A Service for Sunday June 14th
We prepare to worship God
Oh lord, open our lips
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise
Let us worship the Lord
All praise to his name
Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now,
And shall be for ever.
Collect for the First Sunday after Trinity
O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature
we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace,
that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Hymn - I will sing the wondrous story
I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.
I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.
I was bruised, but Jesus healed me;
Faint was I from many a fall;
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,
But He freed me from them all.
Days of darkness still come o'er me,
Sorrow's paths I often tread,
But the Saviour still is with me;
By His hand I'm safely led.
He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then He'll bear me safely over,
Where the loved ones I shall meet.
Yes, I'll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.
We confess our sins to God
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.
Let the wicked abandon their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Turn back to the Lord, who will have mercy; to our God who will richly pardon.
cf Isaiah 55
A time of silence and self-examination may be kept.
Lord God, we have sinned against you;
we have done evil in your sight.
We are sorry and repent.
Have mercy on us according to your love.
Wash away our wrongdoing and cleanse us from our sin.
Renew a right spirit within us
and restore us to the joy of your salvation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
cf Psalm 51
May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from our sins, and restore us in his image
to the praise and glory of his name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed be the Lord, who has heard the voice of our prayer.
Therefore shall our hearts dance for joy and in our song will we praise our God.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Hymn - Rock of Ages
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.
The gospels record different "last words" of Jesus as he died on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" according to Matthew and Mark; "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Luke) and "It is finished" (John). He may well have wanted to say "I can't breathe", as death on the cross normally was caused by the inability to breathe when hanging by the arms for several hours. It was a humiliating and agonising death designed to put other people off doing what the victim was accused of.
This week we have been uncomfortably reminded of the power of those in authority to kill someone in a painful and humiliating way: "I can't breathe" were the words uttered by George Floyd as he lay, handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a policeman who kept his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, so that he died from asphyxiation. With the help of modern communications, this event was seen and heard around the world almost instantly, and there was a huge reaction.
My text is Romans 5:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
George Floyd had no intention of dying for others but his cruel death has become emblematic for those who suffer from racial prejudice in the USA and elsewhere, including Britain. Jesus on the other hand knew that his Father's plan would lead to his own death. He predicted it in some detail, at least three times. The disciples were horrified and uncomprehending, and when Peter protested, Jesus said to him,
Get thee behind me, Satan!
Jesus had been tempted by the Devil to take the easy route to power and success. Peter and the disciples perhaps assumed that he would lead a triumphant movement to eject the Romans and restore a godly government to Israel. Jesus knew better, and by repeating the prediction three times he made sure that the disciples would at least remember it after his death, and realise it was part of God's plan. With the resurrection appearances and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, things rapidly got moving and have not stopped. In the early centuries of Christianity, people were astonished that Christians were prepared to risk their own lives to look after victims of the plague and other diseases. St Francis is famous for embracing a leper. In so doing he was following the example of Jesus himself who touched a leper and healed him (Matt 8.3). Many doctors and other NHS workers have died from the Covid virus, knowing well the risk they ran; and many of those were motivated by their Christian faith.
The killing of George Floyd was "only" the killing of one man, and an "inferior" one in the eyes of some Americans because of his colour. And yet it has sparked huge protests against racial injustice in America and around the world. The judicial execution of Jesus was quite different: it took time for the disciples to digest the Resurrection appearances and their significance. Jesus did not have the advantages of wealth or Roman citizenship; he was a member of one of the poorest provinces of the Roman Empire. Nothing daunted, he went around the villages and worked out his destiny. He did not shy away from people in poverty, with chronic illness, or with mental illness: as he healed the people of Galilee he was also constantly communicating with his heavenly Father through prayer.
He became convinced that what God wanted him to do was to die to save his people. This conviction shaped Jesus' attitude to the Jewish religion: its leaders were corrupt and the nation had gone astray. It was hard to understand then and it is hard to understand now; but there are clues in the Bible, especially Isaiah 53, which are about the suffering of the true Israel and of a Servant. Isaiah was influenced by the language of animal sacrifice, which was universal in the ancient world, and this does not make it any easier for us today to understand how "he bore the sin of many" (Is53.12).
Christians were not defined by their beliefs about sacrifice: they were noted for their generosity, lack of prejudice, and compassion. These are all evident in the pages of the New Testament, and in the behaviour of the martyrs under Nero and other Roman emperors. I have already mentioned the care for plague victims which Christians showed; racial discrimination does not seem to have been practised in ancient Rome, where emperors and bishops could and did come from Africa. Christians did not campaign for an end to slavery, as it was a fact of life. This does not excuse Christians in the 17th and 18th centuries from condoning and profiting from the slave trade, which so enriched Bristol. The Africans, men women and children, who were branded with the letters RAC (Royal African Company - the royals were James II and Charles II). Thousands died of disease before they even got to the West Indies, and many more were pushed overboard for the sake of insurance fraud.
What can we learn from the mistakes of the past, and from the teaching and example of Jesus?
First and easier said than done, we should think about others, not ourselves.
Second, all people are of equal value. Paul wrote: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ (Gal 3.28) Victims of war in the Middle East matter as much as if they were in this country.
Thirdly, we should show love and compassion to all who are in need. Thank God for the politicians who set up free medical services and education for all after the war. How can we help those in less fortunate countries who have to pay?
And lastly, the quality which Jesus insisted on in his disciples was faith/trust/belief in God. Without this we lose our connection to God, and we lose our way. Let us never forget that God created the world and his purposes are good. We cannot see him, but we must trust him.
We declare our faith in God
We believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
He ascended into heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
And he will come to judge the living and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic Church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting.
Hymn - Amazing grace
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
'tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease:
I shall possess, within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
the sun forbear to shine;
but God, who called me here below,
will be forever mine.
We offer our prayers to God
God our Creator, you created humankind in your image, and blessed us with your love.
Help us to show that love to one another as we work for equality for all races in education, housing, public services, and employment opportunities.
Give us strength and courage to speak out against injustice, and to work for the transformation of unjust systems that keep some in bondage: that we may more fully live out your kingdom here on earth; through Jesus Christ your son, who came to set us free.
O God who created all people in your holy image, who loves the stranger, who cares for the downtrodden: walk with those who face discrimination, protect them from harm, help them see Christ in our community. Guide those who fan the fires of discrimination to open their eyes to the beauty of all your creation and respect the human dignity of all people. Open our hearts to those who face hatred and injustice because of their race, their background or their ethnicity that we might better help them belong through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord we remember before you those who are struggling in life, and feel they haven’t got enough strength inside them to cope. May they know your strength and power in their lives and know that they can do all things through you who strengthen them.
Blessed are the poor is spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We remember before you those who have lost someone very special to them, and are wandering along the dark valley of bereavement. May they know your presence with them, your hope every moment of their day and your comfort surrounding them.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
We remember before you those who give their time and effort to important causes, to fight against hunger, torture, or the exploitation of our planet. We particularly ask for your peace, wisdom, grace, justice and mercy to be guiding and present to all involved and affected by the global situation following the death of George Floyd.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.
We remember before you those who are working to make peace a reality. Help us to be an instrument of your peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers for the will be called children of God.
Lord we pray for our government and scientific advisors as they lead our country through the relaxing of social restrictions. Please give them wisdom. Help us to be sensitive and sensible in our lives and daily routine as we get used to this new normal. We continue to thank you and ask for your protection for ourselves, those we love and our country. Please help those who are struggling with the restrictions, may they know your peace, presence, hope and joy.
In Jesus name
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, as our Saviour has taught us, so we pray:
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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Hymn - Guide me, O my great Redeemer
Guide me, O my great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.
Open now the crystal fountain,
where the healing waters flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
ever be my strength and shield,
ever be my strength and shield.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside.
Death of death, and hell's Destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever sing to you,
I will ever sing to you.
May the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to himself;
May the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in his service;
May the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our souls.
May the blessing of God almighty,
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
Be among you and remain with you always
William Temple (1881-1944)
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ.