Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 24 January 2021

by Andy Cokayne 24 January 2021

A call to worship from Psalm 33 v 1-8

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Our first hymn is : 'These are the Days of Elijah'

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We turn to Our Lord in prayer
Almighty God Our Heavenly Father as we seek to come before you this morning, we pray that you will reveal yourself to us, that you will speak through the hymns, the readings and through the message, that we may hear what you want to say to us. Above all Heavenly Father our desire is that we may meet with you this morning and hear your words for us. Father although we are separated this morning, we pray that as we worship and praise you, we may receive that sense of being together and being one in you. We ask that you will raise our hearts and minds beyond our present and temporary difficulties, to focus on you the ever present, ever faithful, and ever living God. 

We come to you knowing we need your forgiveness for all the things we have done, and not done, said and not said, that have not been in line with your will for us. We know that we do not deserve your forgiveness, but nevertheless, we come and say sorry for all the times we have let you down. We rely on your mercy, and claim that promise in your word that we know is true "That if we confess our sins you are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." On that promise we rely. Thank you Father that through Jesus, and him alone, we can know our sins forgiven and our relationship with you put right. We ask these prayers in the name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

Let us share together in the prayer that Jesus taught us,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Our second hymn is : 'I am thine O Lord'

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As we turn again to Our Lord in prayer, we commence with a period of silence, remembering that "Best of all God is with us".  
As we bring our concerns to Our Heavenly Father, You may like to listen to the following music.

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We pray for -
The United States as the new President moves in to power.

Our own country as businesses continue to come to terms with Brexit and the Pandemic.

Our Government as they deal with the affects of the Pandemic.  

The vaccine roll out and for the people receiving it.

Those with deteriorating mental health, that they may find peace.

Ourselves that we may be given boldness to be your disciples.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

We ask all these prayers in the name and for the sake of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen  

On this Sunday one of the passages of scripture set from the lectionary is from Mark's gospel chapter 1 verses 14-20, entitled The Calling of the First Disciples

Message - Choosing His Team
I always enjoyed team sports, especially football and cricket, and whilst I was not particularly good at either,  it did not detract from my enjoyment, I did just manage to creep in to the school cricket team. So once home from school I was always keen to get outside with my mates and play football. Ideally if there was enough of us, we would organise a game. Which meant captains had to be chosen, teams had to be picked, and first pick agreed. I was not normally the first to be picked, but neither was I normally the last. 

I sometimes wonder what games Jesus played as a child? Did he play team games? What was he good at?  Was he always the captain?    

In the passage from Mark's gospel, we learn of Jesus picking the first members of his close team, that he would have with him for the 3 years of his earthly ministry. In our passage Jesus first calls Simon and his brother Andrew (v16), and then James and his brother John (v19), to follow him. If I was picking his team, these four would make perfect sense, they were all fishermen, possibly knew each other, they had something in common in that they were all following the same career, fishing. So they would all be strong and fit, used to the outdoors, and strong in character having spent years battling the elements on the unpredictable Sea of Galilee. Yes, I could see all of that made perfect sense. But then if we read in to the next chapter, we see him choose Levi, (2 v14), a Tax Collector. An agent of the Roman occupying forces, and one to whom Simon, Andrew, James and John, would probably have had to pay taxes. Later on in Mark's gospel we read the list of 12 who Jesus appointed as Apostles (3 v16-19, one of whom being Simon the Zealot, hardly one you would include in the same a team as Levi the Tax Collector, a Collaborator. Then we read that Jesus also chose Judas Iscariot as an Apostle, who we later learn was entrusted with the group purse. Jesus chose them. Jesus had the best plan for their lives. Yet only 11 were prepared to follow that plan, one knew better.

Jesus! What a team you chose to be your closest friends! Yet now we look back, and can see certain things stand out.

Firstly, only Jesus could look beyond the superficial. We would never put a Collaborator like Levi and a Zealot like Simon together, yet Jesus did. We would never put a quiet man like Thaddaeus with James and John, the sons of thunder, yet Jesus did. He could see beyond the surface, beyond the reputation, to what they could be really like. Similar with us, he looks beyond what we are like on the surface, our foibles and preferences, likes and dislikes, our fears and embarrassments, our strengths and weaknesses, to what we were really meant to be, and seeks to mould you in to the true You. 

Secondly, only Jesus could make them as one. Before his death, yet knowing what was ahead, Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, as He and His Father are one (John 17 v11). In fear after Jesus death they were in the upper room, where they were all together as one (John 20 v26). At Pentecost we read 'When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place." (Acts 2 v1) They were together as one. You would have thought that with them being such disparate characters, Jesus was the glue that held them together, and hence when he is taken from them the team of 11 would have crumbled and gone their separate ways. Which often happens when such a big character is removed from a team. Yet here they remain as one, God had been at work. They were no longer a group of 11 individuals held together by Jesus, Jesus settling the arguments when they arose, keeping things amicable between all parties. Instead they were now a community supporting one another, encouraging one another, but still with Jesus at the centre somehow. This of course should describe the church, in deed our fellowship. We should be one, not necessarily agreeing with everyone all the time, as Jesus' disciples often didn't, but one in purpose.   

Lastly, only Jesus could mould and shape such disparate characters into a team that through his power could shake the world. Not only were they a team, a community, they were a community with a purpose. Jesus did not mould them and empower them to remain within that Upper Room, he did not even mould them and empower them to remain within Jerusalem. As Jesus great commission sets out at the end of Matthews gospel 'Then the 11 disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. Jesus came to them and said "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28 v16 & 18-19). Does that describe our fellowship, different characters being moulded and shaped by Jesus, into a community that through his power can shake the community in which he has placed us? I pray that it does.

Leslie Newbiggin once wrote 'The only way a secular world will turn to Christ is through being confronted by the living reality of communities of disciples who believe the gospel and live by it.'

We may consider ourselves to be unlikely characters for Jesus team, the community he seeks to build. When we look at the individuals Jesus chose to be his disciples, they too were unlikely characters. When we look back at Jesus disciples, we see we too are the very sort of characters Jesus delights in moulding and shaping into the people we were meant to be, and into the community that seeks to live for him. The only question is, dare we accept the challenge, to allow Jesus through the Holy Spirit to mould us and shape us into the characters we were meant to be, and so be part of that community. We may have already answered that and acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, but do we continue to allow Him to mould us and shape us through his Holy Spirit? Only we as individuals, can answer that question. What will your response be?


Our final hymn is : 'Be thou my vision'

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We are united with churches throughout the country as we share together in the 'The UK Blessing'.

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