A Shorter Communion Service for the the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

HYMN - Jesus where’er thy people meet  NEH 390 - St Sepulchre 

1 Jesus, where'er thy people meet,
There they behold thy mercy-seat;
Where'er they seek thee, thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground.

2 For thou, within no walls confined,
Inhabitest the humble mind;
Such ever bring thee where they come,
And going, take thee to their home.

3 Dear Shepherd of thy chosen few,
Thy former mercies here renew;
Here to our waiting hearts proclaim
The sweetness of thy saving name.

4 Here may we prove the power of prayer,
To strengthen faith and sweeten care;
To teach our faint desires to rise,
And bring all heaven before our eyes.

5 Lord, we are few, but thou art near;
Nor short thine arm, nor deaf thine ear;
O rend the heavens, come quickly down,
And make a thousand hearts thine own!

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
Christ the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts. In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.

Lord of grace and truth, we confess our unworthiness
to stand in your presence as your children.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

The Virgin Mary accepted your call to be the mother of Jesus.
Forgive our disobedience to your will.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

The wise men followed the star to find Jesus the King.
Forgive our reluctance to seek you.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

Your Son our Saviour in humility accepted the baptism of John.
Forgive our pride and rejection of your ways.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

At a wedding in Cana Jesus changed water into wine.
Forgive our failure to let your transforming presence change us.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

May the God of love and power forgive you
and free you from your sins,

heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.
Amen

THE COLLECT

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

FIRST READING - 1 Samuel 3.1-10 [11-20]

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Then the LORD said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”

As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

HYMN - Blest are the pure in heart  NEH341 - Franconia 

1 Blest are the pure in heart,
For they shall see our God,
The secret of the Lord is theirs,
Their soul is Christ's abode.

2 The Lord, who left the heavens
Our life and peace to bring,
To dwell in lowliness with men,
Their pattern and their King;

3 Still to the lowly soul
He doth himself impart,
And for his dwelling and his throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.

4 Lord, we thy presence seek;
May ours this blessing be;
Give us a pure and lowly heart,
A temple meet for thee.

GOSPEL - John 1.43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

SERMON 

Today is about introductions, it’s also about change and revolution. Samuel is introduced to God, or the name that the scribe wrote, or as close as we can get, Yahweh – not some generic term like ‘god’, but Yahweh, the sacred, special, and very personal name given to Moses when he asked the voice at the burning bush who he should say had spoken to him. In fact, the incidents aren’t all that different as young Samuel didn’t recognise the voice that called to him in the night any more than Moses did.

The story all seems to be fairly innocent, if somewhat repetitious, until we hear what it is that Yahweh wishes to communicate – nothing less than revolution, the overthrow of the current political and religious authority (they were one and the same). Eli had been, it would appear, a good enough priest and leader of his people for many years, the next chapter says 40 years when he died, but the succession was about to be disastrous, his sons were corrupt and immoral. The boy Samuel is to be the future, he will guide Israel, he will anoint its first king, Saul, and his successor David. The fate of Israel will be in his hands because it is he who will hear the words of Yahweh.

There is something in the innocent unawareness of the young Samuel and in the wise awareness of Eli and the acceptance of both of them of how things were to be that takes this passage beyond politics. This passage isn’t primarily about power, it's about Yahweh relating to two very different people – and how both eventually get the message.

Samuel is open and uncomplicated enough to simply hear the voice of Yahweh – as physically as any human voice – he thought it was a human voice. But he cannot recognise it, his lack of experience, of awareness, prevented Yahweh’s communication with him. On the contrary Eli had known himself what it was to be spoken to by Yahweh, and knew how to respond to the invitation to listen. Unfortunately, he himself now heard Yahweh no longer – perhaps he had ceased to want to hear because he knew only too well how uncomfortable the message was. He was all too aware.

So Yahweh uses each, the boy and the old priest, to communicate his will – each supplies to the other what they lack. It is a lesson we could all learn – the young, with their acute hearing, can hear everything but do not always know how to listen – the aged whose hearing has grown dull but have learnt how to listen, though may not always want to. What of those in middle years? They must remember that it was Eli’s middle-aged sons that had caused all the trouble in the first place – they cared for neither the innocence of youth nor the wisdom of age – only the pride of power – their end was not pleasant - they neither heard not listened.

Something must be said of Jesus’ meeting with Nathanael, if only because it seems so extraordinary. To grasp any meaning from it at all we must realise the point that John is trying to get across. A recurring theme of his is people’s reaction to Jesus – do they accept him, or reject him? Do they understand who he is, or do they see him as a charlatan and a rogue. The point is that Nathanael, a rather dour and pessimistic sounding character – the Eeyore of the New Testament - realised that Jesus knew who he, Nathanael was and so he in turn recognised who Jesus was. Phillip introduced Jesus to Nathanael as ‘the one of whom the prophets wrote’ – not terribly exciting. Instead Nathanael declares him to be the Son of God and King of Israel – in a moment of recognition he sees him clearly.

It’s a tricky thing revelation – the dawning light, the warm glow of peace, the moment of God’s presence – whatever it might feel like – the yearning deep within, the nagging thought, the troubled sleep – its all too easy to get it wrong, too often have people got it plainly, terribly wrong, and yet if there is no possibility of communication, of the moment of revelation, of the ‘Samuel, Samuel’ call – if God cannot, or never chose to communicate with us then how would we receive anything from him. The rabbis used to add a gloss to the scripture that when Moses went into the tent of meeting God was speaking, and when he left, God was still speaking. In other words, it is not God's inability or reluctance to speak that is the problem, it is our reluctance to hear, and inability to listen that is the problem. We fill our time with so much noise and distraction that we give no space to God's ‘still, silent voice’.

Samuel never gets beyond hearing God merely call his name until he learns to say more than ‘Here I am,’ to go beyond into the accepting ‘speak, for your servant is listening.’ Maybe that’s the trouble – it is hard enough to say, ‘Here I am,’ let alone ‘Speak for I am listening’ - to be really open to listen. We don’t expose ourselves to what God might want to say to us, we don’t want him to get personal - it's all too risky – at best we stay with the ‘Here I am’. But at least that is a start.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried; he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles: this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Claire Cooper

We have come together into the presence of our Lord. So, let us quieten our hearts and minds, put aside our concerns and distractions. And open ourselves to listen for God’s voice, Amen

Loving God, we pray for the people of America, that they may recognise the dangers of a divided nation.
We pray for an end to violence, for wisdom and protection for President-elect Joe Biden and all who will take office in a few days’ time. We pray for those threatening to disrupt the inauguration, and for the police force and those entrusted with keeping the law and peace.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

We pray for all who are pushed to their limits at work and at home, for Intensive Care Staff, for all in the emergency services, for GP's, teachers and school staff, for parents and students, and for all whose mental health is at breaking point. We pray for our Government and all whose decisions affect millions of lives. And we pray for one another as we respond to the restrictions locally and nationally.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

We pray for anyone who is sick in mind, body or spirit.  Lord let them hear your comforting voice to lift their spirits during this anxious time. We remember particularly those who are ill in our Benefice and ask that you support and protect them and their family, friends and carers.

We pray for all those who have lost their lives in recent weeks. We remember the family and friends who have lost loved ones recently and we ask that your presence brings them comfort, strength and hope in their grief.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

We pray for the churches in our Benefice, and especially for William at this challenging time. We pray that with the support of our church wardens and other members of our church families we can reach out to members of our church community who may need a phone call, so they don’t feel forgotten. 

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer

Lord, Teach us to recognise your voice, teach us how to know your presence in our lives and encounters. Help us to give others space so that they may hear you too.
We ask for Jesus’ sake, merciful Father, 

accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

THE PEACE

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, 
and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace 
The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you

HYMN - Jesus call us! O’er the tumult  NEH 200 - St Andrew

1 Jesus calls us! O'er the tumult
Of our life's wild restless sea
Day by day his voice is sounding,
Saying, 'Christian follow me':

2 As of old Saint Andrew heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for his dear sake.

3 Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world's golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, 'Christian, love me more'.

4 In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
'Christian, love me more than these'.

5 Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,
Saviour, may we hear thy call,
Give our hearts to thy obedience,
Serve and love thee best of all.

The Preparation of the Table

Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you, 
and of your own do we give you.

Eucharistic Prayer H 

The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;
in your love you made us for yourself.
When we turned away
you did not reject us,
but came to meet us in your Son.

You embraced us as your children
and welcomed us to sit and eat with you.

In Christ you shared our life
that we might live in him and he in us.

He opened his arms of love upon the cross
and made for all the perfect sacrifice for sin.

On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends
he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his body is the bread of life.

At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.

Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his blood is shed for all.

As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.

As we eat and drink these holy gifts
make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.

With your whole Church throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
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 break this bread to share in the body of Christ.

Though we are many, we are one body, 
because we all share in one bread.
Jesus, lamb of God: have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins: have mercy on us
Jesus, redeemer of the world: grant us your peace.

As Mary’s body was given for Jesus,
so Jesus’ body is given for us.
Here the Word made flesh
comes to us,
cradled in bread and wine.

[Please come to the table to receive the bread, respecting the necessary distance.]

Post Communion PRAYER

God of glory, you nourish us with your Word
who is the bread of life:
fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

BLESSING
Mysterious God, confounding expectations, 

meeting us where we least expect to find you,

be with us this Epiphany.
Child of the manger, healing our pain,
sharing our weakness,

be with us this Epiphany. 

Source of life
birth of God within our own experience,

be with us this Epiphany.

Be with us in our frailty
be with us on our journey

walk beside us, live within us
lead us to glory, lead us home.

May he who by his incarnation
gathered into one things earthly and heavenly,
grant us the fullness of peace and goodwill and the blessing of
God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon us and remain with us always.
Amen

HYMN - O Jesus I have promised  NEH420 - Wolvercote

1 O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be thou for ever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my guide.

2 O let me hear thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
To hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
Thou guardian of my soul.

3 O Jesus, thou hast promised
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in glory
There shall thy servant be;
And Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my Friend.

4 O let me see thy footmarks,
And in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in thy strength alone;
O guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My Saviour and my Friend.

 

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen