Call to worship:
As we gather before you, Lord Jesus,
we fix our eyes on you.
We come with open hearts
and open minds.
Lord, fill us with your love
and your truth.
God with us: Creator, Father.
bringing everything to birth;
Mother of the whole creation,
fire of stars and life of earth:
down the countless years composing,
from the earth’s evolving night,
love’s response to love, and forming
mind and soul to seek your light.
God with us: Redeemer, Brother,
Friend for ever at our side,
here, in flesh, you walked among us,
taking up your cross, you died.
Crucified, despised, rejected,
Perfect Love, who shared our shame,
streaming from the cross, your judgement,
full of mercy, clears our name.
God with us: Unwearied Spirit,
from the birth of time and space,
surging through unconscious being,
joyful, Life-Creating Grace:
through the centuries you find us;
you, as God, inspire our prayer;
Life and Power at work within us,
Love for ever, everywhere!
God, Transcendent, far beyond us,
closest Friend, unfailing Guide:
through the ages, wronged, affronted,
in your poor, still crucified!
God with us: convict, forgive us;
by your holy love destroy
all that hinders peace and justice:
fill this aching world with joy!
Alan Gaunt (b. 1935)
Prayers of adoration…..
Lord of light and goodness,
we worship you, beautiful one.
We delight in your ways,
and we long to know you more deeply,
to give you all our praise.
You call us to follow you,
But you are not calling us on a sentimental journey.
We praise you, Lord, for treading the way before us.
Thank you, O God, for your guidance and love,
for your presence embedded in our lives
through your Holy Spirit.
Thank you that you offer us counsel.
We thank you for your blessings
and for the hope you give us.
All else put behind us, we place our feet in your footprints.
Lord Jesus, you call us to follow you
and we confess that we find your call demanding.
We cling to our possessions for comfort and ease;
we cannot imagine how we might manage with less.
Forgive us, Lord Jesus.
To count the cost of following you
is an intimidating prospect;
we would rather not do it.
Forgive us, Lord Jesus.
We like the lives we have built
and we don’t want to change them.
Forgive us, Lord Jesus.
Give us the courage, Lord, to take up the cross
and be your disciples,
knowing that this is the path to peace.
From heaven you came, helpless babe,
Entered our world, your glory veiled;
Not to be served but to serve,
And give your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.
There in the garden of tears,
My heavy load he chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours,’ he said.
Come, see his hands and his feet,
The scars that speak of sacrifice,
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered.
So let us learn how to serve,
And in our lives enthrone him;
Each other’s needs to prefer,
For it is Christ we’re serving.
Songwriters: Graham Kendrick
lyrics © Thank You Music Ltd., Make Way Music
The crowds are following Jesus but do they really know what they are letting themselves in for? Jesus tells a story to describe the risks of discipleship and invites us to choose whether we want to be part of the adventure of faith.
25 Now large crowds were travelling with him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
A favourite children’s book is We’re going on a Bear Hunt. A family decide to hunt for a bear. It’s a beautiful day. They set out full of enthusiasm. Then they meet the first obstacle – a field of high wavy grass. They can’t go under it, they can’t go over it, they have to go through it.
They go on to face other obstacles – including a deep cold river and a snowstorm before they reach the cave, where they finally encounter the bear. Far from being the experience they imagined, they are terrified and tear back home to hide under the bedclothes.
They expected an exciting adventure, but they really didn’t think it through. They weren’t prepared for what could happen. Maybe people thought following Jesus would be an exciting adventure, but Jesus says, if you want to follow him, think about what it means.
Jesus is heading for Jerusalem. The crowds of people around him all clamour for attention. Maybe the time has come for them to decide whether they were really ready to follow Jesus.
Jesus knows what lies ahead in Jerusalem, the events that will unfold, the pain and horror of betrayal and the cross, that is to come. He isn’t trying to stop people following him. He wants them, and us, to understand more about what is involved in being a disciple.
The Greek word for “hate” that Jesus uses, actually means “to love much less than, to turn away from.” If God and his kingdom are given the all-consuming love that he expects, then our love for everything else, including ourselves, will seem so much less.
But then Jesus raises the price even higher, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” I imagine people beginning to slink away as his words began to sink in.
Our calling as a disciple is to a life of unconditional obedience and the price is high. He knows most of the crowd won’t stay the course and follow him to the cross. Most of them aren’t looking for that kind of leader.
Thomas A Kempis said, “Many come following Jesus who love his heavenly kingdom, but few come looking forward to suffering. Many admire his miracles, but few follow him in humiliation to the cross.”
Jesus uses two parables to really drive his point home. The first is a landowner building a tower. You don’t begin to build anything without working out whether you can afford to finish it. If the building isn’t completed, everyone who sees it will think he is a fool when they see the unfinished structure.
The second parable is about a king looking to go to war. It’s not easy for an army of 10,000 to defeat one of 20,000, twice the size. The king with less really needs to think about his position. If he doesn’t think he can win, the best course of action would surely be to negotiate with the opposition before they meet in battle.
Both show the need to think about the commitment we’re making. Jesus is trying to tell us here just what we are letting ourselves in for – just how high the cost is. We can’t “kind of” take our cross and follow – it’s about wholehearted commitment.
It means that Jesus has first call on our time, our talent, all our resources.
It means we no longer go on our own sweet way doing as we want.
It means that we don’t just go along with the words and actions of others.
It means that we follow the upside down values of Jesus, where the first become last, the weak become rich, where the outcast and the unwanted are truly valued.
If you’re looking for a comfortable way of life, forget it. Following Jesus is not comfortable. It constantly challenges everything we think and do.
It brings me back to our covenant prayer, when we say, “I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.” That’s some promise we make to follow him.
O God, early in the morning I cry unto you
Help me to pray and to think only of you.
I cannot pray alone.
In me there is darkness, but with you there is only light
I am lonely but you don’t leave me
I am restless but with you there is peace
In me there is bitterness but with you there is patience
Your ways are past understanding
But you know the way for me.
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 walk the path that will cost you much
and embrace the pain and sorrow?
Will you trust in One who entrusts to you
the disciples of tomorrow?
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?
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?
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?
We will walk the path that will cost us much
and embrace God’s love and sorrow?
We will trust in One who entrusts to us
the disciples of tomorrow.
Jacqueline G Jones; words and music
© 2008 Jacqueline Jones
Prayers of Intercession
Gracious and loving God,
Out of the generous love you pour upon us,
and the hope you hold before us,
and the faith that you inspire in us,
we offer you our prayers.
We pray for a world battered by human greed, and desperate to be cared for.
We pray for communities shattered by war and violence, and longing for peace,
thinking especially of Ukraine and Iraq.
We pray for communities suffering as a result of flood, or drought,
thinking especially of Pakistan.
We pray for people suffering in body, mind and spirit, and seeking wholeness,
those who feel anxious, isolated, alone, or afraid of what the future will bring,
thinking especially of those struggling to pay bill or buy food.
We pray for those we know with particular needs, asking for the assurance of your comfort.
We pray for those who have gone before us and those who grieve…..
We bring to you our own thoughts and concerns…..
We gather our prayers together in the name of Jesus, our Saviour as we say the prayer that he taught us:
Our Father …..
May the mind of Christ, my Saviour
live in me from day to day,
by His love and power controlling
all I do or say.
May the word of God dwell richly
in my heart from hour to hour,
so that all may see I triumph
only through his power.
May the peace of God my Father
rule my life in everything,
that I may be calm to comfort
sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me,
as the waters fill the sea;
him exalting, self-forgetting –
this is victory.
May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as I onward go.
Kate Barclay Wilkinson (1859-1928)
Lord, when you call us to follow you,
you don’t promise an easy life,
you invite us to take up our cross.
Help us to make the choices
which will enable us to keep on building.
Free us from fear
that the cost will be too great,
and encourage us
when we grow weary.
Keep us faithful to our calling,
so that our lives give glory to you.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
May God strengthen our hands in his service,
embolden our lives to his glory,
and grant us each wisdom, humility and joy
as we journey through this week.
Prayers adapted from Rootsontheweb