The Lord be with you! Welcome, Cheviot churches and also those joining us from elsewhere. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well and keeping safe. Come, people of God, let us worship together on this 4th Sunday after Epiphany.
Call to Worship
God’s praise endures forever,
and eternity meets us in fleeting moments.
God’s praise endures forever,
and glory bursts into the ordinary
God’s praise endures forever,
and faith is steadfast even in the midst of change and challenge.
Hymn 112 – God whose almighty word (1,2,4)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Loving God, you are the wisdom behind all mystery,the glory hidden in all that makes us wonder,the strength in all that nourishes.When our eyes are open and our spirits alert,we experience your glory around us.Scattered throughout the earth,smouldering deep inside us,radiating in acts of love,sparks of your glory reside.Deep is our joy each time we encounter you.So we gather in worship to express our reverence and praise. Together we celebrate the good we have experienced, knowing it all comes from your hand.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(From Litany of Reconciliation Coventry Cathedral)
Readings – Deuteronomy 18:15–20
Mark 1: 21-28
Hymn 74 – Not to us be glory given (Psalm 115)
Lord God we pray for ourselves as we start the week ahead. We ask that in all we do, we may walk more closely with you at our side, safe in the knowledge that your Fatherly love and care knows no bounds. We too stand amazed at your teachings, and pray that we will cherish your words in our hearts. Amen
When I was working in Israel, a new hotel was being built up the road, just on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at Migdal, where Mary Magdalene came from. Buildings had started to take shape – and then everything stopped. They had discovered ruins, and so it became an archaeological site. For several years the hotel was put on hold, no doubt to the annoyance of the developers, as the ruins of a whole town was uncovered, and in the middle was a 1st Century synagogue.
It was so exciting to be in a place where Jesus had in all probability worshipped and even taught. While the Gospels don’t mention Jesus preaching in Migdal – or Magdala as it was called then, but they do mention him leading the worship at Capernaum just round the coast. He had just called the disciples; it was Sabbath, so they went to the synagogue. Jesus seemed to be known, and he was asked to preach. For the worshippers, it was just any other Sabbath; they went along, expecting to pray and hear Scriptures read and someone expounding them. But they would also meet friends, chat about the price of fish or who was new in the area. They didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary to happen. Little did they know! It is like us, coming to church week after week and expecting everything to be the same as usual. Maybe our worship can be a little tame.
Two things happened in Capernaum. Firstly, the young man interpreting the Scriptures spoke with such authority. They couldn’t daydream or let their minds drift to what’s for dinner. He was offering something new; the Scripture came alive when he spoke.
But the other thing that happened was that a man in the congregation started to shout out. Well, people just didn’t know where to look. How embarrassing.
Mark tells us it was evil spirits, calling out Jesus, challenging Jesus, trying to get the upper hand over him. But Jesus confronted the spirits and spoke with authority, telling them to leave the man. And they did. It was the first healing.
It may seem strange to us, something which happened 2000 years ago in Palestine, but not here in the Borders, not today. But think again. Jesus was confronting evil, and there is much that is bad, there is much that is evil in our society and in our world, all of which is opposed to God’s dream of what the world should be.
In Scotland drug abuse causes so much suffering, and numbers are rising to the extent that we are number 1 in Europe. We need to confront it. We can talk about the evils of war and genocide, discrimination and racism; we need to confront them. But we must also think environmental damage and climate change, which has to be uppermost in our minds as we approach Cop 26 in Glasgow at the end of the year. And in a week that recorded the 100,000th death from Covid, we need to confront the various conspiracy theories floating around.
There is so much seeking to undermine us; let us put our trust in the one who spoke with authority and liberates and heals the broken. Let us challenge the evils in our society in the small ways we can and speak ever of God’s love. In the words of Amanda Gorman, who spoke so meaningfully at Joe Biden’s inauguration: ‘For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it’.
Hymn 782 – Lord of life
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Lord Jesus, we bring our gifts to you, asking that you bless them so that they may accomplish more than we can ask or imagine in your name.
We thank you for the simple pleasures of each day,
and for the strength to meet the challenges that arise. When it feels like we have come to the end of our own resources, replenish us with the energy of your Spirit, so that we know you are there for us and with us.
In these strange times of isolation and distancing,
we are grateful for prayer in its many forms,
for the intimate ways we can find communion with you: in word and in silence, in music and movement,
in the Spirit’s breath within us.
We pray for those who feel overwhelmed
by the additional pressures of home schooling,
for those whose relationships are at breaking point.
We pray too for those whose lives are blighted by anxiety and stress.
We pray for the health services and charities trying to support them.
Hear us now as we pray for the earth,
this precious and fragile home to all living things:
For declining species of plant and animal life,
For the earth’s climate,
For the oceans and the rainforests.
Teach us how to be more faithful stewards of your earth and live more respectfully in your creation.
We pray for our own circle of family and friends.
Heal, bless, lead and encourage them.
We pray this week, when the figure of deaths has reached 100,000, for all who have lost loved ones to Covid.
Remind us that we belong to each other and to you
and help us respond to one another with compassion and kindness.
Finally, in silence, we pray for all those on our hearts
and for all those who have no one to name them in prayer. Amen
Hymn 360 – Jesus Christ is waiting (1,3,5)
The blessing of God be upon you,
the One who loves us,
the Christ who calls us,
the Spirit who sends us into the world,
today and always. Amen.