All posts by Rebecca

Harvest Plans

We are busy planning our Harvest Thanksgiving. The details below are correct as of today (23rd September). We will keep you informed if these plans change in anyway.

Our Harvest service will take place on Zoom at 10.30 am. on Sunday 11th October.. This Service will be led by our Minister Rev. Arthur Cowburn. The links will be posted on this site nearer the time.

On Saturday (10th) October between 10- 12 a.m. the Church will be open for your donations of Harvest Goods. These goods will then be given to the Basics Bank and St Dismas as we usually do. Please do not give any fresh goods as we will need to quarantine all goods for three days, and we expect the charities will have to do the same – so fresh goods would go off. If you wish to donate please follow the instructions given at the Church, and wear a facecovering, (unless exempt), as facecovering are required in all Church Buildings at this time.

For more about the basics bank please see

https://southamptoncitymission.co.uk/basics-banks

We realise that you may not wish to enter any buildings at this time, and this is fine there are other ways to join in with us. We are running a gallery of Harvest Pictures on the website please see the article

https://hedgeendmethodists.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/harvest-2020/

for details of this. You can also look at the Photographs already sent in please see the Harvest Gallery at the top of this site.

We also are supporting the initiative by “All we Can” called “change begins with a bicycle” and will be running a just giving page where you will be able to donate to this, more details will be posted here when the page has been set up.

Changing The Status Quo

A service for Sunday 27th September prepared for us by Rev Arthur Cowburn. This service will also be available on Zoom at 10,30 on that day.

The Link for zoom is

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83115763263?pwd=WWVnRHJpZnRKL2hmc0dCNXQwOUdZdz09

Meeting ID: 831 1576 3263
Passcode: 938384

Call to Worship
The psalmist wrote:
‘Show me your ways, O Lord,and teach me your paths.Lead me in your truth and teach me.’Let us also seek the way and the truth of God.


Hymn StF 357 – Jesus – the name high over all

Prayer of Thanksgiving

We’re grateful, Lord God, that you love us and care for us, that Jesus lived and died for us.We’re grateful that you are interested in us,
even us with all our faults and failings.Thank you for sharing our lives,
for being within our hopes and dreams.Thank you for giving us purpose and meaning.Thank you for showing us how to live a life of goodness and truth, a life of caring and sharing.Thank you for your generosity and abundance even if we fail to see it.Thank you, God, for being you
and thank you for making us the people we are.
Amen.

Reading Philippians 2: 1-13

2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing    by taking the very nature of a servant,    being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—        even death on a cross!
 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place  and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,    to the glory of God the Father.Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

Reading Matthew 21: 23-32

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Sermon

Some of you will be old enough to remember the “Class System” sketch involving John Cleese and the Two Ronnies about who looked up to who and who looked down with Ronnie Corbett always having the last line, ”I know my place. Perhaps we don’t have the same ideas of class that existed when that was first broadcast although many of the other inequalities are still there.
Status was all important in religious life at the time of Jesus as it was throughout the Roman empire and in both the above readings, we find a challenge to the status quo. Paul talks about Jesus humbling himself, taking the nature of a servant and being obedient to death on a cross. To the average Roman citizen this was absolutely unthinkable, that somebody should choose to humble themselves in that way and yet by being prepared to do that, Jesus is exalted to the highest place. In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the elders and chief priests that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of them. Again, something that would have been totally unacceptable to those who heard it. Imagine the shock if someone made a statement like that in the Vatican, Canterbury Cathedral or Methodist Church House today.
Both readings ultimately tell the same story, that it’s about what we do rather than who we are that’s important. I think one of the greatest challenges facing the Church in the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st has been its loss of position in society. Whilst there had been challenges to the role of the Church throughout its history, these had largely come from within and had usually ended with the splinter group becoming as respectable as the body it had split from. Suddenly the challenge came from outside and asked what the Church was doing in society today. For many parts of it, the sorry truth was that it had become an irrelevance, holding on to old ways of doing things and desperately trying to maintain suites of crumbling buildings.
Now, we face a new challenge. We have been unable for much of this year to worship in our church buildings and to use them in the way to which we had become accustomed. We have become a church in the virtual world of the internet, reaching people in ways that couldn’t have been dreamed of years ago, we have cared for people in a variety of different ways, physically and spiritually. But what happens next? If and when things settle down, do we just go back to our buildings or do we decide that they are no longer necessary?
The answer will be different in different places. When I was working in Luton there were two churches planted on new housing estates. Both initially worshipped in community buildings and both eventually built their own premises. After a number of years, one church said it was the best thing they’d ever done because it enabled them to do new things in the community, the other said it had turned their focus away from the community and regretted ever having begun building.
I believe that some churches will not reopen at the end of the pandemic deciding that they have fulfilled their purpose, but by doing that will release resources to be used elsewhere. Some will decide that their buildings are no longer necessary, but they can continue as a church in a new and exciting way. Others will look at new ways of using their buildings to better reach out to their local communities whilst some will just want to go back to doing what they’ve always done. There will be good reasons why these may be the right choices for individual churches.
Paul tells the Philippians that they should do nothing out of selfish ambition but should, in humility, value others above themselves and look to the interests of others rather than themselves. He tells them to have the same attitude of mind that Jesus had which will potentially do nothing for their social aspirations and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. We need to keep these things at the front of our minds as we decide on our way forward in the coming months if we are to truly serve God in our churches’ lives. All of this might mean that we have to make sacrifices in terms of what we like or the positions we hold.
But then comes the crunch! “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose,” Individually and collectively, our calling is to discern and to act upon God’s will in order that the world might know God’s presence and God’s love.

Hymn StF 504 May the Mind of Christ my Saviour

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray for all those in need across our world For those who live under oppressive and restrictive regimes
For those who suffer because of their faith, gender, colour, or sexual orientation For those caught up in modern day slavery.
Grant them your freedom

For Governments across our world faced with difficult decisions
For those who struggle for freedom and for peace
For those working to preserve the environment
Grant them your wisdom

For all affected by the current pandemic
For those still struggling with the effects of covid 19
For those who have lost loved ones
For those worried about going out into the community
For those facing problems related to housing, employment, and debt
Grant them your peace

For the Church
For those seeking new ways to present the gospel
For those who keep the buildings safe
For those mourning the loss of a place of worship
For those providing love to their local communities
Grant them your strength

For those we know and love
For those who are sick
For those who are lonely
For those who are bereaved
Grant them your healing

For ourselves as we seek to work for you
Grant us your presence now and always
Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

StF 615 Let love be real

Blessing

May the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with us, now and for evermore. Amen

Our Friends at Lavington Nairobi

Our Friends at Lavington in Nairobi are busy broadcasting their services and news internationally at this time. Details of their activities including on Facebook and YouTube can be found at:

http://www.lavingtonunited.org/

Hedge End Methodist was visited by Rev John Maromba from Lavington in May 2017 as a result of Graham’s visits to Nairobi in 2015 to 2016.

More about this visit and Graham’s visits to Lavington can be found in previous blogs on this site links to some of which can be found below.

https://hedgeendmethodists.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/visit-of-minister-from-nairobi/

https://hedgeendmethodists.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/another-letter-from-nairobi/

https://hedgeendmethodists.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/methodists-in-kenya/

More blogs about Lavington can be found by using the Green search button at the top of this website.

Service for Sunday 20th September

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. Psalm 100:4 (NIV)

Knowing the way into God’s presence is so important, so let us come to God with thanksgiving and with praise, as through that we have access into His presence.

Hymn StF 11 – Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!

PRAYERS OF ADORATION
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! We come before you with thanksgiving in our hearts and praises on our lips, as together we join with the hosts of heaven this Sunday morning, to worship you.

You are the alpha and omega, perfect in every way, and master of all that we see and perceive with our senses. Yet there is so much more to the world around us that is beyond our sight, hearing, touch and imaginations. In wonder we offer our praises to you, Amen.

READINGS Isaiah 53:7-9 (The Message)
7-9 He was beaten, he was tortured,    but he didn’t say a word.Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared,    he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—    and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,    beaten bloody for the sins of my people.They buried him with the wicked,    threw him in a grave with a rich man,Even though he’d never hurt a soul    or said one word that wasn’t true.

Acts 8:26-40 (NIV)
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked.
31 ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,    so he did not open his mouth.33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.    Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?’ 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

SERMON
Philip was a man who witnessed to the Kingdom of God, through his actions, and words, whilst meeting people at their point of need. The Ethiopian Eunuch, the treasurer of Ethiopia, was one such person that Philip met, in this case on the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza.
Context
From the passage in Acts, we hear of Philip, a Greek-speaking Jew, who led a very successful ministry in Samaria, where he performed many miraculous signs and healings. However, in the midst of this, Philip was visited by an angel of the Lord and in effect told to leave his work in Samaria and immediately travel down the desert road towards Gaza.
The Ethiopian was a person of great importance, probably not a convert, but someone seeking God. His questions concerning the reading we heard from the Book of Isaiah this morning, are leading him along a road to faith in Jesus Christ, assisted by the words and explanations of Philip. Philip was the man who God, through the actions of the Holy Spirit, placed in the Ethiopian’s path, to help bring him to faith. In a similar fashion, God also has a purpose for asking you to move or placing you in particular situations, whether the “why” seems clear or not.
Philip listened and obeyed
The very nature of Philip’s faith and ministry is in effect encapsulated in the words, “an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south” down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he started out, ….” (Acts 8:26). He listened to the Lord and was obedient to him! Leaving Samaria and his ministry there at a moment’s notice to go south, for no other reason than because the Lord asked him to.
Listening is a key thing in relationships, as is responding to what you hear. The exaggerated nature of sitcoms, helps bring alive something of the nature of relationships and our interactions between colleagues, friends and family members. There are many examples.
When we look at the context of the relationship between Philip and God, it is the complete opposite to that of a sitcom. He listens to God, there is nothing selective about his hearing, he speaks with God, and because of that he is aware of God’s will. In v.29, when Philip hears the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah, the Holy Spirit says to Philip, “Go over and walk beside the carriage.” And Philip ran over. He is obedient, he listens and responds to God. He has a close, intimate relationship with his Lord, placing Jesus at the centre of his life.
We too can have a relationship like that, we can speak to God through prayer, and of course it can be anytime, not only on a Sunday morning, it can be about anything, our wants, our fears, our joys, our disappointments. Being obedient to God is also about attentively reading the Bible, conversing with God about guidance and direction, and reflecting on God’s Word while being attentive to the prompting’s of the Holy Spirit. Let’s not also forget, there is the doing and acting out of our faith, being witnesses to the Kingdom of God, a commitment we renew annually as part of the Covenant service.
Philip appears to have Jesus at the centre of his life – a man without prejudices
Philip had no prejudices. He is a Greek-speaking Jew, who lives amongst people considered outcasts in Jewish society. He may well have been considered as an outcast himself. Similarly, he is equally at home with talking with the Ethiopian, a man clearly from a far and distant land.
How particularly apposite that is at the current time, with the Black Lives Matter movement, which is all about prejudice – overt, subtle or subconsciously.
Philip answered the question
One of the most frustrating things that people experience, and politicians are considered some of the guiltiest of this, is when people do not answer a specific question, or if they do answer it, they do not give straight answers. From a previously recorded interview that I watched of Andrew Marr speaking to a former prime minister, it was evident from the start that answers were going to be in short supply. This was not an exception, as studies have shown that although on average 39% of questions put to politicians are answered directly, that still leaves a massive 61% that aren’t. What’s more, some analyses show that there are as many as 35 ways that a politician avoids answering a question, such as ignoring the question, questioning the question – the list goes on and on.
According to one explanation for this, questions can pose a so called “communicative conflict” – what a great expression! A communicative conflict being where all possible responses can have negative outcomes, but yet a response is expected. Perhaps a common situation might be receiving an unwanted present, but when faced with a direct question of if you like it or not, you have a quandary. The choices are to pretend you do and say yes, or risk upsetting the friend by saying no. There is perhaps the politicians response, “it was a really kind thought”, which avoids any awkwardness, and no lie, or hurt feelings.
Perhaps, in some ways, it is equally difficult to speak about faith and Jesus, going to church, praying etc. Someone with probing questions, seeking God, might ask, do you really believe that Jesus Christ lived on this earth? What about the miracles that he undertook, or even, how could prophesy in the Book of Isaiah, written hundreds of years before 30 A.D., relate to Jesus Christ? All questions that for some will pose issues about where they stand on Christianity, potentially opening them up to criticism. One easy solution to this “communicative conflict” would be to side-step the issue, i.e. a politicians answer. Dare we even consider the consequences if this had been Philip’s response!
Fortunately Philip had no such issues. Philip answered the Ethiopian’s questions about the scripture from Isaiah that he found so puzzling. He also linked it with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and the Ethiopian responded there and then, committing himself to Christ, and furthermore making a physical statement of his own personal commitment through baptism. It was an important step, with no one of official standing to see, only his attendant staff.
The Good News
At times, we should aim to remind ourselves of the Good News of Jesus Christ that Philip would have been recounting, that Christ died and rose again, giving all the hope of salvation and eternal life through belief in the Son of God. Part and parcel of this is acknowledging our shortcomings before God, accepting His forgiveness and committing and leading a life centred on Jesus, i.e. in the footsteps of Philip. This is a commitment that we can all respond to, or renew, as appropriate, at any point in our lives.
Summary and Challenge
We have heard how Philip listened to God, responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and to the questions of the Ethiopian official at his point of need, doing so without prejudice.
How challenging would you find it, to respond to similar things in the same way as Philip. For example, would you drop everything to respond to the needs of someone and in so doing demonstrate the Kingdom of God in action, an act of mercy for a neighbour, or perhaps assisting a refugee crossing the Mediterranean financially or physically. And what about direct issues of faith, how would you respond to a question about faith from a complete stranger or friend or colleague, or talking about Jesus Christ, and what he means to you. If we are to progress on our journey of faith, it is questions and challenges such as these, that we have to address and work out our responses to.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Dear Lord, we come before you now, with all our faults and misgivings, but knowing that your limitless love is all encompassing and that there is nothing that you will not forgive us for, such as when we have been angry with family, friends or colleagues, thoughtless to those we love or ignored those seeking You. We ask now for your forgiveness Lord as we bring these thoughts and our own before you (PAUSE). Forgive us Lord. Thank you that through Christ we are offered complete forgiveness and through the power of the Holy Spirit we are empowered to move forward in our faith. Amen.
PRAYER OF RESPONSE
Lord in our prayers, help us to know when to listen to you, help us to be open and receptive to the presence of your Holy Spirit within and around us, as we lead our lives, working for the glory of your kingdom in our homes, neighbourhoods, towns and cities, but always putting you, Jesus, at the centre of our lives. Amen.

Hymn StF 447 Jesus, be the centre

PRAYERS FOR OUR WORLD
Dear Father, we speak to you this morning for our world and those around us, knowing that you hear all that we ask and pray for. We bring to you the work that is on-going to develop an effective vaccine for COVID-19, and ask for your blessing on this. We particularly think of those countries and regions of the world known to us that have inadequate health infrastructure to treat patients and victims of this disease.
We pray for our government and parliament as the process of leaving the EU continues, asking for wisdom and pragmatism on both sides.
We continue our prayers for health and care workers in Southampton, safety amongst the returning student population and unpaid carers as local authorities struggle to balance their budgets.
We pray for our church family, those living away from their own families or unable to see them for health reasons.
Finally we bring ourselves and our own thoughts to you (PAUSE). We thank you for listening and responding to our words and thoughts, Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name.
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,
Now and for ever, Amen.

Hymn StF 407 Hear the call of the Kingdom

BLESSING
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us now and forever more, Amen.

Harvest 2020

We will be celebrating Harvest on Sunday 11th October this year. As we are unable to decorate the church we would like your help in decorating this website instead. Please can you send me pictures of items you have grown, baked, crafted, drawn, or artistically arranged on the theme of harvest. These will be posted in a gallery similar to that above, but hopefully bigger for Sunday 11th. Please send before Thursday 8th October so that they can be posted in time. If you are not in personal contact with me please use the contact form on this website to send pictures. The pictures above have been taken at our harvest celebrations in previous years.

Further details of our Harvest activities will be posted on this site in due course.

Service Sheet for 13th September

This service for Sunday 13th September has been prepared for us by Rev. Anthony Parkinson. The service will also be available on zoom on Sunday at 10.30 a.m. access is available from 10.15. The Link ishttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/82776040414?pwd=bEtqUVQ0TE1jRzJqRHhLVnlURUg1QT09

The meeting id is 827 7604 0414

DO THIS INTERNET USERS:
1: click on link above, (or type into browser)
2: (if requested )enter passcode “977854”
3: give yourself a name

DO THIS TELEPHONE USERS:
1: dial “0203-481-5237” or “0203- 481-5240”
2: enter passcode “977854”

We gather together in the presence of Almighty God,
full of awe at just how amazing He is.

The Creator of all that is – who formed enormous planets and tiny ants,
who sculpted mountains and hills, who painted butterflies and sunsets,
who fragranced roses and myrrh, who formed us in His image and gave us love. Amazing creator God, we worship you.

The Saviour of all mankind – who lived a humble life as an itinerant preacher, who taught ordinary people about the ways of God,
who healed the sick,who challenged those in authority and gave up His life so that we can experience His love in our hearts.
Amazing Saviour God, we worship you.

The Holy Spirit – who breathed on all creation at the foundation of the world,who breathed on the first disciples at Pentecost,
who continues to breathe on us today to sustain us on our journey.
Amazing Holy Spirit, we worship you.

Amazing Three-in-one God –Father, Son and Holy Spirit –to you we come,and we bow before you in worship and adoration. Amen.

Hymn StF 91 – The God of Abraham praise

Prayers of Intercession
Almighty God, we praise and thank you for all your goodness to us –
for summer sun and autumn rain,for plentiful supplies of good food,
for our homes and families –and above all for your amazing love that holds and treasures us.
Pause to reflect on God’s goodness to us this past week.

We think of those for whom bad weather events
have caused problems recently –
those affected by storms and torrential rain
as well as those experiencing the effects of drought.
Father God, give them your gift of clean water.

We pray for people are unable to get enough to eat.
Our world produces enough for all,
but food distribution is not well enough managed.
Father God, give wisdom to producers,
middle-men, buyers and shoppers alike
that we buy only what we need,
so that all may be fed.

We bring to you families we know who are under stress –
those where a by-product of the Covid pandemic
has been marital breakdown,
violence or mental health problems.
Father God, we pray for wisdom
for counsellors, health care professionals and social workers
as they endeavour to bring much needed help.

We pray for people we know who are unwell –
pause to remember them by name.
Father God, comfort them in their distress,
bring them relief from their sufferings,
and fill them with a knowledge and experience of your love.

Father God, we thank you that your love is free to all.
Help us to live
believing and showing that love
to all whom we have contact with.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.

Readings
Exodus 14:10-16, 21-2, 26-7, 29 (NIV)
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’
13 Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’ 15 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing towards it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 
29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

Romans 14: 1-8, 13 (The Message)
14 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. 5 Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other.
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.

Hymn StF 161 – Speak O Lord

(You can sing along at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my90e3a_nlM

Sermon
One of my favourite radio programmes is the so-called antidote to panel games, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. A regular round is called Word for Word, in which one team exchanges random and unrelated words while the other team has to spot (or make up) a connection between them. After today’s readings, you might think I’ve been playing a church version: is there any way of bringing these two bits of scripture together? Indeed, you might ask why the compilers of the lectionary chose them – well, I can’t answer that: but I can try to draw out some ideas which together have some relevance for us today.
So let’s look at each reading. First, there’s the account of the crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites have left Egypt in high spirits, but end up caught between the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian army, and they panic. They blame Moses, and imply that they never really wanted to go anyway. Moses reminds them of God’s promise and tells them not to be afraid – the same thing God told Moses himself when he commissioned him to challenge Pharaoh. Then God tells Moses to take action, and repeats his promise of protection. But for God’s promise to take effect, Moses has to do something positive – to stretch out his staff in faith – and then God makes it possible for the people to cross to safety. Not until the people had shown that they trust God does he deal with the cause of their fear, and destroy the Egyptians.
The second reading is Paul’s response to a little local issue. It looks as if the Roman church had a bad case of spiritual one-upmanship. Some of the congregation had such scruples about eating butcher’s meat which might have been sacrificed to pagan gods that they had turned vegetarian – and were being branded as weak in faith by those for whom pagan gods were mere superstition (Paul tackled the same issue at Corinth – see 1 Cor.8). Paul challenges this judgementalism, saying that what we believe is our own business; each one of us is accountable to God alone for our faith, so we should not let matters which really are of little importance become barriers to spiritual growth.
What do these readings say to us today? Like the Israelites, we are afraid – not of a visible army but an invisible virus. So we resist anything which might possibly expose us to risk – like opening our churches and meeting together again. We should take to heart what God said to Moses – don’t be afraid. The truth is that we live in one of the parts of England least-affected by Covid-19 – in the week to Monday 7th, Eastleigh borough has had only 5 new infections (4 per 100,000 people), and Southampton has had 9. It is not that we shouldn’t take reasonable care – but we should not be so afraid that we are paralysed. And if we are to be the church visible in the community, a fellowship in real terms and not just a Zoom congregation dependent on the uncertainties of technology, we have to take that first bold step. We have to do whatever will allow us to come together in our building for meetings, for worship, and for whatever level of fellowship is possible. We can’t wait for absolute safety – a vaccine, or the total disappearance of the virus in the community; we must not be like a wartime convoy, moving at the speed of the slowest ship.
At the same time we should not overlook our brothers and sisters who do still have real concerns, for themselves and for other people. We may feel that there is little enough risk when all the appropriate mitigation measures are in place – but not everyone is so confident. Paul reminds us that they are just as sincere as we are in what they believe, and must be respected. We should do our best to provide for them as well as for ourselves (and I mean that in both senses of the words ‘as well’).
So we should look forward to a quite different church for the future. Yes, there will be services, where we gather in the same space (God willing) with singing and coffee; yes, there will be house-groups and prayer-groups and even church council meetings where we speak face-to-face without having to raise a blue hand. But we will not stop using Zoom and YouTube and all the new ways of being together at a distance – because if that is the way to keep the church together, to support those who are not ready for an open church, and indeed to spread the news of the kingdom into new and unexpected places, that is what God will want us to do.
God said to Moses, don’t be afraid; he says the same to us. God said to Moses, stretch out your staff; he says to us, do something positive now. Then, says God, I can act to move my purposes forward.

Confession
Father God, when we stop and look honestly at our past, we know there have been times when we have not listened for your voice, or have not acted on what we heard. Sometimes we have been too stubborn or too caught up in our own concerns to move forward. Sometimes we have taken the easy way, and simply stood still.

We confess our unwillingness to take the risks involved in putting your plans into action, and we are sorry.

Lord God, we ask for your forgiveness.

Help us to move forward with you. Amen.
Absolution
God hears our prayers; through Christ he offers us complete forgiveness. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to move forward in faith. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Hymn StF 660 – Called by Christ to be disciples

Blessing
As we go from this time of worship, and return to everyday life,
may the strength of God uphold us;
as we respond to the needs of others,
may the love of Christ fill us;
as we contemplate an uncertain future with hope,
may the Holy Spirit guide and direct us;
and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Spirit
be with us now and always,
Amen.

Hymn Books Have Got Bigger

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The above pictures show a Book of Common Prayer, and a “Hymns A and M”, (presumably ancient and Modern). From Circa 1880, the Methodist Hymn Book “Hymns and Psalms” (first Published 1982) and the current Methodist Hymn book “Singing the Faith”. It struck me how much bigger the more modern books were. I am not sure if this is because there are now more Hymns, or due to a decrease in the cost of printing or because our eyesight is collectively getting worse. The 1880 book set was used by my Great Grandmothers sister “Aunt Em” in Somerset, and some of the Hymns it contains are still in use today. It must be noted that the 1880 edition does only contain the words; the other two Hymn books are the music editions.

The Way of Community Love


A service for worship at home – 6th September 2020 – prepared by Rev. Christine Coram

As you begin this time of worship, I invite you to offer the time to God who gives us life. Ask him to enable you to give all you are to him.

Hymn Angel Voices ever singing

Prayer
Picture a tiny baby in your mind – remember that life is a fragile miracle – a gift from God who creates us and all we know. We praise you and offer you our love.
Picture the night sky – the thousands of stars – and recall all you know about the universe. God who lovingly formed the tiniest atom, the smallest form of being, the very beginnings of human life is the same God who created the universe. We praise you and offer you our love.
Picture the best moment of your life – your most joyful moment. God was full of joy with you. Picture your worst moment. God wept with you and help you to him. We praise you and offer you our love.
Confess to God the times when your actions denied his live in your life – the times when your life has not reflected his love and when love has not been the mark of the Christian community.

Thank you, our only God that you choose to forgive us because of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. O God of life, our only creator, the architect and builder of our lives, the initiator of love, we give you thanks and praise. Teach us to love as you love and to live as people loved by you. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Readings
Matthew 18:15-17 (NIVUK)
‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Romans 13:8-10 (NIVUK)
 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law.

Reflection
In the 60s (I can’t remember back further than that!) if you turned on your television, you would not have to watch for long before you came across a Western series – High Chaparral, The Virginian and Bonanza to name but a few. You would often see the Sheriff with his shiny badge of office dispensing justice. But by the 70s, those programmes were giving way to contemporary detective drama – Randle and Hopkirk (Deceased), Kojak and Columbo, Softly Softly. And there still seems to be a fascination with bringing criminals to justice and the process of detective work, although it has shifted to the science and evidence side – CSI, Silent Witness and documentaries about forensic science for example.
The Good Guys still search to prove the Bad Guys ‘did it’ and have them ‘put away’ – but perhaps in a more sophisticated way than the Sheriff and his deputies! They are all about the Law of the land – breaking it, bending it or upholding it.
Our readings are about the law – God’s Law – but not about the strong-arm tactics of maverick ‘cops’ or the genius forensic scientists and pathologists. These passages are about how God’s people understand his law, deal with those who break it and uphold it by imitating God’s love, as seen in Jesus.
In Jesus’ society ‘law’ meant two things. The first was the rule of the occupying Romans which was foisted upon the Jews and often conflicted with their way of life, culture and beliefs.
The second was the Law of Hebrew Scripture interpreted in the Talmud. It included the very way of life that Roman law rode rough-shod over and a framework for practical living as God’s people.
The essence of Jewish Law was the Ten Commandments (quoted by Paul in our reading from Romans). And Paul says that the essence of the Commandments is LOVE.
To break God’s Law is to sin – and this is what Jesus addresses in the passage from Matthew:
What do we do if a member of the faith community breaks God’s law?
And… How do we do it?

God’s law can be summed up in the word LOVE and Jesus states elsewhere that the two most important commandments are about love of God and love of others. The way we deal with our brothers and sisters in Christ who slip into sin (as we all do at times in our lives) must also be ‘love’.

How many times have you cringed at a parent yelling at a child ‘Don’t you …..ing swear at me’ or at a slap following the words ‘Don’t hit your brother’! Or, in other words, “Do as I say and not as I do”. Jesus will have none of that.
My mother used to say “Two wrongs don’t make a right” and I think that Jesus would have whole heartedly agreed. His ‘Complaints Procedure’ is as much about what we shouldn’t do as what we should.
Step 1 – privately point out the error of our fellow Christian NOT publicly attack, accuse them or talk about it behind their backs).
Step 2 – if that has no effect, go back to them with others who can help to persuade them of their mistakes – NOT ‘send the boys round to sort them out’, haul them before the authorities before all the facts are known or create a ‘he said / she said’ argument.
Step 3 – if all else fails, take the issue to the church community– NOT to humiliate them or punish them but still loving them(and out of love for the rest of the community who may be affected by their actions) ask them to correct their mistakes.
Step 4 – tell them that they must comply, or they will no longer be welcome – NOT as revenge or in anger, but in sadness and love.
Okay, I admit there’s quite a lot of poetic licence here – but I’m trying to get at the sense of what Jesus is saying in our own context. In other words, we need to respond in a loving way, remembering the example of extreme love that Jesus modelled for us, whilst protecting the vulnerable members of our community. Jesus suffered and died according to Roman law – but he did it for us, according to God’s law of love.
Jesus was God the Son and even he needed to remain in ultra-close contact with God the Father in his earthly life. How much more do we who are just human, need to look to God for guidance. We have to balance the need to represent God in the actions of the community (and each member of it) with the humility to know that we only ever know half of a story and that none of us is perfect.
Paul says: ‘Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law.’

It is not loving to ignore behaviour that harms others. We have a duty to stand up for the truth. But we can be loving in doing so.
The law is the law and cannot be ignored when it suits us.
God’s law is God’s law – and it is love. Love does not mean a sort of soft and over-lenient attitude. Love means actions that are strong and prepared to face the difficult issues. We cannot ignore God’s Law when it suits us.
Let’s pray for wisdom and strength to act in love and within God’s law and to uphold it in love.

Hymn – May the mind of Christ, my saviour
 
Prayers of intercession
God of love, in faith we lift to you those who are in need today.
We pray for children and teachers as they become accustomed to the new measures to keep safe in schools. We pray for those who are anxious or vulnerable. We lift to you children who are disadvantaged and those who had little home-schooling during lockdown. We pray for their well-being and for those responsible for their education.
We pray for people across the world who are treated less favourable because of their ethnicity. We pray for justice and an end to white supremacy including unconscious white bias. Challenge us all to root out our attitudes that negatively affect the lives of others.
We pray for all who are suffering from Covid 19 and those who care for them. We cry out to you for those whose poverty make social distancing impossible and for those who cannot afford the treatment they need.
We pray for the Church worldwide and locally particularly where issues divide and wisdom is needed to hold the community together in love. And, as the wider impact of the Coronavirus pandemic become evident, may we understand your call to serve our neighbours and stand alongside those in need, sacrificially working to meet the social needs. Give us strength and love beyond our human limitations and speak to us as we open our hearts and minds to discern your guidance.
God of love, make us more like you as we celebrate and share your love in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen.

Hymn Father, whose everlasting love

Blessing
Lord, we have consciously been in your presence as we have worshipped you – but you remain with us wherever we go and whatever we do.
God our creator, may we live your love.
God our saviour, may we walk the way of the cross with you.
God our advocate, may we hold justice and peace in perfect balance.

The blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and always. Amen

Watching over one another in Love

The article below was written by Alison Judd

Watching over one another in love – learning from each other. The letter to the church in Rome gives us clues as to how we shall each play our part in building up the body of Christ, the church.

Romans 12: 7-8 describes the gifts of prophecy, ministry, teaching, encouraging,giving, leading, administration, pastoral care and spreading joy. All these support the community of faith.One way of building up the body of church that John Wesley advocated was through the ‘class system’. This has nothing to do with social class, but everything to do with nurturing one another in the faith.

Everyone who was a part of the church family was encouraged (if not expected) to belong to a small group, or ‘class’ of around twelve people, meeting regularly with a leader who would support them in their faith journey towards ‘scriptural holiness’.

I was interested to join an online event recently, live-streamed from the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. One of the sessions was about Class Leaders, and how important they are to the building up of the community of faith. John Wesley thought the oversight and support that the class meeting provided
was so important that it became a requirement for membership in a Methodist society. To be a Methodist meant that you were involved in a weekly class meeting. I wonder whether the class meeting might be a way of ‘building up the body’ even now?

The phrase that best captures what the early Methodists believed was so important about the class meeting was “watching over one another in love.” Early Methodists were asked to invite others into their lives and to be willing to enter deeply into the lives of other people so that together they would grow in grace. They were committed to the idea that the Christian life is a journey of growth in grace, or sanctification. And they believed that they needed one another in order to persevere on this journey.

I think this period of the last few months has shown us the importance of relationships in strengthening our church community. Perhaps resurrecting the class groups would provide a means of enabling all of us to feel we belong, and in meeting in a group in which we feel safe to explore issues of faith, an opportunity to make real headway in our faith journey.

Editors note – If you would like to learn more about the conference referred to in the article a report (also written by Alison) can be found at http://wfmucw.org/the-mcca-womens-seminar-2020-a-ground-breaking-event

Jesus And The VIrus

An article by Rev Geoffrey Scarlett

In the course of his earthly ministry Jesus must have healed tens, if not hundreds of people. The crowds flocked to him — the blind, the lame, the paralysed and the mentally ill — and, with compassion and divine
authority, he spoke, touched or moved to heal each one. Not everyone said, ‘Thank you!’ Not everyone’s life was inwardly changed, nor was Jesus always recognised for who he was. I believe Jesus continues to
heal today, through his Holy Spirit, and works with us to defeat the coronavirus. We pray today for healing. But Jesus was not solely concerned with healing, vital as it was and is, for our wholeness and as a sign of God’s kingdom. He concentrated most of all on teaching and preaching the Good News. He confronted the Pharisees with their hypocrisy. He revealed the spiritual meaning of the Law and the underlying values of the Kingdom, interpreting the sabbath law in terms of love, for example, urging people to go the extra mile, even to love their enemies! At this time of coronavirus, we have been given time for reflection, time again to examine the values of God’s kingdom and face the challenges God presents to us. I suggest the following are some of those challenges….

— we have come to value even more our gardens, parks and open spaces.
God challenges: ‘Will you praise and thank me for the wonderful world I have made?
Will you be good stewards, avoiding waste, pollution, destruction of species and habitats, and instead work to bring beauty and life to my world for the benefit of all?’

— hopefully, panic-buying is behind us, but shopping has not yet returned to normal.
God challenges: ‘What do you really need by way of material goods?
What do you lack? Do you need me to free you from slavery to consumerism?’

— during lockdown, what we have missed most of all as a church has been actual face-to-face fellowship.
God challenges: ‘Seek to deepen your fellowship. Is it based on love, welcoming everyone and ensuring no-one feels ignored or left out?
How will you encourage others into such fellowship and make it the launchpad for worthy worship, witness and service?

— we have valued all our health workers and other key workers. Britain enjoys many resources, which other countries lack.
God challenges: ‘Will you share, that all may have what they need? Will you pray and work for equality, justice and righteousness in my world?’

— sadly, the virus has taken many lives. Our hearts go out to all the bereaved from whatever cause. We are confronted with our own mortality.
God challenges: ‘Have you made practical arrangements for facing death — making a will and telling loved ones your preferred arrangements for your funeral? More importantly, have
you made spiritual arrangements, including being at peace with God and those around you, and being ready to let my Son, Jesus, lead you into my heavenly kingdom’.

— all the above make us look again at our values and…
God challenges: ‘What have you done with the life I gave you? What are you really like? What future are you looking for?’
Jesus offers: ‘Cast your cares and worries on me. I love you and gave my life for you. Love is the supreme quality of my Father’s kingdom, the eternal value above all else. I offer such love to you now. Always have loved you. Always will. Follow me!’.

These have been just my personal thoughts for us all to reflect on. You might wish to add to them, agree or disagree with them. I pray that they may be a means of blessing to you!