Service at Home on 9th May 2021
for Bolton Road Methodist Church, Christ Church Ramsbottom and Edenfield Methodist Church
YouTube playlist: Service at Home 09-05-2021
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 week, we look at Jesus’ command to love each other and consider how we can put that love into action. We’ll also see that if we obey this command, it will be a source of joy for us and it need never become a burden.
Watch: What a beautiful name it is
Watch: Opening prayers
Isaiah 49: 15, 16: “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”.
Father God we come before you as your children. Some of us are full of joy, some of us are grieving, disappointed or unwell. Some of us are full of hope and some are finding it hard to hope. Whatever our situation this morning, help us to know your loving presence with us now. Reassure us with the knowledge of your great and faithful love for each one of us and the knowledge that whatever we're going through at this present time you are with us and will guide us through it.
Father God, held in your faithful love we know we can be completely honest with you. We bring to mind the things we've done wrong; harsh or impatient words, gossip, unforgiveness, things we failed to do that we should have done. In a moment of quiet we bring to you whatever we need to confess to you this morning, knowing that you are listening to us in love and patience.
Father, we thank you that because of your great love for us shown to us on the cross we are forgiven and set free from the things we've done wrong. Fill us with your Spirit and help us to live our lives to your glory. In Jesus name we pray. 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: Way Maker Miracle Worker
Prayers of intercession and Gospel reading
Prayers of intercession by Mike from Bolton Road
God of all hope and mercy, we call on you today.
We pray for those who are living in fear: fear of illness, fear for loved ones, fear of other’s reactions to them.
May your Holy Spirit give us a sense of calmness and peace.
As the lockdown restrictions are starting to be lifted, guide us with due diligence.
We pray for all those nations suffering with the Coronavirus - in particular India and Brazil.
We remember our dear church family members and friends who have sadly passed away over the last year and we pray for their families. In a few moments of silence we cherish their memories and the good works they left behind.
We pray for your church in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Just what we are going through, you know Loving Father, and understand.
When our indecision paralyses us with the fear of choosing wrong, the deep peace we experience waiting on you, is such a gentle way to calm our raging storms.
Help us turn our eyes, hearts and minds to you and guard us in the wings of your mercy and lift up all who are brought low by the dark cloak of fear.
Let us rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gracious God, give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick, and your wisdom to those researching for future medical remedies.
As it is written in John 7, your own brothers did not believe who you were Lord Jesus. However, we thank you and praise you for choosing those faithful fishermen who followed you obediently when you asked them to do so. You selected these unschooled ardent labourers to become fishers of men and resounding evangelists to all mankind.
God of compassion, be close to those who are struggling
In their loneliness, be their consolation; in their deep despair, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light; through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Gospel reading: John 15:9-17 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.
Watch: Jesus Christ is waiting
Epistle Reading and Sermon
Watch: Epistle Reading and Sermon
Epistle reading: 1 John 5:1-5 “His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world”.
Once more we’re talking about love! Once more we hear Jesus commanding us to love each other. Remember that I’m using the lectionary readings - I’m not picking passages on loving each other deliberately to make a point. Perhaps God’s trying to make a point, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.
The passage from John’s gospel follows on directly from what we heard a couple of weeks ago, about Jesus being the vine and us being the branches, and needing to ‘remain in Jesus’. But now Jesus takes it a step further by telling us to “remain in his love”, and he tells us that we do this by doing what he commands. And, just in case we’ve forgotten, Jesus reminds us what he commands us to do, in verse 12:
“My command is this: love each other as I have loved you”.
As I’ve said before, it always comes back to love. God is pure love, and love is the driving force in His Kingdom. When we talk about love, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that love is a bit weak and soppy. But in fact the opposite is true! True love is anything but weak, love is strong and powerful. And we need to be strong to truly love. Jesus makes it very clear what true love requires in verse 13:
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.
Jesus is telling us two things here. First, he showed everyone how much he loves us by willingly dying on a cross for each one of us. This was Jesus showing God’s love in action. This was Jesus showing us that God’s love for us is real and not just words in the Bible. And second, Jesus isn’t just talking about himself. Jesus is telling us to lay down our own lives for others. This suddenly makes things a lot more serious doesn’t it!?
So let’s look at what it means in practice. While Jesus was talking about literally laying down his life, it’s very unlikely that any of us will ever need to die for anyone. If we lived in a different country, then we might need to, but luckily for us, not in this country. So let’s consider what Jesus’ command to lay down our lives might mean to us here today? Very simply, it means that Jesus expects us to be willing to put others’ needs before our own. It means that we must be willing to make sacrifices for the good of others. This is echoed in other passages in the Bible, for example, in Luke 9 verses 23 and 24 Jesus tells us:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
And in John 12 verse 25:
“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”.
These aren’t the most popular verses in the Bible and there’s no doubt that this is tough teaching. Most of us have a life we enjoy and we have hopes for how our life will pan out. Those who are young have their chosen career ahead of them, and are looking forward to being able to afford a nice home and enjoy nice holidays. Those who are a bit less young will be looking forward to an enjoyable and relaxing retirement. Does Jesus really expect us to give up these things? Well, yes and no. Jesus may not call us to give up the life we enjoy, but Jesus does expect each one of us to be prepared to give it up. Jesus expects us to be prepared to stop living the life that we want and start living the life that he wants us to live.
We must be prepared to change career, for example to go into ministry, which might entail a reduction in income and going to live somewhere that you wouldn’t have chosen to live, maybe even in a different country. And we must be prepared to forego some of our leisure time, especially those of us who’ve retired. If God calls you, then you must be prepared to do what He wants, even if it means that you don’t get to do all the things that you’d hoped to do.
God doesn’t call many people to make big changes to their life, but every single one of us will be called to make at least some small changes. That’s because we cannot love others without doing something to show our love. Love is an action, not just a thought. We can’t say “yes of course I love others” but then fail to put that love into action. If we love, then it must be reflected in what we do. There’s a well-known phrase: “actions speak louder than words”. This most definitely applies when we love people. And sometimes it’s the showing that we love that actually matters more than the help that we give. We’ve seen this at Ramsbottom Pantry, with people being overwhelmed just to know that someone cares for them, out of all proportion to what they actually received. Often, people’s emotional needs are greater than their physical needs. People need to know that they’re loved.
The question that you might be secretly asking is “why should I”? “Why should I put myself out, and even perhaps give up the life I’d hoped for”? One answer is that, as it tells us in John 15 verse 17 Jesus tells us:
“This is my command: Love each other”.
When you think what Jesus has done for you, then it’s really not too much to ask, is it? A second reason is what it says in verse 11:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
This is the opposite of what we might expect, isn’t it? It would be easy to think that if we give up things that we want to do, then we’d have less joy and not more. But Jesus tells us very clearly that if we obey his commands and love one another, then we’ll be filled with joy.
Actually, deep down, I think we know this is true, don’t we? We see very wealthy people who are clearly not very happy, despite having homes, cars, boats and a lifestyle that we could never expect to have. It seems that never mind how much they have, it’s never enough to make them happy and they always want more. But on the other hand, we see people who have very little, but as they’ve remained in the love of Jesus, they are full of joy. So that’s a very compelling reason to love others, isn’t it? That by loving others, we ourselves are filled with the love and joy of Jesus.
Let’s now look at some practical ways in which we can show our love for others. I must admit that during lockdown, it’s been much more difficult to do this. But we can still phone people up to have a chat with them, or offer to do some shopping for them. But now that the COVID restrictions seem to be finally lifting and our church activities will hopefully soon be able to recommence, we’ll have many more opportunities to show our love to others. This makes it a really good time to listen to God to discern what He’s calling you to get involved in. It might be something that you were involved with before the Lockdown, or it might be something new. At Christ Church, we’ve now got Ramsbottom Pantry, which I’m sure will soon create all sorts of opportunities to show our love to others. And hopefully the café, Little Stars and mid-week activities will soon restart, needing volunteers to help. And at Bolton Road, the toddler group, lunch club and coffee club will also soon restart, also needing volunteers to help. So keep asking God what He wants you to get involved in. Keep asking God how He wants you to show your love for others.
Also remember that Jesus commands his disciples to love one another. So as a church, we must love our fellow church members, and what’s more, we need to show that we love them by caring for them, by respecting their opinions, by tolerating their annoying habits, and by forgiving past disagreements. Online worship has been great in some respects: learning new songs, worshipping whenever we want and being able to worship in our pyjamas. And, of course, being able to fast forward through the sermon – not that any of you have ever done that, I’m sure! And Zoom has enabled us to maintain a sense of community, for those who are online at least. But it’s not the same as actually meeting together and showing our love for each other. So I encourage you to make the effort to start meeting again to worship on Sunday mornings, when you can and when it’s safe for you to do so. Even if it does mean getting dressed on a Sunday morning and having to listen to the whole sermon!
You might be thinking that as the restrictions are lifted, you’ll want to be off visiting friends and family, going for days out, going out for meals, etc., so you won’t have time to get involved in church activities. You might even be thinking that you won’t have time to come to church to worship on Sundays. If that’s the case, then remember verse 11. Remember that the only true source of joy is obeying Jesus’ command to love others. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go for days out and visit friends and family – I certainly intend to! But make sure that you get your priorities right, otherwise you’ll miss out on the joy that loving each other brings.
I’m going to finish by quickly looking at the second passage that we heard, from 1 John chapter 5. It states once more that if we love God, then we must obey his commands and love all of his children. But this is then followed by a very encouraging sentence, in verses 3 and 4:
“His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world”.
God’s command to love others can seem a burden can’t it? It can seem like a lot of extra work and hassle for us, as we looked at just now, and, quite frankly, some people can be very difficult to love. So how can it not be a burden? It’s not a burden because we’re God’s children and so we can rely on His strength, wisdom and power. As a child of God, we can overcome any obstacle that this world can throw up.
If the obstacle is our own selfishness, pride and desire for the things of this world, then God will transform us more into His likeness, if we let Him. If the obstacle is that we find it hard to love someone, then we must love with God’s all-powerful love, through His spirit living in us.
A final prayer
Dear Lord, I really do want to obey your command to love each other and to experience the true joy that only you can give me. I pray that my church will put in the effort to show that we love others, both inside and outside the church. Lord, help me to listen to you and get my priorities right as we’re able to start meeting again, so that I do what you know is best and not just what I think is best.
Lord, in a moment of quiet, tell me how you want me to show my love for others…….
Lord, you know that I sometimes find it a burden to love others and to put that love into action. Help me to remember your promise that as one of your children, I can overcome any burden that this world puts on me, by relying on your power and guidance. In a moment of quiet I think about the burdens that are weighing me down at the moment, and I hand them to you to overcome………….
Lord, I thank you for removing my burdens, so that I can feel free to enjoy your love and to love others.
Lord, continue to protect and guide me over the coming weeks. Help me to feel your love for me, as your child. And help me to love others and to put that love into action.
Watch: Take my life and let it be