Friday, 4 September 2015

With all the saints

Hebrews 11:1-16, 12:1,2
The Meaning of Faith
​Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The Examples of Abel, Enoch, and Noah
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
The Faith of Abraham
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

By faith you are invited to come on a journey
A journey that takes you into God's story
Into the heart of that long line of saints whose stories we have shared in this place
By faith, the risen Lord Jesus invites you to gather around this table and to share in this feast 
that is part of the story of faith and of hope and of love.
Come, be a part of this story today.

Listen again to the story of this sacrament.
Our Lord Jesus, the night he was betrayed, gathered around him those disciples with whom he had shared his journey.
He sat at table with friends, those with whom he fished, those with whom he had taught, those he'd  called from their nets to be about God's business.
As they shared supper, they recalled stories of their life together and they began to write a new story.
After supper, Jesus took bread. He blessed it and broke it and offered it to them, saying: This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.
He took the cup and told them: This is the new relationship with God made possible because of my death. Drink this cup and remember me.
Today, this bread and this cup become part of the story of faith.
We share them to remember the life and death of our Lord and the new relationship we have with God because Christ makes us part of the story of faith.
So let us give thanks.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
God we thank you for the stories of faith.
Those written long ago.
Those still being written today.
We thank you that you place us firmly in that story, with that long line of saints, of the past, the present and the future.
You invite us to co-author with you the next part of the story.
So we thank you for this table and for this sacrament by which you remind us of your love and your invitation to go on a journey.
A journey that is unpredictable.
A journey that takes us places we might never have imagined.
A journey that takes us to the heart of God.
As we respond to your gracious invitation, we bring with us all those who journey today.
Those whose journeys have become more about survival than about living.
Those whose journeys have become flights of desperation rather than gentle meandering.
At this table, we embrace, in this story of faith, refugees throughout the world whose stories have touched and horrified us with their tales of desperation.
We pray for parents desperate enough to take their children into precarious waters because that is safer than staying on land.
We pray for families desperate enough to risk their lives by hiding in confined spaces, hoping to be transported to safety.
We pray for all those desperate enough to risk harm and scorn and rejection and even death to seek a better way of life for themselves and their family.
God may their desperation be our inspiration.
May we be inspired to care.
May we be inspired to take action, to do what we can to make a difference.
And may we be inspired to pray without ceasing.
Send your Spirit upon this bread and wine today that it may become for us a means of discovering your grace anew.
As we share today the bread of life and the cup of salvation may we be inspired to intervene as you did, to reach into and change the stories that are being woven all around us. 
To intervene with compassion and even with sacrifice to ensure that your saints today reach out and help one another on the journey that you continue to make with us and all your children.
A journey of faith that knows no borders.
A story of love that knows no limits.
God make us, your people gathered at this table today, part of that story that changes lives, changes governments, changes nations and changes the world.

The grace and love of God is present today in this bread, broken for you.
Take, eat and remember.

A new relationship with God is offered today in this cup.
Drink deep and be inspired to compassion.

Prayer after communion
God in bringing us to this table, you have fed us with love and compassion and confronted us with the story of your children today, a story played out In so many ways through the ages,a story that won't be changed unless we step up and make a difference.
And so, with the food of your love barely digested in us, may we call on your strength to do what is right, what is just, what is loving.
May we step out in faith to write with you a new story in which all your people share in the resources that you have given, inspired by desperation to love and compassion.
Make each of us a part of that new story of faith and life that is your will for all people.
For the glory of God

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