New every morning is the love
our wakening and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life, and power, and thought.
John Keble (1792-1866)
We praise and thank you Lord
for the wonders of a new day – its sights and sounds, tastes and aromas.
Thank you for keeping us safe – held in your amazing love.
Hymn StF 449
1 Lord of creation, to you be all praise!
Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!
Your glory and might are beyond us to tell,
and yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.
2 Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfil.
Your bondage is freedom; your service is song;
and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.
3 Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind,
rich truth that surpasses my knowledge to find;
what eye has not seen and what ear has not heard
is taught by your Spirit and shines from your word.
4 Lord of all bounty, I give you my heart;
I praise and adore you for all you impart,
your love to inspire me, your counsel to guide,
your presence to shield me, whatever betide.
5 Lord of all being, I give you my all;
if I should disown you. I stumble and fall;
but, led in your service your word to obey,
I’ll walk in your freedom to the end of the way.
Jack Copley Winslow (1882-1974) Words © Mrs. J. Tyrrell CCL 61615
Prayers for ourselves and others
We meet with you, amazing God,
thankful for all you have done in our lives to this day –
giving us human families
who have loved and nurtured us in body and mind,
giving us Church families
who have loved and nurtured us in your ways,
and who continue to support us in prayer
in the different way we are currently living.
Think of some specific ways you are being blessed at this time and give thanks.
your creation continues to change around us –
trees are coming into full leaf,
we hear birdsong and the whisper of the wind,
we smell the rain
– all signs of your continuing love and care.
Give thanks for something in nature that you have particularly enjoyed this week.
Lord Jesus Christ,
your life, death and resurrection
are the reason for the way we live our lives today,
and yet we don’t always manage to live up to our calling,
finding it easy to grumble
about the restrictions we are experiencing at the moment.
Allow yourself to express your whinges!
Lord Jesus, we give all these things into your hands
(imagine yourself literally giving them like a parcel into Jesus hands)
and ask to be forgiven.
accepts our offerings,
and frees us from the burden of carrying them.
He gives us his forgiveness.
Thank you, Lord.
Holy Spirit, power of God,
who mysteriously moves and joins us into one body, Your Church,
no matter how far apart we are,
we thank you for this ‘fellowship of all believers’
that continues from the very first disciples
and will go on to the end of the age.
Give thanks for those who brought you to faith,
for those who support you now,
for those you support.
we pray for them all,
and for ourselves,
that your love may be made known in each one of us,
and that we may have the opportunity to share that love
with all we come in contact with this coming week.
Spirit of the living God,
move among us all;
make us one in heart and mind,
make us one in love:
selfless, sharing –
Spirit of the living God,
fill our lives with love!
Michael Baughen (born 1930) © Michael Baughen/Jubilate Hymns (CCLI 61615)
The fellowship of the believers
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’
All together – quick chorus of ‘Wouldn’t It Be Luvverly…’
Wouldn’t it be so wonderful to be able to behave like the early church, doing everything together! But we can’t – at least not now. So let’s see what we can learn from what Luke wrote, both about then and about now. Let’s try to imagine new ways of being church that don’t involve going to church.
Absolutely central to the first Christians was ‘the apostles’ teaching’ – learning about Jesus and about faith in him. We should do the same – keep up our bible reading, maybe read Christian books, listen to the radio or watch Christian material on the TV or the internet. We are very lucky – there is so much easily available.
Then comes ‘fellowship’ – that Greek word koinonia which means much more than ‘tea and biscuits after service’. We can’t ‘do’ fellowship in the same way as they did, but we can still be creative. There’s the telephone – emails – Skype or Zoom for those with the resources – or just over-the-garden-fence conversations. We all need this personal contact, and if we maintain it, so we build up fellowship.
Unfortunately we can’t ‘break bread’ together, but we can in effect worship together by using services like this one, or tuning in to streamed services. We can pray together, in pairs on the telephone, or in larger groups using Zoom. And we can ‘give to anyone as they [have] need’. God’s love can be shown in all sorts of ways. Contact by phone or email helps to combat loneliness; practical help with shopping or collecting medication reduces anxiety.
You may think ‘We’ve heard all this from the government and elsewhere’. So let’s try and give it a theological edge as well – let’s think of the present situation in the light of the church’s doctrine of the communion of saints. Usually this is taken to mean the church universal in time and space – the idea that we here, the Methodists of Southampton Circuit, are part of something unimaginable large, the entire Christian church spread across the world now, and all Christians of past ages, all of us joining in eternal worship of God here or in the life to come. But we might rethink it for ourselves as the dispersed community that we have become – a church without a building but nonetheless a church because of what we do in ‘communion’ with others and in response to Our Calling.
For the reality is that just because we can’t use our buildings does not make us less able to worship, to learn, to offer (and receive) God’s love. In the words of a (relatively) new hymn,
‘The Church is wherever God’s people are praising,
knowing they’re wanted and loved by our Lord;
the church is where we as Christ’s followers are trying
to live and to share out the good news of God.’
Carol Rose Ikeler (b.1920) © 1963 W.L.Jenkins
Our mission hasn’t changed – who we are hasn’t changed – it is up to us to be the same but in different ways for now.
May the blessing of God be on our homes and our houses,
on our living and our loving,
on our giving and receiving –
the blessing of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
who is always with us, now and into eternity. Amen