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Service at Home – 15th November

Service at Home on 15th November 2020

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 15-11-2020

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 week we’re looking at what real worship is all about.  We hear some hard but very relevant words from the prophet Amos.  We then look at Jesus’ story of an upset at a village wedding and what it teaches us about being ‘Kingdom ready’.

Watch: What a beautiful name it is

Watch: Cornerstone

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Dear Lord, I worship you for your strength and security. I worship you because I can trust you even when things are very difficult. I worship you because you are my one true hope in the midst of the darkness. Most of all I worship you for rescuing me from the darkness by sending your son, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, to die for me as a sacrifice.

Lord, when I consider your strength, I realise that I’m weak and often succumb to the temptations of this world. When I consider your immense and perfect love, I realise that I don’t love you or your other children as much as I should. Lord, in a moment of quiet, I confess the things that I’ve done wrong….

Lord, forgive me.

I thank you that through my faith in Jesus I know for certain that I’m free from my sin and righteous in your sight.

Lord, I know that nothing can separate me from you love. In a moment of quiet, help me to feel you close to me, through your Spirit living in me. Come Holy Spirit, fill me with love, joy and peace…..

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: The Heart of Worship (when the music fades)

Prayers of intercession by Susan from Christ Church

Watch: Prayers of intercession

Heavenly Father, we bring to you our prayers of Intercession, knowing that you are our source of life, our creator, provider, our Hope and strength, comforter, peacemaker and healer.

As the world continues to battle with the coronavirus  and news of a break-through in a  vaccine  is announced, we pray for its success, and that it  will pass all safety regulations and procedures, so that it will provide the protection the world has been crying out for.

Lord help all governments, scientists, pharmaceuticals and the world health organisation etc to share their knowledge and resources to provide help to all mankind.

Loving and caring God, help us to be willing to share our resources  and knowledge fairly, so that all  can benefit from the results. Fill our hearts with love for one another, turning despair to hope, hatred to love, greed to  generosity, and  may all mankind come to know  you as their Lord and Saviour.

We pray for the world as we continue to see famines, earthquakes, demonstrations, wars, acts of violence, racism and political unrest. We think especially of Italy, France, Austria, Yemen, Syria, USA and our own country to name but a few.  Guide these countries as they look for ways to combat these issues and bring your peace and comfort.

All seeing and knowing God bring justice, peace and reconciliation to our world. Where there is conflict and discord bring unity and calm.

We pray for our government as they continue Brexit negotiations, as the UK and the EU begin ratifying trade and security deals in the coming week. Help them to settle their differences so that a workable solution may be found.

Lord bring your light and healing into these negotiations, That the divisions that divide us are healed, and that a working relationship will triumph, to benefit those who need it most.

Lord, we pray:

  • for all those who are ill or experiencing mental melt downs,
  • for those whose operations or treatments have been cancelled
  • for those who continue to isolate or feel lost or weary, frightened or anxious
  • for those who long for the company of another person or who grieve for loved ones or the life they miss
  • for our children and young people
  • for all frontline staff, especially NHS workers, postmen and women, delivery drivers, teachers, pharmacies and all food store workers who continue to work night and day putting themselves at risk.
  • for those without a job or in debt or those who don’t know where their next meal will come from
  • for all the foodbanks and charities that have been set up to help them.

Compassionate and loving God, bring your hope and love into their lives, provide help and support to those that need it, that services to help them are quickly resumed or easily accessible. Provide protection to the vulnerable, and comfort to those who are grieving.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayers.

And finally, we pray for ourselves.

Help us to remain faithful and strong, guide us in our actions, and as we journey with you. Transform us into a people who by your Holy Spirit, use our hands, feet, and voice in your service.

Be with each one of us and bless us today and in the coming week. In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Watch: Great is the darkness

Old Testament reading and talk

Watch: Old Testament reading and talk

Bible reading: Amos 5: 18 – 24

Talk 1

Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you’re running away from something and you can’t get away?  Even when you think you’ve reached a safe place and shut the door, you suddenly realise that the very thing you’ve been running from is now shut in there with you.  This is the sort of nightmare situation that the prophet Amos is describing in the first few verses of this reading – someone being chased by a lion, getting away only to be attacked by a bear, somehow escaping again and at last reaching his home.  Imagine him slamming the door shut on the angry bear and leaning exhausted on the wall, only to be bitten by the snake waiting there.  God is saying to the people that in just such a way the consequences of their actions will pursue them.  They think that as long as they observe the festivals and other rituals of their faith, God will overlook the way they behave the rest of the time.  This is not the case.  God rejects the people’s worship because they continue to oppress the poor.  He will not accept their offerings and their singing.  John Eaton writes that God would rather hear, ‘the music of the rolling waves of justice, a river of compassion flowing continually in all seasons.’  The offering that God requires, then and now, is the offering of lives lived in his way.

Richard reminded us last week that a great deal of the suffering in the world is caused by human wrongdoing.  The consequences of our actions do most certainly pursue us as relentlessly as the lion, bear and snake and cause harm to us and to others.  God has given us free will, and that includes the free will to make choices that harm us, or do harm to others.

The Covid 19 pandemic has emphasised the already existing inequalities in our society and across the world.  Those who are living in poverty have been impacted more by the disease and by the effects of lockdown.

Hear the words of the prophet Amos.  They are as relevant to us now as they were to the people of Israel to whom he first gave God’s message.  It’s not enough to worship God with words, that’s just empty noise if those words aren’t accompanied by sincere and wholehearted action.  God calls us to work together to combat inequality and injustice and to grow a fairer, kinder society that reflects God’s love for all people and his special concern for the lost, the broken and the poor. To let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Watch: God of the Poor

Gospel Reading and Sermon

Watch: Gospel Reading and Sermon

Bible reading

Matthew 25: 1 – 13

Sermon

Jesus uses a story about a village wedding to explain to his disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven and the need to stay alert and faithful to God’s way of living, to be always ‘kingdom ready’.

Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s Kingdom, was already present in the world, he had established it, and it was growing and yet it was also still to come, just as a seed is sown, grows and then the final harvest is reached.  We’re in the ‘growing’ stage at present, waiting for the final harvest.  This parable tells about that final harvest, about Jesus’ Second Coming, when God’s rule will finally be fully established throughout the whole of his creation.

On the evening of the wedding day, the bridegroom and his friends would go in procession from his house to the home of the bride, where she and her family would be waiting.  The couple were blessed, and the bridegroom led the bride through the village to his own home.  The invited guests accompanied them in the procession holding torches consisting of long poles with oil drenched rags at the top.  A great wedding feast followed, which would certainly last several days and could last up to a week.

But the wedding in Jesus’ story doesn’t run smoothly.  The bridegroom is delayed for some reason and the waiting bridesmaids doze off to sleep.  They are woken by a shout, “Here’s the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!”  They get up quickly and see to their torches, cutting off the burnt bits of rag.  The girls who brought extra oil add some to keep their torches burning brightly and go out to join the bridal procession, while the other girls are left behind.

What does this story tell us about Jesus’ Second Coming and the full fruition of the Kingdom of Heaven?

The message is in Jesus’ words at the end of our reading, “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  Jesus, like the bridegroom, could arrive at any time. Shortly before telling this story, Jesus has explained to his disciples that even He doesn’t know when he will return, ‘No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’. We don’t know when Jesus will return.  It could be this afternoon, it could be a long time into the future.  We don’t know, so we can’t plan for it. One thing that we all do know is that, sooner or later, our life here on earth will be over and we’ll meet Jesus face to face.  How well prepared are we to meet with Jesus then?  Will we be able to greet him as a friend whom we’ve stayed close to all through our lives?  We don’t know when Jesus will return, we don’t know when Jesus will call us home, which may be sooner, so we need to keep alert, expecting Jesus’ arrival.  We need to keep our faith strong and we need to keep living our lives as his followers should.  That uncompromising reading from the book of the prophet Amos reminded us of how God expects us to behave.  When he returns, will Jesus find us on the side of truth, justice and compassion?

We can’t plan for the Second Coming.  We don’t know the day or the hour of Jesus’ return and most of us don’t know the day or the hour of our death either. Time will run out and we don’t know when.  We need to live every day in accordance with the values of the Kingdom that Jesus taught us, because we may suddenly find that we have run out of time to put things right. We need to follow Jesus closely all our lives.  Jesus has promised us all the help we need to do this.  He promised to be with us always, to the end of the age and he promised us the Holy Spirit to live in us and guide, teach and inspire us.

Frank Doyle comments, ‘The truly wise person builds his life on Jesus as the Way, on Jesus as Truth and Life, not only for the future but for here and now. The Gospel, understood and adopted, is the only programme that can guarantee fulfilment and happiness right away. The others all depend on an uncertain future.

He continues, ‘Such a wise person lives each day in the light of Jesus’ vision. Such people find him in the most ordinary experiences of daily living – in the people they meet, in the events that take place, in the situations in which they find themselves. Jesus is no stranger to them. He can bring many surprises but he is never unexpected. When they eventually hear the final call, “Get up! the Master is coming!”, they are not worried. They are happy and more than ready to meet an old friend face to face.’

Let’s make sure we live each day as Jesus taught us to live, which is the only truly fulfilling way to live.  Looking for God’s presence in the events and people around us, alive to the prompting of his Spirit.  Standing up for truth and justice, acting always with kindness and compassion, caring especially for the poor and the marginalized.  We need Jesus’ help to live in his way  - He is with us always, just as He promised, and ever ready to fill us with his loving, healing, strengthening and transforming Spirit .

Did it strike you as odd that in this story the girls who have extra oil don’t share it?  It could simply be that they will need it all.  It could be that Jesus is saying that preparedness is an individual thing – it can’t be borrowed from anyone else.  We must each be ready to meet Jesus, living our lives according to his teaching.

The reading from Amos gave us an example of empty religion, of people who were going through the rituals of their faith, but were not living their lives in accordance with their faith.  God rejects their worship as worthless – it’s just empty words and gestures.  Real worship – what Jesus called ‘worship in Spirit and in truth’ – springs from lives lived in God’s way, from people who are hungry to know more of God, to draw closer to Him, to live their lives in his love and in his power.

When the foolish bridesmaids finally arrive at the wedding feast, the bridegroom says he doesn’t know them.  They are not allowed in.  It’s not enough to say you are a bridesmaid, or even to look like one with the right sort of outfit, you have to be one – the other girls have walked in the torchlight procession with the bride and groom.  In the same way, it’s not enough to say you are a Christian or to appear to be a Christian, saying amen in all the right places, you have to be one, you have to walk with Jesus, living your life in God’s way.

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we want to walk with you.  We want to worship you, not only on Sundays, but with the whole of our lives.  Fill us once again with your Spirit so that we will have the desire, the strength of purpose, the guidance and the loving heart that we need to live in your way.  We ask this in your holy name, amen.

Watch: Jesus Christ is waiting