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Service at Home – 25th October

Service at Home on 25th October 2020

Service at Home on 25th October 2020

for Bury Circuit

Welcome and Introduction by Kathy Selby

Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home.  We begin with the Word of God through the prophet Jeremiah:

11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29: 11 – 13

We gather together in worship as a Circuit to give God thanks for the ways he has blessed and challenged us during the week of 24/7 prayer.  We aren’t celebrating something that is past, but a milestone in our continuing journey of prayer deeper and deeper into the heart of God.

I hope that your experiences this week will strengthen your desire to connect with God in prayer and be filled with His Holy Spirit.  God can work through you to bring the transforming power of His love and healing to your community.

Hymn

Come, people of the risen King,

Who delight to bring Him praise.

Come, all and tune your hearts to sing

To the morning star of grace.

From the shifting shadows of the earth

We will lift our eyes to Him,

Where steady arms of mercy reach

To gather children in.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Let every tongue rejoice!

One heart, one voice, O church of Christ, rejoice!

Come, those whose joy is morning sun,

And those weeping through the night.

Come, those who tell of battles won,

And those struggling in the fight.

For His perfect love will never change

And His mercies never cease,

But follow us through all our days

With the certain hope of peace.

Come, young and old from every land,

Men and women of the faith.

Come, those with full or empty hands,

Find the riches of His grace.

Over all the world His people sing –

Shore to shore we hear them call

The truth that cries through every age:

‘Our God is all in all!’

Keith & Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend Copyright © 2007 Thankyou Music

Opening prayer by Hazel Brookes

Thank you Lord that we can come together to worship You, rejoicing in all that You are doing amongst us, knowing in these difficult times that You are still Lord and You hold us in Your hand. Thank you for Your amazing grace, for the freedom we find in You, allowing us to draw close to You and talk to You and listen to You in prayer.

And so we pray the breakthrough prayer.

The Breakthrough prayer:

God of love, God for all,
your purposes are more beautiful than we can possibly imagine.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit.
Help us let go of all that holds us back.
Open our lives and our churches to new seasons of humility and faith, of change and growth.
Shake us up with the Good News of Jesus and show us the way.
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.

Testimony from Richard Selby

For my first hour of praying for our Circuit this week, I started by picking up the excellent devotional book by Father John Woolley, called ‘I am with you’, as I often do for my prayer time. I opened it at the next page and, guess what, it was about prayer! It warned of the obstacles that we can encounter, and that prayer is the only way to avoid or breakdown these obstacles. So then I asked God to show me the obstacles that the Circuit should be praying against. 2 Corinthians 4 verse 4 came into my mind: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel”. This reminded me that we’re fighting a spiritual battle, in which prayer is our most important weapon. Without our prayer, our neighbours will never see the light of the Gospel, and we might as well just give up.

This in turn reminded me of a picture that God gave me quite a few years ago. In the picture, there was a huge dome over the town, above which was light but beneath was darkness. I then saw arrows being fired upwards and I knew that these were prayers. Each prayer pierced the dome and let in a tiny shaft of light into the darkness to shine on the town below. But then more and more prayers were fired upwards and more and more light entered – until eventually there were so many holes that the dome became torn open and the light flooded in.

Testimony from Michelle Brocklehurst

I want to share with you a story of where we feel that God has been at work over the last couple of weeks.

As with many churches in the Bury Circuit, Both Brandlesholme and Tottington Methodist Churches have been keen supporters of the Porch Boxes charity over many years and we engage with the “Once a Week” initiative whereby we invite members of our congregation to bring one item to church for the Porch Boxes charity every week.

We've also been a collection centre for people dropping in goods throughout the week and encouraged the groups who use our buildings to do the same.

When we had to close our buildings back in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the things that we have struggled to keep going was local collections and donations for Porch Boxes.  When it became apparent that our church buildings weren't going to be open in time for harvest festival, the plight of Porch boxes became all too acute.

Discussing the issue with the congregations led one of the members at Brandlesholme to offer to receive donations for Porch Boxes on her door step and she was able to take a car full of donations as well as some monetary donations to the Porch Boxes warehouse.

In Tottington, the church members came up with the idea of doing a village collection and they joined forces with the local Tottington Centre and it was agreed that they would set up a collection point for an hour in the car park in on the Saturday of the harvest festival weekend.

Normally on the Harvest Festival Sunday Tottington Methodist would collect at church in the region of 300 items for Porch Boxes.  In the hour that the volunteers stood and waited, the community came in a steady stream, filling two cars to the brim of food and toiletries for Porch Boxes.  Over a 1000 items were donated, and one family told us that when they sell their unwanted household items on eBay they put the money aside and then go and spend it in the supermarket buying items for Porch Boxes.

It has been calculated that the donations that were given had a supermarket spend equivalent of about £1200 so with some monetary gifts that we received and the donations delivered from the collection at Brandlesholme, in order of £1600 of produce was donated.

The Churches have reflected on this, how when we partner with organisations in the community and when the church goes out into the community and works with it rather than expecting the community to come through the doors of church to us, how much more effective we can be.  We collected over three times more for Porch Boxes than we would've done had we had our normal Harvest Festival collections for them that we have had in previous years.

So we thank God that he has been working in this way in our communities and that we've been able to catch God’s vision and his initiative that he laid on our hearts.  And we thank God that we had the courage to plan and to organise what was a new venture.

And we pray that the families that receive the donations are blessed in being given what they need. Amen

Prayers of intercession by Chris Haines

Lord, we pray for a Church rooted in You, rooted in Your word, rooted in our relationship with You, a Church whose people are so full of Your Holy Spirit that we naturally radiate the powerful love of God to all those we meet.  A Church of powerful Spirit-filled prayer, enabled by Your Spirit, and guided by Your perfect will.

Empowering Lord, inspire our prayers and actions.

Lord, we pray for a Church infused by Your Holy Spirit, pointing everyone towards Jesus, empowered with the confidence to pray and to tell others about the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ, both in our words and in our actions. May our experiences of Your Holy Spirit working in our lives throughout this pandemic enable us all to testify powerfully to Your love and mercy in forgiving our sins, so that we may all be drawn to repentance and to Your forgiveness, and to pray for Your salvation to reach many in our communities.

Empowering Lord, inspire our prayers and actions.

Lord, we pray for a Church praying to discern Your mission in our communities, our churches, our relationships, our friends, our families, our schools. Grant us Your wisdom to discern how best to reach and serve others in these difficult times, especially those mourning loved ones, struggling with mental health issues, or seeking Your comfort. Creative Spirit, enable us to discern Your leading, and show us innovative ways of embodying Your presence in our communities.

Empowering Lord, inspire our prayers and actions.

Lord, we pray for a Church which welcomes, truly loves everyone, as You love everyone, whomever they are, young and less young, the self-sufficient, marginalised, dispossessed and disenfranchised, and lifts them up to You in prayer. A Church which gently guides them into Your holy presence and Your righteous ways, and disciples them in Your Kingdom. Help us to meet the needs of all those we serve, beyond the church and within.

Empowering Lord, inspire our prayers and actions.

Lord, we pray for a Church which shares in Your mission, reaching out digitally to those who have not responded to Church in our buildings, but have begun to walk with You in the digital world. A Church which also reaches out to those beyond the reach of the digital, church members and friends and neighbours, by post and telephone, and prays persistently for them all. May we all see Your purity, Your perfection, and be drawn to You, imperfect though we are.

Empowering Lord, inspire our prayers and actions.

We ask our prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Saviour.

Amen.

Bible readings:

1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 24

Luke 11: 9 – 13

Sermon by Kathy Selby

Prayer is something we can all do, whether we’re 2 or 102.

The Sacred Space website, a ministry of the Irish Jesuits, has this encouragement to pray:

At any time of the day or night we can call on Jesus.
He is always waiting, listening for our call.
What a wonderful blessing.
No phone needed, no e-mails, just a whisper.

Prayer is something we can all do and prayer is something we should all do.  Prayer was an integral and vital part of Jesus’ life on earth.  When we read the Gospels, we see how Jesus gains strength and how he arrives at decisions as a result of time spent with his Father God.  In Luke chapter 6 we can read that Jesus chooses his inner circle of 12 disciples after a night of prayer.  If Jesus needed prayer, how much more do we.

Prayer is something we can all do and we should all do all the time.

Jesus urged us to be persistent in prayer, not giving up.  In our first reading we heard St. Paul encouraging the Christians in Thessalonica to ‘pray continually’.

How can we pray continually?

Starting your day in prayer is helpful, you are putting the business or activities of the day into God’s hands, dedicating your day to God.  Then be deliberately conscious of God’s presence as you go through your day.  Where can you see God at work in the people and situations around you?  Listen for His guidance, ask for his strength and help. Pray for the people you encounter and for the events you see, hear about or read about.  At the end of each day, review what has happened in the presence of your loving Father God.  He alone has the power to heal your hurts, to forgive the things you’ve done wrong and to strengthen you with His Spirit for tomorrow.

I find that when I let my prayer time slide and shrink, things start to go wrong.  I’m far more likely to do or say the wrong thing.  When I am more in tune with God through a regular time of prayer I can carry his peace with me during the day, I am more conscious of God’s prompting and more able to respond to it.

The Sacred Space website has this helpful prayer, asking to experience the freedom of living in God’s way:

Lord, too often I think I am the one in control of my life.
Help me to see that I am powerless over so much.
I ask for the grace to be able to hand over my life to you
And experience the joy of that freedom.

Prayer is essential for us to live in the freedom that Jesus died to bring us. Prayer is powerful, transforming us, transforming our lives, transforming the situations we pray about.  But prayer needs to be persistent.  We need to pray continually, we need to keep on praying and not give up.  Why is that?  Surely God hears us the first time we ask!  God loves us and wants the best for us, He doesn’t need to be persuaded to help us.

God wants us to be persistent in prayer because persistence is good for us – it helps us to grow in our faith and in our understanding of God.  Through persistence in prayer our faith and our knowledge of God’s nature is deepened and strengthened.  Prayer is first and foremost about relationship with God, rather than getting things from God.  The more we pray, the more we intentionally spend time with God, the more our relationship with God deepens.  God longs to help us and bless us – but we need to be open to God to receive His help.  Prayer keeps us open to God.

At the beginning of our service we heard the Word of God through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’.  We need to be persistent in prayer and we need to be wholehearted in our prayer, really meaning what we say and ready to act according to God’s guidance.  I find this acronym helpful as a reminder: ‘Pray Until Something Happens.’

God doesn’t always answer our prayers when we want, or in the way we expect, but God will always answer them in the way and at the time He knows is right.  We can be confident that God will provide all we need.

Both readings express a confident certainty that God will answer our prayers.  Jesus assures his disciples that ‘everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened’.

This doesn’t mean that God will grant us anything we ask for.  We wouldn’t give a child something that would cause them, or someone else, harm.  God will give us everything we need to follow Jesus, to live in his way of love and justice and to help others to become disciples of Jesus.

Jesus reassures us that God always wants the best for us and will always give us the good things we need when we ask Him and this includes the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God himself that lives in us, inspiring, guiding and transforming us from the inside out.  In asking for the Holy Spirit we are asking God to make us more and more like Jesus, we are asking to think in God’s way, to see things as He sees them and to act under His guidance and in His power.

Wherever you see churches and other Christian organisations doing amazing things, you will discover that they have prayer at the heart of their organisation.  Prayer needs to be our first thought, not an afterthought.  It is only by asking God for his help and guidance and allowing him to work through us by His Holy Spirit that we can achieve the things that he created us to do.  John 15: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’

We’ve been unable to meet in our buildings for worship during the lockdown.  Many church activities, some of them dearly loved, have had to stop.

My greatest fear for the church is that we will slide back into our old ways rather than learning and putting into practice the new things God has been teaching us during lockdown.  What have you learned from God during this time – about what is important; about yourself and your behaviour; about your relationships with other people; about what God is calling you to do now?

This is a pivotal time for our churches.  We could be prayerful, Spirit-filled people of God, with the courage to follow where God leads us, or we could slip back into our old familiar and comfortable routine of church life and lose our way, missing the opportunities God is offering us.

Unless we make prayer a priority, things could go badly wrong.  We need to be close to God, tuned into God’s way, guided and strengthened by Him through the Holy Spirit – and that happens when we pray with all our heart and keep on praying, listening for God’s guidance and ready to act upon it.

As we start to meet in our buildings again, let us be sure to be led by God, not by what we want to do or always have done.  Buildings are given as a tool for mission.  What is God’s purpose for your church building?  Ask God to give you the courage to leave behind the church activities that were stopped by the pandemic and that are no longer part of God’s plan for your mission.  Let God lead you into His wonderful plans, be confident that He will provide all you need to fulfil them.

God’s plans, his ways, are far above, far better than anything we can devise.  We can rely on his promises and we can trust in His perfect provision.  As St. Paul assured the Christians in Thessalonika, ‘The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it’.

Prayer by Richard Selby

Dear Lord, we’re sorry if we sometimes try and do things without praying about it. And we’re sorry if we sometimes rely on our own knowledge and abilities instead of seeking your wisdom and power, and only start praying when things go wrong. So, Lord, teach us to always make prayer a priority: something we do continually and for all aspects of our life. Remind us to keep praying until something happens, remembering that only you know when the time is right.

Lord we’re sorry if we sometimes fail to truly believe that there’s power in prayer and that our prayers will make a difference. Give us a strong and enduring faith that you are the all-powerful creator for whom nothing is impossible; and that nothing is too big for us to pray for.

We thank you, Lord, that you invite us into a relationship with you through prayer. We thank you that you give us peace and freedom when we hand our concerns to you. We thank you that we feel close to you when we pray, through the presence of your Spirit. Lord, in a moment of quiet as we pray, help us to feel the presence of your Spirit now………..

Lord, we’re sorry that we sometimes give you lists of things that we want you to do for us, instead of listening to what you want us to do for you. Help us to remember that your plans for us are perfect. Teach us to listen to you and to hear your voice above the background noise of our busy lives. Help us to recognise your voice so that we can respond immediately without question. Lord, we want to hear you speak to us now. Help us to empty our minds of unhelpful thoughts and become silent within…. Speak to us now, tell us what we need to hear……..

Lord, we thank you for making your presence felt to us. We thank you for speaking to us.  Amen.

 

 

Challenge for the days ahead by David Somerville

We live in very strange and challenging times. You only need to look at how national and local political leaders are struggling to find an acceptable way forward. We can assume that that over the next few months, our nation and our community will suffer difficult economic, financial and health situations.

Nehemiah tells us that when he heard of the state of Jerusalem with its walls broken down and its gates burned, he sat down, wept, mourned, fasted and prayed.

With the effects of Covid-19 on our local communities and our nation, if ever there was a time to turn to pray, it is now.

I challenge you, the people of God, to pray for your local community, for businesses struggling to survive, for people facing unemployment, for schools seeking to remain open, for medical staff already traumatised by their first experience of the pandemic. We will struggle to get through this on our own. We need to ask for God’s help for our communities; God’s guidance and direction for our churches and to look at where God is guiding us. This is something that we can all do.

Pete Greig of the 24/7 Prayer Movement suggests three things:

Keep it simple.
Keep it real.
Keep it up.

Please be persistent in prayer for the need is great.  Thank you.

Hymn

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit!

O what needless pain we bear!

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged;

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Saviour, still our refuge,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

Thou wilt find a solace there.

Joseph M. Scriven.

 

Blessing

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.  Amen.