Sunday November 1st Worship remembered at Wesley Chapel

Our minister Trevor Dixon led worship on Sunday November 5th.  Worship began when we sang, ‘For all the saints who from their labours rest’ before Trevor led the prayers of praise and confession.  We sang, ‘The kingdom of God’ before the reading from Ephesians 1.11-25 and we sang, ‘God of my faith, I offer you my doubt,’ and I found the words very good.  It was good to learn a new hymn.  Luke 6. 20-31 was read.

On November 1st it was All Saints Day and Trevor was at a restaurant on Halloween, the eve of All Saints Day, which was quite empty.  Apparently parents were going out with their children trick and treating.  He got into conversation with the manager and his daughter had been to a private school for girls with a Christian basis.  She was the only Moslem attending the school.  Halloween was mentioned and she was asked her if she knew where the term came from; she thought it came from America.  All hallows eve was the all Hallows/Saints day.  Trick and treating did come from America for Halloween, but the eve of All Saints Day was the time to prepare for All Saints Day.

Who were the saints? They were not stained glass figures with hallos.  A child once asked about who were in the stained glass windows and was told they were the saints. The child’s reply was they are the people the light shines through; very true in my opinion; a saint has the light of Jesus shining through his or her life.  In his conversation with the Moslem, Trevor learnt that their pictures did not include people.  In the school his daughter attended he had noticed that the chapel was full of pictures of Jesus.  Trevor told him that saints were ordinary people with hopes and dreams, stumbling in the dark, knowing fear; they struggled to follow and serve Jesus.  Trevor read the words of a hymn, God of my faith, I offer you my doubt; God of my hope, I offer you my fear; God of my joy, I offer you my grief; God of my love, I offer you my pain; those words show how saints often had those thoughts and cried out to God in confusion and frustration.

However the saints are still the ones who still run the race, although their hearts beat like drums, they keep on going, feeling inadequate and helpless.  They work for the way of love and peace, care for the needy, and hold onto faith when secularism stalks the land.  They are those who have a forgiving, responding love and a passion for justice.  Luke’s version of the Beatitudes is a remembrance of what Jesus had said. The gospel was written in a time of opposition and persecution.  Luke also included the woes; keeping on integrating faith in difficulties. Pilgrimage in Christianity is filled with uncertainty; as we see in Pilgrim’s progress to the Celestial city.

We are all taking part in that journey.  John Bunyan experienced healing as he wrote the book.  We are not tested more than we can bear.  We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Saints are ordinary people, like Bunyan in prison renewing his life as he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress.  Sydney Carter challenges us to take one more step along the way. Incidentally that hymn was very important to Kate, best friend of my daughter Cathy, who lost her battle with a brain tumour at age 30, leaving her poor husband Luke to care for her lovely son Joseph as a baby in 2010; we sang it at her funeral.

Paul was also a pilgrim, who wrote authoritarian letters like the letter to the Ephesians.   He remembered them in his prayers and reminded them of the hope to which God called them.  The Christian journey is a journey of endless discovery; we spend our whole lives getting to know him.  To know him is to love him.  The hope and ground of our faith is Jesus; the reward promised to us is undeserved by our merit; Jesus went through trials and tribulations for us. We are all saints in the making, being challenged on the way and called to love the world with God’s immeasurable love.  Let us not give up but keep on serving and loving with our eyes on Jesus daily.

Trevor led the prayers of intercession, asking our Lord to make us worthy of our calling to be saints.  We shared the peace before we sang, ‘Jesus calls us here to meet him’ before we shared communion.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Have faith in God my heart.’

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Sunday Worship remembered at Hampsthwaite Chapel October 29th

On Sunday October 29th I led worship at Hampsthwaite Chapel.  We began worship when we sang, ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise’ a hymn which acknowledges the otherness of God, before I led the opening prayers.  We read Psalm 90 responsively, before I gave a short talk about loving your neighbour as yourself.  We sang ‘O God our help in ages past’ before we heard the reading from Thessalonians 2.1-8 and had a dramatised reading based on Matthew 22.34-46.  We sang ‘My God how wonderful thou art’, before I preached.

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus which commandment he regarded as the greatest to test him.  Jesus said that the greatest commandment was that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  We are to love God totally with a love which guides our thoughts and actions in our whole life.  The second commandment Jesus regarded as important was to love your neighbour as yourself.  Do we love ourselves?  That is something I always found difficult but I realise that God loves us so much he was willing to give us his son to draw us back to himself.  As God loves me so much I want to return that love to him with all my heart, soul and mind.  I also want to share that unconditional love with those in need; especially the vulnerable and weak as Jesus did.  Jesus challenged the Pharisees to say what role they expected the Messiah to have.  Jesus told them that the Messiah could not be David’s son as was expected; after all David had been referring to someone he referred to as Lord.  In other words the Messiah was not going to be an earthly conqueror as King David was; instead he would be the Son of God, whose sacrificial love would lead to his being prepared to die, even on a cross.  In that way he would reveal the extent of God’s love for them and us.

Paul replied to accusations based on scandalous rumours that he had been at fault for the trouble at Philippi, explaining that it was the message of the good news that he preached which led to the problems.  He just had to share the message, but they supported themselves so as not to be a burden to them. Both Paul and the Psalmist recognised the shortness of human life, yet filled with suffering.  That did not stop them from proclaiming God’s message and having compassion on the vulnerable marginalised outcasts and trying to meet their needs.  Paul felt the large number of laws stifled the love of God.  Like Jesus he recognised the two greatest commandments to love God with your whole heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself.  May we be daily filled with your Holy Spirit, so that we are strengthened to share your love and do your will this day and always.

We sang ‘Teach me, my God and King’ before I led the prayers of intercession.

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Immortal, invisible, God only wise

On October 27th our minister Trevor led worship at Wesley Chapel.  We began worship as we sang ‘Guide me O thou great Jehovah’, before Trevor led the prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving.’  We then sang ‘Through all the changing scenes of life,’ before Isaiah 45.1-7 and 1Thessalonians 1.1-10 were read.  We sang, ‘A rich young man came seeking God’s Kingdom was his aim’, which was one I had not sung before.  The words were very good.  Matthew 22.15-22 was read before the sermon.

Trevor described an interview situation, a call to ministry explored, when open ended questions were asked, which expected answers in more detail than simply ‘yes or no’.  Questions are the oldest technique possibly leading to controversy; sometimes open ended or to trap a person but not in this case. The perfect question is the one that even the questioner does not know the answer.  Here Jesus was asked the perfect question; whichever way he answered it he would either alienate some of his followers or be trapped by the authorities.  Taxes were paid to the Roman usurpers, so he cannot be regarded as the expected Messiah if he did not want to get rid of the Roman oppressors.  However if he said they should withhold tax then he would be arrested by the authorities for not paying tax.  The authorities thought they had caught him, but the trap did not work, as he answered the question with another question!  They as religious leaders were supposed to be an authority the religious leaders.  It did not occur to them that he would say, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s!  Why do the authorities hate Jesus so much?  They could not be sure whether Jesus was an imposter of not.  They did not want God to get too close.  If God were like Jesus they might have to recognise him again and again and give him everything.  God’s authority and power is higher than any human authority and there is nothing God does not own.  God cares about everyone; he is beyond definition, bigger than we can grasp; He holds all creation in the palm of his hand.  We have only a little understanding of who God is; we have come to worship Him,, who is worth more than we can ever grasp.  All comes from God and we give to him some of what he has given us.  We often have more faith in earthly authority than divine.  As Christians we remember Jesus has risen every day and are called to live in that faith, no matter what happens, even when it is not easy to see God in what happens around us.  We need to render to God the things which are God’s, so that God is in charge and the guide for our lives in both good and bad days.  When we are going through bad times, let us have confidence in God’s presence touching our living.  We need to pray that we do not lose a sense of his hold on us, even if we don’t feel he is with us. If God has moved, who has moved?  God weaves his presence into our everyday lives.  Do we dare to believe that God knows what he is doing and will do it right.  People are meant to see God through Christians.  Have we domesticated God?  God is God and will be God and we can’t alter that, but we can give God what is his, serve him and be his people working in his way.

We sang ‘Teach me, my God and King, in all things thee to see’ trying really to know what we were singing, as Trevor suggested.  Trevor led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer, before we sang ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’ to conclude worship.

 

 

 

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Recollections from October 15th and Thoughts for Today

On Sunday October 15th I led worship at Kearby Chapel.  Worship began when we sang ‘Thy hand, O God, has guided’ with gusto even though it is a small congregation in the village chapel. I led the prayers before the dramatised reading based on Exodus 32.1-14. I then read two short extracts; the first a Celtic poem about buckling under the weight of sin, relieved when the poet lets go of the sin and a passage on how we learn from mistakes.  We sang ‘Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, before we heard the readings from Philippians 4.1-9 and Matthew 22.1-14.  We sang ‘Jesus, lover of my soul,’ before I preached.

It was the normal Jewish custom to send out invitations in advance of a great feast without giving the precise date. Once everything was ready then the invited people were expected to drop everything and go to the feast.  The guests refused to go, offering a number of excuses; one had to attend to his estate, another his business and others rebelled by beating up the servants and even killing some.  The King was so angry that he sent his armies to destroy the murderers and burn their city.  Here Matthew was describing the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70, because the Jewish people had failed to follow Jesus’ example of love, humility and sacrifice and rebelled against Roman authority.

The guests who declined the invitations to the feast were the Jewish leaders, whom God had chosen as his people in Old Testament times, when he made a covenant with them promising to be their God and lead them.  Yet when God’s Son came into the world and they were invited to follow Him and serve him, they refused.  Just in the same way the Israelites had rebelled and made a golden calf to worship, and Yahweh had wanted to destroy them, but Moses spoke up for the people so God did not destroy them.

The king then told the servants to invite the poor and marginalised from the highways and byways, who had never expected an invitation into God’s kingdom. They represented the sinners and Gentiles, who did not expect an invitation, but Jesus came to welcome those who recognised their need of God into the kingdom.  However once we have accepted God’s invitation into his kingdom we have the responsibility to live as Jesus did, as Paul encouraged the Philippians to do.  Paul was concerned by the way that Euodia and Syntyche could not agree with each other; he urged them to try and agree through their common relationship with the Lord.  He even asked an overseer to help them agree as they both worked so hard for the spread of the gospel.  We too need to be prepared to accept change when we accept the invitation into God’s kingdom.  The guest who had come without wedding clothes, when invited had not been prepared to change and accept the undeserved gift of grace and show his gratitude.  We need to come to worship prepared to meet with God, listen to him and grow into his likeness through Jesus. Paul knew life was hard for Christians in the early church facing persecution, but encouraged them to rejoice always in the Lord.  We need not feel anxious when we realise God cares, as long as we set our mind on whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.  That passage has always been special to mean, since my late mother gave that passage to give me comfort as I was an anxious, depressed teenager at times and lacked confidence.  I do try to remind myself of those words when all around in the world there is fake news and so much injustice and marginalisation of the vulnerable, but that is hard.  I am standing in the local election as a Labour party representative because Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude of listening and meeting people has given me hope.  I too remind myself that God is still sovereign and pray that others might work too for justice and bring in God’s kingdom now.

We sang, ‘For the healing of the nations’ before I led the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour’.

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Sunday Worship on October 1st 2017 at Park Grove Chapel Knaresborough

On October 1st I led worship at Park Grove Chapel Knaresborough.  We sang ‘At the name of Jesus’, before I led the opening prayers. We heard the reading from Exodus 17.1-7 where the Israelites were complaining about the lack of water in the wilderness and blamed God.  I gave the children 4 scenarios when the children were dissatisfied with their lives; why did one have to take the dog for a walk; why could she not have her own flat like a little girl who wished she could walk.  We often complain that the grass is greener on the other side, but we need to learn to be content and enjoy what we have, remembering that some children do not have homes, enough to eat or money for a pet or for treats or good health.  We need to say thank you for all we have and not wish we had more.  We sang ‘When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,’ before the children left for their groups.  We had the reading from Philippians 2.1-13 and a dramatised reading based on Matthew 21.23-32 before we sang ‘Meekness and Majesty’.

I preached on the readings.  Jews liked to debate in the time of Jesus so it was not surprising that the authorities challenged him after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the temple.  They questioned his authority and in the way of rabbinic debate Jesus replied with a question about John the Baptist’s authority.  If they said John’s authority was from God they would have to say that Jesus was the Messiah under God’s authority.  If they said John’s authority was not from God they would have incensed the crowds who believed he had God’s authority. The authorities had to admit they did not know, so Jesus would not say where his authority came from.  The authorities were meant to be the spiritual leaders of the community but were obviously failing, nor could the Sanhedrin seem to be able to distinguish between true and false prophets.  They did know the truth but were afraid to admit it.  The Israelites also questioned the authority of Moses and by implication God when they needed water.

Jesus told a parable which showed two kinds of people; the people who initially said no and then repented and those who had initially repented but their lives did not reflect true repentance.  They resisted John and Jesus because they lacked trust.   John and Jesus had tried to show that they could trust in being accepted by God if they did acknowledge their need of repentance and made a fresh start through Jesus.  I am encouraged by a notice I heard about outside a church, which read, ‘Sinners welcome here’, as I am always aware of where I fall short.

Paul in Philippians reminded the church not to seek their own interests, but to concentrate on walking the way with Jesus, humbly serving others as he did. There was no place for personal ambition.  Jesus himself took on the form of a servant to show us how much God loved us.  He became obedient even unto death on the cross.  He won people’s hearts by loving and accepting them; he served them to glorify his Father in heaven.  God raised him to life and through what Jesus has done we can all be raised to life, provided we follow the way of humility and obedience in service.

We sang ‘For the healing of the nations’ before the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour.’

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A remembered Harvest Festival on September 24th at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday September 24th our minister Rev Christine Gillespie led our Harvest celebration at Wesley Chapel. We sang ‘Come ye thankful people come’ as the opening hymn.  Christine then led the prayers of praise, confession and the Lord’s Prayer before we sang, ‘We plough the fields and scatter.’  The reading from the Old Testament was from Genesis 9.8-17 Noah and the rainbow covenant before we sang, ‘Yes God is good.’

The reading about the banquet to which the poor, crippled and lame were to be invited Luke 14.7-14; all who exalt themselves will be humbled.

Christine described two old ladies who gave generously and regularly to the Air ambulance for those in need of assistance, although they were unlikely ever to use it.  True Christian giving is to those who need it without any thought of personal gain.  We too have responsibilities for our families and other members of the community of the church as the body of Christ.  We each have gifts to use to build up the body of the church and its mission.  Giving to our local church and beyond where there is need.  True Christian giving involves hospitality and helping those in need who cannot give anything back to us.  Jesus spoke of the banquet with a lavish spread for those who could not invite them back.  We must not just invite friends who can invite us in return, but those who cannot reciprocate.  We are called to give in response to what God has given us; those who can afford it can give.

Harvest reminds us of all the plenty we have; not just material gifts; we are given so much we need to give to others in return.  Noah made the first covenant with every living creature as to how he would care for the earth.  God has made a promise using the rainbow in the sky to remind us; that is God’s gift out of his generosity. In 1 John 1 John reminded us that we loved God as he had first loved us.  We are not to take the sign for granted. We need to give thanks for all his gifts freely given to us.  We need to be reminded about all he has done for us, as in the hymn. ‘Tell me the story slowly and hymns like that help us to celebrate all God has done and give thanks.  Our response to that provision is to invite the needy to celebrate with us and not those who can invite us back. John the Baptist told his followers, who had two tunics to give one to someone who had no tunic. The parable of the sheep and goats praised the sheep who helped those in need but criticised the goats who did not meet those needs.  Whatever we do for the least of these my brothers we do it for Jesus.  Harvest time reminds us to respond in the same way to support the homeless and marginalised.  Even when harvest is over, God’s love and generosity will not end.  We need to recognise God’s love and generosity and rejoice in it and respond.

We sang ‘Praise and Thanksgiving’ before Christine led the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘For the fruits of your creation.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My recollections of my service on September 17th

On September 17th I led worship at Kirk Hammerton.  Our opening hymn was ‘O God our help in ages past,’ before I led the opening prayers.  The first reading was from Exodus 14.19-31.  For the children’s address I told the story of a boy stealing Lord Shaftesbury’s treasured watch.  Through his contacts the boy with the watch was found and left in a sack on his doorstep.  The boy had been given no choice but to return the watch and was expecting to be sent to prison, but instead he was given the opportunity to go to school. Lord Shaftesbury was merciful to the thief and gave him a second chance.  God was merciful to the Hebrew slaves, even when they were so ready to grumble when they saw the Egyptians pursuing them. God just made sure the cloud moved behind them so that the Egyptians could not see them; the cloud brought light to their side and dark to the Egyptian side.  God was still protecting them even though they were blaming the Lord and Moses for putting them in greater danger by leading them out of Egypt.  God could easily have got so exasperated with them, and allowed    the Egyptians to catch up and destroy them, but He kept telling them to calm down as He was fighting for them.  When they realised God had given them passage through the Red Sea that he was protecting them they did then put their trust in Him.  However they would keep letting the Lord down but God would keep giving them a fresh start. We sang ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ before we heard the reading from Romans 14.1-12 and the dramatised reading from Matthew 18.21-35.  We sang ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’ before I preached.

We all remember the example of Gordon Wilson, who hours after the Enniskillen bombing said that he forgave the perpetrators who had killed his daughter; it was known worldwide as an exceptional act.  Forgiveness is at the heart of our faith, but it is not easy.  Peter thought he was being generous when he offered to forgive his brother up to seven times.  Rabbis taught that you could be forgiven up to three times, but Jesus took that far further, when he said that a Christian must forgive seventy times seven; in fact there is no limit to forgiveness. The Hebrew slaves wished they had not left Egypt when they saw the Egyptians in pursuit.  Moses had to reassure them that God would deliver them that very day.  God must have been so frustrated when the Hebrews kept grumbling and failed to trust in Him.  We know that God’s patience and longsuffering was endless, when the freed slaves let him down again and again. Many of us battle with feelings of inadequacy, maybe from childhood failures and find it almost impossible to forgive our

selves.  How do we accept such an overwhelming loved and forgiveness, especially when as I do, we keep making mistakes?

Jesus told the story of the servant who was forgiven a great debt; and then went out and dealt unmercifully with a fellow servant who owed a tiny fraction of that amount and he was utterly condemned for his lack of mercy on his fellow servant.  Jesus explained that unless we are prepared to be merciful and forgive those who hurt us we will not be forgiven.  Divine and human forgiveness must go hand in hand.  That is especially true as there is such a contrast between the two debts; the first servant owed his master 10,000 talents, a talent was about £240 so £2,400,000, which was an incredible debt, a king’s ransom, impossible to pay and yet he was forgiven it all.  However the second servant owed about 100 denarii; a denarius was about 4p, so the total debt was about £5.  There is nothing that people can do to us, which in any way compares to what we have done to God.  If God has forgiven our debt then we must forgive others who have wronged us.  Nothing we have to forgive can even begin to compare with what we have been forgiven.

Paul reminded his readers not to look down on or judge others, as each of them is answerable to God not our fellow Christians.    He did not mean that they should ignore others failings or sins but not to expect them all to come to the same conclusion.   My husband and I are not teetotal but share a couple of bottles of wine a week with one or two glasses at a time and alcohol free days in between.  When our friend Graham comes we have only non alcoholic drinks to respect the fact that he no longer drinks as he was an alcoholic.  I know many people choose not to drink alcohol and I support them in that choice, even though I drink, as I think, responsibly.

We teach our children to say they are sorry and we too need to repent of our wrong attitudes. We forgive our children as we love them and they in turn forgive us.  We need to repent of our mistakes and restore our relationship with God our Father.  When our patience runs out with our children we need to say we are sorry as we know God never gives up on us, no matter how many mistakes we have made.

We sang ‘Just as I am without one plea,’ before I led the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang my favourite hymn; ‘And can it be’.

 

 

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