We come, those who are at peace
and those who are discomforted.
We come together to worship God,
all of us, all loved, all called,
all forgiven, for all our hope is in God.
Hymn 184 – Sing to the Lord
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of earthquake, wind, and fire,
God of healing touch and uniting love,
God of our ancestors, neighbours, and grandchildren,
God of deafening silence and quiet harmonies –
We are drawn by Your Spirit
calling out to our own souls,
for You are the source of all life,
the home to which we will return.
In You we find strength and comfort,
safety and courage.
May all that is in us, praise You, O God!
As we come to You in worship, Eternal One,
we gaze upon You and become aware of our lack of holiness. We become conscious of the times when our lives have reflected malice and guile instead of kindness and grace;
insincerity and envy, instead of honesty and sharing;
slander and quarrelling, instead of love and peace;
Give us time to change O God,
time to see ourselves as we really are – beautiful yet in need of work; living stones yet in need of polishing.
God forgave the quarrelsome disobedient pilgrim people; the Lord Jesus forgave those who hardened their hearts; so God forgives us, and gives us the grace to change our lives.
Readings: 1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15
Hymn 609 – Come living God (1,2,3,6)
Heavenly Father, help us be still so that we can hear your gentle whisper as we come again into your Holy presence. We thank you for the Good News we have been given; help us to remember that is not just for us, but to pass on to the rest of the world. Amen.
St Andrew’s Church is in the middle of Cairo. It is on a busy road junction and is surrounded by noise. There are buses opposite dropping off people, picking them up. Yet go through the gates into the church compound and you enter a place of greenery and some kind of peace. It is still busy, because it is the centre of StARS, a ministry to refugees, providing help, education, legal services and psycho-social care to the many refugees who find themselves in Cairo. Many had made long and dangerous journeys to reach Cairo, hoping that somehow they could be resettled somewhere safe. Many of the refugees are young, sometimes just teenagers, and had left family behind. All the thousands who access help from the programme had left homelands because of oppression or war; because they were afraid. All of them are dealing with traumas. In Cairo there were people on the lookout wanting to abuse refugees in some way, but there was also a discrimination. At St Andrew’s Church, the refugees felt that they were in a safe place, even though most would be Muslim. Entering through the gates made such a difference. There they would be accepted and valued for who they were. There they were safe.
We read today of two people who needed to feel safe. Nowadays we hear a lot about mental health issues. A lot of people struggle, but at least today we are more ready to talk about mental health and the stresses and strains of life. In the Old Testament we read about Elijah. Elijah was one of the greatest of the prophets. On the Mount of Transfiguration he is there with Moses. He had been faithful to God and had fought the priests of Baal singlehanded, but it all took its toll. Jezebel, the Queen, was determined to kill him. He had confronted Jezebel so many times, but now, he just wanted to run. He fled from her and began to doubt himself and all he had worked for. He basically had a breakdown. He was completely burned out. He had collapsed on the ground, but there he was provided with food and water. He was looked after, and then he had his vision of God’s presence on the mountain, not in the earthquake or wind, but in the still small voice. That was what he needed. He had been traumatised by his dealings with Jezebel, but now he was in a safe place and was being looked after: he could continue with his work now, which was to appoint a successor.
In the Gospels, Jesus had crossed the Sea of Galilee to the other side, and that was Gentile territory, belonging to the town of Gerasa. But he immediately encounters a naked man in the graveyard. The local townspeople could not cope with him; he was violent and had thrown off his clothes and had perhaps self-damaged, because he had needed to be restrained, and he lived now among the tombs. He was disturbed and nowadays we might see him as paranoid schizophrenic. Then, people said he was possessed by demons. Jesus came and saw a person who was suffering, a person in need of help. He cast out the demons, and the man comes to his right mind. It is a story that can make us uneasy, especially if we like pigs, but a story about a violently disturbed man who finds some peace. It is interesting that the townspeople also feel uneasy, maybe because they had lost a herd of pigs, maybe because they have had to confront their own fears, and they ask Jesus to leave. But the man stays there, and we hope that he would be accepted back into the community.
We need to feel safe. Today is Safeguarding Sunday, and safeguarding is about making sure that the church is a safe place for all the people who come through our doors. We believe that everyone is precious to God and loved by God; that is one of the basic tenets of our faith. We have to ensure that people don’t come to any harm, be it physical or emotional or sexual abuse.
We have to create an atmosphere where all are valued and welcomed and can feel something of the peace of God.
Hymn SGP 102 – The Spirit lives (1,2,5,6)
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Loving God, accept the gifts we offer you, today and every day. Put our time, our talents and our treasure to good use wherever they are needed, for the sake of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Eternal defender and protector of the weak,
we give thanks for Your universal love,
which sees beyond our human labels and divisions,
rejoicing even more in Your preference for the outcast and oppressed.
We give thanks for the shelter and protection of our homes;
we pray for all people who are homeless, for whatever reason, including refugees and victims of trafficking: may they know Your love and protection.
We give thanks for the range and quality of food around us;
we pray for each person who is hungry, whether they be across the world or on our doorsteps:
may Your love be shown in practical ways.
We give thanks for easy access to clean water;
we pray for all who are parched with thirst,
especially where the decision is dirty water or none:
may Your love be shown in practical ways.
We give thanks for the relative peace and security we enjoy:
we pray for all places of war and violence,
whether the aggressor be in the home or another nation: may Your peace be known in our time.
We give thanks for all the bits of our life that bring us joy and contentment;
we pray for the broken-hearted, bereaved, and lonely, and for all who have lost faith or purpose in life: may Your peace be known in their hearts.
Healing, liberating, transforming God,
in amongst our shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
may we hear Your still whisper in the midst of pain and suffering,
and may we respond with courageous tenderness
to the needs around us,
as we follow the example of Christ Jesus, our teacher and Lord.
O God, we thank you
for those we have known who have died.
May we never forget them
but continue to honour them with our living.
And may we, with them, find our eternal rest in you.
Hymn 594 – Come, Holy Spirit, come (1,3,6)
Go in peace to love and serve God;
And the blessing of God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you today and always, Amen
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