Worship for Sunday 31st January 2021, by Rev. Sharon Read

Prayers and image from © ROOTS for Churches Ltd www.rootsontheweb.com Reproduced with permission.

Call to worship

We are called to recognise God’s authority 
and to submit to it in every area of our lives. 
Let us invite God to direct our thinking and our prayers.
Let us give God the highest place in our lives.
Let us worship the living God.

STF 343 All my days I will sing (Beautiful Saviour)

Prayer of Approach

Father God, holy and majestic, what an impression faith in you has made on our lives! God of all wisdom, you are the source of all authority in heaven and earth.

Compassionate Lord Jesus, what an indelible impression you have made on our spirit! Lovingly speaking through your life on earth: your sacrificial authority on the cross breaking through the barriers of sin.

Awesome Holy Spirit, what an impression you make on our life! Through our faith, you continue to impress upon us the supreme wisdom of God, Gracious and Fair.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, source of all authority in heaven and earth,
eternal praise belongs to you. Amen.

Prayer of confession

O God, when Jesus spoke in the synagogue, everyone was astonished by the absolute authority of his words and presence. In today’s world, it is so easy to be taken in by someone’s words or their favourable, commanding presence. We think, perhaps, of people in the media, the music scene and social networks. But, unfortunately, not everyone’s words have integrity or match their actions. O God, help us to discern who to give credence to.

Forgive us when our own words or actions don’t marry with our calling. Help us to speak and act with integrity at all times. Help us also, O God, not to jump to conclusions by first impressions, preconceptions or prejudices – anything that turns us against people who don’t quite fit our expectations of them. Yet you may wish to speak through them. Forgive us when we jump to wrong conclusions. Forgive us for judging. Help us to seek your wisdom, to see and hear you in all people regardless of age, appearance or background.

In Jesus’ name we pray. 

Assurance of forgiveness

Lord Jesus, 
we were all imprisoned in slavery by sin until,
by the power of the cross, you set us free. 
You defeated evil and triumphed over death. 
By the authority of your holy name,
we can now freely approach God’s throne knowing our sins are forgiven.
Praise you, Jesus. 

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

We thank you, Lord, 
that you are the source of all wisdom and ultimate authority. 
Thank you that we can always test 
what we hear in the world today against your word. 
Thank you that in you, life’s foundations are firm. 
When we fail to look to you, 
we find ourselves on shaky ground and prone to making mistakes. 
But thank you that when we do make mistakes, 
you can help us correct them. 
Thank you that when we walk closely with you, 
our lives have an integrity and meaning 
that can help bring ourselves and others into closer relationship with you. 
Thanks be to you, our God. 

STF 251 Jesus Christ is waiting

Reading Mark 1:21-28


Today marks the end of the month; the end of the first month of 2021; the end of the first month where we had hoped to see life changing for the better the other side of the pandemic. Sadly we remain in lockdown, we wait daily updates and we continue to hold people in our prayers who are fighting coronavirus and sadly losing their lives and continuing to pray for those who need urgent treatment for other illness and operations. Today also marks the end of a month of switching off MY social media. There are many reasons why on the 1st January I deleted the apps that I was so used to communicating in. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, snapchat and the likes. One of my reason was that of fake news. News circulated that is so negative and holds no truth and yet sadly we don’t always question its authority.

Our gospel reading today is all about authority, more importantly the authority of Jesus. Here we have Jesus on the sabbath in Capernaum where he began teaching in the synagogue. People were impressed and this was so important at the start of Jesus’ ministry. We make decisions and judgements very quickly: whether that’s to do with a building, a person, a place or a church. The people there that day were impressed with the authority and teachings and the person of Jesus that they were attracted to hear him again and tell others and follow him. At the time a man possessed by an impure spirit cries out saying ‘I know who you are – the Holy One of God.’ Jesus drives out the uncleanliness while the hearers stand amazed at the authority and teachings of Jesus so much so that this news spreads.

Jesus, knowing His Father’s will, spoke out of authority, his truth, his very being and experience and this is what drew people to him. Today is no different – we are drawn to the voices that speak with authority and truth. As Christians, followers of Jesus, we must be drawn to people who speak from their relationship with Christ.

There is an old story about a gather where a famous actor was called upon to read Psalm 23. He duly stood up, took a deep breath and began to recite the psalm with perfect dramatization, inflection and articulation. When he finished, the room was filled with applause. As the clapping came to end, an elderly priest stepped forward and recited those same words. When he finished, there was no applause, no sound. Instead nearly every eye was filled with tears. Someone asked the actor what the difference had been. ‘Well you see, there is no doubt that I know the 23rd Psalm completely, but the Priest here, well He knows the Shepherd.

As we continue to live during uncertain times, may our voices and actions reflect the Christ we love and follow, so that others may recognise Christ’s authority from us and question Who is this Jesus?

Questions to ponder:

Where do we find authority in every day situations?

Where and how do we see the authority of Jesus?

Do our lives match our words in our personal discipleship?

When was the last time we invited someone along to something that we are doing within the life of our church?

How are you inviting others during this pandemic to hear about Jesus?

STF 518 Father hear the prayer we offer

Prayers of Intercession

God of our impressionable world,
we pray for the leaders of the nations,
that they would be wise, just and compassionate
as they exercise their authority.
We remember especially those in power in Russia –
and those protesting at the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.
We remember the governments in the Netherlands,
in the United State, and here in the UK,
praying for all leaders as they discern the way forward
amid the difficult social and economic challenges of the pandemic.
May your truth be known,
and your love be shared in Jesus name.

We pray for a smooth and just rolling out of vaccine programmes,
for those who are vulnerable,
for those who mistrust the vaccine,
for those for whom it has come too late.
We pray for the families, and friends of –
and all ministering to –
the dying and the bereaved.
May your truth be known,
and your love be shared in Jesus name. 

We pray for those who feel overwhelmed
by the additional pressures of home schooling,
for those whose relationships are at breaking point.
We pray for those who have lost their lives to depression,
and for their families and friends.
We pray too for those whose lives are blighted by anxiety and stress.
We pray for the health services and charities trying to support them.
May your truth be known,
and your love be shared in Jesus name.

We pray for your church – around the world and in our own community,
we pray for creative ways to serve and to share,
for courage and integrity as we listen and pray,
for urgency and daring as we respond to the needs around us.
May your truth be known,
and your love be shared in Jesus name.

We pray, in a moment of silence,
for all those on our hearts
and for all those who have no one to name them in prayer.
May your truth be known,
and your love be shared in Jesus name.

STF 660 Called by Christ to be disciples

Closing prayer:

Almighty God, be with us this week.
Meet with us each morning, 
and in every situation throughout the day,
whoever we are with,
help us to draw on your strength and wisdom,
that we may be faithful and true
in following the example and pattern
given to us by Jesus.