This series will take us though the next ten weeks of worship. We are using the themes ‘Loving’, ‘Living’ and ‘Giving’ to explore ways in which it might be possible to be the Church even as we are unable to gather together. When we talk about being ‘the Church’, we’re not talking about buildings, and Sunday mornings, but about how we live as Christian people every day of the week, wherever we find ourselves.
Through the week we will continue to unpack the material presented here. We want to know what YOU think. You can join the conversation in our new Facebook Group (unlike the Facebook Page, the content of the group is only available to members of the group. You will, however, need to create a Facebook “profile” to access the group – please ask if you need any help doing this). We will also produce some short video reflections through the week to explore things further – look out for those on the Facebook page.
Below you will find:
- A worship booklet to download and use over the next 10 weeks
- A link to the readings for today
- The organ music and words for today’s hymn
- A reflection on today’s theme
- Some questions to reflect on
- Prayers of intercession
And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?
‘Tis mystery all! Th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Reflection written by Suzie
Loving ourselves. There is much that can be said about this, but this morning I’ll share just a few thoughts.
On a Sunday morning in Autumn of last year, I spoke at Christ Church, Timperley. In that sermon I referred to a picture painted by Barbara Schwartz, a Dominican Sister based in America, and it is her interpretation of Jesus’s encounter with an unnamed woman in Luke’s Gospel 13:10-17. Here it is:
This was a woman who had been bent over with illness for many years. As with many women in the Bible her name is not recorded, but Luke records this tender, yet powerful life-changing encounter with a woman who would have been on the margins of society.
Why did I look again at this picture as I thought about this week’s theme, loving ourselves? I think it was a timely reminder that God knows our frailties, in whatever form they take, sees us, loves us and wants us to know that we are made in his image. The psalmist said:
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Psalm 139:14
And yet I wonder if there had been days when this bent over woman had not felt like that at all, had not felt ‘wonderfully made’. Then one day she met Jesus who looked up and saw her. Here is a short extract from a poem by Pat Lee who, like the artist, is a Dominican sister who has responded to this story from Luke’s Gospel:
I see this woman everywhere, I feel her yearning, longing, hope strong as steel. When she sees Christ. Sees him looking at her, it is more than joy in her face, it is hope fulfilled. It is overwhelming joy. She has no questions at all. She is just there. She is there.
She cannot straighten up entirely, but her whole body is stretching, reaching for him. Her eyes, when she sees him. What a message is in her eyes. You are here. You have come to me. You see me. Me.
I don’t remember what her arms are doing or his, I suspect they are reaching out. But his face. His face is leaning into her. He has come to her, to fill up her longing. She will never be alone again. His eyes are fastened upon her, blessing her, loving her for the faith she has in him.
God sees us in our bodies. Of course, he does. For those of us who feel too fat or too thin, or too wrinkly or too spotty, or too middle aged, or too young or too old, or too clumsy, or too slow, or too whatever it is, God sees us, and he sees us in our bodies, we carry his image and he loves us. He sees me and he sees you.
God loves human bodies so much that his precious eternal son was born in a human body. The incarnation. The eternal Son of God was born and walked and lived and breathed among us. And one day as he did, Jesus saw this woman. He saw her in her bent over body, held out his hand to her when he didn’t even need to, and loved her.
And I continue to reflect on why we are called to love ourselves and what that looks like during a time of such challenge. Some of the things I’ve done to love and care for myself may seem trivial, but maybe they’re not trivial at all; the clumsy attempts to cut my fringe so I don’t feel so scruffy; the manicures I’ve taken time to give myself so I’ve cared for my hands which have many jobs to do; the lovely new beside radio I bought which I switch on during times of sleeplessness and which has helped me to get back off to sleep again; and of course the times I have sat quietly with God and prayed (with or without words).
We are called to love and care for ourselves.
Because we are worth it.
The Son of God saw the woman in the synagogue that day, and though we don’t know her name, he knows it. That’s the Jesus we follow; that’s the Son who shows us what God is like; the God who loves us in all our frailties and the God who is worthy of our worship and adoration.
God reaches out to us with his abundant love. He delights in us and want us to care for ourselves.
Because we are worth it.
Questions for reflection
- How have you been caring for yourself during these challenging times?
- Does thinking about how much God loves you, help you to love yourself?
- What could you do this week to show love to yourself?
Prayers of intercession compiled by Linda
Many years ago, I was given a book published by Christ Church Mothers’ Union Thoughts for the Passing Months, and this beautiful prayer is taken from it:
Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of our recollection, the seat of mediation, the rest for our cares and the calm of our tempests. Prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, an aid to untroubled thought. It is the daughter of charity and the sister of meekness. It is a steppingstone to Heaven.
Let us be still and centre ourselves in prayer and know that we are loved and cared for
We are taking as our theme this week loving ourselves and Psalm 139:1-18, appointed for today, talks to us of God’s generous and unconditional love which surrounds us day by day. The psalmist tells us how much God loves us and knows us, he has made each one of us and we are special and loved.
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar.Psalm 139:1-2
It is so comforting to know that we are loved and cherish by God and we need to love and cherish ourselves.
In these difficult times, let us give thanks for the love we enjoy in the community of our church and parish. For the wonderful ways we are communicating through telephone conversations, our WhatsApp group and Facebook and sharing our thoughts and our prayers. We know that every contribution is valued, and we can feel safe and loved in that knowledge.
Let us hold in our prayers our own needs for our families and friends, bringing them to mind, especially those we have not been able to see and hug for so long. Keeping well and keeping safe has concentrated our minds and all that we do, and we pray that in time life will return to some sort of normality and we can be kind to ourselves.
It is not always easy to love ourselves, perhaps we are feeling lost, unloved, lonely, as though we are unwanted, or we are struggling with relationships or a long-term family feud. Be with those who find themselves estranged from family that their suffering may be healed and that those they are in conflict with may also be able to offer the hand of love and friendship. Lord be with those who find it hard to love themselves, to like whom they are, to have confidence to know that they are loved by God.
We pray for our world which has so much prejudice and we pray for the stronger united voice to be heard to start the healing process in support of the Black Lives Matters movement and know that all lives matter. Let us love and respect the human race in all its diversity and richness of culture and tradition and let us love ourselves for the values and traditions which are part of us. Lord it is not the colour of our skin which defines us but our soul.
Be with those who are unwell at this time, for those waiting for hospital appointments or results and for those working with love and dedication in our hospitals and care homes. May those who have a daily battle with mental illness find peace and love.
Today we say a loving farewell to Ordinand David Murray and we send him on his way to St Annes Sale with every blessing. Dave has touched many lives during his ministry training with us and he will be sadly missed. We assure Dave of our love and prayers for his virtual licensing on Thursday 2 July. Thinking of the next step in Dave’s ministry, the well-known hymn by Sydney Carter has the most wonderful and appropriate words for us to pray and reflect on
One more step along the world I go, one more step along the world I go,Sydney Carter (1915-2004) © Stainer & Bell Ltd
From the old things to the new keep me travelling along with you
And it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.
May we all travel safely wherever God is leading us on our step by step journey.
Want to explore this more? Come and chat about it – or listen in – over on the parish Facebook Group – click the image below!