This is the service, prepared by Bruno, for this day.
You can listen to it by clicking the play button below, and/or follow the service in the text (also below).
Sunday 17th May 2020
Call to worship
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray:
Hidden God, we worship you.
By ourselves we could not know you; no human wisdom can discover you, no argument can lead to you, no enterprise can reveal you; in the wealth of its knowledge the world fails to find you.
But you came to search for us in the frailty of a human life; you trusted yourself to the strong faith of a young woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the fragile faith of wavering disciples.
We praise you that in our very weakness we can know you; that stumbling blocks become stepping stones, and the foolishness of the cross the very truth that gives us life. Amen
We confess, o God, that we breathe the proud spirit of the world, the spirit which scorns the way of weakness, boasts of its cleverness, clings to knowledge as a means of power and seeks to prove its worth by belittling others. Lord have mercy.
Assurance of Pardon
Hidden God, your wisdom unsettles our values and compels our love. We thank you for your forgiveness and we pray that you fill us always with the desire to search for your truth, and to surrender to your will so that we may transform the world around us.
The Lord’s prayer
At the Saviour’s command and formed by His divine teaching we pray together:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen
Hymn: Be praised my Lord (in Italian)
New Testament Reading:
Acts of the Apostles 17:22-31
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said: “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with an inscription ‘to an unknown god’. What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestors he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your poets have said ‘For we too are his offspring’.
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead”.
Very often, I find people telling me that they are not really “religious” as if they were trying to put a defensive barrier between me and them. I am always tempted to reply: “Oh yes, you are, but you don’t realise that”. But then, I hear the voice of the Lord keeping me in check and my response to that comment is always gentler.
Today, many people have substituted their faith in God with their faith in all things that are important to them. And they worship those things with such faith and devotion that if only I could see that faith in our churches, I would be the happiest priest in the world.
Let’s see what our society worships today: power, career, food, possessions, fashion, beauty…these are only a few. Behind all these things there is a driving force called money. We have built huge cathedrals called shopping centres to celebrate the power of money. We constantly abuse the word “love” to indicate something that we like. So, you see? The unchurched people of today are deeply religious, or superstitious if you want.
St. Augustine wrote that we should not use the One we worship and we should not worship the things we use. But in our society, we see the opposite to St Augustine’s advice. We want God to obey us and then we go to literally worship our possessions or what we can buy with money.
It seems that not much changed from Paul’s time to today. People’s spirituality is much the same as ever. We are searching for happiness but some search for it in the wrong places.
Paul’s approach with the Athenians is very gentle. He tries to find common ground with his audience and gives respect to their spiritual disposition. Then using that, he proclaims that there is only one true God who gives life to the world. God does not need the creation, therefore, the only reason He gives us life and all that we need is because He loves us.
God revealed himself fully in Jesus Christ and Paul proclaims that from this moment on, God set a time for the judgement of the world through this man Jesus who He raised from the dead.
As Christians, there is something very important that we need to learn from Paul:
Paul is not afraid to declare is faith in public. He does not go round it but he proclaims it boldly.
Secondly, Paul is not waiting for people to come to him. He goes out in the city, like the good shepherd who goes out to find the lost sheep. Paul does not wait for the sheep to come to him, he looks for them.
The message of Easter, the message of the resurrection of Jesus is something really important for him that has changed his life. Therefore, now Paul goes around the empire working as a tentmaker and proclaiming the gospel with a certain urgency, with passion. Jesus is right in the centre of his heart and has become the reason for living.
How did we receive the message of Easter? Are we going to wait for people to come to our churches or are we going to go out there to proclaim an event that has changed the course of history?
In all that we do, wherever we live and however we live, God will give us opportunities to use our abilities (each one of us with different abilities, of course). In today’s passage there is a clear calling to the individual Christian to become a missionary of God. But we can only do that when the Spirit of Christ is burning strong within; when Jesus’ word is the most valuable treasure in our heart.
There is also a clear calling to those who call themselves as “non-religious”. God is calling you to replace the ephemeral treasures of your heart with the eternal God who loves you even when you don’t.
Hymn: You are my life (In Italian)
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray:
God of love and power,
We pray for our community, our countries and all the nations of the world, that following the ways of truth and justice, they may be free from bitterness and strife, and by the power of your love, live in peace.
We pray for all who are in trouble, we ask that those who are sick may be cared for, that those who are lonely be sustained, that those who mourn be comforted, and that those who are close to death may know their risen Lord.
We give thanks for those who have died in the faith, especially those known to us, who have entered into the joy and peace of your nearer presence.
Grant that we may follow their example, and come to share with them the glory of everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is worshipped and glorified for ever.
The blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with you always. Amen
Rev. Bruno Boldrini