At the recent Re-Imaging Church Zoom prayer meeting we had a healthy discussion about the future of the Circuit. With the infection rate of the virus increasing we feel we do have to be cautious as to what we do on church premises, having said that, we also want to explore ways of engaging with our congregations. Bubble Church does seem to be a very realistic way forward in the short and medium term. We want our church congregations to come back stronger than when we went into ‘lock-down’. We can only do this by exploring our faith in the present context, and also by looking ahead to think about how we express our faith in the community and how the church will be shaped by what we have experienced over the last six months. We are pleased to say the first ‘Bubble Church’ meeting went well at Balderton, and we hope to start another group next week. We are looking at how we can open the church for Playgroup activities on a Tuesday morning but with a limit of 8 adults plus children.
We have Bubble Church starting at Collingham this Thursday, and the church will continue to be open for prayer on Sunday mornings. We have had a meeting at Long Bennington and at this present time we have decided not to return to church just yet. North End are continuing with their service on Sunday evening.
The Coffee Time on Sunday morning will take place at 11.30 to 12.15 and the Zoom ID No. is 81025887574 and the Password is Coffee .We also have a Circuit Re-Imagining discussion group on Sunday at 2pm, anyone can join us to talk about what it is to be a Christian and how we can deepen our faith and develop the church for the future. The Zoom ID No. for this is available by contacting me on 01636 706264 or my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I have chosen hymns from Singing The Faith STF and Songs of Fellowship S of F
Shall we quieten our hearts as we prepare for worship
Hymn STF 343 All my days I will sing a song of gladness
Creator God, we thank you for your amazing design of the world we live in. We are spellbound by the sunsets and the sunrises; we marvel at the fact that everything has its place in the universe. That if one thing is taken away there is an imbalance in nature. That each species relies on another, that even though we are at the pinnacle of your creation on earth our very lives depend on the smallest creatures. We are humbled when we see the stars of heaven and the mountains and the power of the crashing waves. When we realise the great power you have and that you made us a little lower than the angels we are overwhelmed with love and gratitude towards you.
We thank you Lord, for the gift of your planet, for the vast potential for good and healthy living. For the varied textures, tastes, colours and shapes which allow us to enjoy our food. We thank you for the countryside and the seaside which encourage us to explore your creation, and exercise our bodies. We thank you for all that stimulates our mind, quizzes, books, dramas and documentaries. Lord we know so little of your world and we are grateful for those who explore it and reveal to us its treasures.
Forgive us Lord, when we take your gift for granted, when we abuse what you have so generously given us for our own ends. We fail to realise how much we are taking out of this planet with little thought of replacing it or renewing it. Lord help us to see what we need to do to get the balance right in using the resources of the world and allowing our planet to renew itself. Amen
Hymn STF 372 Come down O Love divine
Reading Matthew ch18 v 21 – 35
Hymn STF 286 What kind of love is this
Many years ago, I heard an illustration about this passage from Matthew. There was a brother and sister, and the brother was a terrible torment. When the girl was at Sunday School, her teacher said to the class that we need to forgive people seventy-seven times. The girl bought a notebook and started to record all the times her brother hurt her. Soon enough she had quite a number of comments in her notebook. One day the family went out to the park for a picnic. The two children were playing near a stream, there was a log across the stream, and the boy easily walked on the log to the other side. He goaded his sister to do the same. When she was half way across her brother gave the log a push and his sister fell in the stream. As she pulled herself out, soaking wet and angry, she noticed her notebook floating in the water. She realized that there was no point in counting how many times her brother had wronged her. She decided that she just had to continue to forgive him.
It takes a lot of effort to remember all the people who have hurt us. We carry these grudges around but they don’t do us any good. We become negative in our attitude to other people. It is not easy to forgive, and we may not be able to forgive straight away but in the long run, it is more healthy for us both spiritually and mentally. Jesus tells a story to help the disciples to understand about forgiveness and also to help them realise how God his father forgives. The story is about a man who has racked up debts he cannot possibly pay back in his lifetime. The master decides to look through the accounts and comes across a huge debt which is owed to him. He calls the man in to explain himself. The master decides that the man and his family must pay the debt by being sold into slavery or spending the rest of their lives in jail. The man pleads for patience, saying he will pay back what he owes, even though he knows it is not possible.
Do we see ourselves in this man? First of all, we do not acknowledge the debt that we owe to God. We think it is a lot smaller than it is. Secondly, we think we can pay the debt off with our good works. If we are not careful, we will be hardly aware of the debt we owe, until something happens and our lives fall into God’s spotlight. Today, with the uncertain times we live in we look for greater security not just for our physical wellbeing but for our souls as well. We also look to something greater than ourselves to hold onto.
There are times in our life when we are penitent, perhaps something in our life goes wrong and we turn to God, or we make a terrible mistake and we have to say ‘Sorry’ to those we have hurt and we may also want to say ‘Sorry’ to God as well. Perhaps then, we have a clearer idea of what a sinner we are. But to our amazement, God freely forgives us, and wipes the slate clean. We are so overjoyed because we realise how much God loves us. We need to remember, that in the story which Jesus told his disciples. It was not just the man who was going to be punished for his debt, the punishment would also fall upon his wife and children. We have to remember that sin does not just affect us, it also effects our loved ones.
The relief the man must have felt when this great burden of debt was lifted from his shoulders must have been incredible. Can you recall a time like this? When God’s love burst into your life. When you knew you had done something wrong and God forgave you. Our opening hymn reflects this joy. “All my days I will sing this song of gladness, give my praise for the fountain of delights, for in my helplessness you heard my cry, and waves of mercy poured down on my life.”
We come away from this experience of God’s forgiveness with an attitude of wanting to be a better Christian. But before long, we come across someone who has hurt us in the past. Our heart might still be bruised from the experience, or our anger may be smoldering away under the surface. As the person approaches us, we let them know how hurt we still feel, or how angry we are. The person apologizes but we are not interested. We want our ‘pound of flesh’. They have hurt us, so we want to hurt them. We do not even think about our recent encounter with God. We felt so free when we received God’s forgiveness, but now we feel angry. Sometimes we feel angrier when the person does apologise, because we wanted to continue to be angry with them, to have the moral high ground over them, and the apology wipes that away. Maybe we come to our senses, and remember how much God has forgiven us, or it may take a friend to nudge us in the right direction. We realise we need to fully forgive them, and that it may take courage for us to actually forgive them and to tell them of our forgiveness. Because God has forgiven us, it enables us to forgive someone else, and that person in turn may be able to forgive another person.
In Matthew chapter 18 verse 34, it states “In anger his master handed him over to the jailors to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.” It is a reminder that if we hold unforgiveness and grudges in our heart, we will be tormented by them, it will be like being in prison, because we will not be able to go beyond our unforgiveness, it will be a barrier that holds us back. It will influence our whole life, our attitude to everyone, not just the person we hold a grudge against. We have all come across people who are bitter and negative. They are not usually the type of person we want to spend much time with.
Our attitude should be one of appreciation and gratitude. God has forgiven us far beyond what we can ever imagine, and our focus should be on that, and not on what other people have done to us. Again, if we think of the words of the hymn we have just sung. “What kind of love is this, that gave itself for me. I am the guilty one, yet I go free. By grace I have been saved; it is the gift of God. He destined me to be his own, such is his love.” And also, the hymn we will sing next, “Upward I look and see him there. Who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless Saviour died. My sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me.”
When our focus is on what God has done for us, there is no room to think about anyone else’s faults. We are overwhelmed by the love and mercy that God has shown us. Our hearts and minds should be full of appreciation for what God has done for us. We need to keep coming back to the cross and kneeling before it. There will be times when we drift away and get angry with someone. But if we kneel at the cross our focus will once again be on what God has done for us. Amen
Hymn S of F 1187 Before the throne of God above
Lord, we come before you to pray for our nation. We are still in the grip of the pandemic, we do have better resources to combat the disease and we are far better informed than we were six months ago, but people are still losing their lives, and those who do survive are taking a long time to recover. We once again pray for our government that you will give them wisdom and guidance in the policies they produce and the decisions they make.
We want to thank our NHS staff for all they continue to do in their general care, and especially when dealing with Covid-19 patients. We ask that you will protect all the health service staff and those doing essential work. Help us all to be vigilant when we are outside and mixing with people or in our places of work and leisure.
We continue to pray for those who demonstrate for freedom and justice in their own land. Help them to get their message across to those in authority. We pray that you will protect them from intimidation and threats. We also pray about the election that will happen in America in November. We ask that the person you want in the White House will succeed. Amen
Hymn I saw the light