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Service at Home – 16th August

Service at Home on 16th August 2020

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 16-08-2020

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.

Introduction

Watch: Introduction

Good morning and welcome to our service at home. We begin with a song which calls us to come to God, just as we are, and reminds us that now is the time to worship Him, now is the time to give our hearts to Him and now is the time to choose God’s love for us. Following this we will then sing the well-known hymn,’ Great is thy faithfulness’, which tells of God’s goodness and His faithful, loving care.

Watch: Come now is the time to worship

Watch: Great is thy faithfulness

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Watch: Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Father God, we come to you today, just as we are, warts and all. We come with our joys and sorrows, with our triumphs and our failures and with our hopes and fears. We come when we feel strong and we come when we feel weak.

We come Lord to worship you, to give our minds, hearts, will and bodies to you, in humble adoration. We praise you Father for your faithfulness that we see in the work of your hand in the world in which we live. We praise you for the vastness of the universe, with its stars and planets, some that man has named and many yet to be discovered. Lord we praise you for the oceans, the beauty and power that we discover within them; for the mighty waves and the life that is teeming within the waters, creatures and plants of all size and colour. Lord we thank you for the splendour of the mountain peaks and the gentleness of green pastures and rolling hills. Father for all the beauty and wonder of your creation, we give you thanks and praise.  Lord your creation not only gives us a glimpse into your faithfulness but also of your mighty power and sustaining love. We thank you Father most of all for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to the world, to die for us so that we may know of your love, forgiveness, and abiding peace. Father we marvel at your amazing love and your still small voice of calm that brings us hope in the toughest of times, strengthening us still for your purposes, despite the storms and uncertainties we encounter.

But God, despite your unconditional love that you pour over each one of us, we know that often we still go against your name; we do wrong and we refuse to do the good you call us to do. We hurt you and our fellow human beings in thought and word and deed. Sometimes this is through ignorance or weakness but sometimes, we are ashamed to say, it is through our own deliberate fault.  Father, we are sorry, and we turn once again to you, asking for your forgiveness. Help us Father,  to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, to follow Him more closely and by your Holy Spirit to learn to be like him, bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. Help us Lord to be a people whose lives speak of friendship, love, and forgiveness. Amen.

We say the Lord’s prayer together.

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: For this I have Jesus

Prayers of intercession

Watch: Prayers of intercession

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your gift of prayer and that we can come to you with our concerns, confident of your care and helped by the Holy Spirit. We give thanks for prayers already answered and for your peace which passes all understanding, and which guards our minds and our hearts in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

As one body in Christ we gather now and say, ‘‘let us pray’’.

Let us pray for all people everywhere, according to their need.

Let us pray for the Church of Christ throughout the world -

For its unity in Christ, for the fulfilment of its mission and for all ministers of the gospel and for all Christians, here in Bury, across our country and around the world.

Father, we ask that you strengthen your church to carry forward the work of Christ; that we and all who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory to the world.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Let us pray for the nations and peoples of the world:

For our own country and government and for all in authority. We pray for those involved locally and nationally as they lead and make decisions about how to deal with the crisis of the pandemic and the completion of Brexit.

We pray for refugees around the world, escaping war and persecution. We pray for the governments of the world to work together for a compassionate and just solution in providing safe and secure homes for all refugees.

We pray for the people of Beirut after the devastating explosion they have suffered and for the whole country of Lebanon as it comes to terms with their loss and seek to establish a stable and just government.

Father, we ask that you grant wisdom to all in authority; direct this nation and all nations in the ways of justice and peace; that people may honour one another and seek the common good.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Let us pray for those we know and love:

For the local community –

for young families who may be struggling with the effects of the Pandemic, be it feeling isolated from the support network of wider family, or financial worries due to job losses or wage cuts.

For children and teenagers who have had their education disrupted and face the uncertainty of what will happen in the future.

For the elderly and those who live with a disability, feeling more vulnerable at this difficult time, as services are reduced or cease to be provided.

Father, we ask that you give grace to us, to our families and friends, and to all our neighbours in Christ; that we may serve him in one another, and love as he loves us.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Let us pray for all who suffer - for the sick, for those who mourn and for those without faith.

Father, we ask that you comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles; and bring then the joy of your salvation.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Let us remember all who have died, giving thanks for their lives. Father we commend all men to your unfailing love, that in them your will may be done; and we rejoice at the faithful witness of your saints in every age, praying that we may share with them in your eternal kingdom.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord God, holy and faithful, you have called us to your service; help us to know and to do your will, that we may be worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Watch: Amazing Grace

Reading: Matthew 15 v 21-28

Watch: Bible reading

Sermon

Watch: Sermon

This morning’s gospel passage, at first glance, makes shocking and disturbing reading. There is an encounter between Jesus and a gentile, a Canaanite woman, which appears not to support our understanding of Jesus as a compassionate and serving Saviour. To start with, Jesus appears, at best, to be terribly slow in acknowledging the woman’s presence and at worse to be ignoring her completely. There is also the dismissive attitude of the disciples who complained that this woman was making a nuisance of herself and asked Jesus to send her away. However, the most shocking of all is the language Jesus used when He finally spoke to the woman. He told her that He had only come for the lost sheep of Israel and then to drive His point home He used derogatory language, common in his day, which expressed prejudice and racist views regarding gentiles – Jesus referred to gentiles as dogs who must not have the children’s food. Even to our modern ears, it is obvious that referring to any group of people as dogs is an insult. Behind its use is a deep-rooted belief in Jewish culture of the day that gentiles were worthless, to be shunned and not trusted.

Why did Jesus repeat such a demeaning and hurtful term? Did He really see this Canaanite woman and the gentile people in this way, as worthless and to be totally disregarded? It is certainly true that Jesus’ ministry was focused on reaching the people of Israel and this is borne out when He sent the disciples out on mission - in Matthew 10 v 5-6  we read that  Jesus sent out the 12 and told them not to go to the gentiles or Samaritans but rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Does this mean Jesus did not care about the gentiles? I don’t think so, the reason why Jesus’ focus was upon the Jewish people is because it was God’s plan for them, as His covenant and chosen people, to be a means through which the gentiles would be blessed. Jesus’ focus was to give the Jews the opportunity to be the first to repent and receive the good news of God’s love and forgiveness and then through them, the gentiles would receive this good news. This is borne out by what we know as the great commission when before His ascension, the risen Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, implying that people other than the Jews were to be reached with the Good News – Matthew 28 v 19 -20.

But why use the derogatory term of dogs for the gentiles?  It seems so unkind and even cruel. Was Jesus testing the Canaanite woman’s sincerity in her request for help, or was He teaching the disciples and onlookers about the arrogance of prejudice? It is possible that Jesus was doing both these things. Even so, is it possible to believe that Jesus would use such derogatory language even for good reason? The bible commentator, William Barclay, points out that the Greek word Jesus used for dog was not the same as the one used by Jews which referred to scavenging, vicious street dogs, but rather He used a word which was much gentler and more friendly and referred to a pet dog. In addition to this, Barclay explains that we do not know the tone in Jesus’ voice, or the expression in His eyes when He spoke to the woman. Barclay suggests that the woman would have seen in Jesus as He spoke to her, a playful smile, and a kindness in His eyes, and hence, in turn her response was light-hearted and playful.

We can never really know the reason for Jesus’ actions and words that day,  but one thing we do know is that because of it, this Canaanite woman could have easily given up in her quest for help, seemingly ignored and insulted. Yet, the conclusion of her meeting with Jesus saw her receiving His praise, and her need being met by Him. Verse 28: Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”

Hold on a minute – can this be correct? This woman, this gentile, this dog, is praised for her great faith! I wonder what the Jewish onlookers thought when they heard this and what about the disciples, the same disciples who complained about the noise she had been making and asked Jesus to send her away? It is a lesson for us all, to guard against prejudice in all its forms. It also shows us  that what God values and praises is what He sees inside a person, and He does not take notice of what people judge about a person, by what they see on the outside, their education, ethnicity, their social status, their religious observance etc. Jesus was asked by the disciples to turn this woman away, but He chose not to, seeing who she was on the inside, and instead He helped her.

So, what was it that Jesus saw in this woman that caused Him to say she had great faith? There are 5 things Jesus saw in her:

  • Followed Jesus –By this, I don’t just mean she followed Him as He moved about the region but also in the sense of our modern-day interpretation of following someone on social media, such as on face book and twitter. This woman must have heard about Jesus and taken an interest in Him, learning about His teaching, miracles and healings and she had formed an opinion about Him and concluded certain things about Him. She called Him “Lord, Son of David’’ and in doing so she revealed that she had decided Jesus was from God, the messiah and He alone had the power and authority to help her. She believed that such was the greatness of His power that even a crumb of it which He was offering to the Jews would help her and feed her need for the healing of her daughter. She had been following Him, she found out about Him and she focused on Him to help her.  Faith needs to begin with following – learning and finding out and then deciding for ourselves to make God in Christ our focus/ our centre. Furthermore, faith grows when each day we keep on following; learning and finding out and deciding today to make God in Christ Jesus our focus. It is a gift from God and cannot be earned or bought but it is given when a person reaches out, seeks/follows God in Christ Jesus with their mind, heart and will.
  • Asked for help – because of the love she had for her daughter. It was love that drove her to ask for help and this she did fervently – she cried out to Jesus and pleaded with Him. There was nothing feeble or apologetic in her asking and in fact she made a bit of a noise, so much so that the disciples complained she was being a nuisance. This woman loved her daughter too much to miss the opportunity to ask for Jesus’ help. She was not going to let the one person who had the power to help her, pass her by. Today, we do not have the benefit of being able to meet Jesus in the flesh, so to speak, and ask for His help. However, we do still have Jesus, our risen saviour and can come to Him with our needs in prayer. I am led to think about what motivates me in my prayers – do I ask for help as a matter of routine and because it is the ‘done thing’ for a Christian, or is there a sincere love driving me to call out for God’s help and healing? For my family yes, but for others, for our community, for our country and for the world? Is there sincerity in my asking?
  • Insistent in her asking – she would not be deterred by the disciples or by Jesus’ seeming indifference. It was love which drove her to ask for help so fervently and it was love which drove her to keep on asking and not to be deterred. This insistence challenges me to think about the seriousness of my prayers, and to ask how insistent am I in prayer?
  • Trusted Jesus and submitted to His authority, not arguing or disagreeing with Jesus about the importance of the Jews, but at the same time she saw in Him a goodness and love which she trusted was great enough to help her, as well as the Jews. She trusted that because of His Goodness and love, as well as His power, Jesus would grant her request.
  • Humble in her attitude - she recognised her own unworthiness and need for mercy. She cried out, ‘’Lord have mercy’’, dropped to her knees and looked up to Jesus, recognising that her hope was in Jesus alone and no other could help her. There is something very moving in the sight of this woman falling to her knees – it speaks of not only humility but an act of submission and worship. She was placing herself at His mercy, placing herself in Jesus’ loving, powerful hands. The gospel message is that we are all in need of mercy – all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3 v 23 ), and there is nothing we or anyone else can do, except by His Grace and in humble faith place ourselves in Christ Jesus’ loving and powerful hands which He extends to us from the cross and by His victorious risen presence.

May God help us to remember the story of this woman of great faith and that God does not look on the exterior and is not impressed by human standards and judgements but rather looks at what is in our thinking, our heart and our will.  Like the Canaanite woman, may we too always:

  • Follow Jesus, find out about Him – about His authority and power, and make Him the focus and centre of our lives.
  • Ask for His help, driven by love and asking fervently.
  • Insistent in our asking, never giving up
  • Trust Jesus and submit to His authority, trusting in His goodness and love, as well as His power to help.
  • Humble in our attitude and reliant on Jesus’ mercy, looking to all that He has done for us on the cross, and placing ourselves in His loving and powerful hands.

Watch: Wonderful Merciful Saviour

Closing Prayers from scripture

Watch: Closing Prayers

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

‘’To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3 v 20-21)

 

Watch: Christ our hope in life and death