Worship at Home on 26th June

Conference Sunday

Lectionary readings: 1 Kings 19.15-16,19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5.1,13-25; Luke 9.51-62

A gathering prayer

I come to you in the power of your Spirit, O Lord. Give me the wisdom to live in the Spirit, and to show the fruit of the Spirit in who I am. Make us people of love, joy and peace; make me generous and kind;
and help me to shape my life with gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

A prayer of approach

Let my heart be glad and my tongue rejoice. When I walk in companionship with the Lord I am filled with joy in his presence. Praise the Lord. Amen.

Hymn StF 53

How shall I sing that majesty
Which angels do admire?
Let dust in dust and silence lie;
Sing, sing, ye heavenly choir.

Thousands of thousands stand around
Thy throne, O God most high;
Ten thousand times ten thousand sound
Thy praise; but who am I?

Thy brightness unto them appears,
Whilst I thy footsteps trace;
A sound of God comes to my ears,
but they behold thy face.

They sing because thou art their sun;
Lord, send a beam on me;
For where heaven is but once begun
There alleluias be.

How great a being Lord is thine,
Which doth all beings keep!
Thy knowledge is the only line
To sound so vast a deep.

Thou art a sea without a shore,
A sun without a sphere;
Thy time is now and evermore
Thy place is everywhere.

John Mason

A prayer of adoration

Loving Father, keen to save, who sent your Son to show the way, I worship you.
Jesus, you love us and suffered for us,
and showed us heaven on earth, I worship you.
Holy Spirit, source of new life, rich in fruitfulness. I worship you.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, love calling for action, I worship you.

Bible reading: Luke 9.51-62

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village. 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

About this Bible passage:

Luke’s Gospel now reaches a major turning point. After Peter’s confession and the subsequent revelation on the mountain of Transfiguration, Jesus looks towards Jerusalem where, like Elijah, he will be ‘taken up’ into heaven (see 2 Kings 2.11). In the mountaintop vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah, there is talk of Jesus’ departure (9.31), but the Greek word is ‘exodus’. Jesus’ journey of liberation towards his ascension takes him through crucifixion and resurrection. On the way he calls followers to be ‘fit for the kingdom of God’ (9.62), and Luke packs his account of the journey with matters of great importance for disciples.

The Samaritans, through whose villages he must pass, refuse to welcome a Jewish pilgrim travelling to a holy place whose status they reject. But, unlike Elijah, Jesus will not allow the Jews’ traditional enemies to be consumed by heavenly fire (2 Kings 1.10). His disciples must learn to set aside age-old prejudices, so that they can appreciate the importance of being open to the faith of others, even those they despise. Soon he will tell of a travelling Samaritan whose compassion provides ample evidence of the neighbourliness that Moses looks for (10.25-37). And later on the journey, Jesus will heal a group of lepers, and the only one to bother thanking him will be a Samaritan (17.11-19).

The urgency of the coming of God’s kingdom means that some conventions must now be suspended, including creature comforts and the duty to bury one’s father (Jesus’ ‘shock language’ is very different from Elijah’s concession in 1 Kings 19.20ff). Followers of Jesus are like those who plough well: straight furrows are the fruit of focused attention, with eyes fixed on what is both important and urgent. Everything else is perilous distraction.

If you use a search engine you can find wonderful web pages such as ‘23 great excuses to avoid doing anything important’, or ‘19 excuses that are keeping you stuck’. Many of the suggestions will be familiar to us: ‘I don’t have time’; ‘I am not qualified’; ‘I don’t have the right equipment’. Some are just weird – for example: ‘I have to give the hamster a good washing’; or ‘I don’t go out on days that end with the letters ‘d’ ‘a’ and ‘y’’. Excuses can be great to use, but they are not so great if you are on the receiving end. We may enjoy putting things off, but we don’t enjoy it when other people delay doing what we want done… now.

In Luke 9 we read of two people making excuses to Jesus. One says he has to go and bury his father, while another wants to say his farewells to family and friends. Were they excuses or were they reasons? It may be that, in the particular circumstances of each case, Jesus knew that they were being unreasonable and that what they presented as an acceptable reason was actually simply a delaying tactic.

Jesus’ response is quick and clear. He will take no excuses. He appears to be saying ‘Follow me now or not at all.’ Sometimes an excuse conceals the truth that is ‘I will do this when I have nothing better to do’ or ‘I am going to put this at or near the bottom of my to do list.’

It helps if we understand Jesus’ urgency as being motivated by the need for prioritisation. Following Jesus should be a priority. It is too important to be put off. As a priority it demands a sense of urgency and a sense of focus. Jesus encourages his listeners to look to the future, to the kingdom that is to come rather than the past as represented by the dead or those who are being left behind. If the person ploughing does not focus on looking ahead, they are not concentrating and being a follower of Jesus requires total concentration.

This is both challenging and demanding but it is not achieved on our own. In Galatians (5.16), Paul commands that we ‘live by the Spirit’. This is both a command and a promise. If we live by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in our lives. This not only encourages and enriches our lives, it also enables us to be faithful disciples who live in the present and look to the future. This relationship in the Spirit is achieved by following Jesus as a life priority with no excuses. In doing so, we are set free and the Spirit will guide and shape our discipleship.

Hymn StF 692

Thy hand, O God, has guided
Thy flock, from age to age;
The wondrous, tale is written
Full clear, on every page;
Our fathers owned thy goodness,
And we their deeds record;
And both of this bear witness:
One church, one faith, one Lord.

Thy heralds brought glad tidings
To greatest, as to least;
They bade men rise, and hasten
To share the great King’s feast;
Their gospel of redemption,
Sin pardoned, right restored,
Was all in this enfolded:
One church, one faith, one Lord.

Thy mercy will not fail us,
Nor leave thy work undone;
With thy right hand to help us,
The vict’ry shall be won;
And then, by men and angels,
Thy name shall be adored,
And this shall be their anthem:
One church, one faith, one Lord!

E H Plumptre

A prayer of confession and an Assurance of forgiveness

Following you, Jesus, does not guarantee an easy life. There are challenges and obstacles as the sinful life constantly fights with our Spirit-filled life. I am sorry when my human condition takes over and I fight using my own efforts. I’m sorry for the times I retaliate when others are hurtful to me. I’m sorry for relying on my own ideas and neglecting the wisdom of the Spirit’s guidance. I’m sorry for all the excuses I offer to get out of things you ask me to do. I’m sorry for letting you down, for my complacency. I know some things can’t wait. And that you call for action. Forgive me, Lord. Help me to centre my life on you, heeding the urgency of your call. Amen.

Jesus took action when it was needed.
He suffered on the cross where my sins were nailed with him. I am forgiven.
He paid the price for all my wrongdoing and set me free from the power of sin. Let me live in that freedom.

Prayer of Intercession

Loving God, I pray for those who have difficult decisions to make today: at home, at school, at work, in the community, in government… Holy Spirit, help them.
I pray for those suffering the consequences of bad choices: those in prison, those burdened with guilt, those consumed by regret… Holy Spirit, help them.
I pray for those whose decisions are made for them: the unwell, the elderly, those in places of oppression… Holy Spirit, help them.
I pray for those who are paralysed by indecision: the stressed, the fearful, those whose circumstances keep changing…
Holy Spirit, help them.
I pray for those who, at this moment, are making desperate choices: whether to flee their homes, whether to go on living where they are, or whether to tell the truth in danger …
Holy Spirit help them – and me. Amen.

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

Some things can’t wait. Such as the need of people in this world to acknowledge and follow you, Lord. For who knows when you will return? I give abundant thanks for everyone to whom you give the cloak of evangelism and leadership.
My heart overflows with thanks and praise: for my own salvation; for all who played their part in leading me to faith and nurturing me on our walk in freedom; and that I are no longer drifting in hopelessness, but secure in you.
Your Holy Spirit leads me with incomparable power, strength and wisdom. And my heart’s desire is to follow where you lead, with the fruit of the Spirit ripening within me. You have the power, Lord, to change my attitude and my priorities. My heart is full of thanks and praise for the joy I know in you and the inheritance that can never be taken from me. Lord, I pray for others to know the same. Amen.

Hymn StF 673

Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer
In you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
And never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean,
And do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean
In you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?

Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name,
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.

In your company I’ll go
Where your love and footsteps show
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

A sending out prayer

May God grant me the wisdom to know what is important. May God guide me to act, to do what is urgent. May God help me to know the one I follow better each day.
May God help me to be a person who doesn’t always look back. May God help me always to be faithful and true. Amen.

CCCLi 1097839