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Service at Home – 2nd August

Service at Home on 2nd August 2020

for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 02-08-2020

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. This morning we’re looking at what the feeding of the 5,000 tells us about what we should be doing to support the work of Jesus.

Watch: My Jesus, My Saviour

Watch: So will I (100 billion times) by Hillsong

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Dear Lord, I worship you as the creator of the Universe and all living things. I worship you for creating this world for us, with everything that we need. I worship you for creating us as you did, able to love and experience joy and laughter.

Lord, most of all I worship you for sending us Your Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to die for us as the ultimate sacrifice. I’m overwhelmed that you love me as your own child.

Lord, I know that despite your love for me, I fail to love you and your other children as much as I should. I know that I disobey you and I do, say and think things that I shouldn’t and don’t do things that I should. Lord, help me to bring to mind my failings now………..

Lord, I’m sorry for these things. Lord, forgive me.

I thank you that through my faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ, I know that I have been forgiven and I stand righteous in your sight, which I don’t deserve. Thank you, Lord.

Lord, open my mind to your word so that I hear your voice. Open my heart to your Spirit so that your love and forgiveness becomes real to me. Fill me with your hope, love and praise. In a moment of quiet, help me to become aware of your presence through your Spirit living within me, reassuring me that I am your child who you love………

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.

Watch: Who you say I am (Child of God)

Prayers of intercession

Watch: Prayers of intercession

Ever-present God, I join my prayer with all those who pray in the name of Jesus today. We pray:

For your church that you grant us patience and wisdom as we continue the work we need to do to prepare for future gatherings together.

For those who are anxious about the future and those who see only threat in the days to come.

For those who are estranged from loved ones and feel they are unable to do anything to bring about reconciliation.

For those who have lost their jobs or are anxious that they might be made redundant.

For all those in our own community who are struggling to make ends meet.

For the work of Porch and for the work of Christians against Poverty and Church Action on Poverty.

For those we know who are unwell, unhappy or in any kind of need.

Finally, in a moment of quiet we bring before you our own problems and concerns ----

We thank you Lord that you hear our prayers and answer them in whatever way is best.  We ask all our prayers in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Watch: You Never Let Go

 

Readings and Sermon

Watch: Readings and Sermon

Readings

Matthew 14:13 - 21

Romans 9: 1 - 5

Sermon by Christine Dunn (a local preacher from Bolton Road)

This section of Matthew’s Gospel is full of parables where Jesus used examples to teach his disciples. There is also the recounting of events as Jesus moved through the period of his ministry on earth. Which are episodes that really took place, and which are merely stories, told to highlight an important point? Maybe they are all just stories with a moral to teach the disciples 2,000 years ago and us today.

This part of Scripture is known as the ‘Parables of the Kingdom’ and it’s full of some of the most well-known items, including the story of the farmer who sowed seed across his field. Some was spread on good, watered ground and grew well, some fell on stony ground and didn’t sprout at all, and some fell on thin soil that dried out very quickly.

Although this seed sprouted well, it soon withered as there was no water to keep it going, and so only the seed on good ground grew well and produced a good crop. Now, is this a recounting of farming methods many, many years ago (too early for BBC Countryfile), or does it describe how some people readily embrace the Church and Jesus’ teaching, others don’t listen and walk away, and yet more stay for a couple of weeks and then go off to do something else with their time as they don’t feel supported by the Church?

Another story tells of mustard seeds, which are so small they are hardly visible, and yet grow into substantial evergreen shrubs in the middle east reaching up to 25 ft high. That’s a lot of plant from one teeny weeny seed. Now, is this a recounting of planting a shelter belt near water for livestock, or describing that each of us – a single person – can do something remarkable for Jesus and the world if nurtured in the right way?

And today we have the recounting of the feeding of the 5,000. Note that I do not say ‘story’, because that would be to confirm, potentially, that it is nothing but a story, make believe, a piece of fiction.

Just before the recounting of the feeding of the 5,000 is the telling of Herod’s killing of John the Baptist, believed to be Jesus’ cousin, son to Elizabeth. At a feast, Herod’s niece tricked him into giving her anything she wanted – and her wish was for John’s head on a serving platter. To give Herod his due, he is reported as doing this most regretfully, even though he had John imprisoned at the time. He knew it was totally wrong, but he had a banqueting room full of guests who were hanging on his every word, and he had to look strong and determined, and a man of his word. A man to be trusted with power in his little placement of the Roman Empire.

The price of proving his worth in this instance was John’s head on the platter for the entertainment of his niece, her mother (who’s suggestion it actually was), and the people gathered at the feasting tables who were waiting to see if he would actually do it. This was the Roman Empire; no excess was too excessive, and it was an opportunity for a servant of the Empire to keep the Jews in subservience, their prophet on this occasion, dead.

John’s disciples took his body to be buried and then went to Jesus to tell him what had happened. He had been travelling about, healing and teaching as usual. He’d been in the synagogue where he’d amazed the people with his knowledge, but when they realised he was the local carpenter’s son they were suddenly disparaging; all his knowledge, compassion and skill were as nothing to them. He was just a simple man of the people, nothing special at all, certainly no great teacher.

Matthew recounts how Jesus spoke in parables to the people to help their understanding. His explanations were prefaced with ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world’. Students and those who studied the Scrolls and Holy documents would have recognised the passage from Psalm 78; an instruction to keep God’s faith and covenant and not to repeat mistakes of the past. Trust and remain loyal to the Lord. These were the words and teachings that Jesus was bringing to the people.

It had been a long day and he had brought love, compassion and healing to all he had met. And then he was told that his great friend and kinsman was dead. The man who had baptised him in the River Jordan. The man who had also seen the dove alight upon him and heard the words of the Lord God on high: ‘This is my son, with him I am well pleased’. It was a crushing blow; he was greatly saddened and he drew aside from the crowds for some time of peace and quiet with his father, totally drained by the events of the day.

He stepped into a boat on the shoreline and cast off into the water so he could be released from the crowd. Word soon spread about what had happened and the crowd continued to grow. They were all along the shoreline and beyond and still more continued to come, but Jesus seemed not to see them as he prayed to his father in the fishing boat.

As the light started to fade, the disciples waded out to him to persuade him to send the crowds away back to their villages and towns. They couldn’t stay out all night on the shore, and they must have been hungry, standing around for hours. Jesus would not send them away; he could see their need for comfort and healing. He told the disciples to give them food. Really? Where from?

Jesus took all the food the disciples had – some fish and some bread – and blessed it. Then he handed the baskets back to the disciples and told them to share it out. We all know the rest of the story. The baskets passed from hand to hand and everybody took something out and passed the basket on again. Round and round the baskets went and everybody had something to eat – and there were leftovers.

Now, this is either an embroidered story, or the people had arrived at the shoreline on that particular day in sympathy for what Jesus had suffered in the cruel loss of his kinsman. Just how many people there were we’ll never actually know, but it was a lot, and ancient historians were well known for indicating size to an extent that it would give the telling greater emphasis; a great storm, huge waves, warships the size of which had never been seen before, gold and jewels worn by a prince that dimmed the light of the sun.

I am convinced that all these people had received love, healing and comfort from Jesus during his ministry, and they had arrived to give him comfort on that day. And the size of the crowd was the number that had been healed – too many to count – a crowd stretching along the shore and beyond – such was the number that Jesus had touched.

If anybody has any doubt that the food offered up for sharing wasn’t enough, you only have to think of a Methodist tea. My last church only had a small congregation – less than 20 – in an old stone chapel in the valleys of South Wales. There were regular events that involved a tea afterwards: charitable, church anniversary, Christmas, Gymanfa Ganu (that’s a hymn singing festival) and all would attract a large gathering from other local churches and the community.

Members of the church would each bring a plate or bowl of something; sandwiches, sausage rolls, corned beef pie, salad, trifle, cakes, biscuits and squishy gateaux. And of course the great teapots that always came out of the cupboard and kept the event going. It wasn’t just the church members who provided the food, local people would provide something too.

You never knew how many people were going to arrive for the event, they just did. And there was a great spread awaiting them. There was always enough, there was enough for people to have more, to take something home for supper, or maybe for lunch at work the following day. There was always way more than enough, and it was always a memorable occasion.

This is how it was for all the people on the shore with Jesus that day. They shared their feelings, they shared their love, they gave comfort to each other, and Jesus blessed them all in the food they ate together.

So we accept there was a large gathering with Jesus that day; they all had enough to eat and they were blessed by the experience in a way that would have remained with them for ever afterwards. Those of us who are Methodists will have experienced many companionable teas where there was always enough to share and eat and give away afterwards, but what of the ‘world at large’, what sort of large scale and unexpected gatherings might they have been a part of – for whatever reason – and never forgotten afterwards?

On Sunday 31st August 1997 I was up early making bread so it would be finished and out of the oven before I went to church at 11.00am. I had the radio on and I realised the newsreader was talking about Princess Diana, and he seemed to be saying she was dead. I went in the living room and put the TV on and it was true. There was all that footage of a car crash and lots of official vehicles with flashing lights and sirens.

Her funeral was watched on TV by an estimated 43% of the world population. I remember going outside while it was on; there was no traffic, no people out walking, it was completely silent. My parents were on holiday in Greece, and my mother told me afterwards how many people said to her how sorry they were about ‘the death of your princess’. She touched so many people.

Tragedy and sadness is a frequent catalyst of great and innovative initiatives. This year lives across the world have been affected by the corona virus that has seemed to have come from nowhere and spread across the world leaving devastation in its wake.

Health and care workers have been at the forefront of treating and caring for the sick and the vulnerable, and a new category of workers, previously not viewed as being vital to our everyday life needs, are now also recognised for their true worth: supermarket and shop workers, delivery drivers, postal workers, farmers, milkmen and food producers – we need them all every day, and we didn’t appreciate them enough. And schoolteachers who have continued to work with ‘key worker’ children, and support others who have been studying at home. And there they all are – our key workers – our new category of hero.

There have also been huge numbers of people who have volunteered during this time: shopping for others, keeping in touch with a phone call,

helping in food banks, cooking in kitchens to provide meals for key workers doing long shifts, the homeless when there were no other providers for them, and an endless list of vital tasks that needed to be done, now, because there were people who were desperate for that support in this time of crisis.

Many, if not most of these initiatives have been funded by private donations, and they have been given willingly and generously. Who will ever forget Captain Tom Moore who commenced a sponsored walk around his garden at the age of 99 to raise £1,000 by his 100th birthday. The nation took this gallant war hero to their hearts and by the day of his birthday £32 million had been raised for NHS charities. That will make a lot of difference to a lot of people as this year progresses. Captain Tom might be a frail and elderly gentleman, but he’s done something truly remarkable for others.

If there is something that this pandemic has taught us, it is that we all have skills and abilities that can change the lives of others, either with a smile, a cup of tea and a slice of cake at a Methodist tea, or maybe work as part of a highly skilled medical team saving the lives of the critically ill in intensive care.

We’ve been ‘clapping for the NHS and carers’ on a Thursday evening during this spring, and I’m sure there were hundreds, if not thousands who were ‘clapping for Jesus’ on that shoreline 2,000 years ago for what he had done for them.

Life is slowly starting to resume a sense of normality for us again but many families will continue to mourn the loss of loved ones for a long time to come.  The shops are open, the pubs are open, it’s back to work for most, back to school for some, and holidays to book for the summer. But let’s not forget everything we’ve learned during these months. We can all do something for others, and when we get together as a group we can do huge things of major value. But it doesn’t have to be something huge. Don’t be put off by thinking ‘I couldn’t do something like that’. The smile, cup of tea and slice of cake is just as important to the person who receives it. It only takes a few people to ‘think outside of the box’ and the big, new programme can be developed and put into operation far more quickly than previously imagined. We’ve seen it happen time and again during the last few weeks.

So, a final look at the people on the shore that day with Jesus. He was giving everything he had to the people as he travelled about the countryside. In the synagogue, on the steps outside, in the streets, in the sun, or in the shelter of a supporter’s home or yard. He was giving healing to all, wherever he was and whoever they were. There were no qualifications for access.

As he looked out from the boat to that crowd along the shoreline, he held up a basket of bread and a basket of fish and blessed them before passing them to his disciples to distribute. We’ve all got a basket of something we could share, whether in a big basket or small one. And what’s inside? Bread and milk, and a prepared meal for the microwave? A newspaper or magazine? The smiling face as its handed over, a sign to the recipient that somebody does care after all, love, compassion, understanding, all those qualities that Jesus shows his disciples how to use.

I’m looking at all those people on the shore that day in an entirely different light. They weren’t standing about waiting for some sort of show or spectacular miracle to tell their friends about later, they weren’t waiting for some sort of handout, they were there to say ‘thank you’, show us the way forward; we’re your army of volunteers, and we’re ready to carry on your work in your way. And we’re all in that crowd too.

Our second reading for today was Romans 9:1-5. Paul’s words are all that is needed to be said, there is no need for explanation or any form or interpretation:

‘I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself was cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers. Those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons, theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.’

It’s all there, and it’s all for us.

A prayer by Christine based on one written by Susan Applegate

We pray for all those who are suffering from the virus, those still dealing with the aftereffects that can be so debilitating, those grieving for loved ones.

Lord, may they know your healing power and love.

 

We pray

  • For those who feel lost, isolated, weary, frightened and anxious
  • For those in debt or without a job, for those whose business has failed, and those concerned about returning to work as places begin to reopen
  • For our children and young people whose education has been disrupted, and the for the teachers who will have to deal with the aftermath

We also pray for all frontline staff, especially NHS workers and cleaners who have continued to work night and day, putting themselves at risk.

Compassionate God, show them your light and love, that they might get all the help, support and protection they need.

Lord, renew us afresh, give us strength and courage to face new challenges, help us to be your light in the darkness and inspire us to seek and share Christ’s love with others.

In the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Christine chose this next video, which is ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ performed by the Nelson Arion Male Voice Choir.

Watch: The Lord is my Shepherd

Watch: Gracefully Broken