Call to worship Psalm 22: 1-15 Responsive
Hymn Together in Song 647 Comfort, comfort
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
You are so different from us
so far beyond us,
greater than we are capable of imagining g-
yet you choose to be in relationship with us
to know us-
to make yourself known to us,
as far as we are able to comprehend you.
To bridge the gap between you and us
you sent your son Jesus –
truly one with you for all time,
he became one with us, for a time,
so that we would know and understand you,
and so that he would bring
the experience of living our lives into your being.
We thank you that he is always present with us
by your own Spirit –
and he is always present with you –
our high priest, and representative
who makes the realities of our lives known to you.
We thank you that you are always present with us
through the easy times in our lives
through the difficult times in our lives
through the times when we struggle
to know whether you are present at all.
WE thank you that you always hear:
our prayers of you and thanksgiving
our prayers of pain and despair
our cries of desperation and loneliness.
We thank you that your presence with us
does not depend on how we feel about you,
or even whether we can feel and know your presence.
It depends only on your free choice,
and your promise to be our God.
We confess there are times when,
because we don’t feel you present
we live and act as if you were absent
as if your existence depended on how we feel about you.
We confess there are times when,
because we don’t feel you watching
we behave in ways we would be ashamed of
if we recalled that your seeing us
does not depend on our seeing you.
We confess there are times when,
we choose to separate ourselves from you
and then blame you for the distance between us
and assume that because we do not hear you,
you do not hear us.
We confess those times when we fail to find you
and we rail against the absence
as if you owed us something
or had a duty to always seem present to us.
We confess the times we have doubted your existence
or your interest in our lives.
We confess the times our lives have been lived
if we were living in your absence.
Change our lives, we pray,
help us to use the times when you seem absent
to build and strengthen our faith
that we may be your faithful servants in all circumstances.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus came into the world for us. So I have confidence to say to you: our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
Hymn Together in Song 229 Jesus loves me, this I know
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
Sometimes, it seems like God just isn’t there. The most faithful and the least faithful Christians all experience this at some time. Sometimes, it seems we just can’t “find God”.
It’s one of the central questions in the book of Job. When we feel like we’re facing life alone, where is God?
It’s a normal part of human life that there are times when we feel as if we are facing life all alone. For some reason, God just doesn’t seem to be there, or doesn’t seem to care what is happening in our lives.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his dwelling!
I would lay my case before him,
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me. (Job 23:4-5)
Job is voicing the frustration shared by many people who feel that when things are going wrong, God just doesn’t seem to be there to answer the questions.
Job, as the story has told us prior to this, is a man of great faith, who has consistently done everything possible to be right with God, and suddenly everything he owned, his children and even his health were taken away. In the crisis, at first his faith and determination to obey God did not waver. With time to dwell on his situation, and with friends condemning him, and telling him his misfortune is a punishment from God, Job finally demands some answers from God.
And God just doesn’t seem to be there to answer. (Not at this stage of the story.)
Sometimes, when a tragedy befalls us, when we are in shock or grief, or afraid, we call out to God, and it seems that all that greets us is emptiness. Sometimes we call out to God and nothing changes – no-one answers as far as we can tell. The silence of God, the apparent absence of God is not something new, or unusual. Most people experience it at some time.
Sometimes, it is a choice we make which distances us from God, so we can’t hear what God is saying. The rich young man who couldn’t or wouldn’t give up his money was choosing money ahead of God – so he made for himself the choice that separated him from God, to not be able to hear what God was saying to him through Jesus. He knew he was missing out on something – he went away sad. But he made a choice to put his possessions ahead of God.
Sometimes it is high emotion which separates us from God. We feel so anxious, or lost, or hopeless, or helpless that the overwhelming power of our emotions blocks out any sense of the presence of God.
For some the urge to find God is so powerful, that even that emotion of desire is able to block out any sense of God’s presence. Saints of the past have used terms like “the long night of the soul” to describe that desperate longing to know God’s presence, but not finding it. Such people have found that in that great depth of emptiness – of sensing that God is absent – the only thing to do is to keep up a prayer life, keep seeking God, and eventually the barrier is broken through. If they gave up on their prayer life, their example wouldn’t help us much – because it would be the example of people who in the end had no further relationship with God.
When God seems absent, the only thing to do , is to keep praying. To pray out that feeling of aloneness, as Job did, as the Psalmist did in praying “my God, my God why have you abandoned me?”
We need to be honest about that sense of aloneness and abandonment – God will know if we are being dishonest anyway. When you read the psalms, or any of the stories in the Bible about people who had powerful relationships with God, you notice they were always completely honest, even about feelings and things we might think it’s not respectful to say to God. We must always be honest, and we also need to keep talking to God, and listening for a response, whether it seems God is listening or not. Indeed Jesus did exactly that on the cross, praying those words from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
We know God understands that we go through those times when we simply do not feel that God is close. God understands, because Jesus has felt that same thing. Everything Jesus experienced as a human being – every part of our lives, he presents before God. While Jesus came into to reveal God to human beings – Jesus is also our representative before God. God’s presence and action is not dependent on how we feel, whether we sense that God is present.
Job and the psalmist both chose to continue to believe in God, to continue praying about what was happening, in the passages we read today. They didn’t sense God’s presence, and were frustrated by a feeling that God wasn’t paying attention. They held on to their belief that God was somewhere and spoke out their experience into silence, trusting that God who had been faithful in the past, would remain faithful. And eventually the that faith was proved to be justified.
Prayers of the People
We pray for this world which you created good,
but which the actions of human beings has corrupted.
We pray for the needs of w world
where sometimes it seems that you are absent
where people live without reference to you
where the goodness of creation is challenged
by the evils of war, of abuse, of addictions,
of all the many things which destroy the people you have created.
WE pray for people in this world who are afraid to trust you,
because they see no evidence of your presence,
or believe you have abandoned them.
And we pray for all of those needs that we have particular concerns about at the moment.
Be with each person in this place, and with all those who are on our hearts and minds, we pray.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Passing the Peace
Hymn Together in Song 538 Feed us now, Bread of Life.
Service of Holy Communion
Hymn Together in Song 619 Have faith in God my heart