Isaiah 9:1-4: Isaiah prophesies a reversal of fortune for the people of God who are occupied by Assyria – though they are in darkness, light will break in, and they will be freed from their oppression.
Psalm 27:1, 4-9: David’s Psalm celebrating God’s protection and the security he finds in God’s presence and in God’s sanctuary.
1 Cor 1:10-18: Paul confronts the Corinthians about the divisions and factions among them, reminding them that it is only the message of the cross that is important and that offers God’s power for salvation.
Matt 4: 12-23: Jesus begins his ministry and is seen by Matthew to be fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the light shining in the darkness. He preaches the nearness of God’s reign, calls his first disciples and heals those who are afflicted with disease.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Textweek, Church of Scotland starters, Re-worship

One Man’s Web – Andrew Prior’s sermon

A reflection for this historical moment from Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4.19-20
When evil steps up to the podium
you may hear the voice of Satan,
or at least the oil slick of his press secretary,
but listen beneath.
The bubble is burst.
You can’t sit this out.
Justice won’t come about without you.
You are needed.
The world needs people of peace,
needs people of gentle courage
and quiet, immovable wisdom.
Sometimes the clang of the hammer of oppression,
the grinding of a machine that eats people,
terrible as it is, however dreadful the mood,
daunting the prospects,
is your awakening. Give thanks.
It is the voice of Christ saying,
“You. Now. I need you.”
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4.19-20
Sometimes the call comes straight from the Master.
You hear his voice over the shorebirds’ cries,
the shuffling of the water.
And sometimes it comes from elsewhere.
Something makes you wonder.
That’s him.
Or a beauty lifts you, just a bit, out of yourself.
Or something awakens your courage,
or trust that has slept like a seed.
Or you hear a cry of need and you’re moved,
and you find yourself offering
what you didn’t know you had.
Don’t even try to explain the coincidence.
If you listen with the ears of heaven
there is nothing that is not him calling to you,
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what grief is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but you’re actually part of the drama which has him as the central character. N. T. Wright

Call to worship
We are one in Christ Jesus,
as the humble people of God,
carrying within us the beauty
of our different experiences and histories.
One in thanksgiving and praise 
as we gather to receive the Gospel. 
As we look at our sisters and brothers,
beyond our own church,
we see the varying practices and beliefs,
but this we know:
Our hearts are joined today
with the universal church. 
We worship God: Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit.

Call to worship
O come let us worship and lift our hearts . . .
Not because the world is good and last week was awesome,
but because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,
the God of the whole Earth.

O come let us worship and raise our hands . . .
Not because our lives are all sweetness and light,
But because even those who walk in darkness
can see a great light,
the Bright and Morning Star

O come let us worship and bow down . . .
Not because God gives us what we want,
But because God gives us what we need –
the holy child Jesus, God’s Unspeakable Gift.
(Source: Leonard Sweet, Preach the Story)

Call to Worship
Let us start this service well, by reminding ourselves:
That it is not we who chose Christ,
but Christ who chose us,
That we are not here because of our goodness
but because of Christ’s grace,
That we are not here to enlighten ourselves,
but to allow Christ to enlighten us,
That we have not come to be entertained
but to worship God with heart, soul, mind and strength.
(Source: Bruce Prewer’s webpage)

Prayer of Invocation
Gracious Light-Bearer,
Into the shadows of our isolation
you speak words of life and community.
Challenger of our lives,
you call us from places we call home
to lead us more deeply into the world you love.
With your gentle, healing touch
you redeem the broken places of our lives
and you heal the wounded places of the earth.
Inspire our worship here this day,
so that we may receive liberation in your word,
and be filled to overflowing
to share your reconciling love throughout the earth.
We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
(Source: Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website)

Prayer of Confession
God said: “Let there be life
And instead we have stifled life.
God said “Let there be love
and instead we have practiced schism
God said “Let there be peace
And instead we become experts at grumbling
God said “Let there be friendship
And instead we fear
God said “Let there be goodness
And instead, we hide our faces.
God of all Gods
Life of all life
Turn us towards you
who turn towards us
Lift up our faces
So that we may become more like you
And in so doing
may live lives of courage, justice and love.
(Source: Church of Scotland)

God of Presence and Light
God of Presence and Light,
We like to imagine that we are bold and strong,
that there is nothing that can frighten us
But, we are not strangers to trembling,
Our doubt leaves us feeling alone and afraid,
and our hiding brings much rejection to You and to others.
Forgive us, Lord, and help us.
Our self-centredness leaves us feeling deprived and poor,
and our grabbing results in great need.
Forgive us, Lord, and help us.
Our sort-sightedness leaves us uncertain and insecure
and our lack of listening divides and separates.
Forgive us, Lord, and help us.
Somewhere inside of us we do believe,
we do trust and we do love;
The simple gifts of worship and love that we offer now are tokens of this faith;
signs of our thanksgiving
and of our longing to be more bold in following you.
May our gifts and our lives be your instruments of healing and comfort;
For the sake of all in our world who grieve, all who despair,
and all who live in want and hatred.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

More prayers of confession – see the listing on this website

Contemporary reading – Psalm 27
How easy the author succumbs to every noise and anxiety. How easy it is to fall in heap.
But the author wants to believe, wants courage and strength. They are God’s gift.
The headlines in the papers every day can arouse a lot of anxiety.
Even in the safety of my home,
one noise at night can make my heart jump with fright
and I start believing the house could be surrounded
by who-knows-what – coming to get me.
And then I know that I have succumbed to my own scattered fear when
what I need to do is refocus
on what is good and beautiful in life.
So I focus on the Presence of a loving caring God
who raises me out of my stress,
and helps me stand tall again,
in spite of the things that make me anxious.
Deep inside, I hear my heart say to me
“Come on, take hold of that good Presence”.
Even then in my anxiety I hear myself say
“Oh God, help me. Do not hide yourself from me.
Though mother and father are of no help to me,
surely there is a God who will bring me
to my moment of strength”.
Yes, I say to that Good Presence
“Show me the way.
I do not want to be like thosewho throw themselves on the useless heaps of life”.
I want to believe in the Goodness of Life.
I am ready to wait for that.
Yes I shall breathe better.
I shall gather my courage and my strength.
God gives them to me. If only I will wait for God’s gift.
(Source: Francis Macnab. A Fine Wind is Blowing/13)

Contemporary reading: PSALM 27: 1, 4-9.
God is my light and my healing,
of what then need I be afraid?
Our God is the safe-house of my life,
who dare now threaten me?
I have asked our God for one thing,
and I will go all out for it:
That I may be at home with God
all the days of my life,
to glimpse the beauty of our God
and be eager in the temple.
On the day when I am in big trouble,
God will keep me secure;
I will shelter in God’s meeting place,
high up on solid rock.
I shall lift up my head high
above the pack of enemies,
I will tender in the meeting place
sacrifices of ecstatic joy.
Yes I will sing songs of faith
Please hear me God, when I pray,
be kind to me and respond.
‘Search for my face,’ you said to me.
Well, now my heart speaks to you:
‘I will search for your face, God.
Do not hide yourself from me.’
(Source: Bruce Prewer 2000)

Reflection on the schisms (Epistle reading)
“If you can’t hear the voices beside you – you’re singing too loudly.”
Harmony requires that we be able to hear others, that we deliberately alter our behaviour and our attitudes so that we can hear our brothers and sisters hearts and voices.
In Corinth at the time of Paul, no one was listening.
They were not listening because each person was fully convinced in his or her mind that he or she was correct – that they had the whole picture – the only right picture – the picture that others needed to have if they were to be truly called righteous, if they were to be
truly considered part of the body of Christ.
In fact in Corinth almost everyone was shouting – almost everyone was putting their views, their understanding, their philosophy concerning what was right and good first – and ignoring, neglecting, or condemning anyone who differed from their norms and their rules.
In this time of silent prayer consider your part in preventing the breakdown of a community you belong to. Do you need to be real about yourself? Do you need to stop pushing your agenda on everybody? Do you need to humble yourself in some way? In this time of silence ask God: “What do I need to do to be a part of the solution and less of a
problem for this community?” …. Let’s take a moment to listen to God.
(Source: George Hartwell)

The Epistle: Frederick Buechner (“Denominations”, originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words).

There are Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians. There are Presbyterians, Lutherans, Congregationalists. There are Disciples of Christ. There are Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are Moravians. There are Quakers. And that’s only for starters. New denominations spring up. Old denominations split up and form new branches. The question is not, Are you a Baptist? but, What kind of a Baptist? It is not, Are you a member of the Presbyterian church? but Which Presbyterian church? A town with a population of less than five hundred may have churches of three or four denominations and none of them more than a quarter full on a good Sunday.
There are some genuine differences between them, of course. The methods of church government differ. They tend to worship in different forms all the way from chanting, incense, and saints’ days to a service that is virtually indistinguishable from a New England town meeting with musical interludes. Some read the Bible more literally than others. If you examine the fine print, you may even come across some relatively minor theological differences among them, some stressing one aspect of the faith, some stressing others. But if you were to ask the average member of any congregation to explain those differences, you would be apt to be met with a long, unpregnant silence. By and large they all believe pretty much the same things and are confused about the same things and keep their fingers crossed during the same parts of the Nicene Creed.
However, it is not so much differences like these that keep the denominations apart as it is something more nearly approaching team spirit. Somebody from a long line of Congregationalists would no more consider crossing over to the Methodists than a Red Sox fan would consider rooting for the Mets. And even bricks and mortar have a lot to do with it. Your mother was married in this church building and so were you, and so was your oldest son. Your grandparents are buried in the cemetery just beyond the Sunday school wing. What on earth would ever persuade you to leave all that and join forces with the Lutherans in their building down the street? So what if neither of you can pay the minister more than a pittance and both of you have as hard a time getting more than thirty to fill the sanctuary built for two hundred as you do raising money to cover the annual heating bill?
All the duplication of effort and waste of human resources. All the confusion about what the church is, both within the ranks and without. All the counterproductive competition. All the unnecessarily empty pews and unnecessary expense. Then add to that picture the Roman Catholic Church, still more divided from the Protestant denominations than they are from each other, and by the time you’re through, you don’t know whether to burst into laughter or into tears.
When Jesus took the bread and said, “This is my body which is broken for you” (1 Corinthians 11:24), it’s hard to believe that even in his wildest dreams he foresaw the tragic and ludicrous brokenness of the church as his body. There’s no reason why everyone should be Christian in the same way and every reason to leave room for differences, but if all the competing factions of Christendom were to give as much of themselves to the high calling and holy hope that unite them as they do now to the relative inconsequentialities that divide them, the church would look more like the Kingdom of God for a change and less like an ungodly mess.

Response to the epistle reading: Litany of What We Can Agree To Do
This could be used following the epistle reading, as response to the sermon, or at the rear of the church as the closing action before the sending forth:
On the boundary of assembly and dispersion we,
Christ’s priestly people,
face our powerlessness, our divisions, and our vocation.
We can’t do everything, but we can love.
We can’t speak the final word, but we can love.
We don’t quite feel like we belong, but we can love.
When better days are a faint memory, still we can love.
When we don’t have the answers, still we can love.
When we can’t agree about gay and straight, still we can love.
When we feel awkward and restless, still we can love.
We’re frustrated with the constraints of youth and aging, but we can love now.
We let petty irritations trip us up, but we can love.
We choke on our faith songs, but we can love.
We limp in our worship and service, but we can love.
We are embarrassed at how messy our lives are, but we can love.
Solo: “Ubi Caritas”, with the invitation for people to join in on the repeats, Taizé style.
(Source: Daniel Benedict, Discipleship Ministries)

Prayers for others – see the listing on this website

Prayers for Others
The darkness loves to parade itself, God,
to draw our attention and steal our energy,
with fearful threats and dire prophecies of doom;
and we all too easily give it just what it seeks.
But, if we can just drag our gaze away
we discover that there is another reality;
that your light shines undimmed,
that your care is undiminished,
that your strength and protection are unfailing.
And so, even in the midst of pain, suffering, evil
even when it seems your light is almost out,
we choose to remain under the shadow of your wings;
to trust in your salvation,
to speak your words,
and to dispel the darkness
by lighting the flame of faith again
in our hearts. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

The Lord is our Light (based on Psalm 27)
The Lord is our light;
We refuse to walk in darkness.
The Lord is our salvation;
We refuse to walk in fear.
When pestilence stalks the land,
When jobs are scarce,
When the sound of war drums come too close for comfort,
We refuse to walk in darkness; we refuse to walk in fear!
The Lord is our light and our salvation
Whom shall we fear?
(Source: UMC)

Follow Me
We could only hear the voice
We could not see him
for he stood with the sun behind him
and he glowed
We dropped our nets where they were
screwing our eyes at the light
confused by its brightness
yet drawn by those words
“Come and follow me”
The light shifted just at that moment.
This was the daring plan all heaven
had been working on
through incarnation
and annunciation
around magnificat
those ancient words
scripted to lead nations into the reign of God
and here it was
centuries of work
whole generations had been longing for
a complete, worked out plan of salvation:
“Will you come and follow me”
it worked for us
but churches and project workers
have tried more advanced programmes
ever since.
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Listening to the Stones)

Book-Ended By Your Birth and Death
Book-ended by your birth and your death,
You lived and learnt,
You came to know us and our condition,
You lived a life,
Humbled in time, space, appearance and situation,
In time you took up the call you had spoken as the Word time and time before,
And once again spoke it with a new voice.
You lived God’s mission.
You taught us by word, deed and example,
You made real God’s love and God’s presence with us.
But we didn’t really understand,
And we still don’t.
Keep speaking to us.
Open your way within us,
That we might take up your life,
And live your love and grace into the world
As you guide us through the Spirit,
To be a communion of hope,
And the embodiment of your Commonwealth.
This we pray to be so. Amen
(Source: Jon Humphries)

The simple logic of light
How we long to understand, O God,
the simple logic of Light;
The power of a single glow to dispel darkness;
the capacity of a single spark to create warmth;
the immense energy in a single drop of sunlight.
It’s a simple logic, this message you speak:
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness cannot overcome it;
We praise you for the light,
and for it’s simple resistance to darkness;
We praise you for the radiance
that never ceases to stream into us and our world,
And we praise you for the tinder that you have placed within us
that waits patiently and quietly
for us to allow a single ember into our hearts
so that we might be set ablaze with You. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Blessing the Nets
You could cast it
in your sleep,
its familiar arc
embedded in your
muscle memory
after months
a lifetime
of gathering in
what you thought
would sustain you

You would not
have imagined
it would be so easy
to cast aside,
would never have believed
the immediacy
with which your hands
could release their
familiar grip,
could let it go,
could let it simply continue
its arcing path
away from you.

But when the call came
you did not hesitate,
did not pause,
did not delay
to follow,

as if your body
had suddenly remembered
the final curve
of the arc,

as if the release
begun in your hands
now passed through you
and you let go
of everything

to cast yourself
with abandon
upon the waiting
(Source: Jan L. Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook)

Litany: Travelling On
When hope invites us to journey
elusive, beckoning onward
but never in our grasp:
May we have the wisdom and the courage to travel on.
When dreams glimmer in the distance,
fading, clouded and hidden
or shining with new brightness:
May we have the wisdom and the courage to travel on.
When established patterns collapse
into the uncertainty of the unknown
and security dissolves into a memory:
May we have the wisdom and the courage to travel on.
When the illusion of success
threatens to divert us
and silence our souls’ yearning:
May wisdom and imagination inspire us to travel on.
When we think our journey has ended
in the star-lit glow
only to find the end is a new beginning:
May wisdom and imagination inspire us to travel on. (Jan Berry, adapted)

Go now in peace,
for Christ has called you to live in peace
among your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Go now in courage,
for Christ has called you from the places of your life
to be agents of redemption and partners in healing.
Go now in joy and thanksgiving,
for Christ is our light!
Go now as one body,
to love and serve God as you love and serve the world!
(Source: Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website)

Sermons (of course there are many, many sermons…..this is a small sample of fresh ones)
Lectionary Lab, 2017

Communion liturgy by Thom Shuman


Faith Has Set Us On a Journey (Tune: ‘Venture’)
Faith has set us on a journey
past the landmarks that we know,
taking risks with no insurance
but the Word that tells us “Go!”
Friend or job or home or lover
we may need to leave behind,
outworn truths and ways of thinking,
baggage to the past consigned.

Some are swags of easy conscience
who with others hitch a ride,
some are tourist-package Christians,
dollar-safe, with Book and guide.
There are others on this journey –
those who long and pray and search,
heave the stones to free the structures,
love the Christ and leave the Church.

We are this unlikely people
in the Body knit as one,
company of clowns and cripples –
some are wise and some can run.
Prophets are our travel agents,
gospel-makers lay this road:
to the place of peace and promise
faith will take us into God.
(Source: Shirley Erena Murray, #14, Faith Forever Singing. Songs for a New Day. Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 2000)

A Hymn of Exploration (Tune: 11 10 11 10)
We take the path that leads beyond this moment,
while seeking all the hope faith has to give;
we walk so near the edge of understanding,
while grasping what we need to know to live.

This is no abstract whim that we are tracing,
this story of God’s free, creative grace;
this is no empty, useless recitation,
but God’s own love that nothing can erase.

The vision that you give, each new disclosure,
will bring us closer to our common goal,
the point where you assure us of salvation,
for us and every other living soul.
(Source: Andrew Pratt 2010)

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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