Service at Home on 26th July 2020
for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 26-07-2020
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
Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. This week we’re going to look at four more parables that Jesus told about the Kingdom of Heaven and see what they tell us about growing and spreading the Kingdom.
Watch: Opening prayers
Lord Jesus, we thank you that we are free to worship you. We thank you that you are here with us now, help us to be more aware of your presence and to welcome you into our hearts and our lives.
Lord, we remember the times when we’ve not behaved as your followers should. We are sorry for our cross words, our unkind thoughts and actions, our selfishness. We are sorry for those times when we’ve judged others and chosen to ignore our own faults. In a moment of quiet we remember those things that we’ve done wrong and we say sorry to God.
We thank you, Lord, that you are always ready to forgive us when we come to you. We hear the words of Jesus, ‘Your sins are forgiven’. Amen.
And now we 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
Watch: Prayers of intercession
Bring to mind your family and those you love and thank God for them.
Pray for their protection from coronavirus and from all harm, especially those who may be particularly vulnerable.
Pray for God to comfort those around the world who are grieving the loss of loved ones, and for those who may be feeling isolated or lonely by being in lockdown.
Pray for Tearfund, All We Can, Christian Aid and other aid organisations to be able to get food, financial aid and emotional support to people whose already fragile circumstances have become desperate because of the pandemic.
Pray for all NHS workers to be kept healthy and well, for availability of necessary protective equipment, and for courage to replace fear as they care for infected people. Pray for healing and comfort for those who have been traumatised by what they have experienced.
Ask God to have mercy and to protect countries where there is a lack of basic healthcare, or where there is already devastation because of conflict and natural disasters. Pray for strength, wisdom and protection for the healthcare workers in these places. Pray for aid organisations who are setting up hand-washing stations, distributing soap, providing hygiene training and raising awareness about coronavirus prevention.
Ask God to protect people living in refugee camps from coronavirus, such as the half a million Rohingya people in the world’s biggest refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Pray for God’s blessing on your church in this season, that community will be strengthened despite the inability to gather together.
Pray for wisdom for the church leadership as they prepare to reopen church buildings.
Pray for churches in your community and around the world to be the hands and feet of Jesus during this pandemic, in both prayer and action.
Watch: Mighty to Save
Readings and Sermon
Watch: Readings and Sermon
Matthew 13: 31 – 33, 44 - 46
Romans 8: 26 – 39
Last week we heard that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed and then an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. This week we heard that the Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed and yeast and treasure hidden in a field and a man who sold everything to buy a fine pearl.
In isolation, this is all very confusing, but when we look at what Jesus is showing us with these illustrations, things become much clearer. Then we get a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven and how it grows and spreads, and why searching for it must be the most important thing in our lives.
But before we start looking at the parables, let’s consider for a moment what the Kingdom of Heaven is. It’s a phrase we use a lot in Church isn’t it, the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God. But how often do we stop and think about what we mean by it? Some people think that the Kingdom of Heaven is where they’ll go when they die, and to a certain extent that’s true. But if this is what Jesus had meant, he wouldn’t have described it as being like a mustard seed or yeast, things that grow and spread.
So Jesus is describing something that exists here and now. The clue is in the name: Kingdom. A kingdom is where a king rules and is in control. Who is the king of the Kingdom of Heaven? It’s Jesus of course, as Jesus told Pilate on the day he was crucified. So the Kingdom of Heaven is where Jesus is in control. It’s not a physical thing of course as there are no physical boundaries or anything like that. And our bodies cannot live in the Kingdom of Heaven, only our spirits.
Kingdoms have their own currency, often gold and silver, that is valued by those living in the Kingdom. The currency of the Kingdom of Heaven is love, because where Jesus is in control, love is what is valued and is the most important thing.
How do we enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Simply by submitting to its King, our Lord Jesus, and giving him control of our lives. And don’t forget, putting your faith in Jesus and giving him control isn’t something you just do once, it’s something we need to do every day, in fact every time we’re confronted by a new challenge or problem or doubt. And what’s it like to live in the Kingdom of Heaven? We become rich in the currency of that Kingdom, rich in love. We’ll experience God’s overwhelming love for us in our hearts and reflect God’s love in what we do, say and think.
When we think about the Kingdom of Heaven in this way, the parables are much easier to understand.
So first, the mustard seed.
Jesus used a mustard plant as an illustration because it was common in that area at that time. Jesus was probably talking about Black Mustard, which can grow from a tiny seed into a very large plant. It’s similar to Rapeseed, which is the bright yellow plant you’ve probably seen being farmed in this country. For us in this country, an illustration that we’re more familiar with might be a huge oak tree growing from a single acorn. But whatever biological example we choose, the meaning is clear: the realm of Jesus’ control can grow rapidly, even from very small beginnings. This is obvious when we look back at the time of Jesus, because Jesus was like that mustard seed or that acorn from which his Kingdom grew. And also remember that there were only 12 disciples, from which the Kingdom of Heaven grew around the world.
Even today the Kingdom of Heaven can still grow from things that are seemingly small and insignificant. It’s easy for churches to feel disheartened and think that they’re too small to achieve anything. But if that’s how you feel, remember the mustard seed! Never think that your church is too small to be a seed from which something much bigger can grow. And even just your own prayers, actions and words can be seeds from which the Kingdom of Heaven grows. Never think that what you do can’t make a difference.
Now let’s look at the second parable, which is yeast that spreads throughout all the dough.
When I was thinking of an illustration with which we might be more familiar, I thought of Chilli powder, which reminded me of something that happened to me when I was a student. I’d just started my third year at university and had moved out of hall of residence into a house with some friends. We took it in turn to cook each evening. Being students, which didn’t buy much food in advance and instead decided what we were going to cook each evening and then went down to the corner shop a few yards away to buy it. One evening one of my friends decided to cook a chilli-con-carne. It looked and smelt lovely, but the first mouthful nearly blew our heads off as it was really, really hot, as in spicey hot. We managed to eat it, but only with the help of a lot of water to put out the fire in our mouths. The person who cooked it couldn’t understand what had gone wrong as he’d put in the same amount of Chilli powder as he usually did. But when he looked at the packet, he realised that he’d bought pure industrial-strength cayenne pepper. The corner shop was owned by Asians and we were living in an Asian area of town, so the shop sold proper spices, not the cissy stuff you got in supermarkets in those days. It shows how just a teaspoon of hot chilli powder can permeate a large pan of food and make a big difference.
Jesus is telling us that each one of us can be like that yeast (or chilli powder). Each one of us, even if we feel a bit insignificant and useless, can make a difference where we work, in our neighbourhood, in our town and even in our whole country.
An alternative illustration of the parable of the yeast is the dreadful coronavirus that is causing so much suffering and havoc around the world. The virus started in just one person and within a year has infected millions of people around the world, despite our best attempts to stop it. Scientists talk about the ‘R number’, which denotes the average number of new people infected by one person who has it. If the R number is much above 1, it’s spreading out of control, with cases increasing exponentially. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians around the world could get our R number well above 1. I’m not talking about the virus of course as that would be a very bad thing, I’m talking about the number of new disciples we could each make. If each Christian could make just 2 new disciples then the Kingdom of Heaven would spread like the coronavirus around the world, even if some country’s governments did their best to stop it. Just think about how wonderful it be for the number of Christians to increase exponentially, so let’s start thinking about how to get our Christian R number up!
Let’s now quickly look at the next two parables. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, for which people are prepared to give up everything else. And Jesus uses the illustration of a merchant who sells everything he has, to raise enough money to buy a pearl of great value. This reminds me of the entrepreneurs and inventers that appear on television on Dragon’s Den. They have an idea about how to make lots of money and are willing to give up their job, re-mortgage their house and whatever else it takes. Their business prospect becomes their one focus and their reason for living. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven should be like for us. It should be the most important thing in our lives and something that we’re willing to give up everything else for: the one thing we chase after and our reason for living.
A good indication of the importance of the Kingdom of Heaven is that Jesus included these words in the prayer that he taught us: “Your Kingdom come”. The Lord’s prayer is only short and includes only the essentials, so the importance of the Kingdom of Heaven is confirmed by its inclusion.
Why is the Kingdom of Heaven so important? Because Jesus is in control where the Kingdom of Heaven is. And when we’re living in the Kingdom of Heaven, we’re surrounded by God’s love and we know His promise of eternal life.
We’ve been talking about growing and spreading the Kingdom of Heaven, so the question is, how do we do that in practice? First, we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven ourselves by putting our faith in Jesus and giving him control of our lives. This is because we can only help to grow the Kingdom when we’re in it ourselves, we cannot do it from the outside. And second, we must share out the Kingdom’s currency, which as I said just now is love. As Jesus commands us, we must love our neighbours and each other. That love will stand out and be noticed in our selfish and materialistic society; and it will shine out in the darkness and draw people to it. And the Christian R number will go up!
We’re now going to quickly look at what that passage from Romans 8 tells us about the Kingdom of Heaven. In particular, Romans 8 verses 38 to 39 tell us that: “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. This leaves us in doubt whatsoever that the Kingdom of Heaven is very secure and that when we’re living in it nothing can harm us. When I say nothing can harm us, I do of course mean nothing can harm us spiritually. We can be harmed physically – by the things of this world – but nothing can separate us from the God’s love, which is all that really matters! Isn’t this a wonderful thing to know? When we give Jesus control of our lives, then nothing can separate us from God’s love. Always remember this whenever you’re confronted by the problems of this world. Always remember that nothing can separate you from God’s love.
The challenge to you this morning is this:
- Do you truly value the Kingdom of Heaven above all else?
- And will you put your faith in Jesus and offer him control of your life, so that you can help the Kingdom of Heaven to grow, even from small beginnings?
Dear Lord, I really do value your Kingdom above all else. I really do want to live in it forever, enjoying your loving presence. Lord, I want to live in the Kingdom of Heaven. So Lord, my King, I submit myself to you now. I give you control of my life…….
Lord, make me rich in the currency of your Kingdom. Make me rich in love. Help me to feel your love burning in my heart now………
Lord, help me to always remember that everyone is safe in your Kingdom and that nothing can separate us from your love. Whenever I’m confronted by the problems and hurt of this world, help me to always remember that you’re there for me, loving me, and keeping me close to you in your Kingdom.
Lord, I want to help make your Kingdom grow and spread. I pray that I’ll never become disheartened. Help me to always remember that with your love in me, I will make a difference. Lord, help me to make new disciples so that your Kingdom grows and spreads. In a short time of quiet, speak to me Lord and show me what I should be doing to make your Kingdom grow………. Amen.
Watch: King of Kings
Watch: Build Your Kingdom Here