God is with us – born among us – reaching out in love. And so we bring God our worship, offering all that we have been, all that we are, and all that in God we shall be.
StF 78 Give thanks with a grateful heart
Prayer of praise*
Glory to the Father, the God of love,
who created us;
who continually preserves and sustains us;
who has loved us with an everlasting love,
and given us the light of the knowledge of his glory
in the face of Jesus Christ.
Blessèd be God for ever.
Glory to Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who, though he was rich,
yet for our sake became poor,
and was tested in every way as we are,
yet without sin;
who proclaimed the good news of the kingdom,
and was obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross;
who was raised from the dead and is alive for ever,
and has opened the kingdom of heaven
to all who trust in him;
who is seated at God’s right hand in glory,
and will come to be our judge.
Blessèd be God for ever.
Glory to the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
by whom we are born into the family of God,
and made members of the body of Christ;
whose witness confirms us;
whose wisdom teaches us;
whose power enables us;
who will do for us more than we can ask or think.
Blessèd be God for ever.
To the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be praise and glory for ever. Amen.
Message - Revd Christine Fox
For weeks we seem to have had rain every day – and some of those dull days have been pretty depressing – January can be a bad time for many people anyway - and dull weather doesn’t help!
But one day earlier this week I saw a rainbow as the rain-clouds parted and the sun caught the raindrops, and always a rainbow makes me smile.
And thinking of the covenant service coming up today I realised how relevant the symbol of the rainbow being used as a symbol of inclusion is - we say – all the colours of the rainbow– the full spectrum – These phrases predated the adoption of the rainbow by the LGBT+ movement. And maybe people have learned through this that the rainbow is a symbol of everyone being included. God’s early expression of the covenant relationship with people was made with Noah through the appearance of the rainbow after the flood. God kept renewing that offer of covenant relationship – we heard read today the occasion of Moses speaking of it to a great gathering of God’s people.
My favourite part of that reading from Deuteronomy is the last line – “I am making this covenant not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today”.
Not only has the Lord God offered to form a covenant relationship with the Israelites, and not just with the leaders and chief men and elders and officials – he included all the other men, and the women and the children… and not only just Israelite people – but also the people from other nations and faiths living amongst them.
– and then he includes not only those standing there, but those ‘not here today’.
God confirms all of these as his people, that he may be their God.
Reading through that list of people included in this offer of covenant relationship I can’t think of anyone on earth at any time in history who isn’t included.
The emphasis of the covenant service too, is on God’s readiness to enfold everyone in generous love, and not depending on anyone’s deserving. This means that the covenant service offers us the peak opportunity of our year to wonder at God’s generosity, and to respond to that all-inclusive love with words offering ourselves to do God’s will as far as we are able.
Our response of words and actions includes doing what Jesus asked us to do. He sat in an upper room with a group of people – disciples including the Twelve named ones, including Peter James and John, and Judas too; Jesus commanded them to share bread and wine together, and whenever they did so, to remember him – in particular to remember his body broken and his blood poured out on the cross in sacrificial love for them, and not just for them, he says, but for ‘many’. So again the will of God to include everyone is echoed by Jesus.
For anyone who has experienced exclusion of any kind, the message of God’s inclusion is a great blessing. For us who desire to follow Jesus and to show God’s love as he did, this is a challenge to examine our own actions and words to see if we either inadvertently or even deliberately exclude someone who may be different to us in some way. This active attention to the way we live is an important part of our response to God’s offer of covenant relationship with us – we who have benefited from that inclusion by God to be God’s people, especially since we are not Jews nor were we present on the day that Moses spoke God’s invitation .
I said that when I see a rainbow it makes me smile. A smile can be inspired by a joyful thought or it can be caught from someone else smiling at you.
Twice recently on the radio in the car I’ve heard people speak of the effect of a smile – both on them and on those who are on the receiving end. The decision to smile at people you meet may not seem much, but the friendly smile offered to a person expresses your acceptance and inclusion of that person. One of the examples on the radio was of a lady who gave up her seat in the bus to another – and as she got off the bus the recipient of the seat thanked her but said it was not so much the seat but the smile that had been such a blessing. That response inspired the formation of the WVS – by that lady who had realised that the benefit of her small act of friendliness might be offered more widely by others.
The other mention of smiling on the radio spoke of the benefit of smiling to the one doing the smiling too – therefore it being a two-way blessing. That might motivate you to smile more at people but we can’t use that fact to conclude that God derives benefit from offering us covenant relationship.
The covenant is entirely for our benefit. The Covenant is not a contract in which God and human beings agree to provide particular goods or services for each other! And attending a covenant service is not something that we have to do to create a relationship with God. God has freely and graciously already made it possible. It is, however when we realise God’s immense generosity that we want to respond.
We renew our response to God’s covenant of love with us and all those ‘not present’ once a year. We celebrate Jesus’ renewing of that covenant ‘for many’ when we share in bread and wine as did those disciples, around twelve times a year. And we gather to worship God every Sunday of the year, remembering that first day of the week when Jesus’ rose to life, defeating death, renewing hope. And a great part of that hope is in, one day, all things (all people, all of creation) being reconciled to God.
As the rain clouds clear and the rainbow appears and we remember God’s offer of a covenant relationship of love, then our hope is restored and we can look forward to the year ahead with joy and maybe with a smile on our faces too.
In our next song –Jesus asks ‘will you come and follow me if I but call your name?’ – though it’s full of examples of things we might do in response to God’s offer of covenant relationship - notice that each verse reminds us that in fact he will be doing this - ‘I’ll move and live and grow in you, and you in me.’
StF 673 will you come and follow me
StF 556 Just as I am
Sisters and brothers in Christ,*
let us again accept our place within this covenant
which God has made with us and with all who are called to
be Christ’s disciples.
This means that, by the help of the Holy Spirit,
we accept God’s purpose for us,
and the call to love and serve God
in all our life and work.
Christ has many services to be done:
some are easy, others are difficult;
some bring honour, others bring reproach;
some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material
others are contrary to both;
in some we may please Christ and please ourselves;
in others we cannot please Christ except by denying
Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ,
who strengthens us.
Therefore let us make this covenant of God our own.
Let us give ourselves to him,
trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.
in your faithful and enduring love
you call us to share in your gracious covenant in Jesus
In obedience we hear and accept your commands;
in love we seek to do your perfect will;
with joy we offer ourselves anew to you.
We are no longer our own but yours.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do
and in all that I may endure;
when there is work for me
and when there is none;
when I am troubled
and when I am at peace.
Your will be done
when I am valued
and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfilment
and when it is lacking;
when I have all things,
and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer
all I have and am
to serve you,
as and where you choose.
Glorious and blessèd God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
May it be so for ever.
Let this covenant now made on earth
be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.
Prayers for Others*
As we have entered this covenant not for ourselves alone, but
as God’s servants and witnesses, let us pray for the Church
and for the world.
Loving God, hear us as we pray for your holy catholic Church:
make us all one, that the world may believe.
Inspire and lead all who govern and hold authority in the
nations of the world:
establish justice and peace among all people.
Have compassion on all who suffer from any sickness, grief
deliver them from their distress.
We praise you for all your saints who have entered your
bring us all to share in your heavenly kingdom.
Let us pray in silence for our own needs and for those of
StF 548 Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
The blessing of God,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be upon us and remain with us for ever. Amen.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.
* Extracts of the Covenant Service from the Methodist Worship Book © 1999 Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes
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These are the Worship at Home versions of the In Person Services, led by our Minister :-
Each Service has the videos of the songs and the Sermon or reflection.
The Song references (StF) are from the Singing the Faith song book.
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