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Service at Home – 7th March 2021

Service at Home on 7th March 2021 - Third Sunday in Lent

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 07-03-2021

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 third 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, Richard looks at “Jesus – man of action”.

Lighting of the Lent Cross

Today we will hear how Jesus drove out the people who were changing money and selling animals and birds where people should have been able to pray.

Three candles are lit.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, give us your passion for holiness and justice.  Help us to have the courage to stand up for what is right and to fight injustice and exclusion.

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

Watch: This is Amazing Grace

Watch: Faithful One

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Lord God,

we thank you for this time of year when Spring is near and signs of new life are already showing – the snowdrops and crocuses in flower, the buds forming on the bushes and trees.  Help us when we see these things to remember the faithfulness of your love and to praise you for your promise of new life through Jesus.  Amen.

Lord God, we know that we don’t always behave as you would like us to.  Sometimes we do and say things that hurt you and hurt others.  In a few moments of quiet, we remember the things we have done wrong ----.  Lord, we know that if we are truly sorry, you are always ready to forgive us and we ask for your forgiveness now.

God is perfect love and forgives our sins through Jesus.  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: Hope and Glory

Prayers of intercession, Gospel reading and a narrative

Watch: Prayers of intercession, Gospel reading and a narrative

Prayers of intercession prepared by Susan from Christ Church

Heavenly Father, as we see the signs of Spring, the sunshine, flowers blooming, lambs being born, for which we thank you for, it is easy to forget all those situations that need our prayers.

So Lord. We come before you now and ask that you bring light, hope and love into our troubled world.

We lift before you, Christians facing extreme violence and persecution, especially those in Nigeria, India, China and North Korea to name but a few.  Heal their traumas, replace their weeping with your joy, and give them renewed strength. Transform the hearts of the persecutors and governments, that they will release all those in captivity and put an end to their persecution.

We also pray, for the political unrest in Myanmar as the people continue to protest against the military takeover and people are killed as they protest.

We pray for all countries facing war, famine, or any kind of disaster.

Transforming God, bring courage, strength, reconciliation, unity and peace into these situations and to your church around the world, that we may see your light shine through.

Loving and compassionate God hear our prayers.

We pray for guidance and wisdom for our government, as they try to balance risk with restarting the economy.  Help them support the most vulnerable in our communities and that they are not afraid to make changes as the full impact from the budget begins to sink in. and as new variants or outbreaks of the virus emerge.

In particular we pray for justice and fairness to the young and old, the disabled, the homeless and all those most frequently overlooked by our society.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for all those affected by the pandemic and

  • All those who are ill or grieving
  • all those worried about food and finances
  • all those worried about the future of their business, their staff and their livelihoods
  • all those who are lonely and missing loved ones
  • all those facing mental and physical abuse.

Lord comfort your people, bring healing and hope at this difficult time.

We pray for teachers and those in education, including children as they start to reopen schools again this week. Take away any concerns, give them inspiration in new ways of teaching and a willingness of the children to learn. Help them to be able to react to any changing situations and provide help and support when needed.

We also pray for all NHS staff and those volunteering, who daily risk their lives to help others. Some are so tired and worn out that they need rest.

Loving and caring God give your comfort, peace, strength and protection to all.

And finally, we pray for ourselves, with all the worries and concerns we have this week. Surround us with your loving arms as we lay our concerns before you and give us your peace.

Bless and inspire us to be your loving servants, give us courage to be your instruments, with our families and friends, with our neighbours and in our communities, with our colleagues and associates.  Help us to be your light shining in the dark places.

Be with each one of us now and forever more. In the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, amen.

Gospel reading: John 2:13-22 (Jesus clears the temple courts)

Narrative

We imagine the thoughts of one the disciples when Jesus Clears the Temple.

I didn’t know whether I should help him or try to stop him!

Although, to be honest, Jesus didn’t need any help.  He was so angry and fired up that the traders and money changers ran away as fast as they could. He certainly caused quite a commotion, with overturned tables and money scattered all over the floor.  The other disciples and I just stood and watched, astonished by what we saw. And we were worried because Jesus was outnumbered, and the traders could have easily turned on him. And we kept an eye on the entrances so that we could warn Jesus if the guards appeared. Jesus certainly took a big risk that day.

At first, I didn’t really understand why Jesus was so angry.  I couldn’t see what was wrong with the traders being there, as they were always there in the temple. But when I heard Jesus shout: “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”, I realised why he was so angry.

Afterwards, someone asked how he could prove that he had authority to do what he’d done.

Jesus gave a very strange answer.  He said: “Destroy this temple, and I’ll raise it again in three days.” There was an embarrassed silence.   Even I thought it was an odd thing to say.  Then someone laughed and said what we were all thinking: “It’s taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you could rebuild it in three days?” Normally Jesus had the right thing to say on every occasion, so why had he said something foolish?

It was only later that it became clear.  It was on that wonderful day when I’d seen Jesus again after he’d risen from the dead.  Somebody had said something about it being three days since he’d been crucified, and I remembered then what he’d said at the temple that day. It all made sense then.  Jesus had known what was going to happen.  He’d known that the authorities would crucify him and that he would come back to life after three days.

And then I remembered what I’d thought about Jesus had said.  I felt so ashamed.  How could I possibly, even for one second, have thought that Jesus had said something foolish? It’s clear to me now that it was me who had been foolish to doubt what Jesus has said.  It’s clear to me now that Jesus makes the wisdom of the whole world look foolish.

Watch: Build my life (worthy of every song)

Epistle reading, sermon and blessing

Watch: Epistle reading, sermon and blessing

Epistle reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (God’s Power and Wisdom)

Sermon

Who knows the hymn “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”? I think it should be banned because it gives completely the wrong impression of what Jesus was like! Jesus was loving, kind, forgiving, humble and compassionate, but he could never be described as meek and mild! Jesus was amazingly brave and determined - a real man of action!

The passage from John chapter 2 that we heard just now includes two examples of Jesus being a man of action. The first is Jesus driving out the traders and money changers from the temple. John 2 verse 15, from the New Living Translation, tells us: “Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables”. Note that the Bible doesn’t tell us that Jesus reasoned with them and politely asked them to leave: Jesus chased them out! How could one man chase all those other men out, leaving behind their animals and their coins scattered on the floor? Jesus must have been really very angry! That doesn’t sound like a meek and mild man does it?! Jesus was clearly brave and determined and willing to confront people when he saw something that was wrong. Jesus took action, even though he knew it would annoy people and put him on a collision course with the authorities.

A second illustration of Jesus’ character is then found in verse 19, when Jesus says: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” That would have seemed a very strange thing to say, because as someone pointed out, it had taken 46 years to build the temple with an army of workers and so how could one man possibly rebuild it in three days. But Jesus wasn’t of course talking about the temple building, he was talking about his body. This tells us that Jesus knew that he was going to die a long time before it happened, so he had this weighing down on him. Some people might think that it was no big deal for Jesus to know he was going to die if he also knew he was going to come back to life again just three days later. But people who think this are seriously missing the point! They’re forgetting how Jesus died, that Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion was one of the cruellest forms of execution ever devised, designed to cause a slow, lingering, agonising death. Jesus died slowly in great pain. And we must never forget that although Jesus was God, he was also fully human while he was here on earth. This is clear when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus begged his Father in Heaven for there to be another way, a way that avoided dying in agony. The Bible tells us, in Luke 22 verse 44, that Jesus: “prayed fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood”. I have no doubt that Jesus was just as terrified of the pain and humiliation of crucifixion as you and I would be. But Jesus knew he had to go through with His father’s plan for the world, as there was no plan B. Jesus could have left Jerusalem and escaped arrest but instead, he willingly went to his death on a cross, as a sacrifice for each one of us. This shows how brave Jesus was, because a truly brave person is someone who’s scared, like Jesus was, but continues nonetheless, like Jesus did.

We’ve seen that Jesus was brave and determined, and willing to take action and confront people when he saw something wrong. As followers of Jesus, we know that we must be like Jesus, because Jesus is the perfect example that we must try to copy. Therefore, what we’ve heard today challenges us to be brave and ready to take action, like Jesus, and be willing to confront people, like Jesus did. This follows on very well from what Andy taught us last week about ‘taking up our cross’ and being willing to say difficult things to people when we need to. Let’s look at what this means for us in practice.

First, it means that we must be brave and willing to take risks. Just a few weeks, a new local charity called Ramsbottom Pantry approached Christ Church about placing a portacabin on our land and entering into a joint venture. But for various reasons there was only a very limited time to make a decision and so we had to act fast. It seemed like a wonderful God-given opportunity for our church to embark on new and exciting forms of mission. However, when I contacted the legal departments of the Baptist and Methodist Churches for advice, the answer to every question seemed to be “consult a solicitor”. Engaging a solicitor would have been expensive and would have made the timescale unachievable. I’m not criticising the legal teams as they were just doing their job of protecting churches. But it made me realise how risk-adverse our churches have become, creating obstacles that prevent us from doing something new, even when it’s something that we believe God’s calling us to do. It shouldn’t be like this! As I said just now, as followers of Jesus we must be like him, so if Jesus was brave and willing take action then so must we. We must be willing to take risks and step outside our comfort zone and do new things. We must be willing to fight to overcome challenges. I’m not saying that we should be recklessly irresponsible as rules and procedures are there for a good reason. But when God calls us to do something, we need to bend the rules and take risks if we have to. Have the courage to say “yes, Lord, I’ll do that” and then sort out the details later, even if it seems impossible, because God makes impossible things happen when we trust Him. Sometimes we have to be brave and step out in faith. Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, with God’s help we found a way to enter into a joint venture with Ramsbottom Pantry, even though at first it had seemed impossible.

The second thing that we can learn from when Jesus chased the traders out of the temple is that we must be prepared to be confrontational and take action. We don’t like to be confrontational, do we? We prefer to be polite and mild mannered, and not draw attention to ourselves. But whether we like it or not, Jesus shows us that we must be confrontational when necessary. I’m not saying that we should annoy people or make a fuss if we can avoid it, but if we see something wrong then we must take action, like Jesus did. There’s a lot wrong in the world, even in our local area. There’s persecution and injustice; people being abused; people who are hungry; people without a safe home; and people who have left their country in fear of their lives and yet are not welcomed. As followers of Jesus, we’re called to love our neighbours, so how can we sit back and ignore such things? As Christians, we’re compelled to take action. If necessary, we must confront those in authority, like Jesus did. And we must take action to help those who are suffering in whatever way we can, perhaps by providing help locally or by giving money to charities that are helping those who are suffering in this country and overseas.

Sometimes we fail to take action or be confrontational because we’re worried about appearing foolish. If that’s the case, then remember the words of Paul in the passage from 1 Corinthians that we heard just now. In particular, in verse 20: “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”. Paul was writing specifically about, as he put it, “the message of the cross”, but as the message of the cross, and God’s love that it speaks of, is central to all our Christian thoughts, hopes and opinions, then Paul’s words apply to everything that we believe as disciples of Jesus. This means that our Christian beliefs are far from foolish. They may appear foolish to those who are blinded by the things of this world, but God makes the wisdom of this world seem foolish. A good example of this is when Jesus said he would rebuild the temple in three days. This seemed foolish when judged by the world’s view of what the temple was but proved to be true from God’s perspective.

We’ve learnt that Jesus was a man of action, who was brave and determined and willing to confront things that were wrong. And therefore, as we need to be like Jesus, we too must be brave and determined and willing to confront things that are wrong. The trouble is, we sometimes don’t feel very brave and determined, do we? And sometimes we don’t take action because we worry about appearing foolish. But God knows what we’re like and has given us His Spirit to make us more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives us all the strength we need and guides us. The Holy Spirit turns even the most timid person into a man or woman of action. Every one of us needs the Holy Spirit living in us so that we can do God’s work.

A prayer

Dear Lord, I’m sorry for the times that I’ve failed to do what you called me to do because it seemed too risky or difficult. I’m sorry for the times that I’ve failed to confront what’s wrong because I wasn’t brave enough to make a fuss, or because I was frightened of appearing foolish. Lord, fill me afresh with your Spirit now. Make me strong and brave like Jesus. Guide me in all that I do. Help me to see the world from your perspective and be willing to confront what is wrong. Come Holy Spirit, fill me afresh now…………

Lord, in a moment of quiet, tell me what you want me to confront and what action you want me to take. Lord, speak to me now in silence………

Lord, thank you for renewing me and speaking to me. I pray that I’ll bravely take action and confront what is wrong, guided and empowered by your Spirit living in me. 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.

Watch: Be bold be strong

Watch: You make me brave (crashes over me)