July 12 Sunday service
We have moved into a state of limbo, where we are partially out of ‘lock-down’ but cannot yet have services in our own churches. I am sure the situation will become clearer as the weeks move on. We will try and keep you up to date as to when we will be able to at least have Prayer Meetings in church. I think it will be good to take a step by step approach, although, this does mean that it will take longer to have services back in church, at least when we do decide this we hope that the measures that are put in place will make people feel reassured about their safety.
In the mean time we will continue with our online presence. We have the Quiz on a Wednesday at 8pm and the 10–minute ministry on Thursday at 7pm. We also have ‘Coffee Time’ which is the ZOOM meeting between 11.30 and 12.15 after the Sunday service. The ID No. is 874 7471 4466 and the Password is Coffee. If you have a problem please ring me on 01636 706 264. There are things happening at a Circuit level. We have started a ZOOM prayer meeting and also a ZOOM conversation about the future of the Methodist Church with an emphasis on the Circuit Mission and Vision. We want see how we can change for the better when we come out of ‘lock-down’. If you want to be involved in the ZOOM meeting on Thursday 16th July it takes place at 2pm and you will need to ring me, or email me for the details of the ZOOM meeting.
God Bless Peter and Cathy
For the service today I have chosen hymns from Singing the Faith StF and one from Songs of Fellowship SofF.
Let us pause to prepare our hearts and minds to worship God.
Hymn StF 563 O Jesus I have promised
We come to worship you, to acknowledge your greatness and majesty. To express our wonder at the work of your hands. To thank you for your goodness to us and your faithfulness in all circumstances. We thank you for your mercy, and wonder at your love which is undeserved. We come to focus our minds on you so that we may return to our daily lives with a renewed vision and purpose, and a deeper sense of your presence.
Lord, you are the author of life, you brought our world into being by just your word. You brought light to give us energy and warmth and you breathed life into our lungs. We thank you that you are such a great God. You are endlessly creating new things for us to discover. Help us to pause long enough to admire your creation, from the tiniest flower or insect to the great creatures of land and sea. You gave our planet order, you gave us times and seasons, you provide sunshine and rain, to encourage the crops to grow. You provide for us both physically and spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Thank you that although you are the creator of the universe you know us by name, you love us and want to bless us. We thank you for this great privilege that we have of being able to talk to you and know of your love for us
Now let us say the Lord’s Prayer
Reading Isaiah ch 55 v 10 – 13
Hymn StF 544 As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you
Reading Matthew ch 13 v 1 – 9
Hymn SofF 780 How deep the Father’s love for us
When Jesus told this parable, he was referring to what people often saw as they walked past fields. A farmer sowing seeds. What examples would we use today? We could still use a farmer sowing seed but it would be by using machinery. What about advertising, for example, putting information out about a product and seeing an increase in sales. The internet could be another example, whether you want to raise money for a charity or make people aware of a particular product or an issue that concerns you.
In the original meaning of the parable, God is the farmer spreading his word. In one sense God uses us to talk to people about his love, and we are called to do this in many different ways. Sometimes we can prepare the ground, at other times we share our faith with others not knowing what the outcome will be. Just like the farmer, he sows as best he can but he is dependent on the weather, we are dependent on God. We share our faith and the Holy Spirit speaks to people’s hearts through our words and actions. One thing we can do and that is to continue to pray for that person or situation.
Let us look at the parable in more detail. V5 “As he scattered the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” That part of the ground was not prepared, it had not been ploughed. The seed lay on the path and the birds came and ate it up. If we haven’t prepared the ground it is far harder for the seed to take root. We partly prepare the ground by preparing ourselves. The question we ask ourselves is, ‘How do I communicate my faith in a way that people can understand?’ We need to pray and think about what we will say to people. If we are not excited about our relationship with God, how can we expect people to listen to us when we share our faith with them. We need to focus on the things we love about being a Christian.
John Wesley was a priest and a lecturer at a college in Oxford. He was very articulate and knew his subject but one day God asked him to preach in the streets and market places. He realized that he couldn’t use one of his well-prepared sermons that he preached at Oxford. He needed to speak in a way that working-class people understood. He decided to ask a servant girl to sit and listen to his sermon, he told her to raise her hand every time he said a word that she didn’t understand. She raised her hand quite often at first but then gradually John Wesley adjusted his sermons so that everyone could understand them. The Holy Spirit used John Wesley in an incredible way but John still had to put the hard work in. How much trouble do we take to make sure that when we talk about our faith, we talk in such a way that we do not use jargon?
One thing that is apparent today is that less and less people know the Bible, not even the stories that are so familiar to us. In one sense that is exciting because it means we have many wonderful stories to share about God. On the other hand, we sometimes need to go back to the very basics of our faith. We cannot assume that people know what we know.
In verse 5 “Some seed fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow.” What we need to realize is that we have something wonderful to share with people. We know that God will enhance the life of people who truly want to follow him. Sometimes when a person becomes a Christian, when they begin to develop a relationship with God, their Christian life will be so real and exciting and it is wonderful when that happens, but then you must be prepared to help them when life seems a little flat and routine. People who are new to the faith or who have recently experienced God in a real and vivid way can find life a little boring when they have to deal with the routine things of life. When you have been a Christian for a while you get use to the ups and downs of day to day life.
We can help new Christians by rooting them in the Bible. Helping them to realize that without the spiritual food of the word of God they will not grow and they will struggle to maintain their Christian faith. Prayer is also important. But I think another help is when a Christian is rooted in a particular church. To worship regularly with a congregation helps individual Christians realize that they are part of a family, and that family will support them in difficult times and rejoice with them in good times. We need to be rooted in the word of God by reading our Bibles. We need to be rooted in prayer, by praying daily, and we need to be rooted in the family of God, within a local congregation. Otherwise, as verse six states “When the sun came up the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no roots.”
On to verse seven, “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plant.” The word of God is a wonderful transforming thing, it can change peoples lives. And the Holy Spirit working in them can bring about real and lasting change. But each of us lives in an environment not always of our own choosing. There may be all kinds of influences on our life – our family, our job, our friends, our interests and hobbies and our past. And especially, if we are a new Christian or we are growing in our faith there will be a pull back to the old ways. Our family and friends may accuse us of giving less time to them, because we are attending a church service or a Bible Study. We may get pressure from work, or even ridicule from our colleagues.
In verse twenty-two, Jesus says, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word making it unfruitful.” We need to encourage people to stay faithful, to nurture them in the faith, and help them to stay strong, to encourage them and challenge them to grow and experience more of God.
And then there is the good soil, referred to in verse eight, “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” It is wonderful to encounter new Christians, the light in their eyes, the joy in their hearts and their enthusiasm – it’s infectious. You can see the love of God shining from them. And their love of God is attractive to other people. People want to know what they have because they want it for themselves. Is it surprising then, that three thousand people became Christians on that first day of Pentecost? Peter and the rest of the disciples rushed out onto the streets. They already knew that Jesus had risen from the dead, and while they were together praying the Holy Spirit filled them with love and they raced out onto the streets, and Peter preached. People heard and believed, but also people saw and believed. It must have been a remarkable sight, these people overjoyed by God’s Spirit, but some of the bystanders accused the disciples of being drunk. That kind of joy, that kind of enthusiasm is infectious, and God’s Spirit will use it to bring people to himself. We need to remember that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to lead people to Christ. We need to do all we can to help people to get to that point and then we leave the rest to God himself.
Turning to our Old Testament reading. In Isaiah chapter Fifty-five verse eleven, God says through Isaiah, “my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Just imagine that every word of witness that we give, God will use, and it will not return to him empty. God can use our stumbling, inarticulate mumblings to his glory. Who knows, someone might remember what we said ten years ago, and it might be that at that precise moment they are ready to receive it and give their lives to Christ. I can remember when I was young and scared of the dark. There was one particular night when I couldn’t get to sleep because I was afraid. And suddenly the words of a Sunday School teacher popped into my head. She said, “If we are frightened all we have to do is ask Jesus to protect us and he will do.” I trusted in those words and I fell asleep, that was the beginning of my journey of faith.
In Isaiah chapter Fifty-five verse twelve, it states, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” We can know the joy and peace of God because we know that God is in control. We know that God can use our words of faith to bring healing and wholeness to people. God can transform lives and he can transform situations. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a movement that can bring so much joy and happiness into people’s lives? We may miss opportunities to share our faith but don’t feel guilty, just be ready for the next opportunity that comes your way. Our world desperately needs a touch from God. And maybe some of the people we meet are looking for forgiveness, are looking for the guilt to be lifted from their lives, people are looking for healing from past hurts, and God can meet the needs of all of these people by his love. People are looking for love and fulfilment and they can find it in God. We are people who bring Good News to our communities, we are salt and light in them. God wants us to be his presence in our communities today. Amen
Hymn StF 565 Only by grace can we enter, only by grace can we stand
Lord, we come before you to ask for your help in looking after the planet that you created for us. With so much happening around the world we sometimes forget the fragile state our planet is in. We pray for those who have influence on the issues that affect our world that you will give them wisdom and guidance in the decisions they make. We pray for those who speak up about climate change that they may be heard above the voices of greed and self-interest. We pray for Greta Thunberg and people like her that you will continue to give them courage to stand up for change in the way we use the worlds limited resources.
We pray for the Health Service that we rely on it so much; we thank you for all those who work in hospitals and for the tremendous job they do. We pray that there will be a greater appreciation of all the staff who work for the NHS, whatever rank or job they do. We pray for our government that they will manage the NHS in a viable and effective way giving regard to the debt we owe to these people, especially in recent months.
Lord, we ask for your help in the battle with the Coronavirus. We pray that a vaccine can be found to help us to combat this disease. Help all those who are still suffering the effects of the virus and comfort those who have lost loved ones
We also turn our attention to the economic problems that our country now faces. We pray for all those who have lost their jobs and those who have lost businesses, that you will enable them to be given opportunities to rebuild their careers and businesses. We pray for those who find this situation draining on their mental health, we pray for people who are struggling financially and those who are struggling with relationships and family issues. We ask that you will minister to all in the individual needs they have. We ask these prayers in the name of Jesus. Amen
Hymn StF 673 Would you come and follow me if I but call your name?
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