Worship for Sunday 5th September 2021, by Rev. Ken Stokes

Call to worship

Come strangers and friends, to worship your God.
Come to sing God’s praises!
Come and bear witness to God’s goodness and love.
Come to be filled, inspired and challenged!
Know how close God is now and always.
Closer than your very breath
Hallelujah! Amen!

Hymn: StF 99 “All creatures of our God and King”

   1   All creatures of our God and King,
        lift up your voice and with us sing,
        alleluia, alleluia!
        O burning sun with golden beam,
        and silver moon with softer gleam:
            O praise him, O praise him,
            alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

   2   O rushing wind that is so strong,
        and clouds that sail in heaven along,
        O praise him, alleluia!
        O rising morn, in praise rejoice;
        and lights of evening, find a voice:

   3   O flowing water, pure and clear,
        make music for your Lord to hear,
        sing ‘Praise him, alleluia!’
        O fire, so masterful and bright,
        giving to all both warmth and light:

   4  Dear mother earth, who day by day
unfolds rich blessings on our way,
O praise him, alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that bloom and grow,
let them his glory also show:

   5   And all who are of tender heart
        forgiving others, take your part,
        sing, ‘Praise him, alleluia!’
        All who long pain and sorrow bear,
        praise God, and on him cast your care:

   6   And now, most kind and gentle death,
        waiting to hush our fading breath,
        O praise him, alleluia!
        You homeward lead the child of God,
        and Christ the Lord the way has trod:

   7   Let all things their creator bless,
        and worship him in humbleness;
        O praise him, alleluia!
        Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
        and praise the Spirit, Three in One:

St Francis of Assisi (1182–1226)
translated William Henry Draper (1855–1933)  (alt.)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 99.

Prayer (Roots 2003 with adaptions)

Be aware of God’s presence here with you
Be aware of the living, energising, loving God
who dwells in every nook and cranny of the universe, including us.
Be aware of the God who is greater than all that is
and in whom all of creation, every single atom, has its home.
Be aware of God’s presence here with you.
our Mother, Father God,
You are our God and we bask in your love and tenderness.
You are our God we listen for your voice.
You are our God and, like our Saviour Jesus,
we recognise your call to work with you
in creating healing, happiness, goodness and laughter.
You are our God and we desire the lifegiving energy of your Spirit.
During our time of prayer and worship today and beyond,
Remind us of your presence.
Make sure we keep bumping into you. Amen.

In a moment of quiet, confide in God
whatever is uppermost in your hearts.
Maybe you’re feeling happy, fearful, angry, sad, concerned or guilty.
Let us tell God about whatever it may be, as we share silence.
We also remember:
The times we’ve not spoken up when we should have said something.
The times we’ve spoken when we should have listened.
The times we’ve said just the right thing but then not lived up to our own words.
The times we’ve refused to let ourselves be put down or defended someone under attack.
The times we’ve put up barriers to others.
The times we’ve helped others break down barriers.
Loving God, listen to all that our hearts have to say.
Take the mistakes we’ve made and the successes we’ve had
and weave them into the work of building your commonwealth of love. Amen.

Hymn: StF 727 “God in his love for us lent us this planet”

   1   God in his love for us lent us this planet,
        gave it a purpose in time and in space:
        small as a spark from the fire of creation,
        cradle of life and the home of our race.

   2   Thanks be to God for its bounty and beauty,
        life that sustains us in body and mind:
        plenty for all, if we learn how to share it,
        riches undreamed-of to fathom and find.

   3   Long have our human wars ruined its harvest;
        long has earth bowed to the terror of force;
        long have we wasted what others have needed,
        poisoned the fountain of life at its source.

   4   Earth is the Lord’s: it is ours to enjoy it,
        ours, as God’s stewards, to farm and defend.
        From its pollution, misuse, and destruction,
        good Lord, deliver us, world without end!

Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 727
Words: © 1973, Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ  <www.stainer.co.uk>

Psalm 146

(1)  Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!  (2)  I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.  (3)  Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.  (4)  When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.  (5)  Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,  (6)  who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;  (7)  who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;  (8)  the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.  (9)  The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.  (10)  The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!


This week the psalm amongst the related readings in the lectionary for us to read is Psalm 146. This is a psalm of praise – one of the five so called Hallelujah psalms found at the very end of the collection of 150 psalms that make up part of the Jewish Scriptures. They have this name because these Psalms in Hebrew all begin and end with the Hebrew word Hallelujah. However, the translators of our version, the Revised Standard Version, choose to translate this word for us as “Praise the Lord”

Yet it is not by any means endless list of repetitive Hallelujah’s that could seem to some like empty praise. This praise of God is based on some very specific qualities of God that we are asked to recognise and celebrate.

I want to focus on one in particular since I think it says something quite fundamental.

(9)  The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

God watches over strangers. We could also translate the word translated as strangers as foreigners or sojourners. Sojourners are people who are temporarily staying in a place.

If we think of ourselves as belonging somewhere, we often then tempted to ignore people whom we see as a temporary. When I was brought up in Cumbria, I remember how many local people tried to ignore the tourists and second homeowners who flitted through their world. Sometimes there was even an undercurrent of hostility because they clog up the roads with their cars and made housing to expensive for local folk. The hostility between settled communities and gypsies and travellers is based on similar feelings. Xenophobia – fear and hatred of foreigners guides a lot of government policies around the world. Why have their massive queues of folk outside the airport in Kabul desperate to escape the Taliban? The Taliban have united the disparate groups and tribes that make up the country by rallying them against foreign interference.  the western armies and client government have been swept away. Yet the escape route via the airport was never going to be open to all who fear the consequences because our government, like many others, is terrified of bringing any people to Britain who don’t have a good claim to be here. Checking paperwork takes a lot of time. If there is a choice, and there is, it would rather leave people with good claims behind risking their deaths rather than bring back to Britain one person who hasn’t got the right paperwork. As the psalmist says “Do not put your trust in princes, mortals in whom there is no help”

The irony of course is that the idea of temporary and foreign can apply to all of us. In the first letter of Peter, Christians are described as sojourners, temporary foreigners in a world that will not be theirs for long. Last week I was walking with past Manchester Crematorium, and I got talking to a guy in his nineties. He looked at me, smiled, and said “I better get used to coming here” “Yes,” I said, “you and the rest of us” Our time in this world is limited, none of us know for how long we are here. We are all temporary travellers. The desperate people in the queue at Kabul airport, and the desperate folk crossing the English Channel in flimsy rubber dinghies. We are all the same. We are all looking for safety, certainty and security. Yet there is none in this world or this life. Our only security is that we are all the objects of God’s care and concern.

The Psalmist tells us that God is not xenophobic. God watches over the strangers, the foreigners, the sojourners.

One of the joys of my life is that a couple of times a week my 15-month-old granddaughter, Mia, comes to stay with us. She is only with us for a few hours but during that time she dominates everything.

Our rule with Mia is eyes on at all times. 15-month-old children cannot be ignored or left unattended. You always have to be watching. Fortunately, this is in some ways easy because our granddaughter is so special to us and watching her grow and discover the world is fascinating. I could happily just spend each and every day watching over her. She is literally the apple of my eye. I know that this is true for her grandma too.

In our reading from psalm this how God responds to foreigners.

When God watches over them– it is with an even greater, even more fierce intensity than when Lesley and I watch over Mia.

May we recognise that it is greatest honour of our own temporary earthly life to share the task of watching and caring for those who God watches over. May we watch over them with the same grace and care no matter where they live, what language they speak, what is their faith or what is their race may be.  For to slightly alter the lyrics of a famous song – they are not heavy, they are our sisters, our brothers, our children and grandchildren. Amen

Some questions to think about

  • How might the truth that we are all simply temporary residents and custodians alter the way we look at the world?
  • If we praise God for watching over us, do we have a responsibility to show the same care for others?
  • God watches over the strangers. Where do you encounter strangers in your life? How do you respond to them? If you never encounter strangers what might you need to do so that your life may reflects more closely the God who loves you?

Hymn: StF 717 “We do not hope to ease our minds”

   1   We do not hope to ease our minds
        by simple answers, shifted blame,
        while Christ is homeless, hungry, poor,
        and we are rich who bear his name.
        As long as justice is a dream
        and human dignity denied,
        we stand with Christ; disturb us still
        till every need is satisfied.

   2   We cannot ask to live at peace
        in comfort and security
        while Christ is tried in Pilate’s Hall
        and drags his cross to Calvary.
        As long as hatred stifles truth
        and freedom is betrayed by fear,
        we stand with Christ; give us no peace
        till his peace reigns in triumph here.

   3   We will not pray to be preserved
        from any depth of agony
        while Christ’s despairing cry rings out:
        God, why have you abandoned me?
        As long as we have hope to share
        of life renewed beyond the pain,
        we stand with Christ all through the night
        till Easter morning dawns again.

Marnie Barrell (b. 1952)

     The last line of each verse is repeated.

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 717 Words: © Marnie Barrell


We pray for those on the margin of the church, those who would like to be more involved but feel excluded
and those who find the church a painful place but cannot leave.

God, let us share your love so that we may together praise you and love our neighbour. Amen

We pray for those whom society considers beyond the pale, those whose crimes are so grim that forgiveness seems foreign
and those who are so desperate they look for help with little hope of finding it.
God, let us share your love so that we may together praise you and love our neighbour. Amen

Let us pray for those who are overlooked and put to the back of the queue because they are foreigners. For those who carry the label “foreigner”, even though they were born just down the road, because they have a different skin colour, language or culture.

God, let us share your love so that we may together praise you and love our neighbour. Amen

Let us pray for those separated from us by boundaries of belief,
those who cannot accept that there is a God
and those whose faith we think of as being invalid or less real than ours.
God, let us share your love so that we may together praise you and love our neighbour. Amen

Let us pray for those who belong to a different class of people,
those who are of a different gender, age, race, education, wealth
and for ourselves who are less ‘normal’ than we think we are.
God, let us share your love so that we may together praise you and love our neighbour. Amen

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Hymn: StF 409 “Let us build a house”

   1   Let us build a house where love can dwell
        and all can safely live,
        a place where saints and children tell
        how hearts learn to forgive.
        Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
        rock of faith and vault of grace;
        here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
            All are welcome,
            all are welcome,
            all are welcome in this place.

   2   Let us build a house where prophets speak,
        and words are strong and true,
        where all God’s children dare to seek
        to dream God’s reign anew.
        Here the cross shall stand as witness
        and as symbol of God’s grace;
        here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

   3   Let us build a house where love is found
        in water, wine and wheat:
        a banquet hall on holy ground
        where peace and justice meet.
        Here the love of God, through Jesus,
        is revealed in time and space;
        as we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

 4     Let us build a house where hands will reach
        beyond the wood and stone
        to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
        and live the Word they’ve known.
        Here the outcast and the stranger
        bear the image of God’s face;
        let us bring an end to fear and danger:

   5   Let us a build a house where all are named,
        their songs and visions heard
        and loved and treasured, taught and claimed
        as words within the Word.
        Built of tears and cries and laughter,
        prayers of faith and songs of grace,
        let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

Marty Haugen (b. 1950)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 409
Words and Music: © 1994, GIA Publications Inc., 7404 S. Mason Avenue, Chicago, IL 60638, USA.  www.giamusic.com  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.


Go now in the love of God,
to love God and one another.
Go with open hearts and hands and minds,
in his name and for his sake.
And may the blessing of God almighty,
Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit
be with you and all people everywhere,
now and always. Amen