The government has given guidelines to help us in the process of opening our churches. In June our District Chair Loraine Mellor cautioned us against opening our buildings up too early. Also, as a Circuit we have been looking at the way we can come out of ‘lock-down’. We need to plan ahead because when we do come back to church it will not be the same, Balderton Methodist Church will be open for prayer this Sunday, 26th July at 3.00 to 5.00pm, and Collingham Methodist Church will be open for prayer on 2nd August from 10.30am until 12.00. We have no plans to open Long Bennington Methodist Church during August. We are having a Council meeting on 19th August to decide when we can open North End Methodist Church. The Coffee Time ID No. 834 8604 9239 and the Password is Coffee on Zoom for Sunday morning at 11.30am to 12.15.
Here is the service for Sunday. I have chosen hymns from Singing the Faith apart from the last one which is in Songs of Fellowship
Let us pause as we prepare our hearts and minds to hear God speak to us
Hymn 55 Immortal invisible, God only wise
Lord, you are the great I Am, you revealed yourself to Moses, he was so in awe of you that he took off his shoes to worship you, Jacob dreamed of you and when he woke up he realized he was on holy ground. We know that you are holy, all-powerful, full of grace and truth. We bow down to you, we worship you, we give our lives to you. Both Moses and Jacob were disconcerted by your presence, they had many questions even though they acknowledged you to be God. Lord we have questions in our hearts, we want to worship you fully and yet our finite minds struggle to comprehend your majesty. Thank you Lord that you are gentle with us, revealing yourself to us in a way that we can comprehend and yet leaving so much more as a mystery which we continue to explore and will for the rest of our lives until we come before you in glory.
And so, Holy God, we confess our sin to you, knowing that we are unworthy to be called your children. Thank you for your free and abundant grace which washes our sins away and makes us right with you. Strengthen us by your Spirit to live to glorify your name. Amen
And now shall we say the Lord’s Prayer together
Reading Matthew ch 13 v 24 – 30
Hymn 11 Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Reading Romans ch 8 v 18 – 25
Hymn 15 The splendor of the king, clothed in majesty
Contrary to our story of Jacob last week, where Jacob changed from being a selfish, self-centred individual, to a man who was willing to think about other people and acknowledged God in his life. Today we have the stark contrast between the wheat and the weeds. The wheat will be collected and used to nourish people. The weeds will be collected and burned. We start with Jesus teaching the crowd, v 24, Jesus told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” The field is the world in which the farmer sows the seed. God has created this wonderful world of ours, it is not perfect but it is beautiful. It is created in such a way to sustain life; it is such a marvelous creation compared to other planets. But there are events which happen which make people doubt the existence of God – earthquakes, tsunami’s, hurricanes, floods and droughts. We call them natural disasters or Acts of God. We can explain some of them but not alL of them. As Christians we believe in a God of love who wants to bless us and not harm us. God has created something good for us to enjoy.
Jesus continues with his parable. V 25, “But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” It is interesting that Jesus uses the phrase, “while everyone was sleeping.” Does it remind you of the saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” These words are attributed to Edmund Burke. We can think of apathy in this way, people can’t be bothered to protest about something, and so change creeps in unnoticed, and society begins to be influenced by people who only want to promote themselves or their product.
During the Second World War, Martin Niemoller was an outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler’s policies. He is remembered for his postwar words, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” For the crime of opposing the Nazi regime he was sent to a concentration camp in which he spent seven years. If we do speak out there may be consequences for us and our family.
Satan can be subtle, he will take every opportunity to sow discord, division and distraction, his ultimate aim is the destruction of God’s people. Look at the political situation in our own country today. There is a report out now which accuses Russia of involvement in the vote on Scottish independence and also the Brexit Referendum. The intelligence services were asleep on the job, the government were not aware of any interference, and didn’t want to investigate it. It suited them to look the other way and keep quiet. This is how Satan works and how we fall in to the trap of complacency.
Sometimes we don’t realise how bad things are until there is an incident on the news and we have to think about our response. Several weeks ago, George Floyd died while being restrained by the Police. When we saw the incident on TV we were horrified. How can something like this happen today? Bad practice had crept into the Minneapolis Police Force. Racism was allowed to fester and grow, and a man died, and a family had lost a loved one.
God had created something good but evil tries to destroy it. But people still question God. If he is all powerful? If he is a loving God why does he allow these things to happen? It is good to question God but it is wrong to think we are equal to God. In the parable the servants ask the owner if they should pull out the weeds. The owner replies, “No.” God has given us free will. If we choose to be selfish and destructive that is our responsibility but God will try his best to confront us and persuade us to better way of life. He will continue to do so until we change or we stop listening to him. We see an example of this with Pharaoh confronting Moses in Egypt. Genesis states that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. In reality, it means that Pharaoh stopped listening to God and turned away from him. God gives us a lifetime to turn back to him. There may be occasions where a Christian is weak and dependent on someone or something. To take away that support from the weak Christian might destroy their faith. It is better to be patient and wait for the weak Christian to get stronger. St. Paul was faced with an issue about meat that had been sacrificed to idols. To Paul it didn’t matter if he ate the meat but some Christians struggled with this issue and so Paul said, ‘If a brother cannot eat the meat that is sacrificed to idols then neither will I eat it.” He was being supportive to his brother in Christ.
But there is a stark warning for those who continually turn away from God. In verse 30, it states, “Collect the weeds and tie them into bundles to be burned.” This is a terrible picture of hell. There are consequences for rejecting God. Some people think of hell as a place where people are in torment. God chooses to allow people to make their own minds up while on earth. If people have rejected God for all their lives, then God allows them to be in a place where he is not. We can only vaguely imagine what a place without God must be like. We have a glimpse sometimes of the horrors which happen here on earth when people are selfish and greedy with no thought of others. Another idea of hell is complete annihilation – you no longer exist. The Catholic Church promote the idea of purgatory – a place where you pay for your sins.
But if we look at our reading from Romans chapter eight, we see that God does everything he possibly can to bring us into his kingdom. He gave us the Law but we turned it into a burden which overwhelmed us. So, God sought to relieve us from the burden of the Law to the freedom of the Spirit. But at the cost of the life of his Son. Romans ch 8 v 21, states, “that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” God wants to bring us into freedom from decay. We know that our physical bodies are wasting away. We know that we live in a temporal existence here on earth but God is renewing our spirit for the age to come.
In verse 22, Paul says, “That the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth.” As we look at the world around us, we see pain and suffering, we can see death and rebirth. We can see physically that which is happening spiritually. Like Paul, we long to be renewed, we long to cast off the old nature which leads us to sin and death. We long to be changed into a new creation. John Wesley believed that we could attain a perfect state here on earth. We could live in perfect harmony with God. We perhaps feel occasionally that we are at one with God, that we have a feeling of euphoria and peace, until sin once more creeps into our life and we no longer feel that wholeness.
Paul continues in verse 24 and 25, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not have we wait for it patiently.” We walk in faith, not trusting in our own strength and ability but trusting in God. Jesus Christ has died for us and by the Spirit we are enabled to live for God’s glory. We are living in hope and certainty. In hope because we believe that Christ died for our sins, and certainty
because we know that God will accept us because of our faith in him. But our hope is also expressed in our everyday life as we believe that God is working through us to bring glory to his name. God calls us to walk in faith, sometimes it is a step in the dark, at other times he will gently lead us on the right path. St. Paul lived a life of uncertainty in his physical circumstances but he had faith that God was with him in all things and that whatever he went through it would bring glory to God. Let us walk in faith in all we do. Amen
Hymn 89 Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
Lord we wonder how people will look back on this time and question what we did as Christians? Will we stand up to the gaze of hindsight? When people are aware of the whole picture and not just the fragment that we can see now. Help us Lord to be faithful to you in our service to others. Help us to take this opportunity to consider those who have fallen through the net of our care. Help us to be aware of those who have felt lost and neglected during this time of ‘lock-down’. Lord we have tried so hard to have a presence online, to be visible to those who have internet access. So, help us to be aware of people who have received little in the way of spiritual feeding, through newsletters and printed services.
We thank that as ‘lock-down’ restrictions are lifted we can return to our churches in some way. We pray for Christians who are persecuted, who live day to day with the anxiety of being arrested and put in prison for their beliefs. We ask that you will protect them and their families. We think and pray about the situation in Hong Kong, we ask that the Chinese authorities will give back the freedom that they have taken from the people. We pray especially for Christians in that area, that you will protect them and give them opportunities to leave if they feel that it is necessary.
We pray about the influence of the super powers -America, China and Russia. We know very little of what goes on when deals are negotiated, and so we pray that there will be transparency, especially in relation to our Health Service. We pray for the leaders of these nations that you will influence them to use their power for good and not evil. We pray for our own government that you will guide them and lead them in the decisions they make and the policies they create. Amen
Hymn S of F 955 O God of burning cleansing flame, send the fire
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you for evermore. Amen