Intro to Worship at Home
Our worship and prayers today are all in the shadow of the death of our monarch of 70 years standing, a moment in our nation’s life when we – collectively – acknowledge the passing of a remarkable life, the end of an era (the Elizabethan Era) and when we all wonder exactly what we should do, and what will happen.
In this service we remember our nation, our new King and his role, our government which is also new this week. In the words of the old Prayer Book we continue to pray that “under [the monarch] we may be godly and quietly governed”. We pray for our communities and neighbourhoods and we know that along with our national mourning, each person and family also have their hopes, joys, needs and challenges. We pray for those we know especially those who struggle in body, mind or spirit. Please use this service to draw closer to God our Maker, our Redeemer, the one whom our Queen knew to be her true King and Lord, and whom she served her whole life.
A Reflection on Isaiah 6 for this time
Isaiah 6: 1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
Uzziah was a good king, and under Uzziah the nation had had stability and peace for once; his death was a time not just of mourning but of increased uncertainty. This is the time when Isaiah (not to be confused with Uzziah!) is called by God, and in his call he has a vision. Although there is an empty throne in Judah, although there is uncertainty in the corridors of power, the Lord remains seated on his throne – not because he is not bothered, but because he is not unsettled. God is still in charge, in control, present, and he calls on Isaiah to see if he will go and speak for him.
We may be somewhat dazzled by the pomp and glamour of a big royal event, but – if you like – the glory of God is ten times more. Not just footmen but seraphs, and not just trumpets but voices such that the building shakes.
Isaiah understands that God is present seated, still on the throne; Isaiah is also reminded that God is holy and utterly glorious, scarily so – how could we dare enter his presence? Isaiah discovers God has a job for him to fulfil.
Today and in the coming weeks may we be assured that despite the changes in our country, despite uncertainties God is present and on his throne. In case we get too preoccupied, may we be reminded of the searing holiness of God, and yet his mercy; and may we respond to his call, “Follow me”, “Love the Lord and love your neighbour”; “serve the Lord with gladness”.
Reflection on Luke 15: 1-10
Luke 15: 1-10
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
There are two key themes which bubble through these two parables; finding and rejoicing. What is interesting is that the rejoicing is done by the one who lost the item, not by the one who was lost. If these parables are helping us understand salvation, you might think it is the one who is saved and rescued that would be rejoicing, but, no, they tell of the joy that there is for the one who finds and how that joy is shared with friends and in heaven
The shepherd, who has spent the night looking for this sheep that has wandered off – and who has had to leave the other sheep maybe with the lad, while he goes off – it is he who has the grin on his face – he is so pleased to have found his lost sheep. The woman who was desperately looking for the lost coin; she calls in the neighbours who may not have even known it was lost – or was there a lot of crashing and banging as she turned the little house upside down?! – and she throws a party. In both parables Jesus invites us to understand how much joy there is in heaven when the lost are found and restored, and that this joy is shared: “Rejoice with me ..”
There is joy in heaven when what was lost is found, when what had gone returns. If we think of God as the judge who condemns and punishes we need to think again. In Eden the man and woman hid from God; here the owner is determined to find what is missing, even if he has 99 others; in fact the one that is missing takes up 99% of his attention.
These are two short vivid parables – they are insights into the person of God, not the complete account of everything. The shepherd is delighted to find his missing sheep, one out of a hundred; the woman the lost coin, one out of 10. In the next parable, the father has a son who leaves (we call him the Prodigal Son), and the father rejoices to see his son returning and makes him so welcome, despite how the son has treated him, but the story continues with an older son who does not rejoice, who goes outside, leaves the house, and the father goes out too to him, asking the older son to come back. We don’t know if he does or not.
If we have grown up in church all our life, if we have always been part of the sheepfold as it were, we may not readily associate with feeling lost and far from God; if we have struggled in life, felt lost and alone, known we have gone wrong, then we – I hope – have known the feeling of God finding us and picking us up, the “welcome home”, that despite all, God loves us and rejoices to have us (back) in his family. Whichever pattern we are in, I hope we can know the joy that God has in us being his child, sense the joy in heaven – how extraordinary that God is so excited and delighted in us, we who are all flawed and who fall short in so many ways.
And if we have not yet discovered and sensed this delight, may we discover it and feel the warmth of God’s grace and love for us, that we are so special to our Creator.