Worship for Sunday 5th May 2024, by Rev. Caroline Wickens

Invitation to Worship

Jesus said: ‘No one has greater love than this,

to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’

So, let us join together as friends, Jesus’ friends,

to worship and serve the one who,

because of his great love, gave his all for us.

Hymn: StF 499  Great God, your love has called us here

Great God, your love has called us here,

as we, by love for love were made.

Your living likeness still we bear,

though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed.

We come, with all our heart and mind

your call to hear, your love to find.


We come with self-inflicted pains

of broken trust and chosen wrong,

half-free, half-bound by inner chains,

by social forces swept along,

by powers and systems close confined,

yet seeking hope for humankind.


Great God, in Christ you call our name

and then receive us as your own,

not through some merit, right or claim,

but by your gracious love alone.

We strain to glimpse your mercy seat

and find you kneeling at our feet.


Then take the towel and break the bread

and humble us, and call us friends.

Suffer and serve till all are fed,

and show how grandly love intends

to work till all creation sings,

to fill all worlds, to crown all things.


Great God, in Christ you set us free

your life to live, your joy to share.

Give us your Spirit’s liberty

to turn from guilt and dull despair

and offer all that faith can do

while love is making all things new.

Brian Wren (b.1938), © 1975, 1995, Stainer & Bell, reproduced under OneLicence no.A-735062

Opening Prayers

God of creation,
you have called us to worship you,
chosen us to be your friends
and invited us to extend that friendship
to your people in all the world.

God of relationships,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, together and as one,
you draw us into friendship with you that we may draw others.
You command us to love as you have love, that we might inspire others.
You fill our hearts with the passion of your heart, that we might serve others.
You are the truest of friends, the most faithful friend,
the most enduring – and we praise you for all you are and more.

God of love beyond our imagining,

You pour your blessings upon us in reckless generosity
but we have turned away from you when our lives have been easy
– forgive us and help us to turn back to you.

You have commanded us to love others;
but we have turned away from them when their lives have been difficult
– forgive us and help us to be there for them.
You have shared with us your ministry of welcome;
but we have turned people away
– forgive us and help us always to be open to them.
For the sake of Jesus, whose life and death, deeds and words have saved us.

God of hope and healing:
for choosing us – we thank you.
For trusting us – we thank you.
For befriending us – we thank you.
For empowering us – we thank you.
For loving us – we thank you.
And for forgiving, redeeming and blessing us –
we thank you, in Jesus’ name.

Worship song: StF 439   Abba, Father, let me be

Abba Father, let me be,

Yours and Yours alone

May my will forever be,

Evermore Your own.

Never let my heart grow cold,

Never let me go.

Abba Father let me be,

Yours and Yours alone

Dave Bilborough (b.1965), © 1977 ThankYou Music, reproduced under CCLI licence no.263530


Scripture Reading: John 15:9 – 17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.


What makes a good friend? I can still remember the first time I came across someone who had the same taste in music as I did – we bonded over the chords and lyrics and there always seemed to be plenty to talk about. We understood each other’s preferences and could make sense of each other’s likes and dislikes. The communication was easy and rewarding. And that is also part of what Jesus meant when he called his disciples ‘friends’ – because, he said, he has made known to them everything he has heard from his Father. What he said made sense to them because they were his friends. He helped them grow a deeper understanding of the world and their place in it alongside him, so that they were more able to live in ways that reflected his amazing love and grace.

That music-based friendship ended when we left school, and she went to one university and I went to another. Perhaps today we would have stayed in touch via social media – it wasn’t like that in the eighties! Jesus named permanence and commitment as a second quality of a good friendship. Abide in my love, he said; stay committed to me and you will flourish. It wasn’t always easy for the disciples to do this. Life with Jesus could be challenging – he saw things differently from other folk and it must have been hard to keep up with his creativity and brilliant imagination. And as the shadow of the Cross drew closer it became even more tough for his disciples to understand his courageous determination to keep going in the direction God chose. Yet their relationship survived all that he endured. Even though the disciples struggled to cope, their friendship with Jesus took them through the darkness of Good Friday into the light and hope of Easter Day.

I wonder if you’ve ever had a friend who could be a little demanding. Jesus told stories about friends and the demands they place on each other. There was the man who had unexpected late-night visitors, and banged on his friend’s door to borrow some bread and woke up the whole household with the noise he made. Friendship is about paying attention to someone else’s needs, and responding with concern and compassion. Jesus lifted this to a new level: no-one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. For him, friendship was not just about warm feelings and fuzzy emotions. It’s about practical action to make a difference in the lives of other people – whatever it takes. He spoke in this way to his disciples on the night before he died for them, and he knew what was coming. That same evening, he took bread and broke it, and said, this is my body, broken for you. The next day, his body was indeed broken on the Cross – he laid down his life for his friends, so that he could break the power of sin over them and set them free. Not many of us are called to give everything for others, but most of us are called to give something. Christ-like friendship does not give up when other people need help – as Paul said, love never fails.

Friendship is resourced by good communication; it is shaped by commitment to the relationship; it is not deterred by difficulties or demands. This is how Jesus wants to be friends with us – he wants to communicate well with us, to be committed to our wellbeing, to stay with us for the long haul, whatever life brings. And he invites us to be friends with him on the same terms. He no longer calls us servants; he calls us friends, and he invites us to be part of the community of his friends as we learn to love him through loving one another.

Worship Song: StF 242   A new commandment I give unto you

 A new commandment I give unto you,
that you love one another as I have loved you,
that you love one another as I have loved you.
By this shall all know that you are my disciples,
if you have love one for another;
by this shall all know that you are my disciples:
if you have love one for another.

Anonymous, © Paul Leddington Wright, reproduced under CCLI licence no.263530


God our Saviour, may these prayers which we offer you also renew our longing to love one another even as Jesus has loved us.

We pray for the end of bitterness and violence in its many forms. Bless all peacemakers: those who negotiate between nations, or arbitrate within commerce and industry, adjudicate in family courts, defuse tensions in school grounds, and guide conflicting parties within church denominations.

We pray for the effective, compassionate care of all who are diseased, injured, or severely handicapped, including those we know who are unwell. Bless all who work in clinics, hospitals and hospices and all who care for others at home.

We pray that the hungry may be fed, the homeless may be housed, prisoners may find renewal, the addicted may be set free. Bless every agency, church, charity or government, which is dedicated to the care of disadvantaged neighbours.

We pray for the church, for all denominations large or small, that we may love one another in practice as well as in prayer.  Bless all joint initiatives in worship, fellowship and service to the community. May the world know that there is a grace at work in us which is not our doing but a gift from a Lover who outstrips all other. Through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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.

Hymn: StF 272  From heaven you came, helpless babe


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.

Graham Kendrick (b.1950), © 1983 ThankYou Music, reproduced under CCLI licence no.263530

Resources adapted from rootsontheweb and re:worship