During this period of closure, the Sunday Service will be posted below to allow us all to continue to worship together in our homes
McQuiston Memorial Presbyterian Church (Serving the Willowfield Community since 1892)
Sunday 29th March
Together though Apart
PREPARATION OF OUR HEARTS Psalm 46 For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. 1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.[c] 10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
PRAYER Our Heavenly Father, you are Lord and God. You were before all things; you are the creator of all things and just knowing that sets our troubles today in the light of your immense power and works peace in our hearts. The psalmist knew the peace your presence brought in troubled times and your command in the storm was “be still”. As we meet alone, with our family members or a friend grant Lord that though we are apart physically we would know that as your people we are one in Christ. Lord as we turn to worship you know let us know the reality of that unity as your Holy Spirit draws us together as living stones built together to be a spiritual house.
PRAYER By Rachel Briggs Lord, we ask that you would help us to be still in this moment. So often we come to you with minds that are full of distractions, worries, the stresses of the week behind and thoughts of what is ahead. Today Lord, we want to be still in your presence. To cast these things aside and focus on you. Father, we praise you for your faithfulness and love. You are a God who keeps his promises, and you have promised to never leave us or forsake us, no matter what we face. We thank you for all the ways in which you have blessed us, and for all your wonderful gifts to us. Especially Lord, we thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus. Lord you are patient and loving. You gave everything so that we, though undeserving of your forgiveness, could be reconciled to you. There is no greater love than this! Lord God, this morning we want to thank you for our NHS. For all the staff, from administrative workers and cleaners to doctors and nurses, who work tirelessly and selflessly in service of others. We are so blessed to have access to free healthcare whenever we need it. Help us to never take that for granted. Lord, we thank you too for all the key workers who contribute so much to our society. For the postal workers, delivery drivers, shop workers, farmers, those in waste management and disposal, teachers, politicians and tradesmen. Lord, we are so grateful for all they do. Finally Lord we want to thank you for friends and family, and particularly for our church family in McQuiston. Though we are apart this morning in the physical sense, you have brought us together in fellowship, and your hand is upon each and every one of us. Lord may you speak to us through your word this morning, and open our hearts to receive it. In Jesus precious name, Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION Our Father God your word assures us that you are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. For that reason we come in confidence to you confessing our sin; the impure thoughts, the envy, the jealousy of others, the words that have wounded others have shamed the name of Jesus, the actions that have been self indulgent and engaged our sinful nature or given vent to our anger, self-centredness and pride. These things heavenly Father we now confess in confidence that that these Jesus atoned for and it is in his name we ask forgiveness. YOUR CONFESSION. REJOICE IN THIS My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! Horatio Spafford
PRAYER FOR OTHER PEOPLE By John Shivers Heavenly Father, we come before You now in prayer and as we do so we find ourselves in the most peculiar of situations. We acknowledge You as the maker and creator of all things both known and unknown, and as Creator You fully understand what is going on in our world.
Looking out upon our city of Belfast amid its calm, quietness and indeed peacefulness we acknowledge that many find it really hard to understand why this pandemic happening.
Lord you have created all things and we ask that as we face the challenge of this Coronavirus that you would....
Help those scientists who are endeavouring to find a cure so that soon we all can return to normal routines. Be with those doctors and nursing staff who have to attend hospitals and nursing homes – keep them safe and well and ready to do your work in caring for those who need your help.
Be with those families who have lost a loved one – may they really know You so close to them.
Be with those unable to join with us today via the internet, keep them safe and well and faithful in their life with You. For others we pray for continued endurance of self-isolation and remaining in their family homes. Be with us all as we continue to offer praise to You by singing songs, listening to Your word and listening to what Robert has prepared for us. So in this challenging time we say the Lord’s Prayer together:-
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
HEAR GOD’S WORD. 1st Chronicles 29:10-20 David’s prayer 10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, ‘Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 14 ‘But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people for ever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.’ 20 Then David said to the whole assembly, ‘Praise the Lord your God.’ So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the Lord and the king. (New International Version)
MESSAGE So much has happened in the last few weeks and with us all “locked down” one day is much the same as the next, and strangely, or maybe not, no longer having the opportunity to gather for worship the week seems without beginning or end. One day drifts into the next and the routine is much the same. Fine for a while but after a week or so the holiday atmosphere evaporates. That’s a long way of saying I can’t remember when we last studied 1st Chronicles but we had only one last chapter to look at and that was scheduled for this evening. So in order to complete 1st and leave us ready to start the second book whenever we can meet again I thought that we would do that this morning. For those who are not familiar with Chronicles at all a quick outline might be helpful. It was written for the exiles returning from captivity to a land that was basically ruined. They had to begin again to construct the city of Jerusalem, the temple and everything else, not to mention a way of life and form of worship. The author’s intention was to show the people that God’s plan had not been derailed by the exile nor had his purposes for Israel failed or his grace been exhausted. The situation had changed for them, but God was the same. The full story of the period is told in the books of Samuel and Kings but Chronicles is an edited form history in which the failings of David we know of so well are not prominent.
The book begins with the death of Saul and his sons effectively ending his family line and the defeat of Israel, but it ends with the triumph of David, the peace in the nation and the preparation for building the temple. David by now is old, his time is short and though he had the desire to build the temple the Lord prevented it. The task would fall instead to Solomon. So as David abdicates in favour of Solomon and hands on the work of building for which he has gathered the materials, drawn up the plans, and provided the arrangements for temple personnel, 1st Chronicles and David’s place in it effectively comes to an end with this prayer. The prayer of a lifetime! Unlike many of our prayers which become effectively shopping lists and are so often self obsessed this prayer is thoroughly God centred and is fixed on God in three ways God’s sovereignty (10-13) God’s greatness (14-17) God’s help (really a petition for God’s help) verses 18-19.
The language used in the first part of the prayer triggers connections to so many words and phrases we still use in prayer. For example from everlasting to everlasting or verse 11 which bears a striking similarity to the words Jesus gave to the disciples as a pattern for prayer which we now call the Lord’s prayer. We live in strange and challenging days, days that have unsettled people and caused fear. Even before the current health crisis the world was in such a state of uncertainty that the nagging doubt of many caused them to fear. Old political certainties have gone, we’ve never had so much in terms of wealth and stuff yet we are not content, mental health is a major concern particularly with young people and at times I’ve heard Christians ask if God really is in control. Well yes he is and these words brought to a generation emerging from a national trauma reach back in time to another era, that of David and remind the returning exiles that God is still God and still sovereign. That’s something we could benefit from remembering today. The world is not a runaway train so take courage and be confident. We don’t know the twists and turns on the track but we know the destination. The kingdom has dawned with the coming of Jesus and that ultimately is the direction of travel. Verses 14 – 17 are a vital reminder of God’s greatness and mankind’s weakness which finds an echo in our time. We are not as powerful as we thought, and our ability to control life is very limited. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. V15 expresses a sentiment that’s not altogether uncommon. We do not yet know what will remain when things have settled down again and how nations, economies and attitudes will have changed. We trust that things will recover, governments will do what they can but as Christians we must recognise that every blessing comes from God. I mentioned recently the warning in the bible about forgetfulness. Even here as the king and people gave to build the temple David recognises that they can give only as he gave them, that they have no right in the land beyond that which God gave to them. At every cut and turn we are dependant beings whether we acknowledge it like it or not. Yes, it’s a threat to human sovereignty but we know where help and blessing is found and his resources and power are boundless. One writer brings it home to the church though, for we are good at pointing out the failings of others. “We live in a time in church history which tends to value Christian experience more than the cause of that experience.” If I’ve understood him correctly he’s saying that we value the gifts more than God the giver. Well, here’s a question to consider. Is this true of us and if so how do we recover? Maybe that’s two questions!
Finally (only one finally this week) David asks The Lord that the people’s hearts and that of his son might be kept loyal to God, that they might have undivided hearts. History shows that Israel failed, and the Davidic kings failed though the promise of God did not fail. The prayer of David was answered not in Solomon or any of his successors, but when things had all but faded and hope lost God sent Jesus his Son into the world. He was and is the one who was perfectly obedient, whose heart was undivided, the one born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law. He is Immanuel God with us. In him God has drawn together a people to show his God’s glory. That’s you and me, the church. No kidding! Well then, ask yourself the obvious question are we fit for purpose? In these days as people ask all kinds of questions and offer all kinds of theories are we able to give a reason for the hope we have or is it time we started to live up to our identity as his people? I think we know the answer.
Benediction Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.