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Virtual Worship - 31 October 2021

Call to worship:

Behold, I make all things new, beginning with you, and starting from today,
Behold, I make all things new, my promise is true, for I am Christ the way.

Song

Hymn STF88/ HAP 16 Praise to the lord the almighty the king of creation


Prayer of Adoration

God of love,
you are so much more than anything we could ever imagine.
Abundant love flows from your very being.
We know your love is the greatest of all.
We bask now in that love, making our small offering in return.
We love you with all our heart, all our understanding,
and all our strength – and always will.
Amen.

A prayer of confession

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Mark 12. 30-31

Lord God, we confess that we struggle to love others.
Sometimes we don’t even recognise who our neighbour is,
never mind knowing how to love them.
Encourage us in your ways, O Lord.
We confess that we don’t always realise
that to show love to others,
first we have to learn to love ourselves.
Sometimes we haven’t a clue how to do that.
We may have an ideal in our head of what love is,
then get cross with ourselves when we fall short.
Encourage us in your ways, O Lord.
We confess that we have the idea that love is
this great dramatic gesture or action,
when sometimes it can be as small as a touch of a fingertip.
Encourage us in your ways, O Lord.
Amen.

Assurance of forgiveness

The God of all heaven and earth
looks upon us now with love
He wraps us tightly in his arms.
His love pardons us, enfolds us,
emboldens us to accept that our sins are forgiven,
and we can go into the world to reveal his love.
Praise be to God.
Amen

Prayers from ROOTS for Churches Ltd.

Contemporary Story

24-year-old Khadija Saye was born in London, and lived in a high rise flat with her Gambian mother. At the age of 16, she was recognised as a talented photographer, and won a scholarship to the prestigious Rugby school. Grateful for the experience, she said it was one of the most difficult things she had done. She entered a completely different world to the one she was part of –the school was full of privileged people, and she was someone came from among the least well-off in British society. For Khadija the scholarship to Rugby School was the opportunity to gain an understanding of herself. She developed self-confidence, tenacity and determination. Khadija went on to the University for the Creative Arts, pursuing her artistic career despite the financial barriers in her way. On the cusp of widespread recognition, her work was exhibited at a prestigious exhibition in Venice in 2017. One of her fellow artists described her as ‘One of the most remarkable people I have ever, and probably will, ever meet.’ Her home was on 20th floor of Grenfell Tower. Khadija died there in the fire which killed 71 people in the early hours of 14th June 2017. (Adapted from: The lives of Grenfell Tower’, Guardian, 14 May 2018).

In the days that followed the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the journalists discovered that residents of the Tower, members of the Grenfell Action Group, had been issuing repeated warnings for several years, that ‘Only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord… and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon (us) their tenants’ (Grenfell Action Group 2016). Tragically, these warnings were not heard or heeded by their landlord, Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council. No one in a position to do so had done what was necessary to ensure the safety of the tower’s residents.

The Grenfell Tower fire is one of the most tragic disasters in Britain in recent times. Arguments about responsibility and blame continue. There can be no doubt that there have been failings both of individuals and of institutions.

As Christians we recognise that our failings, both individual and collective, affect us all. Human failing for whatever reason, causes suffering. Because we have a vision of a better world, a world redeemed in Christ, we pray for forgiveness, for restoration, for wholeness for ourselves and for all people. Khadiya Saye died. It was not her fault. Nor was it the fault of the others who died. We can feel the tragedy, we can lament the failings, we can learn from the mistakes. We pray for those involved and for those who live in other high rise buildings caught up in the financial fallout of trying to put buildings right. That is a second tragedy and one where something can still be done.

Song

Hymn STF 696 /HAP 402: For the healing of the nations

Reading: 

Luke 13 Some people there with Jesus at that time told him about what had happened to some worshipers from Galilee. Pilate had them killed. Their blood was mixed with the blood of the animals they had brought for sacrificing. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think this happened to those people because they were more sinful than all other people from Galilee? 3 No, they were not. […] 4 And what about those 18 people who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them? Do you think they were more sinful than everyone else in Jerusalem? 5 They were not.

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) Copyright © 2006 by Bible League International

Reflection:

These verses from Luke’s Gospel have always intrigued me. The two incidents mentioned could have been taken from a news report from today: one about political violence, the other about a tragic disaster. We have no other information about them. They are simply mentioned in passing, a small piece of history momentarily standing out from the background before disappearing again. Such events invite speculation. The picture we have here is of people speculating about whether there was fault or blame that could be attached to someone. In the culture of the day that commonly took the form of blaming those who had been most affected. People would speculate about whether they had behaved in such a way as to bring the disaster upon themselves? In other words, had they been sinful and God had punished them. Few people today would think that anyone who died in tragic circumstances was being punished by God, although you do hear such views from time to time.

Today, however, people still speculate about who is to blame. And, too frequently, blame is given without sufficient attention to the facts. It is easy to manipulate a news story in order to blame someone, or some institution, involved. The incident mentioned to Jesus is about Pilate, the roman governor, who appears to have been guilty of an act of murder, killing pilgrims from Galilee as they perform religious ceremonies involving sacrifice to God. What is missing from this story? Were the pilgrims deliberately involved in an act of political disobedience, a demonstration against Roman occupation, a display of national pride? Or were they innocent of political motives altogether, and the victims of roman oppression? We simply don’t know. Who is to blame? We simply can’t say. What we can say is that Jesus, when told about this incident, is invited to join in the ‘blame game’ but refuses to do so.

Similarly with the news about the tower falling and killing 18 people. Was this an accident during the construction of the tower? A failure in the design or the materials used in building the tower? Was someone covering up bad decisions they had made? We simply don’t know. Jesus refuses to engage with the speculation about blame.

Those who study the Scriptures tell us that Luke frequently emphasises the need for people to repent, to change their way of life. The part of the reading I missed out was a sentence which Luke puts in Jesus’s mouth warning his readers that calamities can happen at any moment, so they should make changes in their lives NOW before disaster comes. That is good advice to everyone, whatever their circumstances. But is especially relevant for everyone involved in upholding standards of health and safety. We rely on them to do a proper and thorough job. It is also especially relevant for those, like the police, who have the responsibility to protect. We hear much at the present time about failings in police procedures and the toxic cultures that are allowed to continue unchallenged. There is always the inclination for us to speculate, to blame. Jesus encourages us all to step away from that. Luke reminds us that always, always, we can change ourselves and what we do for the better. Any one of us can become a tragic victim of circumstance and the failings of others. Let us attend to ourselves before it is too late. And as Cop26 comes upon us let us pray for Governments and Businesses to change, before it is too late for containing the climate emergency which affects us all.

Song

Hymn STF 564/ HAP 745 O thou who camest from above


Intercessions

  • Father, we pray for all who are going through a time of trial or temptation at the moment. Strengthen and protect them all. Make us quick to encourage one another and slow to criticise.
  • We pray that your church may always hold true to your truth and love, with your love.
  • We pray for those in positions of power that they may not give way to corruption but work with integrity.
  • We pray for those in our families and those who live in our neighbourhood, that we may live in harmony together.
  • We pray for those in prison, and for those imprisoned by guilt.
  • We pray for those who have died through neglect, mismanagement of resources, from violence, and from oppression.
  • Father we thank you for the way you protect and enfold us every moment of every day.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Susan Sayers, New Intercessions for the church year, 1995 Kevin Mayhew.

Song

Hymn STF 347/HAP 255 Crown him with many crowns

Blessing:

May the enveloping love of the God the creator, the living presence of Jesus the redeemer, and the glorious light of the Spirit the sustainer, be with you and those you love, now and for always. Amen.

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