11th APRIL 2021

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony. Come praise the Lord, all his servants, all who serve in his Temple at night. Raise your hands in prayer in the Temple and praise the Lord.

Good morning everyone. We may not be able to physically meet together in God’s Temple, but as we look forward to being able to actually meet together we will continue to worship together in spirit, either on line or by post.

Let us pray
Gracious God, you are Lord of this fine day and of every day. We gather to give you praise.
Loving God, you are the source of love, and out of your compassion you love even us. We gather to give you praise.
Eternal God, you are the source of peace, bringing concord to conflict, hope to despair and comfort to sorrow. We gather to give you praise.
Liberating God, you promise freedom; releasing us from all that stops us being true followers of Christ. We gather to give you praise, in Jesus’ name.

We will open this morning’s worship with 125 from Rejoice and Sing. It’s an old fashioned hymn that I remember singing quite frequently in Primary school assemblies, but still nevertheless, a call to all of us to acknowledge the presence of God in our lives. The first verse involves calling God’s immortal assistants to help us, then those who have gone before us are asked to join in. The ‘saints’ who toil below are us. In verse 4 each one of us is encouraged to play their part and finally the whole world is asked to join in the songs of praise

1)Ye holy angels bright, who wait at God’s right hand,
Or through the realms of light fly at you Lord’s command,
Assist our song, or else the theme too high doth seem for mortal tongue.

2)Ye blessed souls at rest, who see your Saviour’s face,
Whose glory, ev’n the least, is far above our grace;
God’s praises sound, as in his sight with sweet delight ye do abound.

3)Ye saints who toil below, adore your heavenly King,
And onward as ye go some joyful anthem sing;
Take what he gives and praise him still, through good and ill, who ever lives.

4)My soul bear thou thy part, triumph in God above;
And with a well-tuned heart sing thou the songs of love.
Thou art his own, whose precious blood shed for thy good his love made known.

5)Let all creation sing and join the marvellous throng
Who crowns of glory bring and raise the Lamb’s new song.
Let all our days till life shall end, whate’er he send be filled with praise.

Rev Richard Baxter (1615-91)
V 3 J. H, Gurney (1802-62)

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession
Thank you, Father God, for the wonders of your creation. We see them all around us and we are grateful that you do not keep them for yourself, but share them freely with us. We thank you for the gifts you have given us, the skills of fingers and hands, the gift of human imagination, the ability to co-ordinate hands and mind. Thank you for giving us the patience to continue when we find tasks difficult and the persistence to begin again when things go wrong.

Particularly in these days of the pandemic, we thank you for friends and good neighbours, for families that care for us and for communities that work together in hard times.

Have mercy as we come before you to confess our failures and our sins, when our words have been many, but our deeds few. Fan the fires of compassion in us once again.
When the cries of victims go unheard and the scars of wars refuse to heal, when we fail to stand for justice to empower the weak until they are no longer oppressed, forgive us.
When our neighbours, whoever they are, need help, and we fail to show your love by offering our support, forgive us.
When as so often in the past, we avert our eyes from those in trouble and pretend everything is alright, or nothing to do with us, forgive us.
Help us to reach out to others, in love, so your glory may be revealed.

The Lord’s Prayer Our Father………………

Hymn Rejoice and Sing no. 353 this hymn assures us of God’s grace towards us, whatever we have done wrong or failed to do He will still love us and give us another chance.

1)There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in his justice which is more than liberty.

2)There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members in the sorrows of the Head.

3)There is grace enough for thousands of new worlds as great as this;
there is room for fresh creations in the Lord’s unfathomed bliss.

4)For the love of God is broader than the measures of our mind;
and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

5)But we make his love too narrow by false limits of our own;
and we magnify his strictness with a zeal he will not own.

6)If our love were but more simple we should take him at his word;
and our lives would be illumined by the glory of the Lord.

F.W.Faber (1814-63)

Reading Matthew ch 22 v34-40
The Great Commandment
34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they came together, 35 and one of them, a teacher of the Law, tried to trap him with a question. 36 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and the most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ 40 The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Hymn our next hymn is no. 648 in Rejoice and Sing

Tom Colvin 1925
© 1969 Hope Publishing Company

Reading Mark ch 12 v41-44

The Widow’s Offering
41 As Jesus sat near the Temple treasury, he watched the people as they dropped in their money. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money; 42 then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny. 43 He called his disciples together and said to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others. 44 For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had—she gave all she had to live on.”

Somewhere near this point, we would probably take the collection ‘for the work of God in our church’ and we would dedicate the money to God. So now we will have a short prayer for the donations we have made in the past and are probably continuing to make.

Lord, when you saw the widow putting her mite in the box, you knew she had given everything out of love. When we give our money or our time to your church remind us that it means nothing unless we also give our hearts and try to serve you always. Amen

Reading Acts ch 4 v32-35
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belongings were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God poured rich blessings on them all. 34 There was no one in the group who was in need. Those who owned fields or houses would sell them, bring the money received from the sale, 35 and turn it over to the apostles; and the money was distributed according to the needs of the people.

Talk the passage we have just read is one of the lectionary readings for today, and it is what has inspired me for today’s service. It is thought to have been written by the same Luke who wrote Luke’s Gospel. We don’t know if he ever met Jesus, but it is thought that he was a doctor and friend of Paul’s and he would have talked to lots of people who had met Jesus.
The Acts of the Apostles is a record of the early church, when followers of Christ were expecting Him back any day soon. Jesus’s message and teaching was still fresh in the minds of His disciples. They were still wrestling with the meaning of His teachings and perhaps with working out what He needed them to do. They were so excited by the resurrection and believed that He would return soon in bodily form at the end of the world.
With this belief in mind, the disciples began to organise themselves in readiness for Jesus’ return. We read that the Apostles performed miracles in Christ’s name, they preached to whoever would listen about the life and resurrection of Christ. Those who believed met together in the Temple, shared meals in each others homes, they praised God together and the group grew in huge numbers.
The passage seems to show an ideal society, where everyone cared for each other, where everything was shared and no-one went without. Those who had plenty shared their wealth with those who were in need. Sadly we know that this perfect state of affairs, if it ever existed, could not last. They were preparing for a limited time, but that time never ended, so no doubt, the enthusiasm and excitement and the finances waned and over the years, Christ’s followers had to accept that his bodily return was not going to be immediate. Even during Paul’s evangelism years, we hear of ‘fallings out’ and disagreements. The human race is not perfect as we so well know. Apart from the apostles, who dedicated their lives to continuing with Jesus’s work, most people went back to their homes and families, returned to their previous work and carried on with their lives, but still tried to live in the way that Christ would have wanted, encouraged by their churches and the early evangelists.
This of course is not the end of the story. After all these centuries, we are still learning about the teachings of Jesus, how He came with good news from God, how God loves us and wants us to be His children, how there is always hope in the world and that death is not the end. Perhaps nowadays we are not so excited about it, and for us who come to church the news has lost its freshness. We think we have heard all the stories and maybe done all we can.
This is patently not so. Each generation has to learn anew what God is telling us. The church has to constantly refresh the message and make it relevant to each generation. We live in different situations to those who knew Jesus, perhaps with different needs, different worries, different strains and stresses and yet…….
The words of Jesus can still come through loud and clear, Love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your mind. Love your neighbour as you love yourself. If you do this, then all the other laws that have been handed down through the Old Testament will fall into place. If we really could have this much love, then the world would be the place God meant it to be.
But sometimes we don’t always know how to express our love in human terms, how best to live our lives, so it’s back to the scriptures. and in particular today’s passage from Acts. It was quite clear to those early Christians that what God wanted was for us to share the good things of His world.
As is becoming increasingly obvious nowadays in this global community we live in, the resources of the world are many, but limited. While some people and nations have far more of the resources than they need others just do not have enough to live, even at a very basic level. We need only use the image of a cake to know that if one or two people take more than their fair share, then everyone else has less. On a much bigger scale, this is what is happening in today’s world.
There are countries in the world that have never known the affluence that the richest countries take for granted. They struggle to feed themselves and their families, their children are uneducated, they rely on charity when they are ill. The richer nations they sell their produce to do not pay a fair amount. Do they not need a bigger slice of the cake?
There are refugees, fleeing from wars and abuse, herded into camps, only wanting to live their lives in peace. Do they not need a bigger slice of the cake?
During the pandemic, it has become obvious that many people in this country do not have enough to live on. It would have been unimaginable ten or twenty years ago that we would need food banks. Do these people not need a bigger slice of the cake?
The lockdown has made an ongoing situation worse as many people are unable to work, and shops and firms have temporarily, we hope, closed down. Many people have been helped by government schemes such as furloughing, but just as many seemed to have dropped through the net. Many employers have tried to find ways of helping their staff, while struggling to survive themselves. Others have built up debts they have little hope of paying off.
We have been blessed with health service staff who have worked non-stop to care for patients struggling with the Covid virus, but who are now struggling themselves with exhaustion from staff shortages. After coping with a huge number of patients needing intensive care, they are faced with a backlog of patients needing to catch up on more usual treatments such as for cancer, and little hope of a respite. Many, who are feeling underappreciated and finding themselves unable to pay their bills, are considering leaving the profession for less demanding jobs that will pay better, thus making a difficult situation worse. Do they not need a bigger slice of the cake?
We have people on our streets who are homeless, there are those who are disabled amongst us having to rely on carers who are unpaid, there are those in low paid jobs who cannot take part in activities we take for granted because of their low wage, and those who have insecure work who dare not take time off when ill. Do they not need a bigger slice of the cake?
But if all of these people have a bigger share of the cake, it means that others will have to have smaller shares. It may mean that we will all have to pay more for the things we have, so that others can be fairly paid for their work, it may well mean that we can’t afford quite so many things.
It means that we must put in protections for workers so that they are not ill-used and working in poor conditions for too many hours, bullied by employers whose bottom line is a bigger than necessary profit margin.
It means that we have to be aware of how other people live or struggle and not turn a blind eye to their predicaments. In a democracy, we must accept our responsibilities to others, and insist on our representatives making rules for the good of the whole community so that all can have a fair share of the cake.
I have, what I think is a wonderful book, written by the Rev Donald Hilton, who at one time was the moderator of the Yorkshire Synod of the URC. It’s called ‘Table Talk’ and it explores the act of Communion in churches of all denominations. Communion, by one name or another, is important to all Christians, it can bring us together, sometimes it drags us apart. One chapter of the book makes the point that when we come to the Communion table on a Sunday, everyone is equal, however wealthy or powerful some communicants may be, but Jesus is interested in how equal we are during the rest of the week.
When I look back at what I have written, I feel alarmed that I seem to have written a very political diatribe, but I have used a Bible passage for inspiration and other passages for reference. Jesus was concerned with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the left behinds. Because it is about life, and how we live our lives, the Bible is a very political book. Justice and fairness are inherent throughout its pages. When we organise our way of living through our democracy, we should bear in mind how those we vote for would share out the global cake. God may not always want it to be cut to our advantage.

Prayers of Intercessions
Father of multitudes, you have brought us together as family – from all places, all peoples, all times, all tongues – and you have placed us in fellowship with one another, with those who are like us, and those who are different. We share communion through time with the witnesses of your resurrection –those who saw and believed, those who doubted, those who spread the news, those who hid.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit as you filled your disciples, despite their faults and fears, so that we can boldly proclaim the Good News of your kingdom life through our everyday living. And may all your people, dwelling together in unity, so display your love and grace that others may come to believe, and through believing have life in you.

We pray for the voice of conscience crying in the wilderness: for the lone voice speaking out in the babble of indifference and neglect; for the pressure groups exposing injustice; and for the Church speaking to a godless world.

We pray for refugees fleeing from violence, and having trouble finding a welcome; for those who have resettled, but still long for the land of their birth, for young people leaving home to seek security or love, for those ill-treated by their marriage partner and for children caught up in a cycle of abuse.

We pray for those whose morale is low: because life has become a cul-de-sac, because of illness in themselves or loved ones; because of grief or bereavement; because of unemployment or lost opportunity.

We pray for your Church in its mission and service and especially for those with dwindling numbers. May the power of your resurrection give hope for those who struggle to be the conscience of society as part of their witness, for our congregations as we witness to our neighbourhoods and faith to those who have none.

Lord, though our prayers may be small and weak, may those for whom we have prayed hear your eternal word.


D Bilbrough
©Kingsway’s Thank You Music
May the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you always