Fifth Sunday of Easter

SUNDAY 10 MAY 2020

Welcome
Good morning to you all and welcome to this time of worship. As I write, it scarcely seems like any time since I prepared our service for last week.
After the lockdown of several weeks – it is heartening to hear in the news bulletins that there are now signs which demonstrate that the various restrictions currently in force are having a positive effect and the thoughts of scientists, researchers and politicians are turning to how the restrictions might be gently and effectively eased, without causing resurgence of the Coronavirus.
In the weeks yet to come – we must continue to be patient and I hope that the general them of this service – which is about trust – is of encouragement and support to you.

Call to Worship
I wait for the Lord
my soul waits and in his word I hope
My soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning
more than those who watch for the morning
(Psalm 130 : verses 5 & 6)

Let us worship God

Praise
Psalm 31 is prescribed in the Lectionary for today and it is entitled “A Prayer of Trust in God”. Our first hymn is based on parts of that Psalm and to find accompaniment for the hymn, I have had to use a version where some of the words are in a slightly older style of language than modern translations. The words of 6 verses are printed below and they are also shown on the video behind the music. Some older hymnbooks have a final verse (not included on the video) – the words of which I think are valuable and so I have shown them in a different typeface
We worship God as we share in our first hymn : “Put thou thy trust in God”

Put thou thy trust in God – in duty’s path go on
walk in his strength with faith and hope – so shall thy work be done

Commit thy ways to him – thy work into his hands
and rest on his unchanging word – who heav’n and earth commands

Though years and years roll on – his cov’nant shall endure
though clouds and darkness hide his path – his promised grace is sure

Give to the winds thy fears: hope and be undismayed
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears – God shall lift up thy head

Through waves and clouds and storms – he gently clears thy way
Wait thou his time; so shall this night – soon end in joyous day

Leave to his sovereign sway – to choose and to command
So shalt thou, wondering, own his way – how wise – how strong his hand

Let us in life, in death – thy steadfast truth declare
and publish with our latest breath – thy love and guardian care

Prayers of Approach & Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray

Eternal and ever loving God
from the very moment you formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils
you have been faithful to your people
constant in your love
working throughout history
calling and leading your people
speaking your Word through Scripture, prophet and preacher
honouring your promises through Christ and so – as we offer our praise and adoration
it is with confidence that we put our trust in you
as we confess that “you are my God and my times are in your hands”

Heavenly Father
having just uttered these words of commitment
we feel the uncomfortable jag of conscience – the sense of unease and guilt
as we remember that at times
our faith can be faltering
our commitment can be weak
our witness can be hesitant
our attitudes and actions can be more worldly than Christ-like

Merciful God
we admit our frailty and confess that we fall short of all that you call us to be
in fact – the reality is that we fall short not only of what you call us to be
but also of what you enable and empower us to be
as on our journey of faith – we give into the temptation to wander where we will
and not stay on the path along which you lead us

Lord – we ask for your forgiveness – and we do so
asking not only for forgiveness which gives us an immediate sense of relief and comfort
but for transforming forgiveness through which we trust that
we are cleansed and made new
the past is put behind us
and the future which awaits us is full of opportunity to begin again

These prayers we bring in Jesus’ name and we continue to pray in his words – as we say

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 debts : as we forgive our debtors
and lead us not into temptation : but deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory : for ever.
AMEN

Scripture Reading: John 14 : verses 1 to 14 (English Standard Version)

1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.

AMEN

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Praise
In our Scripture reading Jesus tells of a house with many rooms – a house prepared for us and to which he will take us – a house not in this world – but in the next.
Before that time – we are reminded by Peter in his first letter (1 Peter 2 : verses 4 & 5) that we are called to “let ourselves be built into a spiritual house”- secured on the living cornerstone of Christ

So – let us reflect on that in the words of our next hymn: “Let us build a house”

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

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

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

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

REFLECTION
Since we last shared worship in our “virtual congregation” – I conducted a funeral service, during which I sought to bring comfort, hope and peace to the grieving family, as I shared with them some of the very familiar words which are contained within today’s Gospel reading

1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

These words speak about “life after death” and they are full of promise and assurance – they are rich with hope and comfort — and as such there is very good reason why they are frequently used at funeral services – when people face the reality of the death of a loved one. Indeed – it will be the case for many people that the only time they hear these words is when they attend a funeral service.

However – as we read further on beyond the opening verses of this passage from John’s Gospel – we come to see that it is not only about “life after death” – but it is very much about our lives in the here and now – it is about putting our trust in God and in the presence of the Risen Jesus as he lives within us.

These words of Jesus came from the time only hours before his trial and crucifixion – when he shared bread and wine with his disciples at what we remember as the Last Supper – when
he washed his disciples’ feet
he predicted the treachery and betrayal of Judas
he spoke to Peter of his forthcoming denial
he told his disciples that he was leaving them to go to a place where they could not yet go
he told them that if they believed in him – they would do greater works than he did.

The disciples couldn’t take this all in and it was Thomas and Philip who verbalised their lack of understanding – their confusion – their desire to understand the underlying meaning of what Jesus was saying to them.

And in the midst of any confusion and limited understanding in our circumstances or lives – don’t we seek to have clarity and clearer understanding?
In the midst of these weeks of the viral pandemic and all the challenges which it brings to people individually and to their families – to economies – to nations – strident efforts are made daily to provide relevant and understandable information – but yet – people still seek to know details or plans beyond what is known

Politicians speak about developing roadmaps of how to get to the place where the virus will be beaten and our nation and the world will be free of its devastating effects and free of the lock-down restrictions

In response to Jesus saying that he was going to prepare a place for them — Thomas effectively asked Jesus for a roadmap of how to get there and when Jesus said that he was “the way” – Philip weighed in and asked for tangible proof – he asked Jesus to show him the Father. The reply which Philip got was that whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father. Jesus said that the evidence which Philip was seeking was there before his eyes – and it lay in belief and trust
“believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me”.

Jesus says that if we can’t believe that – simply for the assurance that it is – then we should look to the evidence of the kind of works which he himself was able to do – because he and God were one. Such works were the miracles he performed of healing – of feeding – of releasing from the bondage of rejection – of raising to life.

And he promised that if his disciples truly believe in him – we will be able to do similar or greater works – not necessarily miracles such as Jesus did – but works of healing – of reconciliation – of bringing hope and comfort – of walking with others through their times of challenge and trial
In other words – to do the work to which he calls us and for which he equips us.

But the key to accomplishing such work – the key to our hearts not being troubled in the face of the adversities and challenges of this life – is to “believe in God and to believe in Jesus.
As the well loved old hymn says
“Trust and obey – for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus – but to trust and obey”

AMEN

Prayers of Thanksgiving and for Others

Let us pray

Heavenly Father
on this special weekend of remembrance for the 75th anniversary of the “Victory in Europe” day
we bring our thanks for the selfless and courageous service and sacrifice of those who brought peace to Europe – and for the good example they have given us.
we bring our thanks for – and seek your continued blessing on all who work to achieve and maintain peace and liberty throughout the world
for the military and civilian forces of this and other nations who seek to ensure peace is secured and maintained – and for all who strive to bring an end to injustice and oppression
at the beginning of this week when annually we focus on the work of Christian Aid
we bring our thanks for all that is achieved to support the poorest people around the world in ways which are life changing and life enhancing for them
we bring our thanks for all the goodwill which there is towards the work of Christian Aid and as a result the amounts of money which is raised in innovative ways and also in well tried and tested ways – to fund this valuable work

we pray for the ongoing work of this and every charity as they seek to fulfil their objectives and to do so in the face of completing demands and challenging funding positions

at this time of ongoing restriction due to the coronavirus pandemic
we bring our thanks for the continuing work of research into prevention, identification and cure
we bring our thanks for all the medical and nursing care given to people in need
we thank you for the unstinting commitment of those who work to care for others – in hospitals and care-homes – in community settings
we thank you for the recovery of many people through the expert and loving care which they have been given
we thank you for all the people whose work is in maintaining the running of the nation – through decision making
through the ongoing provision of services and effective logistical arrangements across the country
through voluntary and community activities

we continue to pray for every effort and good work to conquer this virus and to overcome its effects
we continue to pray for healing for the people who are ill with the virus – and for them and for those who love and cherish them – for all of them we continue to pray for the comfort of your peace and the strength of your presence

At this time of uncertainty and challenge for the church
a time which we can now see – not in the context of doom and despair
but in the context of leading towards renewal and new opportunities
as your Spirit is working amongst and within us – prompting – leading – challenging and empowering
and as we pray for the work of the church’s mission in the world
take us back to the words of our previous hymn
and help us to build a house – a church and a world
which truly reflect the desires expressed in that hymn

Lord our gracious God – in and through the name of Jesus and from the depths of our hearts – e bring these and our most personal prayers
and lay and leave them before you – at your Throne of Grace

AMEN


Praise
Our closing hymn is one of praise and assurance as it echoes the thoughts of our first hymn
Please join the singers in the hymn we know as: “Trust and obey”

When we walk with the Lord – in the light of His Word,
what a glory He sheds on our way;
while we do His good will – He abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey
Trust and obey – for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus – but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise – not a cloud in the skies,
but His smile quickly drives it away;
not a doubt or a fear – not a sigh or a tear,
can abide while we trust and obey
Trust and obey …….

Not a burden we bear – not a sorrow we share,
but our toil He doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss – not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.
Trust and obey …….

But we never can prove – the delights of His love,
until all on the altar we lay;
for the favour He shows – and the joy He bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey
Trust and obey …….

Then in fellowship sweet – we will sit at His feet,
or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
what He says we will do – where He sends, we will go,
never fear – only trust and obey.
Trust and obey …….

Blessing

Look forward in faith – all time is in God’s hand
walk humbly with him – and trust his future plan
and may the blessing of Almighty God
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be with us all – and with all for whom we have prayed
whether they be in this world or in the next
now and always

AMEN