Resources for 22nd November

Music before we worship: Hillsong – Here I Am To Worship (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Activities (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship:  Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; The Holy One is God, the Holy One made us and we are like sheep in God’s sheepfold. Come before him with thanksgiving, ready to give thanks and to offer gratitude to God. For the Holy One is good and steadfast love and faithfulness will be God’s nature forever. We are God’s people.

Hymn:  O Worship the King all glorious above (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Adoration: Oh, that the world might acknowledge your name and join with us in worship and praise. Oh, that the world might recognise its need and look to you for forgiveness and grace. Oh, that the world might comprehend your love and turn to you for salvation and peace.


Thanksgiving: Shepherd-king, you lead us to green pastures and safekeeping in your kingdom, welcoming all who follow and acknowledge you as Lord. For such love and faithfulness, generation to generation, and your care for all who are the sheep of your flock, we thank you.


Confession: For all those times we simply turned aside and looked the other way when faced by need, forgive us. For all those times we could have said something and brought a little comfort but stayed silent, forgive us. For all those times a neighbour was lonely and, rather than visit, we shut our door, forgive us. Unlock our hearts; let love pour out and overflow, through your grace and mercy, we pray.

Assurance of Pardon In repentance and in faith, receive the promise of grace and assurance of pardon.

Here are words we may trust; words that merit full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.  To all who turn to him he says, “your sins are forgiven”.  He also says follow me.

Thanks be to God Amen

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 for the Day: Eternal Father, whose son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord: keep the church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen Methodist Worship

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24


Matthew 25: 31-46

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: The Servant King (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: The Shepherd King

I grew up in a mainly arable area and can readily tell wheat from barley and whilst not much pastoral farming took place, I, and most likely you too, would like to think I can tell a sheep from a goat.

However in the days when Jesus was speaking in our reading from Matthew things were very different, sheep and goats looked very similar, weren’t the fluffy creatures we know today that have been bred for their wool.  In biblical times it took the trained eye of a shepherd to tell sheep from goat.

Such was their similarity the shepherd often distinguished between them by their behaviour.  I’m no expert on animal behaviour, especially sheep and goats but a quick search online reveals some insights of their characteristics.

Sheep being browsers tend to move as one in a flock whereas goats being browsers tend to wander off in all directions.  Sheep seek the safety and security of the flock and shepherd whereas goats like to do their own thing, taking chances on their own.

Sheep are willing to be led, responding to the call and voice of the shepherd whereas goats apparently are more likely to hear the voice of the shepherd and head off defiantly in the other direction.  Whilst sheep seem happy in the confines of the fold it is said that if your fences can’t hold in water they can’t hold a goat as they will find a way out.

Given the different characteristics of sheep and goats it is no surprise that they are used as metaphors of those who embrace Christ and those who don’t.  It of course fits neatly with the motif of Christ as shepherd, gathering and tending his flock.  In our reading from Matthew that motif is extended as Christ the Shepherd King.  In the role of shepherd Jesus discerns those of his sheep but also delivers judgement in the way a king of those days would have done.

If the notion of Christ’s judgement and its heavenly or fiery consequences sit uncomfortably with us then we should take comfort that it is a chance for us to change, a chance for us to respond to what is a call for obedience.

It is a call to live a life in obedience of Christ’s commandments the greatest of which is to love one another.

The passage makes clear that our judgement will not hinge on how long we have been Christians, how frequently we pray or how well we know Scripture but upon how we have treated the most vulnerable and needy within our society.  To put it another way, how we have reflected the love of Christ we receive to those around us in need.

In verse 40 Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”.  In short what we do to others we do to Christ himself.

Poverty and injustice are the visible manifestations of the world’s brokenness and distance from the Kingdom.  Jesus invites us to respond to his call for obedience offering us two paths, either to be a goat and endorse and engage in inequality or to be of his sheep to recognise and respond to those in need.  It is a choice that requires and demands an active response, if Jesus’ words are a call to obedience then they must too be a call for action.

We cannot simply declare our love of Christ and take our place among his sheep, we must live out that love towards others through word and deed.  The grass of the Lord’s pasture is given to all his flock and it is incumbent upon on us to enable an equal and just sharing of his blessing.

By reaching out in love to those around us we might respond to Christ’s call for obedience and action and who knows, we might discover that some we thought were goats are actually sheep after all.

Hymn: When I Needed A Neighbour (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Gracious God, for those moments when people feel like what they offer is never enough, we pray that they may be filled with hope and strength to recognize and invest in their gifts. 


We pray that those who have wealth, power, and political ties may use their positions for the good of all. We pray for people in situations of oppression, where dignity and self-worth are violated, and where greed diminishes the life of another. We pray for those in need, for those struggling to put food on the table, for those struggling to heat their homes and those without a place to call home.


We pray for those known to us and in our community who are sick, depressed, mourning losses, feeling alone, seeking new hope, looking for work or feeling alienated.

In all these things, grant us courage to respond with your gifts of mercy, encouragement, love, kindness, endurance. Amen.

Hymn: At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing: Friends, go well, with and within the currents of Spirit. Be of good courage, and gentle of heart. Be of wise mind, and open to new instruction. Be of vision, not ignoring the obvious and pressing. Be of simple faith, yet radically open to questions and doubts. Be free; a generous healing and freedom for others.

And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Activities (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: Instinctive good a 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 22nd November from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary. Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Methodist worship

Resources for 15th November

Music before we worship: Eva Cassidy – People Get Ready (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Activities (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship:  Extravagant, loving God, your grace saves, your compassion gives life, your justice restores. Investing God, call us to risky adventures, to touch the lives of neighbours and strangers. In faith, hope, and love, we risk our lives for yours. Amen

Hymn:  Tell out my soul (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers: Great and Glorious God

We rejoice in the sure knowledge that there is a purpose to the lives we lead, and the history that we in part still write is contained within your plan for the redemption of this earth. Your desire is for all people to acknowledge you as Lord and to know that love came down to walk among a sleeping people who saw and failed to recognise, as does a slumbering world today, the divine within the Son.

We rejoice in the sure knowledge that you will come again, and pray that we may be found not sleeping but awake to welcome home our risen Lord.

As this day unfolds, may it be centred not on our desires but on our willingness to become your voice, your hands and feet, your love, compassion and peace. As this day unfolds, may it become a ‘thanks-living’ offering to you.

Confession Forgive our busyness, Lord; slow down our steps, steady our breath and calm our thoughts. May we take longer to reach our destination, and in the journeying may we discover the quiet whispers of another country that we have walked but never seen before, where you can be found. Forgive our busyness, Lord; slow down our steps.

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 for the Day: Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world. Free us from all that darkens and ensnares us, and bring us to eternal light and joy; through the power of him who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen Methodist Worship

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Psalm 123

Matthew 25: 14-30

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Will You Come and Follow Me? (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture:

As a youngster I would have little fear, I would swim in incredibly deep flooded chalk pits to cool off in the summer, I would climb tall trees and was even known to scale buildings and run along rooftops.  It goes without saying that I would have been in a world of trouble with my parents if I had been caught especially as I recall it wasn’t the roof of our house.

But what about now? Nowadays when swimming I like to know I’m within only a couple of strokes of being able to touch the bottom.  As for heights these days I get giddy standing on a stepladder and require a full risk assessment just to climb up into some pulpits.

Some of you might be thinking that is just the benefit of grower older, wiser, more sensible and prudent.  Alternatively it could be that I’ve become increasingly more cautious and more risk averse.  Now in relation to our physical wellbeing, caution and avoiding risk is a good thing, but what about our faith?

The parable Jesus tells in our reading, fittingly comes at a time of great risk in Jesus ‘ own life.  It comes as he is leaving the relative safety of Galilee to go to Jerusalem where the religious authorities will see him as a threat and the Romans will regard him as a trouble maker.

In the parable we hear of a master going on a journey and he entrusts his wealth to his three slaves.  The first two are prepared to risk that what has been entrusted to them, they invest the money in some high risk, high reward venture capital scheme, doubling the money and reaping the rewards for their master.  The master congratulates them, well done he says and promises them even more responsibility in the future.

The third slave takes a very different approach with his money, he digs a hole in the ground and puts all the money in the hole for safe keeping. With a volatile stock market and the financial uncertainty the pandemic brings this man may appear very wise.

This is a careful cautious investor not risking wealth that he doesn’t see as his.  When his master returns he is proud of himself for his sure keeping.   Here it is, all of it safe and sound.

Yet for his efforts he is chastised as harshly as just about anyone in any gospel parable.

We don’t actually know what the master’s response would have been if the first 2 slaves had risked their master’s cash and lost it all but if we are to believe the message of the parable then I think he would not have been harsh but applauded them for their adventure.

That is because the message here isn’t about doubling your money or making a fortune.  In fact it isn’t even about money it is about knowledge, the knowledge that we have through our relationship with Christ and what we do with it.  It is about investing that knowledge and seeing it grow, it is about risk taking in faith, and it is about how we live as disciples.  It is about what our Master, our Saviour expects of us as faithful followers.

Profoundly the parable tells us that the greatest risk of all is to not to risk anything. To not care deeply enough to invest your time and energy and in doing so risk what you have.

Jesus was of course recounting the parable to his disciples (c24 v3) They know who he is, they have listened to all he has told them, in time the will know of the risen Christ.  Some will meet the risen Jesus.  This is knowledge that demands investment. 

But if they fail to tell others, fail to share the good news then they bury that knowledge as surely as the slave who buried the master’s wealth in the ground.  How would scripture sound without the story of the road to Emmaus, the upper room or the encounter and breakfast by the lake?  How would anyone know of the risen Christ if no-one had risked disbelief and mocking to tell of their encounter?  Being a Christian immediately after Jesus’ death was dangerous, they were persecuted it was high risk.

For many people religion isn’t what we perceive as a high risk venture.  Faith is viewed as a personal thing, a personal relationship, a personal matter.

We see faith as subscribing to a set of beliefs, getting our theology right and then living our lives as good people avoiding bad things.  Put in such terms faith seems one dimensional and insular.  In fact anything but risky.

Here in this parable Jesus invites us as his disciples to tread our path more fully. To be active Christians not passive ones Investing ourselves in him not merely as passive believers but crucially as active followers.  To care enough to risk all in the name of Jesus.

Jesus summons us to embrace our responsibility as bold and brave followers willing to do all that is required to increase his Kingdom.  To use our gifts, our wealth, our influence, our creativity and our voice to become a force for change in the world.  If we dare to be disciples then we bring the reality of God’s reign into being in our community and our churches. 

Conversely if we do not utilise our gifting, if we bury the good news deep within ourselves, hiding it away from others then the good news of Christ and the church that serves him withers and dies.

The parable is an invitation to the adventure of faith, an invitation  to live for the Gospel and an invitation to the high risk venture of being a disciple of Christ for to him be all praise and honour.

Amen

Hymn: Take my life, and let it be (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:
Loving Lord

We give you thanks that through your grace you have called us as your people. We pray that through your strength we might become agents of change in our world.  Through scripture we know of your all conquering love.  We know that we are powerless without you so we humbly bring our prayers for the world we are called to serve.

We pray for those who live their lives in the darkness of illness and despair.

In Christ we know of your compassion and we lift before you those known to us suffering from illness of mind and body. May they know the power of your healing love.

We lift before you those who can see little light in their world as they mourn and grieve.  We pray for those shrouded by the dark clouds of despair and anxiety.  May they see the light of your love at work in their lives.

Loving Lord, you created a world where all your people should live in harmony, justly and equally, yet the frailties of humankind have turned your vision into a land of inequality and injustice.

We pray for those whose lives are cloaked in the darkness of poverty and homelessness.  May they see the light of your hope in their lives.  We ask that your blessing be upon all the organisations that work to ease the plight of those in poverty and those seeking to provide short and long term shelter to the homeless. 

May our local and national politicians work alongside other agencies to eradicate the poverty and homelessness that shames our society. We pray that the forces of good might heal the division and inequalities so clear in our towns, our country and the wider world.

We pray that your healing be upon those affected by persecution and war and that your peace will illuminate the world and bring an end to humankind’s failings of war, greed and prejudice.

Father we pray for your universal church. Called to be one body we remain at times fractured and broken.  We give thanks for our brothers and sisters in Christ, may we through our love resolve to work together as one fellowship of disciples or your kingdom. May our voices be as one as we preserve Christian faith in our community, when we speak out to proclaim your saving love and bear witness to your glory.

Finally Lord, we pray for ourselves.

Open our eyes to the plight of others and may we be filled with the Holy Spirit and emboldened to act to challenge injustice and inequality in our world. May our words and deeds be filled with love and compassion for others as through our discipleship we might bring justice to our world. 

We pray all these things in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Hymn: Forth In Thy Name I Go (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

We go forth into this day with the glory of God’s anticipation moving through us. With active longing, we await inspiration, clarity of purpose, and new gifts of the Spirit. Go with the light of God, the affirming love of Jesus Christ, and the ever-renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

And may the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: Out of sight a 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 15th November from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Methodist Worship

Resources for 8th November

Remembrance Sunday

Music before we worship: All Angels: Make me a channel of your peace (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Activities (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship: 

Let us come together to worship God with some words from Psalm 62

5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my deliverance and my honour; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people;  pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

Hymn:  O God our help in ages past (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Glorious God

We come before you awed by your majesty and humbled by our smallness in your presence, you created the earth, set out the heavens and painted the colours of the seasons. Your rule is sovereign and absolute.

We come before you with praise and thanksgiving in our hearts.  We praise your glory and greatness. In Christ we know of your generous mercy and your call for us to tread the path of peace.

We give thanks for your steadfast love and the promise of salvation in your son Jesus.

All praise and glory be yours, O God, for the richness of your grace, for the splendour of your gifts, and for the wonder of your love.

Whilst we give praise to God we recognise our own failings as we confess our sins.

God of love and peace, forgive us for the wrong we have done and the good we have not done, forgive us when we have not sought or promoted your peace. For give us these things and those we bring to you in our hearts.

We repent and turn to you. Forgive us and renew our lives through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

In repentance and in faith, receive the promise of grace and assurance of pardon.

Here are words we may trust; words that merit full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.  To all who turn to him he says, “your sins are forgiven”.  He also says follow me.

Thanks be to God

Amen

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 for the Day: Eternal God, in whose perfect realm no sword is drawn but the sword of justice, and no strength known but the strength of love: guide and inspire all who seek your Kingdom, that peoples and nations may find their security in the love which casts out fear;through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen Methodist worship

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Micah 4: 1-5

Matthew 25: 1-13

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Dear Lord and Father of mankind (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: Written by Martin Hayward and Simon Peters on behalf of the United Reformed Church Walking the Way steering group

In Saving Private Ryan, a 1998 Hollywood film loosely based on a true story , Captain John H. Miller, played by Tom Hanks, is killed in the process of rescuing Private James Ryan. The captain’s final words to the man he has been charged with rescuing are: “Earn this; earn it.” The captain and his comrades have gone to great trouble to rescue Ryan, and now a life is to be lost on the battlefield for him. The captain wants assurance that it’s all been worth it.


The old saying “war is hell” dates back to at least the 19th century and seems undisputable. War forces people to endure indescribably hostile environments, treacherous journeys and violence, trauma and the death of countless people who did not ask for conflict to rage in their land.


For God, the answer is clear. All life is sacred.
In Genesis 1: 31, as God looks over all creation, following the introduction of human beings into the mix of land, sea, light, darkness, animals and plants, God saw that “indeed, it was very good”.


However, throughout the rest of Genesis, this initial image of paradise and perfection doesn’t last long. Humanity is created in the image of God with the ability to choose a life of love, peace, justice and fulfilment for all creation, but also to choose power, selfishness, greed and corruption. The remainder of scripture follows a story of humanity struggling with these choices, often getting it wrong, with individuals, nations and peoples often putting themselves and their own interests above those of others. This struggle continues to this day, perhaps most visible in the persistent prevalence of conflict.


On Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, we take time to remember those who have sacrificed, or otherwise lost, their lives in conflict. It is clearer than ever, as we take time to remember all who have been lost, that the way of life which God hopes for us, of love and peace for all creation, is not an easy one. There are many for whom injustice is a daily reality, through no fault of their own, with little sense of hope or escape. There are many who have no choice but to fight enemies who are trying to eradicate them. For those who offer their lives to the service of their country, there is no choice in the orders they receive. If they are called to fight, they must fight. There are many who want justice but find it difficult to show mercy.


Given these challenges, it is easy to feel that what we have to offer God is not enough. In terms of our relationship with God, we do not need to “earn it”. The love, grace and salvation of God are offered freely to us, not as a result of anything we’ve done or the status we hold, but so that all people who are created and shaped by God, may, as John 10:10 says, “have life and have it to the full”.
What does God expect of us mere human beings in the face of life’s challenges? As the famous words of Micah 6: 8 remind us:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.


We are not asked to give what we do not have, solve every problem, or get everything right. We are only human, after all. We are called to walk humbly with our God, accepting our limitations, but, at the same time, doing everything we can in pursuit of justice and mercy. In keeping this as a priority, God promises us, that no matter how difficult things get, the Holy Spirit will always be with us to strengthen and guide us “until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).


It can be hard to act justly and love mercy, but everyone has the chance to make the world a better place. As we walk around our communities, go to work, shop for groceries, enjoy our hobbies, there are chances to build relationships with those around us, to show kindness, to grow our awareness of issues around us and to help find solutions to problems as they emerge in the different communities we’re part of. In making the most of these everyday opportunities, we can play our part in reducing the divisions, inequalities and injustices which fuel negativity.


As well as the personal ways we can work for peace, we can also be part of the wider global struggle, participating in the many movements and campaigns which work towards an end to war, encourage reconciliation and strives for a world in which all can live in peace. As we take time to remember the horrors of war and conflict, offering prayers for those who have died, we can also take refuge and hope in a God who is working to help those who are caught up in needless violence (Isaiah 2:3-5). We can also trust that God is actively at work through us.

Thanks be to God, Amen

Act of Remembrance: Act of Remembrance from the Royal British Legion (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Merciful God, your love embraces all of creation.
Your realm knows nothing of the borders we draw between nations.
You have taught us that every woman, man and child is our neighbour.
You have commanded us to love, love, love,
without thought of our own security, or glory, or gain.

Remind us that you have pronounced your blessing,
not upon nations and armies,
but upon the poor, and the meek, and the peacemakers.

Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We remember those who have lost their lives as a result of war;
Young soldiers, dispatched to far-away places, never to return
And civilians, young and old, caught in the crossfire of conflict.

Loving God, bring healing to families torn apart by war.

Comfort those who mourn for their loved ones.

Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We remember those who have been psychologically wounded by the horrors of war
Who find themselves unable to live with the burden of having taken away human life
Those who dehumanise ‘the enemy’ in order to carry out acts of violence
And find their own humanity diminished as a result.

Loving God, bring healing to hearts and minds that are broken
Reveal to us your image deep within us and within every other human life

Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We remember the ecological cost of war; the landscapes that bear the scars of bombing,
The soil and water poisoned by the chemical residue of weapons,
The scorched earth churned to dust by heavy vehicles,
The destroyed forest-habitats of birds and creatures
And the innocent animal lives lost amongst the ‘collateral damage’.

Loving God, bring healing to the earth
Make a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland

Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We remember those living, now, under oppressive regimes
Or in the midst of violence and conflict.
The millions displaced from their homes to refugee camps
The communities struggling on with their daily lives under the shadow of war
Fearing for their lives, and the lives of their children

Loving God, bring healing to nations where there is unrest
Inspire in us hope for a world where all can live in dignity and safety

Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We remember those who campaign for peace,
Who seek and encourage reconciliation, and non-violent resolutions to conflict,
Those bold prophets who raise their voices to declare that there can be another way
And those who, in their lives, model the radical forgiveness that Christ himself taught and demonstrated

Loving God, bring healing to communities;
Forgiveness where there is hurt, compassion where there is hatred, love where there is fear

Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.    Amen. Cara Heafey

Hymn: All my hope on God is founded (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

Lord God our Father, we pledge ourselves to serve you and all people, in the cause of peace, for the relief of want and suffering, and for the praise of your name. Guide us by your spirit; give us wisdom; give us courage; give us hope; and keep us faithful, now and always.  Amen

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

And may the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: Be prepared a 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 8th November from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Methodist Worship

URC Walking the way steering group. http://www.URC.org.uk /wtw

Cara Heafey; Worship words https://worshipwords.co.uk/prayers-for-remembrance-sunday-cara-heafey-uk/

Resources for 1st November

All Saints Day

All Saints

Music before we worship: It Is Well With My Soul: Anthem Lights (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Activities (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship:  We join with your saints of every generation in our offering of worship and the service of our lives, in this place and wherever you might lead.

Hymn:  Holy, Holy, Holy (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Glorious Lord

For the blessings of the saints who have preached your word from generation to generation, and then within our hearts found such fertile ground.

For these, your saints.  Bless their faithfulness.

For the blessings of your saints who have shown your love from generation to generation, until it touched our hearts, warmed and softened them.

For these, your saints.  Bless their faithfulness.

For the blessings of your saints who have shared your grace from generation to generation, until it filled our hearts, changed and transformed them.

For these, your saints.  Bless their faithfulness.

Your saints are not always visible; they work in the background, encouraging; they work in the night-time, praying; they work on the front line, directing; they work with the suffering, healing; they work in the war zone, peace-making; they work in the day-time, helping. Your saints are not always visible, but they are still your saints, for which we thank you, Lord.

Whilst we give thanks and praise to God, we recognise our frailty as we seek God’s forgiveness

Merciful God, you made us in your image, with a mind to know you, a heart to love you, and a will to serve you. 

But our knowledge is imperfect, our love inconstant, our obedience incomplete. 

Day by day we fail to grow into your likeness; yet you are patient with your people. 

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, do not hold our sins against us, but in your tender love forgive. 

The Almighty and most merciful God, grant us pardon and remission of all our sins, time for true repentance and amendment of life, and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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 for the Day: Holy God, you have called witnesses from every nation and revealed your glory in their lives. Grant to us the same faith and love that, following their example we may be sustained by their fellowship and rejoice in their triumph; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Methodist worship

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Revelation 7: 9-17

Matthew 5: 1-12

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: O for a thousand tongues (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture:

It is the beginning of November, and I’m sure you are all gearing up for the 11th???  Getting in provisions, maybe a goose, preparing for a sumptuous meal, whilst of course adhering to the rule of six and any local tier restrictions.

What do you mean you don’t know what the 11th is about and what we’re celebrating?

It is of course the feast of St Martin of Tours with whom I share a name.  Never heard of it? Neither had I until I worked at St Martin’s school many years ago and they celebrated it every year.  If you want to know more about St Martin then try Wikipedia.

The 11th of November is one of a whole calendar of Saint’s feast days that we see coalesce into today, which of course is All Saints day.

Growing up in a Congregational Church I don’t recall us celebrating All Saints Day.  It was always something that was associated with The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches and to a lesser extent the Anglican church.

It seemed or maybe still seems that the Protestant churches have an issue with All Saints day and saints in general.

On closer inspection that uneasy relationship with the term saint is founded on historical practices regarding saints and their very existence as in some way superior to other faithful disciples of the Lord.

The Lutheran, Baptist, Congregationalist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches are deeply uncomfortable with the practices of canonisation and veneration of saints.  It sits uncomfortably with the notion of the priesthood of all believers and the belief that we are saved by God’s grace and by grace alone.  That our good works cannot guarantee us a place in heaven nor a better seat at the table when we get there.

The Protestant churches by their doctrine are naturally opposed to the practice of offering prayers via a saint. It is contrary to the fundamental tenet from 1st Timothy chapter 2 verse 5 that says “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.

Yet for all the Protestant churches difficulties with saints we do tend to name a lot of our churches after them.  Locally we have Methodist churches called St John’s and St Peter’s a United Reformed Church called St Andrew’s and in Cambridge I used to worship in St Columba’s.

The Methodist worship book has a collect for All Saints day and the URC communion liturgy mentions St Paul.  Although I generally use the phrase Apostle Paul in keeping with the previous URC liturgy.

Perhaps they are indicators of an uneasy relationship with the definition of saint and who exactly is a saint.  I know some who contest that only the twelve Apostles are referred to as saints although Paul often seems to also be included, others suggest that saints are those whose faithful living are an example to others.   Some folk use the term saint to describe all within the body of Christ and profess him as Lord, or as someone once put it to me more plainly, “we are all saints in God’s eyes”.

So it begs the question.

Who are the great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, we hear about in our reading from Revelations.

Are they those canonised and venerated saints or are they folk like us?  Are they those who have lived their life in Christ ahead of us? Are they the people we have met that have encouraged and developed our faith?

If they are then I believe we should celebrate All Saints Day giving thanks to all those who have guided us in faith.  I can think of several people in my life who have nurtured, grown and sustained my faith and I would happily call them saints.

They would probably be far too modest to think of themselves as saints, too humble and quite frankly would consider themselves too ordinary to be saints.  But the reading we have from Matthew of the Beatitudes reminds us of the universal nature of God’s blessings.

God’s blessing isn’t just the preserve of the great and good but the poor and the helpless.  Those blessings are for the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.  Those blessings are graciously given to all those of his people and in doing so god invites us to walk with him in faith.

For some brothers and sisters in Christ that journey may well involve hardship and persecution or it may involve great charitable works like Teresa of Kolkata.  For others like those we have known and like us ourselves our calling is to live well with God, doing what we can to help others and through our words and deeds spread the good news so that others like us might be called saints.

Thanks be to God, Amen

Hymn: Sing With All The Saints In Glory (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:
Loving Lord

We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom. You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives and salvation to your people: anoint us with your Spirit; rouse us to work in his name.

Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to bring help to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.

Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to tell the world the good news of your healing love.

Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to those who mourn, to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.

Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to proclaim that the time is here for you to save your people.

Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Lord of the Church, hear our prayer,

and make us one in mind and heart to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn: For all the Saints (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

May Christ who makes saints of sinners, who has transformed those we remember today, raise and strengthen you that you may transform the world;

And may the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: Good a 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 1st November from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Methodist Worship

Common Worship

Resources for 25th October

Music before we worship: Chelsea Moon with the Franz Brothers – What Wondrous Love Is This? (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Resources from The Bible Society Bible Story Games crafts and activities (opens up the documents in separate window)

Call to Worship: 

Our Lord God, thank you for your guidance
through the Scriptures. Help us to regularly search
your word to gain more insight as to who you are
and more understanding of your will for each one
of us. Give us an increasing desire to read, obey,
and find nourishment through the Bible. Amen

Hymn:  How Firm a Foundation (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

From the very beginning was
Your Word,
which spoke this world into being,
Your Word,
which thunders from the skies,
Your Word,
which flows like mountain streams,
Your Word,
which whispers in morning breeze,
Your Word,
revealed through kings and prophets,
Your Word,
revealed through Angels’ praise,
Your Word,
revealed in humble service,
Your Word,
revealed through a tiny child,
Your Word,
alive from the beginning of all things
and to eternity.

Your Word is the light we see,
a guide for our footsteps
to where you are found.

Your Word is the strength we find
when darkness threatens
to overwhelm.

Your Word is the power we need
to become servants
of a Heavenly King.

Your Word is the reason we live
in the sure knowledge
you are everything. Amen

Prayer of Confession:

You have called us
to be your people,
to follow where you lead,
be obedient to your word
and bring your Good News
wherever we might go.
Forgive the impatience
and lack of faith
which causes us to stumble,
preferring our way to yours,
relying on human wisdom
rather than the truth
which comes from you.
Draw us back into your arms,
as prodigals to our Father
and grant us patience,
perseverance,
and a child-like faith
in our journeying with you.

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 for the Day: Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen Thomas Cranmer 1549

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Nehemiah 8: 1-12

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Ancient Words (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: From the Bible Society: Dr Andrew Ollerton’s preaching on Nehemiah 8

GATHERING AROUND GOD’S WORD

How the Bible can renew God’s people postlockdown

(Nehemiah 8.1–12)

INTRODUCTION

Our world has faced unprecedented levels of disruption recently. At times, it’s been like living on the film set of an apocalyptic movie. The coronavirus has reminded us of our fragility. We are not in control of the universe as much as we thought we were and we need each other more than we realise we did.

Now, as we seek to rebuild following a period of major disruption and with many uncertainties still ahead, how can God’s people experience spiritual renewal together? And where can we find the resources we need to face a brave new world with courage?

This Bible Sunday is an opportunity to reflect on these questions by gathering around the Bible. I want to focus on a particular story captured in the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. As I’ve considered this passage it has felt so pertinent to our context. At the heart of it is a story of Israel recovering from a time of major disruption and experiencing spiritual renewal through God’s word.

THE BACK STORY OF EZRA AND NEHEMIAH

First, let’s consider the back story that frames Nehemiah 8 in its original context. It’s the fifth century BC and the Israelites have recently been through the traumatic experience of exile. A century or so ago, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and

forced the majority of its inhabitants out of their homeland. By the rivers of Babylon they sat down and wept in a foreign land. Exile in Babylon proved to be an incredibly tough experience. However, fastforward 70 years and the Persians took over from

the Babylonians and allowed the exiles to return home.

So in several waves, the Israelites returned to Jerusalem and began to rebuild their old lives. If exile was tough, trying to get back to a new normal amid so much uncertainty was even harder. Perhaps that sounds familiar?

Lockdown was hard but rebuilding on the other side feels even more challenging. However, when the great leader Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem he managed to mobilise the inhabitants to action, the walls of the city were rebuilt and the

people began to feel secure again. Take heart. With God on our side, the rubble can be raw material and the ruin can once again feel like home.

With the physical fabric rebuilt, this is where the key character in our passage fits in. Ezra also returned to Jerusalem and worked with Nehemiah. He had a different skill set. Nehemiah was a visionary leader. Ezra was a Bible teacher. In Nehemiah 8, it is Ezra who takes the lead as God’s people regather around God’s word:

1. THE BIBLE IS A DIVINE WATERING HOLE

Nehemiah 8.1–3

Have you ever seen animals gathering at a watering hole? Our family recently had the privilege of visiting Kenya and enjoying a few days on safari. Early one morning we witnessed a whole array of animals arriving at a watering hole to drink. The source of H 2O became a gathering point for a remarkable diversity of creatures.

• The Bible is for all God’s people

After the trauma of exile and the exhaustion of rebuilding Jerusalem, the people of Israel were thirsty. They needed to drink again from the truth of God’s word. So they asked Ezra to bring out the ‘Book of Moses’ and to read it to them. We are not sure which sections of the Torah Ezra read. Perhaps Deuteronomy? Either way, Ezra read from Israel’s sacred Scriptures and they lapped it up. Did you notice who attended this public reading of Scripture and where they gathered? Instead of meeting in the rebuilt Temple where only Jewish males could enter, they assembled in a public square so that everyone could come and listen – men and women, young and old, literate and illiterate. Rarely in the Bible is there a display of such diversity and it’s the Bible that provided the gathering point.

• The Bible is for all humanity

Too often we place unnecessary restrictions around the Bible. We position it as a technical book for priests or a scholarly book for academics. However, the Bible is a divine watering hole that gives meaning, strength and hope to thirsty souls. As families, we can gather round the Bible – it’s for adults and kids. As churches we can gather round the Bible – it speaks truth whether on Zoom or in the room together. It’s a source of wisdom, comfort and hope for all humanity. My wife went for a drink with some friends recently who were not Christians. As they talked, it became clear that for a couple of them, lockdown had been traumatic. As the lid lifted and the emotions poured out, my wife was able to offer prayer and later texted a verse from the Bible over as a source of strength.

We mustn’t leave the Bible locked up in the Temple. More than ever we need to offer the Bible to our thirsty world. That starts by centring our own lives on the Bible. Why not invite others to read it together as the people did with Ezra? If we are to be spiritually renewed through challenging times we need God’s word.

Application question: How can we centre ourselves on the Bible and invite others to join us at the watering hole?

2. THE BIBLE IS A LARGER STORY THAT GIVES HOPE

Nehemiah 8.5-8

A while ago I met with some leaders from across the Middle East. One of them shared movingly about his work with refugees. He described one occasion when a shipment of clothing arrived. Having arranged the clothes in the warehouse, he also put a stack of Arabic and Farsi Bibles next to them. When they opened the doors and word got round, there was a stampede… not for the clothes but for the Bibles!

The refugees knew that when life is tough and fragile, the Bible is a unique source of hope.

• The Bible helps makes sense of us

As the Israelites listened to Ezra reading the Torah, it was clearly a powerful experience. Imagine the scene. Nehemiah 8 records it in a cinematic way. Ezra stood on a large platform built especially for the occasion. Thousands gathered round and as he read from the ‘Book of Moses’. You could have heard a pin drop as

young and old listened attentively to the Scriptures.

What was it that was so captivating? After all, for us there is always more to watch on Netflix. Why bother with the Bible? Perhaps the key for Israel and for us is that the Bible helps us feel part of a larger story that makes sense of our experiences. As Ezra read Israel’s history, including God rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt, making a covenant with them on Mount Sinai and declaring them his ‘special treasure’ (Exodus 19), taking care of them in the wilderness when they were vulnerable, this wasn’t just dusty old history. It was their story. As Ezra read extracts of the Bible, the Israelites felt part of something solid and certain.

It gave them confidence to face their challenges knowing that God would be faithful through it all. This is why we need the Bible. As the coronavirus exposes our fragilities, the Bible reminds us that we are part of a larger story, stretching back to creation and forward to a new creation. We may experience some chaos in the middle but the great author has an overarching plan that will not fail and promises to take care of his people. You won’t get that from Netflix. It’s why we need the Scriptures. The title of a book I’ve been writing captures the heart of it: THE BIBLE: A story that makes sense of life.

• We need help to make sense of the Bible

That said, have you noticed that sometimes the Bible doesn’t easily make sense? It can be pretty complex and knotty, even disturbing. If you’ve experienced that, you’re in good company. As the crowds listened attentively to Ezra reading the Scriptures there were clearly moments when they found it confusing.

So as well as reading the text, the Levites and others trained in the Torah went out among the crowd ‘making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read’ (verse 8).  Imagine that – Bible teachers moving from group to group, family to family and asking, ‘How are you finding it? Do you need any assistance?’ It reminds us that it’s OK to struggle with the Bible and to ask for some help.

Application Question: What’s your next step to become more confident with the Bible?

3. THE BIBLE HELPS US CULTIVATE TRUE COMMUNITY

Nehemiah 8.9–12

When I was at university, I invited one of my rugby teammates to a Christian event. After a bold talk from the Bible, I felt awkward and wondered what my non-Christian friend made of it. “So what did you think of that?” I asked, bracing myself for the reply. None came. Instead, as I looked across my friend was crying. The Bible is surprisingly powerful. It gets under our skin and moves us in ways no other book can. Later that evening, my friend gave his life to Jesus Christ and today he is leading a Christian youth project in London.

• The Bible can help us process our emotions

After Ezra had finished reading, he suddenly realised that the people had started crying. They got so emotional that Nehemiah stepped in to try and coax them out of it: ‘Do not mourn or weep’ … Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet wine.’ That’s an unusual request for a leader to make! Where did all their emotion come from? Remember, the Israelites faced major loss, disruption and uncertainty but had to keep going through it all. As the Bible was read it was like the lid was lifted. They encountered words of comfort and hope. They may also have felt a sense of conviction and remorse. Either way, Scripture created a safe space that allowed emotions to surface and deeper things to be discussed.

As a society we’ve been through a lot recently

Hymn: God has spoken by his prophets (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:
Lord Jesus, in your being and through your life you reveal the glory of God our Father. We come to you now trusting in your promise to hear us when we pray in faith.

Lord Jesus, we pray for your church as she proclaims your Gospel of love and truth. Let all who search the scriptures to find eternal life do so in the light of your wisdom and through your loving and compassionate eyes. Forgive us when we seek to use your word for our own ends and to condemn others. Give us the grace and openness to hear your message for us today and to allow your word to abide in us.

Lord Jesus, you were sent into this world by God our Father but so many in this world refused to believe or to accept you. Still, today, so many turn their backs on you or are unable to hear your truth. Let there be a new spirit of yearning for unity and peace in the world. Let those who claim that God is on their side recognise the truth that the love of God is for all peoples and that the Word of God cannot belong exclusively to anyone.

Lord Jesus, you are the living word of God who came to dwell among us. You know the demands and delights of living in community with others. Help us who believe in you live our lives in the light of your wisdom and to see others through your loving and compassionate eyes. Help us to recognise and acknowledge you in the lives and work of those around us and to be open to the possibilities of meeting you in unexpected places.

Lord Jesus, you brought comfort and healing to all who came to you in distress. We bring to you now those we know who are suffering any kind of pain. We pray that you will meet their needs with your love and compassion and lighten their darkness with the eternal flame of your Spirit.

Lord Jesus, you are the living word of God but you faced death and overcame it, rising to a new and eternal life. Strengthen us with faith and hope of life in your eternal kingdom where you reign with the Father and the Spirit, one God for all people and for all time. Amen Katharine Smith

Hymn: Spirit of God, unseen as the wind(The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing: May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in the love and knowledge of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord

And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Bible Society video of its work

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: Balancing Act a 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 25th October from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

The Bible Society: https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/get-involved/bible-sunday-2020/

Katharine Smith, Writer and Preacher: https://www.katharinesmith.org.uk//

Faith and Worship: https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Bible.htm#gsc.tab=0

Resources for 18th October

Music before we worship: Shout To The Lord – Hillsong Worship (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Wordsearch (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship:  Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. People: ~Let us sing praises to the Lord with the lyre and the sound of the horn. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let us sing you a new song, 0 God, for the marvellous things you have done. Let us worship God!

Hymn:  Love Divine (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

O God of power and majesty, as the sea roars, your name is praised. Waves pounding the shore remind us of your grandeur. By your creative design birds fly, fish swim, and creatures in the forests and meadows leap and run.

All creation chants in praise of your plan for them. As you make our joy complete in the gift of your Son, Christ Jesus our Saviour, we worship you with hearts, hands, and voices in songs of glad adoration.

O God of righteousness and equity, you speak and the earth responds with sounds of thanksgiving; you act and the nations attest to your victory. We thank you for your word that teaches us to trust in you. We thank you for your actions and the promises you fulfil.  For the gift of our saviour Christ Jesus, whose sacrifice restores us to goodness because of your mercy; and for the Holy Spirit, whose guidance enables us to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you.

Yet there are times when we fail to walk with you, through our own selfish fault we stumble and fall and so we confess our sins to you Lord.

Caring and compassionate God, you have loved us with unfailing, self-giving mercy, but we have not loved you.

You constantly call us, but we do not listen. You ask us to love, but we walk away from neighbours in need, wrapped in our own concerns.

We condone evil, prejudice, warfare, and greed.

God of grace, as you come to us in mercy, we repent in spirit and in truth, we admit our sin, and gratefully receive your forgiveness through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

In repentance and in faith, receive the promise of grace and assurance of pardon.

Here are words we may trust; words that merit full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.  To all who turn to him he says, “your sins are forgiven”.  He also says follow me.

Thanks be to God Amen

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 for the Day: Almighty God,who called your Church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common Worship

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
John 15: 9-17

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: What a friend we have in Jesus

I hope I’m right in saying that all of us has at least someone that they would consider a friend. We will of course all have different numbers of people that we term friend as we will all differ on what we deem a friend to be.

Some, particularly those who use Facebook may claim to have lots of friends.  The organisation Pew Research suggests the mean average of Facebook friends a person has is 338, the median average comes in less at 200.  Now I’m not sure anyone can have 200 friends let alone 338!!

The numbers seem way too large to have the closeness that friendship means to me.  Conversely Research from Cornell University suggests that adults have only two people that they consider close friends.  Apparently that is one less than horses have.  I’m not sure what that says about the human race.

It does of course come down to what we call a friend, how we define it.

Facebook uses it as a term for someone we connect with in an online social network. Our society uses the term friend in a variety of ways.  Every university I’ve studied at has asked me to be its friend.  This friendship is of course premised on me giving them money.

Although supporting our friends financially might well be a part of friendship it doesn’t fully define the relationship we have with friends.

Similarly we can become friends of the National gallery, Friends of the National Trust or if you are as much of an anorak as me a Friend of the National Railway Museum.

All of these so called friendships involve some measure of support both financially and of the organisations aims alongside a shared interest.  Again this use of the term friend doesn’t cut it with me.  It seems one sided and lacks the reciprocal nature of friendship.

Even turning to a dictionary offers little help.  The Cambridge Dictionary (please note not the Oxford one!) defines a friend as “a person who you know well and who you like a lot” 

In our Gospel reading we hear of a very different definition of being a friend.  It is a definition that fully encapsulates the bonds of commitment and love inherent within deep friendship.

In our Gospel text 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.

So what does the text tell us about being a friend of Jesus?  It shows us 3 specific facets of that friendship, of that new relationship.

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.

I suspect not many of us would lay down our lives for our 200 plus facebook friends or even our 2 closest friends.  Such acts are rare indeed.  On the first day of the Somme before the troops went over the top Private Mcfadzen jumped on a live grenade in the trench that accidently had the pin pulled in order to save his friends.  His Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously

Jesus’ description of friendship is rooted in such an act of sacrifice.  Whilst it is expressed in universal terms it clearly takes its meaning from Jesus’ impending death on 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.

We are transformed by the friendship and love we share with Jesus.  It is a friendship that differs from that we might have with our friends.  We choose our friends but that isn’t the case with Jesus.

In verse 16 he says “you did not choose me but I chose you”.  Jesus has a plan for us and has chosen us for a reason.  Jesus explains that we are chosen in order that we might bear fruit, to bear lasting fruit.  To do so is to live a life of discipleship abiding in Christ.  So that through our service towards others, our Christian living and witness to the Gospel we might bear fruit.

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 our redemption that springs from Christ’s atoning death and resurrection.  We know of the hope of life eternal extended through our belief 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 for our faith and conduct.  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.

The commandment to love one another may seem at odds with the notion of love being spontaneous from within rather than a commandment.  Yet Jesus is very specific, he directs the disciples, not in the way of Old Testament law but as an intrinsic facet of the friendship they share with him.

That friendship is founded on the directive to live the way Jesus has lived.  To walk the way of Jesus today. He says “this is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you”.  He has shared the blueprint for living with his followers.

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.  It is a model mirrored by the circular argument in our epistle reading. 

That to love God, believers must love one another, and to love one another believers must love God.  To separate the love to others by believers from the love of God is impossible as both stem from God and are experienced through the gift of Jesus.

So as we go out into the world this week, may we be emboldened to show our love towards others in word and deed.  So in our living we might reflect the love our friend Jesus Christ has for us.  Amen.

Hymn: All To Jesus I Surrender (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Loving God you invite us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers as dear to us as our own needs.

Loving our neighbours as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world.

Lord in Christ we know of your healing and we pray that those known to us who are ill at this time may know your presence and anointing.

We bring before you……

We pray for those in despair anguish and grief that they may be reassured by your steadfast love

Lord we pray for the people of the world, for those living in fear and persecution at home and abroad. Lord we are one people around the world, all made in your image we pray that all are treated with justice and fairness. We remember the homeless, those in poverty and the plight of the refugee. Lord may they see the light that is the hope we find in you.

Lord we pray that our world tainted by division, conflict and war might be washed clean by your justice and peace. That the leaders of the world might tread the path that leads to healing and peace.

Lord we pray for the life of your Church throughout the world, may every congregation be a community of love and every Christian a witness to your grace.

Lord we pray for all those that work to make our communities a better place, for teachers and those who provide care to those in need. We lift before you those working in healthcare, local government and community facilities.

Finally Lord we pray for ourselves

May we know your will for us, guide us to make the right choices so that we might work as one to build your kingdom.

In the name of our saviour Jesus Christ we pray

Amen

Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing: May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in the love and knowledge of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord

And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Wordsearch (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: Balancing Act a 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 18th October from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary. Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

James G. Kirk. When We Gather, Revised Edition: A Book of Prayers for Worship Kindle Edition.

Common worship

Resources for 11th October

window golden calf

Music before we worship: Paul Baloche – Your Mercy (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Wordsearch (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship:  Praise the Lord! 0 give thanks to the Lord, who is good, and whose steadfast love endures forever.

Hymn:  O Worship the King (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

God of this and every new day, of sunrise and sunset, be the focus of our worship, at the centre of our fellowship, a guide for our footsteps and the peace to calm us every hour of this day,

Glorious Lord we approach in wonder

This day and all days we shall praise your name and tell of all you have done. For if we do not share your truth through our lives and words, how will they know? This day and all days we shall seek to live a life that reflects the love and mercy that you have shown us and to become your lights within the world. This day and all days.

Glorious Lord we approach with thanksgiving

Thank you for those who, by their example, have been a light on our journey with you; those whose guidance has inspired us, whose enthusiasm has infected us, who live each day in the knowledge that it matters. Bless such faithfulness wherever it is shown, where lives become an offering, your word becomes transforming, and light is brought into this dark world.

Whilst we give praise to God we recognise our own failings as we confess our sins.

God of love, in the wrong we have done and in the good we have not done, in choosing our way over yours and in trusting ourselves rather than you. We have sinned in ignorance; we have sinned in weakness; we have sinned through our own deliberate fault.

We are truly sorry. We repent and turn to you. Forgive us and renew our lives through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

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 for the Day: Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Common worship

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Exodus 32: 1-14
Matthew 22: 1-14
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

 

Hymn: When we walk with the Lord (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture:

I read recently of a man in Africa who was planning to build a house on a plot of land he had recently acquired.  He had drawings done of the house he wanted and had booked the local builder and couldn’t wait to see his house rise from the ground and take shape.

But the builder kept putting back the start date, he had way more work than he could cope with, so the man grew more and more impatient with the builder.

Eventually he got fed up and losing his patience he enlisted a few friends and started work building his longed for home.  Now unfortunately neither he nor his friends were builders and when they dug the foundations they didn’t dig deep enough.  They continued building the house until it was finished and even had a house warming party to celebrate their achievement.  It seemed they didn’t need the builder after all.

But then the first of the seasonal storms arrived.  I think you’ve guessed what happened next, sure enough a house with poor foundations came tumbling down in ruins.

The story is of course an illustration of our reading today from Exodus.

In our reading we hear how Moses had gone up the mountain to receive the law from God.  He was there for 40 days and 40 nights.

The people of God, like the man waiting the builder to start, grew impatient they were tired of waiting.  Their recent history was littered with their disillusionment and impatience with God.  Remember their complaints in the desert? Their moans about the manna and their longing for the foods they ate in captivity.

Disillusioned and impatient with waiting the people of God rebelled against the Lord.  Aaron led that rebellion, previously he had been a supportive high priest to his brother Moses.  Yet he caved in to the demands of the people and had them bring him their gold from which he fashioned a golden calf.

The calf was a symbol from the Canaanite religion and the people’s worship of it was a rejection of true faith in the one true God.  Their impatience with the Lord had led them to idolatry.

The message within the text is how is it we sometimes end up being like the Israelites or Aaron.

Are there times when we, to use a popular phrase, lose our mojo for God, do we grow impatient when our prayers are not answered immediately?

Do we look at our lives and want more than we have, more than what God has allotted us and then make demands of God that we have no right to make?  Do we want things our own way and become rebellious rather than trust and obey the Lord?

How readily do we find other things to do, other things to pursue and idolise rather than commit ourselves to God and his plan for us. 

Or maybe we follow the same direction as Aaron, we forget our part in proclaiming the Lord’s kingdom, we forget our role as examples of righteousness and faith in the world.  Do we like Aaron give in to the pressure from others and the world around us to worship the golden calves of money, prestige and power?  Do we forget all that we know of God?

But how does this all happen? Rejecting what we know of God, giving in to impatience and the claims of secularism.

Is it just an accident? Does it just happen? Further on from our reading in verse 24 Aaron claims that the calf just happened to appear, that it wasn’t his fault.  Yet from our reading in verse 4 we know that isn’t true, we read that he took a graving tool and fashioned it with his own hand.

His disobedience to God was by design a deliberate act borne out of his weakness.  When we act like the Israelites or Aaron we too act out of our own weaknesses.

The disobedience of Aaron and the people of God displeased their Lord.  But through Moses’ intercession they were spared and forgiven.

Their God, our God is a forgiving Lord, he knows of our weakness, knows our capacity for sin, yet he reaches out inviting us into his forgiving arms.  He welcomes us back into his fold, sets back on his path and forgives our impatient waywardness.  Like a parent to a child his love for us does not diminish when we wander from him, he doesn’t dismiss us but wants us back, for we are his people.

Why should God do this? Because the Lord we worship is a steadfast loving, forgiving God, one in whom we might trust and readily obey.  For to him be the glory. Amen

Hymn: Dear Lord and Father of mankind (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Loving God you invite us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers as dear to us as our own needs.

Loving our neighbours as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world.

Lord in Christ we know of your healing and we pray that those known to us who are ill at this time may know your presence and anointing.

We bring before you……

We pray for those in despair anguish and grief that they may be reassured by your steadfast love

Lord we pray for the people of the world, for those living in fear and persecution at home and abroad. Lord we are one people around the world, all made in your image we pray that all are treated with justice and fairness. We remember the homeless, those in poverty and the plight of the refugee. Lord may they see the light that is the hope we find in you.

Lord we pray that our world tainted by division, conflict and war might be washed clean by your justice and peace. That the leaders of the world might tread the path that leads to healing and peace.

Lord we pray for the life of your Church throughout the world, may every congregation be a community of love and every Christian a witness to your grace.

Lord we pray for all those that work to make our communities a better place, for teachers and those who provide care to those in need. We lift before you those working in healthcare, local government and community facilities.

Finally Lord we pray for ourselves

May we know your will for us, guide us to make the right choices so that we might work as one to build your kingdom.

In the name of our saviour Jesus Christ we pray

Amen

Hymn: Thy hand O God has guided (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing: May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in the love and knowledge of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord

And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Wordsearch (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: Invited a 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 11th October from the Methodist church.   A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary. Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

James G. Kirk. When We Gather, Revised Edition: A Book of Prayers for Worship Kindle Edition.

Common worship

Resources for 27th September

Music before we worship: Because He Lives (Amen) West Coast Choir (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story Colouring page Activity ideas (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship:

We gather in the presence of God the Father with some words from Psalm 118

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name

Hymn: Come, Christians, Join To Sing (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Loving Father

Author of life, you have given us breath to praise you, eyes to behold your mercy, and words to proclaim your abiding love. You have set apart a people to worship you in thought, word, and deed, and through Christ you have numbered us in the midst of them. Breathe upon us the promised Holy Spirit, that our minds may be opened to your wisdom and our tongues boldly declare that you alone are God.

By your grace we have been made a part of your family. What a blessing you have lavished upon us, that we can be known as children of God. You call us your children, and so we are. You watch over our coming and going; you nurture our growth with sustaining wisdom. You send your Spirit as a guide for our wanderings, and give the promise of Christ’s redeeming love to rescue us from waywardness.

We thank you for curiosity that leads to learning, for the willingness to move beyond what is already known. Use the spirit of inquiry to prod us out of complacency, and make us impatient to know more of your truth. By the gift of your Spirit, give us an insatiable longing to see your will accomplished. What a treasure you have presented to us, with this pearl of great price, the word of God. Guide us to the scriptures in search of wisdom, and give us the discipline to pursue the quest.

You have called us your children and made us members of your household. . What a privilege you have bestowed upon us, made citizens of the kingdom of God. What a harvest you have prepared around us, and all who are seeking the mercy of God Help us to grow as faithful brothers and sisters in response to your trust.

For all these privileges and blessings we bring our thanksgiving and praise.

Whilst we give praise to God we recognise our own failings as we confess our sins.

God of love, in the wrong we have done and in the good we have not done, in choosing our way over yours and in trusting ourselves rather than you. We have sinned in ignorance; we have sinned in weakness; we have sinned through our own deliberate fault.

We are truly sorry. We repent and turn to you. Forgive us and renew our lives through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

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 for the Day: Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Methodist Worship Book

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

1st John 3: 1-7

Matthew 23: 37-39

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: God The Father Of Creation (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture:

What do parents do?

  • Love: unconditionally
  • Encourage
  • Empower
  • Provide physical comfort, food and shelter
  • Individual relationship, not just with siblings
  • Listens
  • Has time for them
  • There at the peaks and troughs
  • Disciplinarian: corrects behaviour not the person?
  • Consistent
  • Teaches right and wrong
  • Teaches independence
  • Teaches to take responsibility
  • Role model
  • Encourages good living
  • Allows children to make mistakes
  • How does God act as parent.
  • Continual loving presence in our lives
  • Teaches us through scripture
  • Listens to our prayers
  • Forgives us
  • Seeks us to be righteous, to live well

Responding as a child of God

  • Handing over authority to God
  • Accepting him as father
  • Righteous
  • Learning: listening reading scripture
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Living the way he intends
  • Growing in discipleship
  • Become mature disciples so we can help develop others
  • Taking our role

Hymn: Father hear the prayer we offer (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Loving God you invite us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers as dear to us as our own needs.

Loving our neighbours as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world.

Lord in Christ we know of your healing and we pray that those known to us who are ill at this time may know your presence and anointing.

We bring before you……

We pray for those in despair anguish and grief that they may be reassured by your steadfast love

Lord we pray for the people of the world, for those living in fear and persecution at home and abroad. Lord we are one people around the world, all made in your image we pray that all are treated with justice and fairness. We remember the homeless, those in poverty and the plight of the refugee. Lord may they see the light that is the hope we find in you.

Lord we pray that our world tainted by division, conflict and war might be washed clean by your justice and peace. That the leaders of the world might tread the path that leads to healing and peace.

Lord we pray for the life of your Church throughout the world, may every congregation be a community of love and every Christian a witness to your grace.

Lord we pray for all those that work to make our communities a better place, for teachers and those who provide care to those in need. We lift before you those working in healthcare, local government and community facilities.

Finally Lord we pray for ourselves

May we know your will for us, guide us to make the right choices so that we might work as one to build your kingdom.

In the name of our saviour Jesus Christ we pray

Amen

Hymn: How Great Thou Art (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing: May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in the love and knowledge of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord

And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible StoryColouring pageActivity ideas(opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Acknowledgements:

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary. Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

James G. Kirk. When We Gather, Revised Edition: A Book of Prayers for Worship Kindle Edition.

Methodist Worship Book

Resources for 20th September

Music before we worship: Rend Collective – Rescuer (Good News) (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story   Colouring page   Activity ideas   (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship: Father God, be the oneness that exists between us, the focus of our lives and worship, our unity of faith. Precious Jesus, be the peace that is shared between us, the compassion we show to others, our unity of love. Holy Spirit, kindle the flame that burns within us, the light that will shine in the darkness, our unity of hope.

Hymn: Ye Holy Angels Bright (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Lord of each moment. Be with us through this day.

You are Lord of each moment from our rising to our lying down, every step along our way, our travelling companion walking beside us on a familiar road.

Lord of each moment. Be with us through this day.

You are Lord of each moment. In our thinking and conversation your Holy Spirit inspires and your gentle whisper guides, accepting our burdens and sharing our load.

Lord of each moment. Be with us through this day.

O God, your grandeur towers above the highest peaks; your strength can make them tremble and fall. Your love is deeper than the valleys of the oceans, and as encompassing as the water that covers the earth. In Christ Jesus you call us your children and through him your word is forever made known. Be with us now as in Christ’s name we gather. Accept our praises as we confess him Redeemer and Lord.

To you, O God, we pray for ourselves: for forgiveness and for turning.

Lord, forgive us if we should ever put you to the test, when life is hard, we’re far from home or the burden is too heavy to carry alone. Draw us close; renew our faith in the one who brings people from wilderness and troubled waters into a promised place. In our walk of faith may we make that journey too, finding the peace and contentment that only come from you.

Let us live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel. As we focus our minds on the goodness ness of God we will have the assurance that in Christ Jesus we are forgiven.

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 for the Day: 

Merciful God You have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding.  Pour into our hearts such love towards you that we, loving you above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen     Methodist Worship Book

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Psalm 105: 1-6, 37-45

Philippians 1: 21-30

Matthew 20: 1-16

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: All my hope on God is founded (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture:

Quite a few years ago I was a cub scout, like any self-respecting cub scout I took part in bob a job week.  I’ve a feeling the country had just turned decimal but we certainly new what a bob or a shilling was.  For those of you far too young to remember might I suggest Google.

Bob a job week saw cubs and scouts offering to do jobs for a shilling or after the decimalisation in 1971 five pence.  To put things in perspective a loaf of bread was about 10p, a first class stamp 2 1/2 pence and a pint of Guinness was 18 pence, not that a cub scout would know that of course.

So every year during bob a job week off I would go knocking on doors offering to do work in exchange for a contribution to our cub pack’s funds.

What confused me as a 8, 9 or 10 year old was the diversity and disparity of the payment in return for the work I had done.

Some kind, generous, or maybe just rich souls gave me 50p for a 10 minute job, well over the stated bob a job rate.  I once even got a crisp £1 note (remember them?) for shining a pair of shoes.  But of course there was the other side of the coin if you will pardon the pun.

There was one person, actually they lived in a very large house, who had me do 6 hours of back breaking gardening followed by washing and waxing their car.  All the time I’m working away sweating in the heat of summer I just contemplated how much I would get for my endeavours, totting it up in my head as I went along.  Eventually I had finished the long list of tasks and reported for my payment.  I was handed a sixpence, a sixpence!!! It is isn’t even a shilling!!

I still remember the feelings from the time. They probably echoed the disgruntled workers who had worked all day in our Gospel parable.

Those of us used to an hourly rate would empathise with the workers who had worked all day.  They had seen the ones who had started late get paid before them and receive a full day’s pay, when they went forward they were expecting more than the others yet they only got the same. 

How can this be? It doesn’t seem fair to us does it??  Surely the harder and longer you work the more your reward??  But as I found out on bob a job week that isn’t always the case.

The reason it doesn’t seem fair to us or make sense to us is of course because the parable isn’t about remuneration packages it is about the Kingdom of God and his amazing saving grace.  When looked through the lens of our salvation the parable makes a lot more sense. 

We are saved through faith by grace, that through our faith we might receive God’s saving grace.  Nothing we do can earn or increase that salvation.  We are saved by grace and grace alone.

Salvation isn’t based on merit, it isn’t linked how much good works we’ve done, whether we’ve led blameless lives or the length of our faith.  It is in God’s gift as verse 15 of today’s reading says “Am I not allowed to do what I chose with what belongs to me?”

Returning to the parable, the workers that had laboured all day expected more reward than those who turned up late.  Interpreting the parable in relation to salvation it makes sense why all the workers received the same reward.  There cannot be degrees of salvation, one person cannot be more saved than another.  We are either saved or not.

In taking Christ as our saviour we become labourers in the vineyard, we share then in the reward of his inheritance granted through God’s grace.

Whether we have been a Christian for 70 years or gave ourselves to Christ this week we share in the same salvation.  Whether we have never sinned in all our lives or are the repenting sinner begging God’s forgiveness we share in God’s grace.  Through the power of God’s amazing saving grace we all receive equal reward.

So as we labour in the vineyard let us remember we are not justified by our own efforts but instead let us rejoice in the undeserved incongruous generosity of God.

For to him be the glory! Amen

Hymn: Amazing Grace (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others: 

Loving God, we praise you
that you are not like the man
who refused to forgive,
even though he himself had been forgiven.
We praise you that you are a just God,
who always forgives our sins
when we truly repent.


Forgiving God,
we thank you for forgiving us
when we say sorry to you:
again, again, and for ever.
Please show us how
to be ready to say sorry to you,
and to each other:
again, again, and for ever.
Please teach us more about
your wonderful forgiving love:
again, again, and for ever.
We pray for people who do bad things.
We pray that they will realise

what they have done,
and be sorry and put it right.
We pray for those who love, care and pray for those
Who have been hurt, abused, and scarred by others.
We pray for the police service and the criminal justice system
That they might act justly and do what is right.
We pray for those who are sick – in body, mind or spirit.
We pray for those who love and care for them:
For family and friends, for doctors and nurses and support workers,
That all might know your love.
Lord Jesus, your wounds were deeper than our imaginings,
your love is beyond our comprehension.
You gave your life for us, Help us to offer our lives to you,
And in the service of all our neighbours.
“O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
And with him is great power to redeem.”
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer, and let our cries come to you,
Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

Hymn: And Can it be That I should Gain (The link opens up you tube in a separate window) 

Blessing:

Father God

Throughout this coming week bless our eyes that we may see the needs that exist. Bless our mouths that we may speak with conviction. With our hands let us work in unity for your Kingdom, and may our feet not be afraid to stand for what we believe. And may the blessing of

And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story   Colouring page   Activity ideas   (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: True Compassion a 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 20th September from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary. Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

James G. Kirk. When We Gather, Revised Edition: A Book of Prayers for Worship  Kindle Edition.

Methodist Worship Book

Resources for 13th September

Music before we worship: Come now is the time to worship – Peterborough City Praise Band (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story   Colouring page   Activity ideas   (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship: Bless this time of worship, O Lord, we pray. Be the peace we seek in busy days, the strength to go on when spirit fails, the wisdom we need to live our lives, the love that we share in this, your house. Bless this time of worship, O Lord, we pray

Hymn: O Worship the King all glorious above (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Great and Glorious God

You are worthy of all praise, 0 God, more than could ever flow from our mouths. The birds sing of your glory; the day’s sun rises to honour you. The mountains owe their grandeur to your design for creation; the seas have their depth, as you have decreed. We blend our voices with all of your creatures, and join with your people in praising your name.

God of mountain splendour, glorious skies and mountain stream, God of nature, new birth, wakening spring and summertime, we bless your wonderful name.

God of awesome power, whose word the elements obey; God of redeeming love, who brings us to a promised land, we bless your wonderful name.

You are the source of our forgiveness when the lives we lead do not reflect the words that we profess. You are the strength we are searching for when faith is weak, as you draw us to your loving arms to bless. You are the hope that we inherit of a kingdom in heaven and on earth, one that will never cease. You are the source of all that we are or ever could be, and to you we bring this offering of our thanks.

Whilst we give thanks and praise to God we also come before him seeking his forgiveness.

We are mindful that each time we come into your presence how willing you are to forgive seventy times seven. Yet when people betray us we bear grudges and think ill of them. We are quick to anger when we feel we’ve been wronged. We do not hasten to seek reconciliation even when we would rather things were less stressful and tense.

Help us to love as you love, to accept each person for who they are, precious in your eyes. Forgive the prejudice, intentional or not, that causes us to turn aside, ignore the need or walk away. Help us to love as you love, to accept each person for who they are, just as you have loved us.

Forgive give us when we hesitate to emulate your example and help us to seek the peace Christ taught us to practice.

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 for the Day:  Gracious God, like a mother you give us new life, and make us your children in Jesus Christ. Look on us in your love, and bring us to the inheritance which you promised. Grant this through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen     Methodist Worship Book

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Psalm 114

Exodus 14: 19-31

Matthew 18: 21-35

(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture:In this age of sat navs and Google maps along with the ever increasing pressures on our time many of our journeys seem to take the shortest most direct route.

Sometimes the shortest route isn’t always the best route  How many of us when we have had time have taken the scenic route and grasped the opportunity to see things we wouldn’t see hurtling down the motorway.  An opportunity to see new sights and to learn more about the world.

The Israelites certainly took the scenic route, the journey from Egypt to Canaan would have taken just a few days taking the direct route.  Instead God, through Moses took them on a journey of 40 years through the wilderness. 

The long journey of God’s people was of God’s design and part of his plan.

By providing his people with manna in the desert God showed that he could provide for his people even in the most desolate circumstances.  We too have our own times of desolation when we lose someone we love and we are nourished in those times.

The direct route from Egypt to Canaan would have taken the Israelites through hostile territory which would have involved them fighting their way through.  Moses was leading a largely dispirited and broken people who had spent several generations as slaves, they were in no condition for such hostility.  By taking them on the long route God afforded them the time to refresh themselves spiritually, mentally and as a people of God.  Maybe they needed a time of wilderness to be more attentive to God’s voice.

There are times when we might feel that the church is meandering, probably even more so after the experience of lockdown.  But maybe like the Israelites in the wilderness there is purpose to it.  That it has been a time to recharge our faith, a times to glimpse sight of a land of milk and honey and ready ourselves for new challenges ahead.

The parting of the Red Sea is a motif of opening up of new paths for the people of God in their journey with the Lord.  A God sent path to a new existence as his people.  As we emerge into a new normal we as God’s church must be ready to tread new paths to new opportunities presented to us by the Lord. 

When we recall the account of Moses parting the Red Sea we often focus on the parting and its symbolic message of God showing his people he is Lord.  That their God is one who can control the elements. Yet often we neglect the fact that once the Israelites had passed through, the sea closed behind them. 

Once the waters had closed behind them there was no going back only forwards onto what God had in store for them.  The book of Numbers recalls the complaints of the Israelites in the desert.  They said “we remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

They had grown accustomed to their life in slavery and even looked back on it with favour and longing.  Despite the promise of a land of milk and honey in Canaan they hankered after a life they knew.  We too sometimes look back with fondness on how church used to be rather than glimpse sight of what it might be if we have faith in the Lord and step out in that faith to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Crossing the parted sea was indeed a challenge and test of faith for the Israelites.  Would the ground be like quick sand ready to draw them to their deaths, would the waters stay parted long enough for them to reach the other side or would the walls of water cascade down sweeping them away.

To make the crossing the Israelites had to step out in faith trusting in the Lord, a trust nurtured by their time in the wilderness, a trust founded on listening to God’s voice.

May we as God’s people share that courage and strength as God reveals new opportunities and paths for his church.  May we have that same faith and trust in the Lord when we are called to step out in faith.  For to God be the glory.  Amen

Hymn: Lead us Heavenly Father, Lead us (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others: 

Eternal, ever-living God,
we pray for those who this day need our prayers:
those we see around us…
those at their own home…
family and friends near and far…
strangers and communities we will never meet or know,
but whose peril we hear of and see on our screens…
those whose life is ebbing away
consumed by old age, frailty, illness or neglect…
those who grieve deeply for lives and loves lost…
those who cause grief and chaos in society
and who live seemingly with different values from ours,
for them and their victims and their families…
those who are forgotten, unnoticed, unloved, unmissed…
Lord God, in your abundance of mercy,
hear these and all our prayers. Amen.

Hymn: Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah (The link opens up you tube in a separate window) 

Blessing:

Go from out into the land beloved of God. Tread lightly on the land, that your footprints may not harm. Touch gently with your hands, that healing may bring hope. Tremble softly in anticipation of the Spirit’s presence, transforming life with love in every time and place.

And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.

Amen.

Additional resources:

Junior Church resources: Resources from Sermons4kids Bible Story   Colouring page   Activity ideas   (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here

Lectionary Leanings: how-many-times a 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 13th September from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary. Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

James G. Kirk. When We Gather, Revised Edition: A Book of Prayers for Worship  Kindle Edition.

Methodist Worship Book