Details Of Morning Worship On 22 May 2011

                    We gather together as God’s community……     

Opening Words God calls us to worship

Gladly we come

God calls us to praise

We open our hearts

God calls us to give thanks

Gratefully we gather.

God calls us together,

Let us worship God with our hearts

We are called to be God’s people,

Let us worship God with our minds

We are called to put our lives into God’s hands,

Let us worship God in Spirit and in truth.

Let us worship God together


Hymn Praise with joy the world’s Creator,
God of justice, love and peace,
Source and end of human knowledge,
Force of greatness without cease.
Celebrate the Maker’s glory –
Power to rescue and release.


Praise the Son who feeds the hungry,
Frees the captive, finds the lost,
Heals the sick, upsets religion,
Fearless both of fate and cost.
Celebrate Christ’s constant presence –
Friend and Stranger, Guest and Host.

Praise the Spirit sent among us,
Liberating truth from pride,
Forging bonds where race or gender,
Age or nation dare divide.
Celebrate the Spirit’s treasure —
Foolishness none dare deride.

Praise the Maker, Son and Spirit,

One God in community,

Calling Christians to embody

Oneness and diversity.

Thus the world shall yet believe, when

Shown Christ’s vibrant unity.

John Bell & Graham Maule©WGRG


Prayer Loving God, creator of all things, we praise you.

For people and places,

for history and future,

for time and space.

Creating God, sustainer of all things, we praise you.

For talents and skills,

for similarities and differences,

for nature and nurture.

Sustaining God, with us at all times, we praise you.

For gathering together in worship to sing, pray and praise.

We bring our hearts, our minds and our spirits.

To be nourished and enthused by the wildfire of your Spirit.

But first we must bring our whole selves,

asking forgiveness for the times we hurt others in words and deeds,

intentionally and unintentionally.

Make these times known to us;

touch our hearts so that we will seek to be more Christ-like

and help us to turn away from all we do that we know is wrong….

We know we are forgiven when we come before you,

committed to changing our ways and our words.

We praise you for that forgiveness and accept it anew today.


Loving, creating, sustaining God,

we gather in your name.

Meet with each one of us as we join together in saying the words Jesus taught us.

Our Father …

Family time –


Church Family News hymn 479 Shalom chaverim

Young people leave for own worship time:

“May you listen, learn and love God more”

“The Lord be with you”

We listen for God’s Word ……….

Bible Reading Acts 6: 1-15 Pg 120

Stephen’s story

Stephen was an ordinary man who was transformed by God’s Spirit.

And he lived in exciting times, but difficult ones.

I doubt anyone had ever thought about or foreseen what the effect of the Holy Spirit would be in those early days after the disciples gained a new courage; a real boldness and ability to talk about Jesus.

It all began to happen on the day of Pentecost…..

After hiding in fear and wondering what on earth to do next,

the disciples were given a gift of power through the HS

and they began to preach and teach and heal,

and many, many people became believers.

They too were baptized and also received the HS –

which in turn gave them the power and boldness to speak out about Jesus and all he had done

and what his life meant and how we should change because of him.

The new movement was spreading like wildfire

and they were beginning to get noticed by the authorities,

who felt the Jewish ways and beliefs were being threatened all over again

by this preaching in the name of the man they thought dead and buried and forgotten.

The converts to this ‘new way’ began to try to live differently too.

They shared out all their possessions and resources

and made sure those in most need were looked after.

Of course, it didn’t always work.

New systems rarely do….at first.

They take time to organize and a lot of good will…..just as we’re finding as we begin our new system of sharing this place with the centre….

Some folk then were blatantly dishonest,

and others just fell through the net;

but the point was, that this new community was trying to live as a single family – the nucleus of God’s renewed Israel.

But the difficulties arose when this family grew and grew.

They needed managers to look after the administration;

to look after the finances;

to look after the care of the sick;

to check the widows were being looked after;

to make sure that those who had been cast out by their families because they had chosen to follow ‘the Way’ were not lonely.

And we all know, don’t we,

how often people are promoted from a job they can do really well into one for which they have no aptitude or little training.

It happens all the time.

But the 12 apostles, the founder members of this growing organisation,

were quite clear what they should not do.

They shouldn’t rush to do the work themselves,

for their priority was the word of God and prayer.

They had an administrative crisis on their hands and they knew they must delegate!

And so it was.

7 men were chosen as the first deacons in the church.

And Stephen was one of them.

The leadership team was strengthened,

the tasks were shared according to the needs and gifts of the community –

all of whom were supported with prayer

and empowered by the Spirit.

But Stephen stands out.

He led the way for the others.

Their main job was to share out food and clothing,

but Stephen could see that they needed more;

they needed food for their souls, not just their bodies.

So he started teaching them about Jesus,

and then he started healing like Jesus.

Yes, healing like Jesus.

He had the gift, the knack, the Spirit of God.

He was brimming with God’s grace and energy but his many gifts made him unpopular.

And how often that happens today, too, in all sorts of situations.

We call it the ‘tall poppy syndrome.’

As soon as someone’s gifts begin to make them stand out,

the general mood is one of ‘let’s bring them down’.

We discourage them;

we criticise them;

we criticise them for being too forward

and we are somehow unable to rejoice in their giftedness or success ….unless they are our own children, of course!

So Stephen drew criticism his way.

And whenever he spoke, out came the accusations:

‘you’re undermining the law of Moses!

You’re speaking out against the temple!

You’re blaspheming God!’

Stephen was in serious trouble because he was talking new ways of understanding the old ideas…..and none of us like change, do we?

And worse, he was good at arguing his point.

He had the gift of words and was a man of spirit, faith and wisdom.

He was a ‘tall poppy’ and heading for disaster.                     737

Hymn 329 There’s a Spirit in the air

Bible Reading Acts 7: 55- 60                                         Pg 122

In this is the Word of the Lord    Thanks be to God

Stephen’s death.

So Stephen was arrested and false witnesses accused him of saying that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the temple and change the customs which Moses had handed down to them!

It was a serious charge, for the temple and the Law gave the Jews their identity and purpose

and they were increasingly aware that their world was becoming ever more cosmopolitan with growing pagan influences.

But the early Christian claim always was that ‘the God of our ancestors, in fulfillment of the purposes for which he gave the law and the Temple in the first place, is now doing a new thing.’

But from the point of view of hard line Jews,

this was misunderstood and a blasphemous thing to say.

One such Jew was a certain Saul of Tarsus, whose plan for his life was to rid the Jews of this new Way,

these people who blasphemed against God and his temple and laws..

We haven’t read Stephen’s speech of defense today,

but I invite you to read it for yourselves later.

Stephen doesn’t just talk about Jesus himself – about his cruel death and astonishing resurrection…he uses the opportunity to go for the big picture.

The whole story.

So he tells them their story, from Abraham to Joseph to Moses.

He builds on the fact that the Israelites first of all rejected Moses as their rescuer,

but worse, they then failed to worship God even after he had delivered them from slavery in Egypt.

Although God went with them in the wilderness,

they didn’t worship God properly even then,

but worshipped idols.

And as for the temple:

well it was at best ambiguous because God doesn’t live in places made with human hands

and at its worst, it has become an idol….

They glorify their temple and used this to bolster up their rejection of Jesus.

Stephen claims it is not him who is the heretic,

but the Jewish rulers who are following their idolatrous ancestors.

It is an astonishing speech, for rather than laying out their history as a story of salvation,

he does something far more powerful and important…

he describes it as a story of rebellion.

What Stephen said was a blow to their hearts… and his own death sentence.

So Stephen becomes the first Christian martyr.

And as the stones and rocks are flying at him and his body is being smashed and crushed he shouts out a prayer at the top of his voice asking God not to hold this sin against his killers.

He and Christian martyrs after him had learned from Jesus’ own example to call down blessings and forgiveness on their executioners

rather than cursing and judgement.

Loving one’s enemies is a central, non-negotiable part of the Christian life.

Although a sad story – Stephen’s death – it is a favourite one because it introduces us to Saul of Tarsus,

who watched and approved.

At this point, Saul has no idea what was ahead-

he was focused on his own plan for his life.

He set out from there to kill and persecute as many Christians as he could find.

But his plan was foiled on the road to Damascus

where he suddenly saw the light and began to understand what Stephen had been saying.

He had to change his plan.


But that’s another story!

God did not die with Stephen.

God’s Spirit was too strong,

too much,

too deep in so many people.

And from that day, there has been no stopping it.

Around the whole world people have glimpsed God through the Holy Spirit

And it just keeps spreading, like wildfire

Like scattered salt, the believers went out,

flavouring the communities they visited and lived in.

People believed,

fellowships of believers grew, despite persecution.

The story of Stephen was recorded for the generations who followed and from early on in church history

has been commemorated on the day after Christmas day,

reminding us that Christmas is not simply about a nice little baby surrounded by friendly animals,

but the sudden arrival of the new life of heaven

within an inhospitable and downright dangerous world.


We respond to God’s word…..



As our own and personal response Stephen’s story today

I invite you to join together in sharing symbols of his faith and death.

Baskets will be passing around.

In them are pebbles – small stones.

You are invited to take a pebble as the basket passes

as a reminder of Stephen’s life and witness –

his commitment, his sacrifice and his gifts.

Stephen served in the ordinary: the serving of meals and providing for those folk society forgot.

We all serve in our ordinary lives too

and our service is valuable,

whether it is tea-making or worship leading,

taking time to talk or visiting.

That service, when done for God’s glory,

shows us laying down our lives for Christ’s sake

-following Stephen’s example.

When all who wish have a pebble,

we will join together with the words on the sheet

Stones formed and created,

Part of the world we live in.

Stones used for building and making

Stones used for destroying and punishment

We remember Stephen

We remember his ministry

We remember his faith

We remember his commitment

We remember his death

We remember the ripple effect that followed

As we hold our pebbles let us commit to witnessing bravely to our faith,

to living a faithful life,

based on continued love and service,

of meeting the needs of others,

supported and enthused,

encouraged and transformed by God’s Spirit within us.

Come Holy Spirit, Come Holy Spirit,

Dwell within us Make us new creations

Come Holy Spirit Come Holy Spirit. Amen

Hymn I the Lord of sea and sky

I have heard my people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save.

I, who made the stars of night,

I will make their darkness bright.

Who will bear my light to them?

Whom shall I send?


Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

I will hold your people in my heart.


I, the Lord of snow and rain,

I have borne my people’s pain.

I have wept for love of them.

They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak my word to them.

Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord……


I, the Lord of wind and flame,

I will send the poor and lame.

I will set a feast for them.

My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide till their hearts be satisfied.

I will give my life to them.

Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord…

Daniel L Schutte      ãOCP Publications via Calamus

Prayers for others

Loving God, we turn and focus on the world around us.

We acknowledge that people are persecuted, as Stephen was, in today’s world, around the world.

We remember and pray in silence for those who meet in secret, those who fear for the safety of their children and for those who will lose their lives.


Leader: Lord in your mercy

ALL: Hear our prayer

Loving God, we turn and focus on the country that we live in.

We know that people live out their faith in communities, serving and meeting the needs of old and young, black and white, native and immigrant as Stephen and his fellow believers did.

We remember and pray in silence for those who give of themselves for others, who reach out with love and serve those who respond.


Leader: Lord in your mercy

ALL: Hear our prayer

Loving God, we turn and focus on our fellowships represented here.

We acknowledge that we are sometimes divided,

Sometimes more concerned about material things than with the growth of your kingdom.

We remember and pray in silence for those amongst us who need your Spirit and for all who feel jaded by life and witness.

We pray for those written in our book……

and we pray for our fellowships, that they may grow in love and wholeness.


Leader: Lord in your mercy

ALL: Hear our prayer

Loving God, we turn and focus on ourselves.

We acknowledge our own worries and our joys,

our family and friends, our work and our play,

our service and our worship.

We remember and pray in silence for our lives and witness,

our joys and sorrows, our faith and our questions.


Leader: Lord in your mercy

ALL: Hear our prayer   AMEN

We go out to serve and spread the gospel…

Hymn   289 To God be the glory


We have glimpsed again the message and motivation

that led Stephen to die for the sake of the Good News of the Gospel

of Jesus.

May we too be inspired by the message of love and commitment,

And let us go from this place believing we can make a difference to those around us for your sake and in your name.

Our worship is not finished, it is only just begun,

in our lives and in our world, ‘til your kingdom comes.  Amen

God called us

And we gathered

God sends us

And we go

To be as those first believers

To be as scattered salt



Believing in signs and wonders

Remembering those who have gone before

God called us

And we gathered

God sends us

Now we go

And as we go, may the blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – be with us and remain with us always. Amen

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.