Worship for Sunday, 7th June: Trinity Sunday and Bible Month, Week One

A message from Rev. Sue Williams:

Welcome to Bible Month 2020 and our services based on the book and the story of Ruth. Each of the services in June will be compiled by local preachers and their trainee preachers and I am very grateful to all of them for running with our idea of leading these services during June.

The story of Ruth, as one minister and broadcaster on faith and spirituality, Tanya Marlow, puts it, ‘is a life stitched with prayer’. As someone who likes sewing, I like this analogy. Tanya has suffered from chronic ME and knows what it is to rely on prayer, as we all do during these times.

So as we explore Ruth together over the coming weeks, may our own lives be ‘stitched with prayer’.

Thank you to Liz Stuart, with just a little input from me, for Week 1 of Bible Month.


Call to Worship:

Here in this place, there are no foreigners,

for all are welcome in God’s house.

Here in this worship, there is only acceptance,

for love is the language of faith.

Here in our lives, there are no divisions,

for God dwells in each of us.

Come, let us worship in unity and love.

Adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012, © 2011 Abingdon Press. 

 StF 11   Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty

  1. Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!
    Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee:
    Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty,
    God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

    2. Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
    casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
    cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
    who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

    3. Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
    though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
    only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
    perfect in power, in love, and purity.

    4. Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!
    All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
    holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty,
    God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Reginald Heber

Prayers of Praise and Confession

Creator God, we glimpse your beauty in setting sun and mountaintop.
We sense your power in thunder crash, lightning flash and ocean’s roar.

Creator God, we praise you.

Precious Jesus, we see your love stretched out upon a cruel cross.

We stand in awe at your sacrifice, love poured out for humankind.

Precious Jesus, we praise you.

Holy Spirit, we see your power
in lives transformed and hearts on fire.

We listen for your still, small voice, comforting, guiding, calling.

Holy Spirit, we praise you.

But in our moments of doubt and unbelief,
when worldly pressure or circumstance become the distance between us,

draw near, we pray.

Remind us of the grace that we first knew,
the Father’s love, the Spirit’s breath.

Grant us courage, a faith that endures
and the sure knowledge that you are with us today and always,
never further away than a whispered prayer.


From The Act of Prayer by John Birch

A song to remind us that whatever we are going through Jesus is always there for us.

Song: He will hold me fast   

When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Saviour loves me so
He will hold me fast

Those He saves are His delight
Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight
He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast

He will hold me fast …

For my life He bled and died
Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied
He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life
He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight
When he comes at last

He will hold me fast …

Keith & Kristyn Getty

Bible Reading: Ruth 1: 1-22 (NIV)

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.  With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi, “she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

Introduction to the Book of Ruth

Should you mention VE Day, the Manchester Arena bomb, Brexit, or more currently ‘lockdown’ and probably for the average ‘Brit’ there would be associations, memories, feelings and reactions, and the same would have been true for those reading those opening words of the Book of Ruth. ‘The time of the Judges’ was not one that the Israelites could look back on and be proud of! It was peppered with stories of moral decline, of people turning away from God, indulging in all sorts of pagan practices, and then when things went badly wrong, calling out to God in distress, and God sending a leader, a ‘Judge’, to rescue them, a sorry tale that was repeated again and again.. And it’s in times such as these, of Israel’s failure and God’s faithfulness, that this little story is set.

It’s not known exactly when or by whom the Book of Ruth was written, and in many ways this doesn’t matter because its message is timeless, and thus requires us to answer for ourselves the many issues that it raises. But perhaps one question in particular, which we will be looking at this morning, and which has current implications for us: ‘What does it mean to love in difficult times?’

If you can access the internet, take a moment to listen to this, ‘The Song of Ruth’

Reflection: ‘Love in tough times’

Life is full of choices, and perhaps none more so than the ones we make out of love rather than logic. It can’t have been an easy choice for Naomi and Elimilech to leave Bethlehem and move to Moab, for not only was there deep and historical enmity between Israel and Moab, the Moabites also worshipped pagan gods. Was it love for their children and concern for their future that forced the move, for the names of their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, imply that they were sickly lads, who might not survive the hardships of a famine?   If so, they would not be the first or the last of the many who leave their homeland to seek a better life for their family elsewhere, or to find themselves facing disappointment and often greater hardship, as was the case for Naomi.

For we quickly find Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth on their own, vulnerable and without any means of support – until the news of better prospects back in Bethlehem reaches their ears, and Naomi decides to return home. And here Naomi shows tremendous courage, selflessness and sacrificial love and, in advising them to go back to their homes, a certain amount of realism, for Naomi would have known how difficult it could be for her daughters-in-law to find husbands. Bethlehem, after all, was not ‘home’ for them! Naomi might also have considered the risks of journeying alone getting on for 50 miles, or how she would cope on her own when she got back to Bethlehem – would she herself be welcomed, recognised even, after all those years. But she resolves to free Orpah and Ruth from any obligation they might feel towards her. Again, Naomi puts the well-being of others before her own.

As we know from the story, Orpah is eventually persuaded to go back to her family, but Ruth is adamant. She will stay with Naomi, and nothing will change her decision. That Ruth realises what this will involve is clear from her appeal to Naomi. It will mean taking on extra responsibilities, a new culture, a different faith, a long-term commitment. She will be a foreigner in a strange land, vulnerable, possibly open to abuse or exploitation; she may not even be accepted, never mind find a husband! Again, we might reflect on the number of people who migrate to our own country, and those who find themselves in that position of slavery today. Ruth recognises the hard choices that love often requires. Had she maybe learned this from Naomi? Along with the love that she felt for her mother-in-law, had Naomi also become a role model for Ruth? Are there, perhaps, people who see us in that light…….?

Love and concern for others often demands hard choices. We see this in the self-sacrifice of NHS staff, Carers, Service providers in many walks of life – people who are prepared to make themselves vulnerable, to put themselves at risk, and in this they give us an example of what loving means. And more than this, they are a constant reminder of the sacrificial love that Jesus shows us in making himself vulnerable, even to the extent of giving up his life of us.

If you have read the whole of the Book of Ruth, you will know that God has a bigger plan in mind for Ruth, and honours the self-giving love she has shown to Naomi – but that’s another story for another week! What we can be certain of is that the love we show to others, particularly that which involves hard choices, will always be woven into God’s plan for our lives and for theirs, and that God will always honour all that we do in his Name. Amen

StF 663 I, the Lord of sea and sky

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain;
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord …

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts are satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord…

Daniel L. Schutte  

Prayers of Intercession

Naomi and her family went through tough times in which many tears were shed. You may like to find a piece of paper and draw a teardrop in which you can write the names of people you know, asking God not only to be with them, but also to bring something good out of their tough time.

And so we pray for those going through tough times:

Loving God, we bring to you our suffering world, especially in this time of the Covid19 pandemic. We pray for leaders of nations and governments, and all those who have to make hard decisions about the way forward. We bring to you……………..

Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

We pray for those on the front-line, working in hospitals, care homes, schools, and in all Services that make it difficult to ‘socially distance’. All those who put their lives at risk for the well-being of others. We bring to you…………………

Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

We pray for those facing financial difficulties, all who are having to make hard choices, balancing the need to go back to work with that of protecting vulnerable family. We bring to you…………….

Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

We pray for those for whom this time is particularly distressing: those who have lost loved ones; those in care homes, missing visits; those living in situations where ‘lockdown’ has put them at greater risk; those unable to access the treatment they need; all who feel isolated and forgotten. We bring to you…………….

Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

We pray for church leaders and ministers, all who give pastoral care and help to others, and who need people to minister to them. We bring to you……………..

Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

Loving God, as we hold all these people in our prayers, we bring ourselves and our needs…………. We thank you for the communities to which we belong, and ask that you will strengthen us in our faith, that we may be a source of healing and comfort to those for whom we have prayed.

Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer

And we celebrate our togetherness as your people as we say The 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

StF 409  Let us build a house where love can dwell

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.

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:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

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:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

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:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us 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:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen (Singing the Faith 409)

We share The Grace

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all, evermore.