Sunday 12 May 2024

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Welcome!

We know not everyone who is part of Westwood Church is able to be in church on Sunday morning however, we thought it would be good to offer some excerpts from the Sunday morning service. Where we can, we offer parts of the service in text and audio, whichever works best for you. If you want to plug in headphones to your computer, tablet or mobile phone now is a good time to do it ! If you want to offer some comment or feedback just use the comment box at the end of this post.



Scripture

John 17: 6 – 19 

Acts 1: 15 – 26 


Praise – The Church is wherever


Prayers

God our comforter, Source of our hope, be present to us today. Unite us as we worship.  Give us ears to hear the Good News of your abundant, transformative love.  Stir up in us a prophetic voice, that we may proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Inspire in us the courage to serve you in word and deed, as together we build a world free from poverty.

Creator God, you made us and cherish us as your beloved creation.  We confess that we have failed to care for the world you brought into being.

We have polluted the earth; we have consumed without thought for the future.

We have hardened our hearts and turned away from communities devastated by the climate crisis.  Out of the greatness of your love.  Lord, forgive us.

Jesus, you call us to love our neighbour, to go the extra mile.  We confess that we have failed to love others as you love us.  Too often we have ignored cries for justice.  We have given our energies to protecting what is ours and have failed to consider the needs of others.  Out of the greatness of your love. Lord, forgive us.

Spirit of truth, you breathe wisdom upon us and guide our ways.  We confess those times we have relied on ourselves alone, as though we had no need of you; those times we have rejected the help our neighbours offer because it would cost us our pride.  We have declared ourselves dry ground, unable to grow the fruits of love, peace, joy and gentleness.  Yet through all our failings and faults you never leave us. Out of the greatness of your love. Lord, forgive us.

This day we offer ourselves to you as fertile ground; we offer hearts that are ready to grow in grace and love; ready to accept the grace you offer, ready to accept help from our neighbour and to offer help to our neighbour that they too may grow in love, peace, joy and gentleness.

Hear us then, as we join in the words of the Lord’s Prayer saying…

Our Father who art in Heaven Hallowed be thy name.  Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever.  Amen.


Address

Jesus prays for his disciples asking in his prayers that they may be one just as He and the Father are one.   Jesus talks about glory, protection, dedication, truth, joy; all of which are wonderful yet, in that whole passage, which Isabel read for us, not once does Jesus mention love.  Even so, we cannot understand Him as meaning anything else but love as that which holds the disciples together as one, or that it is anything other than love which hold the Father and the Son together as one.   Some things simply defy explanation or description; love might be one of those things.  Well, just think on Paul’s passage in Corinthians 13 – the passage about love – he spend more time saying what love is not than what it is !

All around us we have depictions and symbols of love. A red rose on Valentine’s Day, a family photo, a heart shaped locket, the engagement ring or wedding ring on your finger; isn’t it curious that even when we have so many ways to represent love, love is somehow bigger than all of them? Love sometimes defies description, defies explanation.

Sometimes we encounter extraordinary stories of love persisting through the most challenging situations. This Christian Aid Week, Aline Nibogora offers us one such story. Aline’s love for her children and for her community is evident in all she does.  She has held on to faith, hope and love even when extreme poverty pushed her to the brink of survival.  Aline’s story gives us an insight into what love can mean. Perhaps love can be expressed in hearts and flowers but it is also shown in the solar panels that give Aline’s children light to complete their schoolwork; in the Village Savings and Loans Association where community members support one another; in each brick of the home that Aline is building for her family; in the meals she shares with her neighbours.

Both Jesus and Paul face the same dilemma of trying to express the inexpressible, define the indefinable.  Love protects, glorifies, unites, brings joy. Love is patient, kind, rejoices in the truth. Love means we persist, we hope, we believe. Love is endless. It is the reaching for that something which is inexpressible in life; the fullness of love that we will find when we know God as God knows us; that pushes Jesus, Paul and us onward, never giving up.  To love is truly divine.  To love is truly human.

No one knew better than Jesus that his disciples were a diverse group of men.  As the early church grew in strength it also became very diverse; people of different races, languages and faith backgrounds accepted the Christian faith and worshipped together. But the unity they should have experienced was sometimes hard to find.  Jesus prays for his disciples to be one; Paul writes to the early church imploring them to use their differing gifts and talents for the common good.

Paul encourages the early church to rejoice in and value diversity within a united community “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor12.12).

This “oneness”, this unity we speak of, is not about not having problems, or not having disagreement.  It’s about how we respond to the problems and the disagreements.  The challenge to the church is to ask whether and how we are practising love both within and beyond our immediate community. Are we a church that works to allow all human beings to flourish and share their diverse gifts?

In the scriptures we see that love between human beings reflects the love the God has for us, has always had for us, and will always have for us. We love because God has loved us (1 John 4.19). We are invited into relationship – knowing and being known – with our Creator. Love isn’t, then, just cards, kisses, flowers, hugs – though it can be expressed through those things. Love is how we practice discipleship, how we follow our calling as children of God.  Love is the serious business of being seen by God for who we are.  Love is the ‘generosity’ of God who exceeds what we know and whose mercy and compassion is beyond measure. Love is one of Christian Aid’s core values, standing together with Dignity, Equality and Justice. Because love is at the core of who we are as Christians. God’s love transforms us; it gives us the strength to choose to love people living in poverty who we’ve never met, and the empathy to create change for good.

Love is our motivation. It drives us to stand in solidarity with our neighbours who endure poverty and injustice. It moves us to strive for a world where everyone has joy and fullness of life.


Praise – Come Down O Love


Prayers for Others

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.

God we are thankful for your love: love that changes us, turns our priorities upside down, and yet somehow makes us more fully ourselves.  We offer our gratitude for those who have shown us tenderness, care and compassion; Those who have seen us through troubled times and brought us hope.

We pray for those we love and for those we have failed to love. Remembering Aline’s experience, we hold in mind people around the world who know what it is to be treated as less than human.  May we work together to uphold the dignity of every human being, so that no one feels forgotten.

God whose love endures forever, hear our prayer…

God we are thankful for those who inspire us with their strength, courage and perseverance.  We pray for people around the world brought to the brink by extreme poverty, struggling to survive.  We pray especially for families in Burundi who do not have sufficient food, clean water, or access to healthcare.

Fuel us with fire of your spirit.  Fill us with a fierce determination to end the outrage of poverty.  May we hear the cries of those who are excluded from

power.  May we speak up with them for a more equal and just world.

God whose love endures forever, hear our prayer…

God we are thankful for peacemakers and healers.  We pray for all those who are reaching across divisions and acting to end violent conflict.  May political leaders use their power wisely to further the cause of peace. We pray especially for Peace in the Middle East, An end to the war in Ukraine, those affected by conflict in Sudan and the ongoing peace-making work in Burundi. We remember with sorrow the lives lost in conflict. 

God whose love endures forever, hear our prayer…

God we are thankful for love in action.  We give thanks for the cake-bakers, the runners, the envelope-collectors, sponsored walks, craft sales, and all kinds of fundraising challenges.  We pray that each of us may recognise the gifts we have to share, and that we too may see the richness of our neighbour’s gifts and talents. Help us to remember that ending poverty is not just about the things money can buy: it’s also about the joyful living your desire for each of us. May we all be free to live life joyfully, in all its fullness. 

God whose love endures forever, hear our prayer…

We give thanks that when everything else around us seems to crumble, you promise us that your love will remain solid and steadfast.

We offer these prayers in Jesus’ name.

Amen


Praise – Longing for light


The Grace

And now… May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and all whom you love, now and for evermore. AMEN.

One Reply to “Sunday 12 May 2024”

  1. Alan Wales

    Another great service lots to. Think about congratulations to Rev Kevin McKenzie for a great service.

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