Music before we worship: Taize’ song – Holy Spirit come to us (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)
Call to Worship: Some Words from Psalm 98
The Lord has made known his salvation; his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness towards the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)
Opening prayers: Glorious God
We open our mouths to praise you and you open our spirits to receive you. We open our minds to learn of your ways and you open our wills to obey you. We open our hands to serve you and you open our hearts to love you. We are open to your mystery, O God, make yourself known in us this day.
This world has heard the gospel message through the witness of generations who lived, shared and breathed your word. We gather here today because our hearts were strangely warmed by such an encounter, and we believed, as many did before, that in Christ and Christ alone is our salvation. For the Gospel message and faithful witness, we praise your name.
We thank you for your word that teaches us to trust in you. We thank you for your actions and the promises you fulfill: for Christ Jesus, whose sacrifice restores us to goodness because of your mercy; for the Holy Spirit, whose guidance enables us to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you.
Whilst we give thanks and praise we recognise our own failings as we confess them to God.
Forgive us, Lord, when the road we travel is of our own choosing and we are distracted by the sights and sounds that surround us. Forgive us, Lord, when your voice is muffled by the noise of our lives and we lose the path, finding ourselves alone.
Forgive us Lord when through our failings our words and deeds hurt or neglect the needs of others
Loving God. In our saviour Jesus Christ we know of your forgiveness as we confess our sins cleanse our hearts. Grant us true repentance and assurance of your forgiveness. Renew and strengthen us. Be with us; guard and guide us, we pray; keep our eyes and ears focused on you, and bring us safely through each day. Restore us that we might live to your glory.
We combine our prayers in saying the prayer that our Saviour taught us
Lord’s Prayer: 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.
Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray and give more than either we desire or deserve. Pour down your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask save through the merits and meditations of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen Methodist Worship
John 15: 9-17
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)
Hymn: Spirit of the Living God (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Reflection on Scripture: Revd M Belgrove
In the last few months the word efficacy seems to have become a regular part of our vocabulary featuring so often in any news bulletin that covers an item about Covid vaccines. I don’t think I used to use the word much beforehand except when talking about God but now it’s heard all the time talking about vaccines and how they hopefully bring about the right results.
In our reading from Acts we hear of an invisible yet efficacious force at work. As Peter preaches the Holy Spirit has opened up the hearts of the Gentile listeners to receive the word of God and to receive Jesus into their hearts. They have become believers, the Holy Spirit has achieved what it intended to achieve.
The work of the Holy Spirit has transformed them, called them as followers of Christ. They are baptised with water and the Holy Spirit and in doing so they become friends of Jesus.
It is through the Holy Spirit opening our hearts to Jesus that we join those Gentile listeners alongside the very first disciples of Jesus that we encounter in the account from John’s Gospel.
Jesus says “I do not call you servants any longer… you are my friends”. The role of the disciples and their relationship with Jesus is at a turning point. Following Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection the disciples will be entering into a new relationship with Jesus. It is a seismic shift towards a new relationship of intimacy and reciprocal action very different from the vertical relationship of Lord and servant.
As Holy Spirit inspired followers of Jesus we share the nature of that friendship with Jesus.
But being a friend of Jesus is a bit different from what we might consider friendship. Johns Gospel gives us 3 insights as to how that might be.
Firstly that being a friend of Jesus means to be loved and chosen. That love is dramatically defined when Jesus says “no-one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” The friendship Jesus describes is rooted in an act of supreme sacrifice upon the cross.
Jesus’ sacrifice is the foundation of our relationship with him as his friend. A relationship that is reciprocal, it demands a mirroring sacrifice from us.
It calls us to a new way of living, to a life where we leave behind our human failings. When we become a friend of Jesus we leave behind our greed, our jealousy and our lack of forgiveness. We trade our selfishness for love of others.
In verse 16 he says “you did not choose me but I chose you”. Through the power of the Holy Spirit he has reached out and transformed us. In doing so Jesus has a plan for us and has chosen us for a reason.
As self-critical Christians we might often be tempted to think we are not worthy of Jesus, that there must be others more deserving that we need to be something of an idealised Christian. If we do then we neglect to realise that Jesus has called us to be his friends for who we are and what we might become, not for some notion of what we or others might think we should be.
The second facet of our friendship with Jesus, is knowing what is going on. Jesus says “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father”.
What distinguishes servants from friends is that friends are aware of the plan. The disciples are told that Jesus will be betrayed, they are told of his impending death and resurrection. They are made aware of Christ’s mission to the world and the necessity of his sacrifice for the world.
Like the disciples we too are in the know. The pages of scripture exist to reveal to us all we need to know. Through those pages we know of Christ’s mission, we know of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. We know of the hope of life eternal extended through our faith in Christ as our saviour.
We know all of this because as a friend of Jesus he has chosen us and opened our hearts to receive the word of God. Our open hearts ready to take Scripture as the supreme authority through which God makes known his saving love, his will for his people and his purpose for the world.
The third facet of our friendship with Jesus is to keep his commandments and to love as he has loved us.
It is an inherent constituent of the reciprocal nature of our friendship with Jesus that we live as he has lived. It is defining of our friendship with Jesus that our love for others is the natural outpouring of Jesus’ love for us.
I don’t know about you but I find some people easier to love than others.
Our Christian love for others involves the difficult and challenging. It involves genuine forgiveness towards those that have wronged us or hurt us. To love our transgressors as our friends is one of the hardest ways in which we are called to love one another.
But it is a challenge that we do not meet alone. The commandment to love one another is framed by Jesus’ words “as I have loved you”. It is this love, the love shown to us by Jesus that sustains us and enables us to meet those challenges.
The friendship we enjoy with Jesus and the love we have for others are the bedrock of our faith. If we could look at the DNA of our faith it would be our hearts being open to the love of Christ pouring out in our love for the world around us.
It is this love, this faith, fired by the Holy Spirit that transforms the world or as our epistle puts it, conquers the world. It is this love, this faith that eradicates poverty, challenges injustice and makes the path of peace.
It can do this because our hearts have been opened to receive Jesus, he has welcomed us as his friends and commanded us to love in those things we define our faith.
Faith is love; and love conquers all.
For to the risen Christ be the glory.
Hymn: Every Time I Feel The Spirit (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Prayers for others:
We give thanks for the love you show us in Christ Jesus. That through the Holy Spirit you call us to Christ so that he would call us friends.
Obedient to his call to love others and the world we come before you with our prayers of concern.
Just as Jesus has loved us so we lift before you those we know and love in need of your healing. Bringing before you those in our hearts that are sick of mind and body.
We lift before you those in need, the ones who grieve, the ones who are lonely and isolated may they know your loving comfort.
We pray for your Church, that through the collective faith of your people the blemish of homeless and poverty at home and abroad would be wiped clean.
We pray too for those who are spiritually lost, may the Holy Spirit warm and open their hearts to their friend and Saviour.
Guide your Church Lord to lead by example in preserving your creation and challenging injustice.
We pray for leaders around the globe that they would seek the path of peace so that nation shall be friend unto nation and peoples will be of one accord.
We pray that you would encourage us to step out in love and in faith. That through our faithful sacrificial living we might help transform the world. So that our faith helps win the victory proclaimed.
In the name of our friend and risen Saviour we pray.
Amen Revd. M Belgrove
Hymn: You shall go out with joy (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Let us go out into the world united as friends of Jesus to love and serve the world.
And may the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.
Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here
Lectionary Leanings: Chosen as Friends weekly lectionary reflection by our friend the Revd Dr Paul Glass and click here for Paul reading his reflection on video (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Daily devotions from the United Reformed Church. A radio-style / podcast service with hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon. Sign up on the page to receive The Sunday Service email which will contain an order of service and words for you to sing along with the hymns.
Worship at home 9th May from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.
Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.