Worship for Sunday 21st March

Opening Prayer

Lord, wherever we are, we know you are there too.

Although we are separated in space, we are united in spirit and in love. Your love always surrounds us.

We pray that we do not forget your love and we invite you into our dispersed devotions.



Hymn 25 : God is here

God is here! As we his people

meet to offer praise and prayer,

may we find in fuller measure

what it is in Christ we share.

Here, as in the world around us,

all our varied skills and arts

wait the coming of the Spirit

into open minds and hearts.


Here are symbols to remind us

of our lifelong need of grace;

here are table, font, and pulpit;

here the cross has central place.

Here in honesty of preaching,

here in silence, as in speech,

here, in newness and renewal,

God the Spirit comes to each.


Here our children find a welcome

in the Shepherd’s flock and fold,

here as bread and wine are taken,

Christ sustains us, as of old.

Here the servants of the Servant

seek in worship to explore

what it means in daily living

to believe and to adore.


Lord of all, of Church and Kingdom,

in an age of change and doubt,

keep us faithful to the gospel,

help us work your purpose out.

Here, in this day’s dedication,

all we have to give, receive:

we, who cannot live without you,

we adore you! We believe!

Fred Pratt Green

words: © 1979, Stainer & Bell Ltd


Prayer of Confession

Sometimes our vision is limited. We cannot see very far, our horizons are low.

At this time when we cannot engage fully with the wider world, when we cannot see even our own family and friends, we are too forgetful of those others we cannot see.

Sometimes we don’t wish to see. We close our eyes, stop listening, and we don’t hear the news.

Forgive us when we are too concerned for ourselves. For our safety alone, when many are unsafe all their lives. For our health alone, when many live permanently in slums and refugee camps. For our freedom, when freedom across the world is often in short supply.

Jesus, you retired to isolated places to contemplate and pray. And then you returned to society and confronted it. Help us to understand what is happening and to be part of it. Even though we may be physically in our bubbles, help our minds and prayers to reach beyond.

We thank you, Jesus, that you understand and that your vision can become ours.

Your forgiveness transcends our weakness and liberates us.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen


Hymn 611: Brother Sister let me serve you

Brother, sister let me serve you.
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
And companions on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christlight for you
In the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow

till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony,
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister let me serve you.
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

C: 1977 Scripture in Song Admin by Song Solutions Copycare


Introduction to the Reading

We are continuing our journey through the story of Ruth; Ruth the foreigner, in a strange land. To prepare to understand Ruth’s situation, we borrow the words that the Israelites sang when they themselves were in a foreign land, not their own. We use some words of Psalm 137.

They are printed here to read. There are musical settings, if you have the resources to access them. One version is Hymn 694 from Singing the Faith. Do not be afraid to seek out and listen to commercial sources, if you like; there are many, you may know them. So the word of God spreads even through secular means.

Psalm 137 vv. 1-6 (NRSV)

By the rivers of Babylon—
    there we sat down and there we wept

when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy

The Story so far …

In the time of the Judges, before Israel had a king, there was a famine. Many Israelites journeyed to other lands. One such was Naomi and her husband, Elimelech. They journeyed to Moab. Their two sons married two local women, Ruth and Orpah. Then the menfolk all died, leaving the three women to look after themselves. Naomi determined to return home, expecting Ruth and Orpah to stay behind. Ruth, however, determined to remain with Naomi.

On their return, Ruth went to collect grain in the fields to support them; not as a paid worker, but as one who picks up the leavings. The field belonged to a relative of Naomi’s husband, Boaz. Boaz was impressed by Ruth’s devotion and instructed his workers to leave something for Ruth to collect, and told her that she was welcome to continue. He even invited her to a simple meal.

Now read on:

Ruth 3: 1-15 (NRSV)

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came stealthily and uncovered his feet, and lay down. At midnight the man was startled, and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.” He said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not be afraid, I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman. But now, though it is true that I am a near kinsman, there is another kinsman more closely related than I. Remain this night, and in the morning, if he will act as next-of-kinfor you, good; let him do it. If he is not willing to act as next-of-kin[c] for you, then, as the Lord lives, I will act as next-of-kin for you. Lie down until the morning.”

So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before one person could recognize another; for he said, “It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” Then he said, “Bring the cloak you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley, and put it on her back; then he went into the city.

Hymn 702: I will speak out for those who have no voices

I will speak out for those who have no voices

I will stand up for the rights of all the oppressed

I will speak truth and justice

I’ll defend the poor and the needy

I will lift up the weak in Jesus’ name


I will speak out for those who have no choices

I will cry out for those who live without love

I will show God’s compassion

To the crushed and broken in spirit

I will lift up the weak in Jesus’ name

Dave Bankhead, Ray Goudie, Sue Rinaldie, Steve Basset

© 1990 Authentic Publishing



The Book of Ruth can be presented as a cosy little story where, despite tragedy, devotion and sacrifice are presented as a simple route to a happy ending where every tear is wiped away and all live happily ever after. It is never quite so simple in real life, is it? Buckle up, chapter 3 is where it all gets a bit darker. Let us tiptoe carefully along a nuanced tightrope, trying not to fall into an abyss of complacency, looking to see what Ruth’s story might mean for us today and what challenges it may bring …

We understand that the fledgling Israelite nation had no Welfare State to support its vulnerable members; the orphan, the outcast, and, here, the widow. Although it did have injunctions, enshrined in its laws, to “shelter the widow and the orphan” and even to welcome the stranger, “for you once were welcomed as strangers”, these don’t seem to have been fully embraced in actual practical systems. So Ruth, doubly (trebly?) in trouble as a grieving childless widow and a migrant with no resources, has to find a rescuer. When we analyse chapter 3, we find how she was advised to go about it. It is a section in which perhaps none of the three participants come out completely smelling of violets.

As we look at each person in turn, we will ask questions. Where are we in the story? Naomi seems no longer able to look after Ruth and tells her to seek Boaz’ protection. Ruth is exhorted to “put on her perfume”. We can interpret that as Naomi effectively saying, “OK. You have lost your husband. Time now to stop grieving and move on.” In the sense that Naomi might be encouraging Ruth to no longer see herself as a victim, there may be a good intention contained in this advice. But is Naomi sympathetic to where Ruth has got to in the grieving process? Naomi has lost two sons, but she is back home, where there should be family she can call on. Ruth, in a strange land, has no-one except her mother-in-law. Does Naomi understand the sacrifice Ruth has made? “Get out there and make yourself available.” This is Ruth’s reward for her devotion.

Ruth is told to wait till Boaz has had a good meal and “lie at his feet” while he sleeps it off, so that he will find her when he wakes up. Whether this is all a euphemism for something much more suggestively sexual, we cannot say for definite. Some of the commentators think so. Whatever, it is profoundly troubling to think that this is the best advice Naomi can offer.

Do we too readily fall into Naomi’s position? “Well, since you are here, you may have to put up with allowing yourself to be exploited in order to receive succour and security”. Do we suggest that the unfortunate, the stranger, the refugee, may have to prostitute themselves (literally or figuratively) in order to receive kindness and welfare?

Ruth goes along with it. Perhaps she is not so naive as we may generally believe. At any rate, she knows what she may have to do. Can she keep a good reputation? Is a Moabite allowed that luxury?

Do we condemn those who take a route, make a choice, that we ourselves have never been forced to make? Or do we understand their predicament? Do we think that other nationalities are entitled to less protection than ourselves?

Boaz wakes up and finds a young woman by (or in) his bed. “Stay the night. In the morning we will see what’s what.” We draw a veil (literally) over what happens next. We do hear that Ruth has to sneak off early in the morning before anyone else knows that she has been there. Is that for her reputation, or Boaz’? But before she goes, she is paid (for what?) in barley “a gift for your mother-in-law”. Shades of Christine Keeler.

Are we guilty of exploiting the refugee/migrant for what suits us (e.g. for cheap labour – when they pick our strawberries, serve in our hotels)?

Meanwhile Ruth has to wait to see what Boaz will sort out. He seems to have a possible “out”. Ruth must have earned support for herself, but it may not be Boaz himself who will provide it. She may be passed on to a “close relative [of Naomi]” – that she has never met? How much choice will Ruth get in this matter?

Do we seek, like Boaz, someone else to take responsibility? “Not really my problem. That’s what [the state, their family, Universal Credit] is for. Let’s see who we can find to look after you.”

What will Boaz arrange?

…. at which point, we leave the story on a cliffhanger … to be continued next week!


Our hymn challenges us to remember that the whole world is our neighbour. We welcome the foreigner and the refugee.

Hymn 249: Jesu, Jesu ….

 Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,

show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you.


Kneels at the feet of his friends,

silently washes their feet,

Master who acts as a slave to them.



Neighbours are wealthy and poor,

varied in color and race,

neighbours are near us and far away.



These are the ones we should serve,

these are the ones we should love,

all these are neighbours to us and you.



Kneel at the feet of our friends,

silently washing their feet,

this is the way we should live with you.


North Ghanian Song adptd by Tom Colvin

Words © 1969 Hope Publishing Company


Prayer Time

Imagine going for a walk. Where would you go, if there were no restrictions on your movement? Assume you have full freedom of movement, even if currently – or long-term – your movement is impaired, or dependent on transport or technology or friends.

If you are at the computer, maybe you can find an image of somewhere you have been – or would like to have been. Imagine yourself in that place. What would you do?

If you have a paper version of this service (or wish to print this section out), maybe you can take this prayer with you for a stroll; even just round the garden, if you have one, or to the park, if there is one nearby, or to the bottom of the road and back. (Stay safe.)

This prayer is for those who do not have that freedom – because of fear, or lack of mobility; because of lack of desire, or lack of control of their lives; because of despair, or illness. Or maybe it is just not the weather to go out!

Or maybe it is for you.

I wish I could go for a walk, Lord. To feel the sun on my face, to hear the birds singing, to breathe in good fresh air. I would rejoice in the beauty of Your creation. I would like to see the colours of nature, the blue sky, the white clouds, the green land. The imposing mountains and the deep blue sea, even the dark caves.

I am not able to do so, and so I feel disconnected from you, Lord. I fear for the future, for my life, for my family. I am anxious.

I am not free to do as I wish. I am constrained. I am told how to be, what I can do, even seemingly what I can think.

I am undervalued. I seem to be unimportant to some.

Please may I be important to you, Lord? Yes! I know I am.

This prayer goes out to all those who feel this way, and more. We have read this prayer and connected to them. We have felt their pain, as Jesus does. In our sympathy is a prayer. A prayer that it should change. It is a prayer for healing; for individuals, groups and corporations, and for states, and for the leaders of the world to hear.

There is a space here for you to add individuals or places you wish to especially pray for.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


Our prayers reach far beyond our horizons. God has heard them.

We sum up all our prayers in 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. Amen


Our final hymn is about love.

Hymn 615: Let love be real, in giving and receiving.

Let love be real, in giving and receiving,

Without the need to manage and to own;

A haven free from posing and pretending,

Where every weakness may be safely known.

Give me your hand, along the desert pathway,

Give me your love wherever we may go.

As God loves us, so let us love each other;

With no demands, just open hands and space to grow.


Let love be real, not grasping or confining,

That strange embrace that holds yet sets us free;

That helps us face the risk of truly living,

And makes us brave to be what we might be.

Give me your strength when all my words are weakness; Give me your love in spit e of all you know.

As God loves us, so let us love each other;

With no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Let love be real, with no manipulation,

No secret wish to harness or control;

Let us accept each other’s incompleteness,

And share the joy of learning to be whole.

Give me your hope through dreams and disappointments

Give me your trust when all my failings show.

As God loves us, so let us love each other;

With no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Michael Forster

© 1995 Kevin Mayhew Ltd



Read out loud:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be always with me.



A question to reflect on this coming week:

Are we guilty of exploiting the refugee/migrant for what suits us (e.g. for cheap labour – when they pick our strawberries, serve in our hotels)?