Led by Revd Peter Powers
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Welcome & call to worship
Hello and welcome to our circuit service online for Covenant Sunday.
Leader: Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations
People: You are the one true God who reigns forever.
Hymn: A great and mighty wonder
Prayers and reading: Psalm 50
Leader: Almighty God, you search our hearts, and you know every part of us. All our desires are known to you, and from you no secrets are hidden. By the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, cleanse our hearts so we may perfectly love you and glorify your holy name. We pray this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Leader: Now as God’s dearly loved children, let us pray together:
People: Our Father in heaven, holy is your Name
Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven
Give us today your daily bread
And forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For the Kingdom, the power, and glory are yours, both now and forever. Amen.
Reading: Psalm 50 (NRSV)
1 The mighty one, God the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 ‘Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
7 ‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt-offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house,
or goats from your folds.
10 For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the air,[a]
and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,[b]
and pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’
16 But to the wicked God says:
‘What right have you to recite my statutes,
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 You make friends with a thief when you see one,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 ‘You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your kin;
you slander your own mother’s child.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
22 ‘Mark this, then, you who forget God,
or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me;
to those who go the right way[c]
I will show the salvation of God.’
Song: Blessed be your name
Reading and prayers
Reading: John 15:1-8 (The Message)
1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. 4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. 5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
Leader: Dearly loved brothers and sisters, the Christian life is a life found in Christ, redeemed from sin, and consecrated to God. We are those who have entered into this life and have been admitted into the new covenant of Jesus Christ. He is the Mediator of this covenant. He sealed it with His own blood so it would last forever.
On one side of this covenant stands God, who promises to give us new life in Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith. Every day God proves His goodness and grace to us, showing us that His promise still stands firm.
On the other side, we stand as those who promise to no longer live life for ourselves but instead to only live for Jesus Christ because he has loved us and given his life for us.
There are times in our lives when it is important for us to remember and reaffirm our promises and vows. In this same way, we come today to renew our covenant with God. Many generations have done this before us. In these moments we make the covenant our own, renewing with both joy and sincerity the covenant that binds us all to God.
Leader: We are those who seek to live as true disciples of Jesus Christ, but sometimes we fall short. Let us now examine ourselves before God, humbly confessing our sins and submitting our hearts so that we do not deceive ourselves and cut ourselves away from God. Let us pray:
People: Father God, you have set forth the way of life through your Son Jesus Christ, whom you love dearly. We shamefully confess that we have been slow to learn of him and have been reluctant to follow him. You have spoken and called to us but we have not listened. You have revealed your beauty to us, but we have been blind. You have stretched out your hands to us through friends and strangers alike, but we have passed them by. We have accepted your gifts and offered little thanks. We are unworthy of your unchanging love.
Leader: We now confess to you our sins.
Please forgive us for the poverty of our worship…
for the selfishness of our prayers…
for our inconsistency and unbelief…
for the ways we neglect fellowship and your grace…
for our hesitation to tell others about Christ….
for the ways we deceive others…
People: Forgive us for when we waste time and when we misuse the gifts you have given us. Forgive us for when we have made excuses for the wrong things we have done and when we have purposefully avoided responsibility.
Leader: Forgive us that we have been unwilling to overcome evil with good and that we have not been ready to carry our cross. Forgive us that we have not allowed your love to work through us to help others and that we have not made their suffering our own. Forgive us for those times when instead of working for unity we made it hard for others to live with us because of our lack of forgiveness, inconsiderate judgment, and quick criticism.
People: Forgive us for when we have not tried to reconcile with others and when we have been slow to seek redemption.
Leader: Forgive us also for these sins that we silently confess to you now.
Words of Assurance and Pardon
Leader: God, the Father of all mercies, is faithful to cleanse us from our sins and restore us to Christ’s image. Praise and glory be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
Leader: Let us, gathered here before the Lord now in covenant commit ourselves to Christ as his servants. Let us give ourselves to him so that we may fully belong to him. Jesus Christ has left us with many services to be done. Some of these services are easy and honourable, but some are difficult and distasteful. Some line up with our desires and interests, others are contrary to both. In some we please both Christ and ourselves, but then there are other works where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.
Jesus Christ, we offer You this prayer:
People: Let me be Your servant. Let me follow your commands. I will no longer follow my own desires. I give myself completely to your will.
Leader: The power and strength to live as true servants is given to us in Christ. We accept the place and work that He gives us, acknowledging that He alone will be our reward.
People: I am not my own. I am yours alone. Make me into what you will. Rank me with those you will. Put me to use for you. Put me to suffering for you. Let me be employed for you. Let me be laid aside for you. Let me be lifted high for you. Let me be brought low for you. Let me be full or let me be empty. Let me have all things or let me have nothing. With a willing heart, I freely give everything to your pleasure and disposal.
Leader: Christ is Saviour to those who are his servants. He is the source of all salvation to those who obey. To be his servant is to consent fully to his will. Christ accepts nothing less. Christ will be all in all, or he will be nothing.
Now confirm this truth in holy covenant. Make it a reality in your life in these ways:
First, set apart time in your day, more than once, to be spent alone with the Lord. Seek to perceive God’s special care for you and gracious acceptance of you. Carefully think through the words of this covenant and its conditions. Examine your heart, even if you have freely given your life to Christ. Name the sins in your life. Reflect on whether you are willing to choose Christ’s commands. Be sure you are clear in all of these, so you do not lie to God!
Second, uphold a spirit of holy awe, reverence servanthood.
Third, claim God’s covenant. Do not trust in your own strength and power but rely upon God’s promise of giving grace and strength. In this way, God will empower you to keep your promise.
Fourth, be determined to be faithful. You have given your heart and life to God. You have opened your mouth to dedicate yourself to the Lord. With God’s power, never go back to your former way of living.
And last, be prepared to renew your covenant with God. Fall on your knees. Lift your hands. Open your hearts.
Hymn: At the name of Jesus
Leader: Let us pray together:
People: My righteous God, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, be with me now. Forgive my unfaithfulness when I have not done your will. You promise mercy if I turn to you with my whole heart.
Leader: God requires that you rid yourself of every idol in your life.
People: From the bottom of my heart, I here and now renounce every idol in my life, covenanting with you that I will not commit any known sin. In your loving power I will watch for any temptation that will lead me away from you.
Leader: Through Jesus Christ, God offers to be your God again.
People: Before all heaven and earth, I here and now acknowledge you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as my Lord and God. I vow to give all of myself, body and soul, to be your servant and to serve you in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life.
Leader: Jesus Christ is the way and is God with us. God has given us Jesus as the way of life in all its fullness.
People: Jesus, I here and now accept you and the only new and living Way. I join myself in covenant with you. I come to you hungry, sinful, miserable, blind, and naked, unworthy even to wash the feet of your servants. With all my strength, I accept you as my living Lord. I renounce my own unworthiness, and vow that you are the Lord, my righteousness. I renounce my own wisdom and take you for my only guide. I renounce my own ways and take your ways upon myself.
Leader: Christ has told you that you must suffer with him.
People: Jesus, I here and now make this covenant with you and accept whatever comes in life. Through your grace I promise that neither life nor death will separate me from you.
Leader: God has given holy ways as the rule of your life.
People: I here and now willingly take on your yoke and burden. All your ways are holy, just, and good. I accept them as my way of life, for my words, thoughts, and actions, promising I will strive to order my whole life around your direction. I will not allow myself to neglect anything I know to be my duty.
Leader: The Almighty God searches and knows you, even the thoughts of your heart.
People: O God, you know that we have made this covenant today in sincerity, without deceit or reluctance. If you find anything false in us, guide us and help us to set it right. And now, glory be to you, God the Father. From this day forward, I shall look upon you as my God. Glory be to you, God the Son. You have loved me and saved me from my sin. From this day forward, I shall look upon you as my Saviour and Redeemer. Glory be to you, O God the Holy Spirit. By your almighty power, you have turned my heart from sin to God. From this day forward I shall look upon you as my Comforter and Guide. O mighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you have now become my Covenant Friend. And I, through your infinite grace, have become your covenant servant. You are mine and I am yours. So be it. May this covenant that I have made here on earth be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Hymn: Here on the threshold of a new beginning
Dismissal with blessing
Leader: May our God, who establishes covenant relationship with those who seek to enter the Kingdom, be with you always. May Jesus Christ, who seals the new covenant with his blood on the cross, bring you peace. May the Holy Spirit guide your life both now and for ever. Go in peace to serve the Lord!
Ulf Norberg plays the organ of Hedvig Eleonora Church, Stockholm, Sweden