Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Ps 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Cor 6:12-20; John 1:43-51
There is a God who steps free of the binding chains around our souls,
and calls us in a voice which also knows our name,
and always knows our pain,
who lifts our feet as though our life stands cupped in a saving hand
and cherished forever in a life-filled place.
Affirmation 1 (based on Psalm 139:1-6)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it. Amen.
Song: Weave our lives together (Helen Wiltshire) (Tune: Glenfinlas 65.65)
Weave our lives together,
sinew, blood and bone;
shape us in completeness,
secret and yet known.
Knit our souls together, spirit, mind and heart;
weave us in the darkness;
craft our ev’ry part.
Hold us in enchantment;
nurture us in grace;
search us in our being;
carve for us a place.
Draw us to your presence,
gather us in care;
call us to your beauty;
nourish each one there.
Woven, shaped and living;
held within love’s womb;
may we spring and flourish,
grow and come to bloom.
Affirmation 2 (based on Psalm 139: 13-18)
O God, it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them – they are more than the sand;
I come to the end – I am still with you.
Creative God, we draw comfort and courage from your presence.
We have confidence to make our confessions in your company. A silence is kept.
Song: God to enfold you (sung after a silence, and during prayer of confession)
God to enfold you, Christ to uphold you,
Spirit to keep you in heaven’s sight;
so may God grace you, heal and embrace you,
lead you through darkness into the light.
Words of assurance may be offered here.
In front of us, behind us, to our right, to our left: look! God is there!
In our past, beside us today, waiting in the future: look! God is there!
In the shadows, in the light: look! God is there!
From the top of the mountains, to the bottom of the seas;
in the morning, in the evening, in every moment: God is with us!
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Prayer of Dedication (Thom Schuman)
You call us, O God, not because you need us, but because others do. You gift us, not because we are so special, but because others need to be blessed by our gifts. We give from the abundance which is ours, not because we are so generous, but because you have graced us with so much.
May our gifts go to serve the work of your kingdom, we pray. Amen.
Affirmation 3 (as part of benediction) (based on Psalm 139:7-12)
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Epiphany 2B (Pilgrim UC, 8am)
Thom Schuman liturgy with communion, Thom Schuman.10B.Epiph2.Liturgy w comm
Music suggestions: The Summons (Iona)
Life in Liturgy resources here.
This prayer might be a helpful focus in relation to the Gospel reading:
God of good gifts,
Help us to discover our potential.
Guide us as we live and learn.
Show us the way to find the good things that you have laid before us.
Give us courage to explore new things.
Teach us how to know and name our gifts and talents.
Inspire us with the incentive to use them in the loving service of others and the common good.
Just as Jesus called people on a journey of growth and development,
Call us to walk in your way
That we may find meaning and purpose in being all the good that we can be.
May we never give up learning and growing
May we never tire of finding the gifts within us and each other.
Help us to always encourage and support all who we live and work with in being the best that we can be.
May this always be so.
Amen. (c) Jon Humphries
Reflection by John Sumwalt (retired UMC pastor)
Samuel grew up in the temple where he was cared for and mentored by the priest, Eli. All of this is the well-known part of the story. What you may not know is that Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas were “scoundrels,” who exploited the privileges of the priesthood, extorting the best portions of the sacrifices brought to the temple with threats of violence, a sin that was, according to the scripture, “very great in the sight of the Lord, for they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt.” They also lay with women who served in the sanctuary. Eli knew of this corruption and he spoke to his sons, calling their actions “wicked,” but he took no action against them.
What God is about to do is a consequence of this sin. God is about to bring about a terrible judgment on the house of Eli and the nation of Israel that he represents. God had promised in previous generations that Eli’s family would be a holy priesthood forever. Because of their blatant contempt for God and all that is holy, God is going to bring an end to their whole priestly family.
Not long after God’s message to Samuel, Israel is attacked and routed by the Philistines. Even the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, which had always ensured victory in the past, is not enough to protect them. 34, 000 Israelites are killed, including Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas. When Eli heard that his sons were dead and that the Ark had been captured, “he fell over backwards from his seat, his neck was broken and he died.” It gets worse. When Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, heard the news she gave birth prematurely to a son and as she was about to die, the women attending her tried to comfort her saying, “Do not be afraid, you have given birth to a son. But she did not answer or give heed. She named the child Ichabod, meaning, ‘The Glory Has Departed From Israel.”
This is the setting in which Samuel was nurtured and where, in spite of the corruption all around him, the scripture says, “he continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.”
As you hear this word, ask yourself, what is the word of God here for all of us in the church today?
Psalm 139 You Are Before Me, Lord
(Tune: SURSUM CORDA or the Scottish tune HIGHLAND CATHEDRAL)
1. You are before me, Lord, You are behind,
And over me You have spread out Your hand;
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
Too high to grasp, too great to understand.
2. Then from Your Spirit where, Lord, shall I go;
And from Your presence where, Lord, shall I fly?
If I ascend to heaven You are there,
And still are with me if in hell I lie.
3. If I should take my flight into the dawn,
If I should dwell on ocean’s farthest shore,
Your mighty hand will rest upon me still,
And Your right hand will guard me evermore.
4. If I should say, “Let darkness cover me,
And I shall hide within the veil of night,”
Surely the darkness is not dark to You:
The night is as the day, the darkness light.
5. Search me, O God, search me and know my heart;
Try me, O God, my mind and spirit try;
Keep me from any path that gives You pain,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Composer: 1989-1941 Alfred Morton Smith
Author: Ian Pitt-Watson, 1973
What Good Can Come From Nazareth?
AURELIA 22.214.171.124 D (“The Church’s One Foundation”)
“What good can come from Nazareth? Can any good at all?”
Nathaniel said to Philip when he heard Philip’s call.
The prophets never praised it — that little backwoods place.
He thought God wouldn’t choose it to be a means of grace.
And yet, when he met Jesus, Nathaniel changed his ways.
His words that put down others soon turned to words of praise.
He called our Savior “Rabbi!” and “Son of God!” and “King!”
What change a little listening and openness can bring!
“What good can come from strangers?” O God, we hear the shout.
For some hate other people and seek to push them out.
May we who follow Jesus be glad to “Come and see!”
May we learn from each other with true humility.
O God of all our cultures, now make us one, we pray.
May we see your grace working in all your lands this day.
May we hear others’ stories — what makes them sad or strong,
Till — listening — we find friendship, with love our common song.
Biblical Reference: John 1:43-51
Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864 (“The Church’s One Foundation”)
Text: © 2018 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.
Carolyn wrote this hymn Friday 12th January 2018 in response to the Gospel lesson and Trump’s racist comments about Africa and Haiti. The conservative evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, had a helpful article, Why We Need to Talk about Trump’s Haiti Remarks: Christians can expand their compassion by looking at the deeper story of development and immigration.