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Service at Home – 6th June

Service at Home for 6th June 2021

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 06-06-2021

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 our service at home. This week we look at Jesus’ story about sheep and goats and what it teaches us about being true, wholehearted disciples of Jesus, filled with his love and power.

Watch: Hosanna (Praise is Rising)

Watch: Jesus Hope of the Nations

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Lord Jesus, you are indeed the eternal and only hope for all the nations.  You are the light in the darkness, bringing comfort and healing to everyone who comes to you.  Lord, fill us with your loving presence, heal our hurts, and enable us to bring your hope and healing to others.

Loving Father God, as we come into your glorious presence we are very conscious of our own sinful nature, of the many times we have rejected your loving care. In a few moments of quiet now we remember those things we have done wrong - wrong thoughts, wrong words, wrong actions and the things we didn’t do that we should have done - and we ask for your forgiveness ----

Amen.

Be sure then, because of God’s great love, our wrongdoing is forgiven.

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 Epistle reading

Watch: Prayers of intercession and Epistle reading

Prayers of Intercessions by Mike from Bolton Road

Dear lord and Heavenly Father, as we emerge from the shadows of this biological battlefield.  We hope and pray for a better tomorrow.   In our lonely rooms of solitude, we have endured so much heartbreak and pain, being unable to embrace our family and friends.   Thank you Jesus for sustaining us with your word and the knowledge and the presence of the Comforter.

Now as we face a brave new world, give us the wisdom to walk forward gently and firmly.  Safe in the knowledge that you are with us each step of the way.  This Morning dear Lord, let us be aware of the beauty of your creation.  As the sunlight greets the dawn, we witness the anointing of dew on the grass and plants, then each flower raises its head to reflect the power of your love in your beautiful world.

Lord Jesus, lead us away from all forms of temptation.  You were tempted and resisted each time and those thoughts flew away from you.  Give us much patience in the days that lie ahead, so we can tread carefully.  Lead us all to a firm foundation, so we all can start to put into action the individual plans you have for each and every one of us.

We know pray to you dear God, for all those who grieve now, particularly those in our churches.

Let us bow our heads and remember those we have loved and lost in the past 15 months.

Now let us pray for those who are sick who we hold dearly in our hearts.   Dear Lord, please apply your healing hand to those with mental and physical conditions.

We thank you father for those whose prayers have been answered and have been healed.

Dear Lord, equip the medical people in this land with the knowledge required to modify the vaccines, each time a new variant emerges.

Sovereign God, we praise you that you are able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine,

where we can do so little, you can do so much,

when we can do nothing, you can do everything.

Teach us to believe not just with our heads but in our hearts.

When life seems dark, the future frightening, our problems insurmountable and our own resources to meet them all to few.

We praise you that you are able to see us through.

When hopes are dashed, dreams lie broken, visions have faded and plans are thwarted, we praise you that you are able to bring new purpose.

Sovereign God, in all these things and so many more, you are able not simply to meet our needs but to transform our lives able to bless us beyond words.

Receive our praise and teach us that whatever we face whether good or bad.

Whether we feel able to meet it or not, you are able to do more than we can ever ask or think of.

Amen.

Epistle reading: Ephesians 1: 15 – 23

Watch: Open the eyes of my heart

Gospel Reading, Sermon and prayer

Watch: Gospel reading and sermon

Gospel reading: Matthew 25: 31 – 46 The sheep and the goats

Sermon

As lockdown eases, we are able to do more and meet more people.  Let’s make sure that we do so as true disciples of Jesus, seeing the people and situations we meet through God’s eyes and being open to respond to them as God guides us.  Let’s make sure that, powered by the Spirit of Jesus himself, we spend our time well, bringing His love and hope to those he guides us to.  As more activities become possible, it’s important that we don’t lose our way, but instead stay focussed on Jesus and on our purpose as His disciples.

The story of Jesus we’ve just heard is a good reminder of where our focus should be.  The story looks ahead to Jesus’ second coming and the final judgement of all people.  Don’t get too caught up in the detail, it isn’t meant as a literal description of what will happen.  The important thing about this story is the reason people are judged to be righteous or not.  As so often in his stories, Jesus takes an illustration from everyday life that his hearers will readily understand.  Something they might see any day around them.  Jesus separates the people as a shepherd would separate his animals at the end of the day.  Sheep and goats would graze together during the day, but would be separated at night time because the goats, being less hardy, needed to be kept warm at night, while the sheep preferred to be in the open air.

How does Jesus judge who is a sheep and who is a goat?  By what they have done, not just for him, but directly to him.  The things that have been done ‘for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine’ have in fact been done for Jesus.  The people who’ve helped them have helped Jesus, the people who’ve ignored their needs have ignored Jesus.  Who are these brothers and sisters?  Some scholars take them to be the Apostles and other Christian missionaries, sent out by the early church to spread the good news.  We know from the book of Acts and from Paul’s letters that they were often in need and found themselves ill-treated and in prison.  Clearly the believers had a duty to stand by them, to support them in prayer and to provide for their needs.  In the same way today we need to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians worldwide, supporting them in prayer and in any other way we can.  Supporting charities like Open Doors helps us to do this.

However, looking at this parable in the context of Jesus’ teaching as a whole, restricting ‘my brothers and sisters’ to Christians is clearly too narrow a definition.  Jesus said that he came for all people.  We know that he went out of his way to reach those on the margins of society – the poor, the sick, the outcasts (such as the lepers he healed), people regarded with contempt by others, such as the prostitutes, the tax collectors who collaborated with the occupying forces and the thieves he was crucified with.  He said he had come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19: 10).  The brothers and sisters Jesus speaks of include all people and those who are furthest away from living their lives in the fullness that God intended, are most in need of our care.

Did you notice that both the sheep and the goats are surprised at the reasons Jesus gives for his judgement of them?

The sheep are surprised that they have helped Jesus, the goats are bemused that they’ve failed to do so.  Neither group realized that helping someone in need, was in fact responding to Jesus. The goats haven’t done anything actively wrong – they haven’t done anything at all and that’s the problem.  They’ve ignored the needs of others and failed to respond to them. The sad result is that, ‘they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’

We need to be absolutely clear, heaven can’t be earned.  God came to earth in the person of Jesus and lived and died so that our wrongdoing could be forgiven and we could all have the offer of eternal life as part of God’s family, starting now and continuing in heaven.  God gives us forgiveness and eternal life out of his great love for each one of us.  All we have to do is turn to him and accept his gift through Jesus.

However, if we turn to God and ask to live in his way, following Jesus, then God’s love should influence all the decisions we make in our lives, it should be the motivating force behind everything that we do.  The sheep symbolize those people who have given their lives to Jesus.  As his love has filled them, they have responded in love, they have been filled with God’s loving concern for those around them and tried to meet their needs.  They haven’t helped people out of a sense of duty or a hope of reward, they’ve helped them out of a loving heart.  Notice that the things these people did aren’t huge – they didn’t win the Nobel peace prize or eradicate world poverty – they helped in much smaller ways, doing things we can all do - giving clothes to someone who was cold, providing shelter for someone, giving food and drink to those who were hungry and thirsty, visiting someone who was ill or in prison.  None of these are big things, they are things that everyone can do, but put together they can make a huge difference.  If enough people live their lives in God’s way of love, putting other people’s needs first, then we’ll see radical transformation in our society.  Like many of Jesus’ parables, there is both a physical and a spiritual meaning.  As followers of Jesus we are called to help those in physical need – providing food, shelter, clothing, comforting the sick. We are also called to care for people’s spiritual needs – feeding those who are hungry to hear about Jesus, bringing the living water of Jesus to those who are thirsty for His love.  Helping people to respond to Jesus, to be forgiven for the things they do wrong and clothed in his goodness.  Helping those who are imprisoned by addiction or sin to know the freedom that Jesus died to bring them.

There’s a warning in this story of Jesus. It’s not enough to say we believe in Jesus – we have to show it in how we live, we have to actually be followers of Jesus, living in the way he taught us to live.  Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Jesus’ command ‘love one another’ was so important that it was one of the last things Jesus reminded his disciples about before he went to the cross for each one of them and each one of us.  A tough command to put into practice because it goes against our natural human instincts of self-interest and self-preservation.

A tough command, but when we turn to God and ask to live in His way, he doesn’t just leave us to get on with it, he gives us his Holy Spirit – his Spirit living in us – to give us the love, strength and guidance to live in his way.

Our first Bible reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, reminds us that this power of the Holy Spirit, available to every follower of Jesus, is the same almighty power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Paul writes of God’s, ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.’ God’s amazing power can be at work in and through us.  In another letter, to the Christians in Rome, St. Paul wrote “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. " (Romans 5:5).  To be a Christian, we turn to God, accepting His gift of forgiveness and new life through Jesus.  We open our hearts to his love and if we let it fill us it will flow out from us to those we meet.  We let the amazing power of God the Holy Spirit work in us to gradually transform us into the people God wants us to be, people who live life to the full, people who put others needs before their own.  We’ll be people who, like Jesus, seek out the lost and the broken and let the Holy Spirit work through us to bring them God’s love, healing and hope.

So ask yourself today, have you given your whole life to Jesus?  Have you let him fill you with his love and power?  Often we need to let go of things, get rid of things from our lives and our behaviour, to make space for this to happen – even God can’t fill us with love and power if our lives are already full of sin and the baggage of our selfish concerns. Are you ready to seek out the lost, broken and hurting people in our community and beyond and to let God work through you to bring them his love, healing, wholeness and hope?

Let today be the day when you step out of your old self, straight into God’s loving, forgiving arms and start a new life lived in his power and love, a life that will transform both you and the world around you.

Prayer

Help us, Lord, to clear out from our lives and the life of our church the things that prevent us from serving wholeheartedly, that are in the way of us being filled to overflowing with your love and power.  Please start that work of transformation in us right now, clearing out the rubbish and pouring your Holy Spirit in.  By your Spirit make us strong and brave enough to follow you and to be channels of your love, healing and power to everyone we meet.

We ask our prayer in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Watch: Come let us sing of a wonderful love

Watch: Build Your Kingdom Here