Firstly, may I take this opportunity to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for the gift I received from the Circuit at our recent farewell service, it was such a lovely surprise and the service was wonderful, on the theme of ‘being one’. I am looking forward to ‘retirement’ and offer below my last written Circuit service as an active minister – although I can’t call it a ‘sermon’! Every blessing, Sue
‘I rejoiced when they said to me,
Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ (Ps. 122:1)
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 his 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 © Stainer and Bell Ltd
Prayers of Adoration & Confession
‘I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
‘How good it is to sing praises to our God
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!’
As your family we gather here today
Not because we have to, but because we want to.
We are here to offer you our worship, our prayers
and our lives in service to you and to our neighbour.
We have as our example your Son
who chose not to rule but to serve
Who gave of himself and you a love so strong
that it flowed like a river from his hands and his heart
Your Son, who came that we might have life, and have it abundantly
Thanks be to God
Your Son, who came that we might know love, and knowing, might share
Thanks be to God
Your Son, who emptied himself of life and love, that we might be filled with both
Thanks be to God
‘How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us (1John 3:1)
That we should be called children of God’
we gather today conscious of our shortcomings
aware of the thoughts, actions and deeds
which have not reflected your love.
Our lives are filled with comings and goings
so little time to be still, so little time for others
for giving instead of receiving.
Forgive us and renew us.
In a world that needs to know your love forgive us those times when impatience, tiredness, selfishness or insensitivity have made it difficult
for others to see your love through our lives.
God of family, God of church and community,
God of Love,
forgive us for those times when we have forgotten how much we are loved by you, and how important a part we play in your family, the church, and forgive us when we take our own families, friends and neighbours for granted.
May we know the love of God deep in our hearts
May we understand our significance in the centre of God’s family,
and the bonds that hold us so close as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer
We come to you with no pretence
yet nourished by your grace.
We come as people needing love
within this time and place.
We come confessing all we are,
yet all we have to give.
We ask for your renewing power
to teach us how to live.
We need your spirit to be strong
your risking, leaping faith,
that brings the love of God to bear
in every aching space.
Then from this point, restored, renewed
we pledge to take your way;
To live responding to your call
with each succeeding day.
Andrew Pratt, words © Stainer and Bell Ltd
‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
Reflection, Part 1
I’ve noticed that over the past couple of months I have been telling ‘my story’ in different places, for example at Synod when I asked for ‘permission to sit down’, then in my thought for the month for the July edition of Connected, when I wrote about my first job, then at the Circuit Farewell Service when I spoke about ongoing call. All part of the same story of my life and call and ministry. Along with they hymn ‘I the Lord of Sea and Sky’ the verses from Romans 10 were my call to local preaching. A bit more of my story.
I’ve also noticed that I keep telling snippets of my family story to our son, very often on walks and trips out to the Vintage Emporium in Pear Mill* in Stockport, where I see items like hubby and I had earlier in our married life and in our parents/grandparents homes, all of which bring back memories.
The stories of our families and our own lives are important, as I’ve discovered over the years when visiting funeral families. On a couple of occasions the adult children have known very little of, or have forgotten, the story of their parent/grandparent life and wish they had asked questions while there was time. But most often, thankfully, the family will have such a lot to tell me of the story of their loved one and the life they had, like where they born and brought up, their antics, jobs, family holidays and the ‘special’ parties that marked milestone birthdays and anniversaries and I leave the house wondering what I might leave out of the eulogy.
Stories are important for shaping families, they can help to bind us together and connect us with the past – maybe that’s why there’s such an interest in family history and compiling family trees like they do on ‘Who do you think you are?’, or asking Long Lost Family’ to track down a missing family member, to complete their family.
Before you sing the next hymn, take a moment to think about your own family story and the people in it. I wonder if you or another family member have put together your family tree? Pause …
H&P 153 Tell me the stories of Jesus
Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here;
Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
First let me hear how the children stood round His knee,
And I shall fancy His blessing resting on me;
Words full of kindness, deeds full of grace,
All in the love light of Jesus’ face.
Tell me, in accents of wonder, how rolled the sea,
Tossing the boat in a tempest on Galilee;
And how the Maker, ready and kind,
Chided the billows, and hushed the wind.
Into the city I’d follow the children’s band,
Waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand;
One of His heralds, yes, I would sing
Loudest hosannas, “Jesus is King!”
Show me that scene in the garden, of bitter pain;
Show me the cross where my Saviour for me was slain;
Sad ones or bright ones, so that they be
Stories of Jesus—tell them to me.
Tell me with joy of his rising, up from the grave;
and how he still lives triumphant, ready to save.
Wonderful story, Jesus my friend,
Living and loving, right to the end.
Reflection, Part 2
If I was to attempt my family tree I couldn’t go back any further than grandma Nuttall,
my mum’s mum. Her name
was ‘Asenath’. Yes, really!
It’s a biblical name and you can read the story of Asenath Genesis 41. Maybe one day I’ll explore further back and give Ancestry a go and try to find my ancestors. Family trees, or at least knowing about where we come from, are part of our story, giving us a greater sense of identity and belonging.
Jesus had no need of Ancestry – his genealogy is listed in each of the gospels! Each of the gospels has its own version of Jesus’s family tree. Mark’s takes us back in time from Jesus to the prophet Isaiah, Matthew takes the lineage through a lengthy family tree from Abraham to David and on to Jesus, while Luke’s version in chapter 3 traces Jesus back to Adam and the origins of the human race. And then there is the wonderful prologue to John’s Gospel takes us back to the very beginning – ‘In the beginning was the Word’.
In his book ’52 Reflections on Faith’ Stephen W. Need reminds us that the patriarchs and matriarchs are also our Christian ancestors. He continues, “We have a family tree that stretches back deep into the roots of Judaism and into the life of God himself. As Christians we are people with a family tree, a pedigree and a lineage. We have an identity rooted in the life of God and his ancient revelation to the human race. We are part of a ‘footprint of faith’ that stretches back thousands of years, a faith both ancient and yet always new.”
Wow. How does it make you feel, to know you are counted, rooted and grounded in the life of God from the beginning? And I love that phrase, “We are part of a ‘footprint of faith’”.
And that reminds me that there is another story we should tell – the story of Jesus. And that WE stand in that glorious line of people telling God’s story and the story of Jesus, as St. Paul does in this reading:
Ephesians 4:1-7; 11-13
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
And finally …
I’m not sure any of us would see ourselves as ‘worthy’ of our calling, but called we are. Rooted and grounded in the ‘Christian family tree’ (we might say, we are abiding in the vine) God, we have a calling. OK there might be a bit more to it than that, and our particular calling might not be included in that neat list from Ephesians that “[God] gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” but where will our footsteps of faith lead us? As we are reminded in the Covenant Service, Christ has many services to be done … yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ who strengthens us. The response is of course up to you. But remember – how, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?
Tell them the stories of Jesus.
So my final question is:
In what ways have you responded to God’s initiative?
Will you continue to tell the story of Jesus Christ?
Have you heard God’s voice; has your heart been stirred?
Are you still prepared to follow?
Have you made a choice to remain and serve,
though the way be rough and narrow?
Will you use your voice; will you not sit down
when the multitudes are silent?
Will you make a choice to stand your ground
when the crowds are turning violent?
Will you walk the path that will cost you much
and embrace God’s love and sorrow?
Will you trust in One who entrusts to you
the disciples of tomorrow?
Will you watch the news with the eyes of faith
and believe it could be different?
Will you share your views using words of grace?
Will you leave a thoughtful imprint?
In your city streets will you be God’s heart?
Will you listen to the voiceless?
Will you stop and eat, and when friendships start,
will you share your faith with the faithless?
We will walk the path that will cost us much
and embrace God’s love and sorrow?
Will you trust in One who entrusts to you
the disciples of tomorrow.
Jacqueline G Jones; words and music © 2008 Jacqueline Jones
Our prayers of intercession
One description of the Church is ‘the family of God’.
Lord we are all here,
old and young, rich and poor,
black and white,
excited and worried,
happy & sad,
all here to worship you.
Your Church is full of people of all different kinds,
but with one thing in common; their love of you.
Lord, we thank you that there is a place for each of us in your family, the church.
And even here, Lord, you see us in the Church loving and squabbling,
fighting and forgiving, and living out all the dynamics of human family life.
Be our vision, our strength, our companion, so that we never try to take back the life of your Church and claim it as our own.
In silence now we hand over to you any particular issues facing us as your church family together – plans, problems, people in need, whatever is on our heart . . . (pause).
We thank you that we have a home to live in,
parents and relatives who care for us,
for friends and neighbours,
You have surrounded us with love from the day we were born.
Even when we were far from lovely ourselves, our family and friends have loved us.
Remind us of that, Lord when we find them difficult to live with and difficult to love.
In silence we hand over to you any particular issues facing us in our families today. Help us to continue loving them even if we have fallen out with them.
We pray for the homeless and those without family, those struggling to make ends meet.
We sometimes speak of the family of nations, expressing our belief that this is how it should be. But we have seen with our eyes the devastation caused by war, terrorism, violence.
We pray for your peaceful Spirit to permeate the hearts and minds of the leaders of the nations on whom so much rests.
Thank you for never giving up on us and for loving us always.
We ask these prayers through Jesus Christ.
(From The Second Intercessions Handbook by John Pritchard, adapted.)
H&P Go forth and tell
Go forth and tell! O church of God, awake!
God’s saving news to all the nations take;
proclaim Christ Jesus, saviour, Lord, and king,
that all the world his worthy praise may sing.
Go forth and tell! God’s love embraces all;
he will in grace respond to all who call:
how shall they call if they have never heard
the gracious invitation of his word?
Go forth and tell where still the darkness lies;
in wealth or want, the sinner surely dies:
give us, O Lord, concern of heart and mind,
a love like yours which cares for all mankind.
Go forth and tell! The doors are open wide:
share God’s good gifts let no one be denied;
live out your life as Christ your Lord shall choose,
your ransomed powers for his sole glory use.
Go forth and tell! O church of God, arise!
go in the strength which Christ your Lord supplies;
go till all nations his great name adore
and serve him, Lord and king for evermore
James Seddon (1915-1983); © The Representatives
of the late James Edward Seddon / admin The Jubilate Group
The blessing of God
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,
be with each of you and those whom you love
wherever in the world they may be,
This day, and always.
Let us go in peace
to love and serve the Lord. Amen.
- If you’ve never been to Pear Mill and the Vintage Emporium it’s well worth a visit, and they have great cakes in the cafe!