Christian Aid Week 2020 Worship

“Love never fails. Coronavirus impacts all of us. But love unites us all. As this virus spreads across the world, love rises up in response. You’ve already shown incredible kindness to your neighbours. Now is the time to reach out to your neighbours both near and far. Your love protects. From storms, from drought, and now from coronavirus. Your love protects our global neighbours battling the spread of this illness. Your love protects. With soap, clean water and medical supplies. By supporting us this Christian Aid Week you can reach out and protect more of your neighbours today. For over 70 years, we’ve been standing with the poorest of our neighbours, with people of all faiths and none, to stand up for dignity, equality and justice. Let’s stand together with our neighbours near and far.”
from the Christian Aid Week 2020 website.

St Paul’s Church has been supporting Christian Aid Week for decades because, just as we believe in loving our neighbours locally, we are committed to loving our neighbours globally. Part of that support is to join in prayer and worship with our neighbours worldwide and to hear their stories and learn more about their challenges and achievements. To find out about some of the incredible people CAW2020 supports, why not watch the video below:

Opening Hymn

Readings

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NLT)

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Matthew  22:36-40 (NLT)

36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Sermon by Rev’d Jo Joyce

The slogan for Christian Aid week is ‘Love never fails, corona virus impacts us all, but love unites us all.’

Our ability to love one another, to care for and uphold one another is part of our common humanity. Its why in many ways the separation we have endured over these past weeks is made all the harder as we are separated from those we love, from friends and family.

The situation we find ourselves in at present means the ways we often give or receive love, become difficult or even impossible: if we feel loved when someone hugs us, or when we spend quality time with a friend, or receive a gift or a kind word, or if we show love when we help someone we are going to struggle. But even though we are apart, we are not loved any the less. We can see that love each week when we clap for those who care for us, when we get a friendly phone call or a smile from someone we pass in the street.

Jesus said love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself. But what does that actually mean? As I have been reflecting on this, one of the things that comes to mind is that we have to work at it… To love God with our whole selves, our emotional, spiritual and intellectual selves is hard. It takes focus. If I am to do this, I really need to put some effort in, to deliberately take time to pray, to read the bible or to grow spiritually in other ways.

And it’s the same with loving my neighbour. No longer can I rely on those things that might come easily to me. If I am going to love my neighbour, I am going to have to work at it. I need to think about what I can do safely that will demonstrate care for those around me. Because there is always someone, even if we live alone there are always others we can show love to. That might be encouraging our neighbour over the fence, smiling to those we see when out and about, ringing a friend or acquaintance to encourage them, praying for the person who delivers our shopping, or making a rainbow or putting teddies in our front window. This doesn’t take away from the fact that it is hard to give or receive love at the moment, but making that effort might make a difference for someone’s day, it might encourage them in ways we will never know.

St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he talks about love is one of the most famous passages in the bible. Often read at weddings and funerals it expresses just how important love really is. Here love is not a wishy-washy thing, surround by hearts and pink fluffiness, but it is hard, steely and determined to see through the tough times. Love is the strongest of our emotions. It causes us to stop and put another first, in fact it is so important is it that Jesus urges us to do this with our enemies as well as our friends, he even said no greater love can we have for another than to lay down our life for our friends, a sacrifice that tragically some of our key workers have had to make.

So, what might it mean to love our neighbour this Christian Aid week? How can we show that love unites us all? Well of course supporting and encouraging one another and those who are struggling at home through things like foodbank is important, but we also need to remember that the challenge we face now is a global one. That the crisis for those in developing countries, without proper access to healthcare and sanitation, and without the ability to store food or clean water, means that they will be far more exposed to the dangers that the virus poses.  It’s not possible to socially isolate if you live with your whole family in a single room home in an urban slum. That is why its so important that we look out from our own situation to care for our neighbours further afield. This Christian Aid week we are working together to support our neighbours both near and far as well as we can. To show the love of God for all people, wherever they may be, through our actions, through our prayers and through raising money in all sorts of creative ways. It can be so easy to feel like we have nothing to offer, when in fact we have the greatest gift of all – love. Let that be our motivation to care for those who will be hit hardest at this time.

As St Paul says; ‘Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.’ However hard it may be to know love and to offer love at this time we are still encouraged to pursue it. However hard it might be to understand this, he assures us that faith hope and love last forever – and that the greatest of these things is love.

Reflective Hymn

Reflection and Prayers

Look at your hands. Have a good look.
However your hands look to you, they are most
certainly clean in these days of regular hand washing
to prevent spreading the coronavirus.
Our hands really are the most remarkable and useful
tools, involved in so much of what we do and how we
do things, even in these days of social distancing.
The psalmist writes of committing his spirit into
God’s hands, and at times of being in God’s hands.
He also describes his desire to be delivered from the
hands of his oppressors and from a hidden invisible
net that threatens to entangle him.

Our hands have become even more significant in
these days of physical distance. We might long to
hold the hand of a person we can no longer touch.
We pray for the hands of medics to bring healing and
comfort. We are grateful for hands stacking shelves
and delivering groceries and post. And we are extra
wary of everything our hands touch that comes from
outside our own home.

This Christian Aid Week we also think of how our
hands can be far from idle. Though not handing
out envelopes or hosting Big Brekkies or the many
things we usually busy ourselves with this week, our
hands can still reach out virtually to our neighbours
around the world. Neighbours in refugee camps
and cramped living conditions, neighbours without
adequate hand-washing facilities, neighbours who
face the devastating impact of coronavirus with even
less of the medical resources we have struggled to
access here.

We reach out by clasping our hands together in
prayer for our neighbours, and holding our hands
open before God as we declare our needs and
concerns for their wellbeing and our own.
We also reach out by participating in this digital
Christian Aid Week, through making our online
donations and sharing the stories from Christian Aid
partners, working on the ground to be the hands and
feet of love in action.

Let us pray together using our open hands:

God our refuge,
we come to you with open hands,
some of us with hearts full of questions,
some of us bruised by bereavement,
some of us fearful of what the future holds,
all of us stunned by the events of this year.
Draw close to us now in each of our homes
as we place our honest questions and hopes
into your open, resurrected, yet scarred hands.
God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

With the honesty of the psalmist,
the wrestling questions of Job,
and the lament of the prophets,
we bring to you our questions or our silence.
(Hold your index finger and, in silence, ask
the question that most burdens your heart or
simply sit in silence before God. Hold the
silence together.)

God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Hear the cry of our hearts, Lord,
silent and aloud,
for bereaved neighbours, near and far.
Comfort those pained by being absent,
and hold close those who are hurting alone.
(Hold your ring finger and pray for comfort for those you
know who are bereaved or simply sit in silence before
God. Hold the silence together.)

God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

In this season of Easter,
renew us with resurrection hope
that while weeping lingers in this night,
joy will come with the morning.
(Hold your middle finger and in the silence tell God what
you are most looking forward to in the future or simply
sit in silence before God. Hold the silence together.)

God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

On this Christian Aid Week Sunday,
we pray for and with communities
across the world who are
most vulnerable to coronavirus.
We pray for people living in refugee camps
and city slums,
with limited sanitation facilities,
who are unable to wash their hands regularly,
and have little opportunity to isolate from others.
We pray for Christian Aid partners
working to provide soap and buckets,
communicating clear, accurate information,
raising the voices of the most vulnerable
and ensuring they are kept as safe as possible.
(Hold your thumb as you pray for the most vulnerable,
those closest to God’s heart, or
simply sit in silence before God. Hold the
silence together.)

God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

For those of us who are self-isolating,
which can sometimes feel like we aren’t doing
anything,
remind us that we are all doing our part,
and saving lives by staying at home.
(Hold your little finger and ask God for what you need,
or simply sit in silence before God. Hold the silence
together.)

God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for much wisdom and resources
for those in local and national authority
for all frontline and key workers
here in Britain, Ireland and across the world.
(Put your hands together and pray for the many
frontline workers and volunteers and for Christian
Aid partners working to help others across the world,
or simply sit in silence before God. Hold the silence
together.)

God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

As we have clapped to honour them,
we clap our hands now in praise
of your glorious creation,
and with the hope that the first shoots
of another possible world are coming into view.
(Clap your hands in praise of God’s glorious creation
and with the hope of new possibilities for the world.)

God in your mercy,
hear all our prayers.
Amen.

Prayers from the CAW2020 Order of Service

If as a response to the worship and prayer we have shared, you do want to support Christian Aid this week, you can donate online using the link below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stpaulsstockingfordcaw2020

Closing Hymn

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