Worship on Wednesday

by Lisa DeRosa
jeffrey f lin tLRs nbzoRE unsplash

written by Margaret Brock, emailed by Carol Dixon,

Opening Prayer

Lord, be with us this afternoon as we spend a short time apart from our usual activities and spend time quietly with you. We thank you for all your love and care towards us over the years and in particular over the past few months. Help us to think about what we can do to show your love and kindness to those around us. Amen.

Reflection part 1

The last few weeks seem to have been dominated by sport – on television, on the radio, in our papers, and in the streets. For some here, I’m sure you’re pleased that at least the football is over. So excuse me if I start off thinking about the football. I must admit I’m a fan and enjoy going to the occasional match and in the past taking my children and more recently my grandchildren. And yes, it always makes it more exciting when your team is winning. Something that hasn’t happened that often in Newcastle over the last few years. For football fans, the Euros certainly put a spring in the step of a lot of people and gave them something to cheer about. 

I considered starting this short service by playing “Three Lions on a Shirt”, the England team’s anthem but probably most of you will have heard it rather too many times recently. 

There has certainly been a lot of fervour among the supporters of the England team, especially while England was winning. Since then however, things have changed. For weeks, this group of young men have been lauded, adored, and celebrated – while they were winning. Suddenly they lost. They lost a football match. It was not a life and death situation. It was not the end of the world. It was a football match. Whilst true supporters have accepted the disappointment and pointed out how well they had done, both in their matches and in their behaviour, there has been a nasty reaction from some quarters.

The team comprised young men from different backgrounds, different racial heritage, and different life experiences. Unfortunately, when it came to the penalty shootout at the end, the England footballers missed 3 and the Italians missed 2. Not a big difference having been inseparable on goals over 120 minutes. Even more unfortunately, the 3 who missed were all black. Young men aged 19, 21, and 23. Brave enough to volunteer to take a penalty. Brave enough to stand in front of the many thousands at Wembley. Brave enough to be watched by millions round the world. I find it nerve racking enough standing up here in front of about a dozen! For these three men they went, in some people’s eyes, from hero to zero in a few minutes and in some people’s minds that was because of the colour of their skin!

Many people know about Marcus Rashford. During the pandemic, he has worked tirelessly to support children and ensure that they have enough to eat. He has been applauded throughout the country for his work and has even received an MBE for it. But suddenly, he misses a penalty in a football match and is vilified because he is black!

So what sort of country do we live in? And what can we do about it?

Hymn: Inspired by Love and Anger 

1 Inspired by love and anger, 
disturbed by need and pain, 
Informed of God’s own bias,
we ask him once again: 
“How long must some folk suffer? 
How long can few folk mind? 
How long dare vain self interest 
turn prayer and pity blind?” 

2 From those forever victims 
of heartless human greed, 
Their cruel plight composes 
a litany of need: 
“Where are the fruits of justice? 
Where are the signs of peace? 
When is the day when prisoners 
and dreams find their release?” 

3 From those forever shackled 
to what their wealth can buy, 
The fear of lost advantage 
provokes the bitter cry, 
“Don’t query our position! 
Don’t criticise our wealth! 
Don’t mention those exploited 
by politics and stealth!”

4 To God, who through the prophets 
proclaimed a different age, 
we offer earth’s indifference, 
its agony and rage: 
“When will the wronged be righted? 
When will the kingdom come? 
When will the world be generous 
to all instead of some?” 

5 God asks, “Who will go for me? 
Who will extend my reach? 
And who, when few will listen, 
will prophesy and preach? 
And who, when few bid welcome, 
will offer all they know? 
And who, when few dare follow, 
will walk the road I show?” 

6 Amused in someone’s kitchen, 
asleep in someone’s boat, 
Attuned to what the ancients 
exposed, proclaimed and wrote, 
A Saviour without safety, 
a tradesman without tools 
has come to tip the balance 
with fishermen and fools.

John L Bell and Graham Maule as quoted in “This is the Day” edited by Neil Paynter.

Traditional: Inspired by Love and Anger – YouTube

Reflection part 2

Apart from singing “Three Lions on a Shirt” and “Sweet Caroline,” the fans also shout “Come on England!” On Sunday night, after the match I flicked through recent posts on Facebook and saw one which Carla Grosch-Miller had shared before the match. It was entitled “Come on England!” This was something which throughout the tournament has been heard many times. But these words are rather different. 

“Three lions on a shirt” refers repeatedly to “Football’s coming home.” But the poem that Carla posted doesn’t refer to a football match or any other game but to the type of country we would like to live in.

Come on England!

What I want to come home
is social justice,
honest leaders
who can point the way away 
from intolerance and blame.

What I want to come home 
is a sense of shame
at homelessness
and people who cannot even 
afford to eat.

What I want to lose
is an uncaring elite
who can bathe in banknotes
and lie without blinking.

I want my country back
and not just for ninety minutes,
I want the unpicked to be chosen
and find that the limits
imposed by their births
have rusted and broken.

I want my people awoken
for more than just 
a dribble of time
in between the bylines.

England still can be
what it always should
when every player awakes 
and plays for each other.

By Harry Gallagher, quoted by Carla Grosch-Miller on Facebook Sunday 11th July 2021

So yes, we can cheer at a football match, or watching on the TV “Come on England.” We can nail our allegiances to a football mast. We can get excited when a “Brit” does well at Wimbledon or our cricket team wins an exciting match. We can get behind our country when we see the pageantry of The Trooping of the Colour or the State Opening of Parliament. 

But what sort of society do we live in and what do we really want for England, Scotland, or wherever our loved ones live? And what can we do about it?

Bible Reading:

34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat. 37 But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’ 38 And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said ‘Five, and two fish.’ 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled: 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.” (Mark 6:34-44 NRSV)

We know that Jesus cared for the spiritual wellbeing of people but He also cared for the physical wellbeing of the people who followed Him and He told his disciples to feed them. A task that seemed way beyond them, but He was with them and everyone was fed. What can we do to feed the spiritual and physical needs of those around us? It doesn’t have to be the big tasks like Marcus Rashford. It may be praying, making that telephone call, or just sitting quietly with someone in distress. We can all do our part to make England a place to come home to.

Hymn: Will you come and follow me?

1 Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown?
Will you let my name be known
Will you let my life be grown in you
And you in me?

2 Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you
And you in me?

3 Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
And never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean
And do such as this unseen
And admit to what I mean in you
And you in me?

4 Will you love the “you” you hide 
if I but call your name?
Will you quell that fear inside 
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound 
in you, and you in me?

5 Lord, your summons echoes true 
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go,
where your love and footsteps show,
thus I’ll move and live and grow 
in you, and you in me.

John L Bell and Graham Maule as quoted in “This is the Day” edited by Neil Paynter.

NB This version contains an extra verse (v3) to the version of this hymn as found in Rejoice and Sing. 

Will you come and follow me – YouTube

Closing prayer 

Lord, help us to do what we can to make the lives of people around us better, brighter. Help us to want our country, and the world in which we live, to care for the sick and homeless, the people who have no hope left. Let us not be limited by our lack of faith in You. Show us what we can each do for You, in our own small way. Amen

Grace

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirt be with us all now and evermore. Amen


Written by Margaret Brock for Worship on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Used with permission. Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash.


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