CHURCH SERVICES

SERVICES WILL RESUME SUNDAY 05 DECEMBER AT 10:30AM

 

 

Dear Friends,

As we go into another period of lockdown I have been asked to provide devotions for each Sunday again. It is our hope and prayer that this measure will bring about the necessary reduction in Covid cases so that life may return to something like normal again.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Dear Friends,

This Sunday 29th November is Advent Sunday and our devotions are based on this theme of the coming of Jesus and the hope we have in him. Advent has always been a time when we remember how God prepared the world for his coming in Jesus, so words from the prophets figure largely. Of course we then remember how Jesus came in his birth at Bethlehem – a fulfilment of those prophesies. We also focus our thoughts on the promise of Jesus about the time when he shall come again. God loves the world so much that he comes to share our life so that, with faith, we too may share his life for eternity.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Opening Prayer

Loving God, we thank you for the hope with which you have filled our lives. We give thanks that in the coming of Jesus Christ you have given us assurance of your sovereign control of all things. We praise you for this Advent Sunday, when we remember the coming of Jesus to be the Saviour of the world. Thank you for the promise of his coming again as Lord of all. We are grateful for the hope that Jesus brings to our lives: in our times of doubt and despair the message of his coming, his birth, life, death and resurrection, renews our hope. Thank you that because of his coming and the promise of his coming again we can live each day in the knowledge that ultimately you hold all things, including ourselves, in your love and care. Lord, come, and come again; come into your world; come into our lives that we might have hope. For your name’s sake.  Amen

 Hymn

1 O come, O come, Emmanuel,                      2 O come, true Wisdom from on high,
and ransom captive Israel                               who ord’rest all things by your love:
who mourns in lonely exile here                     to us the path of knowledge show
until the Son of God draws near:                    and teach us in her ways to grow.
Rejoice, rejoice!                                                    Rejoice, rejoice!…

Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might        4 O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
who long ago on Sinai’s height                       your children from this tyranny;
gave all your tribes the ancient law,               from depths of hell your people save
in cloud and majesty and awe:                        and give them victory o’er the grave:
Rejoice, rejoice!…                                           Rejoice, rejoice!…


5 O come, strong Key of David, come        6. O come, our Dayspring, come and cheer
and open wide our heavenly home;                our spirits by your advent here;
upon our journey give relief,                          disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and close the path to pain and grief.               and death’s dark shadows put to flight:
Rejoice, rejoice!…                                           Rejoice, rejoice!…

Readings: Isaiah chapter 64 verses 1 – 9 The prophet calls upon God to visit his people but recognises their unworthiness in the face of God’s holiness. Only by God’s mercy can the people be saved.

1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! 

2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! 

3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. 

4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. 

5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? 

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 

7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. 

8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. 

9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people. 

 Mark’s Gospel chapter 13: verses 24 – 37

24 “But in those days, following that distress, “ ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 

25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 

27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. 

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 

29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 

30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 

33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 

34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 

36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 

37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”

 Reflection

This is not an easy passage to understand from Mark’s Gospel so let’s look at the context of this teaching. Jesus has just left the Temple, and when the disciples pointed out how impressive the Temple was, Jesus told them that not one stone would be left on top of another. So they climb up the Mount of Olives, and they are looking at the Temple, and the disciples ask Jesus “When’s all this going to happen?” So Jesus tells them about the signs which point to the beginning of the end of all things. He tells them of deception that is coming from others claiming to be him – so they won’t get deceived. He talks of persecution which is coming and they won’t escape it. He says that tribulation is coming, and it’s going to be really bad. The way Jesus speaks leaves the disciples, and us, wondering if he is talking about something that has already taken place? Or is he talking about something that is going to take place within the lifetime of the disciples? Or is he talking about something that is going to ultimately happen at the end of all things, just before Jesus comes back? And the answer is Yes to all those questions.

When looking at biblical prophecy sometimes God uses previous history or current events to deliver his message. Sometimes prophecy will tell what is going to happen in the near future—either in the lifetime of the prophet/the people he is speaking to, or within the pages of Scripture. And often, there is an ultimate fulfilment to the prophecy which even for us today hasn’t happened yet. So when Jesus talks about a time of great tribulation, he is going to use a historical event to help the disciples know what to look for in an upcoming time of tribulation which will happen in just a couple of decades (the Temple was destroyed in the lifetime of the disciples); but will then give all his followers from now on a template for the ultimate time of tribulation.

Our reading from Mark today tells us that Jesus is Coming, and you’ve got to get ready. This and other scripture is clear that Jesus is going to come back. How do we make ourselves ready for this? We make ourselves ready by responding to the Gospel.

So what is the Gospel? The Gospel is that God is the absolute ruler of heaven and earth and all that is in the universe. He created humans to have a relationship with him. However we rebelled against God’s authority in our lives, we broke that relationship, and we are separated from God because of our sin. But because of God’s love for us, he makes a way for us to be right with him again. Jesus, the son of God, gave his life for us on the cross. He died, and three days later, he rose again. He is the way God provides for us to be in relationship with God again. As we acknowledge God’s right to rule in our lives, repent of our sin, and confess that Jesus is Lord, the relationship is restored and we look forward to his coming again.

But the million dollar question the disciples asked is still not answered: When will this coming happen? So let’s look at the answer Jesus gave.  “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So even Jesus doesn’t know. 

I don’t know about you, but I am glad that Jesus did not know the day or the hour. Because if he did know, that means he didn’t give up anything so I could have a relationship with him. The fact that he didn’t know points to the truth that Jesus gave up everything for me.

So I’m fine with not knowing the day and the hour. You know why? Because Jesus has made me rich in every other area! I have access to commune with Almighty God. I get to call the Creator of the Universe my Father. He has given me his peace, which passes all understanding, to guard my heart and my mind. Therefore, in the words of the psalmist, “I will not fear, though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. I will not fear, though the earth give way. I will not fear, though all around me be chaos. I will not fear though the nations rage. I will not fear the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” For I know that God is in control and he knows what he is doing. For us the Advent theme is to believe, be ready, watch out and don’t worry.

Hymn

1 Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

2 Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

3 Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

4 When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at my side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, 
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Meditation

Lord God, made known to us in Jesus and present through your Spirit, this Advent-tide we might look for you by scanning the horizon, or watching for someone at the door, or by waiting for a notification to pop up on a screen…

Alternatively, we might notice you already beside us as we labour over a mountain of Christmas cards – and rekindle friendships and re-affirm our love.

In stretching our minds and finances to offer suitable gifts, might we remember that our Christmas giving is triggered by your gift of yourself to us?

As we hear again familiar stories from far away and long ago, may our giving and our loving be refreshed by our knowing once again that you are here for us, then and now and forever.

Ian Fosten

 Chorus

Living He love me;

Dying He saved me;

Buried He carried my sins far away;

Rising He justified freely, for ever;

One day He’s coming,

Oh, glorious day!

 Prayers

Gracious God, hear our prayers for those who find it hard to hope, those for whom life is hard, for those caught today in the grip of despair – those for whom the future seems bleak, optimism seems foolish, and trust seems futile. Reach out in love, and may your light shine in their darkness.

Hear our prayer for those whose aims in life have been dashed, whose dreams have been shattered, who have grown weary, cynical and disillusioned. Reach out in love, and rekindle their faith in the future.

Hear our prayer for those who mourn, or who wrestle with illness, or who watch loved ones suffer. Reach out in love and grant them your strength and comfort.

Hear our prayer for those whose lives are blighted by injustice, crushed by oppression, poverty, hunger, and encourage all who work against the odds to build a better world. Reach out in love, and grant the assurance of your coming kingdom.

Lord Jesus Christ, we remember your promise to come again in glory, the culmination of God’s purpose, the ultimate victory of love. May that conviction bring new faith, new vision, and new purpose wherever life seems hopeless. Lord of all, the Word made flesh, bring hope to your world today – this we pray for your love’s sake. Amen

Hymn

  1. Lo, he comes with clouds descending,          2. Every eye shall now behold him
    once for favoured sinners slain;                         robed in awesome majesty;
    thousand thousand saints attending                we who set at naught and sold him,
    swell the triumph of his train:                           crucified him on the tree,
    Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,                                    Lord have mercy, (3 times)
    God appears on earth to reign.                        let us all thine advent see.

    3. Those dear tokens of his passion                4. Yea, Amen, let all adore thee,
    still his dazzling body bears,                             high on thine eternal throne;
    cause of endless exultation                             Saviour, take the power and glory,
    to his ransomed worshippers:                         claim the kingdom for thine own:
    Sing hosanna! (3 times)                                      O come quickly, (3 times)
    see the risen Lord appears!                             Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

 

Closing Prayer  from the Evangelical Waldensian Church in Italy

Lord, Our Father,

By sending your only Son into the world,

you have brought salvation to us all.

Grant a joyful welcome to your Gospel

from all the peoples of the earth,

that they may praise your name

and rejoice in your redemption.

Even in these dark and anxious days

when unbelief, violence and egotism

seem to prevail and hold humanity captive,

your good news comforts us,

proclaiming unceasingly that your redemption

is at hand. You encourage us

To vigilance and prayer so that we

may stand before the Son of Man

upon the day of his coming…

and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

 

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 22nd November bring to an end the Christian Year. It is sometimes called Christ the King Sunday. We look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 which is about separation – separation of obedient followers from pretenders. The real evidence of our belief is the way we act. How well do our actions separate us from those who are just pretenders? Jesus uses the symbolism of sheep and goats. They often grazed together but were separated when it came to shear the sheep. It is Jesus the King who makes the decision.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Opening Prayer

Loving God, we praise you, the Lord of all wonder and all life. We praise you that your presence and power still transform the world and the lives of your people, and that your being with us still gives meaning to all that we do. We praise you for being our light in the darkness, our joy in times of sorrow and our peace even in the confusion of life. Lord, we seek your forgiveness for those things that we have said and done and thought that have hurt you, each other and ourselves. Forgive us every act of kindness that was not done, every word of understanding that was not spoken and every offer of forgiveness we did not make. Cleanse us, renew us and empower us to live lives worthy of Christ our King. Amen. The Lord’s Prayer – Our Father…

 Hymn

1 The Lord is king! Lift up your voice,         2 The Lord is king! Who then shall dare
O earth, and all you heavens, rejoice;           resist his will, distrust his care,
from world to world the song shall ring:       or quarrel with his wise decrees,
‘The Lord omnipotent is king!’                         or doubt his royal promises?


3 He reigns! O saints, exalt your strains        4. One Lord one kingdom all secures:
your God is King, your Father reigns;           he reigns, and life and death are yours,

and he is at the father’s side                          through earth and heaven one song shall ring:

the man of love, the crucified.                      ‘The Lord omnipotent is king!’

 Reading: Matthew chapter 25 verses 31 – 46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 

32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 

33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 

36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 

38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 

39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 

42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 

43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Meditation – Sheep?

Why is injustice so beguiling? Of course when we name it – point it out – no one wants to believe they are on the side of the unjust. Yet how easily we drift along, benefitting from the unjust systems which uphold the ways of the world.

We wish there was no ‘rich and poor’, but are grateful to live comfortably in our comfort.

We wish nations did not oppress their neighbours, but are thankful to live in a nation counted amongst the powerful.

We abhor racism and prejudice, but are slow to recognise these traits in ourselves.

We do not always think things through, but accept our place in the way things are.

They say that sheep tend to follow, without a thought to where they are being led. Were you right then, to compare us to sheep?

And yet you, yourself, promise to be our Shepherd, tending your beloved flock.

So cut though the beguiling tones on injustice and let us hear and follow you.

Karen Campbell

Hymn

1 Sing we the King who is coming to reign,
Glory to Jesus, the Lamb that was slain,
Life and salvation his coming shall bring
Joy to all those who know Jesus is King.
Come let us sing: Praise to our King,
Jesus our King, Jesus our King;
This is our song, who to Jesus belong:
Glory to Jesus, to Jesus our King.

2 All then shall dwell in his marvellous light,
Races long severed his love shall unite,
Justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring,
Wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King.

3 All shall be well in his Kingdom of peace, 
Freedom and wisdom and love shall not cease,
Foe shall be friend when his triumph we sing,
Sword shall be sickle when Jesus is King.

  1. Kingdom of Christ, for your coming we pray,
    Hasten, O Father, the dawn of the day
    When this new song your creation shall sing,
    Satan is conquered and Jesus is King.

Reflection

One night a woman dreamed that she was having a conversation with God. She was angry about all the suffering and evil she saw around her, so she complained to the Lord. “God, why don’t you do something about all this?” God gently replied: “I did. I created you.”

Here in Matthew 25, Jesus is telling His followers that he wanted them to be a sermon. He wanted them to be walking, talking, living, breathing sermons.

Now, this is one of the hallmarks of Jesus ministry. This is what he did. When the crowds were gathered around him, Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus taught this. He lived this. He modelled this.

Being kind to the poor and downtrodden was central to what God had always asked of his people. In fact, this was so expected by God that he condemned those who failed to do it. One person observed how prevalent this truth was in Scripture, and so he rewrote Matthew 25 in this way:

I was hungry and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.

I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.

I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.

I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.

You seem so close to God; but I am still very hungry, and lonely, and cold.

The person who wrote that, realized that if we only talk about doing good for Jesus Christ – the result is an empty and powerless faith. But some people might get the impression that Jesus was teaching that good works can buy your salvation. Jesus tells one group that because they…fed the hungry; gave drink to the thirsty; gave a bed to strangers; clothed the naked; looked after the sick; visited those in prison… they were going to heaven.

Then He tells the others that because THEY DIDN’T practice those kinds of things they were going to hell. Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots and say: “Hey! If I do enough good deeds, I can get into heaven!” In fact, this is the teaching of every world religion – except for Christianity. By contrast: Christianity has always taught that: “… it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)   In other words, you can’t buy your way into heaven by doing good deeds – which is a good thing, because it would drive us nuts trying to figure out if we’d ever done enough to be acceptable.

So, what is Jesus telling us? He’s telling us that if we are his children, we will be known by our good deeds. He said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Good deeds are the FRUIT of your salvation, they are not the ROOT of your salvation. Good deeds don’t MAKE you a Christian. But IF you’re a real Christian…they’ll be the flower of your faith.

During World War II, a church building in Strasbourg was destroyed. After the bombing, the members surveyed the area to see what damage was done. They were pleased that a statue of Christ with outstretched hands was still standing. It had been sculpted centuries before by a great artist.

Taking a closer look, the people discovered both hands of Christ had been sheared off by a falling beam. Later, a sculptor in the town offered to replace the broken hands as a gift to the church. The church leaders met to consider the offer and decided not to accept it. They felt the statue without hands spoke to them of the fact that Jesus had called them to be his hands and to minister to others.

Let me close with the well-known quote by Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.”

Hymn

You are the King of Glory,
You are the Prince of Peace,
You are the Lord of heaven and earth,
You are the Son of righteousness.
Angels bow down before You,
Worship and adore, for
You have the words of eternal life,
You are Jesus Christ the Lord.
Hosanna to the Son of David!
Hosanna to the King of Kings!
Glory in the highest heavens,
Jesus the Messiah reigns.

Prayers

As children of the kingdom, let us make our prayers to the eternal God, who loves us.

We pray for your kingdom to come in the worldwide communities of those who believe in Jesus Christ – may our lives enthrone him.

Silence

Spirit of the living God, may your kingdom come.

We pray for your kingdom to come in the nations of our world and in their leadership;

For God’s values to take root and grow; for each person to be respected as a beloved child of God.

Silence

Spirit of the living God, may your kingdom come.

We pray for your kingdom to come in our homes and families, our communities and places of work, in all thinking, all speaking and all action.

Silence

Spirit of the living God, may your kingdom come.

We pray for your kingdom to come in all hospitals and surgeries, and in every place of pain and sadness.

Silence

Spirit of the living God, may your kingdom come.

We pray for your kingdom to come in the final stages of earthly life, in the journey through death, and in the awakening to eternal life.

Silence

Spirit of the living God, may your kingdom come.

 Loving God, you have set before us a great hope that your kingdom will come on earth, and have taught us to pray for its coming: make us ever ready to thank you for the signs of its dawning, and to pray and work for the perfect day when you will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. The Iona Community

 We thank you for making us, and redeeming us, opening wide to us the gates of heaven.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

 Hymn

  1. From heaven you came helpless babe,          2. There in the garden of tears,
    entered our world Your Glory veiled;             My heavy load He chose to bear;
    Not to be served but to serve,                         His heart with sorrow was torn,
    And give Your life that we might live.           Yet “Not my will but Yours”, He said.
    This is our God, the Servant King –                    This is our God…

He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King

  1. Come see His hand and His feet ,           4. So let us learn how to serve,
    The scars that speak of sacrifice ,               And in our lives enthrone Him;
    Hands that flung stars into space                    Each other’s needs to prefer,
    To cruel nails surrendered.                             For Christ we’re serving.
    This is our God…                                           This is our God…

Blessing

When the path is hard the Lord will be with you.

When the road is unclear he will be your guide.

When the journey is difficult he will hold your hand.

When the destination seems far away he will stay by your side.

When the way is dark he will be your light.

When you cannot see the way ahead he will protect you.

When all seems lost he will give you victory.

When you feel alone, afraid and uncertain he will hold you for ever.

When you go he will always go with you.

These are the promises of Jesus Christ our Lord and King; thanks be to God.

Amen.

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 15th November and next week are continuing the Gospel of Matthew readings which we had begun in the earlier lockdown. And as we come towards the end of the Christian year, before the start of Advent, we come to the end of Matthew’s account. This week we look at the parable of the talents which is only written in Matthew’s Gospel but it contains an important teaching. It reminds us of being ready for when the Lord comes or calls.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, because you are a God of love, we come before you without fear, and because we know you love us, we can come with confidence. We come in hope, with joy and to give you thanks and praise. We come with our questions and we come with our doubts; we come with our uncertainties and we come with our confusions. You know the worries and concerns that are filling our minds; you know the sorrow and doubt that all but overwhelms our lives. Open our eyes, Lord, so that we can see Jesus and that we can keep him at the centre of our lives giving us grace, peace and love to face whatever comes our way with his sense of purpose and hope. We ask our prayer in his name. Amen   The Lord’s Prayer… Our Father

 Hymn

1 O God of mercy, God of might,                  2 And thou, who cam’st on earth to die
In love and pity infinite,                                 That fallen ones might live thereby,
Teach us, as ever in thy sight,                        O hear us; for to thee we cry,
To live our life to thee.                                   In hope, O Lord, to thee.

  1. Teach us the lesson thou hast taught:           4 For all are neighbours, far and wide,
    To feel for those thy blood hath bought,        Since thou, O Lord, for all hast died.
    That every word, and deed, and thought        then teach us, whatsoe’er betide 
    May work a work for thee.                                 To love them all in thee!

5 In sickness, sorrow, want, or care,               6 And may Thy Holy Spirit move
Whate’er it be, ‘tis ours to share;                        All those who live to live in love
May we, where help is needed, there                Till Thou shalt greet in heaven above
Give help as unto thee!                                        All those who live in thee.

Reading: Matthew chapter 25 verses 14 – 30 The Parable of the Three Servants

Jesus had already made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and had conflicts with the religious rulers. He had given us his greatest commandments – to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbour as ourselves. This parable encourages us to be faithful in all aspects of our lives until Jesus returns again. We should be watching, witnessing and working for him. So Jesus says…

14 “The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 

15 To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talents, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 

16 The man who had received five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 

17 So also, the one with two talents gained two more. 

18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 

20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 

22 “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 

24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 

25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 

27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 

28 “ ‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 

29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 

30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 Meditation

Lord,

I have read the story

and I can see myself

in each of the three servants.

Sometimes I’ve been given a great deal,

sometimes less so,

and sometimes, if I’m honest,

your provision has felt much less than I’d hoped for.

Yet all that I have

and all that I am

comes as a gift from you.

In return you do not require

extravagant gestures of gratitude,

but, simply, that I use,

as well and as fully as I’m able,

the gifts with which you have entrusted me.

Today, and through all of my life,

receive back with interest

your gracious gifts to me.

Ian Fosten

“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow that talent to the place where it leads.”  Erica Jong

“If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Anita Roddick

 “If I could give you information of my life it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths to do in his service what he has done in her. And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing. I have worked hard, very hard, that is all; and I have never refused God anything.

Florence Nightingale

 Hymn

1. We pause to give thanks   2. The future is hereand focus our thought                              as Christ sets us free;                  on how far our God       we reach out in hope his people has brought.             for all that will be.We pause for affirming                           

We go where God leads usour ‘yes’ to his call,     to time’s furthest ends,pursuing his future:                                  to share in life’s missionlife’s fullness for all.                                 as partners and friends.

3. We rise and we riskthe course God has set, to care for our world,a world of ‘not yet’.At one in the Spirit,we follow Christ’s wayand put into practiceGod’s future today

Reflection

We know that a talent in the time of Jesus was a measure of weight rather than a coin and that it represented a lot of money, maybe as much as several thousand pounds.

We also understand that this parable applies to abilities as well – the master gave these gifts according to their ability. So it becomes how we use our gifts too. Think about your life and how God uses you. Yes he uses us through our financial giving, because we are only giving back to God what he has given us. But how can we give back to God the abilities he has given each of us so that he can use us in a powerful way? If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, abides in us, then God can use us to transform lives. It should be our privilege to give back to God what he has given to us. Our unique abilities can be used for the work of God’s kingdom.

The three servants fell into two categories – faithful and unfaithful. The two faithful servants took their talents and put them to work for their Lord. The unfaithful servant was afraid, was not willing to trust that God would multiply his talent that was a free gift to use in faith. So instead of using his abilities, resources and opportunities, he buried them.

I wonder if this was a surprise to the landowner. Is it a surprise to God? Why do you think the unfaithful servant only received one talent to begin with? I don’t think he was purposely doing evil, but his sin was his lack of faith and trust. He was doing absolutely nothing. He was robbing the Lord of service and increase. He was in fact lazy and God could only use him in a minimal way because of this. He was afraid he might fail, so he never tried to succeed.

The two servants who put their talents, their money and abilities to work each received praise and joy. They started as servants and their Lord made them rulers. They were faithful with a few things, so the Lord trusted them with many things. They had worked hard and they were joyful in the process. They didn’t complain, they didn’t object, they worked hard to give something back. Their faithfulness gave each of them a capacity for greater service and responsibility. The third servant wasn’t prepared to work with or even invest his master’s money with the bank. He wasn’t prepared to take any risk at all.

God wants us to use the talents he has given, even if it involves taking a risk so that you have something to give back. God expects us to do something, anything in order to bring about his kingdom.

Remember God works completely opposite to the way the world works. The world says, “Take what you can”, God says, “Give all you can”. The world supports attitudes of, “It’s your right!”, and God says, “Work hard for what I give you.”

Jesus taught this, scripture supports it through the entire Bible and the parable of the talents is founded on it. “Well done, good…” and what? Yes, “faithful servant.” God says, “Don’t be afraid, be faithful. Trust me as you give of yourself and be faithful. I will reward you, and you will enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Hymn

The church is wherever God’s people are praising,

singing their thanks for his goodness this day.

The church is wherever disciples of Jesus

remember his story and walk in his way.

The Church is wherever God’s people are helping,

caring for neighbours in sickness and need.

The Church is wherever God’s people are sharing

the words of the Bible in gift and in deed.

 Prayers

Father God, we pray for the world, your world with all its opportunities, all its resources and all its potential for good. We remember with deep gratitude its beauty, its variety, and the essential goodness it has because you are its Creator; for every way that it is a reflection of your grace and love. Teach us all, we pray to remember the obligations that you have laid upon us to be good stewards of your world. We pray for the leaders of the nations and those in industry and commerce who are responsible for decisions which affect your creation. May we all be reminded that what we have we hold in trust and we will always be answerable to you. The Lord hears our prayer.

We pray for our society and for our life together in this nation. At this time when all that is good and right, true and just is being challenged and threatened, we ask for your loving hand to be upon us all. We pray for those in our society who are responsible for what we see, hear and read; for television producers and programme makers; for newspaper editors and for all who speak or teach or preach. May we remember our obligation to the truth of your love. The Lord hears our prayer.

We pray for those who have a special responsibility for people in particular need. We pray for doctors an nurses and all who work in any way within the health service. Especially we pray for those with coronavirus and those seeking to bring a vaccine to the world. We remember too those who are homeless as we move into winter ; those who have become unemployed and the unemployable. We remember any we know by name and ask that thy may have dignity, hope and joy. The Lord hears our prayer.

We pray for the church, your church. We acknowledge that you have called, chosen and commissioned us as your people and you gave us the task for caring for those in need. We pray for those who are hungry and for those who are starving; for those who are ill and those who are dying; for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one; for those who are lost and those longing to be found; for those who are afraid and those who are depressed; for those who are anxious and those who feel as if the bottom has dropped out of their world. The Lord hears our prayer.

We pray for ourselves and for all that we must face in the days of this coming week. May we know that you are with us always, and you are longing to bless all we seek to do in your name. The Lord hears our prayer.

We pray in the name of Jesus, who calls and sends us. Amen.

 Hymn

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,

consider all the works thy hands have made;

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee,

How great thou art, how great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee,

how great thou art, how great thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,

and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur

and see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul…

And when I think, that God, his Son not sparing;

Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in;

That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,

he bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul…

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,

and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.

Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,

and there proclaim: “My God, how great thou art!”

Then sings my soul…

 Blessing

Lord, we are called by your name and we are healed by your grace. We have been appointed to be disciples and we have been enabled by your Spirit.

We are called to be your people and we walk as your children.

Now Lord, be with us as we discover Christ in our community; to offer his love to our neighbours and to be Christ to all whom we meet. For your love’s sake. Amen.

 

 Call to worship

On this Remembrance Sunday we link ourselves in spirit with millions throughout our country and abroad to remember those of our own and other nations who have died in war and conflict.

The Psalmist says, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills” – we remember those who lie amongst green hills, especially for  those for whom those hills are not the hills of home.

The Psalmist asks that we pray for those “that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters” and we remember those who rest in the deep until the sea gives up her dead.

The Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” We remember those who left the familiarity of earth to fight and die in the loneliness of the air.

We do this in the presence of God to whom we bring our worship, our praise and our thanksgiving. Our help to do this is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Hymn

  1. All people that on Earth do dwell                 2. The Lord ye know is God indeed
    Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice                Without our aid He did us make
    Him serve with fear, His praise forthtell        We are his folk, he doth us feed
    Come ye before Him and rejoice.                   And for His sheep he doth us take.

  2. O, enter then His gates with praise              4. For why? The Lord our God is good
    Approach with joy His courts unto                 His mercy is forever sure
    Praise, laud and bless His name always         His truth at all times firmly stood
    For it is seemly so to do.                                   And shall from age to age endure

Prayer

Almighty God we praise you today for the freedom we enjoy as a nation and as individuals – freedom of speech and expression, freedom from war and oppression – a freedom secured at such enormous human cost. We praise you for those who made such freedom possible, the countless thousands who sacrificed life and limb in two World Wars and in subsequent conflicts, leaving homes and loved ones, often to return no more. We praise you for the peace we enjoy today – a peace which we need to treasure constantly, nurture carefully and safeguard always, recognising the price at which it was won. Yet the battle is not over, the cause is only masked. Until we learn to share, until we love more widely and think in ways more fair; until we build more bravely that all we say and do gives our hope of breaking barriers some hope of coming true, then the Last Post may be sounded in the future just the same, but the thousands who it heralds will all have died in vain. Amen.

Reading; John 15: 9 -17

‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 

10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 

12 My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. 

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 

15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 

17 This is my command: love each other.

Poem: The Question by Rudyard Kipling 

This poem was written in 1916 at the height of the most brutal war in history in which vast numbers died on both sides, most of them conscripts, not volunteers. If we ever doubt the need for remembrance, then we should read this poem thoughtfully, in it lies the answer to the question and surely the answer is Yes, we will never forget lest their sacrifice has been in vain.

Brethren, how shall it fare with me
When the war is laid aside,
If it be proven that I am he
For whom a world has died?

If it be proven that all my good,
And the greater good I will make,
Were purchased me by a multitude
Who suffered for my sake?

That I was delivered by mere mankind
Vowed to one sacrifice,
And not, as I hold them, battle-blind,
But dying with open eyes?

That they did not ask me to draw the sword
When they stood to endure their lot —
That they only looked to me for a word,
And I answered, I knew them not?

If it be found, when the battle clears,
Their death has set me free,
Then how shall I live with myself through the years
Which they have bought for me?

Brethren, how must it fare with me,
Or how am I justified,
If it be proven that I am he
For whom mankind has died —
If it be proven that I am he
Who, being questioned, denied?

Hymn

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.
Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.
Oh, Master grant that I may never seek…

Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

 Act of Remembrance

Let us remember before God, and commend to his sure keeping: those who have died for their country in war; those whom we knew, and whose memory we treasure; and all who have lived and died in the service of mankind.

 They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old: Age shall  not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

Silence

The Kohima Memorial

When you go home, tell them of us, and say, “For your tomorrow we gave our today”.

 Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, from whose love in Jesus Christ we cannot be parted, either by death or life: hear our prayers and thanksgivings for all whom we remember this day, and bring us all with them, to your eternal joy, though Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Poppy

There are probably many reasons why people buy the remembrance poppy.

Maybe they want to remember a particular person or event from wars in days gone by.

Maybe it is their way of saying thank you to those who gave their life so that we may enjoy the freedom we have today.

Maybe people buy it because it’s that time of year again and so they drop their money into the charity box and then go on about life as usual.

Maybe some wear the poppy out of some nationalistic motivation.

These and other reasons maybe why people wear their poppy.

But whatever the reason, the poppy is a symbol which helps us to stop and think, to pause and remember and reflect on the magnitude of war and its consequences.

However, the remembrance poppy is not just about the First World War, Second World War, the Falklands War, the war in Afghanistan, or indeed any specific conflict. The poppy makes us think of war in general and ask fundamental questions: Why does it happen? What is it like? Who suffers? Who helps those who suffer?

It also directs our attention to the conflicts that are ongoing – even now, people continue to fight and die, whether on their home soil or in a foreign land. It is a sad fact that war is a constant visitor to our planet. The poppy will always, therefore, be relevant. What is says is that by not forgetting those who have died in the past, there are seeds of hope for the future.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

This is my command, says Jesus, love each other.

Prayers

Lord of all, hear us now as we pray for the victims of war and for peace in our world.

We pray for those across the world who bear the scars of conflict – the injured, maimed and mentally distressed, those who have lost limbs, their reason or their loved ones through the horrors of war.

We pray for those left homeless or as refugees, those who have lost their livelihoods and security, and those who still live in daily fear for their lives.

We pray for children who have been orphaned, parents who mourn their children, those who have lost their partners – countless families whose lives will never be the same again.

We pray for those whose service is in the armed forces – whose task it is to protect those freedoms as well as being charged with keeping the peace in countries across the world – their work involving months away from family and friends, and often danger to themselves.

We pray for world leaders and rulers, politicians and diplomats – those whose decisions and negotiations affect the lives of so many, and in whose hands peace ultimately lies.

Lord of all, give wisdom to all who work for peace, so that a more secure future may be ensured for all. Give courage to those who strive for justice, so that the causes of conflict may be overcome. Give strength to those who seek to break down barriers, that divisions over race, colour, creed and culture may be ended. Grant that wherever war, or threat of war, continues to haunt lives, a way of reconciliation may be found, and harmony established between people and nations.

Hear our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

 Blessing:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen

 

 

 

Iford URC Harvest Service 27th September 2020 lead by Revd. Martin Amber

Iford URC Service 20th September 2020 lead by Brenda McCarron

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1F-khoOeDc&feature=youtu.be

Iford URC 13th Sep 2020 Blair Crawford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHthCgkaw70

Iford URC service soundtrack Martin Ambler 6th Sep 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgAlHGZRYLA

 

SERVICES RESUMED ON SUNDAY 06 SEPTEMBER AT  10:30AM
 

PLEASE FIND BELOW THE VARIOUS SERVICES THAT REVD. MARTIN AMBLER KINDLY DID FOR US DURING LOCKDOWN.

THEY WILL REMAIN ON HERE UNTIL THE END OF OCTOBER 2020.

MEANWHILE WE WILL BE POSTING LINKS OF OUR SUNDAY MORNING SERVICES FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND.  THEY WILL REMAIN ON HERE FOR APPROXIMATELY TWO MONTHS – PLEASE SEE BELOW:

Iford URC Service 20th September 2020 lead by Brenda McCarron

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1F-khoOeDc&feature=youtu.be

Iford URC 13th Sep 2020 Blair Crawford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHthCgkaw70

Iford URC service soundtrack Martin Ambler 6th Sep 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgAlHGZRYLA

 

Dear Friends,

In response to a request from the Elders I am putting together some devotional resources for Sundays for the foreseeable future.  I will be using resources from the URC as well as my own. The devotions will consist of readings, thoughts and prayers. In these challenging and different times it is essential that our spiritual lives and nourishment continue in some form and so it is the hope that these devotions will be of help, comfort and strength to you all.

Rev. Martin Ambler.

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 30th August continue the reading in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 16. Jesus has taught and tested his disciples in various ways and by different means about the kingdom of God and they have said that they believe him to be the Messiah promised of God. He now feels it is time for them to hear what is going to happen in the next few weeks of his life. As we shall be opening up for services at church from next week this will be the last of the devotions produced in this way.

It has been a privilege to create them over the last months and I hope they have been helpful in providing a sense of unity among us as we have reflected and thought about the set passages together with worship material.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Prayer

In a world vibrating with action – we have come to be still.

In a world of tight schedules and deadlines – we have come to absorb the present.

In a world if limits and frustrations – we have come to the brink of eternity.

At this still point of our churning world, we can meet the unchanging God –

and know his peace. Amen.                          Susan Sayers.

 Hymn

Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!
The heavens are not too high, his praise may thither fly,
the earth is not too low, his praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

The church with psalms must shout, no door can keep them out;
but, above all, the heart must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

 Reading: Matthew chapter 16 verses 21 – 28

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 

26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 

27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. 

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 Meditation

Lord make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

And where there is sadness, joy.

 

O Divine Master, grant that

I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console.

To be understood as to understand.

To be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

 Hymn

  1. Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear;
    Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here;
    Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea,
    Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
  2. Tell me, in accents of wonder, how rolled the sea,
    Tossing the boat in a tempest on Galilee;
    And how the Maker, ready and kind,
    Chided the billows, and hushed the wind.
  3. Show me that scene in the garden, of bitter pain;
    Show me the cross where my Saviour for me was slain;
    Sad ones or bright ones, so that they be
    Stories of Jesus—tell them to me.

 Reflection

There is an important word mentioned twice in the first verse of our reading. It is the word ‘must’. “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things,” and “ I must be killed – and on the third day be raised to life,” Jesus explains to his disciples.

To Peter this makes no sense, if he is the Messiah then he cannot suffer and die and tells Jesus so. And Jesus condemns that lack of accepting and understanding telling Peter to “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me” Jesus didn’t say this with a snarl of anger in his voice but rather like someone who had been wounded in their heart. I think Jesus recognised that here was another temptation he had to face similar to those he faced in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry where he used similar words to be rid of the tempter. Satan literally means the Adversary – it is any power that seeks to make human desires take the place of God’s will. This temptation came from one who loved Jesus and couldn’t bear to think of Jesus taking that dreadful, fatal path. It was this mistaken love of Peter’s heart that must have hurt Jesus deeply.

Then Jesus says to his disciples who have been listening to this exchange between Peter and Jesus, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it…”

Did you notice another must in that first sentence? 

Someone once said that Jesus promised his disciples three things – they would be entirely fearless, absurdly happy, and always in trouble. The thing is that’s not the sort of message people want to hear. Trouble we already have. What we want is a world without trouble; a world where all our problems are taken away with the snap of the fingers; a world where our enemies are made to vanish – just like that; a world of peace and plenty and happiness; a world where we and those we love can have everything a person desires.

That is what the Messiah – the Christ – is supposed to do; to make our world better.

But from the moment Peter and the disciples realised who Jesus was, from that time, Jesus began to explain that he must suffer and die and be raised on the third day. And it would be great if this isn’t the way things must be. But God’s ways are not our ways. The emblem of our faith is not a crown – but a cross. The field of battle on which our Lord wins is victory is not the sand of Judah and Palestine but the hearts of men and women like you and I.

A life worth living is not found by clinging to the life we have and surrounding it with all the trappings the world affords us; rather it is found by letting go of ourselves and our selfish desires and being obedient to the one who makes seeds grow. Yes Peter, Jesus must suffer and die – and yes, that seems so wrong – but listen – didn’t you also hear him say, “and on the third day be raised to life? 

This taking up the cross is not only about doing God’s will instead of indulging my own, it is also about gaining the very thing everyone needs the most: a life worth living, a life that gives life, a life that is unafraid and joyful, a life which death cannot destroy, a life in which the kingdom of God draws near and is lived and shared with all.

We give thanks to Jesus our Lord who died so we might live and who lives that we never die.

Hymn

  1. Teach me Thy way, O Lord, 2. When doubts and fears arise,
    Teach me Thy way; Teach me Thy way;

Thy gracious aid afford,                                  When storms o’erspread the skies,
Teach me Thy way.                                        Teach me Thy way.
Help me to walk aright;                                  Shine through the cloud and rain,
More by faith, less by sight;                           Through sorrow, toil, and pain;
Lead me with heavenly light,                         Make Thou my pathway plain,
Teach me Thy way.                                        Teach me Thy way.

3. Long as my life shall last,
Teach me Thy way;
Where’er my lot be cast,
Teach me Thy way.
Until the race is run,
Until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won,
Teach me Thy way.

Prayers

Gracious God, it is right for us to give you thanks and praise. Even though you are the God of all eternity you have not left us to struggle on our own. You have acted so decisively for us in Jesus our Saviour who lived, died and rose again so that as we believe an trust in him our salvation is assured.

We thank you that when we are too hurt to forgive others, you are overflowing with mercy for all;

when we are too callous to notice the pain of others, you feel it in yourself;

when life bewilders us and we do not know what the good is, you maintain your righteous will;

when we are at our weakest, in pain or doubt or distress or self-pity, you know our frailty but remain strong for us;

when we want to run away from life, you keep with us and hold us resolutely to your purposes of love.

Thank you, Father God, for all you continue to do for us, keep us in your love.

Father, it is in a sense of compassion that we pray now for other people who share the great benefits of your love. We pray for our families and friends. Thank you for all their love and care shown to us, for all they mean to us – and even in those times when there may be disagreements between us, give us the opportunity and the humility to create new bonds of love between us.

Lord in your mercy – hear our prayer

We pray for all the men, women and children who are suffering today: people who know pain and disease, poverty and hunger; those who are experiencing fear and doubt, loneliness and sadness. We name before you, father, any who are particularly in our thoughts and hearts… we lift them to you trusting in your love, mercy and comfort.

Lord in your mercy – hear our prayer

We pray for people who govern the world that you will grant them wisdom and integrity. For those striving to bring peace settlements and negotiations where there is conflict, suspicion and mistrust, grant your patience, perseverance and determination. We remember our servicemen and women in their daunting task of defence and security. We pray that peace may be found in and between each nation on earth.

Lord in your mercy – hear our prayer

We pray for the church of Jesus Christ throughout the world, of which we are a part. Show us the unity we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ that we may all be encouraged in our work and witness to you and your kingdom. We pray for our church families, separated though they may be from each other, yet united in their care and compassion for each other and their communities. We pray that your Holy Spirit will be seen in our individual lives and in the life we are able to share together as your people – showing your love and sharing your Gospel.

Lord in your mercy – hear our prayer

 Hear these our prayers as we offer them in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 The Lord’s Prayer


Hymn

1 I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship,
should set his love upon the human race,
or why, as Shepherd, he should seek the wanderers,
to bring them back, within the fold of grace.
But this I know, that he was born of Mary
when Bethlehem’s manger was his only home,
and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured,
and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.

2 I cannot tell how silently he suffered,
as with his peace he graced this place of tears,
or how his heart upon the cross was broken,
the crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted
and stays our sin and calms our lurking fear
and lifts the burden from the heavy laden;
for still the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.

3 I cannot tell how he will win the nations,
how he will claim his earthly heritage,
how satisfy the needs and aspirations
of East and West, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory,
and he shall reap the harvest he has sown,
and some glad day his sun will shine in splendour
when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.

4 I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
when at his bidding every storm is stilled,
or who can say how great the jubilation
when all the hearts on earth with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
and myriad, myriad human voices sing,
and earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer,
At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King!

Blessing

Gracious God,

Send us back to the world

with your eyes rather than ours.

Help us to see not only the bad but the good,

not simply the ugly but the beautiful,

not just the worst but the best.

Help us to see around us the seeds of your kingdom,

and to nurture them lovingly

until that day comes when your will is done

and you are all in all.

Amen.

 Nick Fawcett

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 23rd August in Matthew’s Gospel contain a simple but very profound question asked by Jesus of his disciples and therefore of us, “What do you think of me?” or, “Who am I to you?” It is a question every one has to give an answer to. As he is coming to the end of his ministry Jesus asks the question so he can be sure that his work will continue.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Almighty God, we come before you now; but how can we approach the maker of heaven and earth? Our minds are too small, our words too feeble, and our love too cold; so we come simply offering ourselves. We come to find ourselves in you; to find our meaning in Jesus Christ; to be gently inspired by the Holy Spirit; to be re-created. Renew us, refresh us, open our minds, widen our vision, then we will be whole again; and our lives will bring glory to your name. Amen.

 Hymn

  1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!                2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
    O, what a foretaste of glory divine!                 visions of rapture burst on my sight;
    Heir of salvation, purchase of God,                angels, descending, bring from above
    born of His Spirit, washed in His blood         echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
    This is my story, this is my song,                    This is my story…
    Praising my Saviour all the day long;
    This is my story, this is my song,
    Praising my Saviour all the day long.
  2.  
  3. Perfect submission, all is at rest,
    I in my Saviour am happy and blest,
    watching and waiting, looking above,
    filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story…

 Reading: Matthew chapter 16 verses 13 – 20

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 

20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Hymn Jesus says he will build his church. This hymn tells what that church looks like:

1 The Church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing their thanks for his goodness this day.
The Church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.

2 The Church is wherever God’s people are loving,
where all are forgiven and start once again,
where all are accepted, whatever their background,
whatever their past and whatever their pain.

3 The Church is wherever God’s people are helping,
caring for neighbours in sickness and need.

The Church is wherever God’s people are sharing

The words of the Bible in gift and in deed.

 Reflection

We should remember that, at this point, Jesus knew that the end of his ministry and life on earth was near. He needed all the time he could get to be with his disciples alone. This was one such occasion. He and the disciples were in Caesarea Philippi, a mainly non-Jewish area and Jesus would have peace there to teach the twelve. He had so much to say to them and teach them even though there were many things they would not or could not understand. Facing Jesus was one great problem – was there anyone who actually understood him? Was there anyone who had recognized him for who and what he truly was? Were there any who, when the time came, when he was no longer around, would carry on his mission and work for his kingdom?

It was a crucial question because it involved the very survival of the Christian faith. If there weren’t any who had grasped the truth then his work would be undone. However if there were some who had realised the truth then his work was safe. So Jesus was determined to put everything to the test and ask his followers who they believed him to be.

Now remember, his disciples have observed Jesus as he taught and preached, healed the lame the sick and the blind, cast out demons and raised the dead. But, in spite of all this, the disciples weren’t quite sure WHO this Jesus was. They knew he was a great teacher, a healer, a prophet equal to any in the Old Testament… but they had never really talked about who Jesus was before this.

So when Jesus asked his disciples to tell him who OTHER people said he was, I think he was giving them a chance to safely air their own opinions. So, when they admitted that others had said that Jesus might be John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets (all of whom were traditionally expected to appear again before the Messiah finally came) I believe that even they had thought that at one time or another.

So Jesus gives them this chance… but then, he brings it home by asking: “Who do YOU say that I am? I can imagine things getting very quiet. Kind of like in a classroom where no one knows the answer to the question and everyone is afraid the teacher will call on them. But, as always, Peter abhorred a vacuum. He raises his hand and spouts off the first thing that comes to his mind: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. That was the answer Jesus was looking for. And Jesus drives that fact home by patting Peter on the back saying: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”. 

Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a mountain that we now refer to as the Mt. of Transfiguration. They saw wondrous things that day, but then a cloud settled down on the mountain top and “…a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’” 

If there was any question of who Jesus was before this, it was now long gone. All doubt had been removed. On the mountain of transfiguration – and earlier when Jesus asked his disciples to tell him who they thought he was – the main lesson was this: The person of Jesus before them is the Son of God.

This confession that Peter made is basically THE statement of our faith. It is the foundation of our faith. What do you do with a foundation? Well, you build on it. I get to help Jesus build his kingdom because I really believe that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and he wants to entrust me with a part in his plan. So this good confession means nothing if we’re not willing to act upon what we say. 

So, saying Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God is part theological belief and it’s part physical involvement – acting upon what we say we believe.  A preacher by the name of Henry Drummond once observed: “If you put a piece of iron in the presence of an electrified field, that piece of iron itself will become electrified. And in the presence of that electrical field, it is changed into a magnet. As long as it remains in contact with that field of power, it will continue to attract other pieces to itself.”

By the power of the Spirit in our lives, we are changed, and electrified and now have the power to put our faith into action in our own lives, and in the lives of others.

That question of Jesus, “Who do YOU say I am?” is as relevant today as ever.

Some may say he is a good, kind, compassionate person, a great teacher with truth behind his teachings, a miracle worker, a martyr. But until people see him as he truly is, the Son of the living God, they have not really seen him at all.

 Chorus

Jesus, Name above all names,

Beautiful Saviour, glorious Lord;

Emmanuel, God is with us,

Blessed Redeemer, living Word.

 

Meditation

My beloved, who do you say that I am?
Do you believe that I AM The Pure Lamb?
Are you blinded or do you truly see
That you could become an image of Me?


Who do you really think I am, Dear one?
Do you think when I died my work was done?
Do you believe you are my My hands and My feet
And that I guide you from Heaven’s Holy Seat?

If you truly know my love belongs to you
It will affect what you think, say and do.
For if you truly love Me and follow my ways
You’ll find My Peace will bless your days.

Who Am I to you? I really want to know.
Do you know I lift you when you are low?
Can you imagine the expanse of my love
That spans eternity, earth to heaven above?

I AM the GOD who willed you to be here
Before anything that ever came to being;
My child, I AM yours, you are Mine
I’ve removed the scales and you are seeing.

Now ~Who do you say that I Am?
Do you now believe
I AM
The Pure Lamb?

Carmella Patterson

 Prayers

“We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us, with sighs too deep for words”

 There has been much in the news for which we would want to pray. Apart from the on-going pandemic affecting so many of the world’s population, there have been disasters and continuing unrest and disturbances, whole countries in the grip of famine and lack of water, desperate people, risking their lives, seeking safety and security for themselves and their families.

Keep a moment of silence to remember these and others who come to your mind and place them into God’s hands.
  
Living God, hear our prayer. Hear our words, our groans, our sighs and our silence, we pray. So may your kingdom come.
 
We pray that here, in this moment, in our homes, we may know you close. We bring to you the deepest burdens of our hearts… for our health, our dear ones, our future…
Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.
 
We pray that you may be known in love of friend and neighbour. We bring to you prayers for our communities… for our neighbours, our sisters and brothers in Christ, and those who serve us…
Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.
 
We pray that you may speak in the life of our nation. We bring to you prayers for those in government, local and national, for emergency services, for justice in financial affairs…

Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.
We pray that your kingdom will be known among the nations of this world. We bring to you prayers for all whose health or health services are poor, for those who work to support the weakest, for all who care for our fragile planet..
Living God, hear our prayer and may your kingdom come.

 Keep a moment of silence and then bring your own prayers before God.
 
Living God, take these prayers and shape them and us to build your kingdom, in Jesus name and by the power of the Spirit. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

 Hymn

  1. Lord, Thy Church on Earth is seeking

thy renewal from above;
teach us all the art of speaking

with the accent of Thy love.
We would heed Thy great commission;

“Go ye into every place,

preach, baptize, fulfil My mission,

serve with love and share My grace.”
 
2. Freedom give to those in bondage,

lift the burdens caused by sin;
give new hope, new strength and courage,

grant release from fears within.
Light for darkness, joy for sorrow;

love for hatred, peace for strife.
These and countless blessings follow

as the Spirit gives new life.


  1. In the streets of every city

where the bruised and lonely dwell,
we shall show the Saviour’s pity,

let us of His mercy tell;

to all lands and people bringing

all the riches of thy word,

till the world, thy praises singing,

hails thee Christ, Redeemer, Lord.

Blessing

Whatever today may hold,

whatever tomorrow might bring,

the future is secure,

for Christ is with us,

the same yesterday, today and for ever.

Live each moment with him

in quiet confidence and joyful celebration,

for he is ours

and we are his for all eternity.

Go in peace to serve the Lord.

Amen.

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 16th August continue reading in Matthew’s Gospel. At first glance it seems like a very different Jesus here, but he is using the occasion to test and teach his disciples as well as the woman involved about the love of God and the faith needed to be part of his kingdom. There is a challenge for us all as we reflect on our attitude towards others and the trust we have in the God who saves us.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Opening Sentence

This is the day which the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. It is good to give thanks to the Lord for his love to us endures for ever.

Hymn

  1. New every morning is the love
    our wakening and uprising prove;
    through sleep and darkness safely brought,
    restored to life and power and thought.

    2. New mercies, each returning day,
    hover around us while we pray;
    new perils past, new sins forgiven,
    new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

    3. If, on our daily course, our mind
    be set to hallow all we find,
    new treasures still, of countless price,
    God will provide for sacrifice.

    4. Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
    as more of heaven in each we see;
    some softening gleam of love and prayer
    shall dawn on every cross and care.

    5. The trivial round, the common task,
    will furnish all we ought to ask;
    Lord help us, this and every day,
    to live more nearly as we pray.

 Reading Matthew chapter 15 verses 21 – 28

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 

22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Meditation

Whatever our problems, troubles and sorrows

If we trust on the Lord, there’ll be brighter tomorrows,

For there’s nothing too much for our great God to do,

And all that he asks or expects from you

Is Faith that’s unshaken by tribulations and tears

That keeps growing stronger along with the years,

Content in the knowledge that God knows best

And that trouble and sorrow are only a test –

For without God’s resting of our soul

It never would reach its ultimate goal…

So keep on believing, whatever betide you,

Knowing that God will be with you to guide you,

And all that he promised will be yours to receive

If you trust him completely and always believe.

Helen Steiner Rice

 Hymn

  1. Have Thine own way, Lord,                              2. Have Thine own way, Lord,
    Have Thine own way;                                           Have Thine own way;
    Thou art the potter I am the clay;                      Search me and try me Master today;
    Mould me and make me after Thy will,            Whiter than snow Lord wash me just                                                                                     now
    While I am waiting yielded and still.                  As in Thy presence humbly I bow.
  2.  
  3. Have Thine own way, Lord,
    Have Thine own way;
    Hold o’er my being absolute sway;
    Fill with Thy spirit till all shall see
    Christ only, always, living in me.

 Reflection

We have seen how Jesus has been testing his disciples and now Jesus gives them another test as well as testing the woman who came to him in a crisis.

But here in this event we seem to be seeing an entirely different Jesus. Here, he appears to be harsh, callous, uncaring. We’re told of a gentile, grieving mother who comes to him seeking help. And what does he do? First he ignores this woman. Then he tells his disciples that his ministry is only for the lost sheep of Israel. Then he calls her… a dog!

Well this isn’t the Jesus I know. This isn’t how I’d expect my Saviour to respond to a woman in crisis. But I think  that Jesus came to the land of Tyre and Sidon just for this encounter.

When she comes to the house Jesus is staying at crying out for help, the disciples just want to be rid of her: “Send her away,” they say “for she keeps crying out after us”.  They don’t want her around. She’s not worthy of their Master’s attention.

Just a few months before, Jesus had spent all night praying about them, selecting them to be the future leaders in the church he had come to establish. They’re going to set the pattern for what the church will be like. They will establish the mindset of generations of believers. And deep within their heart of hearts is this bigotry and hatred of people like this woman. On the outside, these men look like they might be ready for the job of leadership. They’ve been with Jesus for a couple of years now. They look like they are ready. But they’re not. They are in serious need of drastic surgery to make them useful to God. Jesus knows what’s going through his disciples’ minds, he knows how they view this Canaanite woman,  and that’s why they’re here in the land of Tyre and Sidon.

That’s why he lets this little drama play out as it does. He is testing them. The woman stands outside the house he’s now in. She’s crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”  And Jesus treats her just the way his disciples would expect of a good Jewish rabbi. He ignores her. But she’s not the type to be ignored. She’s a desperate woman pleading for her daughter, She keeps crying out “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! Again and again and again she cries out and the disciples can’t stand it. And so they say to Jesus “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 

Now, inherent in their request, is the desire that Jesus should grant her request… That’s why Jesus gently prods them by saying: “I’m sorry… I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  This woman has worn them down with her constant pleas. They want her now to get what she came for. They want Jesus to heal the woman’s daughter so she can be gone… but he holds back… why? Well, because there’s one more thing he wants them to see, And that’s when the woman runs into the room, and kneels down at Jesus’ feet “Lord, help me!” she pleads.

It’s then that Jesus echoes the bigotry that his disciples had felt only a few moments before. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their DOGS.”  I can almost hear Him emphasize that last word. Because that’s what His disciples had thought of her just a few moments before. She was no better than a mongrel, a cur, a filthy DOG. But Jesus doesn’t say this as a curse or an insult, In fact, He didn’t even use the same word that most Jews would have spat out at her. His word for Dog meant puppy, like a pet. And I can see the woman… smile. She knows what he’s saying. He’s told her in a very simple way that she was beloved of God. And almost shyly you can hear her as she says: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 

This is what His disciples needed to hear. They needed to hear, and know, that God loved even this woman they had despised. They had never seen anybody show so much confidence with Jesus or demonstrate such risk-taking a love. When this woman approached, they thought they were watching their inferior, the spiritual ‘bottom of the barrel’. It turns out she’s relating to Jesus on a level of understanding, humility, reverence, trust, and boldness that puts them to shame. The disciples face the love test. A test which they failed and had to learn from. Would you have passed the love test?

As for this woman she is facing what might be called the endurance test. Some of you are facing this test. Something is going on in your life… it’s difficult. You don’t know if you will ever find relief. But it is not just that. You pray, you kneel, beg, and you don’t understand God’s response. He seems silent. He seems indifferent. I only know that finally, the choice every human being faces is a choice between hope and despair. Jesus says: choose hope. I know my Father’s will, and there is reason for choosing hope. To those of you facing an endurance test today. The question is: will you keep going even when you don’t know why, even when you don’t know if or when you will get relief?

When you can’t get any answers that could make that pain go away, will you still say, “ My Lord, “ even when His ways are not clear to you? Will you keep going with all the grace and grit and faith you can muster and hope that one day He will set everything right? Will you trust that the Lord is good?

Finally the Test is over, and it is time for the grades to be given out. Jesus says, “Woman, great is your faith. Your prayers are answered. Your daughter is healed. You were my beloved daughter all the time. What a spirit is in you. You have wrestled with God and prevailed, great is your faith.” She passed the test.

Two tests. The test of Love and the test of endurance. Will you pass?

The good news is you have the rest of your life to finish the test. May God help us all to face up to the challenges or tests that come our way as we try to live out the values of the kingdom day by day.

 Hymn

  1. Speak, Lord, in the stillness                             2. Speak, O blessed Master,
    while I wait on Thee;                                              in this quiet hour;
    hushed my heart to listen                                     let me see your face, Lord,
    in expectancy.                                                          feel your touch of power.

 

  1. For the words You speak, Lord,             4. All to You is yielded,

they are life indeed;                                        I am not my own;
living bread from heaven,                               blissful, glad surrender,
now on my spirit feed!                                   I am yours alone.

 

  1. Speak, your servant listens!                   6. Fill me with the knowledge

Be not silent, Lord;                                         of your glorious will;

As my soul waits on you                                all your own good pleasure

For your quickening word!                             in your child fulfil.

Prayers

God who sees us, who hears us, who answers prayer, we take example from the Canaanite woman; we persist in calling to you – even for the crumbs that fall from your table.

You are the God of generosity and faith, who sees, hears and answers; God, who fed more than 5,000 with baskets of crumbs left over, let your crumbs fall on us, for we know that your crumbs are more than enough. Lord have mercy on us.

Lord God, in our devotions we set aside time for silence, a time to be still and know that you are God.

In silence let us know you in the beauty of creation, in the majesty of the mountains, in the power of the sea, in the livelihood of the land and the creative skills of our hands in the enterprise of industry. Silence.  Lord in the silence we give you thanks.

In the silence we pray for all who seek peace with justice in our world: where war rages or oppression reigns or violence threatens; where the poor are exploited and human rights are denied. For all who though deprivation or unemployment can see little point or purpose in life, especially the young and disabled: and for all with the power to help them if they would. Silence.  Lord in the peace and quiet may your peace be known.

In the silence, let us know you involved, suffering, aching, in the torment of disease, in the agony of the hospital bed, in the forsaken cry of the helpless, in the pleading of the hungry, the gaping sorrow of the bereaved, in the silent screams of the lonely.

Silence.  Lord in the stillness, we see your cross made real before us.

In the silence let us know you forgiving, caring, reconciling in the person who is there to listen, in the word of encouragement of carers and helpers, in the skill of the nurse, doctor and social worker, in the sharing of knowledge and discovery between nations, in the witness of your people in the church in the midst of today’s needs. Silence.

Lord in the quietness, we commit ourselves to involvement with you in the world you have made. Enable us to see things from your perspective that we may know a deeper meaning in life.

Let us be still and know that you are God, creating, involved, suffering, caring, and triumphant. Instil in us the knowledge that your purpose will be fulfilled, that love will triumph and enable us to reflect your presence and involvement with us and the whole world you have created. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Hymn

  1. He who would valiant be                                2. Who so beset him round
    ‘gainst all disaster,                                           with dismal stories
    let him in constancy                                        do but themselves confound
    follow the Master.                                           his strength the more is.
    There’s no discouragement                             No foes shall stay his might;
    shall make him once relent                             though he with giants fight,
    his first avowed intent                                    he will make good his right
    to be a pilgrim.                                               to be a pilgrim.

    3. Since, Lord, thou dost defend
    us with thy Spirit,
    we know we at the end,
    shall life inherit.
    Then fancies flee away!
    I’ll fear not what men say,
    I’ll labour night and day
    to be a pilgrim.

Blessing

The peace of God, keep us all. He will confirm our hearts in goodness. May the Son of God and the Holy Spirit too, one God, bless us all. Amen.

 Traditional Maori blessing, Aotearoa, New Zealand

 

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for today, Sunday 9th August are based on the continuing account in Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus teaching and training his disciples. He is testing them so that their faith in him as the Son of God, who has come to bring God’s kingdom on earth, may deepen and mature. We are challenged to reflect on our faith in him too.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Loving God, we come to be with you and we come in the name of Jesus. We come knowing he shared our life and has promised to walk with us still. We come with all those things that spoil our lives, and the all the things that hold us back from trusting you completely. We come to be made whole as we worship you, the one true living God. Amen.

Hymn

  1. Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;       Praise him for His grace and favour

To his feet thy tribute bring.                           to his people in distress;
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,           praise him still the same for ever,
evermore his praises sing:                              slow to chide, and swift to bless.
praise him, praise him,                                   praise him, praise him, alleluia!
praise him, praise him                                    praise him, praise him
praise the everlasting King.                            glorious in his faithfulness.

  1. Father-like he tends and spares us,        4. Angels, help us to adore him,
    well our feeble frame he knows;                   ye behold him face to face;
    in his hands he gently bears us,                      sun and moon, bow down before him;
    rescues us from all our foes.                           dwellers all in time and space,
    praise him, praise him,                                   praise him, praise him, alleluia!
    praise him, praise him,                                   praise him, praise him,

Widely as his mercy flows.                            praise with us the God of grace.

Reading

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 

23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 

24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 

26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 

29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 

33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

 Meditation

No matter what happens in my life,                With His presence, He shelters me
Sorrow or joy, rain or shine,                           From many dangers all too real.
Whatever befalls me, it’s all right                   Like a lamb, He carries me
Because in Jesus I abide.                                Over steep hill and stormy sea.


In the midst of pain and hurt,                         His is the only voice I hear,
When I feel confused and stirred,                   So familiar and so dear.
To Jesus I can always turn                              I know that I can trust in Him,
And find solace in His Word.                         So to Him alone I cling.

Jesus keeps me from going astray;
I’ll always follow in His way.
Forever loved, secure and safe,
I stand in His amazing grace.

Bettina Van Vaerenbergh

Hymn

    1. Have faith in God, my heart,                            2. Have faith in God, my mind,
      trust and be unafraid;                                     although your light burns low;
      God will fulfil in every part                            God’s mercy holds a wiser plan
      each promise He has made.                            Than you can fully know.

      3. Have faith in God, my soul,                       4. Lord Jesus, make me whole;
      his cross for ever stands;                                grant me no resting place,
      and neither life nor death can pluck               until I rest, heart, mind, and soul,
      his children from his hands.                            the captive of your grace.

Reflection

In this fascinating account in Matthew’s Gospel we see Jesus continuing to teach his disciples about the values and attitudes to have to be able to tell others about the kingdom of God. But they were not yet the kind of disciples Jesus wanted them to be. The attitude they lacked was that of faith that Jesus wanted to build into their lives. And here on the sea of Galilee Jesus is going to teach them a lesson designed to create that very kind of faith in their lives.

Last week, we read about the feeding of the 5000. Jesus had tested his disciples about how they were to feed such a number. His intention was to stretch their faith in what he could do. but now, comes an even bigger lesson. And like every good teacher, Jesus sets the stage for what he wants his students to understand.

Notice that verse 22 says that “Jesus MADE the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side…” In other words: the disciples were on the sea of Galilee because that’s where Jesus wanted them. They faced the storm on the water because that’s where Jesus sent them. They didn’t just happen to be on the sea when Jesus walked out to them. They were there because Jesus intended to teach them a vital lesson in faith.

The lesson begins as Jesus walks out on the water to their boat. In my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus walking along like this was a casual stroll in the park. It would seem so effortless for him. But in walking out to them (or actually looking as though he intended to walk right on by them) he had a specific goal in mind: He wanted them to be shocked. He wanted to shake them up. And he wanted them feel those sensations before he even spoke.

Jesus didn’t call to them as he approached and when the disciples see him, they cry out in fear, “It’s a ghost!” Only then does Jesus say “‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” It’s only after they’ve seen him – and they register their shock – that he speaks. His intention was to shock them. To shake them up. And he did this because he wanted to make them look at him in a new way.

For weeks, they’ve watched as Jesus healed large numbers of people, and even raising a little girl from the dead. Then, they shared in the miracle where Jesus fed thousands with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. These were miraculous events. But now – this walking on the water thing – well that’s a little different. Only ghosts were supposed to be able to do those things. Only other worldly beings could glide across the waves like it was solid ground. Mere mortals weren’t supposed to be able to do things like that.

But notice this, Jesus has been gradually building one experience upon another to increase the level of his disciples’ education and training. It was only after they’d seen and experienced everything else that had gone before that they were ready for this challenge. It was only after he had built up a relationship with them and given them an opportunity to see his power in a non-threatening way.

And that’s how God works with us. He gently draws us into deeper and deeper walks of faith.

So who speaks up next? Yes Peter. And what does he want? “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” I believe God prompted Peter to say what he said. And it wouldn’t have been that hard anyway… Peter always seems to open his mouth long before his mind gets into gear.

So Peter asks to come out to Jesus, and Jesus tells him to come on out. He’s walking by faith… he’s stepped out of the boat and he’s walking on water.

Now, granted, Peter lost sight of Jesus. He got distracted by the wind and the waves and he began to sink in his doubt. And Jesus rebuked him for faltering in his faith…But NONE of the other disciples even got out of the boat. None of the other disciples ever knew what it was like to feel this power of Jesus in their lives. None of the other disciples felt what it was like for Jesus to reach down into their lives and take them by the hand and pull them up.

Why? Because they never got out of the boat!!! Just think of what they missed. Now, you might say, “But Peter might have drowned!” Nah! – Peter was NEVER in danger. Jesus was always there with him. Jesus had never left his side, and Jesus wasn’t going to let him drown. But because he was willing to step out on faith he (and the other disciples) learned something valuable about Jesus.

“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” And the lesson was so well engrained that night in the boat, that several days later, the message still reverberated in them. When we find Jesus asking his disciples who people said that he was. “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the son of the living God.’” 

You have to believe that to be saved. You cannot become a Christian until you intellectually understand that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s the time when we suddenly realize the impact of those words A time when we begin to fully understand that Jesus IS the Christ. That he IS the Son of the Living God. And those times seem to only come after we’ve been willing to step out of the boat and put our faith into action.

Hymn (sung to the tune Neander – Open now thy gates of beauty)

  1. When, O God, our faith is tested             2. With emotions taut to breaking

and our hope is undermined;                             hearts with hurt and havoc frayed,

when our love of living shrivels                         reason by remorse diminished

and we feel bereft and drained,                          souls distraught as if betrayed,

then we turn to you and cry                               God of bleakness and abyss

for your answers to our ‘why?’                          why have you forsaken us?

  1. As we question and accuse you,

Out of depths of being tried,

Could it be, God! That in weakness

You yourself are crucified?

Are you with us in our grief?

Help us in our unbelief!

Fred Kaan

 Prayers

Let us pray to God who has watched our growing throughout our lives, and loves us.

Lord, there is nothing hidden from you. All our thoughts and plans and secret fears are open to you, even when we try to hide them. Deal with the doubts and misgivings and fears of your people with the love and mercy which are part of your promise.

Silence … Gracious God in you we trust.

Lord, you feel for the oppressed and the forgotten; you understand the damage that can lead to violence, the insecurity that can lead to defensiveness, and the neglect that can lead to lack of control. Heal the nations; restore what has been lost; and turn our hearts to discern your will.

Silence … Gracious God in you we trust.

Lord you suffer with those who suffer and weep with those who weep; we too stand alongside them now in whatever pain, distress or sorrow is engulfing them, longing for them to be comforted.

Silence … Gracious God in you we trust.

Lord, your death and resurrection proclaim the message of hope amongst the tears of our grieving for those who have died. Welcome them into the eternal light of your kingdom. Silence … Gracious God in you we trust.

Lord, your way may be costly but to whom else could we go? For you alone have the words of eternal life, and we offer you ourselves. Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen  Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us, and those whom we love, now and always. Amen

Dear Friends,

Our devotions today for Sunday 2nd August continue in Matthew’s Gospel. We have seen Jesus prepare his disciples for their future ministry by teaching and parables about the Kingdom. Today we see how the disciples are given the opportunity to put this learning into practice. It is the first Sunday of the month and so I have included words for use at Communion – you may want to prepare food for that first.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Gracious God, we come before you to praise you for you are worthy. We give you thanks because you renew our hope. We confess our sins to you because Jesus has opened the way into your presence. We worship you because you walk with us everywhere and every day of our lives. Amen.

 The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father…

 Hymn

  1. Dear Lord and Father of mankind,           2. In simple trust like theirs who heard,
    forgive our foolish ways!                              beside the Syrian sea,
    Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,                the gracious calling of the Lord,
    in purer lives thy service find,                      let us, like them, without a word,
    in deeper reverence, praise;                          rise up and follow thee;
    in deeper reverence, praise.                          rise up and follow thee.

    3. O Sabbath rest by Galilee!                       4. Drop thy still dews of quietness,
    O calm of hills above                                  till all our strivings cease;
    where Jesus knelt to share with thee       take from our souls the strain and stress,
    the silence of eternity                                  and let our ordered lives confess
    interpreted by love!                                     the beauty of thy peace;
    interpreted by love!                                     the beauty of thy peace.

    5. Breathe through the heats of our desire
    thy coolness and thy balm;
    let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
    speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
    O still, small voice of calm;
    O still, small voice of calm.

Reading Matthew’s Gospel chapter 14 verses 13 – 21

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 

14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 

19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 

20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 

21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

 Reflection

An English teacher and her class were studying well known Proverbs. One day she gave them a test to see if they were understanding what she taught. She would state the first half of a proverb and then asked the students to come up with the rest. These were some of the answers that the teacher got from her students:

Don’t bite the hand that … looks dirty.

A penny saved is… not much.

Two’s company, three’s… the Musketeers.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and… you have to blow your nose.

Even though the students had studied those proverbs for several days they still had trouble with the right answers.

And even when Jesus’ disciples had been with Him for several months they still had trouble with getting their answer right. During the time they’d been with Jesus, his disciples had watched him as he had – healed a Leper; healed the servant of a Roman centurion;  healed Peter’s mother in law; and he’d also healed numerous people who’d evil spirits and various diseases, and they had even seen him raise a girl from the dead.

They’d seen all of this. They’d seen his power up close and personal. But now it’s late in the day – they’re on a hill out in the middle of nowhere – and they’ve got a bunch of hungry people on their hands. The disciples are practical men, and they suggest to Jesus that he send the people home so they can get something to eat. It’s then that Jesus says the most unusual thing to them:

He says: “They do not need to go away. YOU give them something to eat.” Well, that would seem like a practical solution… except for two things – there are 5000 men (besides and women and children) in this crowd and they don’t have anywhere near enough food on hand to feed that many people. Now the Gospel of John which also records this event gives us another insight into this story. It says that Jesus had been speaking to Philip when he was telling them that they should feed the crowds. And John says “Jesus asked this only to TEST him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”  This was a test!!!

Up until this point in time… Jesus had been doing all the work – He taught the people; He healed people; He raised people from the dead and the disciples pretty much were along for the ride.      But now… it’s test time. It was like that teacher who set the stage, by citing the first part of the proverbs to her class, and then expected them to fill in the blanks.

In the same way, Jesus has set the stage for his disciples. He’s given them an impossible situation; they have over 5,000 people around them and he tells his disciples to feed them. The test question is: how are you going to feed them? And how do they answer? ‘We don’t have enough money’; ‘We ONLY have 2 fish & 5 loaves’ – both of which were the wrong answer.

Well, if those are the wrong answers… what’s the right answer?

The right answer: give Jesus what you have and let him deal with the solution.

It’s a test God gives to us all. In this test God wants to stretch out faith and puts us in situations where there is no way we could ever do what is asked on our own. He also wants us, like the disciples, to be partners with God in doing the things of the kingdom. Remember – up until this time – Jesus had been doing all the work. But now he tells his disciples: YOU do it – YOU give them something to eat. Why did he do that? Why did he ask the disciples to come up with the food? He did it that way because he wanted his disciples to be his partners in ministry. It is part of what we believe to be the priesthood of all believers. We all have a part to play in the work of the kingdom. God’s tests lead to realization that God really wants to use me, and that I have value and purpose in his service.

There is an old hymn which echoes these thoughts:

“Give of your best to the Master; Give Him first place in your heart;

Give Him first place in your service; Consecrate every part.

Give, and to you will be given; God His beloved Son gave.

Gratefully seeking to serve Him, Give Him the best that you have.

Give of your best to the Master; naught else is worthy of his love.

He gave Himself for your ransom, gave up His glory above.

Laid down His life without murmur, you from sin’s ruin to save.

Give Him your heart’s adoration; give Him the best that you have.

 Hymn

  1. Beauty for brokenness                         2. Shelter for fragile lives

Hope for despair                                          Cures for their ill

Lord in the suffering                                   Work for the craftsman

This is our prayer                                        Trade for their skills

Bread for the children                                  Land for the dispossessed

Justice Joy Peace                                         Rights for the weak

Sunrise to sunset                                         Voices to plead the cause

Your Kingdom increase                               Of those who can’t speak

God of the poor                                          God of the poor…

Friend of the weak

Give us compassion we pray

Melt our cold hearts

Let tears fall like rain

Come, change our love

From a spark to a flame

 

3.Refuge from cruel wars                                      4.Rest for the ravaged earth

Havens from fear                                         Oceans and streams

Cities for sanctuary                                      Plundered and poisoned

Freedoms to share                                       Our future, our dreams

Peace to the killing-fields                                      Lord, end our madness

Scorched earth to green                               Carelessness, greed

Christ for the bitterness                                Make us content with

His cross for the pain                                   The things that we need

God of the poor…                                       God of the poor…

 

  1. Lighten our darkness God of the poor

Breathe on this flame                                   Friend of the weak

Until your justice burns                               Give us compassion we pray

Brightly again                                              Melt our cold hearts

Until the nations                                          Let tears fall like rain

Learn of Your ways                                     Come, change our love

Seek Your salvation                                    From a spark to a flame

And bring You their praise      

Communion

The table is prepared, the invitation extended, bread is broken, drink poured out.

Come now and share the supper, celebrate this most precious of gifts. When you eat

find food for your souls, when you drink be filled to overflowing. The Lord is here,

come share in this simplest of meals, this finest of feasts. The offer is his, the moment

is ours – Jesus Christ is waiting to touch your life. Thanks be to God.

Let us hear again how this supper was instituted: Our Lord Jesus, on the night of his

betrayal, took bread, which, after thanking God for it, he broke, saying, ‘This is my

body, broken for you; do this in memory of me.’ Similarly, he took a cup afterwards,

saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; whenever you drink it, do so in

memory of me.’ Whenever you eat this bread and drink from this cup, to testify to the

Lord’s death, until he comes.    1 Corinthians 11: 23-26

Let us pray

God of all, for your creative power, shaping the heaves and the earth, creating

humankind in your image, fashioning a world of infinite beauty and variety we give

you our praise. For your redeeming power always looking to forgive, always eager to

restore, always able to help us start again, we give you our praise. For your gentle

power, made perfect in weakness, inviting rather than coercing, exemplified in the

cross, we give you our praise. For your victorious power, expressed through an empty

tomb, understood in bread and wine, experienced through your living presence, we

give you our praise. Sovereign God, servant God, suffering God, saving God, for all

you have done and continue to do in Jesus Christ we give you our praise. Receive our

worship in his name. Amen.

Chorus

With all my heart I thank you Lord; for this bread and wine we break, for the

sacrament we take, for the forgiveness that you make, I thank you Lord.

With all my soul I thank you Lord, for this victory that you’ve won, for this taste of

things to come, for this love that makes us one, I thank you Lord.     Paul Field

 As Jesus shared a prayer with his Father before sharing bread and wine with his

disciples, we bring our prayers for others to God before we eat and drink.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, you know what it is to be broken in body, for your flesh was torn by

the whip, pierced by a crown of thorns, skewered by nails in your hands and feet, and

by a spear in your side. Hear then our prayer for all those broken today – the sick and

the suffering, victims of accident, war, torture and abuse.

Reach out to all in their pain, and bring your healing, renewing touch.

You know what it is to be broken in mind, for in the darkness of Gethsemane you

faced the terror of the cross, and you endured what followed alone, betrayed, denied,

abandoned by closest friends. Hear then our prayer for all those broken today – the

anxious, fearful, hurt or disillusioned, the lonely, bereaved, depressed or mentally ill.

Reach out to all in their pain, and bring your healing, renewing touch.

You know what it is to be broken in spirit, for you bore our sins, carried our burdens,

endured the agony of separation form God, and the awful emptiness that entailed.

Hear then our prayer for all who are broken today – those who have lost their faith, and

those who have never found it; those wrestling with hopelessness, failure, doubt, guilt.

Reach out to all in their pain, and bring your healing, renewing touch.

Lord Jesus  Christ, you know what it is to be broken, and you know what it is to be

made new. Grant your blessing today to all who are bruised and battered by life, and

restore them in body, mind and spirit. Reach out to all in their pain, and bring your healing, renewing touch.

So now send your grace upon us and these gifts of food and drink, that they may become for us symbols of your body broken and your blood shed, healing, forgiving and renewing us and making us whole; so that we may become again your body, loving and caring in the world until your kingdom come. Hear our prayers as we offer them in Jesus’ name. Amen.

“This is my body given for you, eat it remembering I died for you” Take and eat.

“This is my blood I shed for you, for your forgiveness, making you new”  Drink

 Prayer

Loving Father, we thank you that you have fed us with food and drink reminding us of

the fellowship we have in our Lord, Jesus Christ, for these have bound us together in

Christian love and made us aware of your great love for each one of us. Now we offer

ourselves in service and witness to you and your kingdom. May we go in the power of

your Holy Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.

 Hymn

  1. Brother, sister, let me serve you;                         2. We are pilgrims on a journey,
    let me be as Christ to you;                                        and companions on the road;
    pray that I may have the grace to                           we are here to help each other
    let you be my servant too.                                      walk the mile and bear the load.

    3. I will hold the Christ-light for you                    4. I will weep when you are weeping;
    in the night-time of your fear;                                when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
    I will hold my hand out to you,                              I will share your joy and sorrow,
    speak the peace you long to hear.                         till we’ve seen this journey through.

    5. When we sing to God in heaven,                       6. Brother, sister, let me serve you;
    we shall find such harmony,                                  let me be as Christ to you;
    born of all we’ve known together                          pray that l may have the grace to
    of Christ’s love and agony.                                     let you be my servant too.

 Blessing

May the broken Christ, the poured out Christ, strengthen us in body, enrich us in mind and nurture us in spirit; go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen.

Dear Friends,

For our devotions today, Sunday 26th July, we continue in Matthew’s Gospel in a chapter of parables. Remember, a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, and so in the lessons from these parables we find truths which will bring something of heaven to earth as we live out the values of the Kingdom of God.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Come among us, Lord, gathered round your Word.

To mind and heart your truth impart, O living Word.

In this morning hour, Lord, reveal your power!

May souls be fed with living bread

Come among us Lord! Amen.

Hymn

  1. I lift my eyes                                                   2. I lift my eyes
    to the quiet hills                                                to the quiet hills
    in the press of a busy day;                              to a calm that is mine to share;
    as green hills stand                                          secure and still
    in a dusty land                                                    in the Father’s will
    so God is my strength and stay.                      and kept by the Father’s care.

    3. I lift my eyes                                            4. I lift my eyes
    to the quiet hills                                           to the quiet hills
    with a prayer as I turn to sleep;                   and my heart to the Father’s throne;
    by day, by night,                                             in all my ways
    through the dark and light                           to the end of days
    my Shepherd will guard his sheep.              the Lord will preserve his own.


Reading: Matthew chapter 13 verses 31 – 33 & 44 – 52

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 

32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 

46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 

48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 

49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 

50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. 

52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

Meditation – Unexpected potential

Lord, we are small and easily overlooked

but in your eyes we are seeds

which contain within them unlimited growth.

Lord, we are only a teaspoon of dust

but in your kingdom we are yeast

which brings life to the heaviest of doughs.

Lord, we are seeking prosperity

but when we find your treasure

we discover a joy greater than wealth.

Lord, we are searching for the secret of life

but we will only discover it

when we are caught in the net of your love.

James Ashdown

Chorus

Let there be love shared among us,
let there be love in our eyes,
may now your love fill all people,
cause us, O Lord to arise;

give us a fresh understanding
of neighbourly love that is real:
let there be love shared among us,
let there be love.

Reflection

We know that Jesus often used parables in his teaching. It was a way of engaging the people and getting them to think about what he was saying, as well as informing people as to what the kingdom of God would be like. We should remember too that at that time the kingdom had hardly begun and Jesus told parables to give encouragement and comfort to his disciples in their task of living the kingdom values in all they said and did. In our reading today there are several parables which I can only touch on briefly now.

The first is about a mustard seed that grows into a tree in which birds come and nest. Strictly speaking it’s not the smallest of seeds, but in the East it was used as a proverb for smallness, e.g. when Jesus said that if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed you could move mountains! So then, this parable tells that the kingdom of heaven begins from the smallest beginnings but that in the end many nations will be gathered into it.

Jesus is saying to his disciples and to us today, that there must be no discouragement; we must each serve in our own place and that from that small beginning, the kingdom will grow until the kingdoms of the earth become the kingdom of God.

The yeast or leaven in verse 33 would have been another familiar picture to the people Jesus was talking to. In Palestine bread was baked at home, Jesus would have seen his mother Mary do this at home. The whole point of the parable is the transforming power of the yeast; it changes the character of the whole baking as an unseen ingredient. Unlike unleavened bread which was made at Passover time for a special reason, the introduction of yeast transforms the dough, and the coming of the kingdom causes a transformation in life. So this parable teaches both that the Kingdom is for ever working unseen, and that there are times in each of us when the work of the Kingdom is obvious.

The parable of the treasure hidden in the field may seem strange to us but not to people in Palestine in Jesus’ day. Ordinary people felt that as there were no banks available to them the safest place for valuables was to hide them in the ground. With the constant threat of war which meant fleeing for their lives their hope was to return one day and recover their buried treasure. The treasure this man found had obviously not been reclaimed, and so, to make the treasure undeniably his own, and in the joy of his discovery, he was willing to give up everything to possess it. It is indeed worth giving up everything to accept and do the will of God.

The parable of the pearl of great price is similar. The only difference between them is that the treasure in the field is found unexpectedly, whereas the pearl was sought after for a lifetime. However whatever the discovery the result was the same – everything was sacrificed to gain the precious thing. But by comparing the Kingdom of heaven to a pearl Jesus is saying that the kingdom is the loveliest thing in the world. To be in the kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God, which in itself is a lovely thing.

The final parable in our reading, the drag-net of fish, would have been so familiar to his fishermen disciples. The drag net was thrown over a large area, allowed to sink and then was drawn to the land. Everything in front of the net would be drawn into the land. Then, the good, useable fish were kept and everything else was thrown back to the sea. There are two great lessons here:

  1. a) the drag-net does not select or discriminate, everything was swept into the net, good and bad, useful and useless. If we were to apply that to the church, which is the instrument of God’s Kingdom on earth, it must mean that the church cannot be selective or show discrimination. The church is bound to be a mixture of all sorts of people, good and bad, useless and useful, and that is not ours to judge.
  2. b) The parable teaches that a time of separation will come, but that is God’s work not ours. It is our privilege and duty to gather all who will come and not to judge or separate. The kingdom of God must include all. God alone will judge between who is worthy and who is not.

These parables are strung together like a beautiful strand of pearls. When we take them together as a whole, we begin to understand exactly what God’s kingdom looks like. It is a kingdom where everyone has value and is necessary. It is a place so beautiful that we would give everything we have, holding nothing back so we could be a part of it. The kingdom of God is a place where the message of Jesus Christ is shared without judgment or prejudice for it is only God who can really judge a person’s heart.

Hymn

1 Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

2 Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
Be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

3 Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace:
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

4 Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Prayers

Loving God, you ask us whatever we do, to do it for your sake and the sake of the kingdom – to offer our whole lives, our every thought, word and action, to your service, for your glory. Help us to understand what that really means – to see every part of each day as an opportunity to work for you, and to approach our work and our leisure in such a way as to bear witness to you. May everything we do be tackled with such energy, enthusiasm, dedication and cheerfulness that others may recognise your hand upon us, your spirit with us and your love in our hearts. For your name’s sake, help us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sovereign God, we pray for the weak and vulnerable in our world – those who feel powerless in the face of the massive problems that confront them. We pray for the poor, those considered on the poverty line in this and other countries – those relying on food banks and international aid for their daily food. We pray for those who are ill in hospital, hospice, care home or in their own home – those facing daily pain, those undergoing treatment, awaiting surgery or recovering from sickness and disease. We pray too for all those who care for them. Compassionate God, you have expressed a special concern for the bruised, the needy and the weak of our world. May that concern inspire people everywhere to work for a more just society, working for that time when there will be an end to suffering mourning and pain; that time when your kingdom will come and your will be done. Help of the helpless, reach out to strengthen and support we pray.

Living God, there is so much despair in the world in these times of pandemic, and for many there seems little reason to hope. We pray for those who have lost their employment and the hope of using their skills to provide for family and loved ones; for those whose livelihoods have been drastically affected and cannot be sure of what the future may hold; for those who have lost the hope of finding a home, or any permanent roof over their head; for young people fearful of receiving meaningful future study and job prospects; for those with terminal illness whose spirits have been crushed. Reach out, we pray, to all those whose belief in the future has been destroyed, and grant new dreams where the old have died, support when there seems nothing left to hold on to, and hope that one day your kingdom will come and your will be done.

 Take a moment of silence…listen to what God may be saying to you right now.

Know his presence and his love holding you and your loved ones.

 Loving God we bring to your love our own loved ones, the members of our family, our friends and especially those from whom we are separated by restrictions, distance or death. Bind us together with those cords of love that cannot be broken; be close to each one and meet their particular need. Help us to continue to support and encourage one another as we fulfil your command to love one another. For your love’ sake.

Lord of all hopefulness, hear our prayers offered in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer.

 Hymn

  1. Will you come and follow me     2. Will you leave yourself behind

if I but call your name?                         if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know       Will you care for cruel and kind

and never be the same?                         and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,               Will you risk the hostile stare,
Will you let my name be known,          should your life attract or scare?
Will you let my life be grown                 Will you let me answer prayer

in you and you in me                              in you and you in me?

3.Will you love the “you” you hide        4. Lord, your summons echoes true

if I but call your name?                           when you but call my name.
Will you quell that fear inside                Let me turn and follow you

and never be the same?                          and never be the same.
Will you use the faith you’ve found       In your company I’ll go

to reshape the world around                   where your love and footsteps show.

through my sight and touch and sound    Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you, and you in me?                             in you, and you in me.

 Blessing

Remember all God has done.

Rejoice in all he is doing.

Receive all he shall yet do.

Put your hand in his,

  The God of past, present and future,

  And walk with him wherever he may lead,

  Knowing that he will walk with you,

  This day and always.

 Now may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all and those whom we love, now and always.

Amen

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 19th July continue in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 13, a chapter of parables told by Jesus to help his disciples and others to realise what being part of the kingdom of God is like. Today we look at the parable of the weeds. It has been said that a weed is just a plant out of place. This parable gives us the opportunity to look at what might be out of place in our life and ask God’s help to deal with them.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Prayer

God of stillness and creative action, help us to find space in the quietness today, that we may live creatively, discover the inner meaning of silence and learn the wisdom that heals the world. Send peace and joy to each quiet place, to all who are waiting and listening. May your still small voice be heard in the love of the Spirit. Amen.

John Slow

 Hymn

1. Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.

Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dew fall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight; mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God’s recreation of the new day!

Matthew chapter 13 verses 24 – 30 & 36 – 43

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is

like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 

25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 

26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 

28 “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 

29 “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 

30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 

38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 

39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 

41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 

42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Meditation: Wheat and Tares

While most people are familiar with the principle of ‘sowing and reaping’,
it can be difficult to distinguish between Fact and Fiction; gleaning
the Truth sometimes takes time, so that the authentic and the fake can…
be properly separated. Sad jealousies are found when the evil works of Man
bloom against the stark contrast of God’s reality; seeing the good and bad,
subtly reinforces our understanding of the wheat and tares; let us be glad,
in knowing how God divinely operates; in Him, we can move and have our being
when our Faith is extended on behalf of His Kingdom; when we are agreeing
with His Word, it’s easier to love and care for others regularly, as we must;
will people observe us as His Children, if we’re not placing in God… our trust?

 Joseph J Breunig

 Reflection

In the parables found in Matthew 13, Jesus is trying to help us understand some of the dynamics we can expect to encounter as Christians in this world. For example: his first parable, which we looked at last week, talked about a farmer spreading seed in four different kinds of soil. I believe that part of what he wanted us to understand was that we shouldn’t get upset when people get angry with us, and reject our faith, or make fun of our commitment to Christ, etc.… because (just like those different soils) not everybody’s heart was going to be open to our faith or our witness about Jesus.

Now, He’s telling us another parable about a farmer that sows “good seed” in the field. But – during the night – an enemy comes and maliciously sows weeds in the field.

Most scholars believe that the weeds were something known as the “Bearded Darnel”. Bearded Darnel looks so much like wheat that it’s called “False wheat”. As it grows, you can’t hardly tell the two apart… until the ear appears. But you wouldn’t want to make bread out of this false wheat because it contains a strong sleep-inducing, hypnotic-like poison.

In this parable Jesus is telling us that Satan’s goal is to actively undermine the Gospel by presenting people with a substitute. This “false wheat” (these false thoughts and ideologies) will look just like the real thing. If you listened to their ideas and teachings they’d sound a little familiar, but once the full body of what they believe is known there’s a hypnotic poison about them that could draw us in and drag us down.

Jesus uses a number of images that illustrate the tension between good and evil. They seem to say this world is a mixture of different things, and unless you learn how to see deeply, you don’t know which is which, and you don’t notice that God allows both good and bad to grow in the same field. When a servant asks Jesus if he should pull out the weeds, Jesus says to “let them both grow together until the harvest”. Then, at the end of time, God will decide what is wheat and what is a weed and act accordingly. In a certain way, he is saying it is none of our business to fully figure it out. This is really quite risky of God—and it takes tremendous courage on our part to trust God and ourselves here.

We are all a mixture of weeds and wheat and we always will be. As Martin Luther put it, we are simultaneously saint and sinner. That’s the mystery of holding weeds and wheat together in our one field of life. It takes a lot more patience, compassion, forgiveness, and love than trying to aim for some deceptive perfection that is usually blind to its own faults. Acknowledging both the wheat and weeds in us keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves and also from dismissing ourselves as terrible.

To avoid being a cynic and negative, you have to learn to accept and forgive this mixed bag of reality that you are—and everyone else is, too. If you don’t, you’ll likely become a very angry person. To accept the weeds doesn’t mean that you say, “It’s okay to be ignorant and evil.” It means you have some real wisdom about yourself. You can see your weeds and acknowledge when you are not compassionate or caring. You have to name the weed as a weed. I’m not perfect; you’re not perfect; the church is not perfect; No one is perfect.

If we must have perfection to be happy with ourselves, we have only two choices: We can turn a blind eye to our own evil (and deny the weeds), or we can give up in discouragement (and deny the wheat). It takes a great deal of humility to hold together both the dark and the light side of things. The only true perfection available to humans is the honest acceptance of our imperfection. This is what God can help us do; only God in us can love imperfect and broken things. By ourselves, we largely fail.

Learning how to love—which is our life’s work—is quite simply learning to accept our messy reality. If you love anyone, then you have learned to accept them despite their faults. There may be a few things you’d like to change in those you love or even yourself. With God’s Spirit within you, you are able to trust that the good is deeper than the bad, and usually well hidden. This is probably why so many of Jesus’ parables are about hiddenness, seeking, and finding. Love God, love others, love yourself and so live for God and his kingdom.

Hymn
1 Your words to me are life and health;       2 Your words to me are light and truth;
put strength into my soul;                                 from day to day I know
enable, guide, and teach my heart                their wisdom, passing human thought,
to reach its perfect goal.                                 as in their truth I grow.

3 Your words to me are full of joy,              4 Your words are perfected in one,
of beauty, peace, and grace;                         yourself, the living Word;
from them I learn your perfect will,              print your own image in my heart
through them I see your face.                       in clearest lines, my Lord.

Prayers

Let us pray for the Church and for the world, and let us thank God for his goodness.

Gracious God we pray for your Church in these times of transition from lockdown to re-opening; wherever your people are meeting, in small churches to great cathedrals, individually in their homes or participating in online services, may they have that sense of expectation of your presence and be inspired by the worship, that they are encouraged to realise they are part of your loving, world-wide family and are prepared to share the good news of Jesus in their lives.

Through our lives and by our prayers, your kingdom come.

 We pray for those whom we love, the special people you have given to us, wherever they may be. We pray for our friends, the close ones and those we sometimes forget, those with a special problem and those who need you. We thank you for each of them and what they give to us. Keep us faithful to them as you are to us. Give grace to us, our families and friends, and to all our neighbours; that we may serve Jesus Christ in one another, and love as he loves us.

Through our lives and by our prayers, your kingdom come.

We pray for those for whom this day will be long and hard, for those in hospital or ill at home, those struggling with despair or depression, those anxious about their work or lack of it, those waiting for important news, or a friend to call. We pray to for those for whom this day will be their last. We name in our hearts any people we know in special need…  Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles; and bring them the joy of your salvation.

Through our lives and by our prayers, your kingdom come.

We remember with deep gratitude those who have left their mark on our lives by giving us love and laughter, but have now gone before us to be with Jesus Christ. We hold them in our hearts, knowing that you, Lord, hold them in yours. Hear us as we remember those who have died, grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.

Through our lives and by our prayers, your kingdom come.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen    Pray the Lord’s Prayer

 Hymn

  1. God’s Spirit is deep in my heart,
    He has called me and set me apart.
    This is what I have to do,
    what I have to do.
    He sent me to give the Good News to the poor,
    Tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more,
    Tell blind people that they can see,
    And set the downtrodden free
    And go tell everyone the news that the Kingdom of God has come,
    And go tell everyone the news that the Kingdom of God has come.

    2. Just as the Father sent me,                        3. Don’t worry what you have to say,
    So I’m sending you out to be                             Don’t worry because on that day
    My witnesses throughout the world,               God’s Spirit will speak in your heart,
    The whole of the world.                                      Will speak in your heart.

He sent me…                                               He sent me…

 Blessing

Living God, we have come to you, to seek your help, offer our worship and declare our faith. Now we go for you, to work for your kingdom, proclaim your love, and make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Go with us and grant us the grace to serve you, even as through him you have served us.

May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and always. Amen

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for today Sunday 12th July focus on the continuing lectionary Gospel reading from Matthew. Jesus has been telling his disciples what he is facing in his ministry and what they will also face in their mission. We shall read the well-known parable of the sower and the seed from which we have gleaned the everyday expressions of ‘fallen by the wayside’, ‘fallen on stony ground’ and ‘fertile ground’. They describe the different responses to hearing the Good News. There is also a thought for those who seek to live out the Gospel in their lives. I have also, today, included the Creed which we would normally say together each week.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Living God, we come to share our devotions, to celebrate your love and to share your Word. Speak and help us to listen; listen and help us to speak, that in praise, prayer and thought you may touch our lives and supply us with the resources we need to live for you and your kingdom. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Hymn

  1. Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim, 2. God ruleth on high, almighty to save,
    and publish abroad his wonderful name;    and still he is nigh, his presence we have;
    the name all-victorious of Jesus extol,          the great congregation his triumph shall                                                                               sing,
    his kingdom is glorious and rules over all.          ascribing salvation to Jesus, our King.

    3. “Salvation to God, who sits on the throne!”    4. Then let us adore and give him his                                                                                           right,

Let all cry aloud and honour the Son;                  all glory and power, all wisdom and                                                                                               might;
the praises of Jesus the angels proclaim,             all honour and blessing with angels                                                                                               above,
fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.  and thanks never ceasing and infinite                                                                                          love.

Reading: Matthew chapter 13 verses 1 – 9 & 18 – 23

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 

2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 

4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 

5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 

6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 

7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 

8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 

19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 

20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 

21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 

22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 

23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

 Hymn

  1. I, the Lord of sea and sky,                                   2. I, the Lord of snow and rain,
    I have heard My people cry.                                   I have born my peoples pain.
    All who dwell in dark and sin,                                 I have wept for love of them,

My hand will save.                                                They turn away.
I who made the stars of night,                      I will break their hearts of stone,
I will make their darkness bright.                 Give them hearts for love alone.
Who will bear My light to them?                 I will speak My word to them,
Whom shall I send?                                     Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?                           Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?   
I have heard You calling in the night.            I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.                     I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart             I will hold Your people in my heart

3. I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them,
My hand will save
Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them,
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart

Reflection

A man walked into a florists and asked for some potted red geraniums. “I’m sorry,” said the florist, “we are completely sold out of all of our potted geraniums. But I’d be more than happy to give you a deal on something else. Could you use African violets instead?” The customer replied sadly, “No, it was geraniums my wife told me to water while she was away.”

You’d think that a simple task like watering the plants wouldn’t be too hard for a chap, but  there are people that really like gardening, and there are others who don’t. Some like growing vegetables for the home others prefer to go to the shop and buy them. And I guess there are those who would fall between those two positions.

The parable which Jesus told about scattering seed which fell into different soils is probably one of the best known of his stories and certainly would have been understood by the people listening to him in his day. He’s telling this story to illustrate how God intended to spread the Gospel across the land and bring people to salvation.

And he told the story to aim at two sets of people – those who HEAR the good news and those who PREACH the good news by word and action.

He describes those who HEAR in different ways: those who hear with a shut mind, which may be because of prejudice or pride or guilt. It has been said that there are none so blind as those who do not want to see.

Then there are those who hear but who fail to think things through; people who are at the mercy of the latest craze or fad – taking things up and just as quickly dropping them. Jesus always tells us that faith in him has its demands and these should be faced before commitment.

There is the hearer who has so many interests in life that certain things, which sometimes are the most important things, get crowded out. A person can become so pre-occupied with many things that they forget the basic spiritual things of prayer and study of God’s Word. Even good works and charitable service can take over leaving no time for the one from whom all love and service come.

And then there is the hearer who is like the good ground – the one whose mind is open and willing to learn; never to busy or proud to listen and are prepared to accept it and put that hearing into action – producing the good fruit of the good seed.

The story is also aimed at those who PREACH the Good News in word and action.

It’s not difficult to understand that sometimes the disciples of Jesus were discouraged. To them Jesus was everything but humanly speaking he had little success. As he told this story the synagogues were shutting against him, the religious leaders were his bitterest critics and were obviously out to destroy him. Yes the crowds flocked to hear him and be healed by him and then forgot all about it. So you can see how the disciple could become disheartened and concerned about their role as preachers of the Gospel as Jesus wanted them to be. So what did Jesus say to them and to all who would spread the Good News in word and action who may be discouraged?

Well the lesson of the parable is that the harvest is sure – the climax of the parable is in the picture of the seed of the word which brings forth abundant fruit. Yes some may fall by the wayside and be snatched by birds; some may fall on shallow ground and never come to  maturity; some may fall among thorns and be choked to death; but in spite of all that the harvest comes and the harvest is sure.

So this parable is a story of encouragement to all of us who sow the seed of the word by the things we say and do for the Lord. We should sow in patience and sow in hope and leave the harvest to the Lord of the harvest knowing that the harvest is sure.

Hymn

Colours of day dawn into the mind,
The sun has come up, the night is behind.
Go down in the city, into the street,
And let’s give the message to the people we meet.
So light up the fire and let the flame burn,
Open the door, let Jesus return.
Take seeds of His Spirit, let the fruit grow,
Tell the people of Jesus, let His love show.

Go through the park, on into the town;
The sun still shines on, it never goes down.
The light of the world is risen again;
The people of darkness are needing a friend.  So light up the fire…

Open your eyes, look into the sky,
The darkness has come, the Son came to die.
The evening draws on, the sun disappears,
But Jesus is living, His Spirit is near.  So light up the fire…

Our Creed

I believe in God who made the earth and stars above,

I believe in Jesus Christ who tells me God is Love,

I believe the Holy Spirit helps me every,

I believe that prayer unites me with a heavenly power,

I believe the Church is where all Christians learn to live,

I believe that here I learn to love and to forgive,

I believe that God wants me at home and everywhere

To be a friend, to tell the truth, to trust, obey and care,

And to remember always how thankful I must be

For all that’s done by everyone for love of me. Amen.

Meditation

A member of the Nazareth Synagogue hears Jesus and makes his response.

He had a wonderful voice, a real joy to listen to: so clear, so deep, so nicely-spoken.

I felt I could have sat there all day, letting the words wash over me: good news for the poor, release for the captives, recovery of sight for the blind – familiar, comfortable words.

Or so I’d always thought. Only this time they didn’t sound quite as reassuring as they used to. I don’t know what it was but somehow as he spoke they came to life, possessed of a power they had never held before, as if I were hearing them for the very first time; only the prophet was speaking not to people long ago, but to me, here, now.

And suddenly I didn’t want to hear, didn’t want to listen anymore, for the words were no longer what I’d thought they were, but unexpected, discomforting, troubling words.

They leapt at me and pinned me down. They lunged at me piercing my very soul. They left me anxious, guilty, fearful, asking what they meant to someone like me who was neither poor or blind, but rich and free.

I closed my ears but still he spoke, and listening again, despite myself, I heard him say. “A prophet is without honour in his own country.”

That was the end, too much. The voice no longer seeming beautiful but strident, no longer bringing joy but rousing rage.

For I realised this man came not to soothe but to challenge, not to praise but to question; not only to us but to others.

I rose in rage, cursing him for his blasphemy, calling  for his death! Yet somehow, though all around me did the same, he walked straight by, unharmed, untouched.

Don’t ask me how, for I just don’t know.

But what I do know, deep down – much though I try to deny it, much though I try to ignore it – is that Jesus had been right to say, “These words have been fulfilled today.”

Nick Fawcett

Prayers

Gracious God, we thank you for the good news of the life-transforming work of Jesus, that in him, we can all begin again, that in him we can be new people, and no one is beyond the reach of his grace. We thank you that he is your Word of hope that makes it possible for us to be sure that we are known by you and your love will never be withdrawn. Enable Christians all around the world so to live and so to speak that this good news may be proclaimed in power and in love. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we hold up before you those whose gentleness is an example of joy and a witness to the love of Christ; those who care for the sick and wait with the dying; those who enrich young minds and open doors of learning and discovery to others; those who care for the poor and bring hope to the hungry; those who gently but firmly remind us all of the responsibilities God gave us – to protect the earth and to remember to whom it belongs. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Compassionate God we pray for those who are facing a time of change in these days of pandemic. Those adjusting to regulations in business and commerce; those preparing for changes in education and learning; those who are struggling with the onset or continuing effects of illness; those who are overwhelmed by the pressures and responsibilities laid upon them; those still forced to be at a distance from loved ones and family. Reassure them all of your presence with them through these times giving them hope and encouragement. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our church family as Elders and others think about how best to re-open our church and for the community groups who normally use the buildings for their activities, praying that they may be given wisdom and insight for the health, safety and well-being of all those using our church as the home it is. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 Take a moment to bring before God your own thoughts and prayers; those things which are on your heart right now. Then pray the Lord’s Prayer.

 Hymn

  1. O for a thousand tongues to sing             2. Jesus, the name that charms our fears,
    My great Redeemer’s praise,                         That bids our sorrows cease;
    The glories of my God and King,                ‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
    The triumphs of His grace!                          ‘Tis life, and health, and peace.
  2. He breaks the power of cancelled sin, 4. He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
    He sets the prisoner free;                            New life the dead receive,
    His blood can make the foulest clean,       The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
    His blood availed for me.                             The humble poor believe.
  3. Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, 6. My gracious Master and my God,
    Your loosened tongues employ;                  Assist me to proclaim,
    Ye blind, behold your Saviour come,          To spread through all the earth abroad
    And leap, ye lame, for joy.                          The honours of Thy name.

Benediction

Gracious God, send us back to the world with your eyes rather than ours.

Help us to see not only the bad but the good, not simply the ugly but the beautiful, not just the worst but the best. Help us to see around us the seeds of your kingdom and to nurture them lovingly until that day comes when your will is done and you are all in all. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Dear Friends,

In our devotions today, Sunday 5th July, we return to the lectionary Gospel reading from Matthew. It is part of Jesus’ ongoing teaching with his disciples to alert them as to what following him will mean for them. The truth they proclaim and live will be misunderstood and ridiculed, but nevertheless he will provide for their emotional, physical and spiritual needs as long as they are faithful.

This being the first Sunday of the month, I have selected words that you may use for communion, food and drink for which you may want to prepare before you begin.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Chorus

Nothing in all creation, in earth or heaven above,

Can come between God’s people

And God’s eternal love.

Prayer

God of all past ages, keep us faithful to the tradition from which we grow. God of this moment, prepare us now to worship in spirit and truth. God of the future, use this time we set aside to draw us towards the fulfilment of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.

Reading: Matthew chapter 11 verses 16-19 & 25 – 30

16“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17“ ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’

19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Reflection

In verses 28-30 of our reading are perhaps some of the best known of the promises of Jesus.  Read them once more.

It’s an interesting fact about the early years of motoring that it was common for eating and drinking places to built on the top of long hills. These were placed for the convenience of those who needed to stop and let their overheated radiators cool down.

This too is one of the functions of prayer and fellowship for the Christian – whether alone in our quiet spot in our homes when we come before God or (and I’m sure we all long again for this) when we worship together in the presence of God – these are times for rest and refreshment. There is nothing quite like coming to the Lord and setting aside our burdens for a while, nothing quite like having our batteries recharged, our radiators cooled down and our spirits lifted. When Jesus spoke of  burdens and of our coming to him he was most certainly talking about the burdens of care and of anxiety and worry that we are all familiar with.

Come to me, Jesus says, all of you who are tired; all of you who are feeling drained; all of you who are feeling empty; all of you who are burdened by a sense of disappointment and being let down; all of you who are exhausted by the struggles of life and weighed down by your sense of duty and of what is right and wrong – and I will give you rest. Share those burdens with me and I will restore you; I will fill you with new joy and a sense of purpose in your relationship with God that will give you new life – here and in the world to come.

However Jesus goes on to say, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” It seems like a contradiction – He promises us rest in one breath and speaks of taking up another burden, another yoke in the next. I think what Jesus was driving at is that there is no such thing as a burden-free life – life always has burdens. The issue in life is not IF we shall be burdened, but with what shall we be burdened; it is not IF we shall be yoked, but to what and with whom we shall be yoked. Jesus is interested in lifting off our backs the burdens that drain us, that suck the life out of us, so that he can place another on them that is better suited to us – his own yoke that brings to us new life, new energy, new joy. To us – and to others through us.

I sometimes wonder, when Jesus spoke these words, was his mind back in that carpenter’s shop in Nazareth? He would have made many yokes for the rural community. There may even have been a sign on the wall ‘My yokes fit well’. (The word ‘easy’ can mean ‘well-fitting’.) Yokes were tailor-made to fit the ox.

So Jesus says, “My yoke fits well. The life I give you is not a burden to give you pain or upset; your task, your life is made to measure for you.”

Whatever God sends to us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly. God has a task for every one of us which is made to measure for us.

Hymn

  1. I heard the voice of Jesus say,             2. I heard the voice of Jesus say,
    “Come unto me and rest;                        “Behold, I freely give
    lay down, O weary one, lay down        the living water; thirsty one,
    your head upon my breast.”                stoop down and drink, and live.”
    I came to Jesus as I was,                       I came to Jesus, and I drank
    weary and worn and sad;                      of that life-giving stream;
    I found in him a resting place,              my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
    and he has made me glad.                    and now I live in him.
  2. I heard the voice of Jesus say,
    “I am this dark world’s Light;
    look unto me, your morn shall rise,
    and all your days be bright.”
    I looked to Jesus and I found
    in him my star, my sun;
    and in that light of life I’ll walk,
    till travelling days are done.

Meditation

Worry? why worry? what can worry do?

It never keeps a trouble from overtaking you.

It gives you indigestion and sleepless hours at night

and fills with gloom the days, however fair and bright.

It puts a frown upon the face, and sharpness to the tone;

we’re unfit to live with others and unfit to live alone.

Worry? why worry? what can worry do?

It never keeps a trouble from overtaking you.

Pray? why pray? what can praying do?

Praying really changes things, arranges life anew.

It’s good for your digestion, gives peaceful sleep at night

and fills the greyest, gloomiest day- with rays of glowing light.

It puts a smile upon your face, the love note in your tone;

makes you fit to live with others, and fit to live alone.

Pray? why pray? what can praying do?

It brings God down from heaven to live and work with you.   Anon.

 Hymn/Chorus

  1. Be still and know that I am God,          2. I am the Lord that healeth thee,

be still and know that I am God,                  I am the Lord that healeth thee,

be still and know that I am God.                  I am the Lord that healeth thee.

  1. In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,

in thee, O Lord, I put my trust,

in thee, O Lord, I put my trust.

Prayers

Lord Jesus, we come to you, and we lift up our burdens to you – our worry, our anxiety, our fear, our tiredness, our pain – and we ask that you would remove them from us and out in their place your burden and your yoke. Help, us to learn from you and to rejoice in you and to serve you that we may find the rest that you have promised. Lord, hear our prayer and in your love answer.

Loving God we pray not only for ourselves but for others – for those who do not know your peace; for those who have not found any rest; for those struggling with those things that life has brought them. We ask your healing to be upon those who are sick; your strength to be with those who are tired; your wisdom and love to be with those who live with despair and fear; your comfort to be with those who are bereaved.

Lord, hear our prayer and in your love answer.

Almighty God, we pray for those to whom power and responsibility has been entrusted. For those in authority in other lands in these challenging times, leaders of nations large and small, super-powers and tiny states, shaping the lives of millions or relatively few. For our own government making decisions about the future health and well-being of all our people. Resourceful God, grant them wisdom, insight, patience, dedication, integrity, open-mindedness and humility that each may be equipped to honour the trust placed in them. Lord, hear our prayer and in your love answer.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Hymn

  1. Great God, your love has called us here        2. We come with self-inflicted pains
    as we, by love, for love were made.                 of broken trust and chosen wrong;
    Your living likeness still we bear,                    half-free, half-bound by inner chains;
    though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed.         by social forces swept along,
    We come, with all our heart and mind,            by powers and systems close confined;
    your call to hear, your love to find.                  yet seeking hope for humankind.
  2.  
  3. Great God, in Christ you call our name 4. Then take the towel, and break the bread,
    and then receive us as your own                 and humble us, and call us friends.
    not through some merit, right, or claim,        Suffer and serve till all are fed,
    but by your gracious love alone.                   and show how grandly love intends
    We strain to glimpse your mercy seat             to work till all creation sings,
    and find you kneeling at our feet.                  to fill all worlds, to crown all things.
  4.  
  5. Great God, in Christ you set us free,
    your life to live, your joy to share.
    Give your Spirit’s liberty
    to turn from guilt and dull despair
    and offer all that faith can do
    while love is making all things new.

 Communion

Does life bring confusion, a strong of questions that baffle and bemuse?

Remember that Jesus in Gethsemane wrestled with the bleakness of doubt.

Does life bring sadness, anguish and deep hurt within?

Remember that Jesus in Gethsemane wrestled with the bleakness of sorrow.

Does life bring pain, testing your endurance to the limit and beyond?

Remember that Jesus on the cross wrestled with the bleakness of suffering.

Does life bring despair, a sense of being abandoned, hopelessly alone?

Remember that Jesus on the cross wrestled with the bleakness of isolation.

Whatever life brings, whatever you may face, remember that communion speaks not of easy answers but of the God who understands our questions, endures our sorrow, shares our suffering and knows what it is to feel alone.

Faith offers no immunity from life’s ills, no guarantees of earthly blessing, but in communion we are reminded that, whatever may disquiet and destroy, we will find sunshine after the storm, laughter after tears, light after darkness, life after death.

Let us hear again the story of how this sacrament began. On the night on which Jesus was betrayed, he sat at supper with his disciples. While they were eating, he took a piece of bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave it to them with the words, “This is my body. It is broken for you. Do this to remember me”. Later he took a cup of wine saying, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Drink from it all of you, to remember me.”

Let us Pray

We give you thanks and praise, gracious God that in love you created the world. That in love you gave breath and life to humankind, that in love you gave us the ability to respond to you. But most of all we thank you that when we spurned your love and our sins grieved you, you did not leave us in our sin, but sent your Son to redeem us from sin and death.

Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for that great love of yours by which you humbled yourself, took the form of a servant, were born into the human race. But most of all we thank you that for our sake you became obedient to death; even death on a cross. 

Holy Spirit of God we thank you that here in communion you bring these things to our remembrance recalling that they were done even for us, inflaming our hearts with love. As we eat these elements, so fill us with gratitude, that we may become strong in love and faith, resolute in will, eager for service and obedient to the commands of Christ Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen

 Jesus said: “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger and those who believe in me shall never thirst.”

The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life (receive and eat)

The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the true vine (receive and drink)

 Let us Pray

Gracious God, we thank you for the love which brings us, as food from heaven, the life of your dear Son, Jesus Christ, and assures us that we belong to the company of all his faithful people in heaven and on earth.

Grant that, strengthened by this fellowship, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may continue his work in the world, until we come to the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 Hymn

  1. Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart
    And a discerning mind;
    Give, as I play the Christian’s part,
    The strength to finish what I start
    And act on what I find.

    2. When, in the rush of days, my will
    Is habit bound and slow,
    Help me to keep in vision, still,
    What love and power and peace can fill
    A life that trusts in you.

    3. By your divine and urgent claim,
    And by your human face,
    Kindle our sinking hearts to flame,
    And as you teach the world your name
    Let it become your place.

    4. Jesus, with all your church I long
    To see your kingdom come:
    Show me your way of righting wrong
    And turning sorrow into song
    Until you bring me home.

Benediction

Called to receive love; sent to share it.

Called to hear of love in Christ; sent to declare it.

Called to experience love that never lets us go; sent to walk in it.

Called to know that he will love us no matter what; sent to live it.

Called to know the power of God’s love; sent to express it.

Called by the love of God, held by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit and sent to love our neighbour as ourselves. Amen.

 

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for today Sunday 28th June turn to the Old Testament lectionary reading as our focus. You will recall that in these past weeks in our devotions Jesus has called his disciples and trained them for the work of ministry for when he has to leave them. He tells them that things will be tough, there will be times when their faith is tested but through it all God will provide for all that they need at the time they need it and his Spirit will guide them through. This well known story from Genesis gives us a wonderful example of just that – faith being tested and God’s faithful provision.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Prayer

Faithful, never failing God, this is the day when we bring you our praise and our prayers; when we bring you our minds to seek your truth; when we bring our lives to be filled with your life; when we bring our joys…and our sadness; when we bring our sins and ask to be forgiven and set free. This is the day you have provided for us and for that we thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen

Hymn

  1. Praise the Lord, His glories show, Alleluia!
    Saints with His courts below, Alleluia!
    Angels round His throne above, Alleluia!
    All that see and share His love. Alleluia!

    2. Earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, 3. Praise the Lord, His mercies trace,
    Tell His wonders, sing His worth;                  Praise His providence and grace,       
    Age to age and shore to shore,                     All that he for us has done,
    Praise Him, praise Him evermore!               All He sends us through His Son.

    4. Strings and voices, hands and hearts, Alleluia!
    In the concert play your parts; Alleluia!
    All that breathe, your Lord adore, Alleluia!
    Praise Him, praise Him evermore! Alleluia!

Reading: Genesis chapter 22 verses 1 – 14

1 God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.

4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,

7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. 

 Meditation

Put that knife down, Abraham, my friend, I know that you love me with heart and soul and strength and mind.

I know that the dearest thing in your life is less to you than I am.

Put your knife down; take your son home.

Embrace your wife, have more children; enjoy and share your prosperity; be generous to your neighbours.

See, I am keeping the promise I made to you.

Walk before me lightheartedly, Abraham, my friend.

Raise your head, (insert your name), my friend. I know that you love me with heart and soul and strength and mind and that nothing in your life is dearer to you than my love.

Lay aside your need to prove your love for me.

Let go of guilt; pause in your drivenness.

Rest in me. Then go home; cherish those who love you, work patiently for the future of humanity; be hospitable, be generous.

See, I am keeping the promises I made to you.

Walk with me with light step, (insert your name), my friend.

 Maggie Hindley

 Hymn

  1. Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
    There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
    Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
    As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
    Great is Thy faithfulness!
    Great is Thy faithfulness!
    Morning by morning new mercies I see.
    All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
    Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
  2. Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
    Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
    Join with all nature in manifold witness
    To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

[Chorus]

  1. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
    Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
    Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
    Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

[Chorus]

 Reflection
A boy and his mother had gone to the local shop to buy a few items. And there on the counter was a sweet jar. The little boy stood mesmerized looking up at the jar filled with all those sweets, and the owner smiled as he watched. He gently said to the boy “You want some of these sweets?” The boy nodded, and the manager said “Well go ahead and stick your hand in the jar and take a handful”. But the boy just stood there and didn’t move. Again the owner said, “Go ahead. It’s OK. Just reach in and get a handful of sweets”. But the boy still continued to just stand there and stare at the jar. Finally, the owner reached in the jar and pulled out some of the sweets and gave it to the boy who filled his pockets. When they got outside the mother asked him “Why didn’t you take a handful of sweets when the man told you it was O.K.?” The boy smiled and said, “Because his hands are bigger than mine”.

Isn’t that one smart boy? He knew if he put his hand in the jar he wouldn’t get nearly as many sweets as when the owner did it for him. So he waited for the owner to PROVIDE for him! Because, if the owner provided for him, he’d get more than he would have got by himself.

In our reading today, we find that Abraham learned that very lesson. In answer to his son’s question about where the sacrifice was, Abraham said, “God himself will PROVIDE the lamb for the burnt offering”. And later, when God did supply the ram for the sacrifice Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”. Our God is the God who provides and we find that truth throughout scripture.

You know well the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” What’s that saying? It’s saying the Lord PROVIDES.  And in the Sermon on the mount Jesus declares: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). It’s like a constant drumbeat across Scripture. God cares for you and He desires to PROVIDE for you.

Now God had always provided for Abraham, and I’m sure that, in the back of his mind, Abraham had always thought that was true. But I think Abraham was a lot like us. He believed in God and he’d done all kinds of things up to this point because he believed that God existed. But when he got right down to applying that faith in his life, his trust factor hasn’t been real high. So why would God test Abraham? Well, apparently because Abraham’s faith was still raw and unproven.

That’s what God was doing here with Abraham, he was testing Abraham’s faith. He was putting Abraham’s faith into a struggle; into a storm. God wanted to challenge Abraham by putting his faith to the test. That’s what God does with us sometimes. There are times that God will put us in the midst of a struggle or the middle of a storm. And it will be at those times that our faith will be tested and challenged. And at those times our faith will be strengthened. You see, God has saved us from our sins – but He doesn’t want to stop there. He wants to challenge us in our faith and make us grow to be truly mature men and women of faith in God.

The uniqueness of this story is that it shows that God had been planning the giving of his only son centuries before Christ came. Isaac was the mirror image of Jesus. Both were offered as sacrifices by their fathers… and each was described as the only son of that father.  And as the story unfolds, we find that these “only sons” had much in common: Isaac had a three day walk to Mt. Moriah; Jesus had three days from the cross to the grave to the resurrection. Isaac was accompanied by two servants; Jesus by two thieves. Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice; Jesus carried the wood of his cross. Isaac willingly laid down on the altar; Jesus willingly was laid on the cross. God provided the sacrifice to save Isaac from death; God provided the sacrifice of Jesus to save us from our sins.

It was Jesus who said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). In Genesis 22 God revealed to us that he had planned to send Jesus centuries before He was born in Bethlehem. And God PROVIDED that story to us… so that we might believe. So – do you believe?

Hymn

  1. I do not know what lies ahead,                   2. I do not know how many days
    The way I cannot see;                                       of life are mine to spend;
    Yet One stands near to be my guide,           But One who knows and cares for me
    He’ll show the way to me:                               Will keep me to the end:
    Chorus
    I know Who holds the future,                      
    3. I do not know the course ahead,
    And He’ll guide me with his hand.               What joys and griefs are there;
    With God things don’t just happen;            
    But One in near who fully knows,
    Everything by Him is planned.                              I’ll trust His loving care:
    So as I face tomorrow,

With its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles,

Give to Him my all.

Prayers
As ever, this week we have been bombarded with news – home and overseas, political and personal, tragic and trivial. Sometimes we feel there is just too much news. But some images, stories and issues linger in our mind. God calls us to pray for these issues. Whatever news stories are on your mind, pray for them now in a moment of silence, asking God to be present in the situation in judgment, mercy or grace…

Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer

 Last week there was other news; some continuing long-running stories, some amazingly wonderful, some tragedies, easily forgotten by us, but still sharp and painful for the sufferers now as then. Think of those ongoing stories from last week and pray for them as the need goes on. In a moment of silence pray that God’s grace may continue to be at work there, healing and renewing…

Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 This time next week the media will be full of new stories; new incidents for the pundits to debate. Pray for an area of concern that is likely to crop up in next week’s news – e.g. the Government, countries in difficulties, people in trouble. In a moment of silence pray whatever God gives you to pray for as you look ahead to next week…

Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 Loving God, set your blessing upon us all as we begin this week – on our world, our church, our community, our family and friends. Heal your suffering ones, raise up your broken ones, inspire your joyful ones. And give yourself afresh to us as we come before you in hope. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Pray The Lord’s Prayer. 

 Hymn (with an extra, unfamiliar verse!)

1 Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode;
on the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

2 See the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters,
and all fear of want remove;
who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.

3 Round each habitation hovering,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near; 
thus deriving from their banner
light by night and shade by day,
safe they feed upon the manna
which he gives them when they pray.

4 Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I, through grace, a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name;
fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
all his boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasure
none but Zion’s children know.

Prayer

Lord, the journey of life is sometimes hard and we may not know the turnings; the way you have prepared for us is narrow and often tests us. Give us your peace, courage and guidance, and an assurance of your living presence to the end and beyond. Bless us and our loved ones as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Dear Friends,

Our devotions today, 21st June,  again focus on words of Jesus. As Jesus continues to give instructions regarding the ministry he had called the disciples to engage in,  he emphasizes the difficulties they would encounter. He never tells them that it will be easy and the opposition they face, he says, would be very clear. However even if following him would be costly in terms of personal sacrifice he gives the assurance that they will be loved and cared for by their heavenly Father whose Spirit will give them the courage and power they need to be faithful witnesses.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Loving God, as we draw near to you, draw near to us; as we seek your word, speak to us; as we confess our faults and failings, have mercy upon us; as we are reminded of all you have done for us, challenge us to make our response. Inspire us through your Holy Spirit, guide our reading, listening and thinking that your message of old may be ever new in our hearts. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 Hymn

1 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art–
thou my best thought in the day and the night,
waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

2 Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word;
thou ever with me and I with thee, Lord;
thou my great Father, thy child let me be;
thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

3 Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my dignity, thou my delight,
thou my soul’s shelter, thou my strong tower:
raise thou me heav’nward, great Power of my power.

4 Riches I heed not, nor earth’s empty praise,
thou mine inheritance, now and always:
thou and thou only, the first in my heart,
high King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

5 High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
grant me its joys after vict’ry is won;
heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

 Reading: Matthew chapter 10: 24 – 39

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.

25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.

27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.

33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35 For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Hymn

  1. I lift my eyes                                          2. I lift my eyes
    to the quiet hills                                       to the quiet hills
    in the press of a busy day;                     to a calm that is mine to share;
    as green hills stand                                 secure and still
    in a dusty land                                         in the Father’s will
    so God is my strength and stay.           and kept by the Father’s care.

    3. I lift my eyes                                  4. I lift my eyes
    to the quiet hills                                 to the quiet hills
    to a calm that is mine to share;       with a prayer as I turn to sleep;
    secure and still                                   by day, by night,
    in the Father’s will                             through the dark and light
    and kept by the Father’s care.          my Shepherd will guard his sheep.
  2. I lift my eyes
    to the quiet hills
    and my heart to the Father’s throne;
    in all my ways
    to the end of days
    the Lord will preserve his own.

Meditation

Jesus, your word reaches for the light,

For the public places, for a wide hearing,

Across the nations, stirring and summoning.

It’s not a secret that your kingdom is coming.

Yet those who live by that kingdom

Are called to places of conflict and criticism.

Your values are resisted, your truth challenged,

And it be easier if we could be secret disciples.

So you remind us of the sparrow,

Seen from heaven, as it falls to earth.

And you remind us that God sees

The life of earth with the love of heaven.

Then you speak of a sword,

Dividing where we thought we were safe,

Destroying what seemed secure,

Splitting, severing, sundering.

Jesus, give us courage,

Not to seek secrecy for our faith,

Not to fear the sharp edge of truth

And never to forget the loving eye of God.      John Proctor – General Secretary of the URC

 Hymn

  1. God who made the earth,                       2. God who made the grass

the air, the sky, the sea,                                the flower, the fruit, the tree,

who gave the light its birth –                        the day and night to pass –

God cares for me.                                        God cares for me.

 

  1. God, who sent his Son

to die on Calvary,

will, when life’s clouds come on

still care for me.

Reflection

These words of Jesus are hard to hear and we may be tempted to dismiss them as too difficult to understand. There is much here that needs to be ‘unpacked’ but there is not time or space now for that. However, there are gems in these verses which contain eternal truths and they are worth reflecting on.

Verses 29 – 31 for instance where Jesus is saying, “Listen, sparrows are two a penny, aren’t they? Yet not even a single sparrow falls to the ground without your heavenly Father knows it – why, even the hairs on your head are numbered, and you are worth far more than many sparrows.”

There may be many today, because of the resulting fall-out from the coronavirus, who are feeling somewhat worthless: those now unemployed or made redundant; those who used to be able to do so much for others but are now restricted. All may be feeling, “Nobody wants me – I’m on the scrapheap – I’m worthless.”  Then we read these words of Jesus about sparrows!

To anyone who may be feeling down right now be reassured when Jesus says that nobody is worthless or rejected. You are loved, loved by God, no matter who you are.”

Remember the disciple Peter? There was a time when Peter considered himself to be worse than useless. The bottom had fallen out of his world; he was a traitor who, at the very time that Jesus needed a friend, had denied all knowledge of him. Peter had cowered with fear, yet this was the man that Jesus chose as the rock on which he would build his Church. Jesus saw the worth of the man as he sees the worth in all of us.

Jesus reinforced what he said about sparrows by adding, “Even the hairs on your head have all been counted.” Now those of you who know me will realise that it wouldn’t take God very long to count the hairs on my follicly challenged head! However that doesn’t mean he cares any less for me than anybody with a full head of hair. Everyone is known and cared for and loved by God who created us.

Whenever I hear or read Jesus’ words about sparrows I am reminded instantly of the wonderful gospel song ‘His eye is on the Sparrow’. The song was written by Civilla Martin, the wife of a Baptist Pastor.  She and her husband were visiting a devout Christian couple by the name of Mr and Mrs Doolittle. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for over twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them.

When asked what secret kept them both bright, hopeful and joyous in the midst of pain, Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: ‘If His eye is on the sparrow, then I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this expression of simple faith gripped Civilla’s heart and that same evening she wrote the words for the song.

If you’re discouraged, afraid of the future, or struggling with the problems of today, listen again to the words of this beautiful song: “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart feel lonely, and long for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion, a constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches over me. His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me. I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free! His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me.”

Hymn

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus,               2. Have we trials and temptations?
    All our sins and griefs to bear!                      Is there trouble anywhere?
    What a privilege to carry                            We should never be discouraged—
    Everything to God in prayer!                     Take it to the Lord in prayer
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,                Can we find  friend so faithful
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,                Who will all our sorrows share?
    All because we do not carry                       Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Everything to God in prayer!                     Take it to the Lord in prayer.

3.Are we weak and heavy-laden,
burdened with a load of care?
Jesus is our only refuge:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you,
You will find a solace there.

Prayers

For Fathers on Father’s day

Gracious God you know the joy of fatherhood and also the pain for you witnessed the life and death of your Son, and you see each day the triumphs and tragedies of us your children and so now we pray for fathers everywhere. Help them to appreciate both the privilege and the responsibility they bear, and teach them to give freely of themselves so that they may discover the fulfilment that fatherhood brings. Receive our thanks for the fathers you have given us, all they have meant to us, all they have given, and all they have done in so many ways. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

For the sick and those who care for them

Loving God, we bring before you all those wrestling with illness in body, mind or spirit, especially those known to us; those enduring physical pain and fearful of what the future may hold; those unable to cope with the pressures of daily life; those who feel their lives to be empty; reassure them with your presence and your love which surrounds them even in their darkest moments. And we pray for all who work to bring help, wholeness and healing to the sick – grant them your wisdom and guidance, your care and compassion, your strength and support. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For those needing peace

Lord of all, we pray for all who are searching for peace in their lives – those burdened with anxiety, facing difficult problems, living amongst change and upheaval, those threatened by violence and warfare. To all those in chaos and turmoil, all who are restless and troubled, grant your clam, your tranquillity, your quietness, and your peace that passes understanding. Reach out and still the storm, in Jesus’ name.

For ourselves

Loving God, in all the changes and chances of our lives, all the many uncertainties we face, we know that you are a God we can depend on, always loving, always merciful and always faithful. The assurance that your love will go on reaching out and supporting us, no matter what our fears and anxieties are, gives us strength and a sense of purpose in our lives. We thank you that you are with us, watching over us and those whom we love now and always. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer.

 Hymn

1 How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word;
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to all who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

2 Fear not, I am with you, so be not dismayed;
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

3 When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with you, in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

4 When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; my only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

5 The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
he will not, he cannot, desert to its foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
he never will leave, he will never forsake.

Now may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, and those whom you love, now and for evermore. Amen

Dear Friends,

Since we began these devotions as a result of lockdown, some 11 weeks (!) ago, we have been following the church’s regular calendar of events of Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter, the resurrection appearances of Jesus, his ascension to heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. Following the lectionary readings we have seen how Jesus prepared his followers for all that was to happen to him and for that time when he would no longer be with them in person. The coming of the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus, would equip them for continuing his mission. Today in our lectionary Gospel reading we are reminded of the ordinary people Jesus originally chose to help him and of how they were to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to other people.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Prayer

Living Lord Jesus, in our devotions we come to you whose name and nature is love.

We come with our darkness to be filled with your light. We come with our sorrow to be filled with your joy. We come with our shame to receive your forgiveness. We come because you have called us and so we give you thanks and praise because you promise to walk with us still. Touch our lives with your love that we may receive a new sense of purpose and hope. We pray these things for your love’s sake. Amen

 Hymn

  1. I want to walk with Jesus Christ             Follow Him, follow Him, yield your life to Him
    All the days I live of this life on earth   He has conquered death, He is King of kings
    To give to Him complete control          Accept the joy which He gives to those
    Of body and of soul…                             Who yield their lives to Him

    2. I want to learn to speak to Him         3. I want to learn to speak of Him
    To pray to Him, confess my sins           My life must show that He lives in me
    To open my life and let Him in             My deeds, my thoughts, my words must speak For joy will then me mine…                   All of His love for me…                               

4. I want to learn to read His word        5.    O Holy Spirit of the Lord
For this is how I know the way                      Enter now into this heart of mine
To live my life as pleases Him                       Take full control of my selfish will
In holiness and joy         …                              And make me wholly Thine…

Reading Matthew chapter 9: 35 – chapter 10: 8

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.

6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 Hymn

  1. Jesus calls us o’er the tumult                       2. As, of old, apostles heard it
    of our life’s wild, restless sea;                      by the Galilean lake,
    day by day his voice is sounding,                turned from home and toil and kindred,
    saying “Christian, follow me.”                     leaving all for his dear sake.
  2. Jesus calls us from the worship                 4. In our joys and in our sorrows,
    of the vain world’s golden store,                   days of toil and hours of ease,
    from each idol that would keep us,              still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
    saying “Christian, love me more.”                “Christian, love me more than these.”
  3. Jesus calls us! by your mercies,
    Saviour, make us hear your call,
    give our hearts to your obedience,
    serve and love you best of all.

Reflection

Here in one sentence, which is the first verse of our reading, we see that the ministry of Jesus is made up of three things: Preaching, teaching and healing. Jesus was the one who brought a message from God, and that message was how people should live in relationship with God and with other people; this is the gospel Jesus preached. Jesus was also a teacher. It’s not sufficient to talk about these things it is essential to show how these certainties are significant for life and for living. And Jesus was a healer. The message of the gospel which Jesus brought did not stop at words; it was translated into deeds. If we read through the gospels we see that Jesus spent far more time healing the sick, and feeding the hungry, and comforting the sorrowing than he did merely talking about God. He turned the words of Christian truth into the deeds of Christian love.

This is the ministry of Jesus and he wants this to be the ministry for the disciples he has chosen and for all his followers: He wants us to ‘gossip the gospel’; he wants us to teach others what Christianity is, not only by words, but by the way we live our lives. The way we live expresses our Christian beliefs – it is our faith in action.

When we consider the people Jesus chose as his disciples we see that they are very ordinary men. They had no wealth (except perhaps for Matthew but then he gave his money away); they had no academic background; they had no social position. They were chosen from among the common people. Men who did ordinary things. It has been said that Jesus is looking, not so much for extraordinary people as for ordinary people who can do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Jesus sees what people can become.

The first disciples were also an extraordinary mixture of people. We’ve mentioned Matthew the tax collector – and we know what people thought of them. Some earned their living by fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Simon the Zealot was a freedom fighter who wanted to be rid of the Romans by fair means or sometimes foul. We are not told very much about some of them in the New Testament but these were the ones chosen by Jesus to be the very foundation stones on which the Church was built. It is on the stuff of ordinary men and women that the Church of Jesus Christ is founded. And we have been given the commission from Jesus himself to continue his ministry; a ministry of telling others and showing others by our actions the love which God has for all. May we through our words and deeds show others that ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near’ as we continue the ministry of Jesus today.

You will have heard of the story that has been told when Jesus went back to heaven after his resurrection and was greeted by the angels. They rejoice and praise Him for His victory over sin and Satan. And then they asked, “Now what, Lord? Who will bring the message of your grace to the world?” Jesus proceeded to tell them about a small group of ordinary men and women – tax collectors, doctors, businessmen, fishermen, farmers, widows, some poor and homeless. He said, “I’ve appointed these people to spread the gospel to others who would spread it still to others.” The angels began to talk about this among themselves. Then one, with a worried look, turned to Jesus, and said, “Lord, what if they fail? What’s your backup plan?” Jesus simply smiled and said, “I have no other plan.”

 Hymn why not sing it through twice!

For I’m building a people of power
For I’m making a people of praise
That will move through this land by My Spirit
And will glorify my precious Name

Build Your church, Lord,
Make us strong, Lord,
Join our hearts, Lord, through Your Son
Make us one, Lord, in Your body
In the Kingdom of Your Son.

 Meditation – Careful calculations

You asked for my hands that you might use them for your purpose.

I gave them for a moment then withdrew them for the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice.

I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.

You asked for eyes to see the pain of poverty.

I closed them for I did not want to see.

You asked for my life that you might work through me.

I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.

Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you, only when it is convenient for me to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, and only with those who make it easy to do so.

Father, forgive me, renew me, send me out as a usable instrument that I might take seriously the meaning of your cross.  Joe Seremane

 Hymn

  1. 1. Make me a channel of your peace                    Oh, master grant that I may never seek
    Where there is hatred let me bring your love        So much to be consoled as to console
    Where there is injury, your pardon Lord                To be understood as to understand
    And where there’s doubt, true faith in you:            To be loved as to love with all my                                                                                                soul
  2. 2. Make me a channel of your peace                       Make me a channel of your peace;
    Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope     for when we give we will ourselves                                                                                          receive.

Where there is darkness, let me bring your light;   It is in pardoning that we are                                                                                                            pardoned

And where there’s sadness bring your joy:             And in dying that we gain eternal life.

Prayers

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you promised through your Son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith. We pray for the witness of your church in these strange and challenging times. Wherever your people are situated, even though separated from each other may they be beacons of your love and grace to all that they are in contact with. Keep us united in your truth as we look forward to the day when we can praise you together physically.

O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: when I call, answer me. O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: come and listen to me.

We pray for those whom we love, the special people you have given to us, wherever they may be. We pray for our friends, the close ones and those we sometimes forget, those with a special problem and those who need you. We thank you for each of them and what they give to us. Keep us faithful to them as you are to us. Give grace to us, our families and friends, and to all our neighbours; that we may serve Jesus Christ in one another, and love as he loves us.

O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: when I call, answer me. O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: come and listen to me.

We pray for those for whom this day will seem long and hard, for those in hospital or nursing home or ill at home; those struggling with despair or depression; those waiting for news about their job. We pray for those who care for the sick, facing uncertainty and fear in their daily work and for those for whom this day will be their last. We name in our hearts any people we know in special need. Comfort and heal those who suffer in body, mind or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles and bring them the joy of your salvation.

O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: when I call, answer me. O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: come and listen to me.

 We remember with deep gratitude those who have left their mark on our lives by giving us love and laughter, but have now gone to be with the Lord. We hold them in our hearts, knowing that you, Lord, hold them in yours. Hear us as we remember those who have died in the faith; as we remember your promises, grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.

O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: when I call, answer me. O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer: come and listen to me.

 Loving Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

 Chorus

Mine are the hands to do the work; My heart shall love for thee; My lips shall tell the

glorious news; Lord, here am I, send me.

Blessing

Keep your mind fixed on Jesus, your heart on his glory, your eyes on his purpose and your ears on his voice. Be filled with the Spirit, as people of God. Amen.

 

Dear Friends,

Our devotions today, 7th June, is known as Trinity Sunday, the Sunday following Pentecost. It’s when we affirm that we believe in God who has made himself known  to us a creative Father, a Saviour in Jesus Christ, and as Spirit as a helper and guide. This concept of an explanation of God came about as people – religious leaders, tried to come to an understanding for what they had experienced as being true about God. It has proved a puzzle to many and I’m sure there are more than a few preachers who are relieved that they do not have to preach today! Being the first Sunday of the month I have included a setting for Communion in which you are invited to prepare and use food and drink as appropriate.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Opening Prayer: The sacred Three my fortress be, encircling me. Come, be round my hearth, my home. Amen.    Book of Common Order – Church of Scotland

 Hymn

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Readings: Genesis 1: 1-5  

Our Awesome, Creator God – the cause of all that exists

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

 Matthew 28: 16-20  The Great Commission of God

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

2 Corinthians 13: 11-13 Paul’s final greetings to the church in Corinth

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

13 All God’s people here send their greetings.

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Here’s the history bit

Back in the year 325, the first Christian emperor Constantine gathered a group of Christian leaders to discuss and sort out the various views circulating about Christianity. This meeting was specifically trying to figure out and gain understanding on God. In their experience they worshipped God as they went to the Temple. From their ancestors they heard stories of a man named Jesus who claimed to be God’s son and in their experience they knew of God’s Spirit being within them. So the question surfaced, “How did all of these -Father, Son, and Holy Spirit fit together? Or did they fit together?”  The result of this gathering was a creed called the Nicene Creed, one of the great statements of faith of the church, that affirms the belief of a Trinitarian God – God having 3 persons – Father/Son/and Holy Spirit.

This has been the basic Christian doctrine ever since. We experience God as Father or Creator; Son or Redeemer; Holy Spirit or Sustainer – one God in three personalities.

Hymn

  1. Father we love you,                                 2. Jesus, we love you,

we worship and adore you;                          we worship and adore you;

Glorify your name in all the earth,

Glorify your name, glorify your name,                  3. Spirit, we love you,

Glorify your name in all the earth                              we worship and adore you;

Reflection

You may have heard the story about a little girl in Junior Church drawing with all her crayons. Her teacher asked her what she was drawing. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” the little girl responded. “But nobody knows what God looks like,” her teacher said. To which the little girl replied, “They will when I’m finished.”

There is some sense in what that little girl was doing. To draw a picture of God, to know what God looks like, to know what God is all about is what one hopes and expects is behind what we do as church people. And it is what one of our most confusing doctrines is all about—the doctrine of the Trinity – “God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity” as we sung earlier.

Generation upon generation of people have affirmed the fact that God has revealed himself to us as: God the Father; Jesus Christ, the Son; and Holy Spirit – 3 in One. Though we might have a hard time explaining how this works out, if you look back over your Christian journey, no doubt you would be able to identify the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

However, saying that there are three persons in the Godhead leads some people to think that there are three gods who work in partnership.  The doctrine of the Trinity is like a riddle to some people.

One little boy came home from Church and told his mum that the minister had said that God was everywhere. “That’s true,” his mother said. “Is he in the oven when it’s hot?” “Yes,” replied the mother. “How about in the cupboard?” “Yes,” said the mother. “How about in the fridge when the door is closed and the light is off?” “yes,” said the mother. “How about in the sugar bowl,” asked the boy, as he took the lid off the bowl. “Well, I suppose he is,” answered the mother. The boy slammed the bowl shut and announced triumphantly: “Got him!” Of course, the mother had a lot more explaining to do.

As humorous as this story may be, there is some truth in it as to how we view God. Too often, people view God just like this little boy. They think that God can be put into a neat little package that they can understand and that they control. That’s not how it works. We don’t understand God completely, if ever, and we certainly do not control him.

So how one + one + one = one is still pretty much a mystery. The Triune God will never be understood through doctrines. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit will best be known through a life of service and worship.

So, the next time someone asks you to explain the Trinity to them, remember the following story, as related by Desmond Tutu, in his book, Hope and Suffering. “Anthony Bloom, the Orthodox master of the spiritual life told the story of a simple Russian country priest who was confronted by an eminent scientist. This chap trotted out apparently devastating arguments against the existence of God and declared, “I don’t believe in God.” The unlettered priest retorted quickly, “Oh, it doesn’t matter–God believes in you.”

And that’s what it all boils down to: God believes in us all. Whether we understand the Trinity or not, because God believes in us all, we are able to worship and serve God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – our one almighty, awesome God!

Hymn

  1. Holy Spirit, truth divine,                         2. Holy Spirit, love divine,

dawn upon this soul of mine;                      reign within this heart of mine;

Word of God, and inward light,                    be my law, and I shall be

wake my spirit, clear my sight.                     firmly bound, for ever free.

  1. Holy Spirit, power divine,                        4. Holy Spirit, peace divine,

fill and nerve this will of mine;                    still this restless heart of mine;

by thee may I strongly live,                          speak to calm this tossing sea

bravely bear, and nobly strive.                     stayed in thy tranquillity.

  1. Holy Spirit, joy divine,

gladden thou this heart of mine;

in the desert ways I sing:

‘Spring, O Well, for ever spring!’

 Meditation

A cooling drink, steam rising from the kettle, a mountain stream, Niagara, the Ganges, a village pond; waves breaking on the shore, the ever-restless oceans, frozen polar regions, towering cumulus clouds, a shower of rain.

All these are water, signified by the formula H2O; but the formula cannot begin to describe the multi-faceted truth of water in all its forms, with all its life-giving properties.

So with the Trinity, Three in One and One in Three; – a useful formula; but beyond lies the majesty, the wonder, the power, the justice, the creativity, the beauty, the love and the rescuing – the breath-taking otherness that we so inadequately call GOD.    

Edmund Banyard

 Prayers

Let us pray to the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus, the Son.

We bring before you, gracious God, the needs of the church and the world. Bless your church throughout the world in this time of restriction and separation. Refresh, teach and direct us to be your people where we are set in our homes and communities. Help us to keep connected with each other as we look forward to being in fellowship once more.

We bring before you, loving God, the nurturing of our children and young people; in home-schooling and parenting, in schools as they re-open for some pupils; in the expectations, pressures and dangers, in the hopes and possibilities for good.

We bring before you, compassionate God, the hungry and malnourished of our world; those who are ill, including those suffering with coronavirus, and all those who care for them; all who are undergoing tests, surgery or painful treatment; all those who are isolated and lonely and have no one to turn to.

We bring before you, understanding God, those who have died, especially those who have died in faith and will now see you face to face; for those who mourn their loved ones, may they be comforted and reassured that their loved ones are safe in your keeping.

We bring before you, O God, our lives and all that we are, including our successes and our failures – forgive us for the wrong we have done; we thank you for the gift of life and ask that we may get to know you more deeply day after day.

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

 Communion – Introduction

Lord, we do this as you ask us to. We recall your words and your actions. We are encouraged as we tell the story again and again. Bring to life what we do here at your command. Make known your presence as we break bread, that this enactment of the supper you last ate with your disciples may be as real to us as it was to them. Come to us and proclaim your peace. Breathe upon us with your Holy Spirit that our hearts may burn within us such that we may share our joy – we have met with our Lord!

 Institution – This is how Matthew records the actions of Jesus at the last supper. While Jesus and his disciples were eating, he took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, “Take and eat it,” he said, “this is my body”. Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God and gave it to them, “Drink it, all of you,” he said, “this is my blood, which seals God’s covenant, my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day when I drink the new wine with you in my father’s Kingdom.

Thanksgiving – We give you praise and thanks heavenly Father that in love you created the world; that in love you gave life to humankind; that in love you gave us the ability to respond to you. But most of all we thank you, that when we spurned your love and our actions grieved your heart, you did not leave us in our weakness and sin, but sent your Son to redeem us from sin and death.

Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks and praise for that great love of yours by which you humbled yourself, took the form of a servant, and were born in our own likeness. But most of all we thank you that for our sake you became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Holy Spirit, we give you thanks and praise that here and now you bring these things to our remembrance, recalling to us that they were done even for us, and inflaming our hearts with love.

As we take food and drink, so fill us with gratitude, that we may become strong in love and faith, resolute in will, eager for service, and obedient to the ways of Jesus Christ, in whose name we offer our prayer. Amen.

His body was broken…for you   Take, eat and make your own communion with God

His blood was shed… for you  Take, drink, make your own communion with God

 Prayer We give thanks, almighty God, that you have refreshed us by granting us the presence of Jesus Christ. Help us now to walk each moment, whatever it might bring, with your love in our hearts, your word on our lips, your truth in our thoughts and your grace in our deeds. In all our life, Lord, go with us we pray, Amen.

Pray the words of The Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught his disciples

 Hymn

  1. Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us                3. Saviour, breathe forgiveness o’er us:
    o’er the world’s tempestuous sea;                  all our weakness thou dost know;
    guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,              thou didst tread this earth before us,
    for we have no help but thee;                          thou didst feel its keenest woe;
    yet possessing every blessing,                          lone and dreary, faint and weary,
    if our God our Father be.                                   through the desert thou didst go.
  2. Spirit of our God, descending,
    fill our hearts with heavenly joy,
    love with every passion blending,
    pleasure that can never cloy:
    thus provided, pardoned, guided,
    nothing can our peace destroy.

Blessing

Go into this new week, refreshed by the presence of God, filled with the love of Christ and overflowing with the life of the Spirit. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen

Dear Friends,

Today is Sunday 31st May – Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost, meaning fifty, comes literally fifty days after Passover. Both are Jewish celebratory feasts: Passover, when they celebrate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and Pentecost when they celebrate harvest. And the capital Jerusalem was a focal point for thousands of people for these celebrations. Christians remember the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus at Passover time and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Scripture Sentences: God’s love has been poured into our hearts thought the Holy Spirit he has given us. (Romans 5: 5)

 Hymn

1 O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,
revive your church with life and power;
O Breath of Life, come, cleanse, renew us,
and fit your Church to meet this hour.

2 O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,
till humbly we confess our need;
then in your tenderness remake us,
revive, restore; for this we plead.

3 O Breath of love, come breathe within us,
renewing thought and will and heart;
come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us,
revive your church in every part.

Reading: Acts chapter 2: 1 – 21 The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.

7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?

8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome

11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.

15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.

20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

Hymn

Spirit of holiness, wisdom and faithfulness,
   wind of the Lord, blowing strongly and free:

strength of our serving and joy of our worshipping
   Spirit of God, bring your fulness to me!

1 You came to interpret and teach us effectively
all that the Saviour has spoken and done;
to glorify Jesus is all your activity –
promise and gift of the Father and Son:
   Spirit of holiness…

2 You came with your gifts to supply all our poverty,
pouring your love on the church in her need;
you came with your fruit for our growth to maturity,
richly refreshing the souls that you feed:
   Spirit of holiness…

3 You came to the world in its pride and futility,
warning of dangers, directing us home;
now with us and in us, we welcome your company;
Spirit of Christ, in his name you have come:
   Spirit of holiness…

Meditation – Wind and Fire

The fire of the Spirit was not a general flame, not bushfire, contagious, engulfing all. But a flame on each one. So we never claim to carry the flame from place to place, as though the Spirit is our private box of matches or little incense pot.

But the fire is there, already, now. It shines in the eyes of the eager, joyful, trusting children of God. It is there in the hands of the healers and servers and bearers of heavy loads. It is local. A flame on each one.

There is also the wind, and the wind travels; across oceans and mountains, always in movement. May God let us be the breezes of the Spirit, which fan the flames and fill the house and let the smoking flax burst into a glory of fire.

Wind and fire, life of the Spirit, universal and local, be our energy; wind and fire, elements of Pentecost, power for the Kingdom, be power for us today.          Bernard Thorogood, 1927 -2020 ( former URC General Secretary)

Hymn

Come down, O love divine, seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
and kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
For none can guess its grace, till they become the place
where-in the Holy Spirit finds a dwelling.

Reflection

It had been ten days since Jesus had ascended into heaven. Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. For those ten days they spent their time in prayer. And they stayed together in one place. This says something powerful about this group. It demonstrates that these people needed each other. They needed the love and support that the other believers could give. What was the basis of their harmony? They were all different in many ways. What enabled them to lay aside their differences and become one? I think there are at least five reasons:

  1. They loved Jesus; 2. They loved each other; 3. They had a desire to share the story of Jesus; 4. They were willing to give everything they had for the gospel, including their lives; 5. They longed to see Jesus again.

Outside that small upper room, life went on as usual, but inside, something beautiful took place. Unknown to the rest of the world an event was about to occur that would literally change the course of history.

When the Holy Spirit came to those gathered in that room in the form of wind and tongues of flame we are told, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.

Their lives were changed forever – they had received a power that could come only from God.

Peter is a perfect example of what can happen to a person when the Holy Spirit is at work. Remember Peter? It was Peter who was always losing his temper; it was Peter who once cut off the ear of a man; it was Peter who swore up and down that he would never deny Jesus, yet in a moment of fear he denied Jesus three times.

But when the Holy Spirit came upon Peter, this person who was once afraid and followed Jesus at a distance, took the lead and went out of the upper room with courage and boldly preached Jesus, dead, buried, resurrected and coming again. His life was changed forever because of the power of the Holy Spirit. 

For the disciples, they discovered, through that Pentecost experience, that the Holy Spirit is God living among them and in them and it had a profound effect at once on their powers as witnesses to the risen Lord Jesus. They felt it; they knew it and it was obvious to all who encountered them.

We too are able to experience the living God now – his grace, his love, his power, his forgiveness because of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God at work; the transforming power of God in action. It is by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is not only the Jesus of history, the man who walked in Galilee and Judea two thousand years ago, but the Christ of experience now, making an impact on life in 2020.

Wherever the Spirit of God reigns there is freedom, joy and peace. May God grant us the grace to receive it that whatever we say and do may speak of his love and concern for a world which desperately needs to hear that message.

Hymn

  1. Spirit of the living God                          2. Spirit of the living God,

fall afresh on me.                                         move among us all;

Spirit of the living God,                               make us one in heart and mind,

fall afresh on me.                                         make us one in love;

Melt me! Mould me!                                    humble, caring,

Fill me! Use me!                                          selfless, sharing –

Spirit of the living God,                               Spirit of the living God,

fall afresh on me.                                         fill our lives with love!

Prayers

Holy Spirit, coming as wind and fire, free and irrepressible, we pray for all who long for change and for those who fear it. Our world has changed so much in recent months and there are people who desperately want things to change again.

We pray for our church in these times of separation; the fellowship we so enjoy being put on hold; the faces we are missing; the collective worship, which has been so meaningful to us, postponed. May the Holy Spirit help us to recognise the unity we have in our Lord Jesus Christ and may we continue to be encouraged to support and care for one another as we nurture the body of Christ from a distance.

We pray for those in positions of responsibility, in our country and around the world, in tackling the corona pandemic. For the government, politicians and scientific advisers, for the laboratory technicians seeking solutions to thwart the virus. May the Holy Spirit guide them in their work and especially in the decisions that are made which affect millions of people .

We think of all those who are suffering because of the coronavirus throughout the world, changing the way of life for millions of people. We pray for those who are being treated in hospital, hospice or nursing home and for their anxious relatives. For those working in these places; those on the ‘front line’ and those supporting them in any way. May your Spirit take away any fear and despair and give them strength to continue their essential tasks.

We pray for those who are anxious about their future jobs or financial security, and providing for their family. Gracious God, bring hope and encouragement through the help and support of others.

We remember our families and friends, wherever they may be, and pray that God will keep them safe and meet their needs until we are able to meet with them again in person.

Keep a moment of silence…then conclude with this prayer and the Lord’s Prayer…

Loving God, through your Spirit, live in us, so that through all we do and say and are  we may reflect the life of your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer.

 Blessing

Loving God, take hold of our lives, fill us with your Spirit that we may be examples of your grace and witnesses to your love. May your love and peace remain with us and those whom we love now and always. Amen

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 24th May use two lectionary readings, one from John’s Gospel where he records a prayer of Jesus for himself and his disciples and another from Acts where Jesus, just before he leaves them to return to his heavenly Father, reassures his disciples of the gift of the Holy Spirit. We shall be thinking about Pentecost (50 days since Easter) next week. Time is moving on in these days of restrictions, but never lose sight of the fact that, even though we are separated by distance from each other we are united in our faith and service for our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed that his followers should be one even as he and his Father are one. Grace and peace to you all.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer

Lord, we come to you because you have the words of eternal life. We come to you because you have the word of hope. We come to you because you are the word of love that we need to hear. We come to you to give you thanks and praise. Fill us with your love and empower us by your Spirit as we meet with you now. Amen.

 

Hymn

  1. Crown him with many crowns,                      2. Crown him the Son of God,    
    the Lamb upon his throne.                             before the worlds began,
    Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns    and ye who tread where he hath trod,
    all music but its own.                                      crown him the Son of Man;
    Awake, my soul, and sing of him                  who every grief hath known
    who died for thee,                                           that wrings the human breast,
    and hail him as thy matchless King              and takes and bears them for His own,
    through all eternity.                                        that all in him may rest.

 

  1. Crown him the Lord of life,                           4. Crown him the Lord of love,
    who triumphed over the grave,                    behold his hands and side,
    and rose victorious in the strife                    those wounds, yet visible above,
    for those he came to save.                             in beauty glorified.

His glories now we sing,                                All hail, Redeemer, hail!
who died, and rose on high,                           for thou has died for me;

who died eternal life to bring,                       thy praise and glory shall not fail   

and lives that death may die.                         throughout eternity.

Reading: John chapter 17: 1 – 11 Jesus prays for himself and his disciples

1 Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.

8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.

9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

Two reflective Songs:
A.      You are the King of Glory,

You are the Prince of Peace,

You are the Lord of heaven and earth,

You’re the Son of Righteousness.

Angels bow down before You,

Worship and adore, for

You have the words of eternal life,

You are Jesus Christ the Lord.

Hosanna to the Son of David!

Hosanna to the King of kings!

Glory in the highest heaven,

For Jesus the Messiah reigns.

1. 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.

  1. Keep your eyes upon Jesus,
    let nobody else take His place;

so that hour by hour you will know His power

till at last you have run the great race.

Reading: Acts chapter 1: 6 – 14  Jesus promises the power of the Holy Spirit to his disciples before he leaves for heaven.
6 The disciples gathered around Jesus and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.

13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Reflection

Last words are important words. We normally take very seriously the last words that our loved ones have spoken to us; we turn them over in our mind, we consider them carefully, we store them up in our hearts and ponder them. If I were to ask what the last words of Jesus were, I wonder what you would say?

Here, in the words Luke records for us in Acts, are the last words of Jesus before he left the earth:

“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

You shall receive power, you shall be my witnesses. We use the word ‘witness’ in two ways: A witness both witnesses an event and then, when that witness tells someone about the event, he or she witnesses to others about the event.

“You shall be my witnesses”, says Jesus, “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jerusalem was right at the centre, Judea was out among the family and immediate community around, Samaria was where those who were distant cousins and less familiar lived, and to the ends of the earth – this was a world-wide mission they were called to take their witnessing to.

Witnessing – telling others of our faith in Jesus Christ, need not be loud and boisterous to the point where it threatens and offends others…in fact, this is not witnessing at all. Witnessing is most often done through loving care and personal story telling, through the kind of thing that you do all the time.

In these restricted times it may not be so easy to have a cup of coffee with a neighbour who is going through a difficult time, or visit a friend or relative in a nursing home or hospital. However, we have seen that we are resourceful people and have come up with imaginative ways to keep in touch and show support to each other. And in these ways you express your concern, you offer your prayers, you share the hope that you have found in your faith. We can still be witnesses to the truth we have found in Jesus Christ.

Let me finish with a story.

An artist seeking to depict on canvas the meaning of witnessing, painted a storm at sea. Black clouds filled the sky. Illuminated by a flash of lightning, a little boat could be seen disintegrating under the pounding of the ocean. People were struggling in the swirling waters, their anguished faces crying out for help. The only glimmer of hope appeared in the foreground of the painting, where a large rock protruded out of the water. There, clutching desperately with both hands, was one lone seaman.

It was a moving scene. Looking at the painting, one could see in the tempest a symbol of humankind’s hopeless condition. And, true to the gospel, the only hope of salvation was the ‘Rock of Ages’, a shelter in the time of storm.

But as the artist reflected on his work, he realised the painting did not accurately portray his subject. So he discarded the canvas and painted another. It was very similar to the first; the black clouds, the flashing lightning, the angry waters, the little boat crushed by the pounding wave, and the crew vainly struggling in the water. In the foreground the seaman was clutching the large rock for salvation.

But the artist made one change: the survivor was holding on with only one hand, and with the other he was reaching down to pull up a drowning friend.

That is the New Testament picture of witnessing – a hand extended to save. Until that hand is extended, there is no Gospel – and there is no hope for the world. Let us think seriously on those last words of Jesus and let us witness to the faith as we tell our story so that others might believe.

Hymn

  1. At the name of Jesus                            2. Humbled for a season

every knee shall bow                                   to receive a name

every tongue confess him                           from the lips of sinners

King of glory now.                                       unto whom he came,

‘Tis the Father’s pleasure                           he became a witness,

we should call him Lord,                            faithful to the last,

who from the beginning                              and returned victorious

was the mighty Word.                                  when from death he passed.

  1. In your hearts enthrone him;             4. When this same Lord Jesus

there let him make new                               shall appear again

all that is not holy,                                       in his Father’s glory,

all that is not true.                                        there with him to reign,

He is God the Saviour,                                then may we adore him,

he is Christ the Lord,                                   all before him bow,

ever to be worshipped,                                as our hearts confess him

trusted and adored.                                      King of glory now.

Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, when you spoke you brought hope, joy, comfort and forgiveness; when you touched you brought love, peace, healing and wholeness. Come now, and speak again, bringing your word to life into our parched lives and our weary world.

Come now, and reach out again, bring your touch to our aching hearts and to all who cry out for help.

Where there is despair, sorrow, hurt or guilt may your voice renew;

Where there is loneliness, turmoil, pain and sickness may your hand restore.

Lord Jesus, you came once, you shall come again, but we ask you: come now, and bring your kingdom closer here on earth.

Come as we pray to you for those with whom we share this world.

When we look at our world, nowhere seems to be free of unrest and tension, fighting and unhappiness, uncertainty and confusion and on top of all of that everyone is dealing with the coronavirus epidemic. Sometimes it looks as if nature itself is reflecting that state of anarchy with devastating results though hurricane, flood, fire and tempest.

Everyone, everywhere is in need of prayer and support; of comfort and assistance in these troubling times.

It maybe that we feel we don’t know what to pray or where to begin with our prayers; but we bring these feelings and thoughts to our God who understands it all and knows it all anyway. Our prayers will ask God to help us to see our part in relieving those who are in need, for we ask in the name of Jesus our Lord.  Amen

 In a moment of silence bring your thoughts and prayers to God before concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

Dear Friends,

These devotions for Ascension Day, Thursday 21st May, are centred around Luke’s account of that occasion when Jesus, having reassured and instructed his disciples for some forty days following his resurrection, now returns to his heavenly Father. The Ascension marks the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the start of the ministry of the Church waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Prayer:

Ascended Lord Jesus, we praise you! Once you lived a human life subject to the limitations of time: now you are the same yesterday, today and for ever. Once you were limited to one particular place: now you are present wherever people turn to you. Once only those who met you face to face knew you: now your divine love extends though all the world. Jesus, ascended Lord of time and space, love as wide as life, we praise you!

Hymn:

  1. Christ triumphant, ever reigning,                   2. Word incarnate, truth revealing,
    Saviour, Master, King,                                       Son of Man on earth!
    Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining,              power and majesty concealing
    hear us as we sing:                                             by Your humble birth:
    Yours the glory and the crown,                        Yours the glory….                     

3.Suffering servant, scorned, ill-treated,          4. Priestly King, enthroned for ever
victim crucified!                                                        high in heaven above!
death is through the cross defeated,                  sin and death and hell shall never
sinners justified:                                                      stifle hymns of love:
Yours the glory….                                                    Yours the glory….

  1. So, our hearts and voices raising
    through the ages long,
    ceaselessly upon You gazing,
    this shall be our song:
    Yours the glory….

Reading: Acts chapter 1: 1 – 11

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Hymn

1 God is gone up on high,                                       2 God in the flesh below,
with a triumphant noise;                                         for us he reigns above:
the clarions of the sky                                             let all the nations know
proclaim the angelic joys!                                      our Saviour’s conquering love:

Refrain:                                                                     3 All power to our great Lord
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;                             is by the Father given;
glory ascribe to glory’s king.                                       by angel hosts adored,                                                                                                                     he reigns supreme in heaven:

4 High on his holy seat                                            5 till all the earth, renewed
he bears the righteous sway;                                  in righteousness divine,
his foes beneath his feet                                         with all the hosts of God
shall sink and die away:                                           in one great chorus join:

Meditation “We stood there speechless for a moment” – James

We stood there speechless for a moment, struck dumb by the enormity of it all, for he was gone, plucked away from before our very eyes and, quite simply, we were lost for words, stunned into silence.

It wasn’t the first time, you see; we’d lost him once already – watched in horror as he was nailed to a cross, sealed in a tomb, and we’d been devastated, convinced we could never bounce back from such a blow.

We couldn’t have either, not by ourselves, but suddenly he was back, there in the garden, there on the roadside, there in the upper room – our Lord, alive, risen, victorious, death unable to hold him!

I just can’t tell you how wonderful that was, how our hearts skipped and our spirits soared each time we saw him. We felt certain nothing could ever again destroy our happiness, for he had taken on the last enemy and emerged triumphant!

Life all at once, pulsated with promise, no problem too great for us, no challenge too daunting, for, with Christ by our side, what had we to fear?

Yet suddenly, as we stood there that day gazing into heaven, he was by our side no longer, and for an awful moment it seemed as though all our hopes had disappeared again, vanishing with him like a bubble on the wind.

Only, of course, this time was different, for we’d made time to listen, paid heed to his warnings, and we understood that, as he had departed, so finally he would return.

You should see us now, our faith, if anything, stronger today than it’s ever been! We’ve spoken more boldly and witnessed more powerfully that I thought possible – preaching the word, healing the sick, renewing the weak, uplifting the broken-hearted, carrying the good news of Jesus far and wide.

And I’ll tell you why: because his going that day has somehow brought him closer than he’s ever been before, filling our whole being – body, mind and soul – transforming our every though and word and deed.

He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere, no person beyond his love, no situation beyond his purpose, for he has not simply risen, he has ascended – Jesus the man who lived and died amongst us, who shared our flesh and blood, one with the Father, lord of lords and King of kings, nothing in heaven or earth able to separate us from the wonder of his love.

And sometimes when I think of all that means, once more I’m struck dumb, stunned into silence by the enormity of it all, for it’s wonderful, isn’t it? – almost too wonderful for words!

Nick Fawcett

 Reflection

Luke the writer of the Gospel and Acts is renowned as a careful historian. When he recorded the birth of Jesus he rooted the event in its historical setting within the Roman Empire. He continues that same preciseness at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry by recalling the place of the Ascension – at Bethany. He dates the event – 40 days after the resurrection on Easter Day. He emphasises the presence of eye-witnesses – the Ascension took place, he writes “before their very eyes”. Yes, the Ascension was a real event of history.

The resurrection of Jesus signalled the ending of a chapter in his earthly life. Things could never be the same again and it was essential that there should be a clear-cut event to bring the chapter to a close. True, Jesus was making a series of appearances to his followers, but they couldn’t go on forever, there had to be a day dividing when Jesus of Earth would become the Christ of heaven. The Ascension was the only fitting conclusion to the life of Jesus on earth.

However the Ascension was not just an historical event it was also a spiritual one. Jesus had triumphed over Satan, the world, death and hell. His resurrection and ascension proved he was the victor. The apostle Peter confirms this: “Jesus Christ…has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1Peter 3: 22) This proves that he had finished the work of redemption that the Father had given him to do. The Ascension was the Coronation Day for Jesus. Do we acknowledge him as our Lord and King? The ascension of Jesus makes it possible for him to be close to each and every one of us if we allow him into our lives.

There is also a practical side to this event. Luke was a practical person. He tells his readers of the disciples with their eyes straining to catch the last glimpse of the cloud bearing their Lord away. But then they were quickly brought back to reality. It would seem that with their eyes heavenward they didn’t notice the two heavenly beings that slipped quietly alongside them until they spoke: “Men of Galilee why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

  It would be an over-simplification to say that the Lord’s Second Coming will be like a film of the Ascension played backwards, to return to the same spot, wearing the same clothes. Although his coming will be in person, it won’t be in private: “every eye will see him” (Revelation 1:7) The Ascension testifies to the fact of our Lord’s return, “He will come.”

We have to ask ourselves the question, “Are we living as if Jesus is to return at any time? Are we living that we may be called to him at any time? What are we doing with our time until Jesus either calls or returns?

The angelic beings asked the disciples, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” It was the earth not the sky, which they should be occupied with – to be witnesses not stargazers! There was work to be done once the Holy Spirit had come to them. Our calling is outwards in compassion to a world in so much need of Jesus. That calling is for us to be salt and light for his kingdom.

Prayer

Lord, Jesus Christ, we thank you for the truth at the heart of this day – that you came to save not just a few, nor simply your own people, but all the world. You are the King of kings and Lord of Lords, your love reaching out to the ends of the earth, your glory filling the universe!

We thank you that, though you were born in Bethlehem and ministered in Galilee, though you spent your life in Palestine and died in Jerusalem, your love has transformed lives in every country and continent, crossing barriers of culture, colour and creed, unable to be contained by either space or time!

We thank you that no one is outside your love, whoever they may be, whatever they may have done. You value all, have time for all, respond to all.

We praise you now as the sovereign Lord – the one who reigns in splendour enthroned at the right hand of the Father, and the one who will, in time, reconcile all things to yourself in your eternal kingdom.

Lord Jesus, we look forward to that day when every knee shall bow to you, and every tongue confess you as Lord and Saviour. To you be praise and glory, honour and thanksgiving now and always. Amen

 Hymn

  1. Rejoice, the Lord is King;                    2. Jesus the Saviour reigns,

your Lord and King adore;                         the God of truth and love;

mortals, give thanks and sing,                    when he had purged our stains

and triumph evermore:                                he took his seat above:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

Rejoice, again I say rejoice.

  1. His kingdom cannot fail;                       4. He sits at God’s right hand

he rules o’er earth and heaven;                 till all his foes submit,

the keys of death and hell                           and bow to his command,

are to our Jesus given:                                 and fall beneath his feet:

  1. Rejoice in glorious hope;

Jesus the judge shall come,

and take his servants up

to their eternal home:

We soon shall hear the archangel’s voice,

The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

Blessing

Have no fear, Christ has overcome the world. Have no doubt, he has promise to be with you. Have no anxiety, he is Lord, and we shall share his joy, his life, his love and his victory. May his peace be with you and those you love now and always. Amen

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 17th May are centred around words of Jesus continued from last week. He is preparing his disciples for his leaving, which we will focus on in an extra devotional for Ascension Day on Thursday (40 days after Easter). Normally we, in the Free Churches, do not make much of the occasion other than to mention it in the Sunday service following Ascension Day. This is partly because the Day always falls on a Thursday in an ordinary week. However, in these exceptional times it gives us the opportunity to reflect on this part of our faith when Jesus returns to his Father and our Father.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 A Promise – Jesus said …

“If ye love me keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter – that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.”

Hymn

  1. Sing praise to the Lord!                          2. Sing praise to the Lord,

Praise him in the height;                             all people on earth;

rejoice in his word,                                      in tuneful accord

blest angels of light;                                     sing praise for new birth;

high heavens adore him                              praise him who has brought you

by whom you were made,                           his grace from above,

and worship before him                              praise him who has taught you

in brightness arrayed.                                  to sing of his love.

  1. Sing praise to the Lord,                         4. Sing praise to the Lord!

all things that give sound;                           Thanksgiving and song

each jubilant chord                                      to him be outpoured

re-echo the around;                                     all ages along;

loud organs, his glory                                  for love in creation,

forth tell in deep tone,                                 for heaven restored,

and sweet harp, the story                            for grace of salvation:

of what he has done.                                    Sing praise to the Lord!

Prayer

Lord, we are overwhelmed by the wonder of your love. Now we know that this is the secret of your way for us.

Because of your love you chose Abraham and discovered Moses.

Because of your love you spoke in judgment through prophet, exile and writings.

Because of your love you were born in Bethlehem and played in the market place in Nazareth.

Because of your love you taught and listened, shared meals with all and sundry, healed the leper and noticed the lonely.

Because of your love you were patient with Peter and forgiving with Judas. Because of your love you called your followers, friends even at the point of their desertion.

Thank you Lord, for your expansive love, poured out to the last. And thank you for your clear commandment that we should love each other as you have loved us.

Give us courage, Lord, to pass your love around in the same extravagant way you have shown us. Keep us wide-eyed to human need and swift to act when help is required.

Refresh us, Lord, with the good news that we are bound to others in ties of Christian love, a community, though separated, still nevertheless surrounding us and supporting us, a people among whom we glimpse your eternal friendship.

We pray for your love’s sake. Amen.

Reading: John chapter 14: 15 – 21

15 “If you love me, keep my commands.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Reflection

These words of Jesus to his disciples, we recall were spoken on the night of the Last Supper. Jesus knew that everything was going to change and that his disciples were worried. One major lesson in life is that everything changes, nothing remains the same and sometimes it is difficult to cope with that basic fact. Before the onset of coronavirus people would say how rapidly everything is changing; the pace of life was so fast; technical advances seemed to be upgrading practically every other day. Now with restrictions placed on us we have been forced to slow down and we may even wish things were speeded up so we can get back to ‘normal’. Change happens. How do we handle change or stress or worry?

The disciples knew that the situation surrounding Jesus was explosive. They are in Jerusalem at Passover and the temple authorities hate Jesus. They know something is in the wind, but they don’t know what. No wonder Jesus tells them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. And he goes on to reassure them that he “will not leave you as orphans…”.

Alienation and abandonment from parents were major motifs in Greek and Roman mythology. For example, the city of Rome was founded on two orphaned children Romulus and Remus. The basic message of the Gospel is the wonderful promise from Jesus that we can never be orphans.

“…I will come to you,” says Jesus and his coming is in the form of the Holy Spirit, here called an advocate. Advocate reminds us of a courtroom drama. Jesus is our advocate, he stands in court by our side, pleading our case, speaking for us.

Those first disciples were called by Jesus to join him in his mission. They made their choice to follow Jesus and walked in his way facing all the obstacles and difficulties of walking that way. But they had a constant source of reassurance; Jesus is there with them to inspire them, to keep them going. Now Jesus isn’t going to be there physically any more. The unthinkable is happening. What do they do now, without Jesus? Jesus reassures them again. They are not going to be without Jesus. He tells them that even after his death he will be with them. He will still encourage them, help them, guide them along the way. But the nature of his presence will change. “Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me,” he says. He will be present to them in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Living these days can be very stressful and we may even feel almost overwhelmed by our problems. It is then we recall that the Spirit of Jesus, our advocate is alongside us; we are not abandoned, we are not rejected, because Jesus loves us. No matter how bad it gets, Jesus is still with us; he is still a living presence in our lives. “Because I live, you also will live”, Jesus promises to his followers.

So no matter what tragedies come our way, we can hold tight to the promise that Jesus gives us the gift of life – life in this world, and life in the world to come.

What do we need to remember whenever we get stressed and worried and downhearted? Jesus is with me. That is it. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, and so many have proved it in their own experience. May we all experience again that love that will never let us go.

Hymn

A new commandment I give unto you,

That you love one another as I have loved you;

That you love one another as I have loved you.

[By this shall all know you are my disciples:]

[If you have love one for another;]      Repeat last two lines

Meditation “When we love God and obey his commands we love his children too” (1John 5:2)

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That will fill you

With all the joy of living?

Can you imagine

Just one thing

You can give,

But be richer for the giving?

Love knows no limit to its patience and its caring,

Love, ever trusting, is adventurous and caring,

Love is of God and its power grows with sharing,

Nothing is greater than love.

Can you imagine

Just one thing,

Something vast,

And which flows through all creation?

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That is free

As a gift to every nation?

Love is a force that is steadily advancing,

Love is a joy you will always find entrancing,

Love is a liberty that sets your spirit dancing,

Nothing is greater than love.

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That looks weak,

Though there’s nothing quite so strong?

Can you imagine

Just one thing

That will last

When all other things have gone?

Love knows no limit to the service it is giving

Love will take knocks, but it never stops forgiving,

Love if of God, it’s the only way of living,

Nothing is greater than love.

From the musical play Ragman

 Prayers

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you promised through your son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith. We pray for our world under threat in so many ways – some struggling to live justly and in peace; some desperate for food and clean water; some frantic to find a place to live; all trying to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in the heavenly places.

We pray for all those who are laid low by suffering and pain of any kind. May they know your comfort and healing, both now and in the coming days. And we pray for all those involved in the medical and caring professions as well as all the auxiliary staff who support them; bless them in their work and keep them from harm.

We pray for those of our family, friends and others who have been a support and encouragement to us particularly in these recent weeks. We thank you for them and pray that they may know they are doing the work of your kingdom.

We pray for those who have died, especially any known to us and to our Church fellowship. Thank you, loving God, for every remembrance we have of them and we  commit them into your loving care. Give their loved ones a knowledge of your nearness and comfort and grant us all a share in your eternal kingdom.

In a moment of silence mention before God any special situation or people that may be on your mind at this time, asking that he would bring his love and care to them.

Then pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn

  1. God is love: let heaven adore him;                2. God is love, and is enfolding

God is love: let earth rejoice;                                 all the world in one embrace;

let creation sing before him,                                   his unfailing grasp is holding

and exalt him with one voice’                                every child of every race;

He who laid the earth’s foundation,                      and when human hearts are breaking

He who spread the heavens above,                       under sorrow’s iron rod,

He who breathes through all creation,                  that same sorrow, that same aching

He is love, eternal love.                                           wrings with pain the heart of God.

  1. God is love: and though with blindness

Sin afflicts and clouds the will,

God’s eternal loving kindness

holds us fast and guides us still.

Sin and death and hell shall never

o’er us final triumph gain,

God is love, do Love for ever

o’er the universe must reign.

Benediction

Have no fear, Christ has overcome the world. Have no doubt, he has promised to be with you. Have no anxiety, he is Lord, and we shall share his joy, his life, his love and his victory. Now may the Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and for ever. Amen.

Dear Friends,

Our devotions this Sunday 10th May 2020 based on the lectionary Gospel reading, feature some very familiar words of Jesus to his disciples in the upper room the night before he died. When, after Easter, the disciples looked back on Jesus’ words, they helped the ‘penny to drop’ about Jesus and his mission. Today also begins Christian Aid Week. We remember their work in our prayers.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, and truth shall set you free to seek and find the way to life and live that life in me.”   Robert Willis

 Prayer

Loving God we confess that each of us has known times when we have felt alone, empty and abandoned. We are experiencing now a sense of isolation from those usually around us. We confess that we easily become anxious about ourselves, our families, our health and our possessions. Too easily we are brought low by our concerns and our reliance on the security of earthly things, and we do not stand on the rock that you have provided.  Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the source of new life, and by your Spirit give us your truth which sets us free. This we pray for his love’s sake. Amen

 Hymn God is love, his the care

  1. God is love, his the care                        2. Jesus came, lived and died

Tending each, everywhere.                          For our sake, crucified,

God is love – all is there!                             Rose again, glorified:

Jesus came to show him,                              he was born to save us

That we all might know him:                        by the truth he gave us:

Sing aloud, loud, loud,

Sing aloud, loud, loud,

God is good,

God is truth,

God is beauty: praise him!

  1. None can see God above;                     4. To our Lord praise we sing –

Jesus shows how to love;                              light and life, friend and King

Thus may we Godward move,                       coming down love to bring,

Joined as sisters, brothers,                           pattern for our duty,

Finding him in others:                                   showing God in beauty:

 Reading: John chapter 14: 1 – 14

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Reflection

What I find interesting about this story in John, is that I think Jesus set this conversation up. I think he guided the discourse so that Thomas would ask Him: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Because THAT’S the question that Jesus wanted to answer: “How, can we know the way?” Until you know the answer to that question you’re always going to be lost.

James Thurber, a cartoonist and journalist, once said: “All human beings should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” That short poem had a powerful point. Until you know WHY you’re here and WHERE you’re going… you’ll always be lost. And so Jesus frames the conversation so Thomas will ask “How can we know the way?”

Now the conversation actually began much earlier when Jesus said these words: “Let not your hearts be troubled…” (verse 1)

And that is how many people look at their lives. They feel lost, they feel uncertain, and they are TROUBLED.

It’s the uncertainty of life that makes us anxious, especially so in our present crisis over coronavirus.

As the present Pandemic continues to spread, more countries and areas order lockdowns, and the prospective financial recovery appears steeper by the day, many are facing tremendous uncertainty. Questions swirl in our heads: What if I, or someone I love, gets the virus? Am I still going to have a job tomorrow? Will I ever be able to retire now? What if I lose the house? Will life ever be the same? Everything in our lives can be stripped away in a moment… by disease, economic collapse, and most inevitably by death.

But I want to remind you that money and health never were a sure thing.

That’s what Jesus said. He said nothing on this earth is a sure thing. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Let me repeat: NOTHING on this earth is a sure thing… and that’s what makes us so anxious. If we just knew which WAY to go; if we just knew what TRUTH to trust; if we just could be assured that LIFE would turn out alright – then, maybe, we might be able to hold on.

And Jesus said: if you’re looking for the WAY to go – that’s me. If you’re looking for TRUTH you can trust – that’s me. If you’re looking for assurance LIFE will turn out all right – that’s me. You Trust in God? Trust also in me. I am the way, the truth and the life.

But, what is it about Jesus that makes Him the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE? Why should it make any difference to us? What is it about Jesus being the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE that would help me deal with my doubts, distress and discouragement? Well, let’s take it one step at a time:

Firstly, Jesus is the WAY. Have you ever been lost?

I read the true story of a couple who had got lost on a back road in Ireland. They spotted a farmer leading his cow to pasture and they stopped him. “Excuse me. Could you direct us to Mohall? We’re lost.” And the man smiled at them, and said “Ah, you’re not lost at all. For you see, you’ve found me. And I know the way.”

When you’ve found Jesus, you’re not lost anymore, for he is the WAY! It doesn’t matter if you’ve made wrong choices in your life; it doesn’t matter if you’ve gone down the wrong road. When Jesus is THE WAY for you, you’ll arrive at a good destination. Because Jesus is the way!

Then Jesus is the TRUTH. How do I know my metre rule is accurate? Because there is a definitive platinum bar which it can be measured against. That bar is seen as the true measurement – it is the TRUTH.

In the same way, Jesus is THE TRUTH. He is the reality against which everything else in our world is measured. For example – do you know how valuable you are? All you have to do is look at John 3:16 “For God so loved the world (YOU) that He gave His only begotten Son…” You were so valuable to God, that Jesus came to die on the cross just for you. That truth tells us all we need to know about how much God cares for us. And that truth is more important than anything else this world can offer you, because Jesus is the TRUTH.

Lastly, Jesus is the LIFE. The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus died for our sins; He was buried; and that He rose from the dead! It’s through that gospel that we have LIFE in Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus – our way, truth and life – that we lay hold of what is truly living both now and for eternity. I want to close with a powerful statement by Thomas à Kempis: “Without the Way there is no going; without the Truth there is no knowing; without the Life there is no living.”

Hymn: Thou art the Way

1.Thou art the way: to thee alone                     2. Thou art the Life: the rending tomb

from sin and death we flee;                               proclaims thy conquering arm;

and they who would the Father seek,                and those who put their trust in thee

must seek him, Lord, by thee.                           nor death nor hell shall harm.

  1. Thou art the Truth: thy word alone       4. Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life:

true wisdom cam impart;                                  grant us that Way to know,

thou only canst inform the mind,                     that Truth to keep, that Life to win,

and purify the heart.                                          whose joys eternal flow.

Prayers:

Gracious God we thank you for the truth that is in Jesus, and that in him is life in all its fullness; that because of his life, death and resurrection he is our strength, our guide, our teacher and our Lord. We praise you that no matter what our days or years may bring or the gifts or abilities we possess, you will walk with us to the end and lead us in the way that declares your truth and offers new life to all.

We pray especially at this time for those who are suffering:

Loving God, we pray for those faced with the stark realities of death: For those who fear because death is near. Grant them peace and the assurance of your love. For those who are tending the dying, uphold them through your Spirit in this demanding work. For those separated from loved ones close to death, grant them comfort and relief from anguish. For those grieving the loss of loved ones; surround them in your love and sustain them through your power. For those who lament that there was no chance for a goodbye, may they experience the reality of your Spirit, who unites us all with you and all we love.
 
May those surrounded by death know something of resurrection hope. That death is not the end, but the beginning of new life in Jesus Christ who said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

 We pray for all who this day live in fear: Those who fear for their own safety as they tend the needs of others. Grant them courage. For those who fear the unknown of what is to come: may they rest in the assurance you sustain everything through your love. For those who fear the spaces they are confined in, may they experience your supportive presence and live in the hope of freedom. We pray for the work of Christian Aid in bringing help and hope to those who are suffering throughout our world; bless all that they do in Christ’s name. Hear our prayer offered in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Hymn: To God be the glory

To God be the glory, great things he has done!

So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,

Who yielded his life in atonement for sin,

And opened the life-gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice!

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice!

O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son;

And give him the glory – great things he has done!

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,

To every believer the promise of God!

And every offender who truly believes,

That moment from Jesus a pardon receives:

Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,

And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;

But purer and higher and greater will be

The wonder, the beauty, when Jesus we see:

Blessing:

Remember all God has done. Rejoice in all he is doing. Receive all he shall yet do. Put your hand in his, the God of past, present and future, and walk with him wherever he may lead, knowing that he will walk with you, leading the way, this day and always. Amen.

Dear Friends,

Our devotions for Sunday 3rd May 2020, being the first Sunday of the month, will include words for communion. You may like to prepare the elements – bread/wafer/cracker and wine/water/juice before you commence so you have them to hand. Today’s Gospel lectionary reading is from John chapter 10 about sheep and shepherds. You will see I have selected two versions of the 23rd Psalm as hymns – one traditional and one more recently written. We focus on Jesus the Good Shepherd because he cares for the sheep so much he would not abandon them when facing danger, but deliberately and voluntarily gave his own life so his sheep may escape death. We should also remember in our prayers to thank those who care for us and support those who are vulnerable – the volunteer shopper; the good neighbour; supermarket workers; all those who make deliveries, alongside all of those in the NHS and care home/medical support situations – everyone who makes life a little easier during these times.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 A promise: “…I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them.” (John 10. 14-15)

 Hymn: The Lord’s my shepherd

  1. The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want:           2. My soul he doth restore again,

he makes me down to lie                                         and me to walk doth make

in pastures green; he leadeth me                          within the paths of righteousness,

the quiet waters by.                                                 Ev’n for his own name’s sake.

  1. Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,

yet will I fear no ill;

for thou art with me, and thy rod

and staff me comfort still.

  1. My table thou hast furnished                        5. Goodness and mercy all my life

in presence of my foes;                                           shall surely follow me;

my head thou dost with oil anoint,                       and in God’s house for evermore

and my cup overflows.                                            My dwelling-place shall be.

 Reading: John chapter 10: 1 – 16

1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.

2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.

8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.

9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.

13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—

15 Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Reflection

There probably isn’t a better loved picture of Jesus than of him as the Good Shepherd. That picture of the shepherd is found throughout the imagery of the Bible; understandably, as Palestine had a pastoral setting. In the Old Testament God is often pictured as the shepherd, and the people as his flock (Psalm 23 being just one of many). And in the New Testament we see the picture pass over to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He is the shepherd who will risk his life to seek and to save even the one straying sheep. Why should he do that? Why should he want to be our shepherd?

Well… He wants to do that because He cares for us. We matter to him.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

This almost echoes the words of the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd – (He’s a GOOD shepherd) He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

He gives me rest! Now, this is particularly important for us right now because we live in a troubled time. We’re all under a kind of quarantine. Folks are shut-off physically from their family and friends. For many, the threat to their jobs makes them afraid; as well as being threatened by a virus we don’t understand. Thousands have been infected… and many have died.

These are very real issues for a lot of people. It’s like we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s why the words of the 23rd Psalm are so powerful – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I WILL FEAR NO EVIL! For thou art with me.”

I don’t know who made this comment… but I like it. “The Oriental shepherd was always ahead of his sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon the sheep had to take him into account.” Now Jesus is our shepherd… and He is down in front, if you will – He is in our tomorrows. Whatever struggles we face TOMORROW… Jesus is already there.

And that’s the way we need to view Jesus… as our Good Shepherd. He’s always in front. He’s always in our tomorrows. Struggles and difficulties may be nearby but so is the Shepherd; not to make life easy, but to surround us with love, and to give us strength for the next step forward. He’s always caring for and loving us and he showed that love by dying for us, that, through his death and resurrection, we might have eternal life in him.

Hymn: The Lord’s my shepherd

  1. The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.         2. He guides my ways in righteousness

He makes me lie in pastures green.                  And he anoints my head with oil,

He leads me by the still, still waters,                and my cup, it overflows with joy,

His goodness restores my soul.                         I feast on his pure delights.

And I will trust in you alone,                             And I will trust…

And I will trust in you alone,

For your endless mercy follows me,

Your goodness will lead me home.

  1. And though I walk the darkest path,

I will not fear the evil one,

For you are with me, and your rod and staff

Are the comfort I need to know.

And I will trust…

 Prayers

Lord, we are grateful that you have made yourself known to us as the Good Shepherd; yet we realise that just because you are the Good Shepherd you will not allow us to hide behind the illusion that, as your sheep, we have nothing to do but to be cared for. You call us to discover powers hidden within ourselves that we may share your work of loving and serving, just as you love and serve us. We know it won’t be easy, but we ask you to prepare and encourage us that we may indeed be ready to go about your business wherever it may lead. Amen.

Edmund Banyard

Lord Jesus Christ, when you lived on earth you met all kinds of people; the sick, the sad, the self-righteous, the self-sufficient; those who were torn by sin, those who had little sense of sin; those who were selfish, those whose generosity knew no bounds; those who were powerful and respected, those with no self-respect – and you presented a challenge to them all.

Come and meet us and our world in our need, whatever that need may be:

To those who are sad – grant your comfort,

To those who are anxious – your peace,

To those who are tempted and weak – your strength,

To those who cannot forgive themselves – your forgiveness,

To those who struggle for goodness – your endurance.

Give those who are self-sufficient an awareness of their need,

Those who are selfish – a large generosity,

Those who are self-righteous – a knowledge of what real goodness is,

Those who are powerful – a wisdom in its exercise,

To those who are ill – your healing hand, especially those known to us,

To those who are dying – a sense of your presence and awaiting arms.

These things we pray for your love’s sake. Amen.

 Communion

Hungry, Lord we come to you for bread; thirsty, we look to you for drink; hungering for spiritual food, thirsting for life-giving water, we come to share in your Supper. Yearning to be at one with you and with each other, we receive this food and drink, realising that it is yourself you give us, your life, released for us by your death at Calvary, we bow in awe and thankfulness. May we receive again that life, so that, forgiven and renewed we may at length hear your words, “Arise, let us go from here”, and be able to go and share with others that life and that love which here you share with us.

Now let us hear again how this sacrament began. On the night on which Jesus was betrayed, he sat at supper with his disciples. While they were eating, he took a piece of bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave it to them with the words, “This is my body. It is broken for you. Do this to remember me.” Later on he took a drinking cup saying, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Drink from it all of you, to remember me.”

So now, following Jesus’ example and command, before we take food and drink to remember him, let us share a prayer together:

Loving God, for your loving power, leading your people throughout history, guiding us in daily life, reaching out to help, provide and bless – we praise you.

For your redeeming power, always looking to forgive, always eager to restore, always able to help us start again – we praise you.

For your transforming power, bring hope from despair, joy from sorrow, life from death – we praise you.

For your gentle power, made perfect in weakness, inviting rather than coercing, exemplified on the cross – we praise you.

For your victorious power, expressed through an empty tomb, understood in bread and wine, experienced through your living presence – we praise you.

Sovereign God, servant God, suffering God, saving God, for all you have done and continue to do in Jesus Christ, we give you our praise.

As we now take these elements, to be for us the sacrament of the giving of Jesus Christ for the life of the world, may we be so filled with his life that praise and thanksgiving may fill our hearts and express themselves in love and generous service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Broken for me, broken for you, the body of Jesus broken for you.

This is my body given for you, eat it remembering I died for you. (take and eat)

 Broken for me, broken for you, the body of Jesus broken for you.

This is my blood I shed for you, for your forgiveness, making you new.  (drink)

Most gracious God, we praise you for what you have given and for what you have promised us here. You have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. You have fed us with the bread of life, and renewed us for your service. Now we give ourselves to you; and we ask that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and that our love may be your love reaching out into the life of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Hymn

  1. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds       2. It makes the wounded spirit whole

in a believer’s ear:                                                   and calms the trouble breast

It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,         ‘tis manna to the hungry soul,

and drives away our fear.                                       and to the weary rest.

  1. Dear Name! the rock on which I build,         4. Jesus, my Shepherd and my Friend,

my shield and hiding-place,                                   my Prophet, Priest, and King,

my never-failing treasury, filled                            my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,

with boundless stores of grace.                             accept the praise I bring.

 May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and for evermore. Amen

Dear Friends,

In our devotions today 26th April 2020 we continue to reflect on the events which surround that first Easter. Today we shall hear again the experience of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Next week, being the first Sunday of the month when we would normally celebrate Communion, I will include words  in our devotions which you may wish to use for this purpose. May God continue to bless us, separated from each other but united by his love and grace.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Prayer

For where one, two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.                  Matthew 18:20 (altd)

We need your presence on the long road, Lord. The road between fear and hope,
the road between the place where all is lost and the place of resurrection.
Like the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, we are in need of your company!
Jesus, stand among us, in your risen power,
let this time of worship, be a hallowed hour. Amen

Hymn: He is Lord

He is Lord, he is Lord;

He is risen from the dead and he is Lord;

Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess

That Jesus Christ is Lord.

He is love, he is love;

He has shown us by his cross that he is love;

All his people sing with one voice of joy

That Jesus Christ is love.

He is life, he is life;

He has died to set us free and he is life;

And he calls us all to live evermore,

For Jesus Christ is life.

Reading: Luke chapter 24: 13 – 35

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.

14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.

15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;

16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.

18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.

20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;

21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.

22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning

23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.

24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.

29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.

31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together

34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Emmaus Road Poem

Two travellers trudging
the long road from Jerusalem.
Their sorry faces are bent,
reliving the sad event
that sent them scurrying.
“What next?” they wonder.

The stranger comes alongside,
and he is told the sad tale,
but far from sympathizing
he starts scolding them;
too slow of heart,
too slow on the uptake,
not enough faith.

They did not know him;
but their hearts burned.
What quality was in that man
that sparked interest
rather than resentment;
hope rather than anger?

Only at the dinner table
is the unseen traveller
on every road revealed;
Jesus stands among us.

Suddenly fortified,
the travellers take to the road
fuelled with good news,
for all generations:,
“We have seen the Lord!
We have seen the Lord!”

Carol Penner

 Reflection

What I find interesting about the story in Luke 24, is that these men (walking to Emmaus) didn’t realize who they were talking to. They didn’t realize it was Jesus. What I find odd is that Jesus didn’t just say, “Hey guys, it’s me! I’m alive. It’s not a hoax! Here, put your fingers in the nail prints, put your hand in my side”

Wait a minute. Didn’t Jesus say those exact words to someone else? Who did he say that too? That’s right – Thomas. So… Thomas gets a 5 minute “show and tell” and these men on the road to Emmaus get a 3 hour discourse! What’s going on here?

Well, this is my considered guess. I believe Jesus took the time to deal with THEIR hopelessness so that we’d know how to deal with OURS. All of us have faced times in life when we’ve become discouraged, downhearted and filled with hopelessness even before we have had to live through these dreadful days because of coronavirus.  Now all of us are living with uncertainty and we are facing times when we feel boxed in and trapped and helpless to do anything about it.

I believe what Jesus did for these two men on the road to Emmaus was recorded for our encouragement and hope. I believe the things Jesus did for these men were the tools God gives to US for times when we get discouraged.

So what are these ‘tools’?

Well firstly, Jesus opened the Scriptures for them. Too many times, Christians forget that the Bible was the tool God gave us to give us encouragement. In fact, that’s what we’re told in Romans – “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have HOPE.” Romans15:4

The Bible is God’s tool to change our lives and give us hope.

Now I want you to notice, when Jesus walked with the men to Emmaus, He didn’t just do a Bible study with them. He didn’t say “Let’s turn to the book of Leviticus and see if there is some nugget of truth we can apply to our lives today.” No. As He walked with them, He taught them about what the Bible said about His resurrection. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

It was a very targeted study of the Bible. A study that focused ENTIRELY on Jesus and what He had come to do. Now there’s all kinds of important things to learn out of the Bible but THE most important thing we can learn about — is Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no hope. And without His death, burial and resurrection, this life is all we have.

Our hope is in a living Saviour. A Saviour who has conquered death, and through whom we will conquer death. There’s an old Gospel hymn that declares: “I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer; and just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

(Chorus) He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”

We have a living Hope in Jesus. We should share with others  that we have a Saviour who’s in the world today and that he loves us so much that he wants to give us hope in a hopeless world.

Prayers – begin with the Lord’s Prayer then…

As we remember those two disciples making a journey to Emmaus, we pray for those whose journey through life is filled with despair and hopelessness.

May Jesus join them on their journey and may they find new hope in him.

We pray for those who are ill, including those affected by the coronavirus, where illness dominates the whole of their thinking and every part of their lives.

May they know Jesus is walking with them through the shadows and darkness.

We pray for those nursing the sick, at home, nursing home, hospice or hospital.

May they know Jesus alongside them as they minister healing and compassion.

We pray for those who are facing a great time of pressure because of their jobs, business or livelihood.

May they know the presence of Jesus giving them encouragement and purpose.

We pray for ourselves and all we are facing on our journey of faith at this moment; the prayers we have for our families and friends; those concerns which are on our heart.

May the living Lord Jesus make his purposes known to us and his presence a reality.

The Lord hears our prayer – Thanks be to God. Amen.

Hymn

Alleluia, Alleluia,

give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia,

give praise to His name.

1.Jesus is Lord of all the earth.               2. Spread the Good News o’er all the earth.
He is the King of creation. Refrain.            Jesus has died and has risen. Refrain.

 

3.We have been crucified with Christ.        4. Come, let us praise the living God,
Joyfully sing to our Saviour. Refrain.              Now we shall live forever. Refrain.

Gracious God go with us on the journey of life and may the peace of Christ and the power of his Spirit go with us. Amen.

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, 19th April 2020, the Sunday after Easter Sunday, is sometimes called ‘Low Sunday’. Some say it’s called that because compared to the highlights of Easter this Sunday comes low in the list. Others say that it’s because the numbers attending church are very low compared to Easter Sunday. Well this year we may not have experienced the highlights in the way that we would usually celebrate Easter and certainly the numbers attending church are the same for both weeks this year! However, as Christians we do have something to celebrate even in the confines of our own homes. Easter is not an event that is now over, it should be a meaningful event which guides our thoughts and actions every day. To quote the chorus, ‘Because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.’

Rev. Martin Ambler

 The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia

Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor.15.57)

Hymn

  1. This joyful Eastertide                             2. Death’s flood has lost its chill,

Away with sin and sorrow!                          Since Jesus crossed the river;

My love, the Crucified,                                lover of souls, from ill

Has sprung to life this morrow.                 My passing soul deliver.

                                     

                             Had Christ, that once was slain,

                             Ne’er burst his three-days’ prison,

                             Our faith had been in vain;

                             But now is Christ arisen, arisen, arisen, arisen!

 Reading: John 20: 19 – 31

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Meditation – I wanted to know, that’s all – Thomas

I wanted to know, that’s all, to see for myself if it could possibly be true – was that so awful?

Remember, we’d all doubted at first, when the women came back that morning, dismissing their story of the empty tomb as so much nonsense, so why point the finger at me, as though I questioned and they didn’t?

All right, the situation had changed since then, I accept that, for they all claimed to have seen him in the meantime, and not just them, but others, each adamant the Lord had risen; yet as much as I wanted to believe it, I simply couldn’t, not unless the proof was spelled out for me in black and white.

That was me all over, I’m afraid, the way I’d been since a boy, struggling to accept anything I couldn’t touch for myself or see with my own eyes, and I’d said as much to Jesus before he died, that day he spoke about his Father’s house, and his going there to prepare a place for us.

‘Believe in God,’ he said, ‘believe also in me.’

A wonderful promise, yes, only to me he was talking in riddles, and I made no bones about it: ‘Lord, we do not now where you are going. How can we know the way?’

He wasn’t angry with me, though he could have been, for after all that time, all he’d said, I should have known, just as I should have understood he would rise from the tomb and return among us.

He’d spoken of it, often enough, done his best to prepare us not simply for his death but his resurrection to follow, but, as often happens, we dwelt on the bad and forgot the good, unable to see beyond the demands of the present moment.

So despite it all I refused to believe, convinced there were still too many questions and not enough answers.

And I’d be doing that still, still wondering if it ever could be, but for his grace.

For suddenly he was there again, standing among us, arms outstretched in welcome, those pierced hands reaching out to me, Thomas, and I knew I’d been wrong – he was alive, just as they’d said, risen and victorious – and I knelt down in worship, my heart overflowing with thanksgiving, for he’d come, despite me, despite my lack of faith – though I had doubted him, he still believed in me!

Nick Fawcett

Reflection

The disciples were in lockdown! They were self-isolating because of fear, in their case not of contracting a virus but for fear they may get caught by the authorities and be put to death like Jesus. Then Jesus shows up and gives them Peace. ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid.’ he had said to them before and now he repeats it.

We certainly need to hear those words of comfort and assurance today.

What had Jesus done that would give them peace?

Firstly, he was there with them and that must have given them reassurance. But he has never done that for us – how can we have his peace without his physical presence? Well Paul reminds us that “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable…practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4: 4-9)

You don’t have to see air to know it is there, you just know it gives you life; in the same way you don’t have to see Jesus to know he is there – just rejoice in the blessings he has given, be reminded of his power and love and you will know he’s there and you will have his peace.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The second thing Jesus did was to show his disciples his hands and feet – he did this with them the week before Thomas asked to see the crucifixion marks himself. Why did he do this? I think it was to remind them of what he had done for them – something amazing and life-changing for Jesus and them.

When we read the passion story for ourselves we realise what Jesus has done through his life, death and resurrection – he has literately changed the life of the world, including us!

And then he gives them a job to do. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” The peace he gives will equip them for service.  

So believe that Jesus is there with you. He will always be there for you.

Believe that Jesus has done great things in the past… and that He will do great things in your future.

And believe Jesus knows your name. He cares about what happens in your life and He believes so much in you that He has something He wants to give you. A mission that gives your life value.

Hymn

Jesus, Lord, Redeemer,                      In the upper chamber

Once for sinners slain,                        where the ten in fear

Crucified in weakness,                       gathered sad and troubled,

Raised in power to reign,                   there you did appear.

Dwelling with the Father,                    So, O Lord to us now,

Endless in your days,                           bid our sorrows cease;

Unto you be glory,                                breathing on us, Saviour,

Honour, blessing, praise.                    Say, “I give you peace.”

Prayers

This prayer has been written by the General Assembly Moderators of the URC:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ (Psalm 46:1, NRSV)

Let us pray with people left unwell, beckoned by death or bereaved;
people providing professional health care and advice, looking after loved ones at home or working to create treatments and cures;
people shaping the response of nations and neighbourhoods, of commerce and industry, of service and voluntary organisations and of communities of faith;
people who are anxious or afraid, alone or isolated.

Living, loving God, we praise you, and through times of peril we lean into you,
for in Jesus Christ you have trodden paths as difficult as ours, revealing there a love that nothing defeats, a love that bears us through.

Even as we strive to behave responsibly, and to care reliably, so we feel after you  that in these uncertain times we might trust you are with us, our refuge and strength, and our faith, hope and love might be renewed, through Jesus Christ, Amen.

…We pray for those for whom the good news of Easter is just too good to be true; for those who long to believe, but are looking for proof when none can be given, except to the eye of faith; for those who will only accept what can be seen, touched or scientifically confirmed; for those who dare not believe because of the challenge to their whole way of thinking and the changes it would require them to make to their whole way of living. May the risen Lord Jesus touch their hearts with his grace.

We pray for someone we know who needs to know that they are forgiven;

for someone who longs to know that they can be free;

for someone who is frightened, hurting or just on their own

May the risen Lord Jesus stay with them, and bring them his peace.

We pray for ourselves. Lord give us a new joy in your presence and a new awareness that you are alive. Fill us we pray with your joy and your power, with your love and your grace with a trust in your dying and an experience of your rising.

We ask our prayer in your name. Amen.

Hymn

  1. In Christ alone my hope is found                     2. In Christ alone, who took on flesh
    He is my light, my strength,                           my song Fullness of God in helpless babe.
    This Cornerstone, this solid ground                      This gift of love and righteousness
    Firm through the fiercest drought and storm       Scorned by the ones He came to                                                                                             save;
    What heights of love, what depths of peace        ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
    When fears are stilled, when strivings cease       My sinful life was justified;
    My Comforter, my All in All                                     For every sin on Him was laid
    Here in the love of Christ I stand                           Here in the death of Christ I live, I                                                                                           live
  2.  
  3. There in the ground His body lay                     4. No guilt in life, no fear in death
    Light of the world by darkness slain.                   This is the power of Christ in me.
    Then bursting forth in glorious Day                      From life’s first cry to final breath
    Up from the grave He rose again.                          Jesus commands my destiny.
    And as He stands in victory                                   No power of hell, no scheme of man
    Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;                         Can ever pluck me from His hand;
    For I am His and He is mine                                   Till He returns or calls me home
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ           Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Benediction:  Have no fear, be in no doubt; you are not alone. Open your eyes to the presence of God, open your ears to his word for you and know he is guiding your feet. Receive his peace, know his presence and be filled with his Spirit, and in all you say and do and are confess that Jesus is Lord. Amen.

Dear Friends,

HAPPY EASTER! Oh how we wish we could exchange that greeting face to face with each other with a handshake or even a hug, but circumstances prevent us. We will also have to imagine the church sanctuary which would normally be filled with bright spring flowers and other displays of new life from nature. This is a special day in so many ways and no matter where we are it is still the most important day of the Christian’s year.

You will see that I have included a new hymn in the devotions written for the church at this time of separation and isolation. I am grateful to Coral for making us aware of it.

However you spend this day take time to reflect on the fact that Jesus is alive, active and working in our world. His love for us has overcome death – and that is always worth celebrating!

Rev. Martin Ambler

 Sunday 12th April 2020

Easter Affirmation

This is the Good News – the grave is empty; the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

This is the Good News – the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never put it out; the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

This is the Good News – once we were no people, now we are God’s people, because the Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Hymn

  1. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
    Let creation join to say: Alleluia!
    Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
    Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Lo! Our sun’s eclipse is o’er, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more. Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, he all doth save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy vict’ry, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the Resurrection, Thou, Alleluia!

Prayer

All-loving and all-powerful God, we thank you for this day and all it means –

The assurance it brings that your love is stronger than anything else in heaven or earth – stronger than evil; than all human power; than sorrow and suffering, than death itself.

We thank you that in our world of so much pain and sorrow you have shown that hope and faith are not in vain. Your purpose is always at work, giving meaning to our seeking and striving after good.

Accept our praise for all you have done in Jesus – a mystery before which we stand in awe, a wonder before which we bow down in praise, a truth in which we live and move and have our being.

Living God, be among us now we pray, through the risen Lord Jesus. Help us to hear his voice, to offer him our service and to offer you our praise, for in his name we ask it. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Reading: John 20: 1 – 18

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.

2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.

4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.

5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.

6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,

7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.

8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb

12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Reflection

What a day this is!

Jesus, whom his friends, his family, and indeed all of Jerusalem, thought dead, was raised to life on this day. Not only was he raised to life – but he appeared to people.

He presented himself to Peter who denied him; to Thomas who doubted him; to Mary who wept for him; he visited with friends, he ate with his disciples, he talked with his followers.

The first Easter was an incredible day, one that started with disbelief, with fear and trembling and bewilderment beside the empty tomb, and ended in astonishment, excitement and thanksgiving.

One thing that strikes me about this day is that despite all the disciples had seen Jesus do, from healing the sick to calming storms, and despite all they had heard Jesus say about how he would be killed and on the third day be raised, not one of them expected – after the cross was raised; not one of them hoped – after he was laid in the grave, to ever see Jesus again.

No one stood watch near the tomb, no one waited to see if he would rise. When Jesus died their hopes died, indeed their faith died and they huddled in the upper room where they had celebrated the Last Supper, hiding there in fear that the authorities would treat them just as they treated Jesus.

When Mary went to the tomb early that Sunday morning, she didn’t go to see if Jesus had risen, she went to finish the job of burying him. No one expected the resurrection. Despite what they had seen. Despite what they had heard. Despite what they had experienced.

But, praise God – it did happen! It happened because God made it happen.

And when the followers of Jesus realised that this was not a dream, it really was true that Jesus was alive again, then their faith in the resurrection and the God who brought it about, changed their lives: they were given power to heal and help others and they conquered their own fear and despair.

This is what the resurrection is about. God can bring to life that which has died; God can bring good out of evil; love out of hate and hope out of despair.

This is what we believe; and what we believe makes a difference.

Thanks be to God for his love to us beyond words.

Hymn

This Easter Celebration – a new hymn for Easter 2020 (not in the sanctuary)

(It can be sung to the tune AURELIA “The Church’s One Foundation”)

This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known.

We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone.

We’re distant from our neighbours— from worship leaders, too.

No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.

No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.

O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day?

With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place

we ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.

Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room

but from the news of women who saw the empty tomb.

Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see—

who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.

In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well:

Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell.

Each Easter bears the promise:  Christ rose that glorious day!

Now nothing in creation can keep your love away.

We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be

a scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry. 

In homes and in the places of help and healing, too,    

we live the Easter message by gladly serving you.

Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. 

Prayers

Gracious God, we thank you that our faith is rooted in what individuals have seen and heard; in the living testimony of ordinary people like us; in the testimony of countless generations of believers who have encountered the risen Lord Jesus for themselves through his Spirit. In him you came, you lived, you died, you rose again, making yourself known through the concrete events of history. For all those who saw for themselves and passed the message on, receive our thanks. And for all we experience today of your continuing love and your life-giving purpose, we give you our praise, through Jesus Christ our risen, victorious Saviour. Amen.

We pray for our world suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. We pray for all those who have fallen ill and for those who have died and those who mourn their loved ones, remembering that these people are not just statistics but part of the world for which Jesus came to save.

We pray too for all those striving to bring health and healing, safety and supplies to us all in these trying, challenging times.

Living God, we praise you for the promise that nothing can ever overcome your light or your love. We thank you that even now, when life seems dark and dreary because of enforced separation; when the threats to life and health throughout the world, because of the coronavirus, seem unassailable; when we call to you and yet cannot hear your voice, still you are with us.

May that knowledge sustain us through the bleakest moments, bringing the assurance that good will triumph over evil, hope replace despair, joy come after sorrow, and life triumph over death – even the darkest night turned to day. And all of this because your love in Jesus has overcome for us.

Hymn

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o’er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.
 Refrain: Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict’ry, thou o’er death hast won.


Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
Refrain:
No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:

bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
Refrain:

Benediction

Whatever today may hold, whatever tomorrow might bring, the future is secure, for the risen Lord Jesus is with us, the same yesterday, today and for ever.

Now may the celebration of his resurrected life bring new hope to your being.
May the empty tomb help you to leave your sorrows at the foot of the cross.
So that God’s hope, promises and forgiveness reign in your life forever.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Good Friday Devotions

 Opening Prayer

Gracious God, today in remembrance and awe we tread the holy ground of Calvary: this place of abandonment that has become the scene of our adoration; this place of suffering that has become the source of our peace; this place of violence that has become the battlefield on which love is victorious.

As we re-live the events of this day it is with awe that we count again the cost of our salvation. Words cannot be found to express our thanksgiving. Accept our silent adoration. Amen.

Hymn

1.There is a green hill far away,               2. We may not know, we cannot tell,

outside a city wall,                                        what pains he had to bear,

where our dear Lord was crucified            but we believe it was for us
who died to save us all.                                he hung and suffered there.

3. He died that we might be forgiven,               4. There was no other good enough
he died to make us good,                                        to pay the price of sin,
that we might go at last to heaven,                       he only could unlock the gate

saved by his precious blood.                                  of heaven and let us in.

5. O dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
and trust in his redeeming blood,
and try his works to do.

Reading:

After Jesus had been betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Roman soldiers he is taken and questioned by Caiaphas the high priest, but Jesus remains silent. Until, that is, he is asked if he is the Messiah, the Son of God. When Jesus replies, “Yes, I am.” he is charged with blasphemy. This charge was punishable by death, but only the Romans could carry out this punishment, so Jesus is taken to Pilate who oversees these matters for the Roman authorities.

John chapter 18 verses 28 – 40

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.

32 This took place to fulfil what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you patiently endured the false evidence of those who were against you. You kept yourself from answering again or threatening them. You received as the judgment of your enemies the sentence of death; and you heard it in silence, committing yourself and your cause to him who alone is the true judge of our lives.

Grant us, gracious Lord, to share in the same spirit and grace and not be turned from the truth by any adverse judgement; and when we are unjustly condemned for your sake, may we endure with patience. For your mercy’s sake. Amen.

Hymn

  1. O sacred head, sore wounded,          2. What thou, my Lord, hast suffered,

With grief and shame weighed down;         was all for sinner’s gain;

O royal head, surrounded                               mine, mine was the transgression,

With thorns, thy only crown;                           but thine the deadly pain.

O Lord of life and glory:                                   By this, thy bitter passion,

What bliss till now was thine!                         Good shepherd, think on me;

I read the wondrous story,                              vouchsafe to me compassion,

I joy to call thee mine.                                      Unworthy though I be.

  1. For this thy dying sorrow,                        4. Be near when I am dying,

O Jesus, dearest friend,                                       and show thy cross to me

What language shall I borrow                           that I, for succour flying,

To thank thee without end?                              May rest my eyes on thee.

O make me thine for ever,                                My Lord, thy grace receiving,

And, should I fainting be,                                   let faith my fears dispel,

Lord, let me never, never                                  that I may die believing,

Outlive my love to thee.                                    And in thee, Lord, die well.

Reading: John 19: 1 – 30

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe

3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”

5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid,

9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.

10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).

14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).

18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.

21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”

27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.

30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.

33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

MEDITATION   –  THE CARPENTER

When the Carpenter saw the cross

Although he had much on his mind

Perhaps he thought:

‘That’s a nice piece of wood

Taken from a tree which grew tall

Stretching up to God for

Maybe a hundred years.’

And perhaps he thought: ‘I’d like to use

Wood like that to build a home

To shelter the hurt and lost,

Or I could make crutches for the lame

Or a bridge to cross a river.

Yes, I could have made something

Out of that piece of wood.’

And the Carpenter stretched out his arms

And they nailed him to the cross

And reared him and it against the sky.

And the carpenter died to make

A home for the hurt and lost,

A crutch for those who stumble and fall

And a bridge to cross the river to God

Major Barbara Bolton,  Salvation Army,  Australia

Prayer

Lord Jesus, today of all days we are reminded just how much we owe you, how great a price you were willing to pay to give us the gift of life. Forgive us for giving you so little in return, from shying away from our discipleship when there is any suggestion it may be costly.

We are reminded how you stayed true to your calling, despite every attempt to deflect you from it. Forgive us that we so often take the way of least resistance, compromising our convictions for the sake of an easy life.

We are reminded how you stayed true to those who were to fail you, more concerned for their own safety than your welfare. Forgive us that we so readily put self-interest before the interests of others, our loyalty depending on how much is asked of us.

We are reminded how you endured ridicule and violence without any attempt at retaliation, praying instead for those who persecuted you. Forgive us that we lash out at the slightest provocation, that we are more often concerned with exacting revenge than offering forgiveness.

We are reminded of how you loved us so much that you dies for us, willingly, taking the Way of the Cross.

Forgive us that we love you so little, that we find it so hard to offer anything of ourselves.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for this day and for all it calls to mind; that what you did, you did for me.  Help us to hear its message and respond to its challenge.

In your mercy hear our prayer for in your name we ask it.

Hymn

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross              2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    On which the Prince of glory died,               Save in the death of Christ my God!
    My richest gain I count but loss,                   All the vain things that charm me most,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.            I sacrifice them to His blood.

    3.See from His head, His hands, His feet,    4.Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!           That were a present far too small;
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,            Love so amazing, so divine,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?             Demands my soul, my life, my all.

“Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions and he was bruised for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole.” Is. 53

On Calvary’s tree He died for me, that I his love might know;

To set me free He died for me, that’s why I love him so.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, whose body was broken on the cross, who surrendered your spirit to the Father, reach out now in love and compassion to all who are in need, bringing the assurance of your presence, the comfort of your peace, and the joy of your love. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer for we ask it in your name. Amen.

Dear Friends,

On Maundy Thursday we are reminded that, had we still been meeting at Church, we would be commemorating the events of that night with a fellowship meal which would conclude with Holy Communion – for it was on this night that Jesus instituted the ceremony.

So, if you wish, you may like to prepare for these devotions by having to hand a morsel of bread/wafer/cracker and something to drink (feel free to use whatever you wish, I have used water, wine [alcoholic and not] in celebrating communion with people). There will be, in the devotions, an opportunity for us to use these elements, albeit separately in our homes, yet at the same time in unity, as we share together and remember what Jesus did and said on this poignant night.

This Easter will be very different from what we are used to. Yet it is the same events and the same person which we will be remembering – the one who tells us to fear not, for he is with us wherever we are and whatever we are facing.

Rev. Martin Ambler

 We are now in Holy Week. Jesus has entered Jerusalem, looked around, got rid of the money-changers from the Temple, preached some more to the crowds and now wants to prepare for the Feast of Passover with his disciples.

Matthew chapter 26: 17 – 30

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Commentary

After the meal, according to John’s Gospel, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. (John 13:4-20) This was a sort of hands-on lesson for them about the importance of service and humility. Jesus explained that “If I, therefore, your master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Another bit of wisdom that Jesus shared with his disciples that evening was the new commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) This is where the word “maundy” came from. It is a derivation of the Latin word mandatum which means “commandment.”

The rest of the evening is a series of sad events. (Matthew 26:36-68) Jesus weeps and prays in the garden of Gethsemane. He is betrayed by Judas and arrested. He is put on trial before the Sanhedrin. They find him guilty of blasphemy. They beat him and curse him and tell him he should be put to death. Death will ultimately become his punishment, but that will be covered tomorrow in the Good Friday devotions.

Reflection

Just as we have seen Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was full of symbolism; the donkey, the palms, the chanting of the crowd, there is much symbolism in his actions when he instituted the Lord’s Supper.

The Passover meal itself is full of symbolism for Jews re-enacting the time of their delivery from slavery in Egypt. The preparations the disciples made for the meal would have included salt water – reminding them of the tears they shed when they were slaves; bitter herbs – symbol of the bitterness of slavery; unleavened bread – reminding them of how this meal was to be eaten with the prospect of having to leave at a moment’s notice; the bunch of hyssop – with which the doorposts were daubed with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. These along with cups of wine would be laid on the table.

 

Jesus uses the symbols of the Passover meal and gives them new meaning.

The whole purpose of the Passover Feast was to commemorate deliverance. Through the breaking of bread Jesus was claiming to be the great liberator. He liberates us from the fears that haunt us and the sins which will not let us go.

Through drinking the wine, symbol of the blood of the lamb which kept the people of Israel safe, Jesus was claiming to be the Saviour. He saves us from our sins and gives us safety both now and for eternity.

 

Jesus uses one word which enshrines the whole of Jesus’ work and his intention. The word Covenant. A covenant is a relationship between two people. But here Jesus is talking of a relationship between God and every person. Because of his life, and above all his death, a new relationship now becomes possible between us and God.

 

Meditation

  1. An upper room did our Lord prepare     2. A lasting gift Jesus gave his own

For those he loved until the end;                 to share his bread, his loving cup;    

And his disciples still gather there              whatever burdens may bow us down

To celebrate their Risen Friend                   he by his cross shall lift us up.

3.And after supper he washed their feet      4. No end there is! We depart in peace;

For service, too, is sacrament;                     he loves beyond the uttermost;

In him our joy shall be made complete –     in every room in our Father’s house

Sent out to serve, as he was sent.                he will be there, as Lord and Host.

 Communion

Let us hear again the Good News of God’s love.

In the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

He was born in a stable and laid in a manger, God’s Son, frail and defenceless as a child.

He came to bring light to the world, but most preferred to walk in darkness.

He came bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed – to proclaim the dawn of God’s kingdom.

He was tempted as we are, yet did not fall, choosing the way of service and sacrifice to redeem the world.

He revealed the extent of God’s love, offering life to all who believe in him.

Betrayed, denied, abandoned, rejected, he walked the way of the cross to the end, enduring the agony of death on the cross, the weight of human sin on his shoulders, the awfulness of isolation from God his Father.

But he rose again, triumphant over death, his love victorious over evil and hatred.

Therefore God exalted him to the heights, giving him a name above all others, so that everyone in heaven and on earth might bend the knee in worship, each tongue acknowledging him as King of kings and Lord of lords, to God’s eternal glory.

Our Lord Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread, which, after thanking God for it, he broke, saying,’ This is my body, broken for you; do this in memory of me.’

Jesus took a cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.’

As we follow Jesus actions and command let us give thanks to God before we eat and drink.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ, we remember today that you broke bread with the one who was to betray you, and shared wine with the one who was to deny you, enduring anguish in Gethsemane and agony on the cross for those in their different ways would fail you in your hour of need. You gave your life, not because any deserved it but because nothing could destroy your love or stifle your purpose.

We rejoice today that you invite us in turn to break bread and share a cup, even though we fail you as much as any. You died for us, not because we deserve it but because your love is just as sure and your purpose just as certain.

We will eat and drink and marvel afresh at all you have done for us, and all you continue to do and all you will yet do in the days ahead.

Though we do not deserve your goodness and can never merit your mercy, we pray with confidence, knowing that however much we fail may you, you will not fail us.

For devotion and mercy beyond our imagining we give you heartfelt thanks.

Amen.

Before he stepped out into the darkness of Gethsemane for the sake of the future, Jesus, knowing very well what he was to do, took bread, gave thanks and broke it, then said to his disciples, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The body of our Lord, Jesus Christ which was broken for you, eat and be thankful.

Take the bread and eat it, and make your own prayer of thanks to God.

Then Jesus took the cup, he gave thanks again to his heavenly Father and then gave it to his disciples, “Drink from this, all of you, this represents my blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. Do this to remember me.”

Take the cup and drink from it, thanking the Lord for what he has done for you and for his presence with you now.

 Let us pray

Loving God, we thank you once more that you have fed us with the bread of life; that you have given us to drink from the cup of fellowship. These have bound us together in Christian love, even though circumstances may separate us. Through this communion we have been made more aware of your great love for each one of us. Now we offer ourselves in service and witness to you and your kingdom. May we live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.

Hymn

A new commandment I give unto you,

That you love one another as I have loved you;

That you love one another as I have loved you.

By this shall all know you are my disciples:

If you have love one for another;

By this shall all know you are my disciples:

If you have love one for another.

Matthew tells us that after they had sung a hymn, Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives to a place called Gethsemane where Jesus said this:

“Sit here while I pray. The sorrow in my heart is so great, it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.

Father, I have shown your glory on earth; I have finished the work you gave me. I have given my disciples your message and the world…it hated them. Yet I don’t pray that they may be taken out of the world. I pray that they may be kept from evil.

Sleeping Peter? Can you not even keep awake for an hour? Peter, keep watch and pray. Don’t be drawn by temptation. The spirit is willing, but, oh, the flesh…the flesh is weak.

Father if it is possible…take this cup of suffering from me, but let it not be what I want, let is be what you want.

Are you still sleeping? Still taking your ease? The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinful people. Get up, let us go! Look here comes the one who is to betray me… “   

Let us share The Grace as we go to follow Jesus to the cross and beyond.

05 April 2020

Dear Friends,

Today being Palm Sunday our devotions are around the events of that poignant day in the life of our Lord. The lectionary reading takes us to Matthew’s account of the day.

If we had been meeting at Iford church as usual today, our augmented choir would have been singing a new Cantata ‘Festival of Faith’ by J.M. Martin. It is a celebration of life based on the ministry, passion and resurrection of Jesus.

I have included the words of the item ‘Festival of Palms’ in our devotions for today.

I would suggest that during this week it is desirable that you read the complete Passion narrative, as part of your preparation for Easter.

If you read Matthew chapter 26 from verse 14 right through to the end of chapter 27 you will cover Matthew’s account of the most significant week in history. I will be producing devotional material for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday separately. This for all churches will be the most strange and in many ways difficult Easter any of us have experienced. Nonetheless God is with us and he will bless us as we remain faithful to him and one another.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Sunday 05 April

Palm Sunday – We follow Jesus on the road into Jerusalem at the start of this holy week.

Reading: Matthew 21 verses 1 – 11 Jesus enters Jerusalem

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. While others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” ; “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” ; “Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

‘Festival of Palms’ by J.M. Martin

Lift up your heads ye ancient doors!

Throw wide the gates and greet the Lord!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Prepare the way with palms of praise!

Lay down your garments; clear the way!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Sing hosanna to the King of kings!

Come children wave your palms on high!

Lift up your voices to the sky!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Rejoice, let the gates of Zion ring!

Each voice raised in a grateful offering.

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Sing hosanna to the King of kings!

Ride on, ride on, great David’s Son!

Great is the work that God has done!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Come, long-awaited Prince of Peace!

Make every war and conflict cease!

Sing hosanna! Sing hosanna!

Sing hosanna to the King of kings!

If you know the tune to the hymn ‘All creatures of our God and King’

You could even sing the above!!

Meditation

Lord, when I see you on that little donkey,

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I can’t laugh, because it seems so out of place,

and I can’t cry because is seems such useless sentiment.

I ought, I suppose, to shout “Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!”

And I will, for I see this donkey ride from the other side of Easter.

You rode that little creature to show what kind of king you are,

Never forcing, never overpowering, never threatening.

But you approach us even now in the humblest of ways

So that we may receive you as you truly are

Our living Lord and Saviour.

D. Cleverley Ford

A Reflection

I wonder if you remember the story of the Little Red Hen. It’s a children’s story but makes a valid point. “Who will help me sow my seed?” Asks the chicken. “Not I”, comes the answer. “Who will help me reap the harvest?” “Not I”, comes the answer again. “Who will help me grind the flour…knead the dough…bake the loaf?” “Not I…not I…not I.” Then, finally the chicken asks the most important question, “Who will help me eat the bread?” and, immediately, a change of tune, “Me! Me! Me!”

It is a story about the fickleness of human nature. So often our help, friendship or loyalty depending on what is in it for us.

It was seen on that first Palm Sunday too as Jesus entered into Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowds; only this time the story is in reverse.

It was as if by what Jesus was doing, he was saying, “Who will welcome me as king?” And the answer was “Me!” “Who wants to be part of the kingdom of God?” and again the answer is “Me!”

Yet just a few days later there comes perhaps the most important question, “Who will follow the way of the cross?” And the response of many is so different, “Not I!” Or to put it into their own words, “We have no king but Caesar. Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!”

Palm Sunday is a day that brings us the challenge of where our loyalty lies by asking the question, “How ready are we to follow Jesus when faith is demanding and the going gets tough?”

Thank God that Palm Sunday is also about the one who, despite how often we may change our tune, stays faithful to us to the point of death.

My song is love unknown

1. My song is love unknown,             2. Sometimes they strew his way,

My Saviour’s love to me,                        And his sweet praises sing;

Love to the loveless shown,                  Resounding all the day

That they might lovely be.                     Hosannas to their King.

O who am I                                               Then ‘Crucify’

That for my sake                                      Is all their breath,     

My Lord should take                               And for his death

Frail flesh, and die?                                  They thirst and cry.

3. They rise, and needs will have          4. Here might I stay and sing

My dear Lord made away;                          No story so divine;

A murderer they save,                                 Never was love, dear King,

The Prince of Life they slay.                        Never was grief like thine.

Yet cheerful he                                              This is my friend,

To suffering goes,                                         In whose sweet praise

That he his foes                                            I all my days

From thence might free.                             Could gladly spend.

A further reflection

They shouted “Hosanna!” We should be careful to see what this word means. Hosanna means Save now! It was the cry of people who were in distress to their king or their god. We see the phrase in Psalm 118 ‘O Lord, save us!’ So the phrase “Hosanna in the highest!” must mean, “Let even the angels on high cry to God, Save now!”

It may be that ‘Hosanna’ has lost some of its original meaning and has become a cry of welcome like ‘Hail!’; but essentially it is a people’s cry for deliverance and for help in time of trouble.

Perhaps “Hosanna” is an appropriate word to be used throughout the world in our prayers as we experience these uncertain and troubled times.

Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, you came not as a king mighty in battle, but as the Prince of Peace; the promised deliverer, sent to heal and restore our broken world. So now we pray for peace and unity in this world for which you came.

Hosanna! Save now!

The news is dominated by the effect of the coronavirus in all parts of the globe; a reminder of our oneness as people of this planet and our vulnerability as human beings wherever we may live on it.

Everyone has been affected by the virus in one way or another; the curtailing of our social lives, the postponement of work and commercial activity, the symptoms experienced by growing numbers, the death of loved ones who have succumbed.

Lord, we need your healing for our broken world and we pray for everyone caught up in this pandemic.

Give particular protection we pray to those whose task it is to treat, nurse and care for the sick and the dying.

We pray for those who have volunteered to help their neighbours and community at this time of disruption and uncertainty. Thank you for their selfless actions and the inspiration they are to so many.

May we always be sure that you are with us in all the trials and tribulations of life, comforting us, guiding us and granting us your peace.

As we stop and think of your goodness to us, help us to appreciate you even more. Help us to remember that you are there for us, and for those around us as we seek to do your will and spread your good news.

Hosanna! Save now!

Hear our prayer offered in your name. Amen.

Lord, Jesus Christ, we claim to be your followers, and we declare that you are the Lord and King of our lives, but all too often our actions deny our words.

Forgive all the ways we fail you, through thought, word and deed. Forgive that sometimes we do not grasp the values of your kingdom. We want to bring honour to you, but sometimes we do the opposite. Lord Jesus, we come before your throne and throw ourselves upon your grace. We ask you to accept the service of our lives, despite our many faults. Rule in our hearts and use us for your glory. King of love, have mercy upon us. In your name we ask it. Amen.

May the grace our Lord, Jesus Christ; the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for ever. Amen

Dear Friends,
No doubt some of you, like me, found it very strange not to be in church last
Sunday for worship and fellowship. Instead, Doreen and I went for a walk over
Stanpit Marshes. That was strange too. People, with or without dogs, were
keeping their distance from one another, even the horses and swans were social
distancing from each other! Then we became aware of the burgeoning plant and
flower life and the birds twittering gaily in the tree tops and we were reminded
that underlying all the man-made and enforced directives the steady heart-beat
of nature continued undaunted. Such is the wonder of our creator God that
despite everything his purposes and will for us all will continue unabated.
Today we continue our Lenten journey with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.

Rev. Martin Ambler

Sunday 29th March is the fifth Sunday of Lent. We continue our thoughts in
preparation for the events of Holy Week and Easter by following the lectionary
readings set for today.
Readings:
Romans Chapter 8: 6 – 11
In this passage Paul is drawing a contrast between two kinds of life. There is
the life which is dominated by sinful human nature; the life whose focus and
centre is self and the life that is dominated by the Spirit of God; the life that is
directed by following Jesus Christ and Spirit focused.
The mindset of the flesh is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life
and peace; the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to
God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please
God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the
Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he
does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of
sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him
who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in
you.
John Chapter 11:
Jesus hears of the illness of his friend Lazarus and only after waiting a couple
more days did he travel to the home of Mary and Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) only
to find that Lazarus had died and had been placed in a tomb. When he arrived
Jesus found that many people had come to comfort the sisters. He is met by
Martha who tells him in no uncertain terms…
Verse 21 “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will
live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
who was to come into the world.”
Martha calls her sister Mary who comes and tells Jesus the same thing…
Verse 32 “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Verse 38 Jesus came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the
entrance. “Take away the stone,” Jesus said.
“But Lord,” said Martha, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been
there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory
of God?”
So they took away the stone. The Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you
that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the
benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a
cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Meditation: It was so weird – ‘Lazarus’ by Nick Fawcett
It was so weird, so unreal. At least that’s how it felt. And yet it happened!
I’d breathed my last, no question about that. After those long days of sickness, the pain growing, the strength failing; after those final terrible hours, sweat
pouring down my face, lungs gasping for air; at last came peace, darkness
closing about me, suddenly welcome though it had long been feared. An end to
the struggle, the battle nearly over.
For a moment I was a child again, comforted by my mother’s embrace, a youth running as wild as the wind, a man setting out afresh on life’s great adventure, a
father taking my child into my arms. And then rest.
The light went out, the flame extinguished, the game completed.
Only it wasn’t, for suddenly a voice summoned me back to the fray, sunshine
burst into the tomb, and consciousness returned.
No wonder they gasped, no wonder they swooned, no wonder they wept for joy,
for I who had been taken from them, I who had been dead, was alive!
And yes I thanked him, of course I did, once the confusion had cleared away,
but it took a while I can tell you. And even now just once in a while I wonder if
he really did me any favours for I know that one day I must face it all over again.
Yet it will be different then, very different, not just because I’ve been there
before and know there is nothing to fear, but because Jesus has shown me that
death is not so much the end as the beginning.
That’s why he raised me from the tomb. Not just to restore life, not simply to
defer death, but to point to a new birth, a resurrection which only he can bring.
He came back too, you know, back from the grave.
Three days in his tomb, long enough for decay to take hold, but he appeared to
Mary, to Peter, to the Apostles, to us all. And we know that even though we die
one day we shall live even as he lives now!
Some thoughts
One of the huge questions about this story is why didn’t Jesus immediately go
to his friend when he heard that he was ill. He could have healed him but now
he had died.
When you have gone to God for help which you feel you desperately need and
nothing happens; when your heart is breaking over something and you need
God to intervene but the heavens are silent, it is tough to understand, tough to
accept, tough to get a grip on.
But what this passage is telling us is that a delay in answer like that is not a sign of God’s indifference or his failure to hear. It is a sign of his love. The delay
will help us. It is for our sake. And it is so that Jesus Christ may be glorified
through it.
Jesus deliberately delayed going to Mary and Martha because he loved them
and knew this would strengthen their faith as they learned the ultimate outcome which God would work through him.
That is a hard lesson to accept. I have struggled over this many times myself.
But it works – something we expect and long for does not occur, and then –
surprise, surprise – sometime after we think that everything is lost and there is
no hope, God does something remarkable that totally reverses our view.
And isn’t that what we are reminded of as we approach Holy Week and Easter?
When the followers of Jesus experienced the events of Good Friday they too
thought everything was lost only to find a wonderful surprise three days later.

Now, one last thought: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead not only as a
testimony to those who lived in that day, but also as a witness to us. It’s a kind
of a reminder of God’s promise to us. You see, just days after raising Lazarus
from the dead, Jesus was going to go to Jerusalem, be put on trial, be beaten and
whipped, and then die on the cross. He was to be buried… and then He was
going to rise from the dead. But… if that’s true why bother with Lazarus? Why
raise Lazarus from the dead?
In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was allowing us a preview of what he’ll
do for us. Lazarus’ resurrection is a proof of the promise found in I Corinthians
15. “Behold! I tell you a mystery. For this perishable body must put on the
imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the
perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then
shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in
victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?”
That promise is reflected in the resurrection of Lazarus, and that is his
testimony. That was his testimony till the day he died.
When Jesus raised Lazarus it was a taster of what God would do, through Jesus, on that first Easter morning and that was a foretaste of our own resurrection.
Prayers
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we praise you that you are with us not
simply when life is easy and carefree, but in the darkness, the emptiness and
those times when we feel lost and uncertain.
Though you have never promised that life would be easy, without pain or
problems, you have assured us that you will be with us.
We praise you that no matter who we are or what we are facing, your almighty
presence never leaves us.
We praise you for your gentle understanding of our doubts and fears.
We praise you most for Jesus Christ and for the way that, in him, you shared our
suffering; that you are not a God who is content to sit on the side-lines of life.
In Jesus you entered into our world of pain and loss. We praise you that he is
the only one who can say that he does know how we feel and that he fully
understands what life costs us.
We remember how he began life in the poverty of a stable. Through his life he
was dependent on others for friendship and food; for anointing and a donkey; for a cross and a tomb.  Lord, help us to praise him even when we are alone or afraid, rejected or
overwhelmed, lost or frustrated, confused or just hurting.
Help us to praise him, for he enters even our pain.
This we pray in his name. Amen.

We pray at this time for those directly concerned for our health, healing and
well being; for all doctors and nurses and all those involved in the National
Health Service. Give all who care for others, we pray, a true sense of their own
value and the importance of the work they do. This we ask in Jesus’ name.
Amen.
Loving God, we praise you for the bundle of experiences that we call life. We
thank you that you never intended us to journey through life in isolation. You
created us to be open to you and to each other. From the first it was your
intention that we should live in trust and fellowship with each other. But we
find that life is not like that now. We are separated from each other and find
fellowship difficult and we are missing each other terribly. Assure us of your
presence with each one of us, even in our isolation and the bonds of love that
are still there because of our united faith in Jesus Christ. May the ties of faith
help us to see that we are still bound to each other as well as to you. Reassure us of
that love from which we can never be parted. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

Let us pray that God will sustain us, our family and friends and all in our church
through these days.  Amen 

Sunday March 22nd is the fourth Sunday in Lent, known as Mothering Sunday and so the devotions are around this theme.

Readings:

Isaiah 49 verses 13 – 16

Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

John 19 verses 25 – 27

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother. “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, the disciple took her into his home.

When you thought I wasn’t looking (by a child)

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator

And I wanted to paint another one

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw you feed a stray cat

And I thought it was good to be kind to animals

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw you make my favourite cake for me

And I knew that little things are special things

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I heard you say a prayer

And I believed there is a God I could always talk to

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I felt you kiss me good night

And I felt loved

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw tears come from your eyes

And I learnt that sometimes things hurt

But it’s all right to cry

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I saw that you cared

And I wanted to be everything that I could be

When you thought I wasn’t looking

I looked…and wanted to say

Thanks for all the things I saw

When you thought I wasn’t looking

Some thoughts:

Today we honour mothers, past and present. Some tough, some sweet, some compassionate, some passionate, etc.

A London editor submitted to Winston Churchill for his approval a list of all those who had been Churchill’s teachers. Churchill returned the list with this comment: “You have omitted to mention the greatest of my teachers—my Mother.”

Thomas Edison said, “I did not have my mother long, but she cast over me an influence which has lasted all my life. The good effects of her early training I can never lose. If it had not been for her appreciation and her faith in me at a critical time in my experience, I should never likely have become an inventor. I was always a careless boy, and with a mother of different mental calibre, I should have turned out badly. But her firmness, her sweetness, her goodness, were potent powers to keep me in the right path. My mother was the making of me. The memory of her will always be a blessing to me.”

Mum’s eh? Where would be without them? And their thoughts for their children never change.

Michelangelo’s mother could well have said, “Mike, can’t you paint on walls like other children? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?”

Columbus’ mother could well have said. “I don’t care what you’ve discovered, Christopher, you still could have written!”

We all have so much to thank our mothers for, but most of all we should thank God for our mothers and the contribution they have made to our lives.

You will know that way back in the 1600’s young men and women who were apprentices or servants returned home on Mothering Sunday, bringing small gifts like trinkets or a ‘mothering cake’. One kind of mothering cake was the simnel cake, but because of the Lenten fast it had to keep to Easter. Gifts made in appreciation of mothers.

On Mothering Sunday there is also the thought of the church being like our ‘mother’.

Some say the ceremonies of the fourth Sunday in Lent were to venerate the Mother of Jesus, Mary. Some felt that it was Mother Church which was more important and custom began to dictate that a person visit the church of his/her baptism on this day.

With the suspension of services in our ‘Mother Church’ at present, we are of course unable to visit. But it is important to recognise the part that our church plays in our life. The church is always the people who enjoy fellowship there.

And the fellowship we enjoy is because of Jesus and what he has done for us.

We continue this fellowship with each other as we find ways to keep in touch, to support each other and encourage one another in these days.

Prayers

Gracious God, you know what it is to love your children – to watch over them tenderly, anxiously, proudly and constantly. You know what this means, for you have called us your children, and you care for each of us as deeply as a mother cares for her child. So on this Mothering Sunday we bring you our prayers for all entrusted with the responsibility of motherhood.

We pray for mothers the world over, recognising both the joys and demands they experience – the privileges and pressures, hopes and fears, pleasure and pain that motherhood entails. Equip them with the love, wisdom and strength they need.

We remember too those who are denied the joy of motherhood and for those for whom Mothering Sunday brings pain rather than pleasure, hurt rather than happiness.

Loving God we thank you for this day of saying thank you. For mothers and motherhood, for children and families, accept our grateful praise.

And a prayer for these exceptional times

God our refuge, we seek your protection. Protect the vulnerable from illness: those who are old and frail, weakened by years and struggle; those who care for others, expending energy and love; those for whom inability to work means hardship and poverty. Protect us from the greed and suspicion which snatches at our own security stock-piling and panic-buying that deprives others of the necessities of life. Protect us from the short-sightedness which sees the germ in our own eyes and ignores the plagues of hunger, war and violence that take so many lives each day. Protect us from the isolation that leads to loneliness and despair denying the interconnectedness that links us with one another. God our refuge in our panic and fear may we not lose sight of our common humanity that makes us one people in you.

Amen.

 

Every Sunday morning at 10:30am FAMILY WORSHIP

The Junior Church assembles at 10:15am to share in Family Worship before joining their group activities

HOLY COMMUNION is celebrated on the first Sunday of each month at the Morning Service

CAFÉ STYLE WORSHIP (Coffee, Cake & Chat) from 6-7pm on the first Sunday of each month

EARLY BIRDS (0-10yr olds) at 09:30am on every third Sunday of each month

PRAYER & BIBLE STUDY MEETINGS 7:30pm fourth Tuesday of the month – currently postponed.

ELDERS’ MEETING – Alternate Months     

CHURCH MEETING – As arranged

BAPTISM, MARRIAGES AND FUNERALS

BAPTISM, MARRIAGES AND FUNERALS BY ARRANGEMENT WITH THE CHURCH SECRETARY

Secretary:  Mrs Brenda McCarron, Tel: 01202 423786   Email:  brendamc958@gmail.com

CHURCH MAGAZINE

Our Church magazine the ‘Messenger’ is published six times a year.  The Messenger is very popular and includes messages from the Elders and Church Secretary, a pastoral report, details of weddings and funerals, a diary of the next month’s events, contributions from the congregation and much, much more!

The Editor can be contacted on: olwenadams@hotmail.com