Service at Home on 12th July 2020
for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 12-07-2020
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, especially if you want to read the prayers.
Welcome and Introduction
Watch: Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. Today we’re looking at the parable of the sower to look at what it takes for us to become the “good soil”, so that God’s Word takes root in us and we become fruitful. And we’ll also look at how we prepare for other people to have God’s Word planted in them.
Watch: Opening prayers
Lord God, I thank you that I can come just as I am to worship you, because you love us and welcome us just as we are. I thank you that you are here with me now, listening to my prayers. Lord open my heart and my mind to learn more about you and to come to love you more and more.
Help me to trust you more completely. Help me to remember that you are always ready to guide us, that nothing is impossible for you and that you always keep your promises. You are constantly working for our good, even when we aren’t aware of it. I thank you and I praise you. Amen.
Prayer of confession
Forgiving God, I come to you disturbed, challenged and sorry about what is wrong in my life and your world.
I come to you to admit our failure to take responsibility for our selfishness and thoughtlessness, as well as for what we allow to happen without registering a murmur of unease or complaint. In a moment of quiet I remember our wrongdoing before God……..
Lord, remind us once more of the strength of your love for all your children which forgives us and renews us.
Fulfil your purpose in us, your children, and grant us your grace to do your will now and forever. Amen
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.
Prayers of intercession by Mike
Watch: Prayers of intercession
Dear Loving Father God,
We thank you for your guidance during these past few months, and for leading us safely through a time when the future seemed dark and the present uncertain.
We thank you for the support you have given us when we have felt disheartened, the courage to keep on believing when we have been tempted to doubt and the strength to persevere despite adversity. We pray a cure for this dreadful virus will soon be found. We ask for your continued sustenance during these days of long suffering with the nourishing fruits of your Holy Spirit.
Dear Heavenly Father, bless us in abundance as we experience your love, your joy and your peace. Thank you Father for blessings of patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.
Father God, you who sustained and protected the children of Israel during the deadly plagues and years of captivity, keep your loving arms around us and our loved ones today.
May all we have experienced, renew our trust in your continuing purpose for us. May it give us food for faith in times of difficulty yet to come. May it inspire us to serve you just as you have served us.
Father God, your Love never fails. Even in the darkest moments, your love gives us hope. Your love compels us to stand together in prayer with our neighbours near and far. Your Love compels us to give and act as one.
We pray for those who are unwell and concerned for loved ones
for those who were already very anxious
for those immune suppressed or compromised
for those vulnerable because of underlying conditions
for those in the ‘most at risk to coronavirus’ categories
for those watching their entire income stream dry up
for those who have no choice but to go out to work
for those who are afraid to be at home
for those who are more lonely than they've ever been
for those who are bereaved and grieving.
We thank you for the good news stories of recoveries. The joy of singing from balconies by locked-down communities; for the recognition that isolation doesn’t need to mean loneliness; for the emphatic notes through letterboxes offering help and support; for the internet, phones and technology that connects; and for the awakened appreciation of what is truly important.
God, you are our healer, comfort and protection, our strength, shield and provision, our security, safety and close companion.
Thank you that there is nothing in all of creation, not even coronavirus, that is able to separate us from your love.
And may your love that never fails continue to be shared through the kindness of strangers looking out for each other, for neighbours near and far all recognising our shared vulnerability, each of us grateful for every breath, and willing everyone to know the gift of a full and healthy life.
Lead us forward we pray, and help us to continue in the path you set before us, secure in the assurance that, whatever we face, your Grace will be sufficient for us. Praise be to God! Amen.
Watch: Light of the world
Readings and Sermon
Watch: Readings and Sermon
Matthew 13: 1 – 9; 18 - 23
Romans 8: 1 – 17
At Christ Church, we decided to create a small community garden in the corner of the playing field next to the church building, with permission from the Council I hasten to add! We were then given quite a few bedding plants by the Council and we were excited about getting them planted. But the church members doing the garden had to do some careful preparation before they could start planting.
The first thing they did was remove the weeds from where they were going to put the plants, because otherwise the weeds would have grown over the bedding plants and stopped them from growing. Then they had to break up the ground enough to be able to get the plants in. Apparently, this was tough work because of the roots from the nearby hedge, but it had to be done because if they’d just left the plants on top of the ground they would have died very quickly. Finally, once the plants were in, they had to be watered at least twice a day as this was in the hot dry spell a couple of weeks ago. So various members of the church popped down to water them. If we hadn’t watered the plants, they would have died very quickly and all the other work would have been in vain.
This is, of course very similar to the illustration that Jesus used in the parable of the sower, except that Jesus used the illustration of a farmer sowing seed, which was very familiar to the people at that time but less so to most of us.
From verse 18 onwards, Jesus explains what the parable meant. Applying this to bedding plants, what do we get? The plants left on the hard ground are like people who hear about Jesus and accept it as the truth, but because their understanding of God’s word is shallow, doubts soon creep in, especially when confronted with life’s troubles. And as their faith is weak it often shrivels up and dies – like a plant left on a hard surface. The ones planted amongst weeds are like people who have heard the truth about Jesus, but can’t stop worshipping the things of this world. Some of these people may go to church and may have considered themselves to be a Christian for many years, but the temptations of sin stop them putting God first in their lives. As we looked at a couple of weeks ago, this means they’re unable to accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus that God offers them, and God’s Word does not take root.
But the ones planted in good soil, which is regularly watered, thrive and grow and produce beautiful flowers. And they spread so that the following year there are even more flowers. These are people who have heard God’s word and come to truly know God’s love in their heart. Their faith is strong and they resist temptation to sin. The fruit of the Spirit can be seen in them and they become God’s beautiful people. And when I say beautiful, I mean of course beautiful on the inside with a beautiful nature, like Jesus. And they don’t keep their faith to themselves, they tell others and make more beautiful people, who also then go and tell others.
It’s clear from the parable that the important thing is the good soil. It tells us that we need to make sure that we’re good soil, so that our faith takes root and remains strong even in the face of life’s problems. And so that we share our faith with others and help spread God’s word. And it also tells us that we need to help prepare other people to be good soil, so that God’s Word takes root in them and flourishes.
So the question is, what turns ordinary soil into good soil? The answer can be found in the passage from Romans chapter 8 that we heard just now. The answer is not a ‘what’, but rather ‘who’: it’s the Holy Spirit. Paul writes in verse 2 that that “the Spirit gives us life and sets us free from sin and death”. This means that the Spirit stops our faith being choked by the things of this world. And then in verse 16, Paul writes that “the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”. This means that the Spirit enables our faith to become real to us so that it takes root and grows strong. And in verse 6 Paul writes that “the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace”, and also, in his letter to the Galatians, chapter 5 verse 22, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. This means that the Spirit makes us flourish into God’s beautiful people and become more like Jesus.
What do we need to do allow the Spirit to make us good soil, so that the Word of God takes root in us and flourishes? The answer is that we simply ask the Spirit to do this. Because, as Jesus tells us in Luke 11 verse 13, God will give His Spirit to anyone who asks. God really wants to fill you with His Spirit, but you need to ask and open yourself up to Him, because God never forces himself upon anyone. God never withholds His Spirit from anyone, it’s only ever us that put up walls.
Going back to the gardening analogy, these walls are like the weeds that we need to remove. So to allow the Spirit to fill us, we need to get rid of the weeds in our life so that the good soil can be prepared for planting. These weeds are what we were talking about a couple of weeks ago, the things of this world that we make more important to us than God, and sin that controls our lives. You must get rid of them to allow God’s Word to take root and for you to become fruitful. But this isn’t something that you have to do by yourself, because God is there, through His Spirit, ready to help you to get rid of those weeds and break those walls down.
Then, once the walls have gone, simply pray for God to fill you with His Spirit. Pray that He’ll prepare your heart for His Word to take root and to be real to you; and that He’ll make you one of his beautiful children and be fruitful. And remember that this isn’t something that happens just once. Just as plants need lots of watering, God’s Word planted in us needs to be constantly refreshed too. We need to keep reading the Bible and praying and seeking God’s will and we need to keep worshipping our Lord in Spirit.
Also, as we talked about a couple of weeks ago, we need to look out for “weeds” and remove them before they do any harm. We do this by constantly examining our lives and whether what we do reflects God’s love, and by asking ourselves “would Jesus have done that?”
As I said just now, just as plants in good soil start to spread, when God’s Word takes root in us we’ll naturally want to share it with other people, who’ll then also become God’s beautiful people, sharing His Word with yet more people. Planting God’s Word in others is frustratingly difficult, isn’t it? There’s a reason for this, because as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4 verse 4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel”. What does the god of this age – the devil – use to blind people? He uses the things of this world – the weeds that we were talking about just now. The devil knows if he keeps the soil covered in weeds, God’s Word will never have a chance to take root.
So how do we clear away the weeds and prepare the soil for God’s word? We need to recognise that the devil is blinding people and that we’re in a spiritual battlefield and fight the devil’s work with the power of God’s Spirit. We do this by praying for people, both individuals and groups or even our whole country, praying that despite the devil’s best efforts they will start to see the light of the Gospel. And praying that the Spirit will soften their hardened hearts, so that the truth about Jesus, the Word of God, will be able to put down roots and grow and become strong. Then share your faith with them, planting God’s Word once the soil has been prepared. As the saying goes: “Talk to God about your neighbour before you talk to your neighbour about God”.
I’ll give you an example of how prayer can make a big difference to evangelism. A couple of years ago The Message Trust had a schools mission to Wales. There’d been a lot of organising done to get into schools and to arrange big events, there’d been a lot of prayer for the mission and the teams had prepared and practised. The first week went OK but it was a bit disappointing. But then the second week was amazing, with all sorts of wonderful stories and statistics flooding back to the office, with hundreds of young people accepting Jesus as their Saviour. It really was as if God’s Spirit was moving in a mighty way. Why the difference? The second week coincided with a week of 24x7 prayer in the office in Manchester. It could have just been a coincidence of course but we didn’t think so.
The importance of prayer in evangelism really cannot be overstated. The Spirit can go anywhere and touch any heart so send the Spirit to do the work. Prayer walking a street can be more fruitful than knocking on the doors. And this means that we can all be evangelists, even if you’re too shy to talk to people about Jesus, even if you’re housebound, you can still pray!
There’s something else important that we need to do for God’s Word to take root and flourish and grow in other people. Like plants need watering, especially when just planted, we need to spiritually nourish each other and especially new Christians. We need to encourage them and inspire them. We need to feed them with God’s Word. We need to watch over them and if necessary do some weeding, but in a very loving and non-judgemental way. And most of all we need to keep praying for them, praying for the Spirit to continue to fill them and protect them and keep them close to God’s love.
So the challenge to you today is this: has the Word of God taken root in you, making you fruitful in God’s work? If not, will you open yourself to God’s Spirit by breaking down any walls that you’ve put up? And will you pray against the devil’s schemes so that people will see the truth of the Gospel? And will you pray for their hearts to be softened so that God’s Word can be planted there?
If you accept these challenges, then please say the following prayer in your heart.
Lord, I really do want your Word to take root in me and for my faith to grow strong. I really want the fruit of your Spirit to flourish in my life and for me to become one of your beautiful children. I really do want to become fruitful in your work. So Lord, I pray that I’ll be filled with your Spirit to become like good soil for your Word to take root. Help me to break down any walls that I’ve put up and to completely open myself to your Spirit, knowing that you never withhold your Spirit from anyone who asks. Come Holy Spirit, make the Word take root in me. Come, Holy Spirit, make me more like Jesus. Come Holy Spirit, make me fruitful. Come Holy Spirit, fill me now…………
Lord, I don’t want to keep your Word to myself and I really do want to help spread your Word across my town and across the whole nation. Inspire me, Lord, to pray for others. Point me at those who you know I should be praying for, for their hearts to be softened, for them to see the true light, the truth about Jesus. Help me to prepare them for your Word to be planted and, when the time is right, put the words in my mouth as I share your Word with them. Lord, in a moment of quiet, show me who I should be praying for…………
Lord, I pray now for my local community. I pray against the devil’s schemes. I pray that people will no longer be blinded by the things of this word but will see the light. I pray that their hearts will be softened so that they become open to your Word planted in them. Lord, I know that I cannot do this, so I pray that you’ll pour out your Spirit in a mighty way upon my local area, shining your light into even the darkest places so that all will see it. Lord, pour out your Spirit so that your Word is planted into every single heart, where it will flourish. Amen.
Watch: Spirit Break Out
Watch: Build Your Kingdom Here