Resources for 9th May

Music before we worship: Taize’ song – Holy Spirit come to us (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship:  Some Words from Psalm 98

The Lord has made known his salvation; his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness towards the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

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

Opening prayers: Glorious God

We open our mouths to praise you and you open our spirits to receive you. We open our minds to learn of your ways and you open our wills to obey you. We open our hands to serve you and you open our hearts to love you. We are open to your mystery, O God, make yourself known in us this day.

This world has heard the gospel message through the witness of generations who lived, shared and breathed your word. We gather here today because our hearts were strangely warmed by such an encounter, and we believed, as many did before, that in Christ and Christ alone is our salvation. For the Gospel message and faithful witness, we praise your name.

We thank you for your word that teaches us to trust in you. We thank you for your actions and the promises you fulfill: for Christ Jesus, whose sacrifice restores us to goodness because of your mercy; for the Holy Spirit, whose guidance enables us to seek justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you.

Whilst we give thanks and praise we recognise our own failings as we confess them to God.

Forgive us, Lord, when the road we travel is of our own choosing and we are distracted by the sights and sounds that surround us. Forgive us, Lord, when your voice is muffled by the noise of our lives and we lose the path, finding ourselves alone.

Forgive us Lord when through our failings our words and deeds hurt or neglect the needs of others

Loving God. In our saviour Jesus Christ we know of your forgiveness as we confess our sins cleanse our hearts. Grant us true repentance and assurance of your forgiveness. Renew and strengthen us. Be with us; guard and guide us, we pray; keep our eyes and ears focused on you, and bring us safely through each day. Restore us that we might live to your glory.

We combine our prayers in saying the prayer that our Saviour taught us

Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray and give more than either we desire or deserve.  Pour down your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask save through the merits and meditations of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen    Methodist Worship

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Scripture readings:

Acts 10: 44-48

1 John 5: 1-6

John 15: 9-17
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Spirit of the Living God (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: Revd M Belgrove

In the last few months the word efficacy seems to have become a regular part of our vocabulary featuring so often in any news bulletin that covers an item about Covid vaccines.  I don’t think I used to use the word much beforehand except when talking about God but now it’s heard all the time talking about vaccines and how they hopefully bring about the right results.

In our reading from Acts we hear of an invisible yet efficacious force at work.  As Peter preaches the Holy Spirit has opened up the hearts of the Gentile listeners to receive the word of God and to receive Jesus into their hearts.  They have become believers, the Holy Spirit has achieved what it intended to achieve.

The work of the Holy Spirit has transformed them, called them as followers of Christ.  They are baptised with water and the Holy Spirit and in doing so they become friends of Jesus.

It is through the Holy Spirit opening our hearts to Jesus that we join those Gentile listeners alongside the very first disciples of Jesus that we encounter in the account from John’s Gospel.

Jesus says “I do not call you servants any longer… you are my friends”.  The role of the disciples and their relationship with Jesus is at a turning point.  Following Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection the disciples will be entering into a new relationship with Jesus.  It is a seismic shift towards a new relationship of intimacy and reciprocal action very different from the vertical relationship of Lord and servant.

As Holy Spirit inspired followers of Jesus we share the nature of that friendship with Jesus.

But being a friend of Jesus is a bit different from what we might consider friendship.  Johns Gospel gives us 3 insights as to how that might be.

Firstly that being a friend of Jesus means to be loved and chosen.  That love is dramatically defined when Jesus says “no-one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”   The friendship Jesus describes is rooted in an act of supreme sacrifice upon the cross.

Jesus’ sacrifice is the foundation of our relationship with him as his friend.  A relationship that is reciprocal, it demands a mirroring sacrifice from us.

It calls us to a new way of living, to a life where we leave behind our human failings.  When we become a friend of Jesus we leave behind our greed, our jealousy and our lack of forgiveness.  We trade our selfishness for love of others.

In verse 16 he says “you did not choose me but I chose you”.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit he has reached out and transformed us.  In doing so Jesus has a plan for us and has chosen us for a reason. 

As self-critical Christians we might often be tempted to think we are not worthy of Jesus, that there must be others more deserving that we need to be something of an idealised Christian.  If we do then we neglect to realise that Jesus has called us to be his friends for who we are and what we might become, not for some notion of what we or others might think we should be. 

The second facet of our friendship with Jesus, is knowing what is going on.  Jesus says “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father”.

What distinguishes servants from friends is that friends are aware of the plan.  The disciples are told that Jesus will be betrayed, they are told of his impending death and resurrection.  They are made aware of Christ’s mission to the world and the necessity of his sacrifice for the world.

Like the disciples we too are in the know.  The pages of scripture exist to reveal to us all we need to know.  Through those pages we know of Christ’s mission, we know of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection.  We know of the hope of life eternal extended through our faith in Christ as our saviour.

We know all of this because as a friend of Jesus he has chosen us and opened our hearts to receive the word of God.  Our open hearts ready to take Scripture as the supreme authority through which God makes known his saving love, his will for his people and his purpose for the world.

The third facet of our friendship with Jesus is to keep his commandments and to love as he has loved us.

It is an inherent constituent of the reciprocal nature of our friendship with Jesus that we live as he has lived.  It is defining of our friendship with Jesus that our love for others is the natural outpouring of Jesus’ love for us.

I don’t know about you but I find some people easier to love than others.

Our Christian love for others involves the difficult and challenging.  It involves genuine forgiveness towards those that have wronged us or hurt us.  To love our transgressors as our friends is one of the hardest ways in which we are called to love one another.

But it is a challenge that we do not meet alone.  The commandment to love one another is framed by Jesus’ words “as I have loved you”.  It is this love, the love shown to us by Jesus that sustains us and enables us to meet those challenges. 

The friendship we enjoy with Jesus and the love we have for others are the bedrock of our faith.  If we could look at the DNA of our faith it would be our hearts being open to the love of Christ pouring out in our love for the world around us.

It is this love, this faith, fired by the Holy Spirit that transforms the world or as our epistle puts it, conquers the world.  It is this love, this faith that eradicates poverty, challenges injustice and makes the path of peace.

It can do this because our hearts have been opened to receive Jesus, he has welcomed us as his friends and commanded us to love in those things we define our faith.

Faith is love; and love conquers all.

For to the risen Christ be the glory.

Amen

Hymn: Every Time I Feel The Spirit (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Loving God

We give thanks for the love you show us in Christ Jesus.  That through the Holy Spirit you call us to Christ so that he would call us friends.

Obedient to his call to love others and the world we come before you with our prayers of concern.

Just as Jesus has loved us so we lift before you those we know and love in need of your healing.  Bringing before you those in our hearts that are sick of mind and body.

We lift before you those in need, the ones who grieve, the ones who are lonely and isolated may they know your loving comfort.

We pray for your Church, that through the collective faith of your people the blemish of homeless and poverty at home and abroad would be wiped clean.

We pray too for those who are spiritually lost, may the Holy Spirit warm and open their hearts to their friend and Saviour.

Guide your Church Lord to lead by example in preserving your creation and challenging injustice.

We pray for leaders around the globe that they would seek the path of peace so that nation shall be friend unto nation and peoples will be of one accord.

We pray that you would encourage us to step out in love and in faith. That through our faithful sacrificial living we might help transform the world.  So that our faith helps win the victory proclaimed.

In the name of our friend and risen Saviour we pray.

Amen Revd. M Belgrove

Hymn: You shall go out with joy (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Let us go out into the world united as friends of Jesus to love and serve the world.

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

Amen.

Additional resources:

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

Lectionary Leanings: Chosen as Friends weekly lectionary reflection by our friend the Revd Dr Paul Glass and click here for Paul reading his reflection on video (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Daily devotions from the United Reformed Church. A radio-style / podcast service with hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon. Sign up on the page to receive The Sunday Service email which will contain an order of service and words for you to sing along with the hymns.

Worship at home 9th May from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Methodist Worship

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Resources for 2nd May

Music before we worship: Zach Williams – Old Church Choir (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship:  Some Words from Psalm 22

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. 28 For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

Hymn:  All People That on Earth do Dwell (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers: Glorious God

With your love in our hearts, these branches of your vine blossom and bear a fruitful crop, nourished by the bread of life, refreshed by living water, nurtured by your gracious hand. With your love in our hearts, these branches of your vine can spread the sweet perfume of your blessing to this world and draw others to your feet in grateful praise and worship.

Abide with us in this time, O God, so that we will continue to abide in love now and always.it. Graft us into your spirit nourish us with your compassion and prune us with your truth until we are one people, abiding always in you and growing in love.

Thank you, gracious Lord, that you reveal your love to those who seek, not always in special places or sacred spaces, but wherever we might be on our daily journeying, at work or play, night or day. You take a seed of faith that once was scattered and unlock its potential, allowing it to grow and blossom within our grateful hearts. To those who seek you reveal yourself; thank you, gracious Lord.

Whilst we give thanks and praise to God we bring before him our failings too

Forgive our need to be in control, the agenda for each day written by our hands, each moment mapped out and presented, fully formed. Grant us confidence to let go, be free and available, to follow where you lead, into new challenges and opportunities, each day lived out in humble service, gratitude and faith.

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: Eternal God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life; grant us to walk in his way, to rejoice in his truth, and to share his risen life; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever, Amen.   Methodist Worship

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Scripture readings:

Psalm 22: 25-31

1 John 4: 7-21

John 15: 1-8
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Blessed Assurance Jesus Is Mine (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: Revd M Belgrove

Every year I have an armed battle with a vine.  It isn’t even my vine, it is next door’s, but it invades the manse garden.

Armed with loppers, secateurs and an array of pruning tools I do battle every yea,r cropping it back giving it an autumnal haircut as short as mine. But the following year it’s back.

I tried a different tactic of trimming it regularly throughout the summer but it’s a bit like painting the Forth Bridge, an unending task.  And forget to do it one week and its halfway across the garden again.

It reaches out attaching itself, spreading, growing at an incredible rate. It links to itself and any other thing it can find, washing line, fences, bushes you name it.

The more I prune it the more it grows, and despite my best efforts at the end of summer it bears bunches of grapes.

In Jesus’ day the image of the vine was a key symbol for the nation of Israel. Psalm 80, Isaiah 5 and Ezekiel 15 all describe the faithfulness or waywardness of that vine.

The vine symbol was widespread in Jewish culture and would be familiar to those who heard Jesus declare he is the new vine, the new Israel.

That it is through him that the world will be saved, not through the nation of Israel but through him and his disciples.  That the world’s salvation through the living vine in the resurrected Christ will reach out through those he exhorts to believe in him, to abide in him, to be his branches.

It is the reason that the image of the vine was a potent image for the early Church and remains so for the church today.  It is a fitting motif for a faith filled life of the Church.

Back to the vine in my garden.

The branches that grow in my garden all are connected to the main branch in next door’s garden.  The church too needs to be firmly rooted in Christ, if we are not we become what Ezekiel describes as little better as firewood.  A church not rooted in Christ cannot consider itself functioning because it can never bear fruit.

The vine in my garden can spread from the fence to the washing line, a distance of 3 metres, without touching the ground or anything else. It does so by supporting itself, stronger branches supporting newer ones and meshing together.  As a church we are called into community and fellowship with one another.  Individuals binding together, not living in isolation but knowing each other, caring for each other and supporting each other.  Older more established branches supporting new shoots in their growth in faith.

That image of branches supporting one another extends to the wider church, the universal Church is connected to the living vine in Jesus.  We are rooted in the same faith and whatever our differences we should make every effort to work together to reach out in faith to grow the vine.

The vine in my garden supports itself to reach out to new places such as bushes and any favourable anchoring point, it reaches out and touches the world around it.  The church isn’t called to be isolated, it is to be in the world if not of the world.  The church has a place in the community and society it inhabits calling others to the way of Christ through service and discipleship.

Sometimes being the church in society calls it to be like the vine in my garden.  It is persistent, if I cut it back it grows back even stronger; whatever setbacks the church encounters it can and will grow back with vigour.

My vine is also invasive. Vine shoots grow and touch the world surrounding it, its tendrils force their way into crevices and can make walls crumble and fall.  It is a helpful metaphor in considering the role of the church in social justice.

Whatever I do to the vine in my garden it is resilient and will still be there next year, it will still flourish and bear fruit.  It does so because it is rooted in the main vine.  Jesus calls us to abide in him, the living vine as he abides in us.  May we as his disciples, his church be forever rooted in him, and bear much fruit, for to him be the glory.

Amen

Hymn: He lives… He lives… I know that my Redeemer lives (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Loving God, Great grower of the vine, we come before you knowing and believing in the love you have for us.

We give you thanks for the gift of your Son the living vine in whose love we abide as we bring our prayers to you.

Your love has been perfected in us through the love of Christ and in his name we bring before you those we love in need of your care.  Loving Lord pour your healing in those we know who are sick.

May those who mourn know of your love and those who are worried be granted your peace.

The psalmist announces that the poor shall eat and be satisfied and we bring before you all those who hunger at home and abroad.  We pray for the work of food banks, fareshare and relief agencies working to help those in need.  We pray for a fair distribution of food resources to tackle food poverty.

Compassionate Lord you encourage us to love our brothers and sisters in need.  We lift before you the people of India.

We pray too for the places in need of your peace.  Draw together all people’s in harmony and peaceful existence.

Finally Lord we pray for ourselves, abide in us, encourage us to testify that Jesus is the Saviour of the world.  Lord perfect in us your love so that through our discipleship we might love the world around us.

In the name of our risen Saviour we pray.

Amen Revd. M Belgrove

Hymn: Let Us Build A House Where Love Can Live (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Go into the world and bear the fruit of love. Find the places of lifelessness and bring renewal. Be the branches and create the community of life. Do it all through the power of Jesus.

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: Staying connected 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 2nd May from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Methodist Worship

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Resources for 25th April

Music before we worship: The King’s Singers – Down to the River to Pray (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship: 

Some words from Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

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

Opening prayers: Glorious God

This is your day, gifted to us as Sabbath rest, and we will rejoice in it. Bring peace to these busy lives, and calm our anxious hearts. This is your day, gifted to us as Sabbath rest, and we will rejoice in it.

What is love? It is this, that you, Creator God, who set this universe in motion, should care for people like us. What is love? It is this, that you, good shepherd, who know each of your sheep, should lay down your life for people like us. What is love? It is this, that we should follow the example of Christ in this world and love all people just as you love us.

All praise be unto you, 0 God, Great Shepherd of the sheep. You gather your people as lambs to your pasture; you enfold us with your all-embracing love. You refresh us like a stream flowing freely with living waters; you nourish us like a host whose table is heavy laden. We gather to hear your refreshing word of promise and direction, to honour your name as our guardian and our hope.

Good Shepherd, we offer grateful thanks for your loving care. Open our hearts and minds to the guiding of your Spirit in our lives. We trust in you alone, Good Shepherd, on this, our journey of faith, and we thank you for your constant love.

Whilst we give thanks and praise to God, we know that sometimes we falter as we bring our shortcomings to our forgiving Lord.

Merciful God

You know us better than we know ourselves— our thoughts, our motives, our burdens. Living water, flow through our lives; wash away all that hinders— the past we cling to, the accumulated debris of our daily lives. Cleanse, refresh, revive. Make us fit for service, that we might be your hands, your feet, your words, wherever you might need us.

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: Good Shepherd of the sheep, by whom the lost are sought and guided into the fold: feed us and we shall be satisfied; heal us and we shall be made whole; and lead us, that we may be with you for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit one God now and forever. Amen.   Methodist Worship

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Scripture readings:

Psalm 23

1 John 3: 16-24

John 10: 11-18
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: The King of love my shepherd is (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: Revd M Belgrove

Those of you who are English will undoubtedly know what day it was on Friday.  Friday April 23rd is of course St George’s Day. The patron saint of England.

Now the trouble with saints is that many of them tend to have died many years ago and the stories and legends get a little mixed and at times fanciful as times go by.

So we end up with the image and story of St George and the dragon which seems to be an 11th or 12th century legend.  I could never work out why slaying dragons ever warranted a sainthood but a look at the real St George makes much more sense. His story takes place much earlier.

George of Lydda was the son of a Cappadocian Greek father and Palestinian mother both of whom were Christians.  Brought up a Christian he maintained a strong faith that eventually would be put to the test.  He enlisted in the Roman army becoming a member of the Praetorian Guard.  In around 300 AD being a Christian in the Praetorian Guard was not accepted.  The authorities tried to force him to renounce his faith but his belief in Christ was strong, knowing the consequences he refused to recant his Christian faith and was put to death around 303 AD.  His sainthood has more to do with his love of the Lord in the face of death than it does dragons.

Sadly St George is one of a long line of faithful Christians that have been killed because of their faith in Christ, a lineage that persists to this day in some parts of the world.

Their steadfast love of the Lord is the Christ-like epitome of the words of both our Gospel and epistle readings of laying down one’s life through faith. It is the response that our epistle reading seeks when it says in verse 16, “we know love by this”.

The word love has many meanings for us, we might experience romantic love, we might love our family, (or not!), we might claim we love going fishing.  That would be me then.

But in whatever context we use the word, Christian love is very distinct from those meanings.  The Greek New Testament word for love is agape, it derives its meaning from the revealing of God’s love through the crucified and risen Christ.  It is distinct from other affections such as romantic love because it is a fruit of the Spirit.  (See Galatians 5:22).

Christian love isn’t something we feel but something we choose.  With other forms of love we don’t choose it, we don’t choose to love a partner, we don’t choose to love friends or family, it just happens.  But Christian love is different, it is a willing response.  It is our response as disciples to Jesus’ commandment that we heard in John’s epistle to love one another.

Unlike other forms of love, Christian love demands that we love even those we don’t like.  Sometimes that and forgiveness can be the hardest steps in our journey with Jesus.

So how might Christian love express itself?  The reading from John’s first epistle says “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action”.  Christian love isn’t about kind words and thoughts it is about action.  Christian love is a verb.

John’s first epistle asks, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”

Our Christian love is truthfully expressed when we genuinely care for the needs of others.  Of course there is place for us to pray for others, to support them with comforting words, such genuine compassion is Christ like.

Yet our reading from John’s epistle asks more of our Christian love.  It demands of us a serving, sacrificial way of living.  A way of life where we share the blessings we have received with those in need.  It is about donating to the food bank, it is about working at the homeless shelter, it is about giving and serving.

It is also about justice, campaigning for and supporting just and equitable distribution and access. It is about not squandering the earth’s resources so others have none whilst we waste.  Our care for the environment at home can have a positive effect on people living far away whose homes are threatened by rising sea levels.

Living the way of Christian love encompasses involves all aspects of our lives. It is a way of life, a committed response to our calling as disciples.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit it is our willing fulfilment of Jesus’ commandment to love one another.  We may not be saints or martyrs but it is our way of laying down our own lives for others in the name of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us.

In the name of our risen Saviour.

Amen

Hymn: Love Divine, all loves excelling (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Great Shepherd of the sheep, who in the life, death and resurrection of Your Son showed the love you have for your flock, we come before you in prayer.

With hearts filled with worship, in boldness we approach in the knowledge that if our hearts do not condemn us your grant us our supplications.

We bring before you now our concerns for others, the world and the Church.

We lift before you those we know and love in need, may those who are sick receive your blessing, may those who mourn be comforted by your rod and staff.

We pray for those lost in their faith and in life, that they might know the presence of their Good Shepherd.  We hold before you those who through anxiety, despair and fear have wandered from your fold.

We pray for the gift of creation may we show our love for our brothers and sisters in need by reducing our consumption of resources.  You have spread a tabke of abundance before us, encourage us to share that blessing fairly and justly.

We hold before you Lord the places where hostility and division has lead to conflict and violence.  We pray that through your loving mercy the people of the world would be united in love as one flock.

We pray too for your Church, sometimes fractured and split, gather us together, working in unison in sacrificial service to the world around us.

Finally Lord, we pray for ourselves, refresh our souls, guide us in the path of righteousness so that we may love not just in words but in action and in truth.

We lift these prayers in the name of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us and rose in victory and reigns with you in unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Based on Psalm 23, 1st John 3: 16-24 & John 10: 11-18 Revd. M Belgrove

Hymn: I cannot tell why He whom angels worship (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Let us in whom God abides go out boldly into the world to serve in truth and action.

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: Shepherding 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 April from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Methodist Worship

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Resources for 18th April

Music before we worship: Lynda Randle – One Day At a Time (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship: 

Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!’
You have put gladness in my heart

Psalm 4

Hymn:  I Sing Of The Mighty Power Of God (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers: Glorious God

What a blessing you have lavished upon us, that we can be known as children of God. What a treasure you have presented to us, with this pearl of great price, the word of God. What a privilege you have bestowed upon us.

Made citizens of the kingdom of God. What a harvest you have prepared around us, all who are seeking the mercy of God.

For all the blessings that you give We offer our grateful thanks. For light that shines within our hearts when all around is darkness.

For love that hears us when we call and answers our distress. For joy that offers us such warmth when lives are under stress, for peace that takes away our fear and brings to us sweet rest:

For all the blessings that you give. We offer our grateful thanks.

Whilst we give thanks and praise to God we recognise our shortcomings as we bring them to our loving and forgiving Lord.

Forgive us, Lord, when doubts assail, we miss your whisper, stray from the path or fail to see you in friend or stranger. Open our hearts and minds to the understanding of your word, and grant us a faith lived in the light of your resurrection life. Give us ears to hear you, eyes to see you, and feet to follow wherever you might lead

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: God of life and love, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread.  Open our eyes that we may see him in his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God now and forever. Amen.   Methodist Worship

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Scripture readings:

Acts 1: 1-8

1 John 3: 1-7

Luke 24: 36b-48
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Lord, Enthroned In Heavenly Splendour (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: by Revd. Andy Twilley (Training and Development Officer- United Reformed Church Southern Synod)

WAIT, RECEIVE & GO: Acts 1: 1 – 8
Recently I was struck by the fact that each of the resurrection appearances of Jesus were unique, and as I reflected on this realised that each were included in the Bible to reveal a specific truth.
John 20: Peace for the perplexed
John 21: Forgiveness for those who fail
Luke 24: Revelation through breaking of bread
Matthew 28: Commission to make disciples
I’d encourage you to look up each of the passages and see what God reveals to you through each of them.
This morning we are going to focus on Acts 1: 1 – 8, where the disciples are told to Wait, Receive then Go.


FIRST: The COMMAND to WAIT v.4
We don’t like waiting: we want it now, asap. Fast food: NOW! Can’t afford it: use the Credit card so I can have it NOW! On a car journey, that cry from the back seat: are we there yet? We order online: we can’t wait a couple of days, we must have next day delivery!
YET at this critical moment the disciples are told to WAIT.
I believe Churches invariably fit into one of two categories
a. Those that simply wait! b. Those that simply do!
Those that simply WAIT have no intention of doing. They are simply waiting for renewal to happen! For the Lord to return! For the person who will come and bring revival! For God to do something amazing in their community.
In contrast: those that simply DO… they simply DO stuff. They rush into any new project, any new idea; “this looks great so let’s do it! what are we waiting for?!”
Yet God calls us to be a 3rd type of church; One which waits but waits for His timing then ACTS. Waits for His direction; then acts. Waits for his instruction; then acts.
In other words: when the moment comes they go for it, seize the moment. The biblical phrase for this is summed up by Paul: Gal 5: 25: “As you are living by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit.” Lockdown may feel like a period of waiting which has been imposed upon us, but just look ahead to Acts 1: 14 and you’ll discover how the disciples used THEIR time of waiting: “They all joined together constantly in prayer”.


SECOND: The CALL to RECEIVE v.8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”.
And what power it is. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians clearly defines this power expressing it as one of the spiritual blessings God wants to ABUNDANTLY bless us with.
Eph 1: 18 – 20: he prays that they would receive power & that power would be the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the power! “incomparably great power”. It’s no wonder in his lifetime Jesus had confidently stated: “I will build my CHURCH…” He knew He would be empowering the building.
I sense we all need to be asking: “well where is the power?” All too often I see churches in retreat, acting as if they have been defeated. Christians struggling on in their own strength relying on their own resources. Christians living as if the battle was lost. The god of secularisation has won the day; not only confusing the unchurched but even Christians being won over by its seductive powers. BUT NO! The battle is NOT lost, the victory has already been WON and Christ showed this by conquering death itself!
We are called to RECEIVE the power, and as we do we can start living as the authentic PEOPLE of God, demonstrating the KINGDOM of God, living our lives with the AUTHORITY of God.


THIRDLY: The COMMISSION to GO v.8: “and you will be my witnesses”
With lockdown lifting, slowly but surely doors are opening, and here we hear one of the core principles of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus, namely a witness to His love. Jesus’ words in Matt 28: 19 put it in its simplest form: GO. It’s quite clear really isn’t it! We’ve GOT the power! We’ve got the MESSAGE! And now we’ve got the commission. To be as Paul said: Ambassadors, (2 Cor 5: 20), Envoys, Heralds, of this amazing message of good news, the life transforming news of the gospel.
We live at a time when so many desperately need to hear this message. We are surrounded by folk whose lives are filled with despair, hopelessness, pain, futility, uncertainty, exacerbated by the events of the past year. Jesus states clearly, the outcome of receiving the power is to provide us with all that’s needed to fulfil his great commission, to go and share the joyous good news that Jesus is alive and that Jesus wants to transform their lives too! To be lights / beacons of hope to folk who are living in darkness and despair. To be catalysts of change as we radiate darkness with the wonderful light of Christ no matter where God takes us: in our homes, families, workplaces, neighbourhoods, bringing hope that results in joy and peace.
The WAIT is OVER so filled with God’s power, He sends us out: NOW is the time to SHINE. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power, then filled with joy in our hearts, renew our commitment to share the Good News wherever we go.

PRAYER
Lord, we pray that you will fill us anew with your Spirit to empower us to share the hope we have in Jesus, that lives will be transformed by your power and your love. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen

Hymn: Will Your Anchor Hold? (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Loving God

Just like those first disciples draw us into the presence of Christ.  We give thanks that through his victory on the cross we are given new hope.

In his mighty name we come before you in prayer, confident that you hear us as we pray for those in need, the world and your church.

We pray for the gift of creation, encourage us to be good stewards of your world. Lead us to live lives that respect your creation, teach us to use resources fairly and without waste.

Compassionate God, just as Jesus appeared to his first disciples to reassure them, we lift before you all whose faith is faltering.  Those questioning because of illness, bereavement and anguish. May they know your presence.

This day we ask your healing on all those known to us who are unwell as we lift them to you in our hearts.

We pray for those who mourn.  We remember before you Her Majesty the Queen at her time of loss and all those who grieve.  May they witness the hope that is found in Christ’s resurrection.

We pray for those who are fearful, for the downcast and down trodden. For those living in the darkness of despair, may they know the light of your love through the power of Jesus.

We pray for the world around us, for the places of conflict in need of your justice and peace.  We pray for those who lead, may they act justly and compassionately.

We pray too Lord for your Church, may the presence of Christ reinvigorate our discipleship and draw us together as the Church triumphant. May the work and worship of the Church glorify your name.

Finally Lord we pray for ourselves, grant us the peace of Christ our Saviour, reassure us of his presence and revitalise our faith.

In the name of our risen Saviour we pray.

Amen. Revd. M Belgrove

Hymn: O FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES TO SING (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Listen to God’s breath within: it is the stirring of belief. Voice those questions and doubts: it is the making of faith. Touch those scars and feel those wounds: it is the place of resurrection. Let the breath of God sustain you this day and forever.

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: Open Minds 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 April from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Revd. Andy Twilley (Training and Development Officer- United Reformed Church Southern Synod)

Methodist Worship

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Resources for 11th April

Music before we worship: André Rieu – Nearer, My God, to Thee (live in Amsterdam) (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship: 

Come! Bring your doubts, your hopes, your faith.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Come! Bring your questions, your wonderings, your misgivings.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Come! Bring your fear, your sorrow, your joy.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Come, let us worship God.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Hymn:  God Is Here! (ABBOT’S LEIGH (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

In the name of the Father, who loved this universe into being, we join together in worship. In the name of the Son, who died that we might know eternal life, we join together in worship. In the name of the Spirit, whose flame burns brightly within our hearts, we join together in worship. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, glorious Trinity, three in one, it is you alone we worship.

We have the message of Jesus to proclaim to the world. The Word of God, eternal truth confined within frail human flesh. The Son of God, who for this world poured out his love upon the cross. The light of life, by whom we feel the grace of God setting us free. We have the message of Jesus to proclaim to the world.

The love you show is our inspiration; the light you give, our illumination along the path we walk with you this day. It is our witness to the world to be of one mind in heart and soul, a blessing to friend and stranger, bringing your grace to those in need and good news to the lost and the seeker. For love, light and all the blessings of this life, we offer our grateful thanks.

Whilst we give thanks and praise to God we recognise our shortcomings as we bring them to our loving and forgiving Lord.

It would be wrong, Lord, for us to say that we have no doubts, for this world is trying to deny all we hold dear, and is insistent in its cry. There are days when, like Thomas, your dear friend, we need to reach out and touch the hand that has led us these long years, to see the place where spear and nails have made their marks. Forgive our doubts and, in times of temptation, be our confidence, so close that, like Thomas, we might joyfully declare, ‘My Lord and my God!’

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: Risen Christ, for whom nor door is locked, no entrance barred: open the doors of our hearts, that we may seek the good of others and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace, to the praise of God the Father.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

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Scripture readings:

Acts 4: 32-35

1 John 1: 1-2:2

John 20: 19-31
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus My Blessed Redeemer (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture: Often when we read or hear our Gospel reading we have today, we focus on the response of Thomas, his doubting, his need of proof of the Risen Jesus. His need to see the resurrected Jesus for himself. In doing so we run the risk of missing the purpose of Jesus’ appearance which is not just to confirm his assertion that he will be raised in 3 days but also to commission the disciples and confer on them the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 20: 21-22

21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

With this commission in mind and being on leave this week I offer you the following from the URC Southern Synod Walking the Way initiative written by Revs. Bob & Karen Street entitled Making more disciples.

Making more disciples by Revs Bob and Karen Street, United Reformed Church Southern Synod Walking the way materials

(The above link opens a pdf document in a separate window)

Hymn: Come, Let Us with Our Lord Arise (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Loving God

We offer you our thanks for all that stirs our hearts with joy, for the astonishing beauty of your creation and moments of sheer awe and wonder. We give thanks for the love and companionship of friends and family. Hold us in your love.

We reflect on your broken world, for those places where human betrayal, greed and injustice destroy life, breakdown relationships and communities.

We pray today for the people of Myanmar, of Mozambique, and for all those who are suffering unseen but never beyond your gaze.

Be with all those who are hurting, those who have been bereaved, those who have been unable to hold the hands of those they love for many months, those who long for healing, those broken by their circumstances.

Grant wisdom, integrity and justice to all those who lead others. Hold us in your love.

Encouraging God,

Challenge our expectations, may we know you as God who confounds us and leads us into transformed lives. Grant us deeper humility as we reflect on your sacrifice for us.

Be with us this week, that we may offer all that we are, strengthened by faith, inspired by hope, directed by love, for the work of your Kingdom.

In the name of our risen Lord we pray. Amen Rev Helen Hollands (amended)

Hymn: To God Be The Glory (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Listen to God’s breath within: it is the stirring of belief. Voice those questions and doubts: it is the making of faith. Touch those scars and feel those wounds: it is the place of resurrection. Let the breath of God sustain you this day and forever.

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: Testing Truth 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 April from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

United Reformed Church, Southern Synod https://southernsynodurc.org.uk/walking-the-way/

Rev Helen Hollands

Common Worship Shorter Collect

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Resources for 4th April: Easter Sunday

Music before we worship: Stuart Townend – The Power Of The Cross (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship: 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen   — He is risen indeed Alleluia !

Lord Jesus, risen from the dead and alive for evermore stand in our midst today as in the upper room; speak your peace to our hearts and minds; and send us out into the world as your witnesses, to the glory of your name. Amen.  John Stott

Hymn:  Jesus Christ is risen today! (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Approach

Risen Lord, we are the Easter people, and Alleluia is our anthem.

We are the Easter people come to worship, released from tombs of pain and doubt and fear and death into the freedom of this new day, and its promise of hope fulfilled.

We are the Easter people, emerging into the brightness of faith, and Alleluia is our anthem. (Very Revd Dr Derek Browning, amended)

Adoration

Rejoice! The stone is rolled away, and Jesus Christ is risen from the grave. Hallelujah!

Rejoice! Love is victorious; the Son of God holds out his hands for us. Hallelujah! Rejoice! For sin no longer has a hold on us; through grace we are set free, Hallelujah!

Thanksgiving

Love poured out on that cruel cross, a blood-offering so we might go free. Thank you, Christ our Lord. (Pause) Love poured out, infusing this world with rivers of grace and hope of rebirth. Thank you, Christ our Lord. (Pause) Love poured out and into our hearts; we drink from a stream that never runs dry. Thank you, Christ our Lord.

Whilst we give our thanks and praise to God we recognise our shortcomings.

Confession

We are the Easter people, emerging into the brightness of faith, blinking, questioning, wondering, hoping. Come to us, into the garden of our lives and touch all that is barren, and wasted and dried with Your healing hand.

Forgive our half-lived lives, our broken promises, and our failed kindness.

Call to us by our name, that we might turn from all that limits and burdens us and lift us up into forgiveness and freedom. Open the gateways of our hearts and minds and call us out into Your world to be embraced by Your unfailing and renewing mercy.

Today, may we encounter Jesus and His grace. For we are the Easter people, and Alleluia is our anthem.

Through Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen (Very Revd Dr Derek Browning, amended)

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:

Lord of life and power, through the mighty resurrection of Your Son, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life.

Grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to You in Jesus Christ, may reign with Him in glory, who with You and the Holy Spirit is alive, One God, now and for ever. Amen

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Scripture readings:

Acts 10: 34-43

John 20: 1-18
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

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

Reflection on Scripture:

Whether you’ve spent the last few months of lockdown hibernating like a bear in its den, or you’ve taken up a new fitness regime there is a sense of renewed energy at Easter.

The change of the season, longer days along with the new growth in our gardens and open spaces all foster a sense of energy.  Who knows even the roadmap out of lockdown might even have invigorated us.

It is an energy that we also encounter in the Gospel accounts of Easter Sunday.  Even the normally more theological John captures the energetic events of the discovery of the empty tomb.

We hear of Mary rushing back to tell the disciples of her discovery.  Then the two disciples eager to see for themselves, racing each other to the tomb.  Whenever I read that bit I have a vision of them running alongside each other, jostling, elbowing each other like kids vying to be first at the lunch queue in school.

But such is their haste in life, they didn’t stick around and see what happened next.

We are told they went home, they left rather than linger at the tomb and in doing so they missed the risen Jesus.

Maybe in the busyness and haste of our lives there are times we “go home”, we move on to different things and miss the opportunity to encounter the risen Christ.

But Mary stayed, she stood there weeping outside the tomb, mourning the loss of Jesus and concerned about the removal of his body.

She was so overcome with the emotion of her grief that she didn’t recognise Jesus standing before her.  Are there times in our own lives when we are so overwhelmed by our own emotions, our grief, our worries and our anxieties that we fail to recognise Jesus’ presence in our lives?

Or maybe like Mary it takes us a while.

She assumed he was the gardener, she spoke with him. It was only when he called her by name that she recognised him.  She responded, calling him teacher, she listened to him and then she did as he asked, she went to tell the others the good news.  She gave witness to seeing the risen Jesus, with all that meant in terms of hope and promise for all who seek him.

In many ways we need to be more like Mary and less like the two disciples who hastened home, missing the opportunity of standing in the presence of Christ.

Of course there may be times when just like Mary we struggle to recognise Jesus’s presence.  But like her we must be ready to respond when Jesus calls us by name.

May we, like Mary listen and respond to our risen Lord and do as he asks of us.  Our Acts reading echoes Jesus’ words to Mary.  They exhort all of us who are witnesses to Christ’s grace to preach and testify that he is Lord of all.

The Easter message is one that is meant to be told, just as Mary was encouraged to share the hope and promise of that first Easter Morn so are we.

So this Easter as we meet with the risen Jesus may we use the energy of the Easter story to rejuvenate our faith and to invigorate our response to the call of our ascended Lord.

For Alleluia he is risen, he is risen indeed!

Amen

Hymn: Now The Green Blade Riseth (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Lord Jesus Christ, come, stand among us, that we might see You by our side, that we might hear You call our names, that we might now, on this heady day of joy, be still, right now, and know that You are God.

We give You heartfelt thanks from our full hearts. We bring to You our prayers this day

For a world needing Easter.

We pray for those locked in by hurt, and loneliness and grief.

We pray for those locked in by addiction, and hunger, and poverty.

We pray that we, inspired by Your Good News this Easter Day, may bring our practical care and help to those who call out, and to those who are silent, and in our lived-out faith and love, show no partiality as we bring what hope we can to those in need.

Today we pray for our nation, for our national and local leaders, and for those who shape the future of our country and our world.

In times of uncertainty make us confident with kindness. In times of frustration, make us gentle with vision.

Help us to be the Easter people bringing light into our world.

Lord Jesus Christ, for the Church we pray, that in our work and witness we may be generous in our believing, and joyful in our serving.

Hymn: Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

May our faith find voice and proclaim, Christ is risen!

May our souls find purpose and proclaim, Christ is risen!

May our voices find faith and proclaim, Christ is risen!

May our hearts find life and proclaim, Christ is risen!

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: Touching Point 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 Easter Day from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

John Stott

Very Revd Dr Derek Browning, Morningside Parish Church, Edinburgh

Church of Scotland https://churchofscotland.org.uk/worship/weekly-worship/monthly/april-2021/4-april-easter-sunday

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Common Order

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

Image by Germán R from Pixabay

Resources for Holy Week 2021

Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church can be found here. There you can read or listen to reflections during the week.

A series of daily worship at home sheets from the Methodist Church can be found here. You can download a daily service to follow at home either as a word document or PDF

Build an Easter Garden resource from the URC with prayer and reading suggestions can be downloaded here

Here is a series of prayer stations for Holy Week that can be used at home.

A messy church for Holy Week produced by a former Minister of mine can be downloaded here

A Holy Week colouring book can be found here

Here is a stations of the cross service that I’ve adapted to a more Reformed feel

Churches Together in Whitstable have produced a video walk of witness featuring readings and hymns filmed around the town. I’m in there somewhere. The youtube link here will go live at 10 am on Good Friday.

Acknowledgements:

United Reformed Church

Methodist Church

Rev Phil Nevard

Churches Together in Whitstable

Image by Andrea Don from Pixabay

Resources for 28th March: Palm Sunday

Music before we worship: Sanctuary | Alpha & Omega | Total Praise – Israel & New Breed (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship: 

We join with the voices of those who stood and cheered as Jesus entered Jerusalem, laying not palm branches but our lives down at his feet. ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Hymn:  O Worship The King, All Glorious Above (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

Give thanks to God for God’s love remains steadfast and true. Though the future is uncertain and the way is dimmed by threat of violence we give thanks to God for God’s love remains steadfast and true.

Even as hatred barricades the road our love leads us on and we give thanks to God for God’s love remains steadfast and true.

We lay down our lives and lift up our praise for the one who comes in God’s name to save and we give thanks to God for God’s love remains steadfast and true.

Blessed Hosanna, who saves us with love, draw close to us on this day. Remind us that you are with us always, in all moods and seasons, in all our doubts and fears. May we draw close to you at this time – after the palm branches have withered and the songs of praise have died away – may our love for you remain steadfast and true.

The road you chose, that led to Jerusalem, was not an easy one but it was a necessary journey, from humble birth to a shameful death— exalted, rejected, the eternal mystery of the cross. There are other roads, built by human hands, that offer temporary comforts, but only this one has its destination in the heart of God, and only this one is safe for us to follow.

To you, O Lord, we lift our hearts in gratitude and praise.

Whilst we give thanks and praise to our Lord we recognise our shortcomings and come seeking forgiveness. How quickly cries of ‘Hosanna!’ turn to ‘Crucify!’ when Jesus refuses to be moulded into that which we would have him be. Forgive us, dear Lord, who sing ‘Hosanna!’ as you draw near, yet in our daily lives reveal ourselves no better than those who caused your pain. May this be the song of our hearts this passiontide, as we lay our lives before you: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

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: Eternal God, in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Grant that we may follow the example of his humility, and share in the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

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Scripture readings:

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

Mark 11: 1-11
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

Hymn: Hosanna, Loud Hosanna (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Reflection on Scripture:

I was looking through my Palm Sunday resources earlier this week and came across a drama that I had used a few years ago, it was one of those congregation participation dramas, the ones I like to call part worship part panto.

Like many ministers on Palm Sunday I had been trying to recreate the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  Despite the drama having a song to the tune of the children’s song “the wheels on the bus” it fell short of some of my colleagues’ efforts that even go as far as bringing a real donkey into church.  (Very brave in my opinion!)

Many ministers, myself included try to recreate the fervour and clamour of the crowd described in the Gospel accounts on Palm Sunday.  To be honest this year I would struggle to remember what being in a crowd was like, because of the Covid restrictions it is a long time since I’ve watched West Ham at the London Stadium or Kent Spitfires play cricket.  It says something when you recall the rule of six as a large gathering.

The crowd described in our Mark reading would have been as loud and fervent as any sports crowd I might have seen.  They are cheering loudly, thronging the streets waving their palms, shouting Hosanna! Hosanna!  They are ecstatically greeting their king, the one promised by scripture. Jesus’ entrance is the fulfilment of the Hebrew scripture.  The one who will free them from foreign oppression, the one that will restore the fortunes of the nation of Israel, their idea of a saviour.

But of course we know what happens next, Palm Sunday is followed by the events of Holy Week and Christ’s Passion.  We know how quick the chants of “Hosanna” will turn to “Crucify”.  Crowds are volatile in that they can turn quickly, anyone who supports a football team can attest to that. 

Within days the crowd’s saviour is plotted against, betrayed and crucified at that same crowd’s baying.  What the crowd hoped was a pending victory becomes to them just another failed insurrection.

The fickle crowd fail to see the true nature of the victory that Christ brings, he comes not to overthrow the tyranny of the Roman Empire, but to be the triumphant Christ, the victor over sin and death itself.

Jesus doesn’t enter the gates of Jerusalem astride a mighty charger but on a humble donkey.  He comes not with pomp but with humility, in doing so he invites us to be different, different from the crowd that is so easily swayed days later.

His invitation is to a faith that is founded on humility, service, self-sacrifice and at times suffering.  The faith that Jesus calls us to requires perseverance, in our journey with Christ there are highs and there are lows.  There will be good times in life and there will be those times when we are tempted to be as vacillating as the Jerusalem crowd about our faith.  But those are the very times we need our faith most, it is also then that Jesus journeys alongside us, sustaining us, nourishing and encouraging us in our faith and our journey.

In the coming days of Holy week we travel with Jesus to the foot of the cross, A journey that starts with cheering crowds at the gates of Jerusalem, experiences rejection, suffering and pain and ends on Easter Sunday with the ultimate victory of the risen conquering Son.

Palm Sunday is our encouragement to walk the way of the cross, to live the life of Jesus today, not just this week but every week, through highs and lows, so that by God’s grace and through our faith we might share in the victory of Christ triumphant.

For to Christ be the glory now and forever, Amen.

Hymn: All Glory Laud and Honour (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

We pray to you, Lord of palm-branches and the cross, for you understand us and in love you have promised not to push away any who come to you. Let us pray to the Lord, who is our refuge and stronghold.

For the health and well-being of our nation, that all who are fearful and anxious may be at peace and free from worry: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For the isolated and housebound, that we may be alert to their needs, and care for them in their vulnerability: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For our homes and families, our schools and young people, and all in any kind of need or distress: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For world leaders to understand their role to serve the peoples of the world, to feed the hungry, house the homeless and care for those who are weak and in need. Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For a blessing on our local community, that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship, where all are known and cared for: Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For your church that all those who trust in Jesus will be made able by your Spirit to follow his humility, to see and imitate his servant life. Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, to the mercy and protection of God. Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hymn: Ride on, Ride on in Majesty (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessed is the one who comes to us by the way of love poured out with abandon.

Blessed is the one who walks toward us by the way of grace that holds us fast.

Blessed is the one who calls us to follow in the way of blessing, in the path of joy.

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: Statements and responses 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 28th March from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Methodist Worship

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

Resources for 21st March

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 Activities Word search (opens up the website Sermons4kids)

Call to Worship:  Psalm 119: 12-16

12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
   teach me your statutes.
13 With my lips I declare
   all the ordinances of your mouth.
14 I delight in the way of your decrees
   as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts,
   and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
   I will not forget your word.

Hymn:  Jesus calls us here to meet him (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers: Glorious God

Inscribed upon our heart, the maker’s mark, indelible, the word of God. ‘Love’ beautifully written, heartfelt, that all God’s people might know that we are precious, children of a heavenly Father becoming family together. May our eyes lift upward as we listen together to hear angels worship. O God, who fashioned the covenant and sealed it with the promise of life everlasting, we praise you for mercies that are boundless and sure. Your ways are just, your grace is unending. You have sent us the Christ in whom lies your promise that all things will be made new.

If your name is preached or in conversation discussed, a seed is sown that may in due course germinate, grow and blossom in the fertile ground of a receptive heart. For those who sow, whether on well-tilled soil or barren ground, and for the lives which now bear fruit from that faithful service, we give our grateful thanks.

Confession

At times our hearts are empty. We expend all of our attention at work, at school, at church, in community until we have nothing left to give and our inner beings feel like vacant shells.

Hear us as we pray: Create a new heart in me, O God

At times our hearts burn with resentment. Life has been unfair and we rehearse the dealings of our past until forgiveness of ourselves and others is nearly impossible. Hear us as we pray: Create a new heart in me, O God.

At times our hearts are paralyzed with fear. We wonder: Where is the safe and familiar? How will we move forward? What are we to do?

Hear us as we pray: Create a new heart in me, O God.

Forgive us, gracious God. Revive again the fire once lit within our hearts and grant once more a love that overflows with you.

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: Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; 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, Amen

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Scripture readings:

Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Hebrews 5: 5-10

John 12: 20-33
(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: “I will put my law within them” says the Lord  “and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The words come as Jeremiah wrestles with the Israelites disobedience to the law of God.  A disobedience that has pre-empted the overthrowing of the nation, the levelling of the Jerusalem walls, the destruction of the temple and for many the exile to Babylon.

The situation is bleak.  And amidst that bleakness, amidst that sin and disobedience God speaks.  God speaks of the hope he offers his people.

No longer will he just give a law that is written on tablets (no not an ipad) of stone like that on Sinai after the exodus from Egypt that the Israelites found so easy to break.  This time he will write it in their hearts.

There is of course the inference of the imagery that laws held in the warmth of our hearts are more meaningful and pertinent than those written on cold stone.  These are the things we believe in rather than simply adhere to.

I am sure we can all think of things that shape our behaviour because it is important to us rather than something we are just supposed to do.

A spouse doesn’t care for their incapacitated spouse just because it might be expected, but out of love and the loving vow of in sickness and in health.

The law that God promises to write in our hearts is meaningful to us, it is quite literally close to our hearts.  This gives it primacy, and an intimacy, it is the foundation of our relationship with God. 

But let me clarify, yes the 10 commandments are important to us but they are more pertinent and easier to keep if we have a loving and lasting relationship with their author.

That relationship is expressed in the covenant that God makes in our reading from Jeremiah.

In declaring the covenant the Lord makes two awesome statements.

The first is when the Lord declares he will be OUR God. 

It is important for us to consider what that means to us. It means we are known, we are valued. It means we are never alone, for we are always in God’s presence.  That is what the Lord being our God means to us.

The Lord declaring he will be our God also means we are loved and never bereft of hope. That hope is declared in the love of God towards us when in Jeremiah 31:34 God says that to all who know him, “I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

It gives a glimpse and a foretaste of God’s forgiveness and redeeming love that we celebrate on Easter Sunday.  That the Lord God will wipe clean our slate through the glorified risen Christ, that by his grace, through our faith our sins are forgiven and enjoy life eternal in the heavenly realm.

The second awesome statement in our reading is when God declares “they shall be my people”.  A covenant such as that in Jeremiah involves two sides, much like a contract or a set of wedding vows.

Being the Lord’s people demands from us a response.  A response to the presence, love and forgiveness of God.  A response lived out in the way that we live out our lives.  A response expressed in our thoughts, words and deeds.  A response visible in how we mirror God’s love for us to those we meet, to our community and to his church.

In the covenant God says he will be our God but I want us to stop and think.  What will you do??  What will be your response?

How will you serve the Lord? How will you bear much fruit?

In John 12 Jesus says whoever serves me must follow me. The two are inextricably entwined.  Following God in Christ is directly linked to our service.

Following Christ in our time isn’t always easy, it attracts at times indifference at times the hostile stare, I pray for youngsters who follow our Saviour who feel they must hide their faith at school for fear of bullying.

Being called to follow is being asked for a response.  That through our faith in Christ, through our relationship with God in Jesus the Son, we might make our response to the covenant by serving the world around us reshaping it through love. It is how we as single grains of wheat bear much fruit.

Reshaping the world by shining the light of salvation and redeeming love of the Lord into the world around us in all we do.

“I will be their God, and they shall be my people declares the Lord”.  We are treasured and loved, I pray that as God’s people we will treasure and love his world and his church.

For to God be the glory now and forever, Amen.

Hymn: Now The Green Blade Riseth (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your loving kindness; in your great compassion, hear our prayers.

We pray for the whole church, all the people of God, all who respond to the call of Jesus, ‘follow me’. Wash us through and through, and cleanse us from our sin.

We pray for our nation, for all the nations of the earth, and for all who govern and judge. Purge us from our sin, And we shall be pure.

We pray for those who hunger, those who thirst, those who cry out for justice, those who live under the threat of terror, and those without a place to lay their head .May they hear of joy and gladness, that those who are broken may rejoice.

We pray for those who are ill, those in pain, those under stress, and those who are lonely. Give them the joy of your saving help, and sustain them with your bountiful Spirit. Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.

We pray for those who have been bereaved Give them your comfort and peace.

We especially pray for… (named individuals in particular need)

We pray for… (particular issues in the news, community or church)

Lord Jesus, you taught your disciples that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit; as we prepare our hearts to remember your death and resurrection, grant us the strength and wisdom to serve and follow you, this day and always. Amen

Prayers by Rick Morley amended by Steve Aisthorpe

Hymn: Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Go out in good heart to face the needs of this hour and bear the fruit of love in the world. This is the time to begin anew

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: I’m here 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 21st March from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

http://www.rickmorley.com/blog

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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

Methodist Worship

Church of Scotland: https://churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/74511/21-March-5-Sunday-in-Lent.pdf

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

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Resources for 14th March

Music before we worship: I Will Sing of My Redeemer –arr. David Whipple, Jr (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

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

Call to Worship:  Psalm 107: 1-3

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
   those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
   from the east and from the west,
   from the north and from the south.

Hymn:  To God be the glory (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)

Opening prayers:

O worship the Lord, for he is good. His love endures for ever.

He set this world in motion and engineers each turn; he gave to us such beauty, both seen and still unseen.

O worship the Lord, for he is good. His love endures for ever.

He shepherded a nation, and from captivity created new beginnings from that which once had been.

O worship the Lord, for he is good. His love endures for ever.

He loves us with a passion that draws us back to him and by the cross he bridges the chasm of our sin.

O worship the Lord, for he is good. His love endures for ever.

Thank you, Lord, that when we are feeling proud, arrogant, beyond reproach, pleased with ourselves, self-sufficient in our ways, you remind us that, for people like us and all of humankind, you sent your Son into the world, to save us from ourselves before we stumble, fall and are hurt. Thank you, Lord, that you embrace us and enable us to become the people we were always meant to be; children of a loving Father, blessing others through your love.

May we show our thanks as we work for wholeness in all creation, beginning with the last and the least, just as you chose to do; in Jesus the Christ. Amen.

When impatience is a cause of stress on our journeying with you, and the wanting to be somewhere else spoils our enjoyment of the view, forgive us, and draw us close again, we pray. When circumstance produces doubt and we drift away from you, or the wisdom of the world pulls us away from that we know is true, forgive us, and draw us close again, we pray.

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: O God, rich in mercy, you so loved the world that when we were dead in our sins, you sent your only Son for our deliverance. Lifted up from the earth, he is light and life; exalted upon the cross, he is truth and salvation. Raise us up with Christ that we may walk as children of light. We ask this through Christ, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God, for ever and ever. Amen. Methodist Worship

bible(8)

Scripture readings:

Numbers 21: 4-9

Ephesians 2: 1-10

John 3: 14-21
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)

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

Reflection on Scripture:

I’d like to share a football story with you, don’t worry it’s not about West Ham.  It is about a footballer and the remarkable event in his life.  The footballer is Fabrice Muamba, he came to the UK as a refugee from the Democratic republic of the Congo at the age of 11.  Granted leave to remain and finding a talent for football he became a professional, playing at Arsenal, Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers.

But the journey from refugee to professional footballer is not the remarkable part of his life.  The remarkable event came in March of 2012 when playing for Bolton against Tottenham in the FA cup.

During the match Fabrice collapsed on the pitch having suffered a heart attack.  The club doctors, medics and a cardiac consultant in the crowd raced to attend to him.

Fellow players looked on distraught and the crowd were stunned into silence as they used a defibrillator on him whilst lying on the pitch.  They would use the defibrillator 17 times between the pitch and the hospital.  Muamba’s heart stopped for fully 78 minutes.

Muamba and his family are Christians and there was an outpouring of prayer from friends, family and the wider world through the use of social media.

With the exception of having to retire from football and having cardiac regulator fitted he leads a normal life.  For the 78 minutes that his heart didn’t beat Muamba was technically dead.  Effectively he was given a new life through the skill of the doctors and of course through the power of prayer.

Fabrice Muamba’s story has echoes of our readings as they speak of a new life, whilst Muamba’s might be an earthly new life our readings speak of a similar but different new life.  A new life that overcomes death’s dominion.  A victory over death through a new life in Jesus through his suffering on the cross.  A new life that raises us heavenward through the salvation offered by God in Christ.

Paul in our Epistle reading provides us with a blueprint of that salvation that we heard about in John’s Gospel It is a classic text about God’s saving activity through Christ.  Paul starts by telling us what salvation overcomes.  In the first three verses he uses three vivid images to depict humanity’s hopeless state.

Firstly the corpse, or how as he puts it we are dead through our trespass and sin.  Secondly the slave, that his readers are following the course of this world, consumed by sin they blindly follow the forces of darkness our John reading refers to.  The third image is that of the condemned prisoner.  Paul calls his readers “children of wrath” in bondage to sin, held captive by sin with no sight of hope in this life or upon death.

And yet Paul’s words are not condemning, he uses phrases such as “all of us once lived” as he presents a picture that suggests there was little alternative until God’s saving act through Christ now available to his readers through their hearing of the Gospel,

Paul then makes his next point in verse four.  He talks of God’s response to humankind’s plight, God’s response isn’t to condemn but to give life, to give hope and salvation freely through his grace.  He says “God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us made us alive together with Christ”  Paul’s words echo those famous words we heard from our John reading “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son”  

Both John and Paul clearly define God’s motivation for the saving act of Christ.  It is born out of God’s enduring and steadfast love for us.  It is a picture of a loving liberating God who initiates and completes the rescue of his people enslaved and condemned by sin.  A rescue made possible by the sacrifice on the cross.

That image of the cross is depicted in our John reading.  John refers to the serpent raised up by Moses in chapter 21 of Numbers.  The bronze serpent that saved those who looked at it from death from the poisonous snakes. 

John clearly sees the Moses story as a portent of Christ being lifted up both on the cross and his resurrection.  That through Christ being lifted up those that look to him, those that believe in him may be granted new life.

John connects the lifting up as a function of God saving his people.  A lifting up that Paul states God offers us, when he says that “God has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

It is important to note Paul’s use of tense, he uses the present not the future.  He doesn’t say God WILL raise us up, he says God HAS raised us up.   Paul is suggesting that our salvation is not confined to our post death experience, but that through Christ our earthly lives are also transformed.  That when we follow Christ, we are given a new life, a new way of living, and a new existence, through Jesus.

Paul then turns his attentions to the characteristics of the salvation granted by God through Christ.  Twice in our reading Paul uses the phrase “by grace you have been saved”.  He makes clear that salvation is a divine act not a human act.   A divine action mirrored by the words of John 3:16 that it was God that GAVE his only Son.  That God is the source and giver of life not human action.

But is there a tension between Paul’s use of grace and John’s use of belief in relation to salvation?  Can we be saved just by grace without belief as some might suggest? 

I would respond that our belief is the very outpouring of God’s grace towards us.  That God’s grace works within us, calling us to take Jesus into our hearts and to be transformed into our new lives in Christ, or as Paul puts it in verse 8 “by grace you have been saved THROUGH faith.

Paul goes further saying this is not “your own doing” it is the gift of God, not the result of works.

We live in a society that is characterised by reward, with win bonuses and performance related pay, we talk of people getting their “just reward” and moan when people get rewarded unjustly in our eyes.  We link behaviour to reward.

But God, our God doesn’t give rewards in that manner.  Paul makes clear that God’s love and our salvation, our new life is a gift not a reward.

So does that mean we have no reason to undertake good works?  Quite the opposite in fact as Paul suggests we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, that our faith in Christ and our good works are inextricably linked.  That good works are an inherent characteristic of our faith and belief in Christ.

How can we follow Jesus without obeying his command to love one another?  Good works are the embodiment of our love for one another, Jesus calls us to follow him, to follow his example of servant hood.

We are called to service, to do good works.  We are called to help the poor, to show compassion to others and to proclaim the good news.

These good works are to become, as Paul says in verse 10, our way of life.  It is through these good works that we live out our Christian lives and witness our faith. They are the marks of our discipleship and fundamental to our faith.

If salvation and new life are God’s gift to us then our good works are our gift to God, our gratitude for his saving grace.  As gifts to God our good work scan carry no reward.  Whilst they are an important component of our Christian living and our new life in Christ they are not the key to our salvation, That as we have heard is granted by God’s grace through faith.

The overriding message of our readings today is one of hope and of love.  That despite the times that we stumble and fall, we have hope.  We have hope through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  The hope of a new life, a life in the light not the darkness.

A hope born of love, the love of a caring and compassionate God who sent his son not to condemn but to grant us new life.

Fabrice Muamba was given a new life through the skill of the medical staff and the power of prayer.  May we, by God’s grace, through our faith in Jesus be granted a new life in Christ here and now and in life eternal.  Amen

Hymn: Rock of Ages (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Prayers for others:

Lord of the universe, we pray for our world broken by persecution, warfare and strife.
We commend to you the Uighur people in China, the people of Myanmar, the people of Yemen.

You desire harmony within and between nations; you yearn for everyone to know security and safety.

Lord of the world and the church: bring healing and peace.

Lord of the poor and the rich, we pray for those who live and labour in developing countries paid less than the amount they need to survive. We commend to your tender love those who are exploited, children who are paid pennies, those who work in sweatshops.

You desire justice for all people; you yearn for all people to be treated fairly and equitably.

Lord of the world and the church: bring healing and peace.

Lord of the doctor and the patient, we pray for our world at this time of pandemic. We commend to you those who are suffering as a result of Covid-19; those who are working to combat the various new mutations; those who are frightened and stressed out.

You desire wholeness and health for all people; you yearn for an end to the pandemic.

Lord of the world and the church: bring healing and peace.

Lord of the chapel and the cathedral, we pray for all places of worship throughout the world. We commend to you caretakers and cleaners, treasurers and church leaders.

You desire holiness in your children and in the places in which they worship.

Lord of the world and the church: bring healing and peace. 

Lord of all in need, we bring to you the prayers of our hearts. We commend to you those about whom we are especially concerned, praying for…

You desire that your children care for one another.

Lord of the world and the church: bring healing and peace.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.  Revd. David Hinchliffe

Hymn: I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Blessing:

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)

Gather us in from the lands, loving God: from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Gather us in from other lands and other waters. Be with us here in this moment, and in all places where we go. Amen.

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: Darkness and Light 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 14th March from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.

Acknowledgements:

Revd David Hinchliffe

Seasons of the Spirit. Prayers for All Seasons: Based on The Revised Common Lectionary Yr. B (Kindle Locations 378-379). Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary (Kindle Locations 2944-2948). Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Methodist Worship

Birch, John, https://www.faithandworship.com/Lent_intercessions.htm#gsc.tab=0