Sunday 22nd March 2020 – Even now! Especially now!
Welcome, Call to Worship and Prayer
Welcome everyone as we join together as the people of God, dispersed around Galway, dispersed around the world and yet gathered together by the one Holy Spirit, by the One Lord Jesus Christ, united in faith, united in love, united in prayer and praise.
This is the 4th Sunday in Lent, and also Mothering Sunday, when in the past people travelled home to their mother – or home – churches and saw family and friends.
In these difficult times, we remember the words of God in Isaiah 66 – “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted” (Isaiah 66:13). We give thanks to mothers and spiritual mothers who have loved us, we give thanks to all those who have nurtured us in faith, nurtured us in love and cared for us.
And so we say together…please join with me, as we say-
God is Good. All the time! All the time. God is Good!
God is with us. All the time! All the time. God is with us!
God is Good. Even Now! Even Now. God is Good!
God is with us. Even Now! Even Now. God is with us!
Lord open our mouths to praise you! Open our hearts to love you, open our eyes to see you, our minds to know you, open our ears to hear you, and our clean hands to serve you. Free our feet to dance and walk by faith, in the light of Your love. May we worship you, in Spirit and in Truth, even now, especially now. Amen.
You may be feeling anxious this morning, unsettled, stressed. We can bring to the Lord all that we are feeling. Friends, there is power in praise, there is power in prayer, there is power in the name of Jesus! Paul and Silas worshipped and sang from prison and God opened doors and hearts! John worshipped on the Lord’s day while in exile on Patmos and God opened his eyes and ears to visions and messages for the church.
We read in Psalm 108
“My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
I invite you now to pause this recording, or from reading this service, and wherever you are to have some praise time. Choose some songs on Youtube or Spotify, or from a CD, and have a time of worship and then come back to this and we will continue.
Praise Time [Time for Songs, Hymns]
Prayer of Adoration, Confession and Intercession
As we have been singing I’ve been reminded of the words from Zephaniah 3:17 “the LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
The Lord delights in us, and invites us to draw near. “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning…. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” Joel 2:12-17
Let us pray
We come before you in prayer now, for You Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28), and You said “all those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37).
We come to You for You have come to us. On this Sabbath day, we stop our striving and place our fears at Your feet. We open up our lives to your healing and peace and comfort.
We remember that we are united today with people all around the world who are praising and praying. We thank you for Your presence and all the blessings we enjoy, even now, for shelter, food, friendship, love, Your Word and Spirit, help along the way.
Jesus you said over the people, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
There are times we wander from Your ways, grace and love. We reject You O Lord, we err and stray like lost sheep. We sin in thought, word and action. We do not always love You with all that we are, or our neighbours- those in need, as ourselves. We do not love as You have loved us Lord Jesus. We may wash our hands but our hearts are not completely clean, they are not free from sin. We say sorry to You, we repent, and confess our sins before You now in the silence.
[Pause for silent prayer]
Father, forgive us our sins, create in us pure hearts. Cleanse us and heal us O Lord.
We rejoice in Your forgiveness O Lord.
You have loved us with an everlasting love, Your Son Jesus died for us, was raised for us, and He is interceding for us right now at the Father’s right hand. He will come again in glory. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. In a time of seemingly endless bad news, this is good good news and we can say and sing, It is well with our souls!
Continue Lord God to grow good fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22- 23)
Help us to not be full of fear, but to be full of comfort, peace, love and faith.
Lord Jesus You say- “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).
Lord, you promise comfort, and You have sent the Spirit, the Comforter, to be with us and in us.
We pray for others today who are in need of Your comfort and help.
We pray for all those affected by the spread of the Coronavirus.
We pray for the containment of the virus, and against it’s spread, at home and abroad.
We pray for all who are unwell, please bring healing and peace O Lord.
We pray for all those who are caring for others. We thank you for good and highly trained medical staff and carers working in hospitals. Please be with them and give them all the strength and wisdom and energy they need. We pray for those researching a vaccine and treatments, and providing and producing medical equipment at this time. We pray for all countries and places in great need at this time and places close to our hearts.
We remember those in our church who work in the hospitals and care homes, in the production of medical devices and in food retail and other services. May they know we love them and are so grateful for their hard work.
We pray for those in leadership, continue to give them wisdom, courage, compassion, good health, energy and strength.
We thank You Lord for all who are caring for others, practically, emotionally and spiritually.
We pray for those who are lonely at home today, and those who are scared.
May they know Your protection and peace.
We present our requests before You O Lord in the quiet now. [Pause for personal prayer]
Thank you Lord that when some doors shut, You open others.
Lord, as we close doors and distance ourselves in order to show love, bring us closer together in compassion and care. Burst open doors of your grace and healing in this land, in this world. Thank you that You promise to never leave us nor forsake us.
And into our restlessness, bring your calm, into our troubles, bring Your wholeness and peace.
Open our eyes to see the touch of your love… Your daily provision. May we know that You delight in us, and that under the shadow of Your wings we are always truly safe.
And we join together in the words that Jesus, the great Physician and Healer, taught us to pray, in whatever language we are most comfortable in,
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.
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
Romans 8:31 – 39
More Than Conquerors
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When we’re driving in fog or mist, when we’ve got lost, when we’ve had a fall and we just stand up, we suddenly feel disorientated, confused, unsure about what has happened, where we are or which way is up! At the moment many of us are feeling this way… disorientated, confused, not sure which way is up, or what to expect from one day to the next. We feel overwhelmed, unsure, anxious, perhaps scared and fearful. Our lives have changed suddenly and we worry about the future and for those we love.
I have a compass on my desk beside me in my office. It reminds me that the Lord will always guide me and get me home. God shows us where to go, God lightens our loads, He is our Rescuer and Guide, especially when we can’t see clearly, when we walk through the valley of darkness or the shadow of death.
In Psalm 23 we are reminded that even when we walk through the darkest valley, we can say with the shepherd king David, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and staff, they comfort me. Brothers and sisters, we are never alone as God’s children. We never have to navigate our way on our own. Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life is with us by His Spirit, guiding us, helping us to walk by faith and walk in the light. We can say “surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. The Lord’s goodness and love follow us, no matter what difficult journeys we make… the Lord knows us, He sees us, He loves us and He is with us.
In Psalm 91 we read, Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1,2)
Paul reminds us in Romans 8 of the constant presence of God’s love, with us, through all trials, troubles and suffering. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, nothing! As we read in Lamentations 3 “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
God’s presence and love is with us. Even now, and especially now.
Job, a faithful man who knew great great hardship and suffering, said “even now, God in heaven is both my witness and my protector.” (Job 16:19-21) In dark times, God calls us to find our strength and even our joy in Him. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). In Habakkuk 3 we read, “though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines… yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength” (see Habakkuk 3: 17 – 19).
When Martha passed through dark times, for her brother Lazarus had died, she said to Jesus, “But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask Him.” (John 11:22) Friends, even now, when things seem dark, we are to demonstrate faith, that moves mountains, even now, especially now.
And our Lord is at work, even now. We see His hand at work, through all the acts of sacrificial love and care we see happening, through the prayers, through our leaders acting with compassion and care. We see the hand of God working in the gloved hands of our medical workers, who seek to help and heal, care and restore those who are ill. We see the care of God demonstrated in the hands of those who deliver care at homes and meals to those in need and financial help to those who are struggling.
At the darkest moment in history, as Jesus hung on the cross, He was at work. Jesus, the Great Physician, who touched others and healed them, taught, loved and blessed those around Him, provided food and washed the disciples feet… Jesus, even on the cross, unable to touch those physically around him, reached out with his words and prayers, caring for his mother by telling John to look after her, caring for the criminal beside him by reaching out with words of forgiveness and love and of eternal life to come. Jesus in His darkest moment, reached out to others and to the Father. His love poured down. And when He was raised to life, He passed on the baton, giving out peace, and the Holy Spirit, and the church was born. His holy hands, healing hands, pierced hands, blessing hands are now also our hands. His mouth – our mouth. His powerful words of blessing our words of blessing.
It is true for most of us at the moment, we need to keep away from others to demonstrate compassion and care. But at this time of suffering, we can be a people who are continually reaching up and reaching out, being bridges between heaven and earth, scattering words of grace, of prayer, of service, of faith… for Jesus, our True North, our Guide, our Point of Reference, our Good Shepherd, the Light of the world, who shines through us, is with us, even now, especially now! Amen.
Now join me in saying the words of the Grace together.
As we do this we picture those who sit around us at church, we remember those in Galway and farther afield in need, and we say together,
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
Be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen!
Just a few announcements…
Thank you to all those who were able to take a slot or two in the continuous 48 hours of prayer we organised this weekend, called Playing our Part and Praying our Part. My hope is that we can continue this every weekend. If you would like to be involved, just let me know.
Please continue to check the church website, Unitedgalway.ie, for news and resources to help you during this time. There will be links to services and helpful apps and websites and resources to help you pray.
For those who are anxious about the giving of Tithes and Offerings, please continue to keep aside your envelopes or giving. This week we hope to launch easier ways to give online through the church website if that is more convenient for some of you. In saying this we remember of course those whose financial situations have changed and we lift up in prayer all those affected financially at this time.
Kids Song and Message (for Small Kids and Big Kids!)
Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!
What am I doing? Washing my hands?
No, Happy Birthday dear Dave happy Birthday to you!
I’m actually singing to Dave, it was his birthday this week. I made a cake. It was a big cake, I needed some of you to eat it! Oh, but it was chocolate cake, I don’t think any of you like chocolate cake do you. Sorry what? Oh you do like chocolate cake?! Sorry I couldn’t post some to you!
I like chocolate cake but I don’t like burning my fingers while I’m baking it- which I did!
What do you all like? I can’t hear you, shout a bit louder and I might hear from where I am…
I like birthdays, and chocolate and sweets, do you like chocolate and sweets?
Oh, I know you all do!
I like hugs and blue skies and big beaches and I like cups of tea.
What do you like? Shout out what you like.
What do you not like? I don’t like spiders who run fast and scare me!
I don’t like feeling cold, I don’t like mopping the floor. And I don’t like staying in.
What do you not like?
What are you worried about today? What things make you scared?
I don’t know ALL the things you like or dislike, and I don’t know ALL the things that make you worried or scare you. But I do know the One who knows all of that and more!
God knows ALL about you! What you like, don’t like, what worries you have and what makes you scared.
We read in Psalm 139:1- 5 “Lord, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions.
Even before I speak, you already know what I will say.
Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.
You are all around me on every side;you protect me with your power.” (GNT)
God knows you and He loves you.
In Luke 18 (v 15 – 17) we read this
“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked/ scolded them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder/ stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Now why were the disciples stopping children coming up to Jesus? Was it because of social distancing? No. Had they not washed their hands? No. People thought Jesus wouldn’t like children coming near him because He was very important and they thought they were annoying. But Jesus loved the kids around Him, He never thought they were annoying, He thought they were great. And Jesus loves you and loves spending time with you!
Jesus loved blessing and praying for children. I know it must be hard for lots of you to stay in a lot of the time. Maybe you are getting annoyed with your mummy or daddy or sister or brother. But God wants us to love our families and friends. He knows us, loves and wants us to be loving as much as we can to those in our families, even when we get annoyed.
Now go to this song on Youtube and have a listen and join in singing! In the Bible we read – “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) God knows us, loves us, and is for us!
Go to Youtube and watch this! And sing along!