The Home Worship below for Sunday 6th June has been prepared for our use by Rev Anthony Parkinson.

Call to worship – Ps 138.1-2
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise.
 I will bow down towards your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,

Hymn STF 51 – Great is thy faithfulness

Prayers
Loving and faithful God, we worship and adore you. Creator and sustainer of all, before time began, you were. Through your creative word you brought into being all that is, and all things exist for your purpose. You brought this earth into being, and filled it with life; and you set your love on us human beings. So we worship and adore you.
Jesus Christ, son of God and Son of Man, through your life and example we can come to know God. By your sacrificial death and glorious resurrection we have the promise of salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life. We worship and adore you.
Holy Spirit, God’s own presence in the world and in all believers, through you we can continue to learn about God. You lead us in his way, you prompt us when we falter, and you strengthen us for God’s service. We worship and adore you.
And yet still we fail to meet up to God’s standards and our profession of faith. By what we do, and what we fail to do, we dishonour his name; by what we say or fail to say, we reveal our own shortcomings, our selfishness, our unwillingness to accept God’s call on our lives. Father forgive us…..
God says, to all who come to me in true and full repentance, there is complete forgiveness; go in peace – your sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God, Amen

Reading – Mark 3.20-35
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.  Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.’ He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an impure spirit.’

 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.  A crowd was sitting round him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you. ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle round him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’

Sermon
Anyone for a Markan sandwich?
No – it’s not an exotic Near Eastern snack; it’s a description of one of Mark’s story-telling techniques, which he uses in this reading. He divides a single event into two, and ‘sandwiches’ something else between the two ends. Another example is the healing of Jairus’ daughter (5.21-24 and 35-43) which ‘sandwiches’ another significant healing. Its effect is often to increase the impact of the ‘outside’ story by the ‘inside’ one.
Today’s reading focuses on different responses to the ministry of Jesus, his powerful and controversial teaching, and his healings and exorcisms. As he continues to teach, three groups of people converge on him.
First, there is his family, who clearly do not understand what he is about. Their view is that he must be out of his mind, so they arrive with the intention of taking him home to be looked after. This is only one step beyond the response when Jesus preached in Nazareth (Mark 6.1-6) and the congregation took offence at the ‘local boy’ lecturing them.
Second, there are the scribes from Jerusalem, the learned professionals come to check up on this upstart preacher. They accept that Jesus has miraculous powers; however, since (by their standards) his teachings about the Sabbath break the Law, his powers cannot be from God and must be demonic. Jesus skewers this logic with his parable about Satan and his kingdom, and implies that he is the ‘stronger man’ who has overcome Satan.
Third, there are his disciples and the larger listening crowd. For them what Jesus says and does is good news, and what he then goes on to say takes them further than they might ever have imagined. With the saying at the end of the passage, Jesus radically redefines the concept of ‘family’, putting each individual’s relationship with God above every other relationship.
This must have sounded totally shocking, especially to Jesus’ own family. After all, within the covenant relationship defined by the Ten Commandments, ‘honouring’ one’s parents was next to honouring God, and loyalty to family was the strongest social bond. No wonder the parable of the Prodigal Son was so subversive. But what Jesus was saying here he repeats in different words to would-be disciples (Luke 14.26) – ‘no-one can be my disciple unless he hates his family’ (which may actually be Hebrew hyperbole, meaning ‘loves them less than he loves me’). Indeed, as Jesus said later (Mark 13.12-13), being a follower of Jesus may mean total alienation from family – something which many converts (especially from other religions) know to be the truth even now.
But contrariwise, being a follower of Jesus brings each disciple into a new web of relationship, into the family of the church, based not on blood-relationship but on the love of God for each believer and the believer’s loving obedience to God. These are the people whom Jesus claims as his ‘brother and sister and mother’, whom Paul later describes as the adopted children of God and sisters and brothers of Christ (Ephesians 1.5). This new fellowship has the ethical qualities of a family – love, mutual support and encouragement – which plays out in the way in which the believers lived (as Luke describes in Acts 2.42-47).
And we have the task to ensure that the church is still the same today – not just a social club, not an exclusive spiritual in-group, but an open, accepting, inclusive community, loving and caring for all other members of the group as sisters and brothers, and for those who come to the church in search of God. For our relationship does not derive from a human family tree, however long and illustrious; as it is said, God has no grandchildren. We look to God our Father whom we worship and obey, and to Jesus Christ our brother; we hold out our arms to embrace our sisters and brothers in Christ. So let us continue to live and work in the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to promote his kingdom; and let us do our utmost to enlarge God’s family by bringing others into that same special relationship, and to maintain, though the Holy Spirit, that unity which makes us (in the words of our next hymn) ‘one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.’

Hymn HP 758 – In Christ there is no east or west

Intercessions
Let us pray today for the church, worldwide and locally.
We pray for the church throughout the world – divided into so many denominations yet all offering worship to the one God. We pray that even if there can never be visible unity between all churches, they may find ways of working together for the sake of the kingdom.
We pray for the church under threat – for churches in countries where there is persecution, where believers are targeted and churches destroyed. May Christians on those places hold on to their faith, and may we find ways of giving them help and support.
We pray for the Methodist Church, seeking to hold together widely differing views. We pray for those who have to make hard decisions about the deployment of ministers, and the use of resources.
We pray for churches feeling the stress of the last year’s restrictions – for those churches wondering whether to reopen at all. May they find ways to maintain their fellowship and continue their service to the community in new ways.
We pray for our own church and circuit. We pray that as we become able to meet together again, so our fellowship may be strengthened and our outreach reimagined and increased.
We ask all these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray –
Our Father in heaven, may your holy name be honoured;
may your kingdom come,
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done,
as we forgive the wrongs others have done to us.
Do not bring to hard testing,
but keep us safe from the evil one.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever, Amen.

Hymn STF 691 – What shall our greeting be?

Blessing
As the family of God let us receive God’s blessing;
as the family of the church, let us bless our sisters and brothers.

The blessing of God the Father, creator and sustainer of all;
the blessing of Jesus Christ, first-born of all creation,
our Lord and our brother;
the blessing of the Holy Spirit, God present with us and among us.
May God keep us and bless us now and for ever.
Amen.