Thoughts and Worship (Week beginning 5 July)

Here is a biblical reflection on one of the readings set for the day, it’s followed by a short act of worship you can use at home if you wish.

Alternatively please go to our Facebook page where we ‘ll stream an act of worship  at 10.30am every Sunday:  https://www.facebook.com/moorlandgroup/

 

A Short Act of Worship Sunday 5 July

 

Please sit wherever you feel most comfortable. You may find it helpful to have a focus for your thoughts – a simple cross, a vase of flowers or a photograph of those you love,

or a photo of your church to remind you of all those with whom we’re united in prayer. 

You may like to start the service by lighting a candle.

 

Lord, open our lips and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 

As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God,

set our hearts on fire with love for you,  now and for ever. Amen

 

Please take a few moment of quiet to reflect on the week that has passed.

It might help to think: Where have I fallen short? – What might I do in the days to come?

And then, what good things have come from God today?

After a pause, you may wish to say or pray:

 

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy

 

God’s Word:

 

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

 

(Matthew 11:25-end).

 

Take a few moments of silence to think about these words

 

Our prayers this week, mark the birthday of the NHS:

 

Let us pray to God our Father, whose Son came that we may have life.

We give you thanks for the life and work
of all those whose vision founded our National Health Service,
and for those who serve others in care and compassion.
We pray that their work and ministry to the sick may enrich and support the welfare of all.

We give thanks for all who provide leadership in healthcare,
for those who exercise stewardship and allocate resources
and pray that, in challenging times,
support and compassion may be shown to those most in need.

We pray for all who promote health and wellbeing in policy and practice;
for all who care for the sick, in hospital, in care homes, and at home;
for doctors, nurses, care assistants and cleaners.

We seek guidance and strength for all chaplains,
and for all engaged in teaching and medical research.

We pray for those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit;
for those who are terminally ill, elderly or frail;
for all who live with a disability or in constant pain,
and for the many who strive to bring comfort and healing to them.

Remember in your kingdom, O Lord,
all those who have faithfully served you here on earth and are now at rest;
grant us, with them, and with all the faithful departed, the joy of your salvation.
We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

 

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

You may like to spend a few minutes in silence, listen to a piece of music that you find helpful or inspiring, or slowly read through and reflect upon this hymn:

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place, and he has made me glad.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in him.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say ,”I am this dark world’s Light;
look unto me, your morn shall rise, and all your days be bright.”
I looked to Jesus and I found in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk, ’til trav’ling days are done.

 

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name …

 

(or)

 

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name …

 

Eternal God, comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken, you give us life and fill us with hope: teach us the ways of gentleness and peace, that all the world may acknowledge the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil and keep us in eternal life.

Let us bless the Lord..

Thanks be to God.

 

Sunday 5 July 2020, a Reflection

 

In the spirit of not being allowed to sing, I’ll spare you (Olwen is behind the Perspex screen of my mobile phone for our online service), but an old hymn keeps popping up in my head this week: ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, and in particular the last verse which begins: ‘Are you weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?’

 

The hymn then urges to take this and all our other problems to Jesus in prayer, for we’ll find solace and support there. You can see, I’m sure, why it rang such a bell, for not only does it chime in completely with our Gospel reading, but it seems perfectly attuned to a time when many of us feel bewildered confused and weary. ‘Come to me, all of you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.’

 

A report from the influential Charity, Young Minds claims that 83% of young people have said the coronavirus pandemic has made their mental health worse. That’s a huge, worrying problem.  I observe, more anecdotally, that a lot of older folk are fed up to the back teeth with the constraints the virus has imposed on us all and are desperate to be able to meet and do things together in much the way we did before 23 March.

 

The guidelines for the opening of public places of worship issued this week make it clear that this isn’t going to happen quite like that for some time. For example, ‘It is advised that the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time.

Once completed, participants should be encouraged to move on promptly, to minimise the risk of contact and spread of infection.’ Folk will find that tough!

 

Whilst we can take Jesus’s reassuring words as a sign of hope and comfort, even in the situation we’re now facing, they have a much broader context and come at the end of a remarkable passage in which the very identity and purpose of Jesus are laid bare in a special way, a passage that provides a succinct summary of the Gospel as a whole.

 

It begins with one of those little sayings so typical of Jesus, in which the ordinary human order of things is turned on its head: the first shall be last and the last first. And as so often too, there’s great profundity underneath that apparently simple reversal.

 

The heart of its meaning isn’t that wisdom or intelligence doesn’t count, but that they don’t enable us to understand God or explain God’s ways. God’s wisdom is less about explaining how things are in the way that science works and much more about being open to feelings deep within us of how God’s love can make a difference to how we live and relate to one another. St John said, ‘only those who love God can know God,’ and Saint Augustine later added, ‘if you understand it, it isn’t God!’

 

We start then, as the hymn does, by realising what a friend we have in Jesus. And by giving ourselves to one another in loving friendship we become ‘disciples’ of Jesus, or in other words, people who learn from Jesus.

 

This learning might seem daunting at times, so much so that you might call it a burden or heavy responsibility if you take it seriously, or in Biblical agricultural terms, a ‘yoke’ around your neck with which you can pull all that responsibility around with you.

 

But then Jesus contrasts his yoke with another symbolic yoke that weighs far more heavily, that of trying to keep God’s law without knowledge of the full extent of the generosity that God extends to us in the cross of Jesus Christ. You could claim to be liberated if you kept all God’s commandments, but so much more so if you open yourself up totally to God’s love, the love that enables us to become who we most truly can be.

 

This is the nature of the ’rest’ that Jesus offers. It’s another borrowed agricultural image, that of a fallow field, regaining its strength so that it can be made ready to bear a new crop.

 

We can now see that the rest we’re offered is not an escape from this world, but a way of getting ready to cope with its demands better and more fully and to get them into a new, and better balanced perspective.

 

This is the invaluable gift that God offers us at this critical time in our history: a fresh sense of perspective that in turn helps shed light on our fears and worries and offers us a whole way of life that can transform how we relate to one another.

 

Unlike the detailed governmental guidance about the safe use of places of pubic worship it isn’t a matter of reading every line with meticulous care, mindful of the penalties for non-compliance, it’s rather a way of living that acknowledges we can’t do it all ourselves and we need help.  ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer,’ it urges.

 

None of this was said glibly in the hymn by its author Joseph Scriven, an Irish immigrant to Canada, who wrote it out of the bitter experience of a life in which deep personal sadness and disaster seemed always just around the corner, a life in which he tried his best to serve others in response to Jesus’s call, while all the while battling severe depression.  He took his problems to God and found in God’s love an answer.

 

‘Come to me, all of you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens,’ said Jesus, ‘and I will give you rest.’ Even from the exhausting struggle with Covid-19.