Good morning, Cheviot Churches! This is Colin, and I hope everyone is well and safe. We have our service for the 6th Sunday of Easter, and today we focus on the Spirit being our advocate, the one to stand beside us in all the twists and turns of life.
Call to Worship
Let us see you this day, O God,
Come to us as light.
Let us hear you this day, O God,
Come to us as truth.
Let us sense your presence, O God,
Come to us as love.
Come and let us worship, God.
We will rejoice in God, our Saviour.
Hymn 97 -O God, you search me and you know me. A paraphrase of Psalm 139 (vv1,2,5)
Creator, Christ and Spirit;
how awesome is your love, O God.
In you, we live and move and have our being.
In you, we find our beginning and our end.
In you, we find a judge who is kind and gracious.
We know you as Saviour, keeping watch over all your
people, calling us to walk in paths of justice and
peace, leading us away from trouble, toward the
hope you promise.
Here we offer you our praise and worship,
seeking to serve you in gratitude each and every day.
Creator, Christ and Spirit,
We also offer you our confession so that we might renew our faithfulness to you.
We have claimed to be wise when we were ignorant.
We have sought after things of little value,
and valued little the things of great worth.
We have failed to speak out for you.
Forgive us our foolishness.
Renew us by your mercy.
Restore within us a right spirit and guide us in your ways of wisdom.
Friends, believe the good news of the gospel. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and set free by God’s generous grace.
Readings: Acts 17: 22-31
John 14: 15-21
Hymn 691 – Be still my soul (vv1,4)
Here is our weekly prayer from Arthur and Kathleen:
God of heaven and earth, companion in life, Spirit of truth, to you alone we turn our eyes and lift our hearts. We thank you that because you live we will live also. Help us to be always prepared to give the reason for the hope that we have in you, to keep your commandments and to love one another as you love us. Amen
Over the last few weeks, I have been looking out into my garden and have noticed occasionally pheasants appearing, which has been very nice. Yesterday I looked out my window and did a double take. A mother pheasant was there with some chicks. I grabbed my phone and rushed outside to take a picture, but they ran away. Today – they are back, and I think they have taken up residence in my garden. I have now counted thirteen chicks, which seems an awful lot, but the mother is very protective of them. It is always wonderful to see the care nature takes of their young. No social distancing here. Of course, it is a good excuse for me not to cut the grass, in case I scare them!
One of the very difficult things that many of us are going through just now is not being able to see family far away and being able to give loved ones a hug. Zoom, Skype, social media, the telephone have been godsends and have given us the chance to speak to loved ones. But it is not the same. We feel very much at a distance.
We have been reading from John’s Gospel these last few weeks, and the setting is the Thursday of Holy Week; Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure. He has warned them that he would be betrayed and handed over to the authorities; he is trying to prepare them for the fact that he wouldn’t be with them. In the heightened tension of that time (his death on the cross was only 24 hours away), this news would have devastated the disciples. But despite all he himself was going through, the struggles within himself that would be seen as he prayed for the cup to be taken from him at Gethsemane, Jesus thinks about his friends and makes a promise to them.
He promises that he will not leave them alone, that he will not abandon them. In fact, he says ‘I will not leave you orphaned’. What does ‘orphaned’ mean to you. It might be something very personal for some of us, others might think of Dickens and Oliver Twist or Pip in Great Expectations. I tend to think of those orphaned by AIDS in Africa in another pandemic, very different but with some similarities to the one we are experiencing today. To be an orphan meant losing parents, but also losing a whole way of living and being left vulnerable and alone.
Jesus said to the disciples that he wouldn’t leave them alone and forgotten, but would send an Advocate to be with them, and that of course was the Holy Spirit.
When we hear the word ‘Advocate’, we think of it in the legal sense, but it is someone who stands up for you when you need it, who speak up on your behalf, who lends a helping hand, takes your side and won’t leave you when you are down, who stands by our side. The disciples needed to hear this promise, that in the trials and tribulations that they would face in their lives, that they would not be alone, but would have the Spirit to support and encourage them. Jesus would be with them – through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus continues to make that promise today – not to leave us orphaned or alone, you are not forgotten.
To those who have lost loved ones or miss loved one, You are not alone, you are not forgotten
To the person whose career is falling apart and who doesn’t know how bills will be paid, You are not alone, you are not forgotten
To parents with handicapped children, wondering how they will adapt to school again after this absence, You are not alone, you are not forgotten
To those of us in isolation, trying to cope day by day, You are not alone, you are not forgotten
To refugees or persecuted Christians, you are not alone, you are not forgotten.
We don’t have to face anything alone; the Advocate is with us. And that also propels us to be ‘as Christ’ to the people around, and be willing to stand up for and to stand alongside and lend a helping hand to the vulnerable and the marginalised in our society. Amen
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
We thank you for calling us into a relationship with you, and setting us in the world you love. Through our prayers, we bring to you our doubts and fears, our joys and our concerns, and our deepest longings for your world.
We pray for our family and friends, those far away and those close by, any who are estranged from us and those whom we depend upon daily. Where our relationships are strained, bring understanding and new possibility. Bless and protect relationships that are joyful and life-giving.
We pray for those in government and all who serve the public good day by day. Guide each one to uphold standards of good service above personal gain. Where they experience tension between their faith and their public roles, give them wisdom to make faithful decisions and courage when those decisions are unpopular. We thank you for journalists holding officials to account.
We pray for the people we encounter every day, both those who are shining lights in our communities and those whose lights have yet to be discovered. Help us be respectful of every neighbour, and treat each person we meet with kindness. We think of fellow Christians, especially those who live in a minority situation and can face levels of discrimination. And we also think of those from other faiths or cultures living in our midst whom we sometimes treat differently. Especially at this time we remember our Muslim friends at Ramadan.
We pray for those who are suffering from illness or chronic conditions, for those in grief or loneliness, and for any who feel frustrated or overwhelmed by what they face. Move in their lives with your healing grace and show them signs of your presence and compassion in life-giving ways.
Hymn 470 (vv1,2,4) – Jesus shall reign
Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and may the blessing of God, the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you and those whom you love, wherever they may be. Now and forevermore, Amen