May 17 Sunday Service
We have a glimmer of hope that our churches will eventually be open. The government has indicated that places of worship may be open early in July depending on various factors. We may start off by opening our buildings for prayer and possibly by September we may be ready for having services in our churches again. It may take time to prepare for the buildings to be ready but I am sure we will want to do all we can to keep people safe. We are waiting to hear from the Methodist Church to see what we have to put in place. It will be strange to be able to worship together even though we may have to follow the guidelines of social distancing. Today, I would be leading the service at Long Bennington. It is now two months since I last led a service in church and that was at Long Bennington on 15th March. Just a reminder that there is still an opportunity to give to Christian Aid. For this service I have chosen hymns from S of F – Songs of Fellowship, and StF – Singing the Faith
Here is the Order of Service
As we prepare for worship let us focus our minds and hearts on God.
Hymn S of F 583 We walk the land with hearts on fire, and every step will be a prayer
Lord, you are the God of revelation, revealing yourself to us in so many different ways, but always as the God of love. Even though you are invisible we see the work of your hands. You are Almighty and victorious and we praise your name. You are immortal and one day we will be with you to worship you for all eternity. But today, we worship you in our own homes, our love and devotion are not diminished by our circumstances, for they give us a hunger and a thirst to be with our brothers and sisters in your house, worshipping you. We thank you for the hymns that enable us to worship you, for the tunes that lift our hearts and the words which speak deeply to our souls. As we receive, help us to give our lives to you in service to others. As we sing your praises help us also to listen to your voice speaking to us, to spend time reflecting on your words and responding to your call.
We acknowledge that you have not always been first in our life, that sometimes we have gone our own way and have been selfish in our choices. We have not always considered others and have hurt them with our uncaring attitude. Forgive us our sins and enable us by your Spirit to live a life which reflects your love within us. Thank you, Lord, that you were willing to die to redeem us from the life of spiritual poverty that we were living. We rejoice for the light that reveals your way for our life. Amen
And now shall we say the Lord’s Prayer together.
Reading John ch 14 v 15 – 21
Hymn StF 690 HP 515 The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
Offering – please give to Christian Aid
Reading Acts ch 17 v 22 – 31
1 Peter ch 3 v 13 -16
Hymn StF 531 HP 559 What a friend we have in Jesus
The other night we were sat watching ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’, we could answer some of the questions but not all of them. The questions are so wide ranging that you would have to have an incredible amount of Knowledge to cover all the areas. In fact, only six people have won the one-million-pound prize since the show started on 4th September 1998. It means that a tiny number of contestants have won the main prize, and they probably used some of their ‘life-lines’.
There is a myth which states that we only use 10% of our brains. This is not true; our brains are very active. But to look at it another way: Can any human being realistically know more than 10% of all the information in the world, that would be a vast bank of knowledge. So, when we think about God, we can only know so much about him, our minds can only take in a fraction of what God is like. But also, how can we question whether God exists, if we only know a small percentage of the knowledge that is accessible to us. How can we be the judge of the Creator? We are not the one who initiated our own creation
If we look at the world we live in, the fact that it is so finely tuned for our existence. The probability of our planet turning out like it is, is almost impossible. The balance of chemicals to create life, and the atmosphere to sustain it, the incredible balance of gravity – too strong and we would be crushed, too light and we would float away. In the absence of any other explanation, we believe that there must have been a designer, an architect, a creator. Do we walk into a beautiful house and think that it just appeared out of nothing? We would assume that there was an architect who took time to design it. God is our creator and he has revealed himself to us. If we see beauty in this planet then how much more beautiful will God be. If God has built this world for a purpose, then we too must be part of that purpose, that plan. Even with our finite minds we have enough knowledge to have an idea of what God is like. If God is God, he can communicate with us in such a way that we have enough information to build a picture of what he is like
Jesus was born at a time when people worshipped all kinds of gods. The Jews were God’s chosen people but they struggled to stay faithful to him, they obeyed the rules but their devotion to him was fickle. In 1 Corinthians ch 1 v 22, Paul writes “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom”. The Jews continually wanted God to prove himself, the Jews believed that God would send a Messiah – a Saviour, but they were inflexible as to the Messiah they expected. The Greeks on the other hand, thirsted for knowledge, they felt that the more knowledge that they gained the better they would be. But Paul talked to them about Jesus being God’s Son and that he died on the cross. The Greeks rejected this idea because they could not believe that a god would die for a human. They were inflexible in their understanding of the gods or of God himself.
If we look closer to our own times, we turn to the writings of a famous atheist called Bertrand Russell, he writes “a searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite.” Bertrand Russell writes about something which is missing in his life, but he will not acknowledge that the ‘something’ is God. Today, we do have a flexibility of mind, people are open to all kinds of ideas, but they are not always willing to commit their lives to them. And the truth they believe in can be influenced by what society holds to be true. There
is no touchstone for them to centre their lives on. No universal truth to hold onto. There is a watering down of a definitive right and wrong, it is individual consensus that holds sway. And there is a diminishing acceptance of authority. There may be a desire for knowledge and a longing to be fulfilled, but while ever people reject God there can be no real, lasting fulfilment.
At the moment, I am reading a book about C. S. Lewis written by Alister McGrath. Although Lewis was brought up as a Christian, he rejected a belief in God at an early age, when his Mother died. C. S. Lewis became a Christian in his early thirties. He studied many books, some of them were written about the Christian faith but this did not convince him of God’s existence. It was only when is friend J. R. R. Tolkein told him to use his imagination as well as his reason that Lewis began the journey back to God. The great French physicist, Henri Poincare once remarked “It is by logic that we prove, but it is by intuition that we discover”.
Alister McGrath states that ‘Tolkein helped Lewis to realise that the problem was not in Lewis’s rational failure to understand the theory’, the Bible, ‘but his imaginative failure to grasp its significance. The issue was not primarily about truth but about meaning. When engaging the Christian narrative, Lewis was limiting himself to his reason, when he ought to be opening himself to the deepest intuitions of his imagination. Tolkein pointed out to Lewis that God had willed that ‘the hearts on Men should seek beyond the world and find no rest therein’. Thus, Tolkein helped Lewis to realise that a rational faith was not void of imagination and emotion. When rightly understood, the Christian faith could integrate reason, longing and imagination’. It is these three things I would like to look at in next week’s sermon. God Willing. Amen
Hymn S of F 450 O the valleys shall ring with the sound of praise
Lord, we pray today, for all those who reside in Nursing Homes. The anxiety they must feel as they hear about the terrible virus which has wreaked so much havoc in these homes. We pray for your protection on the residents and that they may know your peace in their hearts. We also pray for the carers who are doing all they can to protect the men and women who they are looking after. We pray for
your protection for them and their families as well. We thank you for everyone who is carrying out essential work. We pray that you will strengthen them and protect them and their families. We continue to pray for the NHS staff and their families, that you will protect them. And now we think of the teachers who are being asked to return to work. We pray that you will guide them in the preparations that they have to make and that they may know your peace in these anxious times.
As we remembered last week the sacrifice made by men and women in the Second World War, we thank you for them, that they were willing to give their lives for others. Today, we remember those in the armed forces who are serving in very different ways, at Test Centre’s, delivering PPE around the country and generally supporting the effort to overcome the virus. We pray for them, that you will protect them as they serve their country. We pray for our government, that you will give them wisdom and guidance to bring us through this pandemic. And we pray for our Queen and her family that you will protect them. Amen
Hymn StF 313 HP 212 Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all for evermore. Amen