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June 21 Sunday service

Dear Friends,

It has seemed a long time since were worshiping together in our church. We all miss the opportunity to share in fellowship with each other, to have fun and join in with the various activities that used to go on during the week. I am sure those times will return but when is the big question. The Methodist conference meets from the 25th June – 2nd July, one of the main topics for discussion will be when can we open our churches, and when can we meet for worship again in God’s house. The conference will send guidelines out following on from the government update on the effects of Covid-19. As we wait in anticipation for a return to church we must also remember those who have passed away during our time in Lock-down, we must also pray for the families who have lost loved ones.

There are a few initiatives which we have started. One of them is the Quiz which is run on a Wednesday night at 8pm for an hour. If you go to baldertonmethodistchurch.co.uk you can join from there, on the left-hand side of the front page there is an advert about it, where it states ‘More info’, press that and you will get the quiz. Please do not feel that you have to donate. The second venture is ‘dial a talk’ which if you ring 552255 on your landline or 01636 552255 on your mobile you can get the sermon from Sunday or from Thursday at 8pm you can receive the ‘10 minute ministry talk’ and then from Sunday after 12.00 you can hear the new sermon. There is also a Circuit Coffee Morning at about 11.30am to 12.15 pm which takes place on Zoom. Please email me or ring me for the ID and password for zoom. We are hoping to launch our own Coffee time for my four churches at the same time for those who find the Circuit one overwhelming. God Bless Peter and Cathy

Here is the service for this Sunday. I have chosen hymns from Songs of Fellowship SofF and there is only one which is in Singing the Faith StF. We thank John Lee and Scott from North End for providing one of the songs.

Shall we pause as we prepare to worship

Hymn Sof F 870 StF 354 Jesus is the name we honour

Prayer

In the midst of our lives, in the mists of confusion and struggle, you break through, Almighty God. You are more than we need, you provide everything we have. We thank you. You are our sustainer in times of trouble, you are rock when we feel we are sinking, you are the hand that lifts us, the arms that embraces us and you have the words of eternal life that feeds us. We thank you for your Holy Spirit that refreshers us in the tiredness that we may feel as we go through another week of Lock-down. There may be restrictions that may limit our movement and who we can see but you are ever present with us, you are our friend in times of need, you are God Almighty when we need someone to lean on. You are the Good Shepherd that leads us to new pasture, that protects us and knows us by name. We worship you Lord because you mean everything to us. We worship you, not just today because this is your day, but in each day, we find a space in our lives and our hearts to thank you and worship you. Sustain us in these difficult times when the road to sharing fellowship again seems to stretch out before us. Encourage us on the way, strengthen us for your service, limited though it be now, refresh us so that we can serve you in a greater capacity after Lock-down.

Lord we bring our sin before you. Each one of us knows our failings and so we come before you to ask for your forgiveness. We thank you Lord for the free and full forgiveness that you give to each one of us. That by your Son’s death on the cross our sins are washed away. May we live out our lives in humility and gratitude for your overwhelming grace to us. Amen

And now shall we say together the Lord’s Prayer

Reading Matthew ch 5 v 43 -48

Hymn SofF 780 How deep the Father’s love for us

Offering – I would ask you to think and pray about how you can support our

church financially now or in the future.

Reading Luke ch 10 v 25 – 37

Hymn SofF 851 I will offer up my life

Sermon

The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other, and we can find examples of it many times in the gospels, when the people of Samaria or the land of Samaria is mentioned. As in so many of these rivalries, the reason for the hatred went back centuries. The people of Israel were exiled to Assyria in 732BC, and then some of the people of Judah were taken into exile in 701 BC. The next exile came roughly a hundred years later in 600BC. The people of Judah were taken to Babylon and they were all placed in one region, which meant that they could stay together. In their seeking for answers as to why they were exiled, they decided that it was because they had not been faithful to God. They had worshiped other gods and some of the Jews had intermarried with foreigners. The exiled people decided that they needed to purify themselves. When they returned to the Promised Land the exiled people rejected those people who they decided were no longer pure – this meant the people dwelling in Samaria. They were seen as a mixed race who were no longer faithful to God. There was resentment on both sides and over time this developed into hatred.

Jesus parable of ‘The Good Samaritan’, sliced through the prejudice and hatred of both sides. Jesus was saying ‘it doesn’t have to be like this, there is a better way’. The message of the parable is that everyone is our neighbor, but an indirect message is that God loves all people and expects us to do the same. Sadly, the attitude of Jonah shows how the Jews thought about people who were outside their nation. When we look at our world today, it is not just nation against nation, it is groups of people within a nation that are fighting each other. There is always a history behind the prejudice and hatred. In the most recent example, we have two black men who have been killed by white police officers. Some people have said “It is just a few bad apples” in the police force, but the prejudice goes deeper and wider than that. If it only effected the police force you could call it institutionalized racism but in America it goes deeper and wider than that. America needs to address it’s past, it’s present and its future. One veteran of the Martin Luther King marches has said that when he marched, it was only black people who joined in, but now white people are protesting as well. It is a change, an improvement but it is not enough.

In Britain, things have slightly improved since Stephen Lawrence was murdered. The police have to go on anti-racism training programmes, but it is not enough,

more needs to be done in every organization. But in the end, there needs to be a change of heart, a change of attitude. It is true of the ‘ME TOO’ movement, it is only when people are made aware of the suffering of the victim that people can change their behavior. There are so many issues that need to be dealt with in our society. Prejudice against sexual orientation, political conscience, religious beliefs, ageism, to name but a few.

Martin Luther King said “No one is free until we are all free”. It is not a struggle for the few, it is a struggle we all must join in. As Christians we confront injustice to help the marginalized and also because it helps the perpetrator to be set free from the harmful behavior that he inflicts on others; and we also confront injustice because it helps society as a whole. Martin Luther King also said, “Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life, love releases it. Hatred confuses life, love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life, love illumines it”.

He also said, “I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men”.

When I was twenty years old, and training to be a Local Preacher. I preached a sermon on suffering. After the service, the person who was assessing me said to me, “What do you know about suffering?” The man who said this had been injured in the war. There had been an explosion and some shrapnel had lodged in his spine, he was crippled by the injury. By the time he listened to my sermon on suffering he had lived with the effects of his injury for over thirty years. I could understand his annoyance, he had suffered for so long, but his suffering clouded his thoughts as to any possibility that a twenty-year-old could suffer. Our suffering, our hurts and pains, our sense of injustice can cloud our hearts and minds to other peoples suffering. I came across the words of a prayer, ‘Father, give us compassionate hearts to understand the pain and suffering of others, for all people do have pain”.

Jesus’ command is that we love one another. To do that we must be inclusive and open to everyone. I would like to quote again the words of Pauli Murray who was

a civil rights activist in 1945, “When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me. I shall draw a larger circle to include them”. We need to look deep within ourselves to see the prejudice that resides in our hearts and minds. The pre-conceived ideas that we have of people. The attitude we have towards people who are different to us. The respect we show to people should be shown to everyone and not just those who respect us. We need to continue to consider our thoughts and feelings as to whether in our hearts we harbour prejudice or ill will against a person or a group of people. It is only when we examine our inward thoughts and feelings that Jesus can forgive us and heal us. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others”.

Jesus led an exemplary life, being open to everyone, showing care and compassion to those in need, and confronting hypocrisy, especially among the religious leaders, and showing respect to Pilate and the centurion. John Wesley in his sermon entitled ‘The Catholic Spirit’ asks, “Do you love your neighbor as yourself? By neighbor I mean every human being. Do you love your enemies? What about God’s enemies: Can you bring yourself to love those wicked and ungrateful people? Do you show this by blessing those who curse you and praying for those who ill-treat you? Do you show your love by what you do? Do you do good to everyone, neighbor or stranger alike, friends or enemies, good or bad? Do you help them in every way to the very best of your ability? If you can say ‘yes’ to all these questions then ‘you and I think alike’. If this is the case then ‘give me your hand’ I do not mean ‘Agree with me on everything’ because I cannot. My beliefs are not for me to choose. You keep your opinions; I will keep mine as strongly as ever. And don’t let us try to convert each other. Don’t let us speak about our different opinions. Just give me your hand”. In all this John Wesley is expressing the fact that we don’t have to like a person to love them, we don’t have to agree with everything they say. We need the common cause of loving our neighbour and we do that in God’s strength, with God’s love within us. Amen

Hymn His love will find the answer – A song from North End

Prayer

Lord, you see even more clearly than we do the injustice in the world, we know our world is not perfect but, in some way, we expect it to be. You are a God of justice and love and you showed the way to redeem the world. When confronted by your example we realize the quick fix solutions that we think will work are just putting a plaster over a gaping wound. And so, we pray that you will change our hearts for real action which brings lasting change to society, which confronts injustice, prejudice and greed. Lord we know the change has to come in people’s hearts and we as Christians have to set an example. Help us to be aware of people being mistreated, or the marginalized being excluded, or those in need having nowhere to turn to. Lord, time and time again, you have shown that you are a God of the underdog, the outcast, and the sinner. Help us in our own lives and in our church and in our community to reach out to those in need. Give us the resources we need to do your work.

We pray for institutions that they may address prejudice within their structures, that individuals within the organizations will be made aware when they fall short of what is expected of them. That this will not just be another process that new employees have to go through but that it will be addressed at every level in the organization. We thank you for the tremendous support for change in the marches that have taken place. We do pray that these will continue so that pressure is brought on the people of power so that real change can take place. We pray that these marches and this cause will not be hijacked by people who have their own limited agenda. Lord we also pray that this cause of ‘Black Lives Matter’ will not be sidelined in a committee or that the eventual recommendations be buried in a filing cabinet. We pray for a change in the hearts of men, women and children in our nation, and throughout the world. Amen

Hymn SofF 829 I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. And

Wonder how he could love me a sinner condemned unclean

Blessing

And 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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