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 5th Sunday after Epiphany.
Call to Worship
God has invited us to come.
So we gather.
God has spoken to the world.
So we listen.
God has given us glimpses of grace and mercy.
So we wait, longing for healing, eager for hope.
Hymn 103 – Fill your hearts with joy and gladness (1,4)
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Creator God, Source of all life,in you all creatures are connectedand all creation redeemed and made new.Day by day you make yourself known to your people.In the beauty of the heavens we see your glory.In the bounty of the earth we know your generosity.In strength for our bodies and minds we experience your energy.Delighting in all that we have seen, and heard, we worship you, one God, Creator, Christ, and Spirit.
Holy One, along with our praise, we offer you our confession.We have sinned against you and our neighbour in thought, word and deed.
Consumed by anxiety, we forget to trust you.Discouragement seeps into our hearts in the cold of winter and we do not serve you with eagerness.Forgive us.Renew our energy for your purposes.Raise us up on wings of faith.May we walk by your light and not grow weary.May we run and not faint.In Jesus’ name we pray,
To all who humbly seek the mercy of God.
in Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven.
Be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.
Readings – Isaiah 40:21–31
Hymn 162 – The God of Abraham praise (1,3,5)
Ever living God, our Creator and Redeemer, you love us and know us better than we know ourselves. With a word you created all things and so we pray as those whose hope is in the Lord, that you will renew our strength. Help us to soar on wings like eagles; to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint. Amen
Captain Sir Tom Moore died this week at the age of 100. At an age where he was entitled to sit back and rest, he suddenly shot to fame last Spring, when he started to raise money for the NHS by slowly walking round his garden each day. He raised a colossal sum, but far more than that, raised the spirits of the nation. At a time when so many were down and tired and confused by the pandemic, he was an inspiration, and he was knighted for his efforts. There were others: one lady in a care home played the piano each day for charity, but somehow it was Captain Tom Moore who inspired and helped a lot of people to face the future with hope.
The Israelites didn’t have Covid to face: they had exile. They had been transported away from their home in Jerusalem to Babylon, and faced with years, decades in another country, another culture with temples to alien gods all around them, and they had grown tired and discouraged. The prophet Isaiah was one who inspired them. He encouraged them to rise above their troubles with the picture he painted of God. In fact, it was a gigantic canvas, for this God was huge, cosmic, universal; the maker of heaven and earth, the God who was in control of everything. Yet also a God who still cared for his people. And in the final few verses, the prophet reassures the people that God would revitalise the weary, that even though the young may falter and faint, ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength and rise up with wings as eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint’. The Israelites in their long exile were given hope and inspiration.
Earlier this week, I listened to a lecture on Zoom by John McCarthy. I don’t know whether that name means anything to you, but he was a young journalist sent to Beirut in 1986, and he had only been there a couple of months when he was kidnapped by a Palestinian group. It made headlines, as Terry Waite, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy, was kidnapped at the same time. He was held hostage for over five years, during which time his mother died. It was like the Israelites in exile; he must have been so discouraged. He would somehow have to motivate himself to get through the days. How do you survive an experience like that? Well, he did. He wrote books, he presented programmes on radio and television and he returned to the Middle East and especially to Palestine. He rose above his dreadful experience and has been able to inspire people.
We have been reading the first chapter of Mark’s gospel over the last few weeks, and in today’s passage we are not given the big canvas as in Isaiah 40, but rather 4 little vignettes, 4 snapshots of how Jesus brought hope to a dispirited people. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever, which is interesting because it shows at least some of the disciples were married. Jesus healed her, and immediately word got out and by sunset people were at the door, wanting to be healed, wanting peace and hope in their lives. Jesus could have stayed in Capernaum and had a successful ministry, but his message was not for one town alone, but for all people, and so he forewent the allure of popularity and went round Galilee bringing hope and healing.
We are living through difficult times, when we can feel lethargic in body and spirit, but like the exiles in Babylon and the people of the Galilee, hope is there for us, and as the snowdrops break through the earth, so we wait for and trust in God, and truly Spring will come.
Hymn SGP 72 – Lord Jesus Christ (1,4)
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Intercession
Jesus touched so many lives in so many different ways. We ask that these gifts will touch many lives, too, with your healing and hope in these difficult days.
Holy and loving God,
we thank you for the story of Christ’s life among us,
a pattern for the way we live. We give you thanks for moments of quiet and contemplation that restore us.
Teach us to trust in your strength,
so that we can live with confidence and courage
even in the midst of stress and anxiety during these difficult pandemic days.
God of love,
you give power to the faint and strength to the powerless. Many of us are exhausted,
juggling with school at the kitchen table,
responding to demands of work or family life
or dealing with isolation, joblessness and fear. Renew us, we pray.
We pray for all church leaders.
Encourage and strengthen them in their work, and
give us all fresh vision for the future of church
and renew our Imagination, creativity and wisdom.
God of love,
you restore what is broken and you bring together what has been split apart. Today we pray for Myanmar in the aftermath of a military coup.
We ask for peace in a dangerous and fragile situation,
where streets are once again full of fear. We pray that peace and prosperity will begin to flourish in all places facing war, famine, and disaster…
God of all creation, you restore the face of the earth:
stir us up to action to protect our planet.
May our feet tread lightly on the earth
and our actions and priorities bring healing to our battered world.
God of love,
you heal the broken hearted and you gather in all who are lost.
We pray for all who are mourning the loss of family members or friends. We place before you all who are suffering in mind or body…
asking for peace, and for your healing presence in their need.
Send your blessing on all who are afraid or alone or hungry, on those whose lives are being destroyed by abuse or violence and on all for whom home is not a safe place. Amen
Hymn 694 – Brother, sister, let me serve you (1,2,3)
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you,
And be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
And the blessing of God Almighty, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Be among you and remain with you, Now and forever more. Amen