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Service at Home – 21st March 2021

Service at Home on 21st March 2021 - Fifth Sunday in Lent

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 21-03-2021

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 fifth in a preaching series for Lent, which is looking at the nature of Jesus. During this series, church leaders in the Ramsbottom area are taking it in turns to provide the teaching. This Sunday, David Somerville, the minister of Holcombe Brook and Seedfield Methodist Churches, looks at “Jesus – a hope for all nations”.

Lighting of the Lent Cross

Today in our Gospel reading we hear Jesus speak about the suffering he will soon undergo and his death on a cross.

Five candles are lit.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, help us to remember that you have conquered death and that you know and understand our suffering and sadness.  Help us to remember that you are always with us and will bring us safely through hard times.

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

Watch: So will I (100 billion times)

Watch: How great Thou art

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Dear Lord, you are indeed great and I worship you. I worship you as the creator of the universe, the stars, the mountains, the oceans and every single living creature. I worship you because of your amazing love for your all children, in all the nations. But most of all I worship you because you sent your Son to give his life for us, so that we can be saved and have an eternal life in your Kingdom.

Lord, when I think how much you love me, I’m ashamed that I don’t love you and your other children as much as I should. I’m ashamed of the times that I’ve let you down and done what I wanted to do, and not what you wanted. I’m ashamed of the times that I’ve been selfish, spiteful, uncaring and unwilling to help others. Lord, in a moment of quiet, I confess to you now all the things that I’m ashamed of, in the silence…………

Lord, forgive me.

I thank you that through Jesus I know that you have completely forgiven me and that you have removed my burden of shame from me.

Lord, I know that you are everywhere, from one side of the universe to the other, so I can be certain that you’re here with me. Help me to feel your presence now. Help me to sense your powerful love surrounding me. Help us to sense your powerful love surrounding us. Help us to put our trust in you, our one true hope.

Lord, I pray that you’ll open my mind to what you want to say to me today. And I pray that you’ll open my heart to your love and forgiveness.

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

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 so that people can start to go out and meet each other again and that businesses can reopen. I pray that we’ll soon be able hug each other and sing in church once more. I pray that the isolation and loneliness experienced by many will soon become nothing more than an unpleasant memory. Lord, I pray for those countries that are struggling to get vaccines or to set up vaccination programs or are denying that it’s needed. I pray that all nations work together to halt the deaths and impact on society worldwide.

Lord, I also remember the many other problems in the world. I remember the wars, injustice, violence, poverty and all the other causes of suffering. I pray that the organisations trying to reduce this suffering will get the help, protection and resources that they need. I pray that western governments will be bolder and more determined in reducing suffering in all nations.

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 our prayers today………

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

Lord, I pray for my church. I pray that my church will make the right decisions as we make plans to resume worship in our buildings. I pray that you’ll give us opportunities to show your love to others and explain what Easter is really about. Help us to be guided by you in everything that we do. I pray that you’ll make my church strong and open to your Spirit.

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

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

Amen.

Watch: You Restore my Soul (live)

Reading, Sermon and prayer

Watch: Reading Sermon and prayer

Bible reading: John 12:20-33

Sermon by David Somerville, the minister of Holcombe Brook and Seedfield Methodist Churches

It has been a great joy to hear from my colleagues in Churches Together in Ramsbottom and I hope and pray that we will be blessed today.

Let’s pray….

May the written word through the spoken word lead us to an encounter with the risen, eternal Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

I wonder if you like doing jigsaws. There are some families where there is always a jigsaw on the go. Each of us, no doubt, has a procedure for doing jigsaws, whether that be to do the edges first, or perhaps work on specific areas of the jigsaw and then slide them into place. But the best bit is when you slot the final piece into place and complete the picture.

I wonder if that is what happened in our Gospel reading today. Some Greeks came to see Jesus. They spoke to Philip who spoke to Andrew who spoke to Jesus.

Initially, I thought that this was perhaps an interruption into Jesus’ thinking for he seemed to ignore them and talk about being glorified like a grain of wheat dying in the ground to produce a harvest.

But perhaps, the coming of these Greeks or Gentiles was the final piece of the jigsaw. When Jesus saw that even the Gentiles were coming to see him, he knew that everything was ready for the final scene which would lead to his crucifixion.

We are told in Isaiah 49: 6, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

This may have been the calling of God’s people, Israel, but we see its fulfilment in Jesus. I wonder if these words sprang to Jesus’ mind as he heard the voices of foreigners wanting to see him.

Jesus, the hope of the nations. It is very easy to think that Jesus is there just for people like us, that somehow, people need to be like us to hear the Gospel and respond. That is certainly not the view of Jesus. Having heard the affirmation that Gentiles were seeking him, he knew that there was nothing now standing in the way of the final challenge of the cross.

He said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

The important word there is ‘All’.

I grew up in Cambuslang, just to the south of Glasgow. I have to admit that we were a predominantly white, Scottish community, with perhaps the only representatives of other ethnicities being those who ran the corner shop or perhaps the doctor.

When I became a Christian, I came to Christ within the context of that community which had its own world view, its own focus and perhaps its own prejudices.

I lived in London for eight years in what was a much more cosmopolitan society but went to the Church of Scotland in Covent Garden, which served predominantly Scots in London.

Having moved back to Scotland and then to Wigan, I was still very much part of a white community. It was only when I went to theological college at Queen’s Ecumenical Foundation in Birmingham that I met with Christians who came from very different backgrounds and nationalities. I was truly blessed to be in a group that ranged from Anglo-Catholic to Black Pentecostal in its makeup, and to come across students from Africa, India, Fiji, and the Caribbean, all of whom read the Bible but in doing so, were drawn to different emphases based on their lived and inherited experience.

What I discovered was that the Gospel is so much broader and so much more diverse in its message than perhaps I had perceived it to be in my own experience. I can understand how people who have been subject to oppression can pick up on the narrative of release from slavery in Egypt as told in Exodus, or how people who have been subject to persecution and discrimination can identify with the Christmas narrative of Herod slaying children under the age of two, of Mary, Joseph and Jesus having to flee as refugees to Egypt, rather than highlighting a story of angels, shepherds and wise men.

From my perspective, the story of Exodus foreshadowed the story of redemption in Christ, and I needed to relearn the relevance of Exodus from people who had been subject to oppression and persecution.

Two of my fellow students came from South Africa and would have been on opposite sides of the apartheid divide. Indeed, the grandmother of one of them had been a slave. Such oppression was in their lived experience and memory.

Our backgrounds mean that different aspects of God’s word speak to us in different ways. If I am going to be as spiritually rich as I can be, I need to listen to those who can see the spiritual blind spots that I have, that have not even crossed my mind.

As I trained at college, I discovered people with very different forms of spirituality who were very comfortable with forms of worship that I was not, and vice versa. I had friends who could not engage in prayer unless it was written down in some form of liturgy and others for whom written liturgy was a very strange concept. Yet we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus is big enough to embrace us all in all our diversity. In 1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 14, Paul writes: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Thus, I find that my theology is a living, growing entity. Yes, it has at its core my understanding of how Jesus died for each one of us and won for us a way back to God through the cross. But it has grown to embrace the ideas of social justice, of hearing the words of Jesus as affecting the injustices of this world, and it has done so as I have come in contact with Christians from all nations. I am so grateful for so many who have helped me in my spiritual and theological journey as I engage time and time again with Jesus, the Hope of the Nations.

There is another aspect of this. The history of the Bible is that of God’s people, called to be, if you like, a shop window for the nations to see God at work. Unfortunately, we as God’s people have far too often seen ourselves as being different, even better than others and our attention has been drawn to our own spiritual well-being rather than sharing the message with others.

I am ashamed that when Methodists arrived in Britain from the Caribbean with the Windrush Generation and went to the Methodist Church in their new community, their experience was one of rejection. In one case, as the minister shook hands with them at the end of the service, he said, “Thank you for coming. Please don’t come again.”

It was that attitude that resulted in the starting up of Black-majority churches in Britain and we lost the opportunity to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Whenever we cannot see beyond the four walls of our church building, we fall into the same trap.

The arrival of the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus is a reminder that Jesus is for everyone, for every nation, for every culture and every background. It is this all-inclusive aspect that we need to hold on to.

There is a saying in Methodism that summarises the teaching of John Wesley. I don’t believe that it came from him directly. It is called the Four Alls.

  • All need to be saved.
  • All can be saved.
  • All can know that they are saved.
  • All can be saved to the uttermost, meaning that we can be so full of the Spirit that the very desire to sin is removed.

It picks up on that word that Jesus used – All. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

I have used this story before, so I apologise if you have heard it before. A good number of years ago, an item was placed in the Times Court and Social column in December, leading up to Christmas. It ran:

“Lady Felicity Fortescue-Smythe” [I should explain: I have changed her name for confidentiality purposes] “is not sending Christmas cards this year but wishes to convey Season’s Greetings to all her friends…except two.”

Of course, no one knew whether they were one of the two who were excluded. The point is that Jesus used the word All with no exclusions. It doesn’t matter what nation you are from, what colour your skin, what accent with which you speak, what background you come from, what class you are deemed to be in, what gender or sexuality you are. All are included, every one, including you.

If at any time, you have felt excluded, that the Gospel is not for you, that somehow you are beyond the reach of God’s grace, remember that that word “All” includes you.

And if you look around and see people who are different from you, who see the world very differently to you, with whom you feel no connection, remember that Jesus died for them as well.

I pray that God may open our eyes and open our heart to the amazing breadth of the Gospel in its entirety, from the intimacy of God being right with us in our current situation to the very practical aspects of helping the oppressed and downtrodden, and that every encounter we have with someone who is different to us will lead us to a greater understanding of his being Jesus: the Hope for all Nations.

In Jesus’ name. Amen

A final prayer written by an anonymous African Christian.

O God:

Enlarge my heart

that it may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love.

Stretch my heart

that it may take into it all those who with me around the world

believe in Jesus Christ.

Stretch it

that it may take into it all those who do not know him,

but who are my responsibility because I know him.

And stretch it

that it may take in all those who are not lovely in my eyes,

and whose hands I do not want to touch;

through Jesus Christ, my Saviour, Amen.

Lord God, fill us afresh with your Holy Spirit.  Fill us with love for each other and for all those in need.  Through the working of your Spirit, make us more like our Lord and Saviour each day.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, remain with us always.  Amen.

Watch: O Lord the clouds are gathering

Watch: Jesus Hope of the Nations