Home Worship 26th July

Let us light a candle as we begin our worship

Call to Worship

O God,
Jesus taught that where our treasure is,
there will our hearts be also.
In this hour, we come bringing our treasures—
all that we have and all that we are.
We come seeking your treasure—
treasure that does not fade, decay, or disappoint.
Share with us the treasure of heaven,
that we may boldly share it with others. Amen.


Hymn 545

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

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

3   Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

4   Riches I heed not, nor earth’s empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart:
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

5   High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright Sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Irish, 8th century
translated by Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880–1931)
versified by Eleanor Henrietta Hull (1860–1935)  (alt.)


Prayer

Let us give thanks for the remarkable gifts of God’s creating and redeeming love,
the loving that casts out all fear.
For the love that frees us to ask questions and explore,
to frame doubts and investigate new possibilities,
to build theories and then cross-examine them.
We thank you,

God of adventurous love.
For the love that enables us to marvel at our own existence,
to ponder and remember,
recognize our own needs
and affirm our own knowledge and purpose.
We thank you,

God of determined love.
For the love that helps us to communicate with one another,
to express trust and respect,
share heartaches and visions,
to convey love and mercy.
We thank you,

God of reconciling love.
For the love that inspires us to warmly encourage those around us,
to affirm and build up,
comfort and enlighten.
We thank you,

 God of nurturing love.
For the love that liberates us to celebrate the world around us
in poetry and song,
to delight in shapes and colours, intricacies and patterns,
awesome forces
and deep mysteries.
We thank you,

God of visionary love.
For the love that encourages us to express something of our faith;
for creeds and prayers,
hymns and readings,
discussion groups and sermons.
We thank you,

God of creative love.
Above all else we thank you
for the love that allows us to admit that we have no words in which to adequately describe
the process of faith in Christ,
the awesome worship of our God,
and the holy wonder of the Spirit.
We thank you for that point where
our love becomes wordless adoration.
Through Christ Jesus,
who is the pure glory of your loving. 
Amen

 Bruce Prewer


Bible Reading

Mathew 13:31-33, 44-50

The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”


The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

The Parable of the Net

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Reflection on the Reading 1

In these beautiful small stories, Jesus tells us that finding the Kingdom of Heaven is like a hidden treasure or like a pearl of great value and choices we have to make to possess it.

Interestingly, these stores don’t emphasis on finding the treasure or the pearl but on what the person does when they have found them. These stories talk about the struggle and pain we go through to make some clear choices. Sometimes choosing also means rejecting lots of other things. In most areas of our lives making choices is not so painful but when it comes to love and relationship, we need to accept some limits. We have to deny infinite choices to stay faithful to what is most precious to us. Maybe this is what makes love difficult.

In these stories when the person found the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value, they went and sold everything they had to obtain something that would make them truly happy.

In the first two parables, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a small mustard seed and hidden yeast. These two ordinary things have the potential to bring huge transformations.

In the Kingdom of Haven, the value of something is hidden in its transformative powers.

Upon finding their true joy they had to let go of things they were attached to. When we discover the joy that comes from God our attachment to other things will be loosened and our priorities will change.

These stories also tell us that this is not all about our will-power. In the parable of the hidden treasure, the person came across it even when they were not looking for it. But, after finding it they realized the value of it and gave up everything else to possess it. It filled them with joy. They realised that this is what they wanted all along.

In contrast, we can tell from the pearl of great value that the merchant was already searching for pearls. The merchant must already have a collection of expensive pearls. Their experience of buying and selling pearls led them to discover the one of great value.  They had to make a difficult and biggest decision of their life. The merchant had to let go of their collection to possess this very special pearl.

In this story, we also realize that the merchant’s experience of making lots of small good and maybe some bad decisions led them to make one of the biggest decisions their life. Through making lots of small good choice they had acquired enough wealth to pay for the pearl of great value. Similarly, we prepare for making big decisions of life by the small steps of trust we take in our daily life.

Like the merchant in this parable we too need to discern between what is good and what is of great value. We have many things in our life which are good but sometimes they can also become distractions.  The merchant, although he has found many good pearls, remains thirsty for the one of great value.

In these parables, Jesus is inviting his listeners to choose the values of God’s kingdom over other good things of the world and it will give them true joy.

We could reflect on Jesus’ invitation to choose God’s Kingdom over other things by asking ourselves, “In what way, my faith is like a hidden treasure or a pearl of great value?”
“How do I choose between what is good and what is better?”


Reflections on the readings 2

How do you describe what you are trying to say?

How do you tell someone how much you love them, or how beautiful the sunset is tonight?

How do you describe the love God has for us, or the way your imagination works?

When we try to describe things, it can be hard to find the right words, especially when we want to show someone just how important our feelings are, or just how special or difficult something is. In these situations, we might try to tell a story to communicate our message, might we?

We see Jesus do this a lot in his ministry. He was a great story teller, and what he was trying to explain was really difficult for people to get their heads around. You see, Jesus was changing how people understood God – he was inviting them to see that God is close, not far away. God is loving, not always angry. God is inviting each of us to be a part of God’s plan for the world, not pulling the strings like some kind of puppet-master. So Jesus used lots of stories to tell that message.

In today’s stories, or ‘parables, there is a lot about ‘smallness’. Jesus is trying to show that we don’t have to be big, grand, clever or rich to be a part of God’s family. In fact, it probably helps if we are none of those things! The Kingdom of heaven is like a seed, like a few grains of yeast, like a pearl, like a net. Simple, small, everyday items. This brings to mind the famous quote from the anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

It is easy to look out onto the challenges of our world, and make the assumption that they can only be resolved by big business, bilateral government or someone richer, cleverer, more powerful than you or I.

But the Jesus story reminds us that this is not true. Jesus’ invitation throughout the gospels is to be part of something small, a little band of disciples, a seed, a pearl, a few grains of yeast. Then, with God’s love, when we work together, when we invite others to offer their ‘smallness’, we see change begin to happen.

As churches we have often become distracted by a fascination with ‘bigness’, a desire to have large church buildings, full to bursting with people, to compare sizes of congregation and height of church spire. And who, after being part of a carol service with 1,000 voices joining in with Hark the Herald, or gathering as part of the worshiping thousands at a festival like Greenbelt or Spring Harvest, wouldn’t feel attracted to all that. We are called to seek growth in our churches, and to bring new people into the love of Christ – but have we sometimes forgotten about people and looked only for better statistics?

In this time of Coronavirus, where large gatherings have been impossible for several months now, we are being reminded of Jesus’ commitment to smallness. Jesus’ desire to bring a small group of followers around him to learn, listen and challenge one another. Over the course of Christianity, alongside our ongoing fascination with the big, there have been people who have kept alive this commitment to the small. Amongst them, Methodists have often sought to meet in small, accountability groups – class meetings, house groups, home groups, prayer cells, intentional communities, they have gone by many names.

Are you part of such a group? Would you like to be? Is this the time for you to find some people you trust and build a small community – you could meet online for now, or in a park or a garden, and have a conversation about how you could support each other in your Christian discipleship. You may like to make use of the Methodist Way of Life resources that the Methodist Church has been producing. Find out more at methodist.org.uk/our-faith/life-and-faith/a-methodist-way-of-life

This week, as we are telling stories and listening to other people tell stories, can we look for God in the little details? The simple things?

God is always inviting us to be a part of the story of love that God is writing. Jesus’ life and ministry was one long invitation to be a part of that story, through telling lots of little stories, through watching over one another in love.

Shall we take up the invitation today?
[1]


Prayers of intercession

Lord we pray for our world broken by war and conflict. Conscious of people living without homes, water and food whilst we have all we need. Conscious of people facing war just along the road from their village rather than a post office or a school.

We pray particularly for the people of ……………… and all those who share in ministry there.

What is on your heart Lord?

Show us what to do. Let us know your will so we can follow you.

Lord we pray for those who are grieving or in pain and we think of those who have lost loved ones, who are tired of living alone and find it hard to find comfort without that special person. We think of those who are ill and find it hard to make it through each day and we ask that you give them comfort and wrap your loving arms around them.

What is on your heart Lord?

Show us what to do. Let us know your will so we can follow you.

We pray for ourselves…………………………. that we might be inspired to act to do your will. That we might know your presence with us. That our hearts may be warmed by your grace, that our minds might be stretched to face new ideas.

What is on your heart Lord?

Show us what to do. Let us know your will so we can follow you.
Amen. [2]


Lord’s Prayer


Hymn 164

1   Your words to me are life and health;
they fortify my soul,
enable, guide, and teach my heart
to reach its perfect goal.

2   Your words to me are light and truth;
from day to day they show
their wisdom, passing earthly lore,
as in their truth I grow.

3   Your words to me are full of joy,
of beauty, peace, and grace;
from them I learn your blessèd will,
through them I see your face.

4   Your words are perfected in One,
yourself, the living Word;
within my heart your image print
in clearest lines, O Lord.

George Currie Martin (1865–1937)


Blessing

As we rise to face the week ahead,
Rise with us, O God.
As we go to face the challenges of the days and weeks to come,
Travel with us, O God.
As we go to seek to be the best we can be,
May we know your presence alongside us, may we recognise your Spirit at work.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen. [3]


[1] Reflection  written by Tim Baker

[2] Prayers of intercession written by Jane Bingham

[3] Additional prayers by Tim Baker