Morning Service for Epiphany 2 2023


We are apt to think that our religion is the very apotheoses of western thought and integrity, the very model of all that defines the flowering of North European thought and moral teaching.  We know we are wrong, but we cannot help but see Christianity in terms of our race, language and culture.  We have to remind ourselves constantly that the Christ we profess was not of our race, and knew nothing of our language or our culture.  His language was vastly different from our own, just listen to an Arabic speaker if you want to know how different. 

Morning Service for Epiphany 2 2023

HYMN – O thou who camest from above NEH 431/AMR 329 – Hereford 

1 O Thou who camest from above,

The pure celestial fire to impart,

Kindle a flame of sacred love

On the mean altar of my heart.

2 There let it for thy glory burn

With inextinguishable blaze,

And trembling to its source return

In humble prayer, and fervent praise.

3 Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire

To work, and speak, and think for thee;

Still let me guard the holy fire,

And still stir up the gift in me.

4 Ready for all thy perfect will,

My acts of faith and love repeat,

Till death thy endless mercies seal,

And make my sacrifice complete.

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


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


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 – Isaiah 49.1-7

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.”

And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength— he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 

Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

HYMN -Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove NEH 347/AMR 232 – Gonfalon Royal

1 Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove,

With light and comfort from above;

Be thou our guardian, thou our guide,

O’er every thought and step preside.

2 The light of truth to us display,

And make us know and choose thy way;

Plant faith and love in every heart,

That we from God may ne’er depart.

3 Lead us to Christ, the living Way,

Nor let us from our shepherd stray;

Lead us to holiness, the road

That brings us to our home in God.

4 Lead us to heaven, that we may share

Fulness of joy for ever there;

Lead us to God, the heart’s true rest,

To dwell with him, for ever blest.

GOSPEL – John 1.29-42

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptising with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).


We are apt to think that our religion is the very apotheoses of western thought and integrity, the very model of all that defines the flowering of North European thought and moral teaching.  We know we are wrong, but we cannot help but see Christianity in terms of our race, language and culture.  We have to remind ourselves constantly that the Christ we profess was not of our race, and knew nothing of our language or our culture.  His language was vastly different from our own, just listen to an Arabic speaker if you want to know how different.  His race was Semite, look at a Palestinian if you want to guess what he might have looked like. His culture was 1st century Jewish, with overtones of centuries of Greco-Roman dominance. In fact, his religion too was very different from our own, he belonged to a Temple based faith, which required animal sacrifice and a rigid code of laws governing the society’s moral and religious behaviour. In various ways the Gospels are a record of how Jesus broke out from the labels and definitions given to him by his birth and education, broke out too from the exclusivity of Judaism to give good news for all mankind.

In our first reading today the seeds of that transformation of Judaism can be seen.  In the passage from Isaiah, one of the servant songs, we hear of the expansion of the servant’s task.  Not only is he to restore Israel, but he is to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.  He was to be a light for the Gentiles – a reference obviously picked up in St Luke’s song of Simeon – the Nunc Dimittis.  

In the teeth of discouragement and even despair, Isaiah’s message to his people was that God’s special relationship with them, what they had come to learn of his nature and will, and their very calling as the children of God, would be shared with the people of the whole world.  God’s promise to Abraham that ‘in you all families of the earth shall be blessed’, would be honoured.  It must have been hard to believe in the ruins of defeated and plundered Jerusalem.

St Paul and many in the early church knew that this sharing, this reaching out from Judaism to the world was not the turning the people of the world into Jews, with the same Temple worship and the same moral and religious laws.  They saw it rather as a common participation in the Spirit of God. You’ll remember that in Ezekiel, God breathed his Spirit into the dry bones and they became his people. What defined his people was not so much their birth as the Spirit God breathed into them.  And if for dry bones, then for us.  What defines every one’s participation in the life of God is that Spirit.  This became for many the crucial act of inclusion into the church, the giving of the Spirit.  It was when the Apostles saw that this was not limited to Jews that they realised that their mission was to the whole world, and not just to Israel.  

People have long sought to define what it is to experience the Spirit, they still do, from talking in tongues to falling over in a heap.  They have also tried to regulate the Spirit, to confine it to their own rule and discipline, to keep it within their sect or nation – all such attempts are of course doomed to failure.  If there is one thing certain about God, you can’t put him in a box and tell him where to go or what to do – that was the mistake the Pharisees made.

John the Evangelist writes of John the Baptist recognising that Jesus was filled by the Spirit and would himself baptise with the Spirit; he also called him the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The lamb, a sacrificial lamb, because his ministry will be at a cost, and because changing the perception of the world is not cheaply won.  

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry we hear its end, and its raison d’être – what Jesus is about is the salvation of the world, not only Israel.  His work is the Baptism of the world with the Holy Spirit, with the breath of God, with the life of God.  

So where do we put ourselves in this – why hear all this theology, what does it have to say to us?  The rest of the Gospel reading tells us that.  It was when Andrew and his friend heard John the Baptist identify Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ that they went and spent the day with him.  Having heard of his mission they went to find their place in it.  The day they spent with Jesus confirmed to them who he was, and also the part they might play.  The very next thing they did was to spread the news of their discovery.  The process is simple – they heard who Jesus was, spent time with him, then told others.  

We live in very different times to the disciples, and to Jesus, but the same formula must in some way apply.  We must first hear who this man Jesus is, and discover what he is about, what this might mean for us, and for the world at large, and then we must spend time in his company, developing a personal relationship, then we must go out and be ready, in some way or other, to communicate what we have found.

The faith Christ came to share, the insight he brought, and the salvation he won was for the whole world, there is nothing that is exclusive, or narrow, or club-like about us who follow him.  His business was to open faith in the God of Israel to the world – our task is to open the world to the God of Israel – for ‘he has no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet’.


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

HYMN – Hail to the Lord’s anointed NEH 55/AMR 219 – Cruger

1 Hail to the Lord’s Anointed!

Great David’s greater Son;

Hail, in the time appointed,

His reign on earth begun!

He comes to break oppression,

To set the captive free;

To take away transgression,

And rule in equity.

2 He comes with succour speedy

To those who suffer wrong;

To help the poor and needy,

And bid the weak be strong;

To give them songs for sighing,

Their darkness turn to light,

Whose souls, condemned and dying,

Were precious in his sight.

3 He shall come down like showers

Upon the fruitful earth,

Love, joy, hope, like flowers,

Spring in his path to birth:

Before him on the mountains

Shall peace the herald go;

And righteousness in fountains

From hill to valley flow.

4 Kings shall fall down before him,

And gold and incense bring;

All nations shall adore him,

His praise all people sing;

To him shall prayer unceasing

And daily vows ascend;

His kingdom still increasing,

A kingdom without end.

5 O’er every foe victorious,

He on his throne shall rest,

From age to age more glorious,

All-blessing and all-blest:

The tide of time shall never

His covenant remove;

His name shall stand for ever;

That name to us is Love.


Heavenly Father, you promised through your Son to hear the prayers of those who ask in faith. Give us more awareness of your presence with us, both in our worship and in our daily lives and give us the courage to live out your truth with joy.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

We pray for the world-wide Christian Church in all its diversity. We pray especially for those churches who meet in difficult and often dangerous circumstances. Let them know and feel your presence to both uphold their courage and strengthen their faith.

In our own church we pray for William, for all the team and all those who give their time and talents so generously in our Benefice. We pray for every member of this congregation and ask that you bless us all this coming week.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

We pray for our own nation, for Charles, our King, and for all those who serve the people at all levels of government. We ask that they be guided by you as they make the difficult decisions which will affect all our lives both in this country and elsewhere. 

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

We pray for our homes that they may be filled with your presence. Make them homes of peace, of kindliness and hospitality, of grace and goodness that you may be known to be among us. Lord help us to be more outward looking, to care for our neighbours and to be more aware of the needs of the people around us.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

We pray for our hospitals and nursing homes and for the work and devotion of carers whose skill and compassion bring both material and spiritual comfort at times of need. We ask your loving compassion on all whose lives have been marred by tragedy of any kind. We remember those who await a doctor’s diagnosis or an operation. We pray for all who seek healing and hope. We bring before you those most in need in our own community, the elderly, the housebound and those in care. 

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those who have recently died and for those whose anniversary we recall.
We remember with deep gratitude those who have left their mark on our lives – but have now gone before us to be with Christ. We hold them in our hearts, knowing that you, Lord, hold them in yours and commend them into your everlasting care and protection. 

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Almighty Father, may we come to your table today with joyful and expectant hearts, and go out afterwards nourished and strengthened in spirit to serve you in the world, to the glory of your name.

Merciful Father, 

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

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.


May he who 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 Brightest and best are the sons of the morning NEH 49/AMR 75 – Epiphany Hymn

1 Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,

Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;

Star of the East, the horizon adorning,

Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

2 Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining,

Low lies his head with the beasts of the stall:

Angels adore him in slumber reclining,

Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all.

3 Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,

Odours of Edom, and offerings divine?

Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,

Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?

4 Vainly we offer each ample oblation,

Vainly with gifts would his favour secure;

Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,

Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

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