On Sunday 11th September 2016 the four Sunday congregations at St John’s with St Mary’s all followed the same worship outline, with a focus on drawing a line under the past, seeking healing for past hurt, forgiveness for faults, and moving forward in unity with a shared vision for the future.
As part of the service we shared a reflection on Like 1, and joined together in the Covenant Prayer.
These parts of the service are available to read here as a reminder of what God is saying to us as a parish.
Short Reflection on Luke 1:68-79
The song of Zechariah comes after he has been struck dumb for the duration of his wife Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and is in celebration of the birth of his son John, who we know as John the Baptist. But this isn’t simply a celebration of the birth; it is a clear prophecy about both the good that God does, and the promise of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah.
We begin with ‘Praise the Lord the God of Israel’, and then, as now, we are reminded that God is real, God loves us, and God has power. God has brought us all as individuals and as a church through a time of trial and, while nothing compared to the people of Israel living in exile for generations, we too are redeemed people. We know that God loves his people, loves his church, and loves us.
In this passage God promises ‘salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those who hate us’. God has promised salvation from our enemies, whoever they are. While our nation may have enemies who would undermine safety and the rule of law, we have enemies too. So who or what are our enemies at this time? Perhaps we are selfish, wishing and working for our own ends and not the good of all. Perhaps we are seeking power, and see opportunities to undermine others. Perhaps we are tired, and have lost the excitement of our faith and the desire to seek God and serve him more. In our church the enemy could be division and disunity, and as we draw a line under the past and look to the future we must also commit ourselves to work for the good of everyone in the parish, and not let the enemy get a foothold.
Zechariah goes on to talk of the role of his son John in heralding the way for the Lord. Through the forgiveness of sins, people will come to have and to know salvation. But our Christian life experience tells us that being forgiven is not enough – we are called to live for Christ daily and do all we can to bring heaven to earth. The ‘tender mercy of God’ is with us all and has brought us to this place of worship and prayer today, and as well as knowing God’s grace through being forgiven, we are also called to make a difference as we allow Jesus to ‘guide our feet in the way of peace’.
Zechariah’s message for the people, stunned at hearing him speak such a powerful prophecy, is also relevant for us today, as we join in promises with each-other to move forward as a parish. It is a message of celebration – God has been and is with us. It is also about salvation – we are saved, and with that come both challenges and privileges. And it is about service – forgiveness leads us to serve God more in this place, and serve each-other in a spirit of love, grace and peace. Celebration, salvation and service will, with God’s guidance, take us into our future ministry with real vision and true hope.
Covenant Prayer (with thanks to the Methodist Church)
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.