You will now know that we are waiting for the Methodist Church to signal that we can prepare for a return to our church buildings. At the moment we have been asked to refrain from using our buildings but the time must come soon when we can clear away the cobwebs and worship God in fellowship with our brothers and sisters. I imagine there will need to be a staged return. Firstly, open the church for private prayer, then perhaps communal prayer meetings and then socially-distanced services. We will have to be mindful of the restrictions both the government and the Methodist Church put upon us, but I am sure at the right time we may move back into our buildings. This will need a lot of preparation for individual churches and for the Circuit staff. It will not be the same as before and we will have to manage our limited resources in the short term. At the moment we have no time scale planned, and so we will continue with our digital services and newssheets as long as we feel there is a need.
We are now able to provide the ID number and Password for our ‘Four churches Coffee Time’ on Zoom. The meeting will take place at 11.30am on Sunday morning after the service. The ID No. 883 6671 7520 and the Password is Coffee. If you have problems please ring 01636 706264. There is also a Circuit Coffee Time on Zoom and this can be obtained by going on the Southwell Methodist church service and at the beginning Peter has the Zoom ID No. and Password.
Here is the Order of Service. I have chosen hymns from Singing the Faith StF and Mission Praise MP and a song from North End
Shall we quieten our hearts as we prepare for worship.
Hymn StF 72 Father God I wander how I managed to exist without the Knowledge of your parenthood
StF 6 Father, we love you, we worship and adore you
We thank you Lord that when we read stories in the gospels we hear of your love and compassion for those in need, we see your power to heal, to feed thousands and to cast out demons. We read of you walking on water and stilling the storm. Although these are stories of your earthly life, they are a tiny glimpse of your heavenly power. Angels fall down and worship you, heaven is full of your praises. And we here on earth worship you as well, singing your praises in our own homes, praying to you individually or as a family. Lord you are still doing wonderful things in the world, in our nation and in our communities. We thank you that your Spirit is at work even through the Lock-down restrictions. You can use us in so many ways, whether it be shopping for neighbours or family, speaking to people on the phone or through Zoom.
We thank you for your creation, your ability to continually create new things. We think of the wonders of technology that brings so much vibrant Christian material into our own homes through the internet. We thank you for inspiring hymn writers with new songs that challenge and encourage us. We thank you for your love which is expressed to all people on earth. Lord you reign and we praise you for the times when we can see this clearly in our own lives and in our community.
We say we are sorry for the times when we have fallen short of what you expect of us. Heal those we have been hurt by what we have said or done. Challenge us to change so that we become more like you. We thank you that you have forgiven us through the sacrifice of your Son’s death on the cross. Amen
And now shall we say together the Lord’s Prayer
Readings Genesis ch 22 v 1 – 14
Matthew ch 14 v 22 – 33
Hymn MP 712 Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face
There are some passages in the Bible that we find difficult to understand. The passage from Genesis ch 22 v 1 – 14 may be one of them. In this story God seems to be asking Abraham to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. God had no intention for this to happen, he was testing Abraham to see how obedient he would be. Isaac was the most precious thing to Abraham, would he be willing to give everything up for God? The answer was, Yes. The test was not for God’s benefit, it was to help Abraham to be prepared to follow God whatever the cost. Abraham had given up so much to be obedient to God, but now God was asking him to renew his commitment. We often think that the big challenges are when we first become a Christian, but as we get stronger in our faith God continues to challenge us.
Martin Luther King jr faced many challenges in his life. There was one occasion, in the middle of the night when the phone rang, it was an abusive, threatening call, a threat to himself and his family. All at once he felt fearful. He had no strength left in him to fight. He thought about how he could step down from leadership without appearing to be a coward. In his own words Martin Luther King jr said, “In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had almost gone, I determined to take the problem to God. The words I spoke to God are still vivid in my memory. I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone. At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never before experienced him. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying “Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth, God will be at your side forever.” Almost at once my fears began to pass from me. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything. The outward situation had remained the same, but God had given me an inner calm.” Martin Luther King jr also said, “At times we may feel that we do not need God, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow, and the tidal waves of grief beat against our lives, if we do not have a deep, patient faith, our emotional lives will be ripped to shreds.”
That is why I chose the hymn, ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus’. The words of the first verse are, ‘O soul are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Saviour, and life more abundant and free!’ The words of the third verse are, ‘His word shall not fail you he promised; believe him and all will be well; then go to a world that is dying, his perfect salvation to tell. The words of the chorus are, ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.’
We have stories in the gospels, where people were in desperate need and they came to Jesus. One example of this is when a man brings his epileptic son to Jesus, expecting him to be healed. Jesus is just coming down the mountain and so the disciples try and pray for the boy, but nothing happens, and so this spreads doubt in the man’s mind. When Jesus arrives, he sees the commotion and walks toward the crowd. He asks the disciples what is wrong, at that point the boy starts to have a fit. The father of the boy says, ”Teacher I brought my son, who is possessed by a spirit…..I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit but they could not. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “If you can” said Jesus, “everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately, the boys father exclaimed, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” You can imagine at that moment the man looked at Jesus, he gained faith by the authority in which Jesus spoke. And the boy was healed. Another example is that of Jairus. Jairus’s daughter was very ill, and even though he was a leader in the local synagogue he still wanted to speak to Jesus. Jairus pushed through the crowd and fell down at Jesus feet. He said, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hand on her so that she will be healed and live.” The man came full of faith, he knew Jesus could heal his daughter. But then there was a delay, Jesus stopped to heal a woman. By the time they began to move again Jairus could see some men from his household, they came with bad news. It was too late; the girl had died. You can imagine the sudden grief the man must have felt at this news. But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” At that point you can imagine that Jairus looked deep into Jesus eyes. He needed some hope, some reassurance, and once he looked at Jesus he believed.
Faith is not simply asking God for something and waiting for him to deliver. We have to be active and come to Jesus in faith. There may be obstacles in our way, people speaking words of doubt, there may be a delay in God answering our prayer. We need to continue to believe, we need to focus our attention on Jesus. We need to continue to seek God’s will. We have read the story of Peter walking on water. The event starts with Jesus sending the disciples off in a boat so that he can pray on his own. After several hours the disciples are struggling to make headway in the boat. Jesus walks toward them on the water, the disciples are terrified and think that he is a ghost. But Jesus speaks to them and reassures them. Peter being his usual impetuous self says to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus simply says, “Come.” Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. What amazing faith, what amazing courage. Peter is looking at Jesus the whole time, he ‘never’ takes his eyes off Jesus, and then when he gets to where Jesus is, his earthly senses suddenly come back to him. Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, he looks around, feels the wind, and he begins to sink. He cries out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
What do we learn from all this? In our own strength and going our own way, we get nowhere, just like the disciples rowing in the boat. To exercise faith, we need to have the courage to get out of the boat, in other words, to get out of our comfort zone, our place of safety and security. And often, for us that means our churches. Imagine the courage it must have taken for Peter, a fisherman, to get out of the boat. All his experience told him that he would drown, and yet Jesus beckoned him onto the water. Imagine the courage it would take for us to be out in the community telling people about Jesus. Peter actually walked on water and the reason he could do this was because he kept his eyes solely on Jesus, the full focus of his attention was on his Lord. Step by step, he got nearer to him, always his attention was on Jesus. But when he was before Jesus, he thought the job was done and he relaxed. His attention, his focus began to wander. While ever Peter’s eyes were on Jesus Peter didn’t falter, once his attention slipped, he was relying on his own faith, his own strength, and he began to sink.
We have to commend Peter for his courage, he was willing to get out of the boat. We have to commend Peter for his faith, he trusted Jesus. If Jesus commanded him to, “Come”, then Peter knew he was in safe hands. Peter walked on water, showing complete faith in Jesus. And when he faltered in his faith Jesus was there to pick him up. Peter wasn’t afraid to fail. When we look at this scene, we see eleven men safe and secure in the boat and we also see Peter standing on the water with Jesus. It wasn’t Peter who failed, it was the eleven men who weren’t even willing to get out of the boat. If we are going to be disciples, we need courage, and we need to be willing to fail. Too often we stay in the boat, in our comfort zone.
Going back to our reading from Genesis. Abraham had been obedient to God, he had left his homeland, he had put his trust in God in everything he did. But God had to test him again. Would he be willing to put obedience to God even over his own son Isaac? Abraham showed to God that his focus was on doing God’s will. God in turn provided a ram caught in the thicket to be the sacrifice instead of Isaac. And so, we have this wonderful verse from Genesis ch 22 v 14, ‘So Abraham called that place, ‘The Lord will Provide’, and to this day it is said,” On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.” For me this promise brought up to date, doesn’t mean an actual mountain or even a physical place. It means if we are right with God. If our attention is on God, if our eyes are focused on God, and we are willing to follow him, then God will provide. In the place where God wants us to be spiritually, and it may mean physically as well, he will provide what we need to the glory of his name. Jesus echoed this promise in John ch 14 v 13 & 14. Jesus said to his disciples, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” Amen
Hymn Jesus do you hear me – a song from Scott and John Lee form North End
Lord, in faith we bring our concerns before you, knowing that you will listen to our prayers and answer them as your loving heart responds to our needs and the needs of others: –
We pray for protection for people around the world form the Coronavirus
We pray you will guide authorities in the decisions they make about their response to the virus and enable them to have the resources they need to combat the disease, especially, in the poorer areas of even wealthy countries
Racism – we pray for all those who face racism on a regular basis that you will help these people to deal with this in a positive way. We pray for organizations and authorities that they may deal with racism within the workforce at every level and that the organizations may promote equality in all situations. We pray for people who are racist in their attitude, in their views and their actions, that they may see how destructive it is to them, and to society as well as the individuals they target.
Economy – we pray about the economic situation in each country, that in a safe way these economies will begin to grow and provide jobs and meaningful employment for people.
Terrorism – we pray especially for the gay community in Reading where three men were killed because of their sexual orientation. We pray that you will minister to this community with your compassion, that you will be a comfort to them, and bring healing and wholeness to the people affected by the horrendous events of last week. We pray for those who want to bring terror to our streets that you will work in their hearts and minds to show them your love and a better way to live. Give them a way out of their closed minds and hearts.
Churches – We thank you that one day we will worship you again in joyful celebration in our churches, but for now sustain us by your Holy Spirit, so that we will be strengthened and encouraged to continue to worship you even within the limitations of the Lock-down restrictions. Amen
Hymn StF 548 HP 668 Blessed Assurance
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all forever more. Amen