Sunday Worship – 7th February 2021

L’Orfeo – Prologo: Toccata by Claudio Monteverdi
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Call to worship
The Lord is king; let the people’s tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Holy is he!
Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
Extol the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool.
Holy is he!
Psalm 99:1-5

StF 706 – Hymn – Longing for the light
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We praise you, our God,
That you made the world good.
That you created male and female in your image,
and invited us to share in your creative work.
So this morning, as we gather in worship, we call to mind
all places where people gather:
to work, to play,
to grieve, to celebrate,
to love, to struggle.
There is no place that you are not present,
no people beyond your care.
We pray for a new awareness of your holy balance
that speaks wholeness and love
into places of disintegration.
God who makes all things new,
Begin with us.

Confession and Absolution
Brothers and sister, not out of dread and fear
but believing that God is faithful to forgive,
let us rid ourselves of what we need to carry no longer.
Eternal God, maker of the skies above,
lowly Christ, born amidst the growing earth,
Spirit of life, wind over the flowing waters,
in earth and sky, you are there in everything we touch, in everyone we meet, your presence is around us, and we give you thanks.
But when we have not touched, but trampled you in creation,
when we have not met but missed you in one another,
when we have not received but rejected you in the poor,
forgive us, and hear now our plea for mercy.
Hear now the words of Jesus for all who are truly sorry and seek to
renew their lives:
your sins are forgiven. Go in peace; come and follow me.

Lead us now, O God, to acknowledge your costly generosity by
living as forgiven people, until heaven and earth rejoice and the
whole earth cries Glory! Through Christ our Lord.

Isaiah 1 v10 to 20

StF 716 – Hymn – There are no strangers
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There are no strangers to God’s love,
yet we have privatised God’s grace.
Bounded by nationhood and lies,
in fear we shrouded love’s own face.
Acknowledging our sin and greed
we come confessing common need.

These are our neighbours and our friends,
the ones who run in fear from war,
who dread abuse by power or state,
or seek the means to be less poor;
these are the ones we have denied,
as in each one the Christ has cried.

When people seeking sanctuary
come to this place and need our aid,
then in Christ’s name let’s offer care;
through this our debt of love is paid.
God’s grace is free, this grace receive,
let actions show what we believe.

Andrew Pratt (b1948)

At the heart of the Old Testament is thanksgiving and worship, and at the heart of their worship and thanksgiving is something alien to us: sacrifice.
The people of God are living a life of self-deception, their worship is full of hypocrisy and false worship. While deliberately disobeying God’s commands, they pretended to “seek the Lord” daily. They feigned delight in knowing his will and drawing near to him in worship. In the face of oppression by foreigners, they presented themselves as a righteous nation deserving of God’s justice. Having exposed the general hypocrisy of the nation, Isaiah focused on their false worship.
Israel’s problem was that their relationship with the living God had been replaced by rituals that commemorated their religious obligations.
God commands the Prophets to expose their hypocrisy but they are so self-deceived they don’t understand the depth of their hypocrisy
God tells his prophet to warn his people of their sins as they blithely go through the routines of religion.
God’s kingdom is to establish righteousness, justice, equity and goodness for all.
“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! (Psalm 106:3),” the psalmist declared. And yet we live in a society plagued by corruption, oppression, and injustice. For the church, pursuing justice is a form of worship, an act of holy obedience. It should be a priority worth seeking, not avoiding.
When Christians turn a blind eye to justice, they are turning their backs on God. Right now our world needs justice more than ever. Immigrants and refugees are being vilified, people are being unfairly incarcerated, and are being discriminated against based on their race, gender, and religion and orientation and our structural frameworks are being controlled by people who have an unquenchable thirst for control, power, and money.
God hates injustice. Scripture tells us that, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 17:15).”
The problem with so much worship is that most of it does not engage with sacrifice.
If worship comes without sacrifice; it is all too comfortable. It is all about the worshipper.
At the heart of false worship is that it is all about the worshipper, all about what God can do for them, for us, a warm feeling of self-satisfaction.
By contrast, true worship hurts because true worship changes things, not only for us, but also for others around us.
True worship has an outcome that is good for all: the imprisoned and oppressed are set free, the hungry are fed, and the naked are clothed. Most of our worship does not see any of this happen.
True worship is good-news focused, but good news for whom?
Jesus uses Isaiah to highlight whom in Luke 4: good news for the poor, the blind and the oppressed.
But too often our worship can be focused on how we are feeling, not how the poor, the blind and the oppressed are feeling.
All too often they are placed at the back of our minds, if they were in our minds at all.
God wants his people to show their faith through their concern and help for other people in need.
True worship, according to God, calls for action in how we relate to others in helping others in need.
God’s people are to loose the chains of injustice,
this means to set free those whom wicked persons have wrongfully imprisoned, God’s people are to untie the cords of the yoke; to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.
God’s people are to share your food with the hungry
God’s people are to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
God’s people are to clothe the naked
God’s people are not to turn away from their own flesh and blood
when God’s people learn that the results of true salvation means giving themselves to establish righteousness and justice for others, then God’s promises and purposes are fulfilled.
God’s people will become a light to the nations, a healing for the nation and the needy will take place.
God’s righteousness, revealed in their righteous acts will be a witness to the gentiles, to others.
True worship is something that hurts us. It is something where we lose and the poorest, the least and the marginalized gain. It is something where God is honoured by seeing justice rolling like a river.
It involves us giving our whole lives to God.
If we start worshipping God in a way that is truly sacrificial, then we will start to impact the people around us, and they will be challenged by God’s people.
We cannot continue to come to God praising Him with our lips if our hearts are not like His heart. The deepest worship occurs when the worshipper’s heart and actions match more fully the heart and actions of God. The truest worship involves us becoming like the one we worship.
Our mistaken impression is that worship is what we do on Sunday for a couple of hours. Worship is where we present our lives as living sacrifices, where everything we do is offered to the Lord.
We want the hearts of our people to overlap the heart of God. We want the lives of our churches to mimic the life of God. If God delights in justice and righteousness, then we should too. Our highest happiness should be found in the things that make God happy.
See how our worship is meant to be.
“Seek justice” — search for it like treasure; hunt it like a hound.
“Correct oppression” — take our stance against it; make the crooked straight.
“Bring justice to the fatherless” — don’t make them come looking for it; we are to deliver it to them.
“Plead the widow’s cause” — open our mouths; speak up for the vulnerable; take up their cause as your own.
We understand that to do justice is consistent with — not contrary to — Jesus and the gospel.
Jeremiah writes: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jer. 23:5; 33:15)

StF 673 Hymn – Will you come and follow me
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Intercessions based on the Beatitudes
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.’
God of the poor,
We hear your voice calling us to the reality of life in our land, in the country and in our cities.
The goodness of your creation has been twisted out of shape by the greed of people.
The land lifts up its voice in mourning, and the poor of the land cry out for justice.
Help us live out your just kingdom here in this part of the earth.

‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.’
God of the hungry,
Our indigenous brothers and sisters still struggle with worse health
and lower life expectancy than the rest of our population;
asylum seekers still wait months and years for settlement in safety;
the elderly, ill and unemployed struggle to live on pensions.
Help us know how to share our resources wisely and generously
so that all may be filled.

‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.’
God of the desolate,
Young girls are exploited to sell fashion clothes,
while women slave in sweat shops for minimum wages.
Men work long hours at dangerous jobs
and young people turn to drugs and alcohol to cover their hopelessness.
We in the developed world enjoy our luxuries
at the expense of those who struggle to make a living growing them.
Help us protect the humanity of those who produce the goods we use.

‘Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you.’
God of the marginal,
Governments appear to favour those with economic power,
instead of investing in education;
megastores drive small businesses to the wall;
people deafened by the strident call to consume
fail to hear the whispers of the homeless and hungry.
Help us to speak fearlessly for those with no voices,
and to remember that your grace is abundant enough for all to share.

‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,
for surely your reward is great in heaven.’
God of joy,
We pray that we who follow the way of Christ might live by your grace,
modelling care and integrity in our business transactions,
courage and hope in our politics,
and love and reconciliation in our relationships.

May our lives be evidenced by generosity,
daring to live in hope,
that our life together might point beyond ourselves
to the One in whose image we are made.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who showed us how to live.

StF 411 May the God of hope
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May the God of hope go with us every day,
filling all our lives with love and joy and peace.
May the God of justice speed us on our way,
bringing light and hope to every land and race.
Praying, let us work for peace;
singing, share our joy with all;
working for a world that’s new,
faithful when we hear Christ’s call.

God will be our Shepherd as we go our way
and will not forsake us when we go astray.
Even though the load of life is hard to bear,
we must not forget that God is always there.
Praying, let us work for peace;
singing, share our joy with all;
working for a world that’s new,
faithful when we hear Christ’s call.

v1 Spanish Traditional translated by Alvin Schutmaat
v2 Ann Mitchell

Christ has no body but ours,
No hands, no feet on earth but ours,
Ours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Ours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Ours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Ours are the hands, ours are the feet,
Ours are the eyes, ours is the body.
Christ has no body now but ours,
No hands, no feet on earth but ours,
Ours are the eyes
with which he looks compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but ours.

Fugue in G Minor BWV 578 by JS Bach
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