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Service at Home – 8th November

Service at Home on 8th November 2020: Remembrance Sunday

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 08-11-2020

As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you want to use these sheets if you prefer to read the words.

Welcome and Introduction

Watch: Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. This Remembrance Sunday, we look at why we need to be willing to make sacrifices and strive for peace. We’ll also look at where God is in war and times of suffering.

Watch: Bless the Lord, O my soul (10,000 reasons)

Watch: Lord, for the years

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Lord God, you are all-powerful, no work is too hard for you.  I know that you are here with me now.  I come to praise you, to worship you. Lord, you know my deepest needs, grant me the faith to ask you for and to accept the things that I need.

Lord, you are holy, you are perfect love.  In a moment of quiet I remember before you the things I’ve done wrong and I ask your forgiveness, knowing that you are waiting with open arms to forgive me……..

God is love and forgives our sins through Jesus.

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: I will offer up my life

Prayers of intercession and Remembrance

Watch: Prayers of intercession and Remembrance

Prayers of intercession

Almighty God, we pray for all those who have died as a result of war, each one remembered by and known to you. We pray too for all those who are left behind with their memories.

God of all, hold them in your love and give them your comfort and peace.

We pray for all victims of war.

We pray for those countries suffering in war today, remembering particularly the people of Yemen and Syria.

We pray for the millions of Syrians who have had to flee their homes and seek refuge in other countries.  We ask you to heal and comfort those who have been traumatised by what they have seen and experienced.  We pray that you will protect those living in refugee camps from Covid 19 which can so easily spread in crowded conditions.

We pray that the people of Yemen will receive the aid and medical care that they need.

We pray for peace in Syria and Yemen so that people can return to their homes and live in peace and safety.

We pray for the victims of terrorism. We ask your comfort and healing for all those injured or bereaved by the terrorist attacks in France and Vienna.

We pray for all those who work for peace and reconciliation.  We pray against hatred and division.  Lord, make us instruments of peace and understanding and give us the courage to speak up and take action when others are vilified or disregarded.

And Lord we also pray for those who follow the path of violent extremism.  Turn their eyes and hearts to you, Lord, we pray and bring them to walk in Jesus’ way of love.

We pray for all refugees, that they will be welcomed in their new homes

and receive the help and support they need.  Help us to be a hospitable and compassionate nation where those who come to us in such desperate need are welcomed and provided for.

We thank you for the work of the Boaz Trust.  We ask you to enable them to continue their vital work of supporting destitute refugees and asylum seekers during the pandemic.

On this Remembrance Sunday we pray for the future of our world and we remember that you have called us all to work together for your kingdom of love and peace.  We pray that you will equip us for the task and we look forward to that time when your love will triumph finally over hatred and greed and death.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Act of Remembrance

Let us remember before God, and commend to his sure keeping:

those who have died for their country in war;

those whom we knew, and whose memory we treasure;

and all who have lived and died in the service of humankind.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.  We will remember them.

The Last Post, silence and Reveille

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted, either by death or life: Hear our prayers and thanksgivings for all those we remember this day and bring us all, with them, to your eternal joy; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Watch: O God our help in ages past

Bible readings and sermon

Watch:  Bible readings and sermon

Bible readings

John 15:9-17

Romans 8:31-39

Sermon

I think that for Christians, Remembrance Sunday can cause a conflict of emotions, with different points of view colliding and causing confusion.

On the one hand we very rightly remember the service men and women who sacrificed their lives fighting for the good of our nation and the world. And of course, we don’t just remember the sacrifice of those that died, we also remember those who suffered dreadful life changing injuries. And those with emotional and mental injuries, such as PTSD, who may now struggle to live a normal life and can end up alone and homeless. As we remember the sacrifices that our service men and women have made, it reminds us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and the sacrifices that Christians throughout the generations have made because of their faith.

On Remembrance Sunday, we also remember that Jesus tells us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. So in that case should we be fighting wars at all? Quite a few Christians believe that we shouldn’t. During times of conscription, there were those who refused to fight because of their faith. And we must respect those who became stretcher bearers, as they were amongst the bravest people on the front line, retrieving fallen colleagues under enemy fire. They certainly didn’t refuse to fight because they were cowards.

But when we consider whether we should fight wars, we must remember that many service personnel are Christians with a very strong faith, who clearly don’t believe it’s wrong to fight. And perhaps sometimes we fight wars because we love our neighbours. Surely it’s right to fight to protect other people from oppression and danger. For example, surely it wouldn’t have been right for our country to stand back and watch the Nazi regime take over Europe? Nonetheless, Remembrance Day serves to remind us of the horror and suffering of war, and why every effort should be made to avoid it and to strive for peace. We must never glorify war, or indeed any form of conflict.

The other thing that can be confusing about Remembrance Day, as a Christian, is wondering why God allowed all those young men and women to die and be injured. Why didn’t our all-powerful, compassionate God intervene and protect them? Especially when there were, no doubt, people praying for many of them back home. And this leads us to wonder where God is during a war? Or in any suffering for that matter.

So let’s now look at those Bible passages from John 15 and Romans 8 to see what they tell us about sacrifice, peace and suffering.

First of all, what does the passage from John 15 tell us about making sacrifices. In verse 13, from the New Living Translation, Jesus tells us: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus is actually telling us two things here.

First, Jesus is telling us what he did for everyone in the world, when he willingly went to the cross to die slowly in agony. He laid down his life – he sacrificed himself - so that everyone in the world, throughout all generations, can have an eternal life. Jesus died so that you and I could live. And Jesus makes it clear in verse 13 that he made this enormous sacrifice because he loves us. It always comes back to love, doesn’t it? It reminds us once again that love is at the centre of the Christian faith. This is why, as we heard in verse 9, Jesus commands us to “remain in his love”.

Second, Jesus is also telling us that as Christians we must love others and therefore be prepared to make sacrifices for them. Today we’re remembering the members of the armed services who made sacrifices for others. But we can all be called to make sacrifices – even to potentially sacrifice our health and lives. At the moment there are many medical staff, teachers and others risking COVID-19 so that they can care for others and help them to recover. And even more brave were those who volunteered to travel to Africa to fight Ebola a few years ago, where even the smallest of faults in their PPE would mean almost certain death. And there were people like Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, who risked his life by helping to care for people during Cholera epidemics in London with no PPE at all. Here’s a well-known quote from one of Spurgeon’s sermons at that time:

“Who is the man that does not fear to die? I will tell you. The man that is a believer. Fear to die? Thank God, I do not. The cholera may come again next summer – I pray God it may not; but if it does, it matters not to me: I will toil and visit the sick by night and by day, until I drop; and if it takes me, sudden death is sudden glory”.  C. H. Spurgeon 18th Feb 1855

It’s not just our health and lives that we must be willing to sacrifice either. As we’ve looked at a couple of times in recent weeks, we may be called to sacrifice the things of this world that we value and enjoy.

The question we need to ask ourselves today is this: Do we love others enough to make sacrifices for them? When we consider the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and remember his command to love others, then surely the answer must be “yes”?

We’ll now look at why and how we should always strive for peace. Last week, Kathy spoke about Jesus telling us to be peacemakers. And Kathy also reminded us that a peacemaker isn’t just a senior Government negotiator: we should all be peacemakers wherever we are – at home, at work, at school, in our neighbourhood and even, dare I say, in church. We’ve just been looking at the need to make sacrifices and sometimes the sacrifice we have to make is to apologise and forgive. This sounds simple but we all know this can be very difficult, especially when we didn’t do anything wrong. But sometimes we have to sacrifice our pride in order to restore peace.

We may also find that our church has a role to play as a peacemaker, to bring peace to our local community, to bring reconciliation between groups who cannot get on for whatever reason.

Why must we be peacemakers and strive for peace? Simply because, as we heard just now, Jesus commands us to love others. And when we obey this command and we love people, we naturally want them to be at peace with us and with others. So we must ask ourselves: am I at peace with everyone and if not, what do I need to do restore peace? And also ask God to show our churches what we should be doing to bring peace to our neighbourhoods.

Let’s now look at where God is during a war, or in any form of suffering? I think a lot of people ask the question: why does God allow suffering? In fact, not having a satisfactory answer to this question stops many people putting their faith in God or even losing their faith. For example, a few years ago I was doing some street evangelism in Wigan town centre and I spoke to one young man who said he could never believe in God because of the suffering in the world. And then a couple of minutes later I spoke to another young man who used to go to church but lost his faith when his baby daughter died. So this is a really serious issue.

So can I answer the question: why does God allow suffering? No, of course I can’t, as no one can for certain. But what I can do is point out what we’re told in the passage from Romans that we heard just now:

Verse 31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

And verse 38: “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”.

Does this tell us that God will protect us from suffering? No, it doesn’t. And in fact, in verse 36, Paul writes that “we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” So despite all those wonderful reassurances, Paul was warning that suffering was still very much on the menu for his readers!

So why is there this seeming anomaly? It’s because the reassurances that God is for us and that nothing can overcome us is very clearly about not being separated from the love of God, and not about our suffering in this world. So although unpleasant things will always continue to happen, nothing can stop us experiencing eternal joy and peace in God’s Kingdom.

Just a few verses before, in verse 18, Paul wrote “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”. So in other words, our suffering in this world pales into insignificance compared to what we have through faith in Jesus. The suffering will still happen and it can be truly dreadful at the time, but on the grand eternal scale of God’s Kingdom, we’ll realise that it was just a tiny blip. A couple of weeks ago I was out for a walk and saw a little boy who was crying his eyes out. I asked his mother why he was so upset and she said it was because he couldn’t jump in the puddles because he hadn’t got his wellies on. To that child at that time nothing could possibly have been worse than not being able to jump in those puddles. But even if he remembers it when he’s an adult, he will of course wonder why he’d got so upset about it. I think this is what it’s like for us when we look back at our lives from the Kingdom of God.

I’m now going to look at this question about where God is in our suffering from a different angle. I’m going to do this with the help of an excellent biography of Geoffrey Kennedy, called ‘Running into no man’s land’. Geoffrey Kennedy – also known by his nickname of Woodbine Willie – was a Church of England vicar who signed up as an army chaplain in the first World war. He was stationed on the front line and witnessed first-hand the horror of the Battle of the Somme, in which there were over a million casualties. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery helping the wounded get to dressing stations under heavy fire.

Having witnessed such terrible suffering, Geoffrey wrestled with the thought that God was either helpless to prevent war or that He condones it. There seemed no other logical answer, but neither fitted with his belief that God was both all-powerful and all-loving. Geoffrey concluded that the answer to this conundrum is that God gives us free will because He wants us to love Him because we choose to. This means that even though God hates war and could prevent it, He cannot prevent it without removing our ability to make our own decisions. And this also applies to suffering of any kind.

Then God gave Geoffrey a revelation, a vision, that enabled him to understand God’s place in war and suffering. While searching for wounded between the lines, he came across the body of a dead child. As he looked at the child, he saw a blinding light and then saw Jesus on his cross lying on the ground in place of the child. Jesus looked up at him and said: “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of my little ones ye have done it unto me”. Geoffrey later wrote:

“From that moment on I never saw a battlefield as anything but a crucifix. From that moment I have never seen the world as anything but a crucifix. I see the cross set up in every slum, in every filthy overcrowded quarter, in every vulgar street that speaks of luxury and waste of life”.

This led Geoffrey to conclude that when we’re suffering, we know that Jesus is alongside us, suffering with us; and that we must see Jesus in the ones who are suffering. Geoffrey did not believe in a God sitting aloof on a throne, not caring about the suffering. When shells were exploding around him, he said that it was always Christ upon a cross that comforted him, never God upon a throne. And it was this revelation that he used to comfort the frightened men that he shared the trenches with. The comfort came from always remembering that beyond the suffering there is always the resurrection and God’s eternal love.

This is something that we should always remember when we’re having a tough time. Never for a moment think that God has abandoned you. Remember that Jesus is there with you, sharing in your suffering. Remember that by far the most important thing in life is that God loves you, and that there is nothing that can separate you from His love.

Prayer

Dear Lord, when I think of the sacrifice that your son, Jesus Christ, made because you love us, I realise that I should be willing to make sacrifices for others. Help me to be obedient to your command to love others and be prepared to make those sacrifices. Make me brave, like the many others who have gone before us, through the power of your Spirit living in me……..

Lord, help me to be a peacemaker in all situations. Help me to be willing to sacrifice my pride for the sake of peace. Lord, in a moment of quiet tell me how I should be bringing peace and how my church should be bringing peace to my neighbourhood…

Lord, help me to always remember that however much I’m suffering, you are always with me, sharing my suffering. Help me to remember that you always love me and that nothing whatsoever can separate me from your love, so that I can be sure of an eternal life in your Kingdom. Lord, in a moment of quiet, help me to feel you with me; and help me to feel your love surrounding me……

Thank you Lord, for always being there for me, even when things seem at their worst. Help me to feel you especially close to me in the coming difficult weeks.

Amen.

Watch: Make me a channel of your peace

Watch: You make me brave (crashes over me)