Although we are opening our churches, we have serious questions to ask ourselves about what it is to be a Christian in the 21st Century, and what will church be like over the next few months and years. In September and October, we will be looking at crucial questions which we will need to answer so that our churches move forward from this time of ‘lock-down’ rather than stagnate or move backwards. This means that each church will be holding small group sessions to look at the way ahead. The staff team are looking at developing a series of meetings for churches but there is also a discussion which will take place on Zoom, a meeting on Monday evening 3rd August at 7pm the ID No. is 842 4011 0921 and the Password is Imag1ne the title of the meeting is Re-imagining church. We have some very interesting ideas already and these will be shared next Monday.
We have the usual Sunday service at 10.30am on Facebook and repeated later on You Tube. We have the Dial-a-talk on the phone 01636 552255, we also have the Quiz on a Wednesday night at 8pm and the 10-minute-ministry on Thursday at 7pm. Balderton Methodist Church is open on Sundays for prayer from 3.00 – 5.00pm and Collingham Methodist Church will be open for prayer on Sunday mornings from 10.30 -12.00am. We have a Church Council meeting at North End on 19th August in which we will discuss when to open the church. We have a Zoom ‘Coffee Time’ on a Sunday morning at 11.30 – 12.15 and the ID No is 857 2424 6356 and the Password is Coffee.
God Bless Peter and Cathy
Here is the service, I have chosen hymns from Singing the Faith and the last one is from Scott and John Lee at North End.
Shall we pause as we prepare for worship
Hymns 430 My lips shall praise you my great Redeemer
63 Over all the earth you reign on high
Great and wonderful God, with awe we think of the vastness of your creation and we marvel at your work throughout history. We worship you because you are a holy God. We gather in our homes to lift our praises to you. Although we cannot join our brothers and sisters in church we join with the angels as they praise your holy name. We thank you that we can put our hand in yours, knowing that you will lead, support and hold us throughout our lives, and that you will supply all our needs. We do pray that you will restore and renew us by your love, that you will inspire us by your Holy Spirit.
Forgive us that we have let go of your hand so often to go our own way, chasing after that which will never satisfy us. Forgive us for doubting you when times are hard. Forgive us for reaching out to you only when we have need of you. Thank you that you pardon our sins, that they are washed away by your blood shed so freely at Calvary. Help us to trust you with everything we have. Help us to have confidence in your ability not just to save but to lead us to eternal life
Reading Genesis ch 32 v 22 – 31
Hymn 34 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
Offering – we thank you for all that people give to sustain your church in our area.
Reading Matthew ch 14 v 13 – 21
Hymn 88 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the king of creation
When we hear some bad news, we want to be on our own to take it in, to absorb it and work through it. In this reading Jesus hears the death of his cousin John the Baptist. John’s death was more than the death of a relative, it was a solemn reminder of the path that Jesus himself was on. Not surprising then that he wanted to be alone. But the crowds followed Jesus so that when he arrived, Jesus saw thousands of desperate people. I wonder what our reaction would have been? We would probably have complained. Verse 16 states, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them.” His heart went out to them, this is one aspect of the life of Jesus that we can mirror in ourselves. To always have time for people, to listen to them and find out their needs and respond to them warmly, unselfishly and wholeheartedly. Jesus was able to bring healing to those who were ill. We can bring God’s healing to people today.
You have to feel sorry for the disciples, they thought they were going to have a weekend off and here they were on a Thursday evening and Jesus was still teaching the crowd. The disciples thought that they were being helpful and realistic. It was a large crowd and there was nowhere to buy food, the sooner they set off the sooner these people would get home. It is amazing how practical we can be when we are dealing with other people’s problems. We know exactly what to do. But then Jesus says to us, “It’s your problem as well.” Suddenly, we are responsible for the person who is seeking help. God wants us to sort it out, instead of passing the buck. The disciples felt the same way. They had been so helpful in telling Jesus to dismiss the crowd but Jesus puts the problem on them. He said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” The disciples look at their resources, and say, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” We are the same, we see the task God wants us to complete and we look at our meagre resources and tell God it’s not possible. We focus on ourselves and on our own ability, instead of focusing on God.
At Balderton we have a redevelopment scheme, the aim is to turn one of our buildings into a café. The cost is roughly 400,000. A month ago, we had 83,000, and we needed 120,000 to be able to apply to the bigger grant providers. We asked ourselves, ‘Where are we going to get 40,000 from. We prayed about it. We managed to get 20,000 of the shortfall, and then there were a few smaller donations, to take us up to 106,000. We approached the Circuit and they very generously gave us 15,000. In just a few weeks God provided us with the money, a miracle, and a great encouragement for us all.
Jesus wanted his disciples to learn a lesson, always look to God the Father. There had been many times when the disciples had seen Jesus perform incredible miracles, and now Jesus was asking them to trust him, to help them believe that they can be part of something wonderful. They had to take the first step. They brought what they had to Jesus, they had to wrestle with the embarrassment, the sense of possible failure. We are the same, we wrestle with those feelings too. We look at our talents and abilities, we look at the resources we have, and we convince ourselves it’s not enough. We don’t expect a miracle because we are relying on ourselves and not on God. A miracle is when we put ourselves out on a limb, we are going to look ridiculous if we fail, but then it’s not about us, it’s about giving glory to God. For God to use us to advance his kingdom here on earth. The disciples said to Jesus, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.” Jesus said, “Bring them to me.” What wonderful words these are. In the tasks that God calls us to fulfill, he will always say, “Bring it to me,” The job is always too big for us and so we need the Father’s help. What we need to do is bring ourselves before God – to trust completely in him, and bring the task to God to bless it.
When the disciples had brought the fish and bread to Jesus. He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Jesus gave thanks even before the miracle happened. Maybe that’s a challenge for us when we bring our problem to God. We approach God in faith, to know that he will work in this situation but not always in the way we think. And we thank God that he will bring the best outcome for everyone. You can imagine the disciples drawing a breath and holding it as they waited to see what Jesus would do. Was there expectation in the air as the disciples waited on Jesus. I imagine there was. Is there expectation from us as we bring things to God, whether it be problems. situations or people? We need to expect that God will work and bring something good out of the situation
Following Jesus was always going to be a tall order for the disciples. It was not just the way of life they led, moving from place to place, not knowing where they were going to sleep, and when they were going to eat. Jesus also developed their minds as he taught the crowds, and then explained the meaning of the parables to them afterwards. He was challenging their perceptions of God his Father. Jesus performed miracles but also wanted the disciples to be involved – feeding the 5,000, Peter walking on water, and Jesus also sent them out on their own to teach and pray for people, and they came back praising God because of the miracles that they had been involved in. The disciples must have been in turmoil sometimes because of what Jesus was asking of them. They were wrestling with all kinds of thoughts, especially, asking themselves, ‘Who Is Jesus?’ ’Is he the Messiah?’ They wrestled with the teaching of Jesus compared to the traditional teaching they had received as boys. The disciples were learning and growing in faith all the time. But still they seemed out of their depth when Jesus challenged them.
We live in challenging times today. How do we express our faith in ‘lock-down’? How do we worship God in our own homes? How do we get spiritual nourishment when we cannot be at church? I imagine that each of us has wrestled with God over the last four months. There have been questions that we have wanted answers to. Our loved ones may have been taken ill or passed away. Members of our family or friends may have lost their job or be in financial difficulties. We wrestle with all kinds of questions and we want to know where God is in all this? We need to give God the opportunity to reveal himself to us in a real way. We need to be in a place where God can speak to us. And so, let us look at someone else who wrestled with God and saw him face to face.
We go back to our old friend Jacob to see what he needed to do to encounter God in a life changing way. Jacob was travelling back to see his brother, who he had cheated. He was afraid and asked God for help. The first step Jacob took was to assist his two wives and eleven children across the river, once they were safely settled, he went back across for his possessions. Jacob let go of his family, they were precious to him but he had to let go. Have we taken that step in our life? Have we really put them in God’s hands and left them there? Ready to trust God with our family whatever happens.
The second step which Jacob took was to send all his possessions across the river, he was letting go of them. If we have put our partner and children into God’s hands, giving God your possessions should be easier, but it isn’t always the case. All our possessions are borrowed from God. Jacob was now on his own, and it is only then that we can really encounter God in a life changing way. When we have given God everything. We then start to listen to our Master’s voice. Perhaps there have been times in ‘lock-down’ where you have struggled with God? You have wanted quick easy answers, and there are none. We have to struggle with ourselves as well. What kind of person are we? And what changes does God want to make in our life? When Jacob wrestled with God, he became a changed man. He was willing to give everything to God. He was changed mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. People noticed the difference in Jacob in so many different ways. God gave him a new name ‘Israel’. When we have an encounter with God, people will notice the difference, and we will see God ‘face to face’. Are we willing to be alone with God, to allow him to strip everything away, so that he can see the real you and you can look honestly at yourself? And then allow God to help you be the person he created you to be. “You have made them a little lower than the heavenly beings. Psalm 8 v 5. Amen
Hymn 41 Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful
Gracious God, we thank you for your love shown to the world through your Son. We thank you for the world you have created, the beauty and splendor of it. We thank you for your love and care for each one of us. That you sustain us both physically and mentally. We thank you that you redeemed us, that when our world was falling apart, you stepped in and made the ultimate sacrifice. We are so grateful that you saved us. But our response to your love is too often half-hearted. We try to stay comfortable in the world. We pray for a willingness to see church through your eyes, to see what you want of church and what you want from us – in these troubled times
We pray for courage to let go of the old ways – the routine and rituals that have little meaning to us today. Help us to see when we are doing church for ourselves and not for you. Lord we want to follow your agenda. To be open to the new, refreshing move of your Spirit. To have the courage to step out of our comfort zone and face the big scary world outside our churches. We have a tremendous opportunity of re-imagining church, let us not let this opportunity slip by without responding to the challenge
We want to hold on to what is good about your church, but we know we need to change. We want to feel again the fire of your Spirit in our souls. We want your Spirit to mould us and our church to be an instrument of your Good News. Good News for all, help us to listen to people in our community and respond to their needs. To love people enough to want them in the kingdom. Lord, refashion us to be disciples and not just church attenders. To seek to fulfil your calling on our life before our own needs. Lord melt our hearts which are so fixed on tradition and rule keeping, release us so that we can worship you in spirit and truth, set us free to serve you whatever the cost. We need tender hearts to love everyone and words of encouragement to lift people’s spirits, to have eyes to see those who are in desperate need, and ears to hear the cry of the broken. We need your Spirit within us to help rebuild lives and in doing so rebuild your church. Lord, let us find new life in you as we let go of the old. Amen
Hymn Right by my side – North End
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us for evermore. Amen