We have now had a glimmer of hope from the government that our churches will be open for prayer from the 15th June. We have not heard from our national body (The Methodist Church) yet, and so we must proceed with caution. Nathan, our Superintendent, is sending out a letter to explain the situation. The first thing we will have to do is clean the church, and then we can plan how to prepare our church so that private prayer can take place in a safe environment. We will keep you informed of the progress that we are making but I do not think we will be worshipping in our church until September at the earliest, and even then, we may still be under some restrictions by the government. I hope you are encouraged by the news from the government but will ask for your patience as we prepare step by step to open our church.
In the meantime, we will continue to produce services in the various forms you have received them. We are looking at another way of hearing the sermon and that is ‘dial-a-talk’. It would enable you to dial a telephone number and hear my sermon audibly. It would only cost you the normal phone rate. We will let you know next week if we have been able to set it up.
God Bless Peter and Cathy
For the service this week I have chosen hymns from Singing the Faith StF and Hymns and Psalms HP, the last hymn is one that I have chosen from North End.
Shall we quieten our hearts and minds as we prepare to worship God.
Hymn StF 690 HP 280 The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
Lord, we worship you. You are God, the creator of the universe. You are a being beyond our understanding and yet you reveal yourself to us. We thank you that we can see your beauty in creation, your power in the ocean waves, your depth in the stars in the night sky, your light in the glowing of the sun, we see your love in
a mother embracing her child, and yet, all these are a pale imitation of who you really are. We thank you that we can feel your love in our hearts and in the tender embrace of your Spirits touch. When you reveal yourself to us, we see your beauty and we adore you. One day we will spend eternity with you and be surrounded by your love, joy and peace, but for now we can experience them in our hearts as a foretaste of heaven.
We want to keep this perfect fellowship in our hearts as we walk with you, and yet, we know your light is sometimes dimmed in our lives when we turn away from you. We confess our sin and ask you to forgive us, to restore that living relationship that we have with you. We thank you Lord, for your Son’s sacrifice on the cross which made our relationship with you possible. Help us to treasure this relationship and the privilege we have in being called your sons and daughters. Amen
And now shall we say the Lord’s Prayer together
Reading John ch 15 v 5 – 17
Hymn StF 370 HP 280 Breathe on me breath of God
Reading Jeremiah ch 29 v 10 – 14
Hymn StF 545 HP 378 Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart
I would like to begin this sermon by reading John ch 3 v 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. Although this passage expresses God’s love for the world, it can equally refer to us as individuals. God loves us so much that he was willing to allow his Son to die in our place. Even if we were the only one who had sinned, Jesus would still have gone to the cross. We have an illustration of Jesus love for us in Luke ch 15 v 2 – 5. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”. Then Jesus told them this parable. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of
them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home”. God cares for each one of us. In the story of Adam and Eve, God has created humans because he wants to share his love with them. It was a perfect existence but Adam and Eve spoilt it by being disobedient to God. God had to redeem the world that he had created. We are not perfect, but we can have a living relationship with God. It is not about obeying rules out of a sense of duty. It is about wanting to please God by the way we live our life.
Once when Jesus was asked by a teacher of the Law, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him, “What is written in the Law?” The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, Love your neighbour as yourself”. How can we love our neighbour as we love ourselves if we do not love ourselves in the first place? It is not an easy question to answer, because we feel we are being selfish when we think of our own needs. How can we love ourselves and honour God at the same time? Let me give three areas to look at. 1) We need to commit to objectively know ourselves as we are. 2) We need to fully experience life as it comes to us. 3) We need to fulfill our potential by continually seeking ways to grow.
Healthy self-love begins with an accurate view of who we are. In Psalm 139 verses 13 – 16, we see that God was there as we were being formed. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the special place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body”. Each one of us is unique, special to God. God even knows the number of hairs on our head. If God created us and was pleased with us, we should be able to accept ourselves as we are. Because God has made us and each one of us is an individual, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. We should look to God for our identity. If we look through God’s eyes at ourselves, we will see the wonder and beauty of his creation. Our self-worth, our self-esteem is not gained from what the world thinks of us or what other people think of us. But it comes from knowing that God created us and loves us dearly as we are.
But we also acknowledge that we are not perfect. We fall into sin; we deliberately go our own way. And so there needs to be an awareness of our sinfulness, an awareness that we cannot save ourselves. We need a Saviour. And so, we come to a knowledge of God’s inexplicable love for us. A love we do not deserve. And this knowledge brings humility and gratitude into our relationship with God and with others. God desires fellowship with us, and if we meet him with humility and gratitude our fellowship with him will be that much sweeter. God wants to spend time with us, and just as a mother or father watches their children and delights in them so does God delights in us. And often, it is in the little things that we do that brings him most pleasure.
Secondly – we need to fully experience life as it comes to us. We need to live by faith. We need to be realistic about our own abilities but be willing to step out in faith and step out of the boat as Peter did when Jesus called him to do so. We cannot stay in our comfort zone for too long. Look at how the disciples learned and we are Jesus disciples ourselves. We need to keep on learning, keep on experiencing new things in our life. The Holy Spirit lives within us, enabling us to encounter God in different ways, to worship him, to serve him. The Spirit leads us to express our faith to those around us. We need to be willing to be led by God’s Spirit, just as the disciples were led by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
This brings us to our Third point – we need to fulfill our potential by continually seeking ways to grow. We need to look for spiritual, emotional, physical and mental enrichment. Just as a child needs to grow, develop and mature, so we need to do this as Christians. We don’t grow equally in all aspects of our life. Sometimes we may grow spiritually and then emotionally we will catch up. Other times we may grow physically and mentally we will catch up. God wants us to grow in all aspects of our life. Philippians ch 1 v 6 states, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
We do not just learn on our own, God has placed us in a family to learn. We have all grown up in a physical family, where we were nurtured. We learned that we could not only just think of ourselves, that our actions could affect the rest of the
family. We learned our lessons in a safe secure environment, where people loved us and supported us. We learned our strengths and weaknesses. Life as not always been easy but with the support of family and friends, we have learned to cope with the knocks in life. In a similar way, I see the church family helping us, enabling us to grow and mature. And as we grow, it enables and challenges those around us to grow and mature in their faith and understanding. We experience God in a new way together as well as individually. And we need to remember that God has a plan for our life and our church, and he will prepare us and equip us, and give us the resources we need to fulfill that plan. Jeremiah prophesied to the people of Israel, but I believe his words speak to us today as well. “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. When you seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. Take these words to your heart and repeat them as an assurance that God is with us and he wants to bless us.
Hymn StF 628 Faithful One, so unchanging. Ageless One, you are my rock of
Peace. Lord of all I depend on you. I call out to you
Lord, we come before you in a time of turmoil, our eyes so easily drawn to the events unfolding on the streets and in the corridors of power. And yet we know that ultimately you are in control. We cannot see how you are working through these uncertain times and yet you are. Your purposes are being worked out in parliament, on the streets and in the hearts of men and women. We pray for a change. We pray that your love will be seared through our society, that we will treat everyone equally. That you will move in the hearts of men and women and children to bring about a society that reflects your nature of love and justice. We thank you for those who have stood for change before and the way you have worked through their lives to bring a fairer society. We do pray now, that you will raise up men and women again to lead the cause for greater equality in our society, and a chance to challenge injustice and inequality. Lord we know that this task is not easy and these people will need courage and determination but we do believe that there is a possibility for change, real change that makes a difference to the day to day lives of people.
We pray for people who have been treated unfairly, people who have suffered terribly because of the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, their political conscience and their sexual orientation. Lord so many people suffer in silence because there is no one speaking for them. So, we do pray that you will minister to them in their individual needs, we pray that they will have people to support them and give them a voice. We pray for an end to inequality, prejudice and bigotry. And we pray that you will begin with us, that we may treat everyone as individuals, uniquely and fearfully and wonderfully made you. Amen
Hymn Thank You – led by Scott and John Lee
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