Service at Home on 24th May 2020
Service at Home on 24th May 2020: Ascension Sunday
for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 24-05-2020
As usual, the entire service can be followed on the 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 going to be looking at how Jesus didn’t leave us when he ascended into Heaven, because he comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit and ‘clothes us with power’.
Watch: Opening prayers
Lord of all time and space, who was and is and is to come, we worship and adore You for You alone are worthy of our praise. There is none before you, none above you. Your glory is ever before us and we are glad to take our place alongside all those who even now, on earth and in heaven, are raising their voices to exalt You, their minds to know You and their hearts to love You. May our worship be a fitting offering – a gift in return to the giver of every good and perfect gift. In Jesus’ name, we pray; Amen.
In a moment of quiet we remember the things we have done wrong. The words we wish had remained unsaid, unkind thoughts and actions. The things we haven’t done that we know we should have done. We remember these now and we say sorry to God.
We thank you Lord God that through Jesus you have forgiven us. Amen.
The 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 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: My Lighthouse
Prayers of intercession
Watch: Prayers of intercession
God our protector,
We come before you in prayer for your world, your children and ourselves.
We pray for the world that you have made. We thank you for the renewal of creation springing up as human activity has been restricted. We pray that we will learn to value these gifts and to live more gently in the future.
We pray for the leaders of nations making difficult decisions on our behalf. We pray that You will guide and inspire them to speak and act with integrity and protect those who are most vulnerable.
We pray for our church communities. We bring you our sadness at not being able to meet together and we thank you for the people finding it easier to explore faith at this time. We ask you to guide us in new ways to reach out to others with Your love.
We pray for our schools. We thank you for the dedication of the staff and we ask you to protect and guide them. We ask your blessing on the children and their families, those at home and those attending school.
We pray for the people we miss. Our friends and families and those we long to see face to face. We pray for safety and protection for our loved ones.
We pray for those who have lost someone they love. We pray that they will know the comfort of your loving presence and that you will show us how to reach out in love and friendship. We remember before you The family of Philip Nuttall.
We pray for ourselves in these difficult days shared by so many people but also lived in isolation. Help us to know your protecting love and to live in the power of your Spirit.
your Son has sent us into the world
to spread the good news of your kingdom:
inspire us with your Spirit
and fill our hearts with the fire of your love,
that all who hear your Word
may be drawn to you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Watch: Love Divine
Readings and Sermon
Watch: Readings and Sermon
- A reading of Luke 24 verse 36 to 53 by Eleanor.
- A reading of Acts 1 verses 1 to 11 by Ben.
- A sermon looking at how Jesus didn’t leave us when he ascended into Heaven, because he comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit and ‘clothes us with power’; and a prayer in response.
Many years ago, when I was in the sixth form at school, a group of us were invited to do some voluntary work. The work we were given was to chop some trees down to thin out a small wood. However, this wasn’t just any wood – this was in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty near the top end of Cheddar gorge.
Imagine the scene: about 30 long haired youths disembarking from a coach in a picturesque part of Somerset, each carrying a packed lunch in one hand and an axe in the other. We were met by a couple of wardens who took us up to the wood. They told us that the trees that had to be removed were marked with crosses. They then got back into their Land Rover and drove off, leaving us budding lumberjacks to hack away at the trees.
I should point out by the way that we’re not talking about 100 foot Oaks, or even full sized Larch. The trees were quite small – with trunks just a few inches in diameter.
We were young and enthusiastic and in a manic waving of axes and clouds of wood chips it didn’t take us very long at all to chop down all the trees with a cross on. We sat down and ate our sandwiches and wondered what to do next. Because the wardens hadn’t returned, we decided to use our initiative. The trouble is, we hadn’t really understood what the wardens were trying to achieve and we hadn’t grasped the concept of “thinning out”.
Therefore, we decided that we’d help the wardens even more by chopping down more of the trees. By the time the wardens arrived, there was hardly a tree left standing. We were very proud of ourselves, having chopped down twice as many trees as they’d asked us to, and we thought that they’d congratulate us when they saw how hard we’d worked.
But they weren’t very pleased at all! At the time we were rather surprised about this but of course looking back it’s easy to see why! And needless to say, we weren’t invited again.
But actually, it wasn’t really our fault. It was the wardens’ fault as they shouldn’t have gone off and left us by ourselves. They should have realised that teenage boys with axes were likely to make a mess of things when left unsupervised, even though we meant well.
But it’s not just teenage boys with axes that make a mess of things is it? Just look at the mess that the whole of humanity has made. We’re poisoning and destroying this beautiful planet that God created for us. People are starving to death even though there’s enough food in the world for everybody and people are dying of diseases that can be simply treated, like TB. And we have massive wars over petty little squabbles.
And closer to home, look at the mess that our own community is in: poverty even in our affluent society, homelessness, people being treated with a lack of dignity, discrimination, violence, addictions and loneliness.
And when we look at our own lives, we know that we personally make a mess of things on a regular basis don’t we? We do or say things that we shouldn’t. We don’t do things that we should. We hurt people that we love. And we often fail to be a witness to Jesus, even to the ends of our street, never mind the ends of the earth.
That’s quite a depressing list isn’t it? When we hear how Jesus ascended into heaven 2000 years ago, we could perhaps think that it’s his fault that we make a mess of things. We might think that just as the wardens went off in their Land Rover, Jesus went off up into the sky and left us to cope by ourselves.
But is this really what happened? Did Jesus really leave us by ourselves? When we study the Bible we get a much clearer idea of what’s really happened. In Luke 24 verse 49, we heard Jesus say: “I’m going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you’ve been clothed with power from on high.” And as we heard last week, in John 14, verses 16 to 18, Jesus makes it even clearer when he tells us: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”. And Mathew records that the very last thing that Jesus said to his disciples is this: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.
So did Jesus leave us by ourselves? No of course he didn’t: Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to be with us always.
But even so, we might still wonder why Jesus didn’t stay around for a while. At least just for a few years, to help establish the church and spread the gospel. Or even better, for a few millennium to keep the church united and doing what we’re supposed to. But Jesus tells us in John 16 verse 7 that he went away for our own good. Because, as Jesus goes on to tell us: “Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I’ll send him to you”. So Jesus makes it perfectly clear that his disciples benefit more from the Holy Spirit than from his own physical presence.
This must have been very difficult for the disciples to understand at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight it’s obvious isn’t it? Even when Jesus had been resurrected, he had a physical body. Luke made a point of telling us that Jesus could be touched and that he ate some fish. This means that Jesus could only be in one place at a time. Soon the disciples would be traveling far and wide, spreading the news about Jesus to the ends of the earth. Jesus in physical form would only have been able to go with one of them. But through the Holy Spirit, Jesus would be with every single one of them.
The other important thing to remember is that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus actually lives inside his disciples, and that includes us today. As Jesus tells us in John 14 verse 20: “On that day you will realise that I am in you”. Isn’t that a fantastic thing to know? That’s even better than having Jesus physically standing next to us. If you want evidence of this, think about how much the disciples changed when Jesus came to live inside them at Pentecost. As we saw before Easter, the disciples were a pretty average bunch of blokes when they were with Jesus before he was crucified. But when Jesus came to live inside them, they were completely transformed! Peter preached to the crowd and 3,000 turned to Jesus and Peter and the other disciples performed miracles. As Jesus described it: they were “clothed with power from on high”.
However, the question still remains: why do we make such a mess of things? If Jesus is with us, why do we still keep getting things wrong? The simple answer to this is that God has given us free will. God doesn’t force Himself on us and make us do things. He can be pretty insistent at times, think of poor old Jonah, but we can still always say no. But why has God given us free will if it means we make a mess of things? Wouldn’t it all be so much simpler if everybody did exactly what God wanted all the time?
Who remembers a film called the Stepford Wives? Basically, it’s about a married couple who move to a small town called Stepford where, for the men, life seems to be perfect. All the women are smiling and always do whatever their husbands want. But it turns out that the wives are being taken away and turned into robots, programmed to be obedient. It’s a rather implausible plot but the film raise a couple of interesting questions: could the husband love his wife if she was perfect but had no free will; and is the love of his wife worth anything if she has no choice?
This is why God gives us free will. God gives us free will because He loves us just as we are, with all our imperfections and disobedience. And God gives us free will because He wants us to love Him because we choose to, not because He makes us. This free will means that Jesus doesn’t force himself on us. Instead Jesus patiently waits and says to us “I’m here if you want me”. He’s saying “if you want me to comfort you and heal you, I’m here, you just need to ask”. He’s saying “if you want me to tell you what to do, I’m here’ you just need to ask”. And he’s saying “if you want me to give you power, I’m here, you just need to ask”.
This means that if you do want Jesus to be with you, and I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t, you need to say: yes Jesus, heal me and comfort me; yes Jesus, help me to stop making a mess of things; and yes Jesus, clothe me with power so that I can be a witness to you. And don’t forget, this isn’t something that we just do once. We need to turn to Jesus every single day and say “yes” to him.
What have we learnt this morning? We’ve learnt that despite physically leaving this world 2000 years ago, Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit so that he’ll always be with us so that we won’t be left like orphans. However, we’ve also learnt that Jesus doesn’t force himself upon us. Therefore, we need to choose whether we want Jesus with us or not. And if we do - we need to respond and say “yes” to Jesus.
The question I need to ask you is this: do you want Jesus to be with you? And if so, when was the last time you consciously said “yes” to Jesus?
Will you say “yes” to Jesus today, whether it’s for the first time or whether you’ve had the spirit of Jesus living in you for years? If so, I invite you to say the following prayer now.
Dear Lord Jesus, I thank you that you sent us the Holy Spirit so that you’ll always be with me.
I’m sorry for the times that I’ve made a mess of things because I haven’t listened to you and not turned to you for help.
Lord Jesus, I know that I need you with me. I want to feel your love and reassurance. I want you to guide me and “clothe me with power”. So, Lord Jesus, I say “yes” to you now. Yes Jesus, heal me and comfort me. Yes Jesus, help me to stop making a mess of things. Yes Jesus, clothe me with power so that I can be a witness to you.
I pray that your Spirit will come and live within me. Come Holy Spirit, I welcome you. Amen.
And now, in a short time of quiet, think about anything that’s troubling you at the moment or anything that you’re struggling to do…….
In the silence bring these things before Jesus and ask Him to comfort you, heal you, speak to you and give you the power that you need........
May God always bless you through His presence, keeping you close to Him, and surrounding you with His love.
Watch: Faithful One