Worship for Sunday 22nd August 2021, by Liz Stuart

Call to Worship:  Welcoming God, we come to you with open hands and hearts.  We come with our faith and hope, our doubts and fears.  Send your Holy Spirit among us to fill us and change us, so that we become more like Jesus.  Amen

StF 28  

  1. Jesus calls us here to meet him

as, through word and song and prayer,

we affirm God’s promised presence

where his people live and care.

Praise the God who keeps his promise;

praise the Son who calls us friends;

praise the Spirit who, among us,

to our hopes and fears attends.


  1. Jesus calls us to confess him

Word of life and Lord of all,

sharer of our flesh and frailness,

saving all who fail or fall.

Tell his holy human story;

tell his tales that all may hear;

tell the world that Christ in glory

came to earth to meet us here.


  1. Jesus calls us to each other,

vastly different though we are;

creed and colour, class and gender

neither limit nor debar.

Join the hand of friend and stranger;

join the hands of age and youth;

join the faithful and the doubter

in their common search for truth.


  1. Jesus calls us to his table

rooted firm in time and space,

where the Church in earth and heaven

find a common meeting place.

Share the bread and wine, his body;

share the love of which we sing;

share the feast for saints and sinners

hosted by our Lord and King.

John L. Bell 

Words:  Love From Below © 1989 WGRG Iona Community


Prayers of Praise and Confession

Almighty God, we come to worship you confident of your welcome because you have first approached us and made yourself known to us.  We see your goodness and generosity in the beauty and variety of the world around us, your wisdom in the pattern of day and night, in the turning of the seasons as year follows year, and through your faithfulness in providing for our needs.  Most of all we learn of your great, self-giving love in sending your Son, Jesus Christ to live among us, to bring healing, wholeness and hope, and in his suffering, death and Resurrection giving his all, so that we might discover that free, full and eternal life that is your will and your gift to us.  And if this were not enough, you continue to come to us, and to call us to yourself through your Holy Spirit, your love within us, who guides us and sometimes challenges us in our daily living, but always assures us of your presence with us, as you seek to grow us into the people you created us to be.

How is it then, Lord, that we lose sight of all of this?  For we know that in our weakness, in our vulnerability to the world around us, and in our love of independence we so often turn a deaf ear to your guidance and choose our own way, allowing our own desires to get the upper hand – and yet in your compassion you never let us go.  You hear our unkind thoughts, our unloving words; you see and weep over the ways we spoil your creation; the way we hurt others by our thoughtless actions, but you still love us and yearn for us to turn back to you.  We are ashamed and sorry, Lord, and we ask for your forgiveness. We thank you that you never give up on us but are always ready to welcome us back to you, forgiven and freed from our past, and we pray that you will help us and strengthen us as we seek to live more nearly in the ways of Jesus, in whose name we pray.  Amen

O.T. Reading:  Joshua 24: 1-2a; 14-18 (NRSVA)

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:

‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed;  and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.

Setting the scene

Having freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and led them to the borders of the Promised Land, Moses has died and Joshua has led the people in the conquest and the settlement of the land of Canaan.  But now Joshua is nearing the end of his life, so he calls the leaders of the tribes together to renew the Covenant made with God by their ancestors, and intended to be binding for all generations to come.  It is a moment of decision which means breaking with the past, when they have been side-tracked into worshipping the gods of ‘the land’.  Joshua leads by example:  As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’, and remembering all God has done for them, the people promise to do the same.

But how long will it last?  We know that later in their history there were many occasions when they broke that promise, and how God sent judges, prophets and kings to bring them back into line. What of our own discipleship!  Are we, or can we be, role models like Joshua in our generation, to the people around us – and who do we look to for our example to follow?  Thankfully we have Jesus, and the faithfulness of God, as our benchmark, whose promises to us never fail.

StF 157  

  1. From the breaking of the dawn

to the setting of the sun,

I will stand on every promise of your word.

Words of power, strong to save,

that will never pass away;

I will stand on every promise of your word.

For your covenant is sure,

and on this I am secure:

I can stand on every promise of your word.


  1. When I stumble and I sin,

condemnation pressing in,

I will stand on every promise of your word.

You are faithful to forgive,

that in freedom I might live,

so I stand on every promise of your word.

Guilt to innocence restored;

you remember sins no more

so I’ll stand on every promise of your word.


  1. When I’m faced with anguished choice

I will listen for your voice,

and I’ll stand on every promise of your word.

Through this dark and troubled land,

you will guide me with your hand

as I stand on every promise of your word.

And you’ve promised to complete

every work begun in me.

so I’ll stand on every promise of your word.


  1. Hope that lifts me from despair;

love that casts out every fear

as I stand on every promise of your word.

Not forsaken, not alone,

for the Comforter has come;

and I stand on every promise of your word.

Grace sufficient, grace for me,

grace for all who will believe.

we will stand on every promise of your word.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend            Words & Music © 2005 Thankyou Music

Having described himself as the ‘Bread of Life’, Jesus has gone on to say that not only is he the ‘living bread that came down from heaven’, but that the bread he will give them is his flesh, and that those who eat it will live forever.  Now we hear the response of the disciples.

N.T. Reading:  John 6: 60-69  

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’  But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But among you there are some who do not believe.’  For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.  And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.  So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’


Like the Israelites in our O.T.Reading, the disciples of Jesus, at that time a much larger group, had a choice to make.  To either stay with Jesus or to walk away, and as we heard, the majority chose to leave.  Not only had they found what Jesus was saying too hard, too offensive, but it must surely have dawned on them that following him was going to involve a lot more than watching him perform miracles and hearing him tell good stories!  That it would mean commitment, there would be a cost involved, and that was a step too far.  Oh, it had been good while it lasted, but they weren’t prepared to risk all on a traveling preacher, and they walked away, and Jesus watched them go.

Jesus had always been up front about the cost of discipleship, and that those who chose to follow him needed to do so with their eyes open.  But open also to see that beyond the sacrifice, beyond the tough times, beyond the hard choices was a greater gift, a more wonderful future, a more permanent reward, no less than life in all its fullness.  And Peter, speaking on behalf of those who were left, in that moment, surely a God-given revelation, glimpsed it.  ‘To whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  It was a watershed moment for the twelve, and though one of them would fall by the wayside, although there would be betrayal and denial, although they would struggle with faith, although at the crucial moment all would flee, they formed the basis of the Christian Church.

They made the choice, and in us, in our Christian ancestry, they live on to tell the tale, and challenge us to make our choice.  Will we walk away when the going is tough, or will we stay on, put our trust in Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life?  Amen

StF 322  

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

in a believer’s ear!

It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,

and drives away our fear.


  1. It makes the wounded spirit whole,

and calms the troubled breast;

‘tis manna to the hungry soul,

and to the weary, rest.


  1. Dear name – the rock on which I build,

my shield and hiding-place,

my never-failing treasury, filled

with boundless stores of grace!


  1. Jesus! My Shepherd, Brother, Friend,

my Prophet, Priest, and King,

my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,

accept the praise I bring.


  1. Weak is the effort of my heart,

and cold my warmest thought;

but when I see thee as thou art,

I’ll praise thee as I ought.


  1. Till then I would thy love proclaim

with every fleeting breath;

and may the music of thy name

refresh my soul in death.

John Newton

Prayers of Intercession

‘To whom can we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.’

We have chosen to serve the Lord.  Let us pray to him now.

We pray for those whose faith is being challenged or undermined by inner doubts or outside influences, and for those who build up our faith.  For ministers, preachers, and all who seek to live and proclaim the Gospel in ways that people can understand, especially for those who risk their lives in doing so.

Loving God, we believe:  help us to trust you more.

We pray for our torn and fragmented world, where there is a deep yearning for peace battling with the urge for gratification and power.  We pray for those living in the midst of conflict, and places where there is a total disregard for justice and human rights.

Loving God, we believe:  help us to trust you more.

We pray for all who are marginalised, abused or rejected; for refuges and asylum seekers and those who have nowhere to go; for those who feel isolated through illness, age or vulnerability; for those who are grieving and fearful of the future.  We pray for all for whom we have a particular concern.  Surround them all with such love and peace that they may know they are precious to you.

Loving God, we believe:  help us to trust you more.

We pray for our churches and our Circuit, and for all the challenges we face as we look to the future.  May we know the guidance of your Holy Spirit in the decisions we make, and then go forward in faith, confident that you know the plans you have for us, which are always for good.

Loving God, we believe:  help us to trust you more.

We thank you, Holy God, for making yourself known to us, for loving us beyond our deserving, and for your promise of eternal life with you.  May we, individually and together, so fulfil your loving purposes that all we are and do brings you glory.

Loving God, we believe:  help us to trust you more.

The Lord’s Prayer

StF 673 

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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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?


  1. 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.

Graham Maule & John L Bell.  Copyright © 1987 WGRG, Iona Community

The Blessing

May the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to himself; may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in his service; may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our souls. And may the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen