St Albans and Welwyn Methodist Circuit


             Circuit Service for Sunday 28th

June 2020  
Welcome to Worship
We are continuing our journey through the Book of Ruth.  Today we are looking at chapter 3.
‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Opening Prayer
Holy God, as we come to worship you, help us to remember that, though apart, we belong to your church, your people, your world, we are not alone. Draw us together by your Spirit as we worship. Amen.
Hymn: StF 134 Christ whose glory fills the skies
1. Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.
2. Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
Till thy mercy’s beams I see,
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
3. Visit then this soul of mine;
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, radiancy divine;
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Let us pray:
Holy God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, life and love and hope. In the creative cover of darkness, you formed your creation until the time when your light burst forth, illuminating the beauty, vibrancy and wonder of all that you have made. May we, your beloved people, encounter you in the spectacular and in the mundane.
Ever-creating God, meet afresh with us as we come to worship.
God of transformation, in love you sent your Son to live among your people, to enter the frailty of human flesh. Befriending the ‘wrong’ sort of people, Jesus, powerfully proclaimed your message. Jesus demonstrated the depth and breadth of your great love, love too strong to be bound and held by death, love that burst forth from a tomb with the rising sun.
Holy Spirit of God, love and laughter, creativity, dance and song, you call us continually into relationship with you and one another. In this time of challenge, of fear and uncertainty, encourage us to look for signs of you at work all around us.
Holy God, we come also to ask your forgiveness…
(Time of quiet prayer…)
Our liberating God of love, hope and peace calls us afresh to serve in the work of the kingdom, forgives us in Christ, renews, inspires and enables us through the Holy Spirit. We are forgiven people. Amen
Today’s Reading from the Old Testament - Ruth 3:1-18Hymn StF 607 When love is found
1. When love is found and hope comes home,
Sing and be glad that two are one.
When love explodes and fills the sky,
Praise God, and share our Maker's joy.
2. When love has flowered in trust and care,
Build both each day that love may dare
To reach beyond home's warmth and light,
To serve and strive for truth and right.
3. When love is tried as loved-ones change,
Hold still to hope, though all seems strange,
Till each returns and love grows wise
Through listening ears and opened eyes.
4. When love is torn, and trust betrayed,
Pray strength to love till torments fade,
Till lovers keep no score of wrong,
But hear through pain love's Easter song.
5. Praise God for love, praise God for life,
In age or youth, in calm or strife.
Lift up your hearts! Let love be fed
Through death and life in broken bread.
by Brian Wren (1936 -) tune O Waly Waly
The love story in the Book of Ruth has so far really been about Ruth’s love and commitment to Naomi (and Naomi obviously loves Ruth too) but we now move on the next key relationship in the story.
At the beginning of Chapter 3, Naomi wishes to seek out some security for Ruth’s future life, ‘so that it may be well with you.’ Of course, ancient times are very different from our own. But widows were vulnerable and poor. (Did you know, by the way, that June 23rd is the day the UN have designated World Widows Day?). Think of how often our Hebrew Scriptures instruct the people in the care of the stranger, the widow and the fatherless. All were on the margins of society with no security. What might seeking security look like for us at the moment? Where is our security? We are preparing to come out of lockdown. How may it be well with us? What are we hoping for? Some might be wanting everything to be as it was on March 15th but… we aregoing to be asking questions of all members of the Circuit, to get them to reflect on what has been and what might be.
Throughout the text, Ruth is consistently identified as ‘other’, an outsider, Ruth the Moabite. She is asked ‘who are you?’ by Boaz. In these challenging days this can be an insightful question for us to ponder – who am I? How do I define my identity? Do we frame our identity by where we come from, who our family are, our work, our roles in life, our faith? ‘O Lord, you have searched me and known me’, writes the Psalmist in Psalm 139. Perhaps we might reflect on the question: who am I in the eyes of our loving and faithful God?
Another feature of this multi-layered and nuanced text is the call to resist. Ruth faces discrimination and she is required to seek security as a widow. Perhaps, this text calls us, as people of faith, to stand boldly in courage and to continue to resist dominance, discrimination and the labelling of any as ‘other’. How might we, in this time of global pandemic, continue to stand up for inclusion, justice and peace for all? What does
this text say in the light of Black Lives Matter?
In the story for today Ruth rebels against social protocol and demands redemption. When should we rebel? Who and what needs redemption in our society today? What barriers do we put up? What stops us from participating in God’s work of redemption?  Ruth is asked: Who are you”? (Ruth 3 v 16-18) Her identity is a forbidden ethnicity (Deut. 23 v 3) but in the
abundance of grain Naomi sees hope. What signs of hope have we found in lockdown that we might wish to take with us into the new world which awaits?
Who are we? What does our identity as a community of faith mean to us and to others?
The Book of Ruth comes from post-exilic times when boundaries were expanded, and the writings shows how the outsider is included. How might we be more inclusive as Church Communities in our post lockdown world?
Take a time to sit quietly and reflect
A time of prayer
God of hope, embracing us, surprising us, loving us, be near.
Creative God, as we adapt to a new way of being; distracting and busying ourselves; may we also seek to be present to you and each other in this season of lockdown. Help us to know the presence of the risen one in our being and in our doing.
God of creation, as we bear witness to the springing up of Spring in the beauty of your creation, may we rejoice in cleaner air, and wonder at the blossoming of life amidst such horror, longing for a new way of hope for our world.
Living God, we can feel claustrophobic, crowded or desperately lonely, our horizons of hope diminished. Lead us to restorative places, our still waters, remind us that we are not alone, call us to solidarity, to love our neighbours, to reach out. Draw us close by your hope-filled Spirit.
God of all comfort, when we are fearful, anxious or overwhelmed, may we hear you whisper our names lovingly, ‘beloved child, do not be afraid.’ Tender God, when we are overwhelmed by grief and despair, you weep with us, embracing those who are sick, holding the dying when we cannot, present in a hand held, a smile, a word of comfort, love personified in doctor, nurse or care worker, embrace us in our grief. We pray for all those who are ill at this time, for those who care for them and for those who have lost loved ones… 
God in the darkness, hold us when everything feels too much, when all we can do is get out of bed, when nothing gets done, when lockdown seems about competitive ‘doing’ and we haven’t the energy to be productive, help us to listen to ourselves, to love ourselves as you love us, to remember that you do not measure our worth by our activity, you simply love and love beyond all measure, hold us in our struggles.
Resurrecting God, when we long for a return to how things used to be, open our eyes to the new thing that you are doing. By your Spirit labouring within us, may we discern new opportunities, yet also rest in the stillness.
God of hope undiminished and new horizons, in this season you hold us through pain, anxiety and doubt, through loss and longing, through unexpected and unbridled joy, keep us enfolded in your loving embrace.
God of hope, embracing us, surprising us, loving us, be near. Amen
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn: StF 728 O God you search me and you know me
1. O God, you search me and you know me.
All my thoughts lie open to your gaze.
When I walk or lie down you are before me:
Ever the maker and keeper of my days.
2. You know my resting and my rising.
You discern my purpose from afar,
And with love everlasting you besiege me:
In every moment of life or death, you are.
3. Before a word is on my tongue, Lord,
You have known its meaning through and through.
You are with me beyond my understanding:
God of my present, my past and future, too.
4. Although your Spirit is upon me,
Still I search for shelter from your light.
There is nowhere on earth I can escape you:
Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.
5. For you created me and shaped me,
Gave me life within my mother's womb.
For the wonder of who I am, I praise you:
Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.
Bernadette Farrell (b. 1957)
based on psalm 139
A prayer of blessing
May the Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious to us. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)
Original Materials by Rev Miriam Moul Copyright details for the hymns (CCLI Licence 1201261)
StF 134 Christ whose glory fills the skies (Charles Wesley © Public Domain)
StF 607 When love is found (Brian Wren © 1983 Stainer & Bell Ltd)
StF 728 O God you search me and you know me (© 1992 Bernadette Farrell)