Sunday 29th March 2020 – God’s Spirit is in us – His hand behind our lifted Hands!
Good Morning Church!
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!
We join together as the people of God, dispersed around Galway, dispersed around the world and yet united by the one Holy Spirit, by the One Lord Jesus Christ, united in faith, united in love, united in prayer and praise and hope- as the great big family of God.
This is the 5th Sunday in Lent.
As we enter this time of praise and prayer, as we stop this Sabbath day from all we are doing, from tidying, from worrying, from checking our phone, from talking to loved ones, as we prepare to turn to and talk to our First Love, our Lord and Saviour…
We quiet our minds and hearts, we turn down any music in the background, and we listen – we listen to the birds if we can hear them, reminding us of how the creation is in constant praise of the Creator – 1The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.Psalm 19:1 .. and behind any other noise we listen to the still small voice of God.
We pause to be still; to breathe slowly; to re-centre our scattered senses upon the presence of God. We open ourselves to God, body, mind and spirit.
As we join in worship together today, we are going to be aware of our breathing (which can be short and anxious at the moment) and we will be aware of our hands- which might be sore from all the hand washing!
And this is a challenge for the children and teenagers… count how many times I say hand or hands from now on in the service! So how many times I say -[ ] – from now on!
Then text or whatsapp me the answer.
If you get it right you will get a prize in the future! I will note your name, say them next week – and a prize will be reserved for you!
Let’s pray- we place this time into the hands of God. If it’s easier for us, we close our hands or we open them in prayer.
Unshakeable God, you are my ever-present help in times of trouble.
You know our hearts, our minds, our troubles.
With all the isolation, the strangeness, the busyness, the fear caused by this crisis, renew in us your lovely peace, restore us your big perspective, and reveal to us your presence and love as we spend this time with you now. Help us to hear what You are saying to us today!
In Psalm 63:3-8 we read –
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
Lord You invite us to have clean hands and pure hearts. Not just to wash our hands but have clean hearts and hands in the sense of not having any sin hiding in our lives.
In the Bible we read – “Who may stand in his holy place? 4The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” Psalm 24.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts” James 4:8
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.”Ezekiel 36:25
Forgive us for all the times we have sinned, said bad things, thought bad things and done bad things. For being mean or angry or selfish or foolish.
For the times we have not loved You or those in need with all of heart, soul, strength and mind. (Matthew 22, Luke 10) For the times we have not loved as you have loved us Lord Jesus. (John 13)
Lord cleanse our hearts, minds, hands today.
Cleanse us from all sin. Heal our hearts. Purify us.
“If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he (the Lord God) removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
“Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5
Thank you Father, You forgive us today! This is great news! Lord we love you. Help us to serve you today and this week, in Jesus name Amen!
We may be in different places, [show people] but God is connecting us today together! [people together], together in prayer, together in singing, together in love and support.
Let’s read from God’s Word- which God speaks through to us.
A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
The valley of dry bones
37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me to and fro among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’
I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’
4 Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”’
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”’ 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.”’
c. 37:5 The Hebrew for this word can
d. also mean wind or spirit (see verses 6-14).
John 20: 21- 23
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
God loves to make things new. At the moment outside new things are growing and sprouting up. We mightn’t be able to all see them, but there are flowers growing and birds singing and the days are getting longer, in fact today got a bit longer with one less hour in bed!
At the moment as we look out, as we watch the news or hear about things, we might feel as Ezekiel did, when as the hand of the Lord guided him and gave him a vision of terrible sight, a valley where there had been a battle long before. But God wanted Ezekiel to play his part in God helping his people.
And can I tell you a secret? God wants to use us this week to be His helpers, to lift our hands to help and to pray and our voices – as prayer warriors!
Some of us are helping with our hands, making medical devices, helping the elderly or sick, working selling food to us, but we are all to be praying too!
Ezekiel lived with his people away from his home and this made him so sad. He missed life from before. But God wanted to make them all think and He wanted them to know He was with them, even in tough times. Ezekiel was shown by God a sight of an old battle. It must have been strange and upsetting. But God asked him to prophesy – to speak – to the bones and say ‘I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life… I will put breath in you, and you will come to life”… And gradually the men before him were formed, and then he had to prophesy to the breath and call it – “Come breath!” And before his eyes then stood an army of men, alive, breathing.
‘I will put my Spirit in you and you will live’, said the Lord. Ezekiel prophesies breath into countless bodies turning the Valley of Dry Bones into the Valley of Resurrection.
And this God explains was because God was going to bring restoration to the people, He would help them live again, He had plans for them.
Breath is a powerful metaphor in the Bible for life and the Holy Spirit.
When God was making, shaping, forming the creation – He created human beings, from the dust of the ground – we are fragile! And yet resilient- and we read – God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7) All the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground had the breath of life in them too. (Genesis 1:30)
In Job 33 a man says, ‘The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life’.
In John 20:22 Jesus breathes upon his disciples and says ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.
When we look out at the moment we might just see sadness at times.
Like Ezekiel when he looked out at the valley.
Like the women and some of the disciples felt looking at the cross.
Well God, brings new life and uses us in His plans.
Do we hear the call of God? The whisper of God? The call to arms? The call to prayer? The call to see with eyes of the kingdom?
Recently, the government leaders here in Ireland sent out a call to former healthcare professionals spread around the world to come home to help in this battle- it was called a call to arms and it was this, and a call for helping hands.
Over 24,000 people- retired doctors, nurses, therapists and university students with sufficient skills answered the call- so they can be pressed into service as they are needed in the weeks ahead. One Irish doctor in Perth, along with 24 colleagues, said he wanted to return to Ireland to “serve their country.” Thousands of people here and millions around the world have during this time, volunteered to help in all different areas.
Isn’t that wonderful, isn’t that sacrificial love?
As we look at the news, let’s remember our God is a God of comfort and healing, help and peace, who grieves with those who mourn, who offers comfort, who promises life beyond death. And as we watch the news, we remember the call to spiritual combat that we have been called into. We are fragile and must depend on God, but we also have a part to play in this battle.
As the people of Israel made their way into the promised land, they went into a different kind of battle, Exodus 17, and Joshua led them in battle. We read that Moses, and his helpers Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.”
Joshua had his bit to do, so did Moses and so did his helpers Aaron and Hur, who had to hold up his hands in prayer. We are going to hold up the hands of others, by our hands of prayer. We all have our bit to do from near and far. And of course we all do our bit too by cleaning our hands, and not mixing with other people outside of our family unit.
We will pray for those who are using their hands to serve too at this time.
Some listening to this are helping others in your workplace, some to make medical devices, some caring for elderly folks in their homes or people who are unwell in hospital, some minding others in hospitals and homes. Some are using their hands to work in shops selling food for us, when we need it, some answer calls to those in need. Some maybe have rough hands from caring for others or planting gardens if they have them with vegetables that they can share later with others. Some of you are still studying and have school work to do and that’s really important too. Some parents are cleaning and helping and cooking and minding. Some of you may have time at the moment, perhaps you cannot work at the moment, and that makes you sad, but you have a job! You can pray! You can use your hands to call friends or family or people on their own and talk to them and say hi.
Through this virus, the Enemy who comes to destroy, attacks our breath, and so let us take a few deep defiant breaths now in God’s presence, consciously exhaling fear, quietly receiving the Spirit afresh into my body, rejoicing that the breath of God brings hope not harm, health not sickness and life to the full.
No matter how bad things can look sometimes, God’s powerful hand is at work, behind all the helping hands.
When Jesus gave up his last breath, his family and friends were so so sad. They thought everything was over. But then Jesus came back to them.
And Jesus breathed on his disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit.
At Pentecost that Spirit- the Breath or Wind of God – was given abundantly and went out over all the earth.
We can reach out with helping hands and speak and sing words of new life over situations where we just see destruction or darkness. When we feel sad let’s remember God wants to help and comfort us and He loves us.
God wanted Ezekiel to take part, to trust Him and obey. To not become too disheartened but to listen to God’s voice and pray his part.
Our prayer is powerful, prophesy is powerful, God’s breath is powerful.
Let’s lift our hands and our voices and our hearts this day together!
“ Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1)
Jehovah Shalom, Lord of Peace, we remember those living in coronavirus hotspots and those currently in isolation. May they know your presence in their isolation, your peace in their turmoil and your patience in their waiting. We pray for all who are ill at this time. May they take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Prince of Peace, you are powerful and merciful; let this be their prayer –
“May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, God our Saviour, for the glory of your name.” (Psalm 79:8)
God of all Comfort and Counsel, we pray for those who are grieving from the sudden loss of loved-ones. May they find your fellowship in their suffering, your comfort in their loss, and your hope in their despair. We name before you those known to us who are vulnerable and scared – the frail, the sick and the elderly. [pause] God of all Comfort, you are powerful and merciful; may this be our prayer –
“He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:10)
Jehovah Rapha, God who heals, we pray for all medical professionals and all those caring for others in the health professions, dealing daily with the intense pressures of this crisis. Grant them resilience in weariness, discernment in diagnosis, and compassion upon compassion as they care. We thank you for the army of researchers working steadily and quietly towards a cure – give them clarity and unexpected breakthroughs today. We pray for all working in the production of medical devices and ventilators. Please rise above this present darkness as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in your wings. May this be our prayer –
“ Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)
God of all Wisdom, we pray for our leaders: the World Health Organisation, national governments, and local leaders too – heads of schools, hospitals and other institutions. Since you have positioned these people in public service for this hour, we ask you to grant them wisdom beyond their own wisdom to contain this virus, faith beyond their own faith to fight this fear, and strength beyond their own strength to sustain vital institutions through this time of turmoil. God of all Wisdom and Counsel, you are powerful and merciful; may this be our prayer –
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever – present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (Psalms 46:1 – 2)
May El Shaddai, the Lord God Almighty who loves you protect you.
Psalm 91:“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:3-7)
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.
Please keep looking at the church website unitedchurchgalway.ie. Thank you to all who are taking part in our Weekend Continuous Prayer Chain from Friday to Sunday. Please contact me if you have anything you would to talk through. Our services and meetings remain cancelled at this time to comply with government regulations and to play our part in stopping the spread.
And now a blessing and grace.
Blessing and Grace
May you know Jesus Christ as Your Lord and Saviour, and that He is with you.
And may the Holy Spirit – the Breath of God – who broods over the chaos and fills you with his presence, intercede for you and in you for others at this time.
Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
We breathe deeply,
And thank God for His presence and release into His hands all we’ve prayed for.
And now may 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.
Breathe on me Breath of God – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmkzSjs9eAw
Breathe – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSKH3MmX-Zw
Great is the Darkness – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ8qe3CggWo
In Christ Alone – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENtL_li4GbE
Hear the Call of the Kingdom – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WL-UdwB0Qvc
Good Good Father – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqybaIesbuA
Humble King – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV_3l6Ng5lA
Here I am in my living room… today we are going to do an activity together. Do you have some paper? We’re going to draw a heart and cut it out – I’m doing it on red paper but you could do it on white too and colour it in… there’s my hearts…
These hearts remind me of the love of God – God says I have loved you with an everlasting love! So God always loves us.
Now I’m going to get a piece of white paper- and write down any fears I have or worries…
Now I’m going to stick these hearts – over them!
God’s love is bigger than any of my fears and His love covers my fears.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”. 1 John 4:18
So God’s love is bigger than our fears.
And if we are tempted to go out or to shake someone’s hand or not wash our hands often – we remember these words –
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self- control.
2 Timothy 1:7
God helps us to show self- control!
Let’s sing together – now you know my singing is not strong – so you have to sing up loud at home okay!