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40 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 12 February 2012

"Choose joy!" An act of worship live from Gloucester Salvation Army corps exploring St Paul's words of encouragement for us to rise above our circumstances. The service is led by Lieut-Colonel George Pilkington, with preacher Lieut Clare Allman. The music is from the International Staff Songsters directed by Dorothy Nancekievill. Producer: Simon Vivian.

  • Sunday Worship - Gloucester Salvation Army 12/02/12

    BBC Radio 4 Broadcast – 11 February 2012

    Please note:

    This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

    It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.

    Opening announcement from Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4. It’s ten past eight and time for Sunday Worship, live from the Salvation Army in Gloucester. The service is introduced by Major Adrian Allman after the first hymn ‘And can it be’, led by the Salvation Army International Staff Songsters.
    Congregational Song –
    And Can It Be

    Good morning and welcome to worship with The Salvation Army. We‘re an international Christian church and charity providing for people’s spiritual and physical needs in 124 countries. And we’re right here, in the vibrant multicultural city of Gloucester, a beautiful part of the South West overlooked, in the Severn Valley, by the Cotswold Hills.

    The Salvation Army has been honoured to serve in this city for more than 130 years and we continue to uphold the calling first heard by our founders, William and Catherine Booth, to present the message of Jesus Christ to people of all ages and circumstances and to show the love of God unconditionally to all in practical ways.
    You’ll find our corps, which is our name for church, in the middle of Gloucester, surrounded by shops, businesses and in the centre of the nightclub district. Our central location supports our mission as we strive to be joyful people for all - offering a heart to God and hand to God’s people for those in our congregation and in our wider community.

    There is so much need around us in our communities and it’s easy to be disheartened by the hate and selfishness, the war and poverty that we see around us in the world. Yet, as Christians we have much to be joyful for.

    And that’s why our worship this morning takes the theme ‘Choose Joy’. As we worship together, we encourage you too to choose joy as we discover how, with the Lord dwelling within us, we can rise above our circumstances and reveal a loving, merciful and joyful God, even in a world that increasingly dismisses Him.

    Lieut-Colonel George Pilkington, executive officer of The Salvation Army’s International Staff Songsters will guide us through the rest of this service and leads us now in prayer.

    Prayer Almighty God,
    Your greatness knows no boundaries. When we think of all that you are and have done it is beyond our comprehension. You are all-knowing, all-seeing, always present – there is none like you. Nothing is too great for your hand. You brought order out of chaos and created every living thing. You formed the earth and flung stars into space. We each have been lovingly made in your image and despite our failings and rejection of your love towards us still you reach out to us in saving grace to forgive, restore and renew us to be all that you want us to be.

    This morning, we thank you for sending your Son Jesus Christ into our world. In him your nature was truly revealed and your love shown beyond doubt. Through his life, death and resurrection you reached out to the world drawing us once again to yourself, restoring that beautiful relationship, bringing atonement and forgiveness for us all.

    We thank you that you continue to seek us and find us everyday. No matter where we are in life, how we are feeling, what we are doing – you are there. Even though we do not always acknowledge you, you are always there just waiting for us. Thank you for the assurance of your presence and for the comfort, peace, hope and joy that it brings to us. Thank you for your daily care and for showing us that you are always there for us.

    Today, loving God, give us a new sense of joy as we rejoice in the blessings which you shower upon us constantly.
    Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    ALL: Amen

    Introduction about ISS Music plays an important part in Salvation Army worship with all ages and all types of expression in our services.

    Many of our churches have brass bands and choirs, known as Songsters, who take part in Christian worship every week.

    The International Staff Songsters brings together some of our best singers from Salvation Army choirs across Britain. They’re a group of Christian musicians who give up their free time to share the Gospel through music; singing everything from modern hymns, spirituals, to classical and folk music.

    Once a month we go on the road to share Christian witness and testimony, which is why we are in Gloucester this weekend. Wherever we go, through our music we seek to introduce people to Jesus Christ and his power to change lives.

    This song – He Sought Me - is by Sydney Cox. It recognises the price paid for the pardoning of our sin and celebrates the fact that God continually searches us out, in the hope of forming a merciful and loving relationship with each and every one of us.
    ISS Song – He Sought Me

    Sue Matthews
    Bible Reading – Psalm 95 v 1 to 8a Our first reading is from Psalm 95.
    1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
    2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.
    3 For the LORD is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
    4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
    5 The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.
    6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
    7 for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.
    Today, if only you would hear his voice,
    8 “Do not harden your hearts

    ISS Song – O be joyful

    Bible Reading – Philippians 4 v 4 – 9 Our next reading comes from chapter 4 of St Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
    4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
    Introduction of Clare
    Lieutenant Clare Allman, from Gloucester Salvation Army corps, is leading our reflection this morning on the themes of our readings and, in particular, St Paul’s words of encouragement to the Philippians in difficult times.

    Sermon Part 1 Choose Joy!
    (Philippians 4:4-9)
    A man walked by a table in a hotel and noticed three men and a dog playing cards. The dog appeared to be winning. "That must be a very smart dog," the man commented. "He isn't so smart," said one of the players. "Every time he gets a good hand he wags his tail!”

    Joy by its very nature is a very visible thing. Proverbs 15 says, "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face." And joy is shown throughout Scripture as a quality of life that seems to rise above the events and disasters which may trouble God’s people. Joy is a divine dimension of living that is not restricted by circumstances.

    Is this just wishful thinking by Christians? An attempt to turn our eyes away from the hardships of reality and evade the difficult choices we must make when standing up for the truth and justice of the gospel?
    There are circumstances in life which would seem to make joy impossible. People suffering from excruciating pain in a long-term illness. People still trying to find even the simplest of words in their grief following the heart-breaking loss of a loved one. Each day our newspapers and television screens take us to distant parts of the globe where oppression, conflict and persecution manifest themselves in famine, physical violence and living conditions which are troublingly alien to the vast majority of our lives.

    So Christians need to be realists. After all, Paul who wrote this letter to the Philippians knew all about living joyfully above the sometimes dreadful circumstances of life. At the time of writing this letter he was imprisoned and facing death, having already been stoned and beaten by a mob.

    Today in a world that is affected so much by hate, crime, selfishness, war and poverty, Paul’s words to the Philippians highlight that our inner attitudes should not be affected by our outward circumstances. He highlights the need for us to be a joyful people because of the Lord dwelling in us. And so he gives three ways as to how we can rise above our circumstances and be a joy filled people.
    Firstly, we should Praise God. He writes, ‘rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ In the New Testament the word ‘rejoice’ refers to “gladness, bliss and celebration.” Bishop Tom Wright explains that in Paul’s culture this rejoicing would have meant public celebrations. They would organise great festivals, games and shows to celebrate their gods. So why shouldn’t the followers of King Jesus celebrate exuberantly as well? Celebrating Jesus as Lord encourages and strengthens loyalty and obedience to him.

    After all, God is joyful! I think sometimes we see him as a hard taskmaster who is watching our every move and looking for us to slip up. But actually God delights in us. He finds great joy in you and in me - his creation. When we get to know God well – or even a little - we can experience his joy in our lives. When we recognise God as a joyful God we will be even more drawn to him and in doing so we allow our joy to flow back to him. The 17th Century doctrinal statement of the Westminster shorter catechism states it well: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’.

    Secondly, we should be people of prayer. Paul writes, ‘the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God’.

    A Chaplain had a sign on his door that said, “If you have troubles, come in & tell me all about them. If you don’t have troubles, come in & tell me how you do it.”

    We all face troubles and hard times. But one of the hallmarks of Christian joy is that it can be experienced in the midst of intense sorrow and loss. Often we define happiness as the absence of something undesirable, such as pain, suffering, or disappointment. But Christian joy is the response to the presence of something desirable: God Himself.
    The only way to have an attitude like this is to release our problems to the Lord and let him take charge. But this takes a conscious decision. We need to work at it. Often we may tell God our worries but we don’t leave them with Him. When we are focusing on worry, we are not focusing on God. It’s only when we can entrust our worries to God, we can experience not only his joy but his peace as well.
    I’m not suggesting that the anguish of loss, the pain of illness, or the injustice of persecution and conflict disappear. But we have been given the opportunity to look beyond the moment through prayer and to rejoice in the knowledge of a just and loving relationship with the eternal God.

    And so perhaps now is a good time for us to stop, quieten our hearts and minds for a moment, and leave all our worries and anxieties with the Lord, for in the quietness of our hearts he makes himself known. The Lord is near - know his peace and joy today.

    ISS Song – The Quiet Heart

    The International Staff Songsters with ‘The Quiet Heart’.
    We’ve thought about two of the three ways as to how we can we rise above our circumstances and be a joy filled people - by praising God and by sharing our difficulties and concerns with God through prayer. Now we come to the final way in which St Paul helps us in difficult times.
    In 1913, American Eleanor Porter published her novel Pollyanna which went on to become a children's classic. I love the 1960 film version featuring Hayley Mills. It’s the story of an orphaned girl – Pollyanna - who goes to stay with her Aunt living in a town of negativity. But Pollyanna gradually is able to change people’s attitude with her positive thinking by introducing the gladness game where she encourages people to think of a positive angle to every negative situation they find themselves in.

    Now, of course, I’m not suggesting in the least that we should, as Christians, walk around with our heads in the clouds, blind to the negative things of our world – blind to suffering and injustice – pretending, with a smile on our faces and a skip in our step, that all’s well with the world. But Pollyanna’s game makes me think of Paul’s message in his letter to the Philippians. To me he’s saying let’s not dwell on the negative attitudes because what you put into your mind will come out in the form of behaviour. When you dwell on thoughts focused on negativity, on sinful actions and attitudes, you are far more likely to live out negative, or sinful behaviours.

    So, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we should exercise positive thinking. This could sound glib and our response, when faced with the frequent anguish and tragedy of human life, could quite easily be “easier said than done!”. But Paul encourages us by writing: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is worthy, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praise-worthy – think on such things.’

    “Think - on - such - things.”

    You see joy is not just an emotion. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God has given us choice; the opportunity to view life and the world through a different lens. We can choose to think always negatively or, with the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us, we can choose to rejoice and be filled with God’s joy.

    A Christian elder once described life’s struggle with this truth to a young man. He said, ‘It feels like there are two dogs fighting inside of me.’ The young man asked him, ‘which dog wins?’ to which the older man replied, ‘which ever one I feed.’

    The attitudes we choose to feed have a tremendous impact on the vitality and the success of our walk with Christ. One of the greatest challenges in the Christian walk is to remain positive for Christ in a negative and confused world. Thinking of whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is admirable is never going to erase the pain and injustice of this world. However, it will allow us to experience God’s eternal promise of freedom and joy made possible through the costly death and resurrection of his dear Son, Jesus Christ. Real joy is found in the greatness of knowing Christ, having his presence in our lives and seeking his kingdom with our lives.

    So let’s choose joy – the real joy of really knowing God and showing that through our praise; the real joy of leaving our worries with him through prayer, the real joy of thriving in the daily grind of life through the power of positive thinking inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    So let’s choose joy, right now, today.

    Congregational Song –
    Fairest Lord Jesus
    Prayer 1 by
    ?? Let us pray.
    Joyful God
    This morning we want to praise you because you have promised to be with us always. You are the constant source of our joy. Lord we want to praise you because you are King over all. There is no one greater than you. We Pray today that in everything we do the joy of knowing you will show to everyone we meet.
    In our joy…

    Prayer 2 by
    ?? Loving God
    When we chose to accept you into our lives we know that you never said we would be free from troubles and hard times. Today we want to uphold those who are experiencing difficulties on their life journey. We pray for those who are sick, those who are suffering and those who are grieving the loss of loved ones. We want to thank you that you have promised to walk with us and support us through those times. Lord sometimes it’s difficult to leave our worries and anxieties in your care. Help us to be able to do this so that we can experience your peace and joy in our lives today.
    In our joy…

    Prayer 3 by
    ?? Great God
    Thank you for giving us joy! Thank you for the way it lifts our hearts and gives us strength to face the toughest and deepest times of life. We pray for the oppressed, the vulnerable, and for those parts of the world suffering from war and conflict. In particular this morning, we remember the people of Syria as they seek a path towards a better future.

    Lord sometimes it’s so easy to choose the negative ways in life. May we, with the help of your Holy Spirit, choose to walk more closely with you each day and thus choose joy, the deep, lasting joy that is only found in knowing you.
    In our joy…

    Congregational Song – Joyful, Joyful
    Tune: 1. Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
    God of glory, Lord of love;
    hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
    opening to the sun above.
    Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
    drive the dark of doubt away.
    Giver of immortal gladness,
    fill us with the light of day!

    2. All thy works with joy surround thee,
    earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
    stars and angels sing around thee,
    centre of unbroken praise.
    Field and forest, vale and mountain,
    flowery meadow, flashing sea,
    chanting bird and flowing fountain,
    call us to rejoice in thee.

    3. Thou art giving and forgiving,
    ever blessing, ever blest,
    well-spring of the joy of living,
    ocean depth of happy rest!
    Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
    all who live in love are thine;
    teach us how to love each other,
    lift us to the joy divine.

    4. Mortals, join the mighty chorus
    which the morning stars began;
    love divine is reigning o'er us,
    binding all within its span.
    Ever singing, march we onward,
    victors in the midst of strife;
    joyful music leads us sunward,
    in the triumph song of life.

    George With the sound of Beethoven’s tune ‘Ode to Joy’ still ringing in our ears, thank you for joining us here in Gloucester this morning. To end our service we’re going to be blessed now by the beautiful music of the International Staff Songsters and John Rutter’s ‘Gaelic Blessing’
    Benediction by ISS
    Band to play
    Closing announcement from Radio 4 Sunday Worship came from Gloucester Salvation Army. The preacher was Lieutenant Clare Allman and the International Staff Songsters were directed by Dorothy Nancekievill. The producer was Simon Vivian.

    Next week, Sunday Worship comes from Wilmslow United Reform Church in Cheshire and will mark the 350th anniversary of what some have called the birth of non-conformity.

    And Sunday Worship during Lent will draw on resources provided by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland called The Way to Freedom; a link to the resources can be found on the Sunday Worship web page.


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