Service at Home on 18th April 2021
for Bolton Road Methodist Church, Christ Church Ramsbottom and Edenfield Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 18-04-2021
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. This morning, we look at when Jesus meets with his disciples shortly after he returns from the dead. In particular, we look at the call by Jesus to be his witnesses and to tell everyone that if they repent, their sins will be forgiven.
Watch: Light of the world
Watch: Opening prayers
Dear Lord Jesus, you are indeed the Light of the world, who stepped down into the darkness and came to rescue us. I worship you because of what you did for us, for dying on the cross for each one of us, and for returning from the dead. Most of all I worship you for your immense love for me.
Lord, when I think how much you love me, I’m ashamed that I fail to love you and fail to love other people as much as I should. I’m ashamed of the times that I’ve been disobedient to you. I’m ashamed of the times that I’ve been selfish and unloving and thought that it’s about what I want. 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 your sacrifice I know that I have been completely forgiven and that sin has no power over me.
Lord, help me to remember that it’s all about you. Help me to focus on your power and glory. Help me to continually come to know you better. Open my mind to what you want to say to me. Open my heart to your love and forgiveness.
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: My Jesus, My Saviour
Prayers of intercession and reading
Prayers of intercession by Susan from Christ Church
Heavenly Father, you are the one constant in our lives, no matter where we are, or what we are experiencing or going through, you are always there by our side. As we bring our prayers of intercession to you now, quieten our hearts and minds to bring those situations in the world that need our prayers.
I lift to you all the places in the world that need our prayers:
- for those experiencing, famine, natural disasters, political unrest, wars, fighting and riots
- for those persecuted because of their faith
- for all countries fighting the pandemic, especially those seeing a rise in cases and deaths, or those where vaccines have not yet been rolled out.
In the silence name those countries and places that are on my mind………
Loving and compassionate God, hear our prayers.
Lord, I bring before you our country and commonwealth:
- we remember Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal family as they mourn the death of Prince Philip.
- for those whose lives have been impacted or changed by the Prince and his charity work and where his contribution and influence has brought encouragement and support.
Loving and compassionate God, comfort and strengthen them in their time of need, and bring them peace.
We pray for our government and leaders:
- as they make difficult decisions that impact all our lives
- as they negotiate with other countries and leaders
- as they continue to work out how to best handle the pandemic and the economy
- as they look at climate change and how to make changes that affect the whole world.
Loving and compassionate God. Help them to look to you for wisdom and guidance and always seeking to help the most vulnerable in our society. May their actions be a good example for the whole world to follow.
Lord, I bring before you my family and friends, especially those I know at this time who are ill or grieving, who are lonely or struggling with life or in any way in need of my prayers.
In the silence I name those on my heart at this time………….
Loving and compassionate God. Bring healing to those who need it, peace and reconciliation where there is conflict and unrest, and comfort and strength to all. May they feel your presence holding and sustaining them at this time.
And finally, I pray for myself. We all have worries and concerns on our hearts which we lay before you now. But we also recall the joy and hope of the Risen Lord. Renew my life afresh, bring healing to those situations that need to be mended as well as physical healing, and bring me peace, comfort and strength to sustain me in the coming week.
Lord, bless me now and may your light shine through me, helping me to be your instrument, wherever I am.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen
Bible reading: 1 John 3:1-11
Watch: No longer slaves to fear
Reading and Sermon
Watch: Reading and Sermon
Bible reading: Luke 24:35-49
There was Jesus, standing there, back from the dead! Imagine what the disciples must have thought. The passage from Luke’s gospel describes the disciples as “startled and frightened”, thinking that they’d seen a ghost. Jesus made sure that they knew for certain that it was really him by showing him the holes in his hands and feet. The holes made by the nails that were hammered through him into the cross. And Jesus also made it very clear that he wasn’t just appearing to them as a ghost. He told them to touch him, and feel that he was “flesh and bones”. And Jesus made a point of eating something in front of them.
So it was clear that Jesus really was alive, but the disciples were obviously very surprised to see him. But they wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d taken more notice of the Scriptures. As Jesus told the disciples, from verse 44:
“Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”.
I wonder if the reason that the disciples found it so surprising was because they’d got to know Jesus so well? Had they lost sight of who he really was? Had they failed to comprehend that Jesus really was the Messiah, despite what Jesus had told them and despite all the miracles? And it makes me wonder whether perhaps we sometimes lose sight of who Jesus really is. When we read the Bible, do we just see Jesus as God’s obedient servant, when in fact Jesus is himself one of the persons of God, who was there at the beginning of time? When we read the Bible, do we just see Jesus as a great man, when in fact Jesus will return in glory to judge the living and the dead? When Jesus appeared to the disciples after he’d returned from the dead, it was absolutely clear that he wasn’t just a man. It was absolutely clear that he was the Messiah, sent by his Father in heaven to save the world.
Jesus had to make the disciples in that room believe that he was the Messiah, the saviour of the world, otherwise the next thing that he said wouldn’t have made sense. Because this is what Jesus said next, from the New Living Translation:
“It was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’”
So in other words, Jesus told the disciples: by rising from the dead I’ve proved that I’m the Messiah and that the scriptures are true, so you’d better get yourselves out there and tell everyone their sins will be forgiven if they repent. Why did the disciples have to do this? Because, as Jesus told them, in verse 48:
“You are witnesses of all these things”.
The disciples had heard what Jesus had said, they’d seen the miracles and they’d seen him after he’d returned from the dead. So of course they were his witnesses. And so of course it was up to them to get the message of forgiveness out there, to Jerusalem and then all nations.
You might be thinking that this is all very interesting, but what’s it got to do with you, 2,000 years later? If you believe what the Bible says about Jesus, including that he rose from the dead, as I’m sure you do, then it’s got everything to do with you, because that makes you a witness for Jesus. And it’s got everything to do with you if you’ve experienced God’s love and forgiveness, and the joy and peace that this brings, because that too makes you a witness for Jesus. So, assuming that you do count yourself as a witness to Jesus, then what Jesus said to those disciples 2000 years ago applies equally to you: you need to get yourself out there and tell everyone that their sins will be forgiven if they repent. We cannot ignore that Jesus is calling us to do this.
But before we get out there, telling people that their sins will be forgiven if they repent, we must be certain that we know what we’re talking about. Because let’s face it, it’s easy to get confused about sin and repentance isn’t it? We use those words a lot in church don’t we, they’re part of the church vocabulary, but do we understand them well enough to explain it to others? We understand it by reading the Bible because, as always, the Bible tells us all that we need to know, and so we need to study it carefully.
So let’s look at that passage from John’s letter to see what that tells us about sin, forgiveness and repentance. It starts with:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
This reminds us straight away that love is central to what we’re talking about. We see so often in the Bible that everything comes back to God’s love for us, His love that He ‘lavishes’ on us. Love is the driving force! We cannot be a witness to Jesus without talking about God’s love for us.
John then goes on to say that we’re God’s children. This reinforces how much God loves us. He loves each one of us as His very own son or daughter. And it tells us something very significant about our relationship with God. We’re not God’s slave or servant or work colleague or even His close friend: we’re God’s children!
My son and daughter left home several years ago but they’ll still walk in with just a shout of hello. They’ll help themselves to a drink of Coke or Ribena, which we keep stocked up on for when they come round even though Kathy and I don’t drink it. And then they’ll happily sit down on the couch without being invited. I’d be somewhat surprised if even a close friend did that, but with my children it seems completely natural and I certainly wouldn’t want it any other way. It shows that I love them and that I happily share everything I have with them. And this is what our relationship with God is like, as His children. God loves us and wants to share His Kingdom with us.
That sounds great doesn’t it, but now for the less comfortable part: John also made it perfectly clear that not everyone is a child of God. In fact, he went as far as to write that many people are the children of the devil. We know from elsewhere in the Bible that God never withholds Hs love and wants every single person to be his child. Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son for example. But it’s up to each person to turn to God and accept Him as our father. This is where sin, forgiveness and repentance come into it.
As I spoke about on Easter Sunday, sin separates us from God and prevents us from being adopted into God’s family as one of His children. So let’s look at what exactly sin is. In verse 4 in the NIV translation, John describes sin as “lawlessness”. But I think the NLT version is more helpful:
“Sin is breaking the Law of God”.
So sin is disobedience to God. And as God’s law is to love Him and to love one another then anything that we do that’s unloving is a sin, so that’s a pretty wide range of things! As it says in verse 11:
“This is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another”.
And by the way, notice that we’re back to love again.
But, as we know from the Easter message, Jesus came to defeat the power of sin. As it says in verse 4, from the NLT:
“Jesus came to take away our sins.
But if Jesus defeated sin, why isn’t everyone a child of God? Why do some people remain children of the devil? This is where repentance comes in. Repent means to do a U-turn, which we do when we’ve realised we’ve gone the wrong way. So, we repent when we realise we’ve gone the wrong way and that we need to turn away from what we’ve been doing, and turn towards God. It’s only when we repent that we’re born into God’s family. Then, and only then, can we become a child of God and start to have a share of His Kingdom.
When I read that passage from John’s letter, what I find challenging is bits such as in verse 9, which says:
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin”.
I wish I could say that I don’t sin, but of course I do. We all sin, as only Jesus never sinned. So if this is true, how can any of us be a child of God? I think the answer is what John meant by sin. John meant willful and persistent disobedience to God, and not all the mistakes that we make but then immediately regret and confess to God. But even then, it can still seem a massive challenge. This is why we can take comfort from the following bit of verse 9, which says:
“because God’s seed remains in them”,
or as it’s phrased in the NLT:
“because God’s life is in them”.
Going back to John’s gospel, this reminds us of what Jesus told the disciples:
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus was of course talking about the Holy Spirit. When we turn to God and become His child, He places His spirit in us. His spirit helps us to remain obedient to Him and to remain His child. God’s spirit living in us helps us to love others, which then becomes evidence that we are a child of God.
I realise that this has been a bit complicated, so I’ll summarise the main points:
- Jesus calls us each one of us to be his witness and to tell everyone that their sins will be forgiven if they repent.
- We must tell everyone that God loves them and that He wants them to be born again into his family as His very own son or daughter, but for this to happen they must do a U-turn away from their disobedience to God and turn to Him.
- God’s spirit comes to live in us when we become His child, so that we have the power to remain obedient to him, and thus remain one of His children for ever.
There’s a clear challenge to us in this, isn’t there?
- Will you be a witness to Jesus?
- Will you tell people that God loves them?
- Will you tell people that God wants to welcome them into His family as His very own son or daughter – but that they need to turn to Him?
- Will you welcome God’s spirit into your life?
A final prayer
Dear Lord Jesus, help me to never lose sight of who you really are. Help me to always remember that you are indeed God and the saviour of the world. I know that the Father loves us as His very own sons and daughters and wants to share the Kingdom of Heaven with us. I thank you, Lord, that you love me so much and want to have such a close relationship with me.
Lord, help me to also remember that you call me to be a witness to your love and power, and to the peace and joy that faith in you will always bring. Help me to tell others that if they repent, their sins will be forgiven, and they will be born again into your family. Help me to explain the forgiveness that you offer everyone when we do a U-turn and turn to you.
Lord, you know that I find it difficult to remain obedient to you. And you know that I find it difficult talking to people about their need to repent. I thank you for the Holy Spirit, living in me, who gives me the ability to do your work, just as you promised your first disciples. Lord, I pray for the Holy Spirit to fill me to overflowing once more so that I’m “clothed with power from on high”……..
Lord, I pray for opportunities over the coming weeks and months to be a witness to you and to tell people about you. I pray for opportunities to help people to make that U-turn, so that they can be saved and know the love, peace and joy that only you can bring. Lord, in a moment of quiet, show each me someone or a situation in which you want me to be a witness to you……..
Lord, bless me and keep me close to you over the coming week and forevermore, enjoying the love that you lavish upon me. Amen.
Watch: Go forth and tell
Watch: Build Your Kingdom Here