Led by Mo Brand
Good morning and a very warm welcome to everyone joining us today for worship at Wardie Parish Church.
Call to Worship
Our call to worship is inspired by words from Psalm 22 verses 23–31.
We bring our praise, we are the worshippers of God,
We praise you gathered with our church family,
We praise you as part of our daily life.
We bring our praise to a God who is here,
To a God who does not ignore us,
To a God who listens to cries of help.
We bring our praise, here in this place of worship,
Where we seek to know God better,
Where we seek to find nourishment and fulfilment.
We bring our praise, joining with all corners of the earth,
Open to hear the wonders of the Lord,
Open to respond to his word.
From the psalm to our song, and in all we do we ask God to guide us in our worship today, to delight to worship God and to respond in deed and word, and so we sing:
Hymn 138 – Nourished by the rainfall
Let us pray:
God of grace, You come alongside and make us promises, the kind of promises that touch our hearts and very being, that offer hope and renewal in our lives.
We are glad because You have given us strength and hope.
We are surprised because this was Your idea and not ours.
We are relieved because we see grace sufficient for all that the days bring.
Risen Jesus, You promise to be with Your disciples until the fulfilment of all things. Thank You that there is nowhere we could be where You are not.
Thank You that wherever two or three gather in Your name there You are among them; we celebrate fellowship shared in Your company, wherever we may be.
Jesus, You invite all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, promising that with You we would find rest.
Jesus, You promised to all who are thirsty water that would become in them a spring gushing up to eternal life.
In Your presence our souls are refreshed, and we are given renewed purpose.
May we live this day in the joy You bring, may we worship You with all that is within us and may we serve You as You deserve. Help us Holy Spirit, so to do and be.
And so we pray together in the words Jesus taught his disciples:
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, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Last week you may remember that I talked about the start of Lent and writing a list with the numbers 1–40: how it could help you to do 40 things for Lent, to think about why you’re doing them and to be reminded of God – well, today I’m introducing someone who has set themselves a challenge not just for Lent but which lasts for 100 days. Here to tell us more about what they are doing, and why, is Ben Liddall.
“For the first few months of lockdown, like most teenagers I wasn’t really doing anything. Then in July I went for a cycle ride with a couple of mates and I was involved in a bike accident and had quite a nasty concussion. I was told that I was lucky and it could have been a lot worse. I had to be in bed for two weeks with no technology at the height of summer. I’d been having a think to myself that I’d been wanting to make a change to become more productive. I decided to get into running, which I’d never really done before. I set myself a target. In four weeks I wanted to do my first marathon. On 25th August I ran 42km.
From 1st January to 10th April I wanted to run 1000 miles, about 10 a day, for My Name5 Doddie. I set a target for £50, but it’s been taken up by local media and the rugby clubs.
We changed the distance to 1042 miles which was a virtual loop of the four home stadiums.
It’s day 58 or 59 now, and I’m about 602 miles in. It’s been quite tough. I decided two weeks ago to run as many marathons as I could. Marathon 2 was in a blizzard. I’ve raised just over £6000 in total which is funding research into MND especially in sports players. There’s a Just Giving page (link below) if you’re interested in donating. Thanks for listening.”
Genesis 17:1–7 (NRSV)
The Sign of the Covenant
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
Mark 9:2–9 NRSV
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
[The Coming of Elijah]
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Reflection, part 1
Thank you to Ben for sharing and to Frances for reading – from one big adventure happening today to big adventures that happened in the past!
I’m going to start today a little differently by inviting those of you who can use the chat function in Zoom to write a comment if you know what your name is supposed to mean. Today’s Old Testament reading shows us a biblical name change and it got me thinking if people know what their name means or if perhaps they chose names for their children based on the meaning. Names today don’t always translate from something specific and a lot of name generators choose to give nicer options and filter out any negatives. My full name of Morag, which I will remind you all is not really used, can apparently be linked to the Latin name ‘Mary’ and means ‘star of the sea’ or it can be linked to the English ‘Sarah’ and mean ‘Great’ or ‘Great sun’.
Ian – gift from God
Fiona – fair one
Paul – small
Karen – pure
Heather – flower
Jane – gift from God
Sheila – blessed one
Brian – high and noble
Margaret is said to come from the word pearl
William – protection
Barbara – foreign woman
Stephen – garland or crown
Mary – as well as star of the sea, drop of the sea or beloved
When we hear names we often think of friends, family or stories that feature them and not the meaning. If we had to live up to our names or change them to better suit us it would be tough – I for one am no star of the sea or great sun.
Yet back to the Bible reading, Genesis 17, and Abram which meant ‘exalted father’ becomes Abraham which means ‘father of many’. Yet this name change is not the first he hears of God’s promise, because Abram was already promised a nation in Genesis 12. God told him “I will give this land to your descendants” and in Chapter 15 when Abram is upset he does not yet have a son, God tells him to “look up at the sky and count the stars – that’s how many descendants you will have”. Some time had passed between these promises and some proper biblical muck-ups, wonders and violence, so by the time we get a mere few chapters later to today’s reading Abram is 99 years old and his name change is showing that God’s promise is coming into focus. Abraham will indeed be a ‘father of many’, and soon.
There is so much richness in the story of Abraham that can nourish our faith today, our life spans are different but it is recognised that Sarah and Abraham did not think they would have children due to being too old. At 90 and 99 years old they were over halfway through their lifespan but Abraham believed God’s promise and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. What a reminder to be open to the promises of God at every age and every stage of life.
Abraham had to follow God, in the literal sense where God asks him to travel to the “land which I will show you”. Abraham goes willingly to an unknown destination leaving behind the land, security and familiarity he was comfortable with. Perhaps a reminder that God doesn’t always give us clear instructions but when we know we are being called to move, to change or to act then we sometimes have to start the process before all the answers become clear. If you want another layer, Abraham sets off to go to this land and God puts up a huge obstacle – God calls Abraham to journey to a land where famine strikes, how unfair! – However, Abraham doesn’t give up and go home, he doesn’t question, he doesn’t doubt God or think that because he was called that it should all be easy going, but instead he uses his knowledge to head to Egypt where he knows there will be food so they can wait safely and continue in God’s plan. If you feel a sense that God is calling you to change, be prepared that when you answer it may not all be smooth going, but be reminded of the knowledge and skills you already possess to help you get through and the promise that God is with us all.
I skimmed over earlier when I mentioned some biblical muck-ups, yet God says “Walk before me and be blameless” to Abraham – perhaps because he had not always been blameless; despite God’s promise to be with him and protect him you can read of the trouble, in the form of plagues, that was caused when, out of fear, he passed off his beautiful wife Sarah as his sister to Pharaoh (Gen 12:10–20). Or how he and Sarah didn’t think God’s promise would happen with them and so taking matters into their own hands Abram had a son, Ishmael, with Sarah’s servant Hagar – it would be another 14 years before Abraham and Sarah would have their child. Some extra lessons there in doing the right thing even if it’s scary, in being patient and in trusting in God.
Abraham has such a story of decision making, he could not have fathomed just how much of a bigger picture was being fulfilled when he set out on God’s promise. His obedience to follow God sets into motion the development of a whole nation that God uses 42 generations or over 2000 years later in the coming of Jesus – fulfilling a great promise that through Abraham the entire world would be blessed.
In our New Testament reading there echoes a similarity in a sense of not knowing the full picture: the disciples spend time with Jesus but don’t understand about his death and resurrection to come, but still they walk with Jesus and do as he asks of them.
Hymn 543 – Christ be our light (verses 1, 2 & 5). Listen to the hymn here.
Reflection, part 2
What about us…
Do we trust that God knows the whole picture?
Do we trust God enough that we are able to wait?
Do we trust God that even when we don’t know where we’re going we will still go?
Or from the words of the song, are we able to both be longing for Christ and yet still be Christ’s light?
Peter, James and John go up a mountain with Jesus who just a week earlier was telling them he would undergo great suffering, would die and rise again – Peter had even tried to reprimand Jesus for suggesting such things and Jesus had in return told Peter that “you are merely seeing things from a human point of view, not from God’s”.
And so Jesus gives these disciples a glimpse of what’s to come, a small preview of God’s will and a view of God’s promises throughout the Old Testament being or about to be fulfilled in Jesus.
What a time for the disciples. They were of a time and culture that observed the Old Testament prophets and rules and now they have Jesus being transformed in front of their own eyes. I have wondered if the description of terrified is a remarkably simple edit of the many emotions they must have been dealing with.
It can seem hard to relate to the disciples who could stand by Jesus’ side or to such great people of the Old Testament, but sometimes when you break it down there is such a common ground – I wonder if the following could apply to Abraham or to the disciples or to ourselves: when you think you know how the world works, or what you’re supposed to be doing in it, when you’re confident you know where life will take you or are just plodding along not even worried to much about it; then sometimes big, unfair, unexpected or unimaginable things happen. How do we process it when things don’t work the way we expect?
Jesus gives the three a small glimpse into his true nature. Perhaps the visual of him dazzling white or speaking with Elijah and Moses would be the same vision that they would need to endure the tough times that were coming, an image to help them get through the parts he had already foretold them of his upcoming suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. None of us have had that visual experience first-hand but there is a part we get to share fully: “from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’” Not only do we have the inner spirit which guides us in which we hope are the right ways but we have the words Christ spoke, the whole Bible and the full knowledge that the disciples at that time did not yet understand of Christ’s resurrection, so what a reminder to turn to the Bible, maybe to re-read for yourself the Bible passages each Sunday, to find the words that speak to you in your everyday moments and the words that you can hold on to that can help you through times of uncertainty.
Words that will have deeper meaning. A bit like the subjectiveness of names, in that there may be meanings and connotations unique to you but there is such a power in the word of God it seems like it would be good to be armed with a few verses. Maybe you already have some favourite verses that you know, or passages that speak to you; revisit them, write them out, get them on a coaster, share them – send them to me and try and live them, because what I learn from our readings today is that God’s work is not our plan, that very unexpected things can happen at any time, that God is with us and we are called to listen to him.
Intercessory Prayer by Graeme Trotter
It feels right that for a family service, I’m in my kitchen with my wife Anne, dog Maya and cat Toffee.
This week’s newsletter is full of pieces from the Wardie family about the importance of the natural world:
- Maureen Kelly’s lovely article about daffodils;
- Chris Boston on greener energy;
- A poem about giving time to wild flowers and prayer;
- Heather’s great weekly column this week on ‘Sweet Box’, appropriate for a family service!
- The poet Longfellow’s important words about gardens, suggested by Marilyn Hunter.
This week also sees the launch of the National Trust’s programme of planting blossom trees.
The first signs of spring are in the air, and it’s a time to start thinking about planting; planting and planning for the future; for the future of our planet.
And if you haven’t seen the crocuses in Victoria Park, they are magnificent!
Let us pray.
In our OT lesson, Abraham is told that he will be the ‘father of a host of nations’ and God will make him ‘exceedingly fruitful’.
We thank you, Lord, for the bounty of the earth; for each spring and our ability to grow and to enjoy the natural world.
We pray that you will bless us in our gardening and planting endeavours and all those who plant for the future but may never see the fruits of their labours.
So many plans have had to be halted and postponed; give us the patience to build firm foundations so that we can be proud of our achievements and our husbandry.
We pray especially for those whose lives have been blighted; for people overcome with distress; may they find some glimmers of joy in the natural world; in the blossoming of spring and in the blossoming of hope for the future.
We pray for the world’s leaders; the caring professions and carers, scientists and charity workers; so that out of their toil may spring health, happiness and a determination for justice and equality. We give thanks for Ben Liddall and for all those young people raising money and working hard for their futures.
Help us, we pray, to be able to share your gifts with our families and friends and join with others in celebrating those small things we have come to value more and more – smiles, words, flowers, encouragement and love. Amen
Hymn 153 – Great is thy faithfulness. Listen here.
Many thanks to everyone who took part in the service, to Frances and Graeme for their reading and prayers and a special thanks to Ben for speaking with us today.
May God’s Word be in our hearts.
May God’s Word be on our lips.
May God’s Word be in our touch.
May God’s Word direct our feet.
On this day and all our days to come
May God’s Word be the life we live.