URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 8th May 2022 – Kirsty Mabbott

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
Service for Sunday 8th May  2022
The Fourth Sunday of Easter
 
Saint Tabitha painted by Wolfymoza, used under the Creative Common Licence

 
Kirsty-Ann Mabbott

 
Introduction
 
Good morning and welcome to worship on the fourth Sunday after Easter. My name is Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, and I am a Church Related Community Worker in Coventry, part of the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church. It is a great joy to share worship with you during this Eastertide from my manse in Coventry. Our service this morning is focusing on Acts, the story of Tabitha/Dorcas. So let us worship God together.

Call To Worship
 
One:         Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
 
Many:      He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
One:        Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!  Exult, all creation around God’s throne!  Jesus, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn       To God Be The Glory, Great Things He Has Done
Fanny Jane Crosby (1820-1915) (alt.)

 

To God be the glory,
great things he has done!
So loved he the world
that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life
an atonement for sin,
and opened the life-gate
that all may go in.
 
2  O perfect redemption,
the purchase of blood,
to every believer
the promise of God;
for every offender
who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus
a pardon receives.

 

Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice!
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory!  Great things he has done!
 
3  Great things he has taught us,
great things he has done,
and great our rejoicing
through Jesus the Son:
but purer, and higher,
and greater will be
our joy and our wonder,
when Jesus we see.
 
Prayers of Approach & Confession
 
Creator God, we see you wherever we look, in the wonders of the natural world around us, in the marvel of technology, technology that connects us across distances and enables doctors perform life-saving surgery. We also see you in every person we meet. You are all around us, reaching out to connect with us.
 
Yet we take it all for granted, we spoil nature, tear it down and destroy it to make money. We abuse technology, use it to demean and scam people. We take it for granted the medical leaps we have made and only focus on the times medicine doesn’t work. We see anyone outside our close circle as other and do not recognise them as children of God, as our siblings through creation. We close down on all opportunities to make connection.
 
Forgive us God because we are scared children. Forgive us that we allow our life experience to speak louder than your words in Scripture. Forgive us for wallowing in doubt, self-pity and fear. Forgive us for repeating the same mistakes again and again. Amen.
 
Declaration of Forgiveness
 
God is merciful and loving. God is our shepherd and remembers each and every one of us. God is always with us, bringing comfort and looking out for us. When we are lost, God finds us. God ensures we are whole and forgiven. Rejoice!

Prayer of Illumination
 
Resurrected God, as we open the scriptures together, we ask that you open our hearts and minds so that we hear your voice. Help us understand the words that reveal your truth, call us deeper into relationship with you, transform us and challenge us to change the way we live. Amen.

Reading   Acts 9:36-43
 
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.  This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

 
Hymn       The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) (alt.) from Psalm 23
 

The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness fails me never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine for ever.
 
2: Where streams of living water flow,
With gentle care He leads me,
& where the verdant pastures grow,
With heav’nly food he feeds me.
 
3: Perverse & foolish I have strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing brought me.
 
4: In death’s dark vale I fear no ill,
With you, dear Lord, beside me;
Your rod and staff my comfort still,
Your cross before to guide me.
 
5: You spread a table in my sight;
Your saving grace bestowing,
And O what joy and true delight,
From your pure chalice flowing.
 
6: & so through all the length of days,
Your goodness fails me never,
Good Shepherd, may I sing your praise,
Within your house for ever.

 

Sermon
 
Today we see another resurrection story, but this time it is Peter who resurrects a faithful disciple. Tabitha (meaning gazelle in Aramaic) was also known as Dorcas (meaning gazelle in Greek), she was the only woman in the New Testament who was called the feminine form of disciple. This is high praise from the author and demonstrates how important Tabitha was in sharing the good news through her actions in Joppa.
 
Dorcas was bound to her community, and that binding was strong, when she died unexpectedly, the threads were cut, and the community was bereft. When they sent people to Peter, all they asked was that he come, they didn’t ask for a miracle, they simply asked he come. When Peter arrived, they brought him into their community, they demonstrated their love for Tabitha and showed off the love she had for them though the work she had done, the clothes she had made. At this Peter showed them out and prayed. We don’t know what Peter prayed for, simply that he prayed and just as Jesus had done, he called Dorcas, he called her to get up, and that is exactly what she did.
 
This call to get up is a call to action, it is not a request, it is a command. Peter is not acting alone, God is acting through Peter with the power of the Spirit. This command to get up is one that implies Tabitha must continue doing what she had been doing before. She was to continue raising people up from poverty and destitution, she was to continue giving people dignity and equality. She was to continue breaking down injustice. Dorcas didn’t ask for fame, glory or attention, she simply continued to serve God. Her name has lived on in the many Dorcas Societies around the world which operate as a vehicle for serving the poor. We may only have seven verses about Tabitha, but her legacy of witness lives beyond that. The poet George MacDonald even wrote a poem about Dorcas. This reading is more proof that the Jesus story is not over, the Jesus movement isn’t going away. Jesus may not physically be with us now, but his influence and power in the world has not changed. Jesus’ works are now done by the Spirit through the disciples. This is more proof that God is challenging the empires the people build to benefit themselves and oppress others.
 
So what about now? In the midst of all the bad in the world right now; war, violence, climate change, to name a few; this resurrection story is a comfort and a call to keep working for a more just and peaceful world. If we acknowledged the threads that bind us together, we might be more receptive to those who we are bound to. Our desire to create a more loving and just world should not be passive, but active, we should be sounding the alarm on injustice, on the oppressed, marginalised and penalised. We can all do this by living compassionately, by choosing where we buy goods, what products we buy, and which ones we boycott. We can also decide where we are going to donate and what it is we choose to give. If we all chose to act as Tabitha, our communities would be places of equality and sufficiency. Our society would be one of justice and equity, and our world would be one of peace, without want and need. Let us go out into the world, find the threads that bind us to those in need and let us act like Tabitha. Amen.
 
Hymn       O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
 

O for a thousand tongues, to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
 
2 My gracious Master & my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honour of thy name.
 
3 Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life, and health, and peace.
 
musical interlude….
 
4: He speaks & listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.
 
5 He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean,
his blood availed for me.
 
6:  See all your sins on Jesus laid;
the Lamb  of God was slain.
His soul was once an offering made
for every one of us.

 

A Statement of Faith With Room for Creation
 
We trust in God beyond us  before us and after us;
Creator and Companion of All: decisive, collaborative,
 
Shaper of Earth, Breather of Life at work from the Beginning;
By choice, for justice,  assigning work for Creatures too.
We trust in Christ our God who shares our being;
 
God who Spoke Flesh befriending us in Jesus;
Flesh, blood, and birth in common with all life.

Jesus loved, healed, warned, turned tables, spoke for the poor
saw Wisdom in Creatures.  Welcomed with branches but nailed to the Tree. Abandoned to Death,  Earth alone received him.
 
On the third Day he rose to New Life to be with us as the Sky above us;
constant, present, Companion still.
 
We trust the Breath of Life, our God, the Wind that blows where they will; Interpreter of Scriptures Gifted like fire to the Church, seen in healing, peace, forgiveness, God in us and beyond us too.
 
Intercessions
 
God of Compassion, we pray for vulnerable people all over the world, those living under regimes of terror, places of conflict, and situations of violence. Watch over them God, whisper to them so that they know they are not alone or forgotten.
 
God of Love, we feel so powerless to help in many of these situations and places, so remind us that we can work for freedom and peace in our own contexts, and we can provide a safe space for folk who have fled persecution and abuse.  
 
God of Grace, we think of those who are adversely affected by the power of nature, through earthquake, flood, volcanic eruption, tsunami. They have lost much, some have lost everything including loved ones. Bring them courage, hope and peace even through their pain, to see you in their lives, and may we feel compelled to offer help where we can.
 
God of Mercy, we remember those who are sick we ask that you place the right medical professionals where they are needed to bring physical, mental and emotional healing. We also recall those who are dying needlessly of curable illness and disease because of lack of money or resources. Make us less selfish God so that we see that better health for the poor, means better health for the whole world.
 
God of Community, we pray for our own congregation and the neighbourhood in which we are located. Enable us to be truly open and welcoming, so that we can increase our opportunities to share your love, good news and hope through our actions. Help us to discern the needs of the community and fulfil those we are capable of fulfilling. Transform us so that we become the disciples you know we can be.
 
God of Freedom, you called us into freedom, and call us to bring freedom to others, you have equipped us to be brave and stand against systems of power and evil that keep people oppressed, marginalised and fearful. Remind us that our journey of discipleship calls us to be brave and walk the narrow path.
 
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
 
We say together the prayer that Jesus taught us:
 
Offertory
 
We come now to our offertory, this is when we offer not only our gifts of money, but also ourselves and our time to God.
 
Let us pray
 
Eternal God, the earth and all that is in it is yours, we are yours, as are the gifts we now bring you trusting that you will know how best to use them. Help us to be generous with our gifts of money, self and time, especially when we feel we have little. Remind us that we have more than many in the world and you always provide for us in our need. Enable us to discern your will for these gifts in your world. Amen.

 
Hymn       The Sorrow
John Bell

 

Don’t tell me of a faith that fears
to face the world around.
Don’t dull my mind
with easy thoughts
of grace without a ground.
 
I need to know that God is real!
I need to know that Christ can feel
the need to touch and love and heal
the world, including me!
 
2: Don’t speak of piety and prayers
divorced from human need;
don’t talk of spirit without flesh
like harvest without seed.
 
3: Don’t sate my soul
with common sense
distilled from ages past;
inept for those who fear the world’s
about to breathe its last.
 
4: Don’t set the Cross
before my eyes
unless you tell the truth
of how the Lord, who finds the lost,
was often found uncouth.
 
5: So let the Gospel come alive
in actions plain to see
in imitation of the one
whose love extends to me.



I need to know that God is real!
I need to know that Christ can feel
the need to touch and love and heal
the world, including me!
 
Blessing
 
May the resurrected God who is our loving shepherd,
send us out into the world nourished and strengthened
to come alongside the poor, marginalised and oppressed
to share the love and joy we have received in abundance.
And the blessing of God;
Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer
be with you now and every day. Amen.

Sources
 
Call to Worship adapted from the Exultset by Andy Braunston.  Affirmation of Faith by the Rev’d David Coleman.  All other liturgical material by Kirsty-Ann Mabbott.
 
To God Be The Glory, Great Things He Has Done – Fanny Jane Crosby (1820-1915) (alt.)  Songs of Praise
The King of Love My Shepherd Is – Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) (alt.) from Psalm 23 – Recorded live at St. Francis de Sales Church in Ajax, Ontario, Canada.
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing – Charles Wesley (1707-1788) Sung by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band
The Sorrow – John Bell © Sung by the Wild Goose Resource Worship Group
 
Opening Organ Piece: Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Closing Organ Piece: Songs of Praise Toccata by Robert Prizeman
(organ of St Andrew’s, Farnham – 2019)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to Ray Fraser, Marion Thomas, Geoffrey Roper, Chris Watson, Esther Watson and David Shimmin for reading various spoken parts of the service.

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