Service at Home on 6th September 2020
for Christ Church Ramsbottom, Edenfield Methodist Church and Bolton Road Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 06-09-2020
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. This week we look at the parable of the shepherd who is overjoyed at finding one sheep that wandered off, and why it is our responsibility to stop people wandering away from Jesus, so that they will not perish.
Watch: Unbroken Praise
Watch: Opening prayers
Prayer written by Sydney McMichael, Administrator Ministries: Vocations and Worship:
Living God, we thank you for the gift of being able to speak directly to you through prayer. In the midst of this pandemic, when life feels more and more like an uphill battle, we pray for perseverance and that we would not grow weary of doing good. When the world tells us we are not good enough, you make us more than enough. When we don’t feel strong enough, you provide the strength we need. Though we may stumble, you have promised not to let us fall. With Jesus as our ultimate example, we ask for endurance and refreshment so that we may continue to press on and do your work. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Loving and generous God,
Hear the prayers of our hearts as we long for a better world.
Hear the prayers of our minds as we try to find new ways to worship you.
Hear the prayer of our souls as we long to draw closer to you.
On this day, we thank you once again for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. How he modelled a way for us to live, and how he showed us that there is nothing in earth or heaven that can separate us from your love.
Forgive us Lord in the times when we doubt you. Forgive us for the times we let you and others down. Forgive us when we fail to show your love in the whole of our lives. (Take a moment to ask God’s forgiveness for the things you’ve done wrong).
Loving God, we thank you that through Jesus we are forgiven and restored to new life in You. Fill us with your Spirit and send us out renewed and refreshed to work with you to grow your Kingdom. Amen.
This is the first Sunday of the new year for the Methodist Church and the beginning of a year of prayer. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us be a growing, evangelistic, inclusive, justice-seeking Church of gospel people.
We say a prayer for God to break through in the life of our churches:
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.
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: Spirit Break Out
Prayers of intercession by Mike from Bolton Road
Watch: Prayers of intercession
Dear Lord and Our Loving Heavenly Father,
As we consider our present plight during these coronavirus days. We thank you for what you have done throughout history for your people in times of oppression, frustration and grief.
You protected the children of Israel during the Egyptian plagues and the time of lockdown when the plague of death passed by their doors. In obedience to you our Lord, they complied with your laws.
You protected the children of Israel during the 70 years of captivity in Babylon, when they were forbidden to speak in their own mother tongue and had to communicate in the Babylonian language. They had hung up their musical instruments as they were not allowed to sing the songs of Zion. However during these days of long suffering and frustration dear Lord, Let us remember what is written in Psalm19 v14:
"May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight Lord my Rock and my Redeemer."
As we consider the words of the songs we used to sing in our places of worship, let us take time to meditate over them in which we praise you Lord and thank you.
As the new Methodist year and the new Education year begin, let us pray for all those organising and those planning for the reopening of the buildings and the wisdom to handle all legal compliances.
Living God many of us have fear of the future,
we pray for those who face it with uncertainty or anxiety -
those who fear it, who despair of it, or feel they have no future.
We pray for those in the troubled places of our world -
those who long for peace, and end to conflict and a time of harmony, but who in their hearts have given up hoping.
We pray for those who face trauma and upheaval in their lives -
What seemed secure swept away from them,
what they had hoped for denied them,
what they had trusted in proven false.
We pray for those who doubt their ability to cope with what life may bring -
those overwhelmed by pressures, paralysed by fears, and crushed by sorrows.
We pray for those faced with difficult decisions - circumstances beyond their control, unexpected dangers, awkward choices.
Living God, reach out to all to whom the future seems uncertain or unwelcome,
and bring the assurance that even in these darkest moments, the greatest challenges, the most worrying times, you are there working out your purpose;
able to bring light out of darkness, hope out of despair, joy out of sorrow and good out of evil.
Grant the confidence that there is nothing in heaven or earth, in life or death, in the present or the future, that is finally able to separate us from your love.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Watch: Raise A Hallelujah
Readings and Sermon
Watch: Readings and Sermon
The theme of our lectionary reading for this week is confronting people about their sin! That’s not the easiest of subjects is it? And certainly not a popular one!
But remember that Jesus only tells us what we need to know and therefore we need to listen to everything that he says and learn. So let’s look at the passages that we heard to see why we need to know this, and how it should be done.
At first sight, the passage from Matthew’s Gospel seems to consist of four separate parts, all talking about something different, but we’ll see how all four parts link together.
The first of the four parts, verses 12 to 14, explains why we must confront people about their sin. It’s the well-known parable of the lost sheep, in which Jesus uses an illustration of a shepherd leaving 99 sheep somewhere safe while he goes to look for the one that is lost. And when he finds it, Jesus said that the shepherd is “happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off”. Jesus then explains the illustration by telling us that our Father in heaven does not want anyone to perish. That word ‘perish’ is only used 8 times in the Gospels, and one of those times is in that best known of verses that summarises the whole truth about Jesus, John 3 verse 16: ‘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’. So God sent his son to die for us a sacrifice so that we will not perish, and instead have eternal life. If God was willing to sacrifice his son so that we don’t perish, this explains why He is so happy when we’re saved and have returned to his flock.
Keeping this in mind, let’s now look at the second part of the passage from Matthew, verses 15 to 17. Jesus very bluntly tells us “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault”. Basically, Jesus tells us that if we notice someone doing something wrong, we mustn’t ignore it and we need to speak to them about it. You might be thinking that pointing out someone’s sins contradicts what Jesus tells us about not judging people. But this isn’t the case, because there’s a big difference between judging someone and pointing out they’re doing something that they know themselves is wrong.
It’s not easy confronting someone about what they’re doing wrong is it? It can be very awkward and embarrassing, especially if that person is a good friend who you’ve known for years, a member of your family, or someone who’s older and more experienced than you. It’s often tempting to ignore it for an easy life or assume someone else will say something. But Jesus does clearly tell us that we must confront people when we notice them sinning. This is because we confront people for their own good, because we do not want them to perish and instead have eternal life. Remember the one sheep that became lost and needed to be saved so that it would not perish? Jesus said that it ‘wandered off’. This is what happens to people who start to sin: they ‘wander off’. They may not wander very far at first, but they get further and further away until they become lost and at risk of perishing. It’s up to their friends and family to warn them that they’re wandering away so that they can return to the safety of the flock, where they will have eternal life.
Jesus then gives us some good practical advice on how to confront people about their sin. We need to do our best to gently but firmly persuade the person to turn away from what he or she is doing wrong. We need to act, as always, with love and respect. We must avoid as much as possible making someone look bad in front of other people.
But what do we do if the person doesn’t turn away from what they’re doing wrong when we speak to them about it? Jesus tells us to “treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”. At first sight, this sounds very harsh but remember that Jesus repeatedly showed that he’d come for the pagans and the tax collectors as much as for anyone else. This means that Jesus is telling us to simply start again from scratch with that person, to persuade them to repent and to turn to Jesus again like they’ve done before.
Let’s now look at the third part of the passage from Matthew’s gospel, verse 18. Jesus tells us “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. This should seem familiar to you because a couple of weeks ago we heard that Jesus said exactly same thing to Peter in Matthew 16 verse 19, when Jesus described Peter as the rock on which the church would be built. So I’ll just remind you that it means that we’re God’s representatives here on earth, doing God’s work. In the context of confronting people about their sin, this means that we do God’s work by stopping His children from wandering off and becoming separated from Him. And if we cannot prevent them from wandering, we must go and find them and return them to the flock. But as we saw a couple of weeks ago, this tells us what an incredible responsibility we have. And we’ve also been given the responsibility to decide when one of our brothers or sisters is sinning and at risk.
We have to ask ourselves, how can we possibly live up to such a responsibility? Well, the answer to that question comes in the fourth part of that passage from Matthew’s gospel, verses 19 and 20. Jesus answers the question by telling his disciples: “Whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them”. This tells us that God helps us to make decisions about whether we need to confront people. And it tells us that God helps us to say the right things at the right time. Jesus tells us that when we meet together to do his work, the Holy Spirit will always be there in a big way to help us to make the right decisions and say the right things. Jesus promises that he won’t leave us to do it on our own, which is very reassuring isn’t it?
But how can we be certain that we’ve correctly heard God speaking to us? How can we be sure that it’s not our own thoughts that we’ve heard? Jesus tells us that we need to pray in groups of at least two so that we can compare what we’ve heard God say to us so that we can test it. Knowing that God’s Spirit will always help us to make the right decision means that we must never be scared to confront someone about their need to repent. This means that even the youngest and least experienced disciples have God’s authority to confront even the most prominent members of our church and society about their sins.
Finally, we’ll very quickly look at the passage from Romans chapter 13 to see what it tells us about what we’ve been talking about. First, Paul writes that love is the most important thing and must be central to all that we say and do. This reminds us that whenever we tell someone that they must repent their sins and turn to God, our motive must only ever be our love for that person, and all we want is for that person to not perish but have eternal life.
Paul then writes that we must do our best to “behave decently” and avoid sinning. This is clearly very relevant to what we’ve been talking about this morning. It reminds us of the parable that Jesus told about taking the plank out of our own eye before trying to remove the speck of sawdust in our brother's eye. How can we expect people to listen to us telling them to stop sinning when we’re sinning without remorse? How can we stop people from wandering away when we’ve already wandered away ourselves and lost sight of the flock?
But how do we resist the temptation to sin? Paul answers this question when he writes: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”. Which means that we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus envelops us and lives inside us. And when we ‘clothe ourselves with Jesus’, it means that our behaviour looks like that of Jesus’. And when we behave like Jesus, it becomes much easier to confront people about their sin and lead them back to the flock, because when we speak they hear the voice of Jesus.
In the passage from Romans, Paul provides examples of sins for us to avoid and to confront people about. The trouble is that this not a comprehensive list and can make us complacent and give us a false sense of security, as it’s easy to think: well I don’t know do any of those things and nor do my friends so we’re all OK! There are very many other sins, many of which are subtle and often go undetected, but which are just as damaging. Paul helpfully reminds us of the command to love our neighbour, which acts as a catch all, reminding us that anything unloving is a sin.
So what have we learnt from these two passages? We’ve learnt that God expects us to confront people about their sin, and to persuade them to return to his flock so that they will not perish but instead have eternal life. We’ve learnt that God has appointed us to be His representatives here on earth, with His authority to tell people they’re sinners and lead them back to Him. We’ve learnt that Jesus has promised that he’ll always be with us, through the Holy Spirit, to help us to make the right decisions and to say the right things. And we’ve learnt that we can’t confront other people about what they’re doing wrong when we ourselves are sinning, and that the best way for us to avoid sin is to have Jesus living inside us by being full of the Holy Spirit.
Dear Lord, we thank you that you love us so much that you constantly welcome back everyone who wanders away from your flock. We thank you that you don’t just take us back but that you’re overjoyed when we return because you do not want anyone to perish.
Lord, we know that you’ve made us your representatives here on earth. Help us to fully accept this awesome responsibility. We know that one of the things you want us to do is stop your children wandering away from your flock and to bring them back to you. We’re sorry if we sometimes fail to do this by ignoring how some of our brothers and sisters are behaving, or by assuming someone else will say something.
Lord, fill us with your Spirit so that we’ll have the courage and the words that we need to confront others about their sin in loving way, and to lead them back to you. Lord, fill us with your Spirit so that when we speak, they will hear your voice.
Help us to always remember that you have given us your authority and that you will do whatever needs to be done when we ask in your name.
Lord, we know that we can’t lead people to you when we ourselves are not behaving decently and have wandered away from your flock and are in danger of perishing. Lord, in a time of quiet, tell us in what ways we risk wandering away from you, in the silence..............
Lord, protect us from our sin. Fill us with your Spirit so that we’re able to resist temptation and always remain close to you.
Use us as your representatives here on earth to do your work and care for your flock.
Lord, bless us this coming week. Keep us close to you, filled with your love, peace and hope.
Watch: Reckless love