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Sunday Service, 31st January 2021

Led by Mo Brand

Call to Worship

The day starts in birdsong,
Such a varied noise but sung together.
Such songs can be heard all over the world,
A song to say we are here,
A new day has begun.

So we start our service by singing a song that reminds us of the wonder of creation and of how God is in all things, our first song – Who put the colours in the rainbow?

Song: Who put the colours in the rainbow? Listen here.

Prayer

Let us pray.

Almighty God, you are always with us and yet often in the busyness of our lives we can put the busyness first and forget you are there.

Creator God, our world is a wonder of beauty, colour and creation and yet we often forget to take the time to appreciate it.

Father God, we hold so many people in our thoughts; our friends, our family, our community and even strangers whom we pass but even though we know your love is a love of action we forget to reach out, to make interaction.

Loving God we take a moment to say sorry for the things that are on our hearts.
We say sorry for when we forget you are there.
Sorry for when we don’t appreciate the things around us.
Sorry for when we fail to act as you would have us do.
Help us to take the time to listen for you;
Almighty God – surround us.
Creator God – encircle us.
Father God – embrace us.
Loving God – hold us.

We now 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.

Children’s talk

If you were paying attention last week I talked about butterflies, and this week another type of animal has caught my interest. It’s something that everyone has been encouraged to look out for this weekend; in fact, you’re actually encouraged to stop everything and spend a whole hour just seeing what you can see. Now if you’ve taken part you’ll know already that I’m talking about the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch. I’m going to show you an image that includes some of the birds you might see, and I wonder if there’s any you would be able to recognise. It’s a really easy activity to take some time at the window or in the garden and simply mark off the number of each type of bird that you see. If you send the information back to RSPB they use it to see where each type can be found and how well species are doing from one year to the next. Isn’t it great that people care enough about birds to take the time to simply look out for them.

As a Christian, one of the difficult things at times is to remember God is there. There is not a tick sheet for looking at where God can be found, but there are two little challenges I thought I would set for you today: if you were to take an hour to look out for God, where might you see him; and then if you were to take an hour to see where you could be useful for God, what would you do?

Both of these are reminders of how much is still happening in our world. Maybe you would see God in creation and family and neighbours, maybe in people passing by off to work. To be useful, you could put out bird seed for the bird, or water the plants – caring for creation; maybe it would be to do something that cares for other people or maybe it would be useful to simply stop and spend that time looking out for and thanking God for being in all things.

Perhaps it’s for the best that there’s not a tick sheet on where we see God or what we can do to be useful, because it would take up rather a lot of paper. The thing that’s important is that we take the time to be with God.

We will now hear our first reading for today from Graeme.

Do Not Worry (Matthew 6: 25–30)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[b] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Reflection

I don’t think there’s ever such a thing as a simple Bible verse or message, but I do often think God breaks things down to guide us with the most simple of words – do not worry. But how hard is that? It’s almost deceiving that such simple words carry so much weight – so much so that we can be very familiar with the words and yet still need to hear them time and time again.

At a time where we’re again in lockdown, what you will eat is obviously a bigger worry today than it has been for many before. People with what were once steady incomes find themselves out of work yet again, many children are missing out on school lunches, and people who are shielding or self-isolating in any way worry about whether they can find a food delivery slot and if it will actually get to them or not…

But wait: I started by saying this was about not worrying.

Now it can’t be taken without any context, because if you continue the Bible passage it talks about the birds of the air, and whether or not you spend an hour watching them you’ll probably already be aware that birds appear as very busy creatures, building nests, finding food, flying around, migration – if we’ve not to worry like the birds of the air I doubt it means to do nothing and that God will simply provide, but rather to keep going.

There’s a well-known little anecdote which tells of a man who when a flood comes climbs on to his roof, a boat comes by and says “climb aboard”, he replies “no, God will save me”, a helicopter flies overhead and shouts “climb up” and still he replies “no, God will save me”, his neighbour calls to him “jump over, for my roof is higher” and even still he replies “No, God will save me”. When he arrives at the Gates he says “God, why didn’t you save me?” and God replies “I was there. Why did you not see me?” So from the birds to the story reminders to keep going and to keep looking: a remember that God works in unusual ways and often unusual times. And that provision is often there but we need to sing out when we need help and be willing to share when we can support others. That being part of a community that supports each other can help take the worries away.

The next part of not worrying talks about what we wear and I always found it interesting that lilies and kings and grass are linked together – they quite clearly don’t compare with each other but I think that might be the point, and I also think it’s a good reminder beyond our clothes – don’t worry about the things that are only by comparison – if your worry is to be better than someone else or to outdo someone else then you should be letting it go – by all means be the best you can be but be the best you. Don’t compare that standard to someone else and bring yourself worry – work hard at being yourself. Can you imagine if flowers opted not to bloom because they worried the flower next to them was more beautiful?

So is it simple – don’t worry? If it’s not about doing nothing and it’s more about continuing on then maybe it means not taking the worry with you. People sometimes carry a worry stone when something particular is bothering them. It’s a physical reminder but it’s not about carrying the weight of the worry with you, but rather about acknowledging it then putting it away in your pocket.

If we go back to an image of a jar I’ve used before, then if you acknowledge your worries but put them down and then fill up on hope and faith and trust, then your worries seem further away.

Not worrying isn’t getting rid of problems entirely. It’s about filling up with faith and trust and hope – it’s quite hard to worry when your trust is in God that things will be all right.

We (or you) are actually going to sing a song that portrays this message, it doesn’t actually use the words “don’t worry”, but as you sing or read the words I hope you make the link – we will now sing:

Hymn: The Lord’s my Shepherd

Reflection

And I will trust in you alone. What a confidence that is without worry.

Trust is said to be based on reliability, confidence or belief – a secure factor that things will be alright, whereas hope is said to be more of a desire and expectation: we know something will be OK when we trust in it, and we have a want for it to be OK when we hope for something. Faith is a belief without seeing, a confidence in what you hope for – it’s interesting how often these words appear in the Bible. We hope that things will work out the right way, we have faith that God is leading us there, and we trust because God knows the path.

There’s a lovely poem about hope that is fitting for today and I’m going to ask Graeme to join us again to read it.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Reflection

Hope keeps on going when it doesn’t have the words to sing, when it’s surrounded by a storm; hope can spread to other people and even when things are really tough, hope doesn’t cost a thing. It seems like the jump between “don’t worry” and “trust in God” can be quite big.

How would a message be perceived by the world if we pinned a big sign to the church saying “We’re not worried”? Would it still seem shocking if we said “Don’t worry, just trust in God”? Our Bible reading ended almost condemningly with “Oh you of little faith”, and I think it’s a more accurate description that when you’re faced with worries of everyday matters like food and clothes it’s hard to be faithful, but perhaps that’s where everything works together: hope, faith and trust. If hope can keep going, then faith can build up and we can be more certain of our trust in God.

Perhaps when even our hope seems small, we need to take time out to look for God in the world around us.

If I’d told you today that I was looking at Bible verses on birds, perhaps a well-known verse from Isaiah would have come to mind. It’s a verse often used at funerals and in times of hardship – Isaiah 40:31 reads: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I think it’s a lovely ending for today, a reminder to find hope in God, to be renewed and to keep going. I don’t know if anyone will see any majestic eagles in their birdwatching, but if you do take part, hopefully you’ll see a little more than just a simple bird: a reminder from God not to worry but to have hope, faith and trust.

We will now pray together with a prayer led by Anna Ballantine.

Intercessory Prayer

Lord,

Please bless the people out there who feel lonely in this time of Covid; let them keep contact with their friends and family, and help them see light in the darkness.

Please help the families who are worried about their vulnerable relatives that might get affected; help them realise that everyone is trying their best to secure the virus, and their relatives wouldn’t want them to worry.

Please help the NHS, the people who are keeping us safe; let them have peace from the endless patients.

Please soothe the patients, the people who have been affected by Covid-19 and want to be treated; let them know that the NHS is trying its best to help and that you are with them. Thank you, Lord for listening to our prayers.

Amen.

Hymn: How great thou art. Listen here.

Blessing

As we go on from our time together today, may we continue to look out for God in the week ahead and may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him
(Romans 15:3).