Act of Worship prepared by Revd Charity Nzegwu at 10.30am
Call to Worship: I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise, and telling of all your wonderful deeds. Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells. My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord. (Psalm 26: 6-8, 12)
Hymn 364 O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
O for a
thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of His grace!
gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honours of Thy name.
name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
'tis music in the sinner's ears,
'tis life, and health and peace.
He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean,
his blood availed for me.
He speaks; and listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive;
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
the humble poor believe.
See all your sins on Jesus Laid:
the Lamb of God was slain;
his soul was once an offering made
that all may heaven gain.
In Christ, our Head, you then shall know,
shall feel, your sins forgiven,
anticipate your heaven below,
and own that love is heaven.
© Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain
CCLI Licence No. 9141
Prayer of Adoration Silence: personal prayer Let us pray
Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. You have gathered us here to worship you. We thank you for your presence in our lives, even when we don’t recognise it.
Lord of all people, who make yourself known throughout the world in many cultures, voices and songs, make yourself known to us today, that we may come to know your heart. We give you thanks for making all things new. In you we place our hope and trust. We seek your Holy Spirit to guide our new year and our new beginning. Draw us in with your spirit tether so that our words and deeds may glorify you this day and days to come. Open up the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing upon this Church and all who enter this place. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ your son and our saviour. Amen
Prayer of Confession
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us, that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen. If it has not been the Lord who was on our side, we would now be lost in sin. But it’s the Lord who is on our side, and so, we are forgiven. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Amen
Genesis 37:1-5, 12 -28, Joseph’s Dreams
Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.
12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, ‘As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.’ ‘Very well,’ he replied.
14 So he said to him, ‘Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.’ Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.
When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’
16 He replied, ‘I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?’
17 ‘They have moved on from here,’ the man answered. ‘I heard them say, “Let’s go to Dothan.”’
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 ‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. 20 ‘Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.’
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life,’ he said. 22 ‘Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.’ Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe – the ornate robe he was wearing – 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
Hymn 696 For the Healing of the Nation
For the healing of the nations,
Lord we pray with one accord;
for a just and equal sharing
of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action
Help us rise and pledge our word.
Lead us forward into freedom;
from despair your world release,
that, redeemed from war and hatred,
all may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness
fear will die and hope increase.
All that kills abundant living,
let it from the earth be banned;
pride of status, race, or schooling,
dogmas that obscure Your plan.
In our common quest for justice
may we hallow life's brief span.
You, Creator-God have written
your great name on humankind;
for our growing in your likeness
bring the life of Christ to mind;
that by our response and service
Earth its destiny may find.
© 1968 Stainer & Bell Ltd
CCLI Licence No. 9141
One thing I have struggled with in my life to date, is living in the moment. I keep trying. You may have mastered the art of doing just that. If you have, please share with me after the service how you do that. One thing I have found really intriguing during this lockdown is hearing people say, “Oh you know, when it’s over, I will do this, that and the other”. I don’t know whether you have felt like that too at times. I wonder whether as human beings, we want to escape uncertainty, most of the time. I have found myself reflecting on how we can live in the moment? How might it look and feel like when we resolve to find God in the here and now. I have reflected on how much lessons this pandemic has presented us with? My biggest worry has been missing those things that are not right in the here and now? I want to listen to the lessons of our time and I want to see God in these times too!
That led me to reflect on our seventeen, Joseph in the text read for us earlier. The young boy seems to be having difficult time. One would expect an adolescent young boy to be enjoying his life with some hope and dreaming dreams of a bright future. He is the youngest of the boys, his father’s favourite boy, surely he should be enjoying the love of his brothers. Instead, his brothers seem to dislike him. I am not surprised, for that is often the case when siblings sense favouritism. They so disliked him that they decided to throw him into an empty pit. Their action could potential have killed his hopes and his dreams. It seems to be that young Joseph has it quite easy in comparison to his big brothers. However, this morning, I want to redeem the young boy, Joseph, and treat him with some kindness. After all, Joseph dreams! I wonder whether he really deserve the pit for being a dreamer. We could discuss that another time! Nonetheless, his brothers seem rather harsh, heartless, unfeeling, and definitely not Christ-like. I wonder whether they considered the fact that, killing their brother, if that happened, would also kill his dreams? I think this happens because the brother’s vision was limited, their God was too small. They ask him “do you intend to reign over? Do you intend to rule us?” When the opportunity arises for them to get rid of him and make some money, they sell their own flesh and blood into Egyptian slavery.
Friends! I have learnt that God’s dreams disrupt the way things are, they threaten the status quo and the normal order of life. God’s dreams might get one into trouble. I have a conviction, and I want to offer it to you too, If your dream just confirms what already is, the norm, it’s not God’s dream. Why? because God disrupts, upturns our human way of doing things. The Bible reminds us that, the last shall be first, the least are the greatest, the weak are the strong and the foolish are the wise. Joseph dreams of a world with an equitable distribution of power. A dream that would eventually become a reality as we read the rest of the Joseph narrative. So, the brothers seek to strip Joseph of any hope, disrobing him of Jacob’s sign of love for him, that long robe with sleeves which their father never gave them. This is a serious family conflict. Joseph’s dreams are a threat to their way of life. His brothers want to put an end to that with a level of certainty.
A story is told of a dad, putting his son to bed. Part of the process of putting his son to bed was praying together. Unexpectedly, the son asked, “Daddy, are we going see God one day?” The dad said, “Yes, one day.” The son said, “Friday?” Dad said, “No, not Friday, but one day.” Then the little boy said, “You, me and Mommy, are going to see God one day.” “Yes, my son, one day.” And the son response was “Cool!”
Friends, I think this is a beautiful vision of being in the face of God. Imagine, a child’s desire and prayer for God’s presence, to be part of the Kingdom of God, not alone, but with the whole family. This child’s dream reveals to me that he was alive and yet dreaming! Imagining beyond what one can see with the naked eye. How the world ought to be. How the church, and community should be, and I think that is amazing!
I wonder whether you might be dreaming of a world where there is equitable distribution of wealth and food for all? A place where there is shelter, health care and education for all. I wonder whether you are dreaming of a place where there will be no violence, no war, no racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and indeed no hatred of any form. My dream is to live in a world where the vision of Christians would be truly inclusive, where we are all accepted just as we are, a church where there is one human race with different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, age, and where those who are differently abled are valued and affirmed as made in the image and likeness of God, therefore they reflect God just like everybody else.
I dream of a world of Christians, in which Royston, Foxton and Orwell Methodist Churches, can work collaboratively with each other, the wider community, schools, ecumenical groups, other faiths or none to the glory of God. If making disciples is at the heart of our mission, I dream of a community in which we can live in the moment, discern and develop new ways of being Church. I dream of a community of different generations, where young and the mature, children and adults relate to each other in meaningful friendships. I dream of a community where contemporary and traditional forms of worship are inter-woven in blended worship and reveal the breadth of the beauty of God. So, I have a vision of a community in which we continue to look outward and beyond where the Church is known, thus revealing the incarnation of God’s love in action in the world. To reach out while at the same time reaching in. That my friends are my dreams. My prayer is that I won’t end up thrown into a pit!
What is God’s vision for you and for this place? God’s dreams for you may be deferred but will not be ultimately denied. Joseph is not murdered, though that was the initial plan, but God uses Reuben to save his life so that the dream does not die along with Joseph. God may be using unlikely people and predicaments to keep the divine dream within you and me alive. In conclusion friends, I invite you to continue dreaming. Dream on because God is not finished with you yet!
Prayers of Intercession
Loving God we recognise our responsibility to encourage and uphold one another and to live together in peace and love. We also recognise our needs and our human weaknesses and come to you now with our prayers for others and for ourselves. Shape our imagination so that your dream is our dreams. God of our dreams, we thank you for your vision for us which is always much bigger than our vision for ourselves. Father of grace, we pray that you draw near to those who feel that their dreams have been lost or crushed. May all who trust on a worldly dream, and still feel empty and unfulfilled, know your grace. We also pray that you may help those whose dreams are seemingly always out of reach. Mother of visions, we pray that you may enfold those whose dreams have been misused due to poor decisions made or missed opportunities. May you wrap your arms around all who have lost the ability to dream, especially in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic or any other hardships of life.
Holy Spirit, we think of those in our world today, living in fear of violence. Makes us a people who embody your vision throughout our lives, O God. Help us to continue to dream that sweating heat of injustice and oppression are transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. Raise us to be dreamers who will lead your people to love, peace, mercy and justice. God of the poor, the differently abled, the blind, the lonely and the vulnerable, your son revealed to us that you have prepared a great banquet for all. We remember before you those who have not known the simple joy of a meal shared with loved ones. Grant strength to those to whom daily bread is a daily struggle. We pray for our brothers and sisters who spend their lives feeling invisible, unlovable and unworthy. Bless those whom home is a place of fear, horror and lament, rather than a place of safety.
Lord of new beginnings, your mercies are new every morning and you seek to make all things new. We pray for all who yearn for new life today. We pray for all who are tired, warn and in need of hope, that they may know you love. We name before you any who are facing any beginning not by choice but due to circumstances. Be close to those who have lost their jobs or loved ones. Calm the fears of those who find new beginnings to be a source of anxiety or pain. Help us to always remember that you can undo or transform our failures and frailties with both love and purpose. Almighty God, we thank you that your wisdom not only enlightens us but transforms and guides us as we go from this place of worship and into our daily walk through life with you. Merciful Father: Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Hymn 465 Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
hold me with Thy pow'rful hand:
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
feed me now and ever more;
feed me now and ever more.
Open thou the crystal fountain
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fiery, cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through:
strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
be Thou still my strength and shield;
be Thou still my strength and shield.
When I tread the verge of Jordan
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side:
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee:
I will ever give to thee.
| Peter Williams William Williams
© Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain
CCLI Licence No. 9141
Blessing and Dismissal O Lord, we praise you, that we are never outside your holy presence. Through your son, blessed God your dreams for all humanity find their fulfilment. We give you thanks that you are always present to us. May we always worship you wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Glory be to the father and to the son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen
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