July 18th, Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

A downloadable version of this page is available for anyone who would like to save or print it out.

The Faith Nurture Forum would like to thank Rev Jock Stein, retired Minister, formerly of Tulliallan and Kincardine, for histhoughts on the eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

Weekly Worship, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, is for everyone – in any capacity – who is involved in creating and leading worship.

It provides liturgical material that can be used for worship in all settings. Our writers are asked to share their approaches to creating and delivering this material to equip leaders with a greater confidence and ability to reflect on their own worship practice and experience and encourage them to consider how this material might be adapted for their own context.

We would encourage continual reflection on the changing patterns of worship and spiritual practice that are emerging from disruption and how this might help identify pathways towards development and worship renewal.

We may not all be gathered in the same building, but at this time, when we need each other so much, we are invited to worship together, from where we are – knowing that God can hear us all and can blend even distant voices into one song of worship.

Introduction

Maybe congregations will be back in church, maybe entertaining summer visitors ... whatever the situation, let the familiar passages set for today take on a new resonance.

2 Samuel 7:1-14a

The books of Samuel and Kings are the closest we get to ‘what was actually going on' during the time the monarchy was established in Israel. As we look back, we take the rule of David and Solomon, and the start of temple worship, for granted. But reading between the lines a little gives us a story of alternative choices – compare today's passage with 1 Samuel 8:19-22. God graciously takes what might be a second best into God's purposes, in such a way that we look back not with regret but with thanksgiving. So, as with much of Scripture, what seems to be a story for church and for nation is also a story for believers, who must come to terms with their own weakness as well as the weakness of the nations we inhabit.

If a prophet like Nathan struggles to hear what God is saying, no wonder we do also, especially when a king like David makes a strong argument for a worthy building project. Only when God reminds Nathan of a bigger picture does the prophet realise his duty is to say no to David, as the good must give way to the better. That is one of the preacher's tasks, to show people the wonder of God's purposes over time. And Nathan is able to do this so graciously that the king will in fact respond with humble faith, though at this point the prophet does not yet know the outcome.

There are many specific ideas within God's message to Nathan and to David – God's presence with God's people on the move, God's grace to those of humble origins, God's promise to future generations (which we can see fulfilled in Christ, since the monarchy was to peter out into exile).

Notice the strong metaphors: moving, building, shepherding, planting ... and ‘raising up' in v.12, which we often invoke when we pray (for example) that God will raise up wise and honest leaders, and which we celebrate when we apply the raising of Christ as a metaphor to describe what has really happened to our own lives (Romans 6:4, Ephesians 2:6).

Psalm 89:20-37

This is the only Psalm attributed to the Levite and sage ‘Ethan the Ezrahite', but it has a special place as the final psalm placed in Book 3 of the Psalms, which ends with ‘Amen and Amen'. We sometimes describe the first and last psalm in each of the five books of Psalms as ‘framing' the book, with a special significance.

Psalm 89 is set for today because it talks about the line of David, which will ‘continue forever' (v.36). Today's passage, however, will be followed by the rest of the psalm which complains bitterly that in fact David's city is ruined and his line finished! Many psalms in Books 4 and 5 will continue the hard task of coming to terms with the fact of exile, and the apparent failure of God to keep promises. It will emerge that only God is the supreme King, and even as early as Psalm 78 (still in Book 3) we learn that God's sanctuary is like the high heavens (78:69) and that God is quite capable of disowning an earthly sanctuary (78:60).

The New Testament cites the Psalms more than any Old Testament book, in language well summed up in one hymn by saying that Jesus is ‘great David's greater Son', but if we jump there too quickly and simply treat the Old Testament as a quarry for texts, we may miss important lessons which Israel had to learn about lamenting disaster and coping with it, about struggling with difficult texts, about questioning God when life falls to pieces.

Two points of interest arise from these verses:

  • David's kingship is not presented as his great achievement – it is God's gift (vv.19-20 and those following). What God gives, God can take away. The perspective of the Old Testament that everything, even disaster, comes from God, sits awkwardly with our modern desire to keep God's reputation clear of the mud of human life, but is resolved in the New Testament by teaching such as in Romans 8:28, that ‘all things work together for good', as well as by the cross itself.
  • Verse 19 should really be included in this passage, as it introduces David as one ‘chosen from the people'. While if you wish you can take this as one of the hints (no more) of democracy found in the Psalms, it should be linked with Deuteronomy 18:18 and Acts 7:37 as a verse which is fulfilled by Jesus, who is a king yet also ‘one of the people'.

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Along with the following psalm, this introduces ‘shepherd' as the model for leadership. Jeremiah had the misfortune (along with the calling) to speak God's word in a time of bad leaders, shepherds who had ‘scattered the flock' (v.3) – a failure equally of temple and palace, or church and state we might say, though in Jeremiah's day the two were as close as they would have been in Medieval or Reformation Scotland.

The emphasis in this passage is on God's promise to raise up new leaders, and a new Leader. This invites a bifocal view, taking the Old Testament seriously both in its demands for righteousness in the nation, but also in its recognition that ‘something more' is required, which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus. How this works out today may depend on your congregation. It is one thing for Robert Bruce in 17th century Edinburgh's High Kirk to criticise King James VI (and to suffer the same kind of treatment as Jeremiah). It might be less appropriate (though much easier) to spend time criticising Holyrood or Westminster in a church without a whiff of any member of Council or Parliament. And this, of course, is why in the context of a New Testament Church we find prophecy in a more domestic setting than we do in the book of Jeremiah (see Acts 11:27-28, 21:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:20).

Psalm 23

This very familiar psalm may be adequately served here by a mention of Malcolm Guite's recent book David's Crown, (Canterbury Press), which has a fine lyrical poem on Psalm 23, and by my own ‘Shepherd Sonnet':

Contradictions, with a sudden dark
to overtake our cosiness, our rosy
hopes. The unexpected snakes devour
the flimsy ladders that we pick and park
for easy climbs to happiness. Who knows,
we might today be falling, calling out
for God to hear us, hold us, help us, fold us
in those arms that felt the hammer blows
to nails through ankles, wrists – such love to meet
the cost of shepherding the likes of us;
or finding courage in the cold of night,
the daytime heat, the struggles of the street.
You fill my cup with hope again: indeed
I find, with you, I've everything I need.

© Jock Stein

The value of poetry here is not so much for quoting as for triggering your own thought on such aspects of the psalm as the cost of shepherding (behind the sunny days and romantic hills), the contrast between green pastures and dark valleys, the presence of God as the one certainty and our final hope.

Ephesians 2:11-22

Identity is complex. One of the tricky things to navigate in our own divided world is the knowledge that in our congregations there may not only be some who are secure in their identity and others very insecure, but some who seek identity in belonging to an ‘old' group like village or trade or nation, others by deciding to join a newer group based on gender or cause, often one with fluid boundaries. Consider how belonging to the church might relate to any of these.

You might think that Paul (it matters not whether you think he wrote the letter, or whether it was written in his name) is addressing a simpler situation, and some of the metaphors we use – like the lost sheep – do indeed present simple options of lost or found, outsider or insider. Actually, it is a necessary skill of the writer/preacher to show that human life is always about the choices we make, and the choices God has made for us, and that even if living in a complex world requires great wisdom – as much in Paul's age as in ours – there are certain simple things which do give us an identity which allows us to meet the challenges of an age very different from Paul's. Simple, yet with an extraordinary depth which the rest of the Bible fills out. Here they are, as Paul states them:

  1. You were outsiders, now you are insiders – part of the age-long community of God's people, Old Testament and New Testament (vv.12-13, 19-20);
  2. There is only one humanity, defined not by this or that kind of identity, but by the person of Christ (vv.14-16);
  3. Whatever your past or present chosen or unchosen identity, you are one in Christ (vv.15-18).

This is something dynamic, not static, it is a model for growth (vv.21-22). Note especially the word used for what we are growing into – a temple: this is one of the richest words in Scripture, used for the human body (1 Corinthians 6:9) and the Christian church (1 Corinthians 3:16), for the earthly place of worship and for the control centre of the universe (Psalm 11:4, 48:9, 78:69, 132:8), for the human and for the exalted body of our Lord Jesus (John 2:19).

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The stories of the feeding of the 5,000 (vv.35-42) and Jesus walking on the water (vv.45-52) are familiar, but they are not part of our reading. Today the verses before and after have been selected to underline the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus as a shepherd, and perhaps also to contrast the pressures on Jesus and His disciples with the need for rest and retreat.

Mark has arranged the material very carefully. This chapter begins with our Lord's rejection in His home town of Nazareth, then switches to Jesus' decision to send out the disciples to preach and to heal. While they are away on mission, there comes the brutal death of John the Baptist, after which the disciples (called apostles now in v.30) regather round Jesus. (Matthew leaves out this ‘reporting back', Luke includes it.) Their planned retreat is foiled by the demand of the crowds for Jesus, who responds with compassion (vv.33-34), as again later in the chapter (vv.54-56).

Clearly something extraordinary was going on. ‘All who touched [the fringe of His cloak] were healed.' After the Gospels, this kind of language is only repeated once, in Acts 5:14-16. There are miracles of healing today, but equally times when people are not healed, whereas this is complete. The text gives us a clear witness to Jesus as the supreme teacher and healer. Moreover, soon after His death Jesus was being worshipped as Lord, one with the Creator of all things – this is not something which only began to be believed when the Gospels were being put together later on; while Mark has indeed crafted an extraordinary story, he has not invented it.

Sermon ideas

What I have done below is to weave several ideas together. It would be equally possible (maybe better!) to take one of them and develop that.

Together as One (unity in our identity … identified by our unity, John 17:23)

  • 2 Samuel 7:10-11‘I will appoint a place for my people Israel ... the Lord will make you a house'
  • Psalm 23:6‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long'
  • Jeremiah 23:3‘I myself will gather the remnant of my flock ... and I will bring them back to their fold'
  • Psalm 89:36‘His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure'
  • Mark 6:30‘The apostles gathered round Jesus'
  • Ephesians 2:15‘One new humanity in place of the two'

In different ways, all these texts are giving us three roots for our identity, and three shoots for our growth:

  • A people to belong to (church) ... and to acknowledge, love and serve
  • A purpose to inspire us (the kingdom of God, for which the temple stands, both as the place where God is worshipped on earth and God's will is done, and the universe in which God will complete God's good purpose) ... and to acknowledge, love and serve
  • A person to lead us, teach us, heal us (Jesus) ... and to acknowledge, love and serve
  • ‘Place', like ‘temple', is a rich idea which can be linked with all three, as the past place of our nurture, the present place of challenge, and the future place where God's will is done on earth as in heaven. Or by thinking of Jesus as the ‘place' where God appears most clearly to us (Hebrews 1:1-3), the kingdom of God as the ‘place' where God's will is done as it should be, and the church as the ‘place' where we are resourced for today's service.
  • ‘Knowing your place' is an idea which has too often been used to stifle enterprise (think of the old Scots phrase ‘I wadna presoom!'). Knowing our place should rather be part of knowing our identity, placed in God's world, in God's time, as God's beloved child.

Prayers

Approach (using Psalm 89)

I will sing of Your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations.

Lord God, we gather at this brief moment of time
to give You praise for everything and forever.
Your love, like Yourself, has no beginning or end.
Your faithfulness is eternal.
The majesty of the heavens and the myriad wonders of earth
bear witness to Your providence.

You have no competitor, no rival, no substitute.
You are right and You are just, Your plans for us are good.
We cannot exhaust Your love, we cannot get our heads around it,
but Your word declares what You are like,
and in Jesus Christ we see enough to satisfy us forever.

Lord, there are things which contradict all this.
We do not see Your will being done on earth.
We admit to times when we ourselves have failed You,
by what we have done or what we have omitted to do.
We have sinned, and we have been sinned against.
Have mercy upon us.
Have mercy on our friends.
Have mercy on our enemies,
for Your name's sake.

O God,
our time on earth is short, and Your purpose is long.
Guide us in the business that lies ahead this week.
Help us in the things that challenge us.
Keep us faithful.
Grant us wisdom, and true humility,
as we journey with You before us and behind us,
above us and within us,
through Jesus Christ and in the power of His Spirit. Amen.

Thanksgiving (using the Ephesians passage)

Good and gracious Father,
We give thanks for blessings
of home and family,
of education and nurture,
of art and science.

For all who make peace, for all who build bridges,
for all who have learned to forgive the past, we give thanks.
For all good people, and for all lovely things,
we bless Your marvellous creation.

For our identity in Christ,
and for those who have explained this and loved it into our lives,
we are truly grateful.
For our place in Christ's church,
for opportunities to serve and to be served,
we say thank You.

For the wonderful story of our salvation,
for the prophets and apostles who named it,
for the scriptures which carried it into our own history,
we bless Your marvellous purpose.

We thank You that Jesus Christ did not only live for us,
but died and rose again for us.
We give thanks that He lives as the cornerstone of the universe,
that we are built with Him into a holy temple,
unseen yet strong and lasting.

He is our peace: He is peace within our own lives,
He is peace between us all, and His peace is a gift for every situation.
We bless Your marvellous name. Amen.

Intercession (using the Gospel passage)

Let us ask God for rest for the weary ...
We pray for those who are sick and weighed down in body or spirit,
for those who are overworked,
for those who need a break,
for those who nearthe end of life.
May they know Your peace.

Let us ask God to guide those who are lost or perplexed ...
We pray for all who need shepherding,
and for those who teach and guide others,
in their work, in their home, in their voluntary service.
May they give and receive Your peace.

Let us ask God to provide for the hungry ...
We pray for all who hunger and thirst,
for relief organisations,
for the governments of the world,
for those who rule in our Island state.
May they find peace, create peace, work for peace.

Let us ask God to open places for good news ...
We pray for people who do not know how much You love them,
and for all who share the gospel.
May Your Spirit break down barriers, open hearts,
bring peace.

Let us ask God to hear the prayers of our own minds and hearts ...
These and all our prayers we ask in the name of Jesus,
and pray in His words,
Our Father ...

Blessing (using the Jeremiah reading)

Do not fear or be dismayed – you are eternally safe in the arms of Jesus ...
Now may the Lord God shepherd you with His Word and Spirit,
and gather you at the last into His fold.
And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you and those dear to you,
this day and every day. Amen.

Alternative Material

This material has been supplied by kind permission of Spill the Beans and allows you to explore the readings or theme of the service in creative ways that include everyone gathering for worship.

New material from Spill the Beans is provided in the latest issues available from their website.

All of the activities below can be carried out in church or in the home with some adaptation and notice in advance.

Through the Season

Windows to God – Mirrors for the Soul

A possible visual hook for this season would be through the use of windows and mirrors. Indeed the overall theme for this season could be based on "Windows to God, Mirrors for the Soul".

In some of the passages during the season we encounter people who are looking on to what is happening, as though looking through a window at events taking place. As we read some of these passages, it is like we have a "window" to God, a way of helping us to see something more, and to learn something different about God.

At other times as we explore the passages in this season, it is as though the passages reflect back to us aspects of what it is to be human, positive and negative: the passages act like "mirrors" for the soul.

This thought can be developed so that the focus during the season will switch between whether we are looking through a window or into a mirror. Some weeks we will learn more about God, other weeks we will focus more on looking at ourselves and how we can reflect more of God through our lives.

We remember that some windows are mirrors too!

Possible arrangements might be:

  • A large window frame with a separate pane for each week, this pane could either be clear or mirrored (shiny mirror card would work) depending on the week and key words or theme added
  • Two large frames, one as a window on one side of the sanctuary, the other mirrored (either a large actual mirror or mirrored card), adding key words to whichever is the focus for that week.

Story: 2 Samuel 7:1-14

Theme: God on the Move

Object: Window

Words: Temple, tent, Nathan

Bible Notes

Boxing God – 2 Samuel 7:1-14

In recent years house building has changed considerably. There was a time, not so long ago, when a house builder rattled up an estate and you, as the prospective purchaser, would wander around and pick the house on the plot that you wanted. By that time they were pretty much built. When the recession hit things were turned on their head. The builders would build their show homes in order that the purchasers could see what a home might look like and generally only built other houses when they got an order and a deposit. The house builder was very much in control of when houses would be built.

In today's reading from 2 Samuel, David seeks to build a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant. This passage really does sum up many of the major symbols in the Old Testament and Israelite faith: the ark, the king, the prophet, power, temple and a blind motivation to do something for God, which does not necessarily represent the actual wishes of God.

The story begins with David declaring that he ‘lives in a house of cedar'. Could this be part of the problem with David's reign as King? Remember the discussions that God and Samuel had with the people about their dogged desire to have a king. They were told, that a king would be no good and would build palaces, take servants and so on. Are the people of Israel beginning to see the folly of the monarchy in their midst?

When David first suggests building a permanent home for God Nathan seems to agree with his ideas suggesting that the Lord was with him. Could this have been a step towards religion being institutionalised in the community? But in the night, Nathan hears from God and changes his mind. David may seem to be suggesting something reasonable in wanting to build a permanent home for the Ark. Nathan begs to differ. Nathan, a prophet who speaks for God, tells David that God is not interested in this kind of housing.

It may be worth noting, however, that not long after Nathan does allow Solomon to build a temple for this reason. Does Nathan, as a Jebusite, take exception to David's temple which would replace the old Jebusite temple? The Jebusites were in the Solomonic camp so perhaps Nathan felt he could have more of an influence on the later Solomon team build. A prophet who speaks for God, but could he be influenced? Can we be influenced by outside factors when trying to discern the Spirit nowadays?

For whatever reason, David does not get to build the temple. It seems that God does not want to be ‘tied down'. Note the references to being with his people: as they moved about so did God. Do we try to box God in within our churches? Do we try to pin God down, make God static, keep things settled?

In the ancient world kings and temples almost go hand in hand and create a kind of civil religion where the king is often viewed as a divine character, or at a minimum God's representative on earth. Because of the intermingling of the king's religious and civic roles it could lead to problems concerning whose power was really being worshipped by the people.

For many, there could be a real danger in their thinking if God was to move on. Churches, and individuals feel a sense of security knowing where God is and what God is asking of them. Whenever we see something new appear it can cause us to panic and wonder if that is where God is after all. There is a safety in having God ‘where we can see him'. Is it safety that people desire, and if so, should it be?

Retelling for Young People
Where does God live?

Encourage the children to give their own ideas as the story unfolds. Whatever they think, accept and respect all contributions!

Remember King David, who we've been learning about? After David settled down in the big city of Jerusalem and people started calling it ‘David's City', David had a big idea! Ping! He thought he should build a house for God. He thought God's house should be right in the middle of the city. "After all," David thought to himself, "I've got a lovely big house for me and my family, so I think God should have a place to live in too! I'm going to build a house for God!" What kind of house do you think David was thinking of? What would it look like? How big would it be? What would David put inside it?

Do you think that building God a house was a good idea? Do you think God wanted a house to live in? What do you think God said to David about his idea?

It was a nice idea, but actually it wasn't what God wanted! Nope. Why do you think God didn't want a house? Does God need a house? If God doesn't need a house, then where does God live?

Sometimes we call the church "God's house" because it‘s a special place to pray and meet together and learn about God. But is this where God lives? It's good to remember that God lives everywhere, and we can be with God everywhere we go.

Activities

These activities can be done with a gathered congregation or at home, with some adaptation.

If you are using the Through the Season ideas above to help set the scene throughout this theme, this week's focus is the window, and keywords that could be used are: temple, tent, Nathan, dream, ark.

Gathering activity

Build a gazebo in the worship space (you can pick these up affordably or borrow one from a member). Place a large box in the centre of the gazebo. As people gather, pack away images we use for our faith such as a cross and bible and candle and water and goblets and pulpit falls so that the sanctuary is stripped bare. The purpose is to play with the thought of putting God in a box. These things will be moved from the box and celebrated later in the service. People can be invited to help clear the church.

As a discussion activity, invite everyone to discuss in groups what they felt as they started putting God in a box and what it feels like to have a stripped church.

Changing Rooms

We become very familiar with our worship space. That can be a good thing, for familiarity brings a sense of safety and comfort, both of which are attributes of the reign of God. Yet the story today offers an insight into God's restlessness, always eager to be back out on the road, travelling and adventuring.

Retell the story in your own words, emphasising Nathan's words. Let them linger in a pause and then invite people to remove the items from the box that was filled at the beginning of the service (or provide a box with church symbols in it such as crosses, books, pictures, candles, and so on). Invite people to place them around the worship space in unexpected places.

Following this activity, invite people to talk about some of reasons they placed the items where they did.

Wandering Communion

Using the gazebo you may already have placed in the worship space, or place one for this activity. Decorate it with a table, bread and wine or other food. Have a few people retell stories of travelling in the bible, particularly where food is involved. Stories could include the feeding of the 5000, the road to Emmaus, Zacchaeus, Manna in the wilderness, the Passover.

Use images and objects and pieces of coloured cloth and sounds and actions and music to help visualise each story so that it doesn't become just a long-winded exercise. After each story sing a verse from a psalm or perhaps ‘One more step along the world I go'.

While the stories are being told, people can draw pictures of these stories and then hang these up in the gazebo.

Following the storytelling, comment that in each of these stories people found God wandering with them, they found God in the journey and they were nourished and sustained. Serve communion without the normal liturgy by passing the bread and wine around commenting that God is found here, in each of the stories of different places, and in all places.

Prayers

Call to Worship

This can be done quite dramatically with images and music on PowerPoint or images painted on banners that are placed around the worship space. Alternatively, people can be invited to follow some actions that illustrate what is happening.

Leader: Where shall we find you, O God?
All: We shall find you among the star-fields,
in Super novas and solar systems.

Play some music and project some images with the music or unfurl banners. People could use hands stretched high, twinkling by wriggling fingers.

Leader: Where shall we find you, O God?
All: We shall find you dancing through the mountains
that stretch high and wide across our planet.

Play some music and project some images with the music or unfurl banners. People could make a mountain shape by placing their hands together above their heads.

Leader: Where shall we find you, O God?
All: We shall find you flowing through the rivers as they
wind their way to the vast blue oceans.

Play some music and project some images with the music or unfurl banners. People could wave hands in front of them making a ripple effect.

Leader: Where shall we find you, O God?
All: We shall find you among the cedars of Lebanon
in the forests that sway and bend in the breeze.

Play some music and project some images with the music or unfurl banners. People could stretch their hands to their sides and sway like trees.

Leader: Where shall we find you, O God?
All: We shall find you among the people of faith
who give your justice a home in their living.

Play some music and project some images with the music or unfurl banners. People could link arms together.

Leader: Where shall we find you, O God?
All: We shall find you here and we worship you.

Play some music and project some images with the music or unfurl banners. People could cup their hands in front of them.

Prayer of Praise

Among the stars,
we praise you;
with sand between our toes,
we celebrate you;
between the trees of the forest,
we hear you;
beside the mountains and valleys,
we witness you;
within the oceans,
we find you;
from polar ice to expanding desert,
we know you.

Wandering God,
may we always have eyes open to you
wherever we look,
knowing you are the God
who moves out into the world
and invites us to follow.

We praise you for the journeys
on which this travelling faith takes us.

May we allow ourselves
to be challenged,
disturbed,
renewed,
by the many trysting places
between heaven and earth
in this world.

Sending

As people leave simply sing ‘Sizohamba naye' (CH4 803) or ‘One More Step' (CH4 530) and as they go ask them to take all the symbols of faith that have been distributed around the worship space during the gathering activity, or, if not done, straight from the box, out through the doors and leave them in the vestibule as a symbol of taking God with us into the world.

Musical suggestions

Our online music resource is on the Church of Scotland website; you can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship. You will also find playlists for this week and liturgical seasons and themes on the Weekly Worship and Inspire Me tabs.

You can find further musical suggestions for this week in a range of styles on theSongs for Sunday blog from Trinity College Glasgow.

It is worth remembering that, in or out of lockdown, hymns can be used as responses, or for meditation, as well as for song.

    To include a Psalm:

  • CH4 14 – 17– Various settings of Psalm 23
  • CH4 53– "O greatly blest the people are" – Psalm 89, though not verses set for this day. A prayer song which might have suited a young David and could be used at intervals between prayers
  • CH4 795– "Take, oh, take me as I am" – A hymn inviting the rest and refreshment of the Gospel reading
  • CH4 485 – "Dear Lord and Father of mankind" – A hymn acknowledging the providence of God in the life and preservation of the Church
  • CH4 511 – "Your hand, O God, has guided
  • Other possible hymns

  • CH4 198 – "Let us build a house" – picks up the purpose, character and unity of the Church
  • CH4 200 – "Christ is made the sure foundation" – basis of Church, invocation, ‘temple' reference
  • CH4 348 – "Praise the one who breaks the darkness" – the healing and liberating work of Christ
  • CH4 510 – "Jesus calls us here to meet him" – on unity, omit last verse if not communion
  • CH4 553– "Just as I am, without one plea" – picks up Ephesians 2:13
  • CH4 554– "Rock of Ages" – picks up verse 26 of Psalm 89
  • CH4 624 – "In Christ there is no east or west" – on unity
  • CH4 721 – "We lay our broken world" – good hymn of intercession
  • CH4 739 – "The Church's one foundation" – basis and unity of the Church

Further hymns, songs and chants can be found on the CTBI website.

The website www.songs2serve.eu offers intercultural songs of worship in a multitude of languages, with lyrics and translations into English.

Reflecting on our worship practice

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the way we worship has changed and we need to reflect on the changing or newly established patterns that emerged and continue to emerge as a result of the disruption.

We can facilitate worship for all by exploring imaginative approaches to inclusion, participation and our use of technologies in ways that suit our contexts. This is not an exhaustive list, but some things we could consider are:

  • Framing various parts of the worship service in accessible language to help worshippers understand the character and purpose of each part. This is essential for creating worship for all (intergenerational worship) that reflects your community of faith.
  • Holding spaces for reflection and encouraging prayer to be articulated in verbal and non-verbal ways, individually and in online breakout rooms
  • In online formats the effective use of the chat function and microphone settings encourages active participation in prayer, e.g. saying the Lord's Prayer together unmuted, in a moment of ‘holy chaos'
  • While singing in our congregations is still restricted, we can worship corporately by using antiphonal psalm readings, creeds and participative prayers
  • Using music and the arts as part of the worship encourages the use of imagination in place of sung or spoken words
  • Use of silence, sensory and kinaesthetic practices allow for experience and expression beyond regular audio and visual mediums.

The following questions might help you develop a habit of reflecting on how we create and deliver content and its effectiveness and impact, and then applying what we learn to develop our practice.

  • How inclusive was the worship?
    Could the worship delivery and content be described as worship for all/ intergenerational? Was it sensitive to different "Spiritual Styles"?
  • How was the balance between passive and active participation?
  • How were people empowered to connect with or encounter God?
    What helped this? What hindered this?
  • How cohesive was the worship?
    Did it function well as a whole?
    How effective was each of the individual elements in fulfilling its purpose?
  • How balanced was the worship?
    What themes/topics/doctrines/areas of Christian life were included?
  • How did the worship connect with your context/contemporary issues?
    Was it relevant in the everyday lives of those attending and in the wider parish/ community?
    How well did the worship connect with local and national issues?
    How well did the worship connect with world events/issues?
  • What have I learned that can help me next time I plan and deliver worship?

Up-to-date information for churches around COVID-19 can be found in ourCOVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice for churches section.

Useful tips for creating and leading worship online can be found on theResourcing Mission website.

You can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship in ouronline hymnary.

You can find an introduction to spiritual styles in our worship resources section

You are free to download, project, print and circulate multiple copies of any of this material for use in worship services, bible studies, parish magazines, etc., but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.