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Service at Home – 4th July

Service at Home for 4th July 2021

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

YouTube playlist: Service at Home 04-07-2021

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 hear about people who rejected Jesus’ teaching and people who accepted it, and we look at what we can learn from both groups.

Watch: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Watch: Unbroken Praise

Opening prayers

Watch: Opening prayers

Prayer of praise

Lord God, our Father in Heaven, I worship you and all my praise is indeed yours, forever. I worship you for this wonderful world that you created for me. I worship you for all that you provide me with. And most of all I worship you because you sent your son to this world to die for each one of us as a sacrifice, so that we can be at one with you for all eternity.

Lord, I know that you are with me now. Help me to sense your Holy presence. Open my heart to your love and open my mind to what you want to say to me. Amen.

Prayer of Confession (adapted from a prayer by Nick Fawcett) 

Lord Jesus Christ, save us from losing sight of why we are here; from speaking and failing to listen, from giving and forgetting to receive, from praying and refusing to hear, from looking but failing to seek.

In a moment of quiet, bring to mind the ways you’ve failed to live your life in God’s way.

Lord, open our lips to praise you, our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you and our lives to serve you, to the glory of your name.  Amen.

 

God is slow to anger and full of compassion

God fulfils his promises and true to his word God forgives all who repent and who come to him through Jesus Christ.

God has forgiven us, we know this because Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God.

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: Reckless love

Prayers of intercession and Epistle reading

Watch: Prayers of intercession and Epistle reading

Prayers of Intercession

Dear Lord, I bring to you now my concerns for the world, for my neighbours, for my church and for myself.

As waves of the COVID pandemic continue to batter the world, I pray that lockdown measures in other countries will be effective. I also pray that vaccination programs will speed up so that the vulnerable will be protected and life can return to normal as soon as possible.  I’m grateful for the successful vaccination program in our country and that it seems that restrictions will be lifted very shortly. But as cases continue to rise, especially in this area, I pray that the rate of people dying or suffering from long COVID remains low. I pray that the government acts wisely with the right amount of caution.

I pray for those living in my neighbourhood, especially those who have been badly impacted physically, financially and emotionally by the lockdowns. I pray for the work of Porch Boxes, Ramsbottom Pantry and other groups who are trying to help those in need.

I pray for churches as we continue to work towards a new normality. Help us to make the right decisions in the coming weeks about how and when to reintroduce the things we miss so much, such as singing, not having to wear a mask and physical contact. I pray that you will inspire churches anew with a desire to worship and serve you. Set churches on fire with your Spirit. Give us opportunities to show your love to our communities and to lead people into a relationship with you.

Lord, I pray for those who I know are unwell, bereaved, lonely or suffering in any way. In a moment of quiet I bring before you these people…….

Lord, heal these people, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and help them to get the help that they need……..

And Lord, I also bring before you my own troubles. I bring our concerns to you now in the silence………..

Lord, heal me, comfort me and guide me, through the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Epistle reading: 2 Corinthians 12: 2 – 10

Watch: In Christ Alone

Gospel and Sermon

Watch: Gospel and Sermon

Gospel reading: Mark 6: 1 – 13

Sermon

When you heard the reading from Mark’s Gospel, which group of people did you identify with the most?  The townspeople, taking offence when the local carpenter’s son shows them the way to heaven?  The disciples, trusting Jesus and being sent out on an urgent and fruitful mission?

I’d like to be like the disciples, but I reckon I behave like the townspeople sometimes.  What about you?  Do we, like the people of Jesus’ home town, sometimes fail to see God in our ordinary, everyday situations, in our family and friends, in the folk we meet?

The townspeople reject Jesus because they think they know him, they can’t see past their prejudices about who he is.  To them, he’s the carpenter and they don’t see that he could also be the Messiah.

In the reading, we heard that because of the townspeople’s blindness to who Jesus was, ‘He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them’.  Frank Doyle writes, ‘How often have we too blocked out God’s love and healing power because we refused to recognise him in a particular person or a situation? Yet, it was precisely through this person or experience he was trying to reach us.’

Most of us will find we have some pre-conceived ideas about certain types of people or certain situations.  We need to be aware of our prejudices and discard them.  If we don’t, we might find that, like the people of Jesus’ hometown, we accidentally block out God.

I was a member of the township forum in my previous circuit.  It’s a group of local councillors and community representatives.  Often at our meetings we would hear complaints from residents about teenagers gathering on street corners or in the local parks.  We never had any complaints about pensioners gathering on street corners, although they could often be seen doing just that – gathering to pass the time of day with their friends, just like the teenagers.  The assumption was that the teenagers must be up to no good and this was based on their age and their appearance.  A lady from one of my previous churches described how she was suddenly confronted with her own unconscious prejudice.  She was walking home from church late at night when she saw a group of youths on the pavement ahead of her.  She approached them in some trepidation, only to be greeted warmly by them – they were friends of her own children.

We need to recognise our own prejudices and reject them if we are to be sure to be open to God communicating with us in our everyday lives through the people we meet.

God is always with us and he is constantly communicating with us through the familiar events of our everyday lives; through the people we know, through the things that happen to us each day, through the situations in which we find ourselves.  It’s easy to miss God’s message if it comes to us from someone or somewhere unexpected.  We need to ask God’s help to root out any prejudices we might be harbouring, either consciously or unconsciously.

We can also miss God’s message if we get too absorbed in our everyday concerns and forget to be alert, listening for God’s voice and looking out for where God is active in our surroundings.

It can be helpful to spend a few minutes each day looking back on the events of the day and asking God what he was telling us through the people we met and the things that happened.  The Society of Jesus use a simple 4 step prayer called the Examen in order to do this.  You can find it on their website and also on the 24-7 Prayer website, or I’ll gladly send you a copy if you’d like one.

Go back to that scene of Jesus preaching in the synagogue in his home town.  Imagine him looking out at the congregation, seeing his family, his childhood friends and their families.  People he’d no doubt known and cared about since he was a small child, rejected and belittled him.  He must have been hurt, he must also have been desperately sad that they were cutting themselves off from God’s love and healing.  However, Jesus accepted that some people would reject him and his teaching.  We can take heart from this if we encounter a negative response from people.  Did Jesus stop teaching after this negative experience?  Of course not!  We read in the next verse that ‘Jesus went round teaching from village to village’.  And then he sent his disciples out in pairs to do the same.  It simply isn’t an option for us to stay quiet about Jesus in case we encounter unpleasantness – he sends us out, just as he sent those first disciples. We’ve all been called to spread the good news about Jesus in our families, in our workplaces, among our friends, in our community.  Jesus sends us out and He tells us to expect opposition and trouble!

Which brings us to those disciples, sent out on an exciting, but rather scary and risky, mission.  Why did Jesus send the disciples out in twos?  Gerald O’Mahony writes, ‘Perhaps because it is better to show what love looks like than simply to talk about it.  Two apostles friendly to each other must be a better advertisement than one apostle working alone.’  We need to do the same, to show people what love looks like as well as telling them about it, to live in loving fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  As Gerald puts it, ‘to love our fellow Christians so much that the warmth will spread.’

How did those disciples feel as they set off?  I expect they felt excited, but also nervous, worried in case they made a mess of it, let Jesus down.  A few verses on you can read about when they got back – absolutely full of the amazing things that had happened, the wonderful things that God had done by working through them.  Working through these ordinary men who a short while ago had been fishing or tax collecting and expecting to continue doing so until they retired.  Now they were casting out demons and healing people in Jesus’ name and on his authority.  Of course they could never have done these things themselves, the power of God was working through them.

The apostle Paul describes the same experience in the passage from his letter to the Corinthians that we heard earlier. He has a ‘thorn in the flesh’, some sort of illness or affliction which he feels gets in the way of him being an ambassador for Jesus, prevents him in some way from proclaiming Jesus’ message effectively.  He begs God to take this from him, but the reply comes, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’   God tells Paul that his power will shine out all the more through Paul’s weakness.  This is true for us all.  When we feel inadequate, fearful that we can’t do what Jesus has asked us to do, that’s when we’re ready to rely completely on God and let his light and power shine through us.  Jesus has given us a mission – to spread his word.  He has promised that it won’t be easy and he has promised us his help and power and authority to do it.  We can say with Paul, ‘for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’.

So there are two positive steps we can take today.  Firstly, we can make sure that we are open to hear what God is saying to us through the people and events of our everyday lives.  We can do this by checking that we’re not blinded to what God is doing because we’ve already made up our own minds about certain people or situations.  And also by making a conscious effort to discern what God is trying to tell us – perhaps by using the prayer of Examen to bring the events of each day to God.

Secondly, remembering that we are all called by Jesus to spread his message in our families, in our workplaces, among our friends, in our community, we can ask God to work through us to enable us to fulfil this mission.  We may feel inadequate for the task, we may be worried about what to say or do, we may be concerned about the reaction we’ll get.  Jesus understands that, but his promise to us is that all those concerns are unnecessary.  He will be with us, the power of God will work through us and his love and life will shine out of us – we just have to be open to God and brave enough to let it happen.

Prayer

Loving God, shine your light into the darkest corners of my heart and soul.  Help me to root out any prejudices I harbour.  Help me to be humble and open, seeing people through your eyes, remembering that you created all things and that you love all that you have made.

Lord Jesus, I confess that I am often a poor and hesitant witness for you.  I thank you for your promise that you will be with me always and that you will give me the words and the power that I need.  Help me to remember that your power is made perfect in my weakness.  I surrender my life to you once again and ask you to fill me with your Spirit.  Lord, let your love shine out of me and reach those who so desperately need to know you.  I ask my prayers in your precious Name.  Amen.

Watch: Jesus Christ is waiting

Watch: Build my life (worthy of every song)