We are still faced with uncertain times but we know that God is with us. We are longing to get back to our churches and worship God in fellowship together, in the meantime, we share in worship in our own homes and we look after each other by speaking on the phone. This Sunday is a little bit different because we are celebrating Pentecost. There will be a Circuit Service at 10.30am which will be led by all three ministers. This can be obtained through newarkandsouthwellcircuit You Tube. Our own service will be at 4pm on Sunday afternoon and this can be obtained by going to www.baldertonmethodistchurch.co.uk I hope you enjoy these services and that you will join us next week at our usual time of 10.30am.
God Bless Peter and Cathy
Our service today and next Sunday is on Jonah. I find the book of Jonah offers us so much to think about, especially at this time, when we are restricted in what we can do, and we are perhaps tempted to do our own thing and not think of others. The hymns I have chosen are from Singing the Faith and I have also chosen a North End song which is one of my favourites. Here is the Order of Service: –
Let us pause as we prepare ourselves for worship
Hymn StF 407 Hear the call of the Kingdom, lift your eyes to the king
All gracious God, by your creative word, you brought the world to birth. In your generous love, you made the human family, that we might see your glory, and live for ever in your presence. We thank you for the world you created, the beauty that you breathed into it, and into us. Help us to look through your eyes at all around us. That we may see the uniqueness of each individual, and your creative spirit in which everything is made. We praise you with our hearts, which are full of appreciation of you, and the wonderful world that we live in. We thank you that we are loved by you and sustained by you. Help us Lord, when our faith is shaken by events in our own country or abroad. Help us to remember that your suffering was not just on the cross, but that you also suffer with us in our darkest moments.
And now some words taken from a hymn written after the Aberfan disaster
God who knows our darkest moments, meets us in our brokenness,
Walks beside us as a whisper, holds our pain in his caress.
God who leads through shadowed valleys, where deaths bleakness dims our sight
Speaks to peace beyond our knowing, floods our anguish with his light
Lift us up, now, risen Saviour, to the place where mercy plays,
Where our broken hopes and heartaches, find their healing in your gaze.
This is love, that God has saved us! This is love, that Christ has died!
We rejoice that love has conquered, and has drawn us to your side. Amen
And now shall we say The Lord’s Prayer together
Reading Jonah ch 1 v 1 – 12
Hymn StF 254 Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness
Offering – what can you offer to God, to your church
Reading Jonah ch 1 v 13 – 17
Hymn StF 467 I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord
I think the story of Jonah speaks to us today. It brings out all kinds of aspects of our faith which we need to examine. Some people see the book of Jonah as a parable, others see it as an historical narrative. I believe the book of Jonah is a story which tells us about an historical figure, who like us wrestles with God’s call on his life, and God makes Jonah look deep inside himself so that he can examine his own attitudes. And Jonah comes out of the experience with a greater understanding of himself and of God.
At the beginning of the book of Jonah we read “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me”. Jonah was an Israelite prophet; he was used to God speaking to him. It is thought that Jonah came after the great prophets, Elijah and Elisha. Probably Jonah was used to prophesying against the people of Israel but God was now calling him to prophecy against Israel’s sworn enemy, the Assyrians. Jonah decides that he doesn’t want to do this and so runs away.
Has God called you? It doesn’t have to be a momentous call like Jonah received. God also calls us in little ways as well. God calls each one of us. So, what do you feel that he is calling you to do at this time? There are all kinds of things to do at church, some practical, some where we need to be in front of the congregation, or some behind the scenes. God can use your natural abilities, but he also may call you into expressing your faith in a new way. We have a recent example of someone responding to Gods call on their life. Bridget has put her name forward to train to be a Local Preacher, this will be a real challenge for Bridget as it is for anyone, as she studies and gains experience in preaching. In the last year we have had three people volunteer to be treasurer at their own church – Kathryn Wood at Long Bennington, Lyn Blundy at Collingham and David Watson at Balderton. And there are many others who have volunteered for various jobs. God may also be calling us into the community. God needs Christians to express his love and care for those in their neighbourhood.
But there are people who turn away from God when he asks them to do something. On a number of occasions, I have said No to God, but I wonder what blessing I have missed out on because I said No. And also, maybe other people have missed out on a blessing because I refused God. There are many reasons why we do not follow God’s call on our life. Sometimes it is to do with family commitments, or work commitments. We might be afraid to step out in faith, scared that we might look foolish. We may lack confidence in our own ability, or we may not feel that we have the faith in God to fulfill what he is asking us to do. One of the struggles we all have as Christians is to give complete control of our life to God. We always want to keep control of part or all of our life.
Jonah, for reasons we will learn next week decided that he would choose the direction of his life. Jonah took practical steps to turn away from God’s call. He boarded a boat heading for Tarshish, some commentators say this could be a port as far away as Spain. Jonah was making sure he couldn’t fulfill God’s request. But God had other ideas, he allowed a great storm to come upon the ship. All the sailors were afraid and each one of them cried out to his own god. The fact is that there are consequences when we disobey God, and it is not just us who bear those consequences, other people can suffer because of our disobedience. In this case it was the sailors who were concerned for their own lives, they cried out to their gods. They also did something practical; they threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. The sailors were doing everything they could, but meanwhile, Jonah was fast asleep below deck. You wonder how he could sleep knowing that he was being disobedient to God. The fact is that when God speaks to us, we may hear his voice clearly just as Jonah did. But Jonah turned away from God. God continued to speak to Jonah but Jonah turned a ‘deaf ear’ to him, until he could no longer hear God’s voice. It is an awful situation to be in to no longer be able to hear God speaking to us. It enabled Jonah to sleep but he and the sailors were in deep trouble. Has there been occasions where we turned a ‘deaf ear’ to God when he was calling us?”
The captain woke Jonah up and they joined the crew above deck. They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. This seems a pretty crude way of deciding something but the crew believed that their gods would give them an answer, and it worked, the lot pointed to Jonah being the problem. God can work through many ways to point us in the right direction. Jonah explains why he is to blame. Here Jonah shows his true self. He is not afraid to tell people about the God he worships. He is also brave. He knows the possible consequences of owning up to his tuning away from God. He is also thinking of the sailors. Jonah tells them to throw him overboard. Jonah doesn’t want the crew to suffer for his disobedience, Jonah shows his courage in the face of certain death.
The sailors show a real resolve to save Jonah and themselves, they try to row back to land but the sea was getting rougher. As a last resort and with Jonah’s permission they throw Jonah into the sea. As Jonah faded from sight the sea became calm. Jonah was plunged under the water; he was sinking and there was no escape. He prays to God, and we can read this prayer in Jonah ch 2 v 2 – 7. God rescues him in a miraculous way. We read in ch 1 v 17, “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. We need to remember that God does not revoke his calling on Jonah’s life. Neither does he revoke the calling on our life, or the gifts and talents that he has given to us. Jonah was given a second chance to be obedient to God. God gives us a second and third, and many other chances to be obedient to him. Are we willing to follow God today in the way he wants to lead us? Amen
Hymn StF 343 All my days I will sing this song of gladness
Lord, as we think of the many people today who are following a calling to care for those in need, we pray that you will renew that calling within them, let your love and compassion burn brightly in their lives. Strengthen them to continue to care for people even though they may be physically exhausted or mentally fatigued. We thank you that so many people have risen to the challenge in these traumatic weeks. We pray for our nation, that we will rise to the challenge that is before us. The challenge, and opportunity to support those who care for others. That they will be rewarded with the remuneration which reflects the high value we put on them at this time. We pray that we will be better prepared for the next time there is a Pandemic and that resources will be put in place to alleviate the suffering of not just those who are Ill but also for those who are caring for them.
We thank you that we are seeing how other countries are coming out of ‘Lock-down’, and this gives us a sense of the freedom we will enjoy eventually. Help us to continue to play our part in keeping people safe. We pray that we will come through this experience valuing life and valuing each other more. That we will see that caring for people is more important than making a profit. Amen
Hymn I saw the light – one of my favourite songs from North End