God will clothe all those who are in need:

We pray, dear God, for all who have lost their way and become strangers to themselves and to others…
Clothe them with reassurance.
We pray for those who have become estranged from their families and their communities…
Clothe them with reconciliation.
We pray for those who have lost heart in their faith and given up on the Church…
Clothe them with refreshment.
We pray for those who are vulnerable through illness, through poverty, through the aggression of others…
Clothe them with protection.
We pray for all people and all creation struggling to survive, struggling to find harmony, struggling to find hope…
Clothe them and all your world with peace.

We pray, dear God, that you will transform us to be more like you.
When we see your children in poverty,
clothe us with generosity.
When we see your children suffering injustice,
clothe us with righteous anger.
When we see discrimination at work,
clothe us with open-mindedness.
When we see war and conflict,
clothe us in peace.
When we see people stressed and distressed,
clothe us with patience.
When we see hatred in action,
clothe us with love.

Hymn: StF 466  Have faith in God, my heart

  1. Have faith in God, my heart,
    trust and be unafraid;
    God will fulfil in every part
    each promise he has made.


  1. Have faith in God, my mind,
    although your light burns low;
    God’s mercy holds a wiser plan
    than you can fully know.


  1. Have faith in God, my soul,
    his cross for ever stands;
    and neither life nor death can tear
    his children from his hands.


  1. Lord Jesus, make me whole;
    grant me no resting place
    until I rest, heart, mind, and soul,
    the captive of your grace.

Bryn Rees (1911 – 1983), © Alexander Scott



Come with us, Lord, in our brokenness and bring healing.
Come with us, Lord, into our divided world and unite us.
Come with us, Lord, and cast from us that which is not of you,
that we may live as your children in your world,
today and always. Amen.