Service at Home on 27th September 2020
Service at Home on 27th September 2020
for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 27-09-2020
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
Watch: Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. Today we look at the consequences of broken promises and the possibility of new beginnings. We hear some strong words from the prophet Ezekiel and see where we fit into Jesus’ everyday story of family life.
Watch: Gracefully Broken
Watch: Opening prayers
Lord Jesus, I love you and worship you. I worship you for the joy and peace you give me. I worship you because you died for me on a cross and showed your power over sin and death. I worship you because there is no greater thing than knowing you and the eternal life that you give each one of us. Thank you, Lord.
When I remember what you’ve done for us, I realise that I often fail to love you and I fail to love those around me as much as I should. When I remember that nothing compares to the truth about you, I realise that I still chase after the things of this world, even though they’re worthless by comparison. Lord, I bring to mind now the unloving things that I’ve done and the things of this world that I place too much importance in, and I confess them to you now in the silence….
Lord, forgive me. I thank you that through your death on a cross I know that I’ve been completely forgiven. I thank you that through your death I‘ve been saved from my sin and have eternal life.
Lord, as I worship you today, I know that you are with me. I thank you that through the Holy Spirit, I can feel your presence and feel your love in my heart. I thank you that I can hear you speak to me and guide me and teach me. In a moment of quiet, Lord, help me to feel your presence now……..
Thank you, Lord, that we can know you, as there is no better thing. 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.
Prayers of intercession by Pete from Bolton Road
Watch: Prayers of intercession
Dear Loving Heavenly Father, God of love, mercy and grace,
We come before you, the creator of a perfect world, with the assurance that you answer prayer, in your way and in your time.
There are so many huge problems in the world, Lord, problems well beyond our control, and so we turn to you, Father, to intervene.
We pray about the pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on the world. We pray for all those who have lost loved ones, that you would move alongside them in their grief. And we bring before you those who have lost their jobs as a result of the slowdown in the economy. We pray for those who cannot meet up with their families because of restrictions to our daily lives. And we pray for the government, that you would grant them wisdom to make the right decisions going forward, to prevent further spread of the virus, and to promote economic growth. Ultimately, Lord, there is nothing you cannot do, and we beseech you to stop the virus in its tracks.
We pray for our own church family, that we might soon be able to gather to worship you, and we know, Lord, that we need to encourage one another in our faith during this down time.
We think about Mary Harris, a local nurse, who is suffering from cancer, that she would get the treatment she needs. And we pray for all young people settling back into school, and for those starting at university and feeling fearful of the new situation. And we pray for all those people in the US who have lost their homes in the devastating forest fires. Send them the practical help and comfort they need to cope with the situation.
And we ask you Lord, to bring love and support and practical help to all those living in fear, anxiety or depression; for those waiting for medical treatment, for those feeling lonely and isolated, for those with addictions. And we ask that you would draw upon all the gifts you have blessed us with, and use us to help those in need right where we are.
Lord God, there are so many problems and people suffering throughout your world. These are just a few examples, but we ask you to meet all people at their point of need. Most of all, Father, we need your Holy Spirit to fall afresh upon each one of us, to anoint us with your power and authority, and to energise and move us to do your bidding.
We ask all this in the precious name of Jesus Christ.
Watch: You Restore my Soul (live)
Readings and Sermon
Watch: Readings and Sermon
Ezekiel 18: 1 – 4; 25 – 32
Matthew 21: 23 – 32
The chief priests and the elders of the people were the religious leaders of the time and they were appalled. A young rabbi with a dangerously large following among the people had come to Jerusalem in the run up to the Passover Festival – a time when emotions always ran high and unrest could so easily break out, unrest which would be brutally squashed by the Roman authorities. Not only did this rabbi’s radical teaching threaten the status quo, but he dared to throw out the traders and money changers from the Temple, declaring, ‘‘It is written, ‘“My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it “a den of robbers.”’ No wonder that the religious leaders ask Jesus the next day, ‘‘By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?’
Jesus counters their question with a question of his own, promising to answer their question if they will answer his. He asks them, ‘John’s baptism – where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?’
They had intended to put pressure on Jesus, but now the pressure is on them. They didn’t believe John’s message of the need for repentance – turning from doing wrong and turning back to God – and for baptism as a sign of that changed life. They went to hear John and saw the crowds of people responding to his message, but they didn’t feel that John’s preaching applied to them. They felt that they were already good, godly people and didn’t need to turn from their ways and be baptised. However, if they reply to Jesus that John’s message was not from God, but of human origin, the crowd will be angry with them because many people had believed John’s message and turned to God.
They lamely say, ‘We don’t know’. Jesus responds, ‘‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’
The religious leaders won’t admit that John derived his authority from God and was sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah, so they are hardly likely to accept that Jesus is the Messiah himself, the One for whom they and all their nation have been waiting.
Tom Wright comments, ‘If the Jewish leaders truly understood what John had been doing, they would know where Jesus got the right to behave as Messiah in the Temple courts.’
Jesus then tells a story which illustrates the different responses of people to God. It’s set in everyday life, like so many of his stories. There’s a dad and his two sons. Dad wants his sons to help out at home – to go and put in some work in the vineyard – I suppose a present-day equivalent would be asking his sons to mow the lawn, do some weeding or wash the car. The first son refuses to help, but then he changes his mind and goes out to the vineyard. The second son says he will help, but then he doesn’t.
Jesus asks the religious leaders who have been questioning him “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they reply. Jesus then points out that the very people the religious leaders despised as sinners are like the first son, the one who at first refused, but then did what his father wanted. Tax collectors in those days were collecting tax for the occupying Roman forces, effectively collaborating with the enemy – and were known to add a bit on to the tax bill for themselves. They were unpopular with just about everyone and had a reputation for cheating people. Tax collectors and prostitutes and a whole host of other people the chief priests and elders would have regarded as sinners had flocked to John the Baptist. They knew they had disobeyed God, they were sorry for their mistake and decided to do what God wanted after all. They responded to John’s message and later to the teaching of Jesus himself and started to live their lives the way God wanted them to. One of the 12 disciples, Matthew, was a tax collector who responded to the call of Jesus.
But those questioning Jesus, the religious leaders of the day, are like the second son, they say they are obeying God, but in fact they are not doing what he wants them to do – they are ignoring God’s message brought to them by John the Baptist and now fulfilled in Jesus. As Tom Wright puts it, ‘They look as though they’re doing God’s will, worshipping in the Temple and keeping up appearances; but they refused to believe in John’s message, not only about repentance but also about the Messiah who was standing unknown in their midst.’
Lip service and religious ritual aren’t enough, active obedience to God is what is needed and is what God is looking for. The Asbury Bible Commentary puts it succinctly, ‘This parable teaches that God demands actual obedience’.
Matthew is writing his Gospel for the people of his church. Why did he include this story of Jesus for them? They had all responded to Jesus’ message, they would have been baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Matthew is warning the members of his church that it’s not enough just to say you believe in Jesus, you need to put your belief into action. If you have faith in Jesus, that faith will show itself in the way you live your life. To believe in Jesus means putting God first in your life and continuing to do what God wants you to do.
Matthew is challenging his church to make sure that they are really living their lives in obedience to Jesus as they have committed themselves to do. This challenge is for us too. Frank Doyle writes, ‘we can never be complacent about our relationship with God. It is possible for any of us at any time to find ourselves falling away from our commitment to Jesus and to his Gospel.’ Tom Wright speaks of the need to, ‘make sure we are responding to Jesus. allowing Him to confront us at any point where we have been like the second son and said ‘yes’ to God while in fact going off in the other direction.’
This is important. Jesus warns us many times of the dangers of being ‘caught on the hop’, of being found not doing our master’s bidding, of not remaining connected to Him, the living vine.
In our first reading we heard God speaking His Word through the prophet Ezekiel. Verses 26 – 28 ‘If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. 27 But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they consider all the offences they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die’. This is just what is happening in the situation described by Matthew – the tax collectors and prostitutes weren’t living in God’s way, but they have turned from their wrongdoing and will enter into the eternal life Jesus is offering. The religious leaders have been living in accordance with God’s laws, but now they are turning away from God who is standing before them in the person of Jesus. They are too proud to recognise the truth of his message and they are in grave danger of condemning themselves to death.
God makes it clear through Ezekiel that it is never his desire that people should die because of their own wrongdoing, he wants us all to have eternal life with Him. Verses 31 and 32, ‘Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
In the Gospel of John we can read the familiar words from chapter 3, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’ Believing in Jesus means more than just saying we do, it means trusting Him and putting his teaching into action in our lives and continuing to do so.
If we have strayed away from following Jesus, either deliberately or through becoming complacent and not noticing where Jesus is at work, we are always able to turn back to Him. Frank Doyle again, ‘no matter how far we have strayed from God, no matter how depraved we have become, it is never too late to turn back and we can be absolutely sure that a warm, no-questions-asked welcome is waiting for us’.
We need to keep checking that we are following Jesus closely, to make sure that we are responding to his guidance through the Holy Spirit and not just saying yes while in fact doing our own thing. If we find we’ve gone our own way, we need to turn back to God and receive his forgiveness and a fresh start with his help.
Let’s make sure that we stay alert, follow Jesus’ closely, open to his guidance through the Holy Spirit at all times. Our ‘yes’ to Jesus must be reflected in the whole of our lives.
Father God, I thank you that you want everyone to come to you, to live in your way of love and justice and to spend eternity in your Kingdom.
I thank you that whatever I do wrong, when I turn back to you, truly sorry, you forgive me fully and help me to make a fresh start.
Take a few moments to think about whether you have anything in common with that first son, the one who said no, but then decided to do what his father wanted him to do. If you’ve not been living in God’s way, but are truly sorry and would like to turn back to Him now, tell God you are sorry and receive His forgiveness.
Father God I thank you that every time I turn back to you, you forgive me and give me a fresh start with your own Holy Spirit to help me.
Are you in danger of behaving like the second son – having initially said yes to living in God’s way but not following that up with actually doing it?
Take a few moments to think about that and, if necessary, to ask God’s forgiveness and his help to start afresh.
Father God, help me to follow Jesus’ closely, open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit at all times. Lord, may my ‘yes’ to Jesus be reflected in the whole of my life, now and every day. Amen.
May the God of peace provide us with every good thing we need in order to do his will, and may he, through Jesus Christ, do in us what pleases him. And to Christ be the glory for ever and ever! Amen.
Watch: Potter's Hand