Worship for Sunday 21st January 2024, by Rev. Catharine Hughes

Theme: Listening to God – God speaks at unexpected times

This Sunday falls in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January 2024). The materials this year have been prepared by an ecumenical team from Burkina Faso.

In Burkina Faso a calabash – a hollowed our gourd – is used to share water with guests who arrive tired from their journey. It expresses welcome, hospitality and fellowship. After the visitor has been refreshed, conversation can begin, and the purpose of the visit can be expressed.

Maybe you would like to pour yourself a glass of water, or make a tea or a coffee, in recognition of being welcomed into God’s presence, and being ready to converse with God.

Glory to you, Father,

for you reveal yourself in your creation and call all people to live in your presence.

Glory to you, Christ Jesus,

for you give yourself entirely to each one of us and invite us to do the same.

Glory to you, Holy Spirit,

for you gather us together in love and unity.

Glory to you, God of love,

in whom we are created, redeemed and made one.

HYMN: STF 401 – Come, sinners, to the gospel feast

Come, sinners, to the gospel feast,

Let every soul be Jesu’s guest;

You need not one be left behind,

For God has called all humankind.


Sent by my Lord, on you I call,

The invitation is to all;

Come, all the world and witness how

All things in Christ are ready now.


Come, all you souls by sin oppressed,

You restless wanderers after rest,

You poor, and maimed, and sick and blind,

In Christ a hearty welcome find.


His love is mighty to compel;

His conquering love consent to feel;

Yield to his love’s resistless power,

And fight against your God no more.


See him set forth before your eyes;

Behold the bleeding sacrifice!

His offered benefits embrace,

And freely now be saved by grace.


This is the time; no more delay!

This is the Lord’s accepted day;

Come in, this moment, at his call,

And live for him who died for all.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Prayers of Praise and Confession

Praise to you Lord for you have poured out your love into our hearts so that we never lose hope.

Lord, we praise you.

By your love you free our lives from fear and dress our wounded and injured hearts.

Lord, we praise you.

For all who sow seeds of compassion and love for their neighbours around the world,

Lord, we praise you.

Eternal God, we thank you for the gift of Jesus your Son, the Redeemer of all creation.

Lord, we thank you.

For the grace that renews and the blossoming of faith, hope and love.

Lord, we thank you.

For the faith we received from the apostles, for Jesus’ prayer for unity and for the gift of the Good News of salvation.

Lord we thank you.

Gracious God, for the generosity of your love for all people, a love so perfect, it is beyond our comprehension.

Lord, we adore you.

For sending your Son, Jesus Christ, into the world.

Lord, we adore you.

For continuing to fill our lives with your love through the Holy Spirit.

Lord, we adore you.

We come before you, O God, to confess our sins:

By seeking happiness without God and ignoring the command to love, we have turned from our neighbour. Our selfishness and desire to possess and control separate us from God.

Merciful God: forgive and heal us.

When we disregard the humanity of others and build walls of division, we sow seeds of hatred and violence, abandoning the Lord’s command to love.

Merciful God: forgive and heal us.

When our lack of compassion hardens our hearts, we no longer see Jesus in those different from ourselves.

Merciful God: forgive and heal us.

When we fail to open our hearts and minds to God’s infinite and unconditional love, the world is darkened by selfishness, violence and indifference.

Merciful God: forgive and heal us.

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and transform us by your Holy Spirit.

Holy God! Holy and Strong! Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us!


HYMN: STF 495 – Dear Lord and Father of mankind

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.


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.

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


Breath 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)

Bible Readings:

Well, Jonah hated Nineveh where God wanted him to go.
He said ‘No Lord, send me elsewhere, I’m not going. No Lord, no!’
But the day was wild and stormy and he fell into the sea,
where a big fish swallowed Jonah,(fish for dinner, man for tea!)
After three days in the big fish you would think that he’d be dead,
but the big fish spat him out again, near Nineveh, instead.
So, this time, Jonah thought he’d better do as he’d been asked,
though he made it clear as crystal that he didn’t like the task.
And now you’ll hear the story of the people of the town,
and the way that God forgave them though they’d badly let him down.

(From Roots on the Web)

Jonah 3.1-5, 10 (NIVUK)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Mark 1.14-20 (NIVUK)

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

HYMN: 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 used the faith you’ve found to reshare 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 you love and footsteps show.

Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

John L Bell (1949) and Graham Maule (1958-2019)


Are you listening for God to speak to you?

If you are anything like me then most of the time the answer is no! I go about my daily life with barely a thought about what God is saying to me in my actions. This is not to deny quiet time with God, nor time spent reading the bible or (obviously in my case!) time working on church business, all of which have periods of asking God for input. But am I expecting God to speak as I get washed and dressed? Or as I make dinner for the family? Or when I’m walking round the supermarket, deciding between varieties of apple to buy? (I suspect God doesn’t care which apple I buy… though he might prefer it if I bought apples than chocolate…)

The people of Nineveh weren’t listening to God. Indeed, that is why God sent Jonah. Jonah sort of listened to God… in that he ran in the opposite direction, caused a ship to nearly sink, was thrown overboard and swallowed by a big fish. It’s not the ‘listening to God’ that preachers like to encourage. But our persistent God gave Jonah a second chance, and this time he obeyed. The story indicates that they all repented, putting on sackcloth – even the king (in the omitted verses 6-9) – and because of this God chose not to bring upon them the destruction he had promised. Jonah isn’t very happy about that… but how human is that as a response? He’d had a second chance, but woe betide the people of Nineveh being afforded the same luxury.

Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John weren’t listening to God. They were fishing, or preparing for fishing. They were going about their daily business, earning a keep, trying to be honest labourers. Then Jesus came and called them, and with immediacy they followed him. Mark’s gospel is full of immediate things happening, but it always striking how the disciples seemed not to question for a moment what was happening, why this man was calling them away from their (and their family’s) livelihoods.

The clear message is that God will speak wherever we are, whatever we are doing and whether we are expecting it or not. It may not have the drama of dropping fishing nets and scrambling ashore to follow Jesus, nor the bold proclamation of impending doom for the Ninevites, but God will still speak to us in the ordinary, everyday moments that are – to be quite honest – dull and unremarkable. 

But going on an adventure with Jesus? Well, that is the most exciting thing that any of us can do. It is worth every moment of the call, however unexpected it might be or however mundane its presentation. Serving Jesus is what life is all about. 

Questions to consider:

  • When did God speak to you in the ordinariness of life?
  • When and where do you feel closest to God?
  • Are you ready to go on an adventure with Jesus?
  • Try saying to God: “The answer is yes. Now what is the question?”

HYMN: STF 462 – Come with me, come wander

Come with me, come wander, come welcome the world

Where strangers might smile or where stones may be hurled;

Come leave what you cling to, lay down what you clutch

And find, with hands empty, that hearts can hold much.

Sing hey for the carpenter leaving his tools!

Sing hey for the Pharisees leaving their rules!

Sing hey for the fishermen’s leaving their nets!

Sing hey for the people who leave their regrets!


Come walk in my company, come sleep by my side,

Come savour a lifestyle with nothing to hide;

Come sit at my table and eat with my friends,

Discovering that love which the world never ends.


Come share in my laughter, come close to my fears,

Come find yourself washed with the kiss of my tears;

Come stand close at hand while I suffer and die

And find in three days how I never will lie.


Come leave your possessions, come share out your treasure,

Come give and receive without method or measure;

Come loose every bond that’s resisting the Spirit,

Enabling the earth to be yours to inherit.

John Bell (1949) & Graham Maule (1958-2019)

Prayers of Intercession

We have been called to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. As we renew our commitment to this calling, may love strengthen our unity as Christians.

God of boundless love, we pray that all people may come to know your unlimited mercy and your infinite love.

Fill us with your love. Make us one in you.

God, our shepherd, we who are scattered ask you to gather us into one fold.

Fill us with your love. Make us one in you.

God of mission, enliven us by your Spirit and send us again to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

Fill us with your love. Make us one in you.

God of our journey, in our weakness and fear we often pass by on the other side. Grant us grace to risk embracing the stranger in need, tending their wounds of body, mind and spirit.

Fill us with your love. Make us one in you.

God of communion, we pray that we may work together for your greater glory and spread the Good News of salvation for all.

Fill us with your love. Make us one in you.


The Lord’s Prayer.

HYMN: STF 407 – Hear the call of the kingdom

Hear the call of the kingdom, lift your eyes to the King;

Let his song rise within you as a fragrant offering

Of how God, rich in mercy, came in Christ to redeem

All who trust in his unfailing grace.


Hear the call of the kingdom to be children of light

With the mercy of heaven, the humility of Christ;

Walking justly before him, loving all that is right,

That the life of Christ may shine through us.


King of heaven, we will answer the call.

We will follow, bringing hope to the world,

Filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim

Salvation in Jesus’ name.


Hear the call of the kingdom to reach out to the lost

With the Father’s compassion in the wonder of the cross,

Bringing peace and forgiveness, and a hope yet to come:

Let the nations put their trust in him.

Keith Getty (b 1974), Kristyn Getty (b 1980) & Stuart Townend (b1963)

Final blessings

Prayer from the Daily Prayer for Christian Unity of the Chemin Neuf Community:

Lord Jesus, who prayed that all might be one, we pray to you for the unity of all Christians, according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.


Loving Lord, 
thank you that you meet us where we are,
in the middle and muddle of our daily lives.
Help us to hear your call, 
to recognise your voice, 
and to respond to your invitation
to follow you whatever we might be doing. 

Copyright Acknowledgements:

Prayers taken from the Order of Worship for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024 © Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. www.ctbi.org.uk/weekofprayer

Jonah poem and Blessing taken from www.rootsontheweb.com © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2024. Reproduced with permission.