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Service at Home – 14th February 2021

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 14-02-2021

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 and happy Valentine’s Day!

Did you know that Valentine’s day is named after Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine was a priest in the early Christian church in Rome.  At that time, the church in Rome was being persecuted and Valentine was beheaded on 14th February because of his faith. His festival has become connected with love because traditionally birds pair off and start building their nests today.

It’s good to have a saint connected with loving couples because love is at the heart of what Jesus taught us. Jesus taught us and showed us by the way that he lived and died how much God loves us.

So, as you’d expect, the theme of our service today is love – God’s love for you and for everyone.  But love is far more than a nice sentiment, it involves putting other people’s wellbeing before our own and sometimes making sacrifices.  We’ll be looking at how God will help us to live in His loving way.

Watch: Come let us sing of a wonderful love

Watch: Here is Love Vast as the Ocean

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Dear Lord our Father in Heaven, I worship you because your love is indeed as vast as an ocean. I worship you because your love is deeper and truer than any other love. Lord, there’s no love like your love. And Lord, I worship you because you sent Jesus to this world to die for me, because you love me so much. I worship you because I know that through Jesus nothing can separate me from your love and that you promise me an eternal life in your Kingdom.

 

Lord, when I think about your love for me, I’m ashamed that I don’t love you and I don’t love others as much as I should. Lord, in a moment of quite, I bring to mind the things that I’ve done wrong and the things that I’ve not done that I should have done, and Lord I confess these things to you now in the silence……..

Lord, forgive me. I thank you that through your grace and love shown in Jesus I know that you’ve completely forgiven me and that nothing can now separate me from your love.

Lord, help me to feel you close to me now as we worship. Help me to feel your love in my heart through your Spirit living in 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: Reckless love

Prayers of intercession and Gospel reading

Watch: Prayers of intercession and Gospel reading

Prayers of intercession

Dear Lord, I bring before you my concerns for the world, my church, those I know, and myself.

As I remember the dreadful suffering caused by the pandemic around the world, I continue to pray for the pandemic to end as soon as possible. I thank you for the vaccines that are now starting to be used and pray that they’ll quickly be used throughout the world and bring the pandemic to an end. I pray that those suffering from isolation and poverty will get the help that they need. I also pray that those with long COVID will recover so that it doesn’t impact their lives.

Lord, I also remember the other problems in the world, which are easy to lose sight of at this time. I remember the on-going wars, the oppression, the risk of violence, the poverty and suffering. I pray for peace, justice, clean water, sufficient food, clean safe homes and good medical care for all. And I pray for those trying to achieve this and pray that they get the help and resources that they need.

I pray for Christians throughout the world who are being persecuted because they refuse to deny the love that they have found in you. Protect them and help them to remain strong.

Lord, I pray for those who are unwell physically, mentally or emotionally. I pray that they will be healed. Lord, in a moment of quiet, I bring to mind those who especially need my prayers today………

Lord, bless them and heal them; and help them to feel your love.

Lord, I pray for my church. Lead it in the right direction at this time – a time of frustration but also a time of opportunities. I pray for opportunities to make your love known to others at this time – and pray that by listening and being obedient to you, we’ll make the most of each opportunity. I continue to pray that you’ll make our churches strong and to be open to your Spirit.

Lord, I also bring my own problems to you. In a moment of quiet I bring before you my illness, worries, grief and hardships ……….

Lord, I pray for your Spirit to heal me and to strengthen, protect and guide me.

Amen.

Gospel reading: John 13: 34 - 35

Watch: All the room was hushed and still

Bible passages, poem and video on love

Watch: Bible passages, poem and video on love

First Epistle reading: 1 John 4: 7 – 12

Video: Valentines

Second Epistle reading: 1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 8a, 13

Poem

Love is patient and kind.

It is not jealous or conceited or proud.

Love is difficult,

often calling to us when we are busy.

Love is in the small things.

It can feel insignificant, too small to count.

Love rarely makes headlines

yet it can change someone’s world.

Love goes against the flow,

cuts against the grain, points to the narrow road.

Love can feel like trudging up hill,

battling against the wind, walking a lonely path.

But God is love.

And God has walked these ways before us.

Love is pinned on a skyline,

nailed to a darkened, belittled cross.

Love changes the world,

one heartbeat, one sacrifice at a time.

© Dave Hopwood/engageworship.org

Watch: Love Divine

Sermon, Prayer and Blessing

Watch: Sermon

Sermon

Whether you’ve received a Valentine’s card or not today, you are loved.  The love that you are held in is greater, deeper, more perfect, more wonderful, than any human love.  God loves you and you can be sure of this because God’s love is shown to us in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son.  As we heard in our second Bible reading:

‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’  1 John 4: 10

God loves the people of this world so much that he gave us his only Son, Jesus, to rescue us from the mess of the world and the mess of our lives and to bring us God’s love, God’s forgiveness for the things we do wrong, God’s healing for our hurts and a new life as part of God’s family.

Jesus taught us and showed us God’s love in all that he said and did.  He taught us how to reflect God’s love in our own lives.  Jesus went to the cross to bring us forgiveness for our faults and failings and a new life that lasts forever as part of God’s family.  God raised Jesus from death to life to prove that the promise of forgiveness and new, eternal life was true and that His love is stronger than suffering and even death.  One day Jesus will return to earth in glory and all pain and suffering will end, everything will be put right for ever.  Meanwhile, Jesus lives to bring you real hope in every circumstance of life.  Jesus is with you, he shares in your pain and wants to give you his help and strength to live your life well.  Because of Jesus you can know that God loves you, that he is for you, not against you, that He wants the very best for you. You can live a new life with his help, never alone, always held safely in His love.

What is our response to such wonderful love?  The author of 1 John writes, ‘Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’.

And as we heard in our first Bible reading, Jesus’ taught all his followers to reflect the love of God in our own lives.

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13: 34, 35

Loving one another isn’t always easy.  You might be finding it particularly hard at the moment.  The pandemic can make us feel anxious and fearful.  The restrictions we’re living under at present can cause frictions within families while at the same time we may be very much missing contact with our families and friends.  The strain we’re under can lead to us being less patient and kind with other people than we would normally be.

However, Jesus didn’t ask us just to love one another when we felt like it, when we had the time and patience, when things were going well, his command was for all times – and it is even more important that we obey it during these difficult times. It’s a basic human need to feel loved and valued, that’s true any time, and the need is even greater when times are tough.

What can we learn from our third Bible reading, a section of St. Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth, to help us?

Firstly we should heed Paul’s warning that it isn’t possible to be a Christian without love.  We might fulfil all sorts of religious duties, we might do all sorts of seemingly wonderful things, but if they are not motivated by love of God and of our neighbour they are useless.

So what is love?  The only way Paul can describe love is by saying what love does.  Love is a way of life.  A person is loving when he or she wholeheartedly wants the best for other people.  Love can be described as the way we are inspired to treat each other when we’ve realised how God has treated us.  1 John 4: 19 ‘We love because he first loved us’.  We become aware of God’s perfect love for us, his patience and forgiveness and we are motivated to treat others with patience and kindness.

Reading in those verses from 1 Corinthians the qualities of God’s love, we might be tempted to despair of ever being able to love others like that – are you always patient and kind, always putting others first, never angry or jealous?  I know I often fall short.  But this isn’t an excuse for not persevering.  The truth is that none of us is strong enough to love like this, but if we allow God to work in us, then with God everything is possible.  He has promised us the Holy Spirit to live in us and make us gradually more like Jesus.  Jesus, who in his life and death showed us what loving means.  Jesus wholeheartedly wanted the best for everyone, he wanted us to have everything that was good.  Because he wanted this so much he was willing to die for us.

Let’s look a little more closely at the qualities of this love that Jesus showed us and that he calls us to show to others with his help.

In verses 4 and 7 we heard that love is patient and perseveres.  Jesus showed us that self-giving is bound up with loving.  Love is willing even to suffer and to go on suffering if that is necessary to help someone else.  We see examples of this in the persecuted church.  Pastors in China imprisoned and threatened time and again, but quietly continuing their work.  The church in North Korea, still growing because believers are still willing to share the Good News about Jesus despite facing arrest, disappearance, torture, or public execution if discovered. We see this same patient, persevering, selfless love in people who keep on loving those whose behaviour is difficult and who aren’t easy to love.  Loving because God first loved us.  Self-giving, costly love.

Love is kind – a loving person looks out for ways of giving practical help to other people.  It could mean spending time on the phone with someone who needs a listening ear.  Writing an encouraging note to someone who is going through a hard time, just to let them know that you care about them.  We can ask God each day to show us the people that need our help and to give us the time and resources we need to help them.

Love is not jealous or boastful.  This means so strongly wanting others to be good and happy that we are content when they, rather than ourselves, achieve something.  This also means discerning and appreciating the gifts that others have received from God.  Giving them the confidence to discover the gifts that God has given them and to use them to build up his church.

Love is not arrogant or rude – does not insist on its own way.  If we love someone, we value their opinions; we like to hear what they have to say.  In our church meetings and in our families and friendship groups we need to let others talk and listen carefully to their views.  We need to feel able to express our opinion too, but to leave others free to accept or reject it.  And if it is rejected we need, with God’s help, to accept this graciously and to continue working together.

Love isn’t easily angered – also translated as ‘isn’t irritable’.  Oh dear!  I’m often irritable, especially if I’m feeling tired.  Love isn’t irritable – something I always have to work on with God’s help.  It helps when I keep in mind how patient God is with me.  When I’m starting to feel irritated with a person or situation, I offer up a quick prayer for help and I find that God can transform even those scenarios that would previously have ended in cross words.

Love isn’t resentful, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.  This means forgiving those who have hurt us – really forgiving them and not bringing the matter up again to remind them of their behaviour.  God wipes our sins away – He blots them out, they are gone.  We are called to forgive others as completely – treating them as if the fault had never occurred - we need God’s help for this.

Love doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  This means not taking pleasure in other people’s downfall.  If we are part of a conversation, in person or online, which turns to destructive gossip or criticism of someone, we need the confidence to put a stop to it and say or write something positive about that individual instead.  It also means celebrating and giving thanks for the good and true things that happen.

Love believes all things, hopes all things.  Because we believe and hope in God, who loves all people, we have faith in people and we don’t despair of them.  God doesn’t give up on us and he calls us not to give up on others!

Love – patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not easily angered and keeping no record of wrongs. Not delighting in evil but rejoicing with the truth, protecting others, trusting them, always hoping and persevering.  This is the love that Jesus has for us and that he calls us to have for one another and for our neighbour.  Without love, everything that we do as Christians will be pointless.  Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Let’s ask for God’s help, through the Holy Spirit to show the love of Jesus in our lives and in our church community.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Prayer

A prayer from multi-sensory prayer p54 (adapted): pray with hands on lap, palms up.

Jesus said, ‘Now I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you so you must love one another.  If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.’  (John 13: 34, 35)

Lord Jesus, our hands are empty without you.  We are bankrupt of love and often crippled by bitterness.  We do not know how to love you or each other properly.  But now we give our empty hands to you.  We want to learn to love as you do and to spread that love in a love-starved world.  We give ourselves to you.  Fill our hands and our hearts with your love and strength, to be your love in action.  Amen.

A Blessing

Loving God,

Whose hands hold all creation like a cradle,

Hold us in your love this day.

May your hands protect and guide us.

May your hands strengthen and enfold us,

That we may become your hands

Holding others with your love,

Knowing that you will never let us go.  Amen.

Watch: Be Thou my Vision