Worship 7th February

Aire Valley – Separately yet together Bingley URC – Idle Upper Chapel URC –Trinity, Keighley Baptist & URC

7th February 2021

The lectionary readings for today are:
Psalm 147:1–11, 20c; Isaiah 40:21–31
Mark 1:29–39; 1 Corinthians 9:16–23

We will mainly be looking at the Isaiah and Mark passages.
You may like to get them ready in your own Bible.
For a moment imagine a person you miss dearly; and then imagine the warmth of greeting and embrace would take place when you meet again. Imagine that feeling, and then realise that is the kind of welcome God gives to each one of us as we gather to worship. So please, know that you are very welcome as we share this act of worship.

Call to worship
In the presence and peace of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Lord is here:
His Spirit is with us.

In the light and love of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Lord is here:
His Spirit is with us.

Let us come before Him in stillness;
and let us come with joy and thanksgiving. Amen.

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 34
1/4 Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty!
early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy! – merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

2/4 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
who wert, and art, and evermore shall be.

3/4 Holy, holy, holy! – though the darkness hide Thee,
though the sinful human eye Thy glory may not see;
only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

4/4 Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty!
all Thy works shall praise Thy name, in earth, and sky, and sea:
Holy, holy, holy! – merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Reginald Heber (1783-1826) altd.

Prayer of approach Based on Psalm 147:1–11, 20c
Gracious God, it is such a privilege to be able to come into Your presence, and we come to You with our praise.
As we offer our praise to You, we are in awe that it does us good!
Gracious God, we thank You that You heal the broken hearted, and bind their wounds.
As we come to You, may we know Your healing where we are hurting.
Gracious God, we are in awe of You:
You who determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name;
You who covers the sky with clouds, supplies the earth with rain, and makes grass grow on the hills;
You who provides food for the cattle, and for the young ravens when they call –
and yet welcomes us into Your presence.
So we come to You with grateful praise,
we are in awe of You,
and put our hope in Your unfailing love.
Gracious God, when we are conscious of Your presence with us, we are also conscious that we are not always the people You want us to be.
Where we have not been all You would have us be, please forgive;
make holy what we are;
and refine what we shall be. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…

Theme Introduction
I wonder if you can remember, as a child, playing ‘hide and seek’? Or even remember the last time you played? Perhaps as an adult with young children, knowing exactly where they would hide, so looking in several other places first, while the giggles got louder and louder in the chosen hiding place! Or those who had learned to be still and quiet – but with toes peeping out beneath curtains! Or, as children get older and a bit wiser, and it takes more searching out.
Had we been in a church building together, I may well have hidden something, and asked for volunteers to seek it out. In our Gospel reading, we hear of some seeking.

Reading Mark 1:29–39
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
38 Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

 We can’t tell from this passage whether the disciples would have known where to go, or whether they had to search out where Jesus had gone. We do, however, get a sense that they were surprised that Jesus had taken Himself away from people who were seeking Him out.

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 512
1/3 Seek ye first the kingdom of God,
and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added unto you.
Allelu, alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia; alleluia, allelu, alleluia!

2/3 We shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word
that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Allelu, alleluia.

3/3 Ask and it shall be given unto you,
seek and ye shall find;
knock and the door shall be opened up to you.
Allelu, alleluia. Karen Lafferty
© 1972 Maranatha Music/CopyCare

Reading Isaiah 40:21–31
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
25 ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’?
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

There is a saying about when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you. When people prepare worship there is often self-examination going on in the midst of the reading, reflecting and praying that goes into the preparation. What I am sharing with you this time, is not new to me, and may not be new to you, but I know I needed the reminder. The ‘shape’ of life, the routine of days, has changed over the last year, and it is timely for me to ponder on prayer life of Jesus.
While I have been preparing, I have kept going back and looking at the picture on the front cover, representing Jesus praying; and I have been pondering different possibilities as I look at it. You may find it helpful to look it again as we consider different aspects to Jesus prayer life.
Although He was One with the LORD described in our Isaiah passage, as a human Jesus needed to renew His strength, and knew that was best done in the Father’s presence. He, above anyone else, knew that Father God would never grow tired or weary, but would always be there, always waiting for those intimate moments together; as well as always supporting the mundane and the business of life.
Let us have a quick reminder of part of our Mark 1 passage:

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’

I am going to offer you some thoughts about Jesus’ prayer life as we glimpse it in this passage. Let us look at some different translations and see different emphasis on verse 35. I have used the updated New International Version. If you have looked it up in your own Bible you may have already noticed a slight variation.

New Revised Standard Version:
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

Good News Translation:
Very early the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house. He went out of the town to a lonely place, where he prayed.

King James Version:
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

We may focus more, by looking at different translations, on the unexpectedly early time that Jesus got up and went out. Or we may be more aware of the effort Jesus took to ensure privacy. We may also be conscious of the lengths He took to be somewhere where He would be free from distraction.
Those aspects are all very challenging for us in our prayer lives, and although I must emphasise that we have to find what works for us, there are lessons we can learn.
Next, let us consider more about when He prayed. In verse 21 we are told that it was the Sabbath, and the account of prayer that we are looking at is the next day. One lesson we can learn from Jesus, is that our devotions and prayer are not only for the Sabbath, or in our case Sunday. This was on the first day of the week – which maybe points us forward to another first day of the week when, unexpectedly, He rose early – that time in Resurrection – which takes us to our day of worship on the first day of the week.
Another aspect about this particular time of prayer is that it follows a significant time of ministering healing and deliverance. There is little wonder that He needed to renew His strength in prayerful intimacy with the Father.
A third facet about when, comes with the disciples. On finding Jesus they tell Him “Everyone is looking for you!” There were people to see, and things to do – which was exactly why Jesus needed to renew His strength. We too, need to spend time in prayerful intimacy with our Heavenly Father, in order to have the spiritual strength to do His work.
Jesus knew that if He was to meet people He must first meet God. If prayer was necessary for Jesus, how much more must it be necessary for us? A commentary by Matthew Henry points out that: “Though as God he was prayed to, as man he prayed.”

Something else to consider, is the word “prayed.” The Nelson Study Bible says: “The tense of the verb prayed indicates a continued action, not just a brief moment. Jesus’ prayer life was successful because it was planned, private, and prolonged. He got up early enough, got far enough away, and stayed at it long enough.” Again, very challenging for us, but with lessons we can learn.
I would like to leave you with a few sayings about prayer to ponder on yourself.

Prayer may be defined as the appeal of the soul to God.

Not to pray is to be guilty of the incredible folly of ignoring “the possibility of adding God to our resources.”

In prayer we give the perfect mind of God an opportunity to feed our mental powers.
Prayer will never do our work for us; what it will do is strengthen us for work which must be done.

Three lessons from Jesus prayer life in our passage:
He planned it; going to somewhere free from distraction; and His prayer was sustained.

If you would like to talk with me about prayer, do get in touch. I’m not an expert, but I do have quite a bit of experience with ups and downs!

Hymn Complete Mission Praise 50
1/3 Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
the Holy One is here;
come bow before Him now
with reverence and fear:
in Him no sin is found –
we stand on Holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
the Holy One, is here.

2/3 Be still, for the glory of the Lord
is shining all around;
He burns with holy fire,
with splendour He is crowned:
how awesome is the sight –
our radiant King of light!
Be still, for the glory of the Lord
is shining all around.

3/3 Be still, for the power of the Lord
is moving in this place:
He comes to cleanse and heal,
to minister His grace –
no work too hard for Him.
In faith receive from Him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord
is moving in this place.
David J Evans
© 1986 Kingsways’ Thankyou Music

Prayers of Intercession
During this prayer, from St Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), I invite you to pause and think between the phrases, and bring to mind people and situations they represent.

We bring before You, O Lord,
the troubles and perils of peoples and nations,
the sighing of prisoners and captives,
the sorrows of the bereaved,
the necessities of strangers,
the helplessness of the weak,
the despondency of the weary,
the failing powers of the aged.
O Lord, be near to each;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Gracious God, for all of whom we have thought and brought before You;
bring what they need most of Your healing, comfort, wisdom and peace. Amen.

Hymn Rejoice and Sing 492
1/6 Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
re-clothe us in our rightful mind;
in purer lives Thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise;
in deeper reverence, praise.

2/6 In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow Thee;
rise up and follow Thee.

3/6 O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love;
interpreted by love!

4/6 With that deep hush subduing all
our words and works that drown
the tender whisper of Thy call,
as noiseless let Thy blessing fall
as fell Thy manna down;
as fell Thy manna down.

5/6 Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of Thy peace;
the beauty of Thy peace.

6/6 Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm;
O still small voice of calm!
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92)

The God of grace,
who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
restore, support, strengthen and establish you.
To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.