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Service at Home – 11th October

Service at Home on 11th October 2020

for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 11-10-2020

As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you can still use these sheets if you prefer to read the words.

Welcome and Introduction

Watch: Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home, which today has been prepared by Lorna Petersen, a Local Preacher from Bolton Road. We begin with a hymn that reminds us of the greatness of our Heavenly Father God, of His majesty, and great power and love.

Watch: How Great Thou Art

Prayers of adoration and confession

Watch: Prayers of adoration and confession

Heavenly Father God, we come this morning in humble faith and with thankful hearts. We come in awe and wonder of your magnificent creating and sustaining power that brought life into being and which, within this vast universe, holds everything in its place. We come in wonder, that you should care and love us, mere humans. Yet, incomprehensible, and wonderful as it is, you do love us! You do care for us, and through Jesus Christ your son, you have provided a way for us to know you. In Christ you draw near to us and call us to draw near to you.

Father, we ask for your forgiveness when we ignore your call to draw near to you and shun your loving presence. We are sorry for the times when by our words and actions we show an ingratitude for the goodness and mercy which you have lavished upon us through Jesus. Father, we confess our sinfulness and that we need you in our lives. We turn to you afresh, feeling your loving embrace as we hear your words of grace – ‘your sins are forgiven’. For this we exclaim, ‘Thanks be to God!’.

And now say the prayer that Jesus taught us:

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 that 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.

Watch: King of Kings

Watch: Blessed Assurance

Reading: Psalm 23

Watch: Psalm 23

Prayers of intercession

Watch: Prayers of intercession

Let us pray, as one body in Christ, approaching our Heavenly Father with confidence, not because of anything we are, or have done, but because of His amazing Grace in Christ. Let us pray with thankfulness in our hearts, knowing that God delight in us and that He listens to our requests.

The Lord is my shepherd

I shall not want

Let us pray for the church of Christ throughout the world and for all Christians everywhere. We ask Father God that you will give wisdom and courage to your church that she may never be ashamed to proclaim the Good News to all people of the forgiveness of sin by the sacrificial death of Christ upon the cross and new life by Christ’s resurrection power, through the Holy Spirit. Father God, we pray for persecuted Christians throughout the world that you will grant them peace and courage as they serve and witness for your Kingdom.

The Lord is my Shepherd

I shall not want

Let us pray for the nations of the world and for their leaders. Father, we ask that all nations will work together for peace, in tackling the climate change crisis, in helping the poor and in dealing with the pandemic. Father, we ask that the leaders are given wisdom and compassion to make just and right decisions, ensuring the weak and vulnerable are protected.

The Lord is my Shepherd

I shall not want

Let us prayer for all who suffer, in body, mind or spirit. Father we pray for those who are lonely, for those who are bereaved and for those who are sick. We ask for your comfort, peace, and healing presence and that all will know your salvation.

The Lord is my Shepherd

I shall not want

We ask these prayers in and through the precious name of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Watch: He will hold me fast

Epistle reading: Philippians 4 v 1-9

Watch: Philippians 4

Sermon

Watch: Sermon

In verse 4 of the reading from Philippians chapter 4, the apostle Paul exhorted the church at Philippi to Rejoice in the Lord always and such was the importance Paul laid on this exhortation that he repeated it and said, ‘I will say it again rejoice!’

If you were to ask me if there is a verse in the bible that has a special significance for me, this is one of them, but not just this verse but the passage from Philippians 4 as a whole. The reason for this is that over the 41 years of being a Christian, when life has presented me with difficulties, troubles, uncertainties, challenges and yes, heartache, God has used these words of Paul to encourage, calm, restore and heal me.

When we use the word rejoice, we often are thinking about having joy, of being glad, and of having a feeling of elation. Most of us will be able to recall times in our lives when we have experienced a time of rejoicing – such as, the birth of a baby, a child’s first steps or words, the success of an operation or medical treatment given to ourselves or a loved one, a longed held  goal achieved…

These times of rejoicing are wonderful but is Paul’s exhortation to rejoice always realistic? Is it possible to be always rejoicing? Is it possible to be always rejoicing in the difficult times, the fearful and uncertain times – when we are sick, when we are bereaved, when we lose our job, when we are struggling to pay the bills or when we are living through a pandemic?

Paul seemed to think so. He wrote these words whilst in prison in Rome and facing an uncertain future and possible death sentence. When he wrote to the church at Philippi, the persecution of the church was gathering momentum and Paul knew that these relatively new Christians were also facing fearful and uncertain times. Yet, despite the uncertainty and fear, Paul urged the church to rejoice. For Paul, rejoicing is not a passive thing we experience because of the happy events we enjoy in life, but it is something we actively do in all circumstances. As a natural pessimist, one thing I have learnt from Paul’s words, is that to be joyful is a gift from God but we need to actively ‘do’ rejoicing for us to experience its blessing.

So, how do we do it? How do we rejoice always? – the answer is amazingly simple. We focus not just on the word rejoice but also on the words, ‘in the Lord’. Paul rejoiced always because of the continual presence of Christ in his life – Christ’s abiding, loving and powerful presence. Paul’s belief was that the rejoicing we experience because of happy events is possible in all circumstances because of God’s grace through Christ Jesus, our saviour and Lord that has brought us into a new and right relationship with Himself.

Does this mean that we are always dancing, smiling, laughing, and clapping – of course not. In life we will all experience times when we feel sad, confused, and fearful. To rejoice in the Lord always is much deeper than these external human expressions. It is a quiet and certain assurance that in Christ we are loved, forgiven, accepted, and God will always hold us fast: he will always be our companion, guide, provider, protector, and strength. It is a simple trust and hope in God’s goodness and mercy through Christ – the same hope and trust David, the shepherd King expressed in Psalm 23 which we read earlier.

In the Philippian 4 passage as a whole, Paul gave some other advice and instruction to the Philippian church which I believe make connections with his exhortation to rejoice in the Lord always and reveal to us how we keep rejoicing in the Lord and the benefits of rejoicing in Him – on a personal level and for the church.

  • The first instruction was to stand firm in the Lord (v1) – a benefit from rejoicing in the Lord always is that our faith is strengthened, and we are enabled to persevere in the toughest of times. The strength we receive is the Lord Jesus himself, right by our side helping us face the fiercest battle and temptations. I am reminded of an old hymn – in heavenly love abiding:

In heav’nly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?

Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with

Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path to life is free;
My Saviour has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.

  • The second instruction was that two women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche, are encouraged and helped to settle their differences and to get along (v 2 and 3). These were good women who had been faithful in serving God in the church, but it appears there was some friction between them. As frail human beings it is not surprising when there are ‘falling outs’ and friction within the church, but we all know that this goes against Christ Jesus’ commandment for us to love one another as He has loved us. A benefit from rejoicing in the Lord is that it is impossible to be resentful and angry with someone at the same time. If we are rejoicing in the Lord, our heart and mind are fixed on Him, on following Him and obeying his command to love. This is also linked to another instruction Paul gave which was to ‘let your gentleness be evident to all’ (v5), which is a gracious kindness we show, even if we are in the right and another is in the wrong. It is being forgiving and generous towards others because we have Christ Jesus who has been graciously kind to us.
  • The third instruction is not to be anxious about anything but to pray. Rejoicing in the Lord always draws our minds towards Christ – we are reminded of the wonderful gift and privilege of prayer that we have been given by God through Christ. Paul tells us to pray in all circumstances, for ourselves and others, asking for God’s help. This prayer is to be done with thanksgiving, remembering that we have a faithful God, and we can never be separated from His loving presence. Praying in this way and rejoicing is a two-way thing – through rejoicing we are reminded to pray and through prayer we stay rejoicing in the Lord. The benefit we are told is that we receive God’s peace which passes all understanding, and which will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. There is no substitute in this world for Christ’s continual presence in our lives and which will give us such peace. I for one would never want to replace Christ with all the attractions and riches the world could ever offer.
  • The fourth instruction is to think on the good and praiseworthy things in life (v 8 and 9) – to focus on things that are pure, noble, true, lovely, right, and honourable. By doing this we will always be reminded of Christ who is all these things and more. Conversely, filling our minds with the worse we can encounter in life, through what we read and watch on the television, or from social media will draw our focus away from Christ Jesus. If we are to continue enjoying God’s peace and rejoicing in the Lord always, we need to watch what we fill our minds with.

I said earlier that this passage from Philippians has been a great source of encouragement and strength in my walk with the Lord. Time and time again, Paul’s exhortation to ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’, has caused me to look up from my problem, fear and anxiety and focus instead on the abiding, loving presence of Christ Jesus my Lord and Saviour. In the good and bad times we are all called to Rejoice in the Lord always, so that we stand firm in the Lord, we remain united, we know a peace that passes all understanding and we continue to proclaim the Good News of Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

Watch: Yet not I but Christ in me

Closing Prayer from the Methodist Prayer Handbook

Watch: Closing Prayer

Let your word be in our mouth, O Lord, your truth in our heart and your will in our mind. Let us think only what is good and discern your presence in all that we do. Let us at all times be alive to the promptings of your Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Watch: Doxology