We are facing a time of change in our Circuit. We are wanting to focus more on small groups rather than the Sunday service, where there are limitations when we do meet. We need to take this opportunity to strengthen our church fellowship and grow as disciples, and in turn our churches will be stronger when we come out of ‘lock-down’. To give the ministers more time to focus on ‘Bubble Church’ we have decided as a staff team to produce one service which will be recorded and placed on the Circuit You Tube channel, there will also be one Newsletter which will be distributed around the Circuit. We hope this will meet the needs of people in that a service on line will be produced every week, a Newsletter will be sent out to everyone whether posted, delivered by hand or sent by email. The ministers will take it in turns to produce these, so you will get a flavour of the Circuit churches. If you have not already done so, we urge you to connect with a ‘Bubble Church’ group. In the ‘Bubble Church’ groups we hope to follow the material produced for ‘The Methodist Way of Life’. This material will be developed to suit our circuit, the preacher will focus on the first section on Sunday 11th October, which is ‘Worship’ and the sub-section is ‘Prayer’, so the ‘Bubble Church’ groups will look at prayer the following week. Once we get under way with this system, I am sure things will become a lot clearer.
The Coffee Time Zoom meeting is ID No. 813 6148 8854 and the Password is Coffee
I have chosen hymns from Singing The Faith
Shall we quieten our hearts and minds for worship
Hymn 313 Thine be the glory risen conquering Son
Sovereign Lord, we have come to worship you, to declare your faithfulness, to acknowledge your majesty, and to marvel at your love. To gaze in awe and wonder at who you are, and how you have revealed yourself to us. We come to sing your praises and declare our faith in you Almighty God. We come into your presence with joy, acknowledging your goodness to us, and the many blessings we have received from you. We thank you for this opportunity to spend time with you, to focus our minds and hearts fully on you, that you may reveal yourself to us and speak to us in a way we can understand and respond to you with love and devotion.
Lord, as we approach you today, we acknowledge that although we have tried very hard to serve you faithfully, there have been times when we have let you down, and let ourselves down. We have said and done things which have hurt you and other people. We ask for your forgiveness now, trusting in your Son, who died on the cross, to save us from the consequences of our sin. We thank you Lord, for your free and full forgiveness, and pray that you will help us to live more faithfully in serving you and others. Amen
Shall we say together the Lord’s Prayer
Reading Matthew 21 v 23 – 32
Hymn 481 The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want
Today, we look at the subject of authority. If we think about the authority figures of our present day or in the past. Two names spring to mind, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King jr. These were men who were in positions of power and influence but they also had an air of authority about them. People listened to them, and were moved by what they said. Their lives backed up what they stood for.
If we think about Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses was called by God to be their leader. God guided Moses and the people through the wilderness and sometimes deserts. On their journey to the Promised Land the people camped at Rephidim but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses and told him to find water for them. Moses said “Why do you quarrel with me?” and, “Why do you put the Lord to the test.”
The situation got worse; the people began to grumble against Moses. They were dissatisfied with Moses’ leadership, and they voiced their regret at leaving Egypt. This was more than a protest; they were thinking of getting rid of Moses their leader. This is alluded to when Moses cries out to God. Moses says, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The people call into question Moses authority to lead them. In response to this God answers the people in two ways. First of all, God asks Moses to stand in front of the people and call some of the elders forward to be witnesses to what is about to happen. This is a visible sign that God has chosen Moses to be their leader. And, secondly, God asks Moses to strike the rock with his staff. When Moses does this water comes pouring out of the rock. This is proof that God can provide for his people. The people doubted Moses authority and God answered them in a miraculous way. Exodus ch 17 v 1 – 7.
So, we come to the story of Jesus being challenged by the chief priests and the elders. They asked him. “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” The religious leaders are referring to the previous day’s events. When Jesus went into the temple courts and turned over the tables of the money changers, and said, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” The chief priests and elders are challenging Jesus authority to do these things. In true Rabbinic fashion, Jesus asks them a question about the authority of John the Baptist. Many Jews recognized that John was sent from God. And John acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah. The religious leaders were trapped. They couldn’t deny that John was sent by God because the people would turn against them. But they also couldn’t say that John was sent from God because that would mean that they would have to accept John’s word that Jesus was the Messiah. Even though many of the Jews thought that Jesus was the Messiah, the religious leaders turned their backs on the possibility.
Jesus was fully God and fully man, he set aside his status and privilege when he came down from heaven to be born as a baby. But he is also God. He forgave sins, and he stilled the storm. The religious leaders should have recognized this with all their knowledge of the Scriptures, but they didn’t. They questioned Jesus authority, they trusted their own thinking rather than accept the witness of the Spirit in Jesus life and teaching. Because they did not acknowledge the Truth when it was before them, they went down the road of denial, which led them to bring about Jesus death on the cross. We must learn from the mistakes of the religious leaders. We need to be continually open to the new ways that God will reveal himself to us. We need to respond to God’s call on our life.
We now consider the parable of the two sons. The father asks both sons to work in the vineyard. The first sons says, “I will not,” but changes his mind and goes to work in the vineyard. The second son said, “I will, sir,” but did not. Of course, there is a deeper meaning to this parable. The first son initially refused, but later repented and obeyed his father. This is where we can see that Jesus is referring to the tax collectors and prostitutes repenting and turning to God. Whereas the second son said that he would obey his father but he didn’t. The Pharisees had all the outward show of being good, but most of them were cold and legalistic. They had no compassion for those who were struggling or the outcasts of society. When we are looking to be obedient to God, we need to look deeper than the letter of the law. We need to look at what the spirit of the law reveals to us.
We worship a God of love and justice, a God who also expresses mercy to the world. The religious leaders challenged Jesus authority because Jesus challenged their way of life. Do we find ourselves in that position? We are happy for God to have authority over our life when everything is running smoothly, but when things get difficult or we want our own way, we challenge God’s guidance or we go our own way anyway. We need to think carefully about the authority of God because it affects us in so many ways. If God is God, then we are his subjects, and he is sovereign over us. If we believe that God is our creator and king, then we can also believe that he is our redeemer, and so, he is able to forgive us our sin, and he will because he is a God of love. If we are struggling, we know that God has the power to deliver us, just as Jesus saved the disciples when the storm broke on the lake. So, if God is sovereign over us, then we are his subjects, his servants. We then need to respond to God’s call on our life with devotion and service. A servant doesn’t pick and choose when to serve his master. But we are more than servants, we are children of God, and therefore, in that relationship we should show true and full devotion to him in response to his love for us. Amen
Hymn 469 I watched the sunrise lighting the sky
Lord, we are on a journey, and we pray that you will lead us on to the place of blessing, just as you led the people of Israel to the Promised Land. Our world has changed so much in the last six months, the certainties and freedoms that we held so dear, we can no longer count on. But we know that you will lead us through this time of struggle, to a place where we will be better prepared to face the future. And we pray, that we will be more appreciative of the things that we have so readily taken for granted.
We pray for people who do not have freedom in their own country, people who are oppressed because of the colour of their skin, their religion, their class, their sex or their political beliefs. We pray for those who bravely stand up for the marginalized in their country, we ask for your protection on them, and that their voices will be heard in the corridors of power.
We bring before you all we know who are going through difficult times, we pray for a touch on their lives to bring healing and wholeness to them. We ask also that you will strengthen their families and friends as they support them through this time. Amen
Hymn 41 Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful