Lets look to the Psalms as we come to God in prayer
Drawn from Psalm 37
(1-4) Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
Trust in God, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Delight in everything about God, and God will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit the way you live to God; if you trust God, God will act to show where you are right,
and bring justices to your case, like the bight noonday sun.
Be still before God, wait patiently for her response.
Do not fret over those who seem to be getting their way despite evil desires and motives.
Trust in God to show you how they will be stopped, and truth and grace will prevail.
Run from evil, and do good; so you shall be at home with God for ever.
For God loves justice and will not forsake his faithful ones.
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom; they speak for justice.
The law of their God is in their hearts; they don’t slip as they follow in God’s footsteps.
God we recognise that we do slip.
We strive to be faithful to your love and grace to us, but too often we focus on ourselves:
we want to be as successful as others in our careers, families, sports or talents
we become frustrated and angry when others don’t understand the world the way we do
we hold on too tightly to beliefs that make us comfortable – when you challenge us to see things from your point of view.
Forgive us God.
Help us to learn from the wise ones – from the scriptures, from your Saints through history and today, and even from the insights of the young.
Today open our ears and our hearts to listen and learn from you, to hear again the questions and guidance for us from your Son Jesus, and the wisdom and courage offered through your Holy Spirit.
Teach us to spend more time listening, asking questions to understand and act positively, than in preaching, prosecuting or politicking others to get things our way.
Family of God, through God’s Spirit we can always draw on the fountain of wisdom and love, even in the darkest of times and when our actions (or inaction) shame us so much. There is enough mercy to cover all your sins, and not yours only, but those of the whole world. Take up the challenge then – live as Christ showed us, as he called you and me to serve in the world.
Live as forgiven people, for in Christ, such you truly are!
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Gospel reading: John 1: 1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’)
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Prayers of the People & Dispersal (by Rev. Ann Perrin, UCA)
Ever-living, ever-present God,
You are with us.
We come before you this day
knowing we’re are to be dispersed,
sent out into your world
to be your church in new ways.
If we are resistant to this change Lord,
hear our prayer of confession
and bless us with forgiveness,
patience and resilience
for we are committed to care for each other as we care for ourselves.
So help us to discover new ways to share
why we live our lives committed to sharing the promises of the gospel.
During these times of change, we will remember those whose groups are still unable to meet together in our buildings, or new challenges to gathering,
and the new ways we will need to navigate to be community.
We remember planned baptisms, weddings and celebrations
And pray times for rejoicing will not be too far away.
We remember those for who this time is one of uncertainty and challenge
those who now live with fear and in isolation,
and those for whom this time is one of anguish and death.
Hold all those in need of your love at this time.
Holy God, you encourage us when doubtful to draw closer to you.
Allow us to recognise your Holy Spirit as our guide, comforter, and companion.
And so with the hope you instill in us
and when the time time is right and this season of our church is over
we will return as your gathered community
with the joy of Easter Day,
celebrating our resilience, knowing our communities are stronger then ever
to continue your work to help build a flourishing world where ever we find ourselves.
As the community begins to open up in late October/early November, we will be making arrangements to return to in-person worship. To aid our planning, we invite you to complete this short questionnaire:
Life-giving God you have come amongst us in Jesus,
And in Jesus you announce good news for the poor, liberty for captives, sight for those who cannot see and freedom for the oppressed.
In you is love that surpasses all loves. You are the Light of all lights.
We confess our need of you …
We are not meant to navigate this life on our own …
Help us to be honest about ourselves … help us to disentangle the good from the bad …
Enable us to be humble enough to declare that in too many ways we have not lived up to the standard of living found in Christ …
Bring your healing, forgiveness, and good news into our lives …
Break us free from anything that takes us away from the path of Christ …
Please gather us up into the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Assure us that you desire to forgive us through and through … that you desire to deal with the burden of guilt that so many carry. May we hear your good news of hope and liberty right within the core of our beings … And may we be open to the Holy Spirit transforming us more and more into the people you would have us be. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.
Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us. 2 They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message. 3 And so, Your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. 4 I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught.
Luke 4: 14-21
Prayers for intercession
O Lord, hear the deep prayers of our hearts:
Prayers for hope for those who feel desolate and are struggling to find meaning in life
Prayers for healing for those who are in physical, mental or spiritual need
Prayers for jobs for those who cannot find paid employment
Prayers for community for those who feel isolated
Prayers for peace for those whose lives are filled with conflict.
Prayers for people who genuinely listen for those seeking to be understood.
Prayers for comfort for those who grieve.
Prayers for food and clean water for those who hunger and thirst.
Prayers for shelter for those who are homeless.
Prayers for those impacted by droughts, fires or flooding rains
Prayers for freedom for those who live under dictatorships.
Prayers for wisdom for our leaders.
Prayers for spiritual growth and health for our churches.
Let us start this service well, by reminding ourselves of the good news that Christ calls us … indeed calls all … to life in all its fullness.
As we pray, hear words of Scripture and reflect on our theme let us seek to be open to the prompting of the Spirit so that Christ can enlighten us …
Let us give time during this service to intentionally wait upon the living God who is always with us whether we acknowledge this or not …
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You embrace all time and eternity in your care,
Your way is the way of love and compassion,
You are abundant in grace and truth.
All your works praise you,
And your way is revealed in Jesus Christ our Saviour and brother
Help us to honor you,
Blessed and holy Trinity,
One God, for ever and ever …
As we pause in prayer, Saving God, it is a relief to know that nothing we do or say, or do not do or say, can be hidden from you.
You know our needs even before we name them …
You see how we stumble along the path of life … often because we are weighed down by all the ‘stuff’ which keeps us from following Jesus.
Holy One, empty us of our tendency to cling tightly to unneeded things or unhealthy pretensions … instead fill us with your grace and hope. As we let go of all which might hold us back, give us the trust to follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, into that life with which he offers to each of us.
Silence may be kept
Declaration of forgiveness
My friends, Christ has come to loose our bonds
and give us liberty.
In his name I declare the forgiveness of sins
and the life that is eternal.
If Christ sets you free, then you are free indeed.
Thanks be to God.Amen.
Friends embrace the life Christ offers. Amen. Amen.
In the last video we looked at the way Jesus challenged his followers and challenges us by drawing attention to children.
The account of Jesus taking children into his arms and blessing them comes immediately before the passage we are about to here.
And you might remember that Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to children … that the way to the kingdom is not complicated … it is simple … it is about receiving God’s way with the wide-eyed joy and openness that little children display.
Let’s listen now to today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel about a man who found himself challenged about his approach to the things of God.
A Rich Young Man’s Question
17 Jesus started to leave on a journey, but a man ran to him and fell on his knees before Jesus. The man asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
18 Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commands: ‘You must not murder anyone. You must not be guilty of adultery. You must not steal. You must not tell lies about your neighbor in court. You must not cheat. Honor your father and mother.’”[a]
20 The man said, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these commands since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked straight at the man and loved him. Jesus said, “There is still one more thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor. You will have a reward in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
22 He was very sad to hear Jesus say this, and he left. The man was sad because he was very rich.
23 Then Jesus looked at his followers and said, “How hard it will be for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The followers were amazed at what Jesus said. But he said again, “My children, it is very hard[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 And it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. It would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!”
26 The followers were even more amazed and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked straight at them and said, “For people this is impossible. But for God all things are possible.”
28 Peter said to Jesus, “We left everything to follow you!”
29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. Everyone who has left his home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or fields for me and for the Good News 30 will get a hundred times more than he left. Here in this world he will have more homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields. And with those things, he will also suffer for his belief. But in the age that is coming he will have life forever. 31 Many who are first now will be last in the future. And those who are last now will be first in the future.”
Well obviously, there is your name. Which in my case is a little complicated because while I am known as Paul, Paul is actually my second name. My first name is William and after years of trying to explain this to banks, companies and government authorities I have given up. So, for example, when I travel and use my passport, I have to remember that when someone calls out, William. Well, that’s me.
But we are more than names …
“Elise is the lady who lives in the house on the corner with all those beautiful roses.”
“Fred is the guy who is into fishing in a big way.”
I remember many years ago hearing a funeral eulogy for a man, who I did not know personally but who had been described to me by his family. A friend of the man gave the eulogy, and he outlined all the important committees and company boards that the man had served on but said nothing about the man’s character … how he cared for is family, his kindness, his sense of humour … that sought of thing. So, I didn’t think the man who gave the eulogy really gave us a true picture of who his friend was. I frankly thought the man’s character spoke far more about who he was than the years he had served on a particular company board.
In todays’ reading it is clear that the identity of the man who came to Jesus and asked him about how he could inherit eternal life was bound up with his wealth.
It is for good reason that this passage is often entitled in Bibles “The rich man” or “The rich ruler.”
Jesus of course diagnosed this straight away. (Pause)
Jesus is about to go on a journey and the man rushes up to Jesus and kneels at his feet.
The man, in the process, almost overdoes the greeting by describing Jesus as “Good teacher,” which Jesus later picks up on.
And after this startling entrance and greeting, the man asks Jesus, what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Now the word inherit is important and we will come back to it in a moment.
But, as you heard, Jesus’ response was to point to the law.
And the man tells Jesus that he has kept the laws since he was a boy … which we have no reason to believe was untrue and which was therefore pretty amazing. No doubt he was thus known as a good man.
But when Jesus challenged the man to give up his riches because they were holding him back from inheriting eternal life, he just couldn’t do it.
Jesus looked straight at the man and loved him. Jesus said, “There is still one more thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor. You will have a reward in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
He just couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t give up his wealth and all that went with it. And so he went away sad!
It is not that having stuff in itself is wrong … but when wealth … when stuff defines who you are … defines your identity … as it did for this man … then there is a problem … it is a barrier to inheriting eternal life … it is a barrier to being authentic … to being truly alive … alive in God … alive in Christ.
The discomforting word here for us, of course, is that we are being provoked by Jesus to ask ourselves what are the barriers to us inheriting eternal life?
When Jesus looks at us with love, what would he have us let go of?
If not wealth, are there other things … obsessions … anger … an inability to forgive … attitudes or patterns of thinking. What might be acting as barriers for us to inheriting eternal life????
And now back to that word “inherit.”
The point about the life that Jesus offers in this life and the life to come, is that it is inherited!
What normally happens when you inherit money or a house or a box of your grandparent’s stuff? Unless there has been some skulduggery going on, you simply receive it. To inherit something is to receive a gift.
To enter into the way of life that Jesus offers means accepting that we can do nothing to earn it!
Like the wide-eyed joy and openness of a child we are simply to receive the undeserved gift of the life and love of God poured out in Christ Jesus.
Faith means simply being ready to receive and trust Jesus …
And then allow the life and love of Christ to shape the way we live, the way we relate to others, the way we honour God …
In a world where we so often are told we have to work for something, we have to buy, we have to do something to get it, we have to create our own image, this is pretty weird. But it is the Gospel.
Real hope … real life … involves receiving the gift.
The rich man had allowed his wealth to define who he was. His wealth had become something unhealthy and a barrier to living God’s way.
Jesus loved him and challenged him to let go of it and live … to begin living a little of eternal life of God right now.
Jesus wants that for you and me to be free and alive …
So be open to Jesus’ challenge to you about what you might need to let go of … what might act as a barrier to inheriting …to receiving … life in all its fullness … the life of Christ.
To the fisherfolk Jesus said:
“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.
To the tax collector Jesus said:
To the rich man Jesus said:
“Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At the last supper Jesus said:
To you and to me and to all of us Jesus says:
~ written by Rev. Kathleen Sheets, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Jesup, IA.
Great God of Heaven and Earth,
you call us to leave behind our preoccupations
and to follow you into the future.
Sometimes we find your call challenging.
We are comfortable, maybe even complacent, in our present.
May this act of giving be a gesture of our willingness
You invite us to extend that love to the world around us—
to care for others….
We pray for the many who do not have enough:
enough food to eat, or shelter to keep warm;
enough employment, or money to pay their bills;
enough medicine or medical care.
We also pray for those who have more than enough,
but who still struggle to find meaning and purpose in life;
who indulge in dangerous or self-serving activities
to dull their pain or loneliness.
We pray for those impacted by COVID 19 and for all those … like intensive care nurses … who are serving so self-sacrificially to care of others.
We pray for our planet … teach us to be good stewards of the environment.
We pray for the Church both locally and globally that your Spirit might continue to stir its leaders and members to a faithful and energetic living out and sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ … and we remember particularly the Catholic Church in Australia which has been meeting in recent days to consider its future.
Compassionate God, Your grace reaches out to all of us.
You call us to live as citizens of heaven,
working together with one heart and mind.
Strengthen us to live in a manner worthy
of the Good News we have received,
offering our lives in service of Your kingdom,
where the last are first, and the first are last,
and there is grace enough for all.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, Amen.
Based on a prayer by Christine Longhurst, re:Worship
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours