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Service at Home – 28th February 2021

Service at Home on 28th February 2021 - Second Sunday in Lent

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 28-02-2021

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 the Lent Cross

Watch: Welcome and the Lent Cross

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to this Sunday’s Service at Home. This Sunday is the second in a preaching series for Lent, which is looking at the nature of Jesus. During this series, church leaders in the Ramsbottom area take it in turns to provide the teaching. This Sunday, Rev. Andy Lindop, the Team Rector of the Ramsbottom and Edenfield Team Ministry, looks at “Jesus – dying to serve”.

Lighting of the Lent Cross

Today we hear Jesus’ challenge, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it’.

Two candles are lit.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you love us so much that you were willing to die on the cross to save us.  We’re sorry that we often struggle to put other people’s needs before our own. We’re sorry that we find it hard to give up our comforts and our familiar routines in order to live in your way of loving self-sacrifice.  Please forgive us.

Help us to grow closer to you and stronger in our faith.

Amen.

Watch: Hosanna (Praise is Rising)

Watch: Unbroken Praise

 

 

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Lord God, help us to be still now in your presence.

Help us to give our minds to you in our worship, so that we may listen to what you have to say to us and know your will.

Help us to give our hearts to you in our worship, so that we may really want to do what you require from us.

Help us to give our strength to you in our worship, so that through us your will may be done.

Lord, we call to mind the many ways in which we have fallen short of how you want us to be.  In our hearts now, we remember the things we have done wrong and we ask for your forgiveness.

This is Christ’s gracious word, “Your sins are forgiven”.

The Breakthrough Prayer from the Methodist Church

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.  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: Build Your Kingdom Here

Prayers of intercession and Gospel reading

Watch: Prayers of intercession and Gospel reading

Prayers of intercession by Kathy

Let us pray for our church and for the world.

Lord, we pray for our churches.  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.  Help us to spread your love and hope where we live and work.

We pray for all who hold positions of responsibility in our churches, that they may always be guided and inspired by you.  We remember before you particularly this morning those who lead our children’s and young people’s work.  Pour out your Holy Spirit on them and fill them with your love, enthusiasm and creativity.

Lord, we pray for the communities we are called to serve. Help us to support them and serve them in whatever way we can.  Give us open minds and hearts to perceive the new things you are doing all around us and grant us the courage to join in your work.

We pray for school staff and pupils as they prepare for the return of all children and young people to school.  We pray for your protection for each one of them. We ask you to give your peace and comfort to those who are anxious about the return.  We pray that each child will thrive and that those who have fallen behind with their studies will soon catch up again.

We think of those who are struggling to make ends meet.  We pray for the work of the Porch Project, the work with the needy at the Manna House and the work of Ramsbottom Pantry.  We pray too for the work of Christians against Poverty and we thank you for the clients who are now debt free.  Please give your help and strength to those clients who still have obstacles to overcome.

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 Mozambique.  For the hundreds of thousands who have had to flee from their homes.  Please comfort, strengthen, encourage and help them.  We pray for the work of Open Doors and that their partners in Mozambique will find ways to deliver emergency aid to displaced families amid the Covid-19 restrictions.

Lord, we pray for those who are ill, at home or in hospital ---

For those who are bereaved or facing losing someone they love.

In a moment of quiet we bring before you those we know who are in need of our prayers –

Finally, we think of our own problems and concerns and bring them to you ---

We ask these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.  Amen.

Gospel reading: Mark 8:31-38

Watch: From Heaven you came (Servant King)

Epistle reading and Sermon

Watch: Epistle reading and Sermon

Epistle reading: Romans 4:13-25

 

Sermon

I think most of you will know that I am Andy Lindop, Team Rector of the Ramsbottom and Edenfield Team, and when the lots were drawn I got the second week of our Churches Together Lent sermon series. Thanks to Ian for introducing the series last week and setting the scene, and whether you are watching on Sunday morning or catching up later, whether you are joining on Tuesday evenings or not, I hope that everyone gets something from doing this together, that as we look together at the Scriptures, that God by his Spirit speaks to us and blesses us.

If you have been able to get out of your houses recently (obviously on an essential journey) and have passed through Ramsbottom, it will have been difficult not to be aware that there are significant road works going on. I live on the Whittingham Drive estate and that means to get anywhere by car we have to go up Nuttall Lane to the traffic lights by St Andrew’s, and when the roadworks were there for a couple of weeks, there were a couple of occasions when I thought I was going to be stuck at the lights for eternity. The traffic did clear eventually, of course, but the reality remains – I cannot avoid the crossroads if I want to go anywhere. For as long as I live here, those crossroads will be a significant, unavoidable point of every journey.

Crossroads generally are significant points – and in Mark’s gospel, chapter 8, the last portion of which is the reading for today, is a crossroads, a significant point in the tale that Mark is telling of the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. It is significant because as the early part of the gospel focuses on who Jesus is, the Father’s Son, as Ian helpfully explored with us last week, so the second part of the gospel focuses on what Jesus has come to do. In the first part, the disciples, having spent time with Jesus, watching, listening, sharing their lives with him and so have discovered slowly, gradually that they are in the presence of one who is far more than just another man. In the second part, as the story leads finally, both gloriously and tragically to the cross, the disciples are trying to come to terms with what it’s all about.

Verses 31-38 immediately follow the great crossroads moment, when, at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” He is wondering if, finally, they have understood what he has been trying to show them, through his words and actions. “Has it sunk in? Have they got it?” and when Peter says, “You are the Messiah!” I can almost hear Jesus breathe a huge sigh of relief. “at last they’ve got it – alleluia!” along with a tremor of anticipation and dread – “now comes the really tough bit”.

And so Jesus goes on to explain what’s going to happen to him, that he will experience suffering, rejection, death and resurrection and Peter, the spokesman who has just been so positive, can’t keep his mouth shut and takes Jesus aside to rebuke him. Matthew tells us that Peter said, “God forbid it, Lord. This must never happen to you!” How Jesus’s words to Peter must have stung, “Get behind me Satan!” Peter’s learning experiences as a young disciple were certainly a rollercoaster. One minute up in the heights – the next making a right mess of it. On the Mount of Transfiguration, an episode which follows on almost immediately from this - one moment experiencing the glorious vision of the transfigured Jesus – the next saying something terribly inappropriate “shall we make little huts for the three of you?”. He seems to have made a habit of getting it right and then getting it wrong, and the fact that his mistakes, as well his triumphs are included in the gospel is a clear pointer to the authenticity of the accounts that we have.

But this morning, as we are seeking to explore the character of Jesus during these sermons I want to focus on him rather than Peter. And in these verses we find Jesus speaking truth in a variety of ways. Firstly, he shared some difficult truths with his disciples, knowing that they were likely to misunderstand him and react accordingly. But these things needed to be said, and he chose a time and a place that would make it as easy as he could for his friends to hear what they needed to hear. Sharing bad news is never easy. We all have enormous respect for those who have to do it regularly as part of their professional work, and some do it brilliantly and some aren’t so good, but we all know it’s something we would try and avoid if we possibly could. We are probably all guilty of putting off the evil moment, when we have had some bad news to share. Sometimes picking the time and the place is important. It can make the news easier to hear and to bear. Jesus was prepared to say the difficult things that needed saying, and to deal with the reaction his words created.

And that’s the second thing we notice here, that Jesus rebuked his friend Peter for his reaction. Peter was well intentioned, there is no doubt about that, but he had got it wrong. And he needed to be told, in no uncertain terms. He couldn’t be allowed to stay in the dark; he needed correcting. But we all know this is fraught with danger. None of us (well very few anyway) like being told we are wrong. And very few of us like being the ones to correct others. There are exceptions and they aren’t usually very popular – you know the kind of people who just love putting other people right! But sometimes things need to be said, kindly and graciously, and we need courage if we are the ones who have to do the saying and we need humility if we are the ones to do the listening. Jesus’s words come over quite harshly on the page, but they must have been said in a tone that enabled Peter to hear them and receive them and act on them.

So Jesus is prepared to say difficult things when he needs to, he is prepared to rebuke when he needs to and thirdly he is prepared to challenge when he needs to. After rebuking Peter, Jesus called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I think most of the time we rightly want to emphasise all the positives about following Jesus! The forgiveness of sins, the power of the Holy Spirit, the peace that passes understanding, the new family, the new joy - the list goes on and on – but Jesus takes a different line. He talks about self-denial and carrying a cross. What on earth did he mean by this?

Let me begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop. Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means simply being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.

Now, whenever I look at a passage of Scripture, I am always asking myself, what is the Lord saying to me through this? What does this mean for me today? And as I reflected on this passage once again, I found two particular things kept coming back to me. They are similar but different. The first is that I need to ask myself if the Lord is saying something difficult to me, something that I don’t really want to hear. I don’t think Peter and the others wanted to hear about suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. Half of it sounds awful and the other half ridiculous - so the obvious thing to do is dismiss it out of hand, not listen, turn a deaf ear to it all. The obvious thing and the easy thing – but not the right thing. And isn’t our natural inclination to do the same when we sense the Lord saying something that may be a rebuke or may be challenging, that may be pushing us out of our comfort zones in his service? Now, just as then, the Lord from time to time, has difficult words to say, a difficult message to bring, and now, just as then he will choose the right time and the right place to share that message, but we need to be ready and willing to receive it. Is the Lord saying something difficult to you? Does he perhaps have a word of rebuke for you that you don’t want to hear? Is there a challenge that you are running from? Perhaps you, like me, need to spend some time today, this week, whenever listening carefully to what the Lord is saying to us.

The second thing, like I said, is similar but different. It’s simply this. Is there something difficult that you need to say to someone, something that you have been putting off and off, hoping it’ll somehow go away. Is there even perhaps a word of rebuke that needs to be given, with kindness and gentleness of course? Or have you tried to give a word of rebuke and now regret the tone in which it came across or the judgementalism that lay behind it? Is there some action that you know you need to take but it just feels too difficult? I would say this: there is a right time (and a right place) for these difficult encounters and conversations – but they need to be had, and it is amazing what seeking the Lord’s timing and the Lord’s words can do. If we pray, “Lord, please show me the right time and give me the right words to sort this thing out” he will.

What do we learn of Jesus from this passage? That he was prepared to say difficult things when he needed to. Let us be prepared to say difficult things when we need to, and let us be willing to hear the difficult things the Lord may be saying to us – as individuals, as churches and even as a Churches Together group here in Ramsbottom.

Prayer

Lord, I pray that you will give me the grace and courage I need to say those difficult things when I need to, and give me the ears and the heart to receive the things that you want to say to me, for Jesus’ sake, amen.

A Blessing

Lord, we pray that you’ll protect each one of us and help us to remain in your love in the week ahead. Give us opportunities to do your work and to show your love to others. Amen.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of the God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore.

Watch: I will offer up my life

Watch: Graves into Gardens