Service at Home on 18th October 2020
for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 18-10-2020
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 message from Porch Boxes
Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. This week we look at when the Pharisees try and trap Jesus with the question about whether to pay tax to the Romans. We’ll see what it tells us about how important it is to avoid worshipping the things of this world and instead worship only our one true living God, and offer up our lives to Him.
But first we’ll watch a video of Julia from Porch Boxes telling us how the donations of food that we made this Harvest will be used.
Watch: Blessed be Your Name
Watch: You Never Let Go
Watch: Opening prayers
You know each of us by name
and day by day we discover your favour afresh.
Your love is new every morning.
Your Presence remains with us,
whether we are called to travel or need to stay put.
You are our rest-giver and the source of our peace.
We marvel that you choose to be gracious to us.
We are touched and humbled by the mercy You extend.
We ask You to stir our hearts and teach us Your ways so that we who belong to You may know more of You.
Show us Your glory.
Open our eyes to it, stretching in beauty over the face of the earth,
shining in the face of Christ Jesus and smiling in the faces of every life lighted by Your Spirit,
so that we and all Your people may give You glory and worship You in Spirit and in Truth. Amen
(prayer by Miriam Stevenson inspired by Exodus 33 vv. 12-23)
Prayer of Repentance: Hold your hands in a fist.
Take a moment to think about the things you have done wrong and to say sorry to God.
Now think about any guilt or shame you still feel from things that have happened in the past.
Jesus died so that you could be forgiven for the things that you have done wrong and set free from guilt and shame.
Turn your hands so that your palms are facing down and open your hands. Know that you are forgiven, feel any guilt and shame emptying away.
Now turn your hands so that your palms are facing upwards, your hands are open, ready to receive a gift.
Receive God’s love, flowing into your heart, your mind, your whole life.
Thank you, Father God, for the forgiveness and love that you have given us through Jesus. 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.
Watch: No longer slaves to fear
Prayers of intercession, Gospel reading and narrative
Prayers of intercession by Margaret Goodman
Lord, we bring to you our concern about the world:
Our concern for the oppressed, the powerless and exploited;
Our concern about injustice and about war;
And we offer you our votes and our voices,
Our pens and our prayers.
We pray on this Anti-Slavery Day for the millions of people worldwide who have been forced into slavery, suffering physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Nothing is hidden from You and we entreat You to bring justice to both the victims and perpetrators of this evil trade……….
Lord we bring to you our concern about the world:
Our concern for the needy, the hungry and the homeless;
Our concern about disease and want and we offer you our money and our time;
Our standards of living, our prayers.
We pray for the work of Open Doors as Covid 19 continues to spread across Africa, many already vulnerable Christians face hunger as well as ongoing persecution. Pray for wisdom and protection for Open Doors partners distributing relief across the region.
Lord, we bring to you our concern about society:
Our concern for the disadvantaged and those discriminated against;
Our concern for the young, our concern for the elderly;
And we offer you our help and our family life, our friendship and our work, our prayers.
We pray for our neighbours in the Liverpool District as they are in tier three of the lockdown, that the church will reach out to all in need in this community as they face, grief, fear, hardship, suffering and isolation. May they and You bring comfort, hope, justice, wholeness and community.
Lord, we bring to you our concern about people whom we know and love:
Concern for those ill in body or mind;
Concern for the bereaved or sorrowful;
Concern for the anxious or depressed;
And we offer you our listening and our doing,
Our words and our touch, our prayers.
We praise you for the lives of Lin and Max well lived for you. We pray for their families as they mourn their love ones. Give them comfort and reassurance at this time of your great love for them…..
Lord in Jesus Christ we see your concern for the world:
And for each of us as we learn the truth that your name is love.
We offer you our adoration and thanks, our love and our lives, and our prayers that you will use us and perfect us.
We offer you our prayers and our lives, in the name of Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us. Amen.
Narrative: How did he get out of that?
How did he get out of that? We’d set what we thought was a perfect trap - and he made us look like fools.
Jesus of Nazareth was causing us a lot of problems. He was undermining our authority and people were listening to him instead of listening to us. We had to get rid of him. We had to silence him before he caused any more trouble.
The question was how? We knew we couldn’t take him by force because the people would turn against us. We knew we’d have to be smarter than that. So a few of us got together to work out what to do. We decided the best way was to force Jesus to say something that would make him unpopular with the people. They’d stop listening to him and start listening to us again. We were certain that we could outwit a single man, an uneducated Galilean at that.
It wasn’t difficult to think of the subject that would stir people up – the Roman taxes. We really hate paying those taxes as it’s nothing but daylight robbery. And it’s humiliating that we can’t do anything about it. A few tried a couple of years ago but they just got themselves crucified.
If we could just make Jesus say in front of the crowd that they should pay those taxes, we’d be rid of him. But how could we make him say it? The answer was staring us in the face but no one wanted to say it. Eventually someone was brave enough and said we needed to involve the Herodians because if Jesus saw Herodians in the crowd, he’d know he couldn’t tell people not to pay taxes. Because if he did, the Herodians would inform the Roman authorities and Jesus would be arrested and he’d never be seen again. So either way – we’d win.
We really despise the Herodians. They’re cowardly traitors, constantly sucking up to the Romans. But as much as we hated to admit it, we needed their help. So a few of us met up with some Herodians, trying our best to be polite to them, and went down to where Jesus was teaching. All we had to do now was to set the trap. We agreed that it would me who asked the question.
There was Jesus, surrounded by a crowd of people listening to him intently. I had to admit he was good, very good. He spoke with wisdom and authority. I can see why he attracts such big crowds.
But as good as he was, I thought, he won’t be able to avoid the trap. Not even Solomon would have the wisdom to answer my question without incriminating himself in some way. So at the first opportunity, I asked the question. I started with a bit of flattery to put him off his guard – and then went in with what I thought was the killer blow and asked him whether it’s right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
There was a gasp from the crowd and then silence as everyone looked at Jesus, waiting to hear what he said. Jesus looked at me. He knew exactly what I was trying to do. He called me a hypocrite and asked why I was trying to trap him. I confess that being called a hypocrite stung because I’d collaborated with the Herodians.
Jesus then asked me to show him a Roman coin. I couldn’t see the point – everybody knew what it looked like – but I went along with him. He asked who’s face was on the coin. Well Caesar’s, obviously, but what difference did it make? I waited to hear what he said. Which way was he going to go? Pay taxes or not? You could feel the tension in the air.
But his answer left me speechless. He just said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s”. So simple but at the same time so true. No one could argue with what he’d said. Not the crowd, not the Herodians and not the Pharisees. How can anyone be so wise?
Epistle reading and sermon
Watch: Epistle reading and sermon
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Do you play chess? If you do, I expect you know that excited feeling you get when you know that whatever move your opponent makes, you’re going to take their King and win the game. It’s called checkmate.
Well that’s how the Pharisees must have felt when they asked Jesus that question about paying taxes. They must have thought that whatever Jesus said, the game would be over for him. It was certainly a very cunning trap that they’d come up with. And it would probably have worked if it hadn’t been for just one little detail: that although Jesus was a man, he is also God. This meant that Jesus, with God’s wisdom, came up with an answer that skilfully avoided the trap that had been set. Checkmate? No chance! Don’t play games with God and expect to win!
So let’s look at what we can learn from this passage. The first thing it tells us is that when we stand up and speak out in the name of Jesus, we can be certain that there’ll be people who’ll try and trap us into saying something that makes us sound foolish or discredits us in some way. But when we’re in such situations we mustn’t worry. We just need to remember that when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, we have God living in us. And this means that God’s discernment and wisdom is available to us just as it was to Jesus. With the Holy Spirit living in us, we can be confident that we’ll come up with a response that squashes the opposition of this world, just like Jesus did. But we must remember that we need to ask for God’s help and not rely on our own abilities. We need to listen to God and not to our own ideas.
This passage also helps us to recognise the voice of Jesus. The amazing thing about what Jesus said about paying taxes was that it was very simple, but at the same time incredibly profound and impossible to argue with. This is so typical of what we hear Jesus saying throughout the Gospels. It’s also typical of what Jesus says to us today through the Holy Spirit. When Jesus speaks to me, he invariably says something that’s simple but makes so much sense and is so obviously correct. I’m sure that you find the same thing. So when we pray and hear something simple but profound like this, we can recognise it as Jesus speaking to us. And the more often we hear Jesus speaking to us, the easier it becomes to recognise his voice. And then we can just do whatever he tells us, without questioning it, and life becomes much simpler.
Let’s now look at what Jesus actually said to the Pharisees, because this tells us something very important about how we should view the things of this world and about our relationship with God. One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the Roman coin that the Pharisee showed Jesus wouldn’t have just had the portrait of Emperor Tiberius on it. The coin would also have been inscribed with the words: “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus”. This claim to divinity would have made the Jews feel extremely uncomfortable, because using the coins would have been paramount to idolatry, which is of course forbidden by the second commandment. But they had to use these coins as it was the currency in which they had to pay their taxes.
Now you might think that the money we use is OK because our money has the image of our Queen on, and the Queen is a committed Christian who most certainly doesn’t claim to be a god. But while it’s true that simply using our money is fine, there can still be very much of a problem with money. This problem is that we can find ourselves worshipping money. And it’s not just money of course. It can be your possessions, your house, your career, nice food, your hobby, sport, the football club you support or whatever. If any one of these things becomes more important to you than God, then you are in effect worshipping it as your idol. And it’s just as bad as worshipping a golden statue or an emperor who claims to be a god.
When I read the Old Testament, through from Exodus to Chronicles, it’s very clear that whenever the Israelites obeyed God and worshipped him, things went very well for them. Just think of Gideon’s victory over the Midianites against all odds, or in 2 Kings 7 when the Arameans fled in the night, leaving all their horses and gold, when God made them hear an army attacking them. But when they disobeyed God and started worshipping idols and false Gods, things went very badly. God even sent several prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, to explain this, even though it should have been blindingly obvious. But the Israelites kept reverting back to worshipping idols and ended up suffering a great deal.
When I read the Old Testament I think – how could they have been so stupid?! But then I think about our own society today. We may not worship carved wooden statues or put up Asherah poles in our gardens, but we seem to find it difficult to stop worshipping the idols of wealth, self-importance and pleasure. And this creates problems and leads to our decline and suffering. The things of this world may make us feel good in the short term, but they cause us to worry and become resentful and jealous. The things of this world become an addiction as we strive for more and more but are never satisfied, and we fall into the hands of our enemies. When the Israelites failed to worship God, they ended up as slaves and exiled from their promised land. When we fail to worship God, we end up enslaved to the worries of this world and exiled from the Kingdom of God. So instead, turn to God: obey God’s commands and worship Him alone. When we worship and obey God we find fulfilment, peace and joy. And God will always be there for us, defeating the enemies that stand against us. That’s the decision each one of us must make every day: worship God or worship the things of this world. Make sure you make the right decision. Don’t make the same mistake that the Israelites so often made.
Jesus told the Pharisees “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. Jesus is telling us that we must give to God what is His. God gives us our lives and all that we are. So this means that we must offer our lives and all that we are to God. We must give God our time, our thoughts, our aspirations. We must make our abilities and gifts freely available to Him to do with them what He wishes. But why should we be prepared to abandon the things of this world that we’re very fond of? And why should we offer our lives to God? The answer comes just five chapters later in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus willingly went to the cross and died in agony as a sacrifice for each one of us. God sent His son to the world to do this because he loves us and forgives us; and wants us to have an eternal life with him. How can we re-pay such love and such sacrifice with anything less than our total worship and everything that we have and are?
Finally, let’s look at what the passage from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians adds to what we’ve been talking about. In verse 9, Paul writes: “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”. This is a great example of people doing what Jesus tells us to do in the passage from Matthew’s gospel. The Thessalonians turned away from their idols, in this case no doubt actual false gods, but it could equally have been their money, possessions, pride, etc. And they started serving God. Or in other words they offered all that they were to God, as Jesus said.
Paul very helpfully describes the three steps that the Thessalonians took to turn from worshipping idols to worshipping and serving God. Verse 5 tells us that they heard the word of God through the Gospel message. That’s the first step: learning that God loves them and sent His son to die for them as a sacrifice, so that they can be forgiven. Verse 5 continues to describe how they were then convinced that this is true through the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the second step: being filled with God’s Spirit so that God’s love and forgiveness becomes real for them and they feel it in their heart. This can happen at the same time as the first step, but sometimes, including for me, it happens years after. And verse 10 describes how they trusted that Jesus would save them. That’s the third step: putting their faith in Jesus for their salvation. And verse 6 describes what happened when they turned away from their idols and turned to God. It tells us that, even in the midst of suffering, they experienced the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
These three steps and the end result are exactly the same for people today as they were for the Thessalonians back then. Will you take people through these three steps to turn to God and start worshipping and serving him? Will you tell them the Gospel message, the truth about Jesus? Will you pray for them to be filled by God’s Spirit to make it real for them? Will you help them to put their faith in Jesus for their salvation, and to worship him and offer up their lives to him? Will you do that for your friends and family, so that they will be saved by Jesus and experience joy?
Or it might be that you first need to take those three steps yourself? Perhaps you’ve taken the first step but haven’t yet let God’s Spirit convince you of the truth about God’s love for you?
Dear Lord, I’m sorry that sometimes I’m tempted to worship the things of this world: my money, my possessions, my interests and the things that make me feel important. Lord, in a moment of quiet, bring to my mind anything that’s becoming more important to me than you are. Bring to my mind now anything that I’m in danger of worshipping........
Lord, help me to resist the temptation to worship these things, by realising that they have no importance in your Kingdom. Help me to turn away from these idols and only ever worship you alone, the one true living God – our God who saves us.
Lord, I thank you so very much that you sent your son, Jesus Christ, to this world as a living sacrifice, so that I can experience your love and forgiveness and have an eternal life with You.
Lord, send your Spirit upon me now to convince me that this is true and to make it real for us. Send your Spirit so that I feel your love and forgiveness in my heart. Come Holy Spirit, fill me now, I welcome you………
Lord, I put my faith in your son, Jesus Christ, for my salvation. I offer my life up to you now in response to your love and forgiveness……..
Watch: I will offer up my life