Service for 3rd July 2022 The Rev’d Catherine McFie

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 3rd July

 
The service is led by the Rev’d Catherine McFie.
 
Introduction 

Hello, my name is Catherine McFie and I have the privilege of being a URC minister serving in Mersey Synod. I have a varied role, part of my time is dedicated to being minister of two congregation and part of my time involves work within the wider Synod. I live in Wavertree in the beautiful city of Liverpool but my ministry takes me all around the city and also across the river Mersey in to the Wirral. I am delighted to share worship with you and pray that wherever you are, and whenever you are listening, God’s Spirit will bless our time together. So let us worship God.

Call to Worship
 
As we come out of the ordinary into this sacred space
We bring our praise and worship to God.
 
As we leave behind the everyday and seek the extraordinary
We bring our praise and worship to God.
 
Forgetting our pride, coming in humility
We bring our praise and worship God.
 
From the place of comfort to the edge of newness
We come to praise and worship God.

 
Hymn Praise My Soul The King of Heaven
Henry Francis Lyte (1834) BBC Songs of Praise
 

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet your tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed,
restored, forgiven,
who like me His praise should sing?
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise the everlasting King!

Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows.
In His hand
He gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Widely yet his mercy flows!



Angels, help us to adore Him; ye behold Him face to face.
Sun and moon, bow down before Him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise with us the God of grace!

 
Prayers of Approach and Confession 
 
God, of all that is and is yet to be,
we thank you for this amazing world in which we live;
for the diversity of the whole of creation,
for the ways in which we can experience
what you have made through our different senses.
 
We praise you that you encounter your people,
In every age, in every place, in every setting.
We praise you that you make no distinction
between one person and the next,
and that we are all made on your image.
We praise your faithfulness to those who have gone before us,
for your faithfulness to us today,
and we trust in your faithfulness for tomorrow
 
God your love knows no bounds and your mercy know no limits;
You embrace us and offer forgiveness and healing to all.
God, forgive us for the ways that we discriminate and exclude,
consciously or unconsciously.
 
Forgive us for the limits and conditions
we set on your love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Forgive us for our lack of imagination
that reduces you to simply what we can perceive.
Forgive us when we take without thinking
and forget to share without counting.
Fill us Lord, with your peace and mercy
Free us from the destruction of our behaviour
and restore us to a life lived in you.

Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Peace! Peace is what we receive from God
when we know our sins are forgiven.
Peace is what we have when we know
we are not alone through the ups and downs of life’s journey.
In Jesus, we have received forgiveness
and we have been restored to newness of life.
So, peace be with you.  Thanks be to God. Amen

Prayer of Illumination

Your Word, O Lord, is our inspiration and our light,
holding wisdom and insights, challenged and comfort. 
Guide us today, as we listen to your Word, read and proclaimed.
Fill us with understanding and the desire to change,
Speak Lord! Your people are listening.
Amen

 
Scripture Reading  2 Kings 5:1 – 14
 
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’  So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’
 
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’
 
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’  So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’  But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, then all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

 
Hymn Be still and know that I am God
Unknown author, performed by Ruth and Joy Everingham and used with their kind permission
 

Be still and know
that I am God.
Be still and know
that I am God.
Be still and know
that I am God.
 
I am the Lord
who saves and heals.
I am the Lord
who saves and heals.
I am the Lord
who saves and heals.



In You, O Lord I put my trust.
In You, O Lord I put my trust.
In You, O Lord I put my trust.

 
Reflection
 
Our reading opens with an introduction to Naaman who was a commander in the army of Israel’s enemy, Aram. He was a man of many accomplishments, and the writer of our text emphasised Naaman’s importance in his community by repeating how well he was thought of – he was a great man, a person who was favoured by his master, he was a mighty warrior. The surprising comment in this list of accolades is that the praise Naaman enjoyed were a result of the fact that “the lord had given victory to Aram”. That’s right the lord had worked through Naaman to bring defeat to the army of Israel. However, among this list of accomplishments there is also a but coming, Naaman suffered from a skin disease.  Being a might warrior, did not make Naaman immune to the ailments associated with simply being human. Unlike many ailments the body can suffer from, a skin disease is visible for others to see. A type of disease was often considered a sign of judgement, it made someone ritually unclean, and this resulted in social isolation. Not ideal for a high-profile person like Naaman, the person you want your army to trust when he leads them into battle.
 
We are then briefly introduced to a young maidservant who worked for Naaman’s wife. This girl was a victim of war and had been taken from her home on a raid against Israel. She is not there by choice, but she probably witnessed the distress Naaman’s skin disease has caused him, his wife and their household and she chose to try and help. The girl makes what seems to be a simple comment to Naaman’s wife “If only my lord were with prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him…”. Notice how sure this girl was. She didn’t say she thought or hoped the prophet could help but she was definite that Naaman would be cured if he was with the prophet, no doubt about it. One thing led to another and before you know it Naaman had permission, and a supporting letter, to visit the King of Israel.
 
As Naaman set off to see the king of Israel he took with him an excessive amount of gold and silver, another indication of the position this man held in his community. Was this an attempt to buy a cure if all else failed? When he arrived at the court of the king of Israel, we hear the content of the letter and the fact that Naaman was seeking a cure, but the king of Israel does not take to kindly to the letter. The King of Aram had assumed that any prophet in Israel would be supported by the king, but this was not the case. The king of Israel had actively opposed the worship of the God of the prophet and had at times sought to kill the prophets in his kingdom. This letter brought a request that was impossible for the king to fulfil, for although he did not worship God, he knew that only God could provide the kind of miracle that this letter requested for Naaman. The king took the request as an attempt to pick a quarrel and tore his clothing as a sign of his distress.
 
When Elisha heard about what has happened with the king of Israel, he sent a message to the king, first asking why he was so distressed by the request and secondly asking the king to send Naaman to him so that he may learn that there was in fact a prophet in Israel, even if the king did not recognise or support this fact.
 
When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house he is greeted by a servant who passed Elisha’s message on to him. The instructions were straightforward “Go wash in the Jordon seven times and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean”. Rather than being relieved that a cure could be achieved so simply Naaman walked away angry. Really! What was there to be angry about, a simple dip in the river and the skin disease would be gone. Then we get to root of the problem – Naaman’s pride had been hurt. Firstly, Elisha sent a servant to see him, rather than deliver the instructions himself. The instructions were just that, there was no elaborate incantations spoken or marvellous signs to witness, there was no dramatic calling upon the name of the Lord – just simply go and wash in the Jordan. The mention of the river Jordan was also problematic for Naaman because he knew that there were much more impressive rivers back home in Damascus, so he was also annoyed that the simple instructions were so specific.
 
Before Naaman had a chance to leave, one of his servants intervenes and challenged him. Why would you not do what has been asked? Is it because it is nothing more than washing in a river? Would you have been this angry if you had been asked to do something more difficult or dangerous? Naaman seemed to realise how unreasonable he was being and so he goes down to the river Jordan. While we are not given more details we can imagine what it must have been like for this man, trying to immerse himself in what was really nothing more than a stream. However, after seven times his skin was restored just as he was told it would be.
 
Our reading stops here, but if we were to read on, we would see that that Naaman returns to the prophet and declares his faith in God.
 
There are different ways to look at this passage but there were two things that stood out for me has I have reflected on this reading.
 
The first was Naaman’s reaction to the simple instructions to wash seven times in the river Jordan. While we are given some insights in the passage as to why Naaman was annoyed, he was also questioning what God had asked him to do. While he was not impressed with the process and thought a man in his position deserved something more dramatic, he questions why he needed to use the river Jordan. Maybe he had a point, what was so special about the river Jordan anyway? But isn’t Naaman just like us in many ways? Don’t we also question what God asks us to do, whether that is as individuals or as congregations? We do, don’t we? Sometimes that is because God is asking us to do something that takes us out of our comfort zone, or it could be something that challenges us to change our views or perspective, or somethings we are asked to do something that is simple and easy and like Naaman we struggle with the idea that God’s work for us is straightforward.
 
While we may question what God is asking us to do, I think we also question how God is asking us to do something. Often, we are not as lucky as Naaman to get very specific instructions, but rather than pausing and taking time to ask God how we are to what we are being asked, we rush in and come up with our own way. Don’t get me wrong, I think being self-reliant has its place but often when we come up with our own solutions, we put boundaries around what we are willing to do: effectively limiting the impact that a particular action could have on the effectiveness of what God was asking us of us.
 
In the medical drama New Amsterdam, Max, the new medical director, calls the doctors together and asks them “How can I help?” This takes the doctors by surprise because they are used to having limits put on assistance offered – I can do this or this. However, asking “How can I help?”, empowers them to ask for what would really make a difference.
 
This brings me to the second thing that stands out for me in this passage and that was about where there was wisdom in the story. Where did the words or ideas that made a difference come from? If you look back over the story, we see that they came from the maidservant who told Naaman’s wife about the Elisha, they came from Elisha’s servant who passed on Elisha’s words and they come from Naaman’s servant who challenged him to think about what he was doing. All of these people would have been people who were unseen in their communities or considered to worthless or simply overlooked because of their role. Yet, we would have been no story without them and Naaman would have had no cure.
 
I wonder how we listen to the necessary voices in our community when it comes to doing what God asks us. As an example, if we feel called to do something to help combat loneliness in our community do we come up with ideas on our own, set up different activities and see what happens. Or do we take the time to understand what it means to be lonely? Make contact with those who are already working in this area and ask what matters or even speak to those who are lonely and ask how we can help? In other words, do we listen to the voices in our community for those words of wisdom that help us really achieve what we are being called to do? Of do we believe we have all the answers?
 
There was a reason why Naaman had to bathe in the river Jordan, and that is simply that was what God, via Elisha, asked Naaman to do. It is as simple as that. This was not a negotiation, or something that Naaman could control. God spoke and if Naaman wanted to be cured he knew what he had to do.
 
God is at work in our churches, our communities and in ourselves. This passage challenges us to pause and consider whether we are listening to what God is asking us to do, or are we doing what we think God is asking us to do? We are also challenged to pause and think about whose voice to we pay attention to when it comes to God’s work: the voice that echoes our own way of thinking or the voices that challenge us to really make a difference.

Amen. 
 
Hymn  Speak O Lord, As We Come To You
Keith Getty and Stuart Townend © 2005 Thankyou Music
 

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us Lord, full obedience
Holy reverence, true humility
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority
Words of pow’r that can never fail
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory 

Affirmation of faith – The Apostle’s Creed
 
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

Prayers of Intercession
 
Lord, you have heard the cries of your people
in different places and in different times,
hear us now, as we pray for those things that burden us.
 
Lord, we pray for all who are affected by war:
for those who are bearing arms to fight for freedom,
for those who have left home to keep save,
for those who are held prisoner, or grieve for loved ones and
for those who are positions of power and make decisions.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer
 
Lord, we pray for those who are enslaved today:
for those who were following their dream
only discover themselves in a nightmare,
for those who have been taken by force
and can see no end to their situation,
for those who work towards ending human trafficking.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Lord we pray for those who have no access to clean water;
for places where rivers have been diverted
cutting off access to water for local people,
for those whose water is polluted by chemicals and plastic waste,
for areas turned into desserts because of farming practices.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Lord, we pray for those who use their voice to make a difference;
for those who speak out against injustice,
for those who challenge unfair laws and practices,
for those who listen to the needs of others.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Lord, we raise our prayers to you in the name of our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Offertory
 
God, you have called us to be your people in this place.
You have given us so much,
let us now take time to respond with gratitude
and share what has been given to us.  
 
Dedication of Offering
 
Generous God,
for all that you have given us, we thank you.
Accept our offering, as a token of our love and gratitude
use our money, our time and our talents,
to build your kingdom in this place,
that others may come to know you are a God who saves.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Hymn The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy
Bryn Rees (1973)

The kingdom of God is justice and joy;
For Jesus restores what sin would destroy.
God’s power and glory in Jesus we know;
And here and hereafter the kingdom shall grow.
 
The kingdom of God is mercy and grace;
The captives are freed, the sinners find place,
The outcast are welcomed God’s banquet to share;
and hope is awakened in place of despair.
 
The kingdom of God is challenge and choice:
believe the good news, repent and rejoice!
God’s love for us sinners brought Christ to his cross:
Our crisis of judgement for gain or for loss.
 
God’s kingdom is come, the gift and the goal;
in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole.
The heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call;
and all things cry “Glory!” to God all in all.

Blessing
 
As we go from this time of worship into a time of service
Lord, speak to us in the different places we go,
and through the different people we encounter
That we may seek to do your will and build your kingdom.
 
Let us go in the name of
God our creator
Jesus our saviour
And the Holy Spirit, our challenger,
Amen

 
Thanks to the Rev’d Catherine McFie, whom all liturgical material, unless otherwise stated, was written.
Thanks to Chris and Esther Watson, Alison Jiggins, Ray Fraser, Graham Handscomb, Kathleen Haynes, Diana Cullum-Hall, Geoffrey Roper, Rhona Newby, Marion Thomas and Walt Johnson for recording the spoken parts of the service.
Hymn lyrics are public domain, the music in the podcast is delivered subject to the terms of the URC’s licence.Opening music: Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Closing music: Songs of Praise Toccata by Robert Prizeman (organ of St Andrew’s, Farnham – 2019)

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