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Service at Home – 31st January 2021

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 31-01-2021

As usual, the entire service can be followed on this YouTube playlist without the need to look at these sheets. However, you may 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.  Today Christine, a Local Preacher from Bolton Road, will look at the season of Epiphany and what it tells us today.

Watch: Come people of the Risen King

Watch: My Jesus, My Saviour

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

My Jesus, my saviour, there is indeed nothing that compares to the promise of eternal life that I have in you. I worship you for the work of your hands, as I see you in the wonder of creation and in what you do for me every day. And I worship you for the comfort, protection and strength that you give me, which are especially important to me now, when things are so bleak.

Lord, as I worship you for your mighty love, it become obvious to me that I sometimes fail to love you and my neighbours as much as I should. I’m ashamed of my selfishness and disobedience to you. Lord, in a moment of quiet, I confess the things that I’m ashamed of, in the quiet of my heart……..

Lord, forgive me. I thank you that through your sacrifice on a cross, I know that I have been completely forgiven and that nothing separates me from your love.

Lord, I know that you are with me now. Open my heart to your love and forgiveness and open my mind to what you want to say to me. 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: Cornerstone

Prayers of intercession

Watch: Prayers of intercession

Let us pray for the church and for the world.

Lord, we pray for our church.  Keep us strong in our faith and make us effective witnesses for you. Help us to live out our faith in the whole of our lives and to serve and help each other as we try to follow you more closely.

We pray for all who hold positions of responsibility in our church, that they may always be guided and inspired by you.  We remember before you this morning our stewards and church officers and ask you to bless them in their work.

We pray for everybody who’s in particular need of your healing love today.  We pray for those who are mourning loved ones.  We pray for the families of Ellen and Sheila.  Please surround them with your love, comfort and peace.

We pray for those who are ill, lonely, unhappy or troubled in any way.  Take a moment to bring to God the people who are on your heart today

Lord, bless each one of these people with your healing power and surround them with your love and support.

We think of those in our own community who are homeless or who are struggling to make ends meet.  We pray for the work of the porch project, for the work at the Manna House with local people in need and for the work of Christians against Poverty.

Lord we pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the world who are persecuted because of their faith in you.  We pray for your followers in North Korea.  Please comfort, strengthen and help them, especially those who are in prison or in labour camps.  We ask you to speak to Kim Jong-un and give him a revelation of Jesus, the servant King.  We pray for your protection for all North Korean believers and for those who are working to support them.

We pray for everyone affected by the Covid 19 pandemic.  We pray that you will put an end to the harm this virus is causing.

We pray for all healthcare workers that you will sustain and resource them at this difficult time.  We pray for those in other countries who don’t have access to the medical care they need and for healthcare workers who lack the resources they need.  We pray for a fairer world in which resources, including vaccines, are shared and nations cooperate with each other for good.

Lord, help us to remember that we are your dearly loved children.

We know that you are here with us now, listening to our prayers.  In a moment of silence we think about our own problems and place these into your hands now…………

Lord, send Your Holy Spirit upon us now to heal, protect, strengthen and guide us.

We ask all our prayers in the name of your dear son, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Watch: You Restore my Soul (live)

Bible readings and Sermon

Watch: Bible readings and Sermon

Gospel reading: Mark 1:21–28

Epistle reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Sermon

We’re very much used to ‘seasons’, with Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Other seasons might be the times of the academic year; the three school and college terms and everybody looks forward to the holiday periods, which frequently mean the opportunity for times away from home, maybe to somewhere with lovely beaches, marvellous weather, and a range of exciting sporting and leisure facilities. And what we wouldn’t give for a holiday break away right now!

We also move through the church seasons, when at each point in the year we celebrate and remember particular events as told in the Old and new Testaments, with Christ’s life here on earth, and the time following his Resurrection.

We’ve had ‘Advent’ when we waited and prepared ourselves for the birth of the Christ child. The birth, followed by the visit of the shepherds was on the day we call ‘Christmas’, celebrated by a mass and giving the old word Christ-mass.

The next celebration is of the day the Three Kings, or Wise Men. They followed that special star with their train of camels, horses and servants, arriving from a place far distant to visit that tiny, special child, at the time we call ‘Epiphany’. As befitted a king they showered him with expensive gifts; gold, Frankincense and Myrrh; traditional gifts given to one of great status.

How very strange that they should visit such a humble dwelling. They were in fabulous robes presenting presents never seen before, or since, by Mary and Joseph and all the others who crowded around to see this apparently high-born family temporarily residing in a normal house, or more likely, in a room at the back with the animals.

Epiphany isn’t just a day it is also a season which lasts until the beginning of Lent, and so it gives us the opportunity to think of the time that small – and dare I say almost insignificantly small child – grew to a man and commenced his ministry on earth.

It’s at this time we have the opportunity to look at some very particular experiences and occasions in Jesus’ life. In our Gospel reading of Mark today is the recounting of a man beset by demons or maybe an evil spirit. A man in great pain. Today we would describe it as mental illness. In Mark’s Gospel the first person to be helped and healed by Jesus’ hands and voice is a man with mental illness. The first person to be healed is a man with mental illness.

In Mark’s Gospel for next week is the recounting of Simon’s mother-in-law who was confined to bed with a fever. She isn’t named. To be living in Simon’s home she must have been a widow and totally dependent on her son-in-law for a place to live and food to eat. A person of so little consequence that we don’t know her name.

Jesus was invited to dine and the first thing he did on entering the house was to go to her room, take her hand, and draw her to him. Her status and her illness was immaterial to Jesus. He went to her as first of the household. She was immediately well and took her accustomed place in the household, which was to wait on family and guests.

What a man this Jesus was. In the final week before the commencement of ‘Lent’ Mark tells of how Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to a mountain top. It was misty and probably damp and cold. Suddenly, Jesus no longer appeared in the simple clothing of a working man – as the others – but was wearing a dazzling white glowing robe, and there with the four of them were Elijah and Moses the great prophets.

Jesus spoke with Elijah and Moses while the others looked on and then they were enveloped by cloud. The prophets disappeared into the mist but the four of them clearly heard God’s voice saying: ‘This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him.’

What a moment! If any of us ever experienced anything like it nobody would believe it. And there they were again, the four of them, in their simple clothes, as though it had never happened. But Peter, James and John saw the company with whom Jesus was seen fit to mix. The very highest of the high, the most revered in their history.

So here we are at a season which maybe is no longer given the prominence it richly deserves, with some recounting that is so relevant to our lives today, 2,000 years on.

In his letter to the people of Corinth Paul is offering advice to relatively new Christians. Corinth was an important Greek city, a huge trading centre, with important sea and land links. There were about 250,000 free people and probably about 400,000 slaves. It was so much bigger than many towns and cities in the UK today. There were traders and residents living there from many places across the world; so many cultures with differing behaviours and identifying clothing. There were so many gods and so many idols. And everything worked without the benefit of the internet!

A question that has been posed to Paul is on the eating of meat that has been a temple sacrifice. It was common practice for such meat to be sold in local markets. It may also have been cheaper to buy and therefore an attractive purchase. Would eating such meat mean that the purchaser attached himself to a pagan practice and despoiled his relationship with God?

Paul reminds his readers that idols are as nothing. To be concerned about the origin of the meat purchased on the market is to give credence to the idol. There is only one God. He states: ‘...the man who loves God is known by God...There is but one God, and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.’

Those who have previously been idol worshippers may find it difficult to adopt this new mindset, but the food eaten is not a route to closeness to God and therefore it can be entirely discounted. It cannot be viewed as a yearning to reconnect with idol worship, and believers must not allow others to try and persuade them that this is so.

It is important to stay faithful to God and to Jesus Christ, and to stay in companionship and faith with other believers. To build each other up in faith. Paul was prepared to give up eating meat if it helped others to strengthen their resolve to ‘refrain from sin’ if they truly believed that eating this meat was sinful.

It might seem odd to us today that such a practice could be viewed as sinful but there was a very long history of idol worship within Greece, and a whole host of gods were worshipped by the Romans. The concept of one God, an only God, was really quite novel to many people.

Today sharing food is so common. With believers and also with friends and families in our homes for birthdays and anniversaries, and for much bigger occasions such as weddings with special menus, and great celebratory cakes that are items of art in their own right.

Is eating such food for such occasions wrong and going against Jesus’ teaching? No, Paul was making clear to the new followers at Corinth that their eating of meat was not part of any worshipful activity but an absolute necessity to sustain earthly life.

But what of our own lives and the partaking in the blood and body of Christ as an act of worship? We move forward to C14 in Mark’s Gospel and read: ‘While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying ‘Take it: this is my body’. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many...I tell you the truth’.’

This is the difference. This is the Covenant we have with our Lord Jesus Christ.

And so, back to that day in Capernaum, where Jesus was teaching at the Synagogue ‘with authority’ that the people found so difficult. How could he speak with such skill and knowledge when he wasn’t one of the priests or teachers? He was that simple working man that many knew in the locality or by family connections.

It may be easy to say that Jesus dealt with that tortured man as if by magic, as that is the only way we can understand it. But Jesus dealt with the situation, and the health of that nameless man by divine power that those on that day could not see, and we cannot define or explain.

It led me to look for dictionary explanations of the word ‘Epiphany’ (from the BBC website):

  • A Christian festival that takes place on 6th January celebrating the manifestation of Christ to the Magi
  • The appearance of a divine being
  • An illuminating discovery
  • A perception of essential nature
  • An intuitive grasp
  • A moment when you suddenly feel you understand, or suddenly become aware / conscious of something

It’s not totally and wholly clear as it’s a situation that really is outside our grasp and understanding. When Jesus touched that sick man and then Simon’s sick mother-in-law, they changed at Jesus’ hands in front of all who witnessed the events. They were unable to understand or explain, but it happened. On that date those present were unable to comprehend they had seen a divine being at work, their minds were not immediately illuminated, they did not perceive the nature of Jesus, they were unable to grasp the magnitude of the situation, and they certainly did not have a ‘moment’ when they were aware and conscious of what had happened.

That only happened later as they followed Jesus on his teaching and preaching route through the towns and villages of the Jerusalem region. Some would never have understood and subsequently believed, but many did, and their lives were subsequently illuminated and clarified by what they witnessed over time. These were situations they were able to share with others as discipleship rippled outward from those early places.

We are like those early witnesses: what have we heard, what have we seen, what have we been told, and by whom? It’s a staged process, and it’s unlikely we will have illumination, perception, and a grasp of the nature of Jesus’ divinity in a single moment. It’s something we have to work at, share with others, and come together in worship, together, hearing those words: ‘This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him.’

This is all part of the season of Epiphany and we shouldn’t waste it. It has too much to offer us as a route to learning and understanding. Take this time to consider this moment of Jesus’ life, this phase in his ministry, where he focused wholly and totally on the healing of those who really weren’t important to the society of the day; a man with mental illness and an old woman who might only have lived in a household on sufferance.

There is a real parallel with people at the edges of our own society; the elderly with physical and mental problems, younger adults who may not be receiving the assistance they really need (for whatever reason), the provision of adequate housing for so many families who cannot afford to buy, the long-term effects of Covid on employment and well-being, the answer to so many who seek to travel from afar for a new home, new jobs, and a new start for their families within the UK.

It’s a big list and too much for any of us to deal with, but like Jesus we can start by reaching out with a smile on our face, a kind word, a comforting touch, and the offer of food and a place at the table.

As Paul told the people of Corinth later in his letter: ‘...if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing...Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’

And this is how we have to go forward. Amen.

Watch: O Lord the clouds are gathering

Watch: Gracefully Broken