Sixth Sunday of Easter

SUNDAY 17 MAY 2020 

Welcome

Dear friends

Welcome to this time of worship – which I hope will be a special time for each of us 

when we can set aside much of the routine of daily life

when we can be still and be aware of the presence of our God 

Call to Worship

Alone – not in the usual company of other people        

            but you are always with us Lord

Waiting – through times of emptiness

            but into these spaces Lord – you pour hope and promise

Concerned – for others and for ourselves

            but knowing that you hold us all secure in your love and peace

 Fearful — unsure of what might come to be

            but Lord – you assure us of your continuing presence  – in and through all things      

Confident and believing

            we worship the living God

Praise

Our first hymn today may very well be one which you have known since Sunday School days – a timeless hymn : “Tell me the old, old story”

Tell me the old, old story – of unseen things above,

of Jesus and His glory – of Jesus and His love;

tell me the story simply – as to a little child,

for I am weak and weary and helpless and defiled.

Tell me the old, old story – tell me the old, old story,

tell me the old, old story – of Jesus and His love.

Tell me the story slowly – that I may take it in

that wonderful redemption – God’s remedy for sin;

tell me the story often – for I forget so soon,

the “early dew” of morning has passed away at noon.

            Tell me the old, old story ……..

Tell me the story softly – with earnest tones and grave;

remember I’m the sinner – whom Jesus came to save;

tell me the story always – if you would really be,

in any time of trouble – a comforter to me.

            Tell me the old, old story ……..

Tell me the same old story – when you have cause to fear

that this world’s empty glory  – is costing me too dear;

and when the Lord’s bright glory – is dawning on my soul,

tell me the old, old story : “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”

            Tell me the old, old story ……..

Prayers of Approach & Lord’s Prayer 

Let us pray

Lord of all

            in this time of worship 

                        we step away from doing other things

                        we change our focus from what is always temporary – to what is truly lasting

                        we move our thoughts from what is immediate – towards that which is eternal

                        we leave the noise of the world – and find rest in the quiet of your peace

                        we block out the bombardment of minute by minute updates on current news – so that we might reflect on the old, old story – the story of Jesus and his love – the story which is the Good News

Father God

                        although in these days your people cannot go to and congregate in the sanctuary

                                    to share in worship 

                                    to sing their praises            

                                    to offer communal prayer and

                                    to hear your Word read and preached

                        we believe that wherever and whenever we worship in spirit and in truth  

                                    the praise of our hearts will join with the praise of those in heaven

                                    the prayers we offer to you will be heard

                        you will speak to us through the words of Scripture – through the messages and insights brought to us by others – and by that still small voice of calm, deep within our souls

And so – even as and where we are

            we come to you Lord God – with joy

            as with all the earth – we worship you

            singing praises to your name

            knowing that you will not reject our prayer

            or remove your steadfast love from us

Gracious God

            there are times – and many of them –      when in reality

            somehow we don’t quite match up to the standards by which we should live  

                        we allow the baggage of life to overshadow our focus on worship

                                    we allow our thoughts to drift – and we miss the treasures which are laid before us

                                    we forget that the life which Jesus announced and has won for us – has a dimension far beyond our current experience

                                    we can even appear to be different people – the one at worship being different from the one we are – when we forget that all our living should bring glory, honour and praise to you

                        we pray that you would not reject us or send us away from you 

                        but that you would forgive us  – remake and renew us

                        to fully be the disciples of your calling and the apostles of Christ’s mission 

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

Our Scripture reading is from The Acts of the Apostles : chapter 17  : verses 16 to 34.

The passage begins by saying that “Paul was waiting for them in Athens” – it was Silas and Timothy for whom Paul was waiting, as they had stayed on in Beroea. 

To set today’s verses in context, I would encourage you to read Chapter 17 as a whole.

REFLECTION

The story of the Acts of the Apostles is so rich and it offers such a wide variety of encouragement and challenge. 

Chapter 17 is no exception and my aim is to highlight a few of these challenges and simply leave them with you – to ponder – to think about what they might mean for us in our society and times – both of which are so different from those of the Biblical days.

Perhaps we might also use this chapter as a focus of our thinking and worship at some future time when we are able to meet in person – back in the church building.

I will identify a verse by number and then pose something for your thoughts

VERSE NUMBERSOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
16 then 22 & 23Paul was distressed to see the city of Athens full of idols.  What idols are there in our world and in our lives which divert us away from God ?
18Do people understand what we say when we speak about faith and belief in God and Jesus ?  Is our use of “churchy language” an obstacle to the understanding of other people ? In what ways could we communicate more directly and effectively ?
19 & 20Paul was asked about the meaning of his teaching – strange as it seemed to be.  Is there a thirst for such understanding in our society ?  If so – would we have the confidence to answer this challenge – and how would we do it ?
27 & 28Searching for God – in what ways do we find God to be near us ? In what ways can we help other people to find God in their search for meaning and purpose ?

Prayers of Thanksgiving and for Others

Let us pray

Loving God

            there is so much in our lives for which we should be thankful

            for the many blessings of each new day – blessings which we should count and treasure

            thank you for what Jesus has done – that he came among us – lived our life and gave his life on a Cross and that by his resurrection – he has ensured for us life in all its fullness – both in this earthly life and in the life everlasting

            thank you for your Spirit  – constantly at work in our lives to bless, to strengthen, to guide and to call us – to follow the teaching and in the footsteps of our Lord and Saviour

            thank you for the progress which has been made in the fight against Covid-19

                        for people restored to health

                        for advances in science

                        for dedicated and sacrificial service in so many ways

                        for compassionate and loving care – freely given and graciously accepted

                        for tremendous efforts and outstanding success in fund raising

Lord – we thank you

Heavenly Father

            we pray for your continued blessing on the success of all of this work – in the wideness of its variety

            we pray for your continued blessing on all the people involved in it – in whatever capacity – be it high profile and public – or be it almost unseen  — but certainly most necessary and of great value

            we pray for all works of charity and compassion – especially this week at the end of their annual allocated week of focus – we give thanks and pray for the ongoing work for Christian Aid

            we pray too for the work of your Church – and particularly this incoming week when the Church of Scotland should be meeting in General Assembly – we pray for the incoming Moderator  – the Reverend Dr Martin Fair as he is admitted to office and as he and his wife carry out the duties of that high office.

            we recognise that there is a need for some decision mechanisms to be at work – and we pray for all that will be discussed and decided through means of technology – and for those people entrusted with that decision making 

God

            there is so much which we need to bring before you in prayer – in our world – our nation – our community – our families – and our own lives

            and so we take time – to be still and quiet 

            and to share with you the concerns which are on our hearts

            hear these and all our prayers Lord – offered in and through the name of Jesus

AMEN

Praise

We close our worship with a favourite – and hopefully appropriate hymn

All I once held dear, built my life upon – all this world reveres and wants to own

all I once thought gain, I have counted loss – spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You – there is no greater thing

You’re my all, You’re the best – You’re my joy, my righteousness

And I love You, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know You more – to be found in You and known as Yours

to possess by faith what I could not earn – all-surpassing gift of righteousness

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You – there is no greater thing

You’re my all, You’re the best – You’re my joy, my righteousness

And I love You, Lord

Blessing

May the blessing of Almighty God

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

be with us all 

and with all for whom we have prayed

now and always

AMEN