Home Worship Sheet Sunday 17/01/2021

Welcome to our home worship sheets.  Today we’re exploring the second of the twelve steps using one of Jesus’ most famous parables.  But before we do that, let us bring prayers and praise our loving and caring God together.  Let us pray.

Loving God, we thank you for this day and for this time.  Thank you for the promise that you will be with us always.  Please help us to know that you are with us now.  Please help us to re-focus our minds and hearts on you.  Please help us to worship you in spirit and in truth in all we do.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Call to worship:
Come, all you whose souls thirst for the living God.
We come in search of help and hope.

Come, you who are acquainted with grief or oppression.
We come bearing our doubts, our wounds, and our fears.

Come, you who are in need of good news.
We come in search of joy, truth, and light.

Come and find refuge in God your rock.
Let us again praise the One who is our help and our hope.[1]  Amen

Let us praise God together and declare our longing for him and his transforming presence with us.  Let us sing/read/listen to “As the deer pants” (Source 27).  Click here to find the song

As the deer pants for the water,
so my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

You alone are my strength, my shield,
to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

I want you more than gold or silver,
only you can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
and the apple of my eye.

You alone are my strength, my shield,
to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

You’re my friend and you are my brother,
even though you are a King.
I love you more than any other,
so much more than anything.

You alone are my strength, my shield,
to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire
and I long to worship you.

Thanksgiving:
It is good to give thanks for the many blessings God has given us.  So let us think back over our week just gone and remember and give thanks for all the blessings we’ve received.

Generous God, we thank you for all that we have and all we are and all we are able to do.  For the material blessings and the skills and the people around us.  For those who keep us safe and well, and for those who grow our food and clean our drinking water.  And for so much more.  We thank you for your love for us that we can find out about through Jesus.  By his life and death and resurrection you made a way for us to know about this love.  We thank you and praise you for all you give us.

And we thank you as well for all we can give away.  All we have comes from you and belongs to you.  Please help us to use it to share your love and goodness with all those around us.  Please help us to be generous and a blessing to others, just as you are generous and have blessed us.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Reading: Luke 15:11-24 (NRSV)
11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.[2]

Reflection:
I think this is one of my favourite parables told by Jesus.  The parable is part of a triad of parables about things that were lost.  Jesus was spending time with tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees and teachers of the law were grumbling and complaining about this.  So in response Jesus tells these three parables to them.  And they all illustrate that God is looking for, and cares about, those that are lost.  The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.  My favourite book  about the lost son parable is written by Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, who explores the three characters in the parable through the prodigal son painting by Rembrandt and his own personal experience as a pastor at a community for people with disabilities.  (Definitively a book worth reading if you like the parable or the painting by the Dutch artist.)

The part of the story we’ve read today focuses on the younger son who was discontented at home and doesn’t want to wait for his father to die before he claims the inheritance.  This is pretty shocking even by today’s standards but in first century Israel this request would have been unthinkable, an insult to his father and a source of dishonour and shame to his whole family that would stick for generations to come.  However, in the parable the father gives the son what he asks for.  Having abandoned his family and wasted all his money trying to find friendship and acceptance, the son is brought to his lowest point doing a horrible dirty job and still not having the food or shelter for his most basic needs.  For a Jew to be feeding pigs, and even desiring the food the pigs got to eat, would  have been the lowest of the low.  And it is at this point of helplessness and hopelessness that the boy starts to long for home, for his family, for his father.

It is that longing, that desperate desiring, that is the next of the twelve steps towards a deeper discipleship journey.  That desperate desiring is the difference between buying into a belief system and true faith. The difference between following a religion and a real relationship with God.  Richard Rohr puts it like this “The innocuous mental belief systems of much religion are probably the major cause of atheism in the world today, because people see that they have not generally created people who are more strong, caring, or creative than other groups -and often a lot worse.”[3]  But we only begin to long for God and his help and healing when we really understand how lost and destitute we are without him.  If we look back over our lives to see where we learned most, it is probably not the high points and the mountain top experiences, but in the valleys and the suffering where we experienced transformation.  We sometimes need to be brought to our knees before we are ready to receive and value what we already have.  And we need to be prepared to let go of all our defences and excuses and turn towards the God who loves us just as we are.  The God who longs to pour out his grace in our weakness, is longing to welcome us, to embrace us with open arms.  In fact, he is waiting and looking out for us, and prepared to do the undignified thing of running towards us when we are ready.  God loves us already and unconditionally and we are invited to desire and receive that love more and more each day.  May his loving arms enfold you and uphold you.  Amen.

Questions:

  1. When did the Father forgive the son?
  2. What did the son have to give up in order to return home?
  3. How did the son feel when his father welcomed him home?

To respond and praise God for his love and tenderness we’re going to sing/read/listen to our next song “Oh Lord your tenderness” (Source 402)    Click here for the song on YouTube.

O Lord Your Tenderness,
Melting all my bitterness, 
O Lord, I receive Your love.

O Lord, Your loveliness,
Changing all my ugliness, 
O Lord, I receive Your love. 
O Lord, I receive Your love, 
O Lord, I receive Your love.

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1986 Thankyou Music

Prayers for others:
We are going to take some time to pray for ourselves and for situations and people in the world around us and bring our concerns before God..

God of open arms and new beginnings we come before you now, broken and hurting, needing your love and care.  Help us to know we are accepted by you and surrounded by your love.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

God of love and reconciliation, we pray for people caught up in conflict and war, and for those who lead them and try to help them.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

God of love and restoration, we pray for people who are affected by disaster and disease and those organisations that try to bring relief.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

God of love and care, we pray for governments around the world and our own government and for all the decisions they have to make.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

God of love and healing, we pray for health services and those who work hard to keep us safe.  We pray for those who work hard to get the vaccine to everyone, both those who are paid to do this and those who volunteer, may they know your support and wisdom and protection.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

God of love and healing, we also pray for those we know who are ill or struggling at the moment.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer

Let us pray together by sharing the Lord’s prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For the kingdom,
the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.

We will finish with the song “No longer a slave to fear”.  Let us sing/read/listen together. 
Click here for the song on YouTube.

No Longer a slave to fear

You unravel me,
with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance,
from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again,
into a family
Your blood flows
through my veins

I’m no longer …  X2

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am the child of God
You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
You drowned my fears in perfect love
You rescued me

And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God (yes I am)

I am a child of God
I am a child of God (yes I am)
I am a child of God

I am a child of God
I am a child of God

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

Jonathan David Helser / Brian Joel Case / Mark Johnson 
© Bethel Music Publishing

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore, Amen


[1] by Rev. Heather A. Moody, and posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website. http://www.ucc.org/worship/worship-ways/

[2] Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[3] Breathing under water: Spirituality and the 12 Steps by Richard Rohr, p9

CCLI: 21497