Home Service: Sunday 14 March 2021
Call to worship.
Here’s an un unusual call to worship. It is a quote from Harry Ironside. “We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” The call is to be thankful, so we begin this time of worship with a song of praise. It is a call to everyone and everything to recognise our place in God’s creation and give Him the glory for all He has given to us.
Song: Creation sings
Creation sings the Father’s song;
He calls the sun to wake the dawn
And run the course of day,
Till evening comes in crimson rays.
His fingerprints in flakes of snow,
His breath upon this spinning globe,
He charts the eagle’s flight,
Commands the newborn baby’s cry.
Hallelujah! Let all creation stand and sing:
“Hallelujah!” Fill the earth with songs of worship,
Tell the wonders of creation’s King.
Creation gazed upon His face;
The ageless One in time’s embrace,
Unveiled the Father’s plan
Of reconciling God and man.
A second Adam walked the earth,
Whose blameless life would break the curse,
Whose death would set us free
To live with Him eternally.
Hallelujah! Let all creation stand and sing…
Creation longs for His return,
When Christ shall reign upon the earth;
The bitter wars that rage
Are birth pains of a coming age.
When He renews the land and sky,
All heaven will sing and earth reply
With one resplendent theme:
The glory of our God and King.
Hallelujah! Let all creation stand and sing…
Be still for a moment. Dwell on the thought that God knows us and loves us dearly and give thanks.
Father. Creator of all. Sustainer of all. Saviour of all. Your glory and majesty are beyond our understanding. Your power too great to behold. And yet you know us one by one. You long for us to rest in you. Your love enfolds us with a sure and gentle grasp. Saviour of all. Sustainer of all. Creator of all. We give thanks and bow before you. Thank you, Father. Amen
There are often occasions when being thankful is difficult. Hard times and tough experiences don’t inspire thankfulness and praise. Our lives and feelings have many ‘ups and downs’ but we worship the One who is changeless. Our hope is in the One whose love is constant and far greater than we can grasp. We can sing we confidence the words of this next song.
Song: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never have come to an end
They are new every morning, new every morning
Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord
Great is Thy faithfulness.
The writers of the Psalms knew well the highs and lows of life and wrote very honestly of their experiences. Psalm 61 is attributed to David and was evidently intended to be sung ‘with string instruments.’ Here is a recording of a setting of the first four verses of that Psalm. The text is from the New King James Version of the Bible. The composer and singer is Esther Mui.
Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.
Let us continue that prayer by bringing to God our concerns- for present circumstances, for those close to us and for the community around us.
Father we remember before you now… Loving Father, in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
Song: Wonderful grace
Wonderful grace that gives what I don’t deserve
Pays me what Christ has earned, then lets me go free
Wonderful grace that gives me the time to change
Washes away the stains that once covered me.
And all that I am I lay at the feet
Of the wonderful Saviour Who loves me.
Wonderful love that held in the face of death
Breathed in its final breath forgiveness for me
Wonderful love whose power can break every chain
Giving us life again. Setting us free
And all that I am…
Reflection (provided by Fay)
As it’s Mothering Sunday, or Mothers’ Day as it’s become known, I thought you might be interested in a story – true – about a mother … Many years ago, listening to Robert Winston’s Human Instinct programme, I heard an account of a mother’s fight. First, a picture …
No, it’s not a cute little moggy, it’s a cougar, a female; they can be up to 7ft long [nose to tip of tail] and weigh up
to 90lbs [that’s 6 ½ stone]. A Canadian family were out riding when the cougar attacked, going for the smallest member of the group – a boy of about 5. The boy’s mother immediately attacked the cougar, freeing her child; she wrestled with the cat for some time until help arrived. The cougar was shot, but the mother was very badly mauled, as you can no doubt imagine. Shortly afterwards she died of her injuries, hanging on to life just long enough to know that her child was safe.
The ferociousness and strength of this mother must have been awesome … what a contrast to the gentleness and tenderness she will also have shown to her children: two facets of mothering. This has led me to think quite often about mothers and how their children may view them. We hear about soldiers [both married and single] mortally wounded in battle, weeping and crying for their mothers. And how many times have you heard an angry child shouting
out to a bully – “I’M GONNA BRING MY MUM UP THE SCHOOL ABOUT YOU!” I don’t recall the ferocity of ‘dad’ being threatened!! What does this have to do with Mothering Sunday? Good question! When we were asked to choose favourite Bible verses last July, I shared these:
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.’ [Zephaniah 3:17]
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. [Psalm 139:13 – 14]
In the first, we have a picture like that in many psalms – a warrior; one that stands out to me is Psalm 18 – God responding to a cry for rescue: (verses 7-15)
The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
What do you ‘see’ here? Take a moment to imagine the scene … I see great power and even violence here! After this comes the rescue – God reaching down, taking hold, lifting out of danger; all because He delights in His child:
19 He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.
But there is more to this God than rebuking our enemies and fighting for us. God is creative – as in the verse from Psalm 139; and there’s more:
I did a search in Scripture and found pictures of the mothering side of our God. Take a few moments to reflect on each of these – what does this say to you about our God? Do they resonate with you at all? Can you find any more?
Deuteronomy 32:18 – God rebuking the Israelites, through Moses – You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth.
Mothering and fathering here
Hosea 11:3-4 – God lamenting Israel’s infidelity – It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms;
but they did not realise it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.
Isaiah 49:15 – God promising the restoration of Israel –
‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
Matthew 23:37 – Jesus’ words –
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing …’
These examples reveal God’s motherly traits, but can we correctly refer to God as Mother? No. God refers to Himself in masculine terms – Father, King, Abba [Daddy]. But He can be fatherly or motherly according to how He sees our needs: providing, nurturing, protecting, comforting, rescuing, leading….. the list goes on. That’s not to say that dads can’t be tender and gentle.
God is Spirit, so is above gender, but the Bible gives us metaphors to help us understand what He is like, and the depth, constancy of – and passion in – His love.
Because of the wonderful love of God, we may rest in Him. The idea of ‘abiding in Christ’ was described in a hymn written by Anna Laetitia Waring (1823-1910) a Welsh poet and hymn writer. She had learned how to keep company with our Lord and so may we.
Song: In heavenly love abiding
In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear:
and safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here:
The storm may roar around me, my heart may low be laid;
but God is round about me and can I be dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me no want shall turn me back;
my shepherd is beside me and nothing can I lack:
His wisdom ever waketh; His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh and I will walk with Him.
Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen;
bright skies will soon be o’er me where darkest clouds have
My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free;
my Saviour has my treasure, and He will walk with me.
May the Lord who has given us life, strengthen us. May the Lord who provides for our needs, sustain us. May the Lord whose steadfast love is more constant than a mother’s care, send us out to live and work for Him. And the blessing of God Almighty. the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us always. Amen.