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August 9 Sunday service

As the government is halting the easing of restrictions, we need to be especially careful in our churches that we do not move too quickly out of the restrictions that are in place. We have coped with over four months of worship at home, let us be content to be where we are at the moment and stay safe. We are having meetings in the middle of August (Balderton, Collingham and North End) to see when we can have services in our churches and what kind of services they will be. We will be looking at the idea of ‘Bubble church’, as a way forward. We will continue to produce the services on the internet while we can. 

‘Coffee Time’ on Sunday morning is at 11.30 – 12.15. The ID No. is 881 9751 9252 and we are using the usual Password  Coffee  A reminder to people that Balderton Methodist Church is open for prayer on Sunday from 3.00 – 5.00pm and Collingham Methodist Church is open for prayer on Sunday morning from 10.30 – 12.00. 

 I have chosen hymns from Singing the Faith apart from the last one which is from Songs of Fellowship. Here is the Order of Service 

 Let us come before God open to receive his word and his Spirit 

 Welcome 

 Hymn     StF 51 HP 66     Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father 

 Prayer 

We praise you Lord for you are the one true God of Israel. You chose the people of Israel to be a light to the Gentiles but they drifted in and out of worship with you but you remained faithful to themYou sent them prophets to call them back to worship you. They listened for a while but then were enticed away to foreign gods. You had the power to answer Elijah’s prayer, you had the patience to make Joseph a leader in Egypt. Lord, your book is full of mighty deeds, you rescued Israel time and time again from her enemies, you challenged the Roman empire through your apostle Paul, and eventually it succumbed to your love expressed through Jesus on the cross. You hold justice and love together, always willing to show your mercy on humankind when we go astray. We praise you for the world you have created, the wonder and beauty that surrounds us, we praise you for the breath of life in our bodies, the way you sustain us in body and spirit. We thank you for the richness of life we have because we know we are loved and valued by you. 

 We acknowledge our sin, the way we have turned away from you, we have been arrogant in the way we use the worlds resources, we have been stubborn to change when your Spirit has prompted us to do so. We are sometimes weak in resisting temptation. Forgive us Lord, and renew us by your Spirit. We thank you Lord for your free and full forgiveness. Deepen our faith and strengthen our commitment, sthat we can serve you more faithfully.     Amen   

 And now shall we say the Lord’s Prayer together 

 Reading     Genesis ch 37 v 12 – 28 

 Hymn StF 83 HP 13  Praise my soul the King of heaven; to his feet thy tribute bring 

 Offering 

Reading     1 Kings ch 19 v 9 – 16 

 Hymn   StF 10     Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty 

 Sermon 

Today, we look at two men in the Old Testament who achieved great things for God but it wasn’t without some difficulty. The first person we are going to look at is Joseph. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely Joseph’s fault but he had been spoilt by his father, Jacob. If you remember Jacob had been spoilt by his mother, Rebekah. Jacob had showered Joseph with many gifts, perhaps the most noticeable was a ceremonial robe with gold ornamentation. Jacob did not hide the fact that Joseph was his favourite son. Joseph was seventeen years old and thought he was special. There was also the fact that Joseph told tales to his father about his brothers. Three times in Genesis chapter thirtyseven it states that his brothers hated him.  

 On one occasion Joseph’s brothers went off to look for fresh pastureland for their father’s sheep. Joseph was told by his father to take provisions for them and to make sure that they were alright. Joseph set off on his journey and eventually found them but before he arrived at their camp the brothers had seen him approaching and had decided to kill him. Joseph was far away from home with no one to save him. The brothers threw him into a cistern and thought about what they would do. This doesn’t seem a very good start for someone who God was preparing to do great things. I wonder of many young Christians have given up when their dreams have come tumbling down around them? It is not easy when you are a young enthusiastic Christian to be told that your ideas won’t work. To set off on a path that you feel God is leading you on, only to hit a brick wall. It is devastating, and it takes a great deal of courage and encouragement from other Christians to pick yourself up and carry on. The path that we set off on to serve God is not always the one we stay on. There are many twists and turns in the road.  

 If ever there was a story in the Bible which encouraged young Christians it is that of Joseph. Joseph was showered with love and affection when he was young, and the attention went to his head. Joseph was arrogant, tactless and thoughtless, he thought the world should revolve around him. God had a lot of work to do to get Joseph in to a position where he could use him. The first step was to actually save him from his brothers. God sent some Midianite merchants who would buy Joseph as a slave. It was a terrible come down for a boy who had the world at his feet. Joseph had to learn to listen to other people and obey them. Joseph had to toughen up mentally and physically. This was not a quick-fix solution. Joseph had a long way to go before he would enjoy freedom again. 

 We need to remember that when God is working in our life, he does a thorough job – if we let him. How many of us have had set-backs in our life, things that have really floored us, and we don’t know whether we have the strength to get up again? And sometimes we don’t feel as though God is there to help us. A bit like the ‘Footprints’ poem. These times have helped us to be stronger as a person and also as a Christian. We perhaps do not realise until later how God was helping us in a particular situation. The Joseph we see as a seventeen-year old is completely different to the man who we later meet in Egypt. Joseph’s story is a great example of the fact that even though God has his hand on your life, things will not always run smoothly, and sometimes you will have to cope with disaster after disaster before things start to become clear.  

 Now we turn to our second character from the Old Testament. A great servant of God. He was one of the old style fire and brimstone prophets. He had full confidence in God. It was Elijah that appeared with Moses at Jesus transfiguration. Elijah was called by God to challenge Ahab the king of Israel. Ahab was leading the people astray, and God wanted to give Ahab a chance to repent and change. Elijah secured a great victory on Mount Carmel, where he had challenged the Baal prophets to call on their god to set fire to a slaughtered bull that had been offered to Baal as a sacrifice. There was no answer from their god. But Yahweh, the God of Israel answered Elijah’s prayer, and set the slaughtered bull on fire. Elijah walked away from the encounter vindicated. The God of Israel showed that he was the true and only God. But Elijah’s euphoria didn’t last long because Ahab’s wife Jezebel, threatened to have Elijah killed. 

 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. As Christians today in Britain, we do not usually face death threats. But Satan works behind the scences, trying to destroy us and God’s work. Elijah had won a great victory for God, and straight away Satan fought back by threatening Elijah’s life. When God does something good through us, we can always expect Satan to try and hit back. While we are feeling pleased about the work God is doing, Satan will try and trip us up in some way. We have to be on our guard because when God does something wonderful in our community, that is when we are at our weakest, perhaps because we ‘take our eye off the ball’. Often, we can recover soon enough but for Elijah he had been dealt a crushing blow. He thought that all Israel would turn back to God, including King Ahab, but he had not reckoned on how much power Jezebel had. When Jezebel threatened Elijah with death, Elijah crumbled and ran for his life. 

 When Elijah was in the wilderness, he said to God, “I have had enough Lord. Take my life Lord; I am no better than my ancestors.” Elijah was weary and he had given up but God allowed Elijah time to sleep. When he woke up an angel was there with food and water for him. After he had eaten, he fell asleep. When he woke up again there was an angel with food and water. God knows that we need rest and food and water. Elijah, especially, needed this rest in the vulnerable state that he was in. God takes care of our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs. We need to be aware of this. We do not always rest when we should 

 After Elijah had rested, he travelled to Mount Horeb, and went into a cave for the night. When he awoke the next morning, God spoke to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah’s response was negative. He bemoaned the fact that the people of Israel had rejected God, the alters had been torn down, and the prophets killed. He concluded by saying that, “I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me.” Elijah is in a bad state, you could even say he is suffering from depression. As Christians we are not immune from going through difficult times and Christians can suffer with depression. It is not about a lack of faith. Elijah had plenty of faith in God but he was still struck down with depression. He was still hiding away and very negative in his thinking.  

 In verse eleven and twelve, the Lord said to him, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” Elijah witnessed all this, an amazing show of power by God, surely, he could sense God’s presence but Elijah was unmoved. God asked Elijah a second time. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah, answers in the same negative way. God’s show of power and his presence have not moved Elijah at all. Some people think that just praying for someone with depression is enough. Others think that if we can just get them in church, so that they can feel God’s Spirit move on a congregation then the person will be lifted from their depression. It might work but depression is a complicated illness, and there are many forms. Some forms of depression need medication.  

God did the one thing which Elijah needed, and that was to be there for him, to support him through his depression. God made sure Elijah got the rest he needed. Made sure that he was eating properly, and most of all, made sure that Elijah knew that he was with him. And when God felt that Elijah was strong enough, he gave him a job to do – an important job. Elijah was to anoint the future king of Aram, and the future king of Israel, and then he was to anoint Elisha as his successor. This gave Elijah something positive to focus on. Elijah was restored to his former self. He would again challenge Ahab about his turning away from God. 

 This morning we have looked at two very different men. We see how young men and women can have set-backs in their life, but if they trust God, he will help them to fulfill their calling. We also saw how the strong, mature Christian can struggle and have set-backs. But the most important thing is that God is always with us. He never leaves us, and he tends to know the right medicine we need to get us right again. Whether it’s a seventeenyear old lad, or a mature prophet, we need to allow God to mould us and bring healing and wholeness in our life. In Matthew chapter twenty-eight verse twenty, Jesus said to his disciples, “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”      Amen         

 Hymn   StF 58     Lord, I come before your throne of grace, I find rest in your  

                              presence and fullness of joy   

 Prayer 

Lord, we come before you today, to pray for those who are struggling with their mental health. There are so many pressures that we are not used to in our life. We are limited in who we can turn to and how we can communicate with them. Some people just need a hug from a loved one and this is not always possible. Lord enfold us with your love, help us to feel you close by. To know that you are always with us, just as you promised.   

 We pray again for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. We want all people to be treated equally, and so where there is injustice work to bring about equality. Strengthen the voices of those who are striving for equal treatment for black people. We hear so many stories of racism and abuse and yet we know this is the tip of the iceberg. We pray for black people, that you will give them the courage to continue to raise the issue of everyday racism, so that people who have power and influence will listen and change the culture of our country. 

 We pray for those who speak out about climate change, give them courage to stand up for what they believe in. Give them a strong voice to put across their message. Help them to be clear in what they say so that no one is under the illusion that we can stay as we are. And lastly, we ask for your forgiveness in the way we have used plastic so recklessly and also in the way we continue to waste food and resources. Help us to realise that this is your world and not ours to do with as we want. Thank you, Lord, that you are a patient God who will continue to work with us to save our planet.     Amen     

 Hymn S of F 1047     These are the days of Elijah, declaring the word of the Lord 

 Blessing 

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  

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