Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 24 July 2022

by Rev Jacky Quarmby 24 July 2022

Opening Words:  Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth
Worship the Lord with gladness
Come before him with joyful songs
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever.

Opening Hymn:  Make way make way 

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Opening Prayer
Almighty God,
We come before you to worship you and give you thanks.
Lord you are worthy to be praised.
We stand in awe and wonder before the  magnificence of your creation.
We find comfort and assurance in the warmth of your presence.
But most of all we thank you for that most precious gift of all Your son and our dearest friend, Jesus Christ. Lord, thank you. What a debt we owe.

In response, all we can do is to offer what little we have, our lives, our love and our heartfelt praise.  Amen

First Reading:  Luke 11: 1 – 13    

Let us pray, 
Our Father in heaven, 
Mystery beyond our knowing, close to us as our breathing, in humble awe we pray.

Hallowed be your name:
Lord, yours is the name spun by the stars; yours is the name whispered by the dying; yours is the name written on our hearts.

Your Kingdom come:
We pray for your kingdom of justice and mercy to be made real in our world even now.
May it be a kingdom of peace, not prejudice; a kingdom of sharing, not grasping; a kingdom of hope, not hurting.

Give us this day our daily bread:
We pray that there will be enough; enough food, enough warmth, enough love enough hope for all of your children.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us:
may those who have hurt us find a welcome in our hearts, even as we have found our home in yours.

And lead us not into temptation:
turn our hearts from the seductions of our world; and the simple pleasures that turn us from you.

Lord Jesus, you taught us to trust in our heavenly Father

To persevere in prayer … to ask and seek and knock …

When we forget to seek you and discover that we have lost our way: Lord, have mercy.
When we ask once and leave it at that: Christ, have mercy.
When we draw back from knocking, lest we disturb you: Lord, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, strengthen our courage; deepen our faith and spur us onward in our discipleship
through the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray.  Amen.

Song:  Seek ye first the Kingdom of God

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Second Reading: Acts 10: 1 - 24    

Reflection:  Becoming a missionary church
If we were to try and sum up the activity of the Church in this country  -  Methodist, Anglican, URC  -  at a national and a local level  -  perhaps we would say this:

"When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done."

Call it Synod, call it Conference, call it Parish Council, or Circuit Meeting  - as members of Churches we all meet and chat and discuss what we’re going to do - and then we fix a date for the next meeting … and then we meet and chat and discuss  ...  and then we fix a date for the next meeting.  It is as if we have all the time in the world   -  but the truth is  -  our time is running out  - and soon, if we’re not careful, there will be no one left in the Church to meet and chat and discuss   -  and no one left for whom the decisions we have so painstakingly made, matter anymore.

Luke tells us in his Gospel, that Jesus never made that mistake  -  he met with his disciples, they prayed together, he taught them  -  and then he sent them out.  First the twelve disciples and then later the seventy-two.   There was no time to waste  -  there wasn't time to linger over packing -  "take nothing" said Jesus.   Their purpose was simply to head for the towns, to heal the sick and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

God had been working to prepare people's hearts to receive the Good News   -  the harvest was ready   -  but Jesus knew that time was short and the workers were few.   

And we're in the same situation today. God has been preparing hearts to receive him.  There is in our country a spiritual hunger  -  a search for meaning and purpose   -   an interest in spiritual things.    The harvest is ready  -  but where are the workers?  Where are the people who, having heard the words of Jesus, are willing to be sent out from their churches, into the towns, the factories, the schools and the pubs to proclaim that there is meaning and purpose to be found in a loving relationship with God?

Well, our chatting days are numbered and everyone of us here - whatever age we are, must take seriously Jesus' command to "Go and make disciples of all nations."  The harvest is ready  -  and the workers are few  -  so there is no time to waste!

But how do we go about it?  How do we become a missionary people?  

There are three important ingredients that I want to highlight this morning …

Firstly – no surprise here – there is prayer.  The God-fearing centurion Cornelius was praying, when he had a vision of the angel of the Lord, telling him to fetch Simon Peter to his home.  Simon Peter was praying when he had a vision, which told him that the good news about Jesus was not just for the Jews, but for those outside the Jewish faith – those like the Centurion who had previously been considered impure.   

How did they know that these were visions from God and not just a figment of their own imagination?  They knew, because they both prayed every day, because they had developed a relationship with God over time, which meant that they were able to discern God's voice, among all the other voices in their own head and heart.

In my first appointment, I used to work as a Chaplain at a Psychiatric hospital – some of the ladies and gentlemen there had speech difficulties  - often because of a stroke or something like that.  At times I struggled to understand what they were saying.  But the regular staff, who had worked with them for a year or two years, could understand and could interpret their speech for me, because they had spent time listening to them and talking to them.  

To hear God's voice takes time  -  regular, disciplined times of silence in God's presence  - listening, waiting for God to speak.  If we're always rushing around, if our prayers consist only of talking and never of listening  -  then we will not hear God's voice.  We will never be in a position, like Peter and Cornelius, to follow God's promptings and to obey God's commands.  And that will make our task that much harder.  But if we develop an openness to God in prayer, then God will show us when to speak about our faith and show us when to hold back, and God will give us the words to use.  We just need to get tuned in to God's frequency.

Jesus said to his disciples, "I will make you fishers of men and women".  At a conference I once attended, the speaker said to us, " Who is in your net?  Who are you seeking to pray into the Kingdom?  

In the ten days before Pentecost we used the “Thy Kingdom Come” resources and we prayed for five people that we knew to come to know Jesus for themselves.  Are we still praying for those people? In our Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us to keep praying and to keep asking and God will answer our prayers.  We mustn’t give up – let’s persevere as we pray for our friends and family to know Jesus for themselves.  

The first ingredient to becoming a missionary people is "prayer".

The second ingredient to becoming a missionary people is friendship and personal witness.    Notice that when Simon Peter was coming to see Cornelius, the first thing that Cornelius did was to gather all his relatives and close friends in his home.  He wasn’t embarrassed about inviting Peter, a Jew into his home – and appearing all religious.  He didn’t think – I’ll just meet him on my own – I’m sure my friends won’t be that interested.  No, he invited everyone that mattered to him to come and meet Peter for themselves.

Recent research suggests that in over 60% of cases, those finding faith were influenced significantly by their friends.   Friendships are vitally important.  So we all need to make an effort to develop friendships and relationships with people outside the Church.  To make friendships with work colleagues by eating lunch with them or by sharing a cup of coffee with our neighbours – or by volunteering for an organisation in the neighbourhood.  Getting to know people is an important step in being able to share our faith and hope.

And that’s why the work of our church charity Interact and Sue, our Church and Families Worker is so important.  Every week, Sue goes into local schools – helping with school clubs, running a prayer meeting, mentoring young people and getting to know the teachers and staff in the schools.  And it’s through these relationships that whole classes of school children have come to Newmount Church at Easter to find out about Jesus – and it’s because of these relationships that children from the schools will be joining us in the next three days for our Holiday Club “Who is Jesus”.  And we will be praying for that later.

Forming friendships with our neighbours is important. And we should be prepared to be surprised.  Peter did not expect to be sent to the home of someone who wasn’t Jewish and he did not expect the centurion and his family to receive God’s Holy Spirit – but they did.  The person that you thought just wouldn’t be interested – might just be the person that God has in mind for you to talk to. So next time you see your neighbour putting out the rubbish – listen deep down and see if God is prompting you to speak to them and to share something about your faith.  A key ingredient of being a missionary people is friendship and personal witness.

And the third key ingredient to being a missionary people is welcome and hospitality.  It is no good inviting people into the church for an act of worship or a special event, if they don’t feel welcome when they get here.  One way of making people feel unwelcome is to ignore them – to just sit with our own friends and talk to the people that we are used to talking to and leave them sitting on their own.  If we do that, they will not come back.

Another way we can make people unwelcome is by expecting everyone who comes through the doors to behave like us and to like the things we like – and when they don’t, we frown at them so they feel uncomfortable.  

Peter got in trouble for meeting up with Cornelius.  The other Jewish leaders didn’t like the fact that Peter had gone to the home of someone who wasn’t a Jew and had shared a meal with him.  It went against the Jewish Law.  After all surely, the gift of the Holy Spirit was just for the Jews – the chosen ones – not for people outside the Jewish faith.  But God had other ideas. 

This church is not my church – nor is it your church.  It is God’s church – the God who said, “let the children come to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God,” – the God who said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners,” – the God who said, “Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  God’s welcome is for all people – young and old, sinner and saint – and that is the welcome that God expects us to offer to those who come into His Church – for special events, for worship and to rent our space.  

During the summer holidays, on Thursdays, we are inviting the children of those families who will struggle to provide lunches during the holidays, to come to church for a simple lunch and some company.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to be welcoming and hospitable and to get to know people in our community.  Please pray for that new venture and if you are able to help in any way … please let one of the stewards know.

Three ingredients then  -  each vitally important to the whole.  It is no good putting on special events for the community, if we don't know anyone outside the Church to invite.   It doesn't matter how many wonderful friends we have outside the church, if we are so embarrassed about what happens inside the Church, and the way they may be treated, that we daren't bring them along.   And it goes without saying, that if we're not seriously praying for God’s help in discerning what to say and who to, then it will make it very difficult for God to use us to help in making disciples.


Friendship and Personal Witness

Welcome and hospitality

The three important ingredients to a missionary church and a missionary people.

On the 22nd September from 7pm – 9pm, we have an important meeting with Chris Briggs, the District Mission Enabler – where we will think about our mission as a church in the community.  Please put the date in your diaries and start praying for that meeting – that together we will discern God’s mission for this church – and have the courage to put it into practice.

"When all is said and done, there was a lot more said than done." Are we going to let that become the epitaph of our church?   The harvest is ready.  The workers are few.  Are you willing to be one of those workers?

Song:  I the Lord of sea and sky

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Prayers for Others
We come now to pray for others – and as we do we remember that Jesus taught us that we do not have to twist the arm of a reluctant God to seek good things for this world – nor do we have to find ways to persuade a distant God to come near and listen. God delights in hearing our prayers and giving good gifts to his children.  So let us pray in faith …

Loving God, we thank you that we are in church this morning because someone first helped us to know your love and showed us what the Christian faith was all about.  We bring before you now the names of people we know, who we long to know your name and become your disciple … remembering those five people we prayed for during “Thy Kingdom Come” …

Lord, we pray that your Holy Spirit may work in those for whom we pray and bring them to a living faith in you.
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Loving God, You said “Let the children come to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.”  We pray today for the Holiday Club that is happening this week.  We pray that through that club, the children will come to a deeper and fuller understanding of your love for them … and that they might be encouraged to know and follow Jesus for themselves.  Grant to all those who lead … wisdom, kindness, patience and enthusiasm as we work with the children. 
Lord in your mercy  Hear our prayer.

Loving God, We pray for all those families in our community who are struggling right now, because of the cost of food and heating.  We thank you for the opportunity to help … and pray that through the Thursday lunches, we will get to know our neighbours better and to understand their concerns and needs more fully.  We pray that all who come will feel welcome and cared for and we pray for those who help, that we will take the time to listen and learn from those in our community. 
Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

And now we bring to mind those people who are in special need of prayer today …
those who are ill, or anxious;
those who are lonely or sad;
those who are despairing or defeated;
those who are hungry or homeless;
those whose relationships are breaking apart;
those who cannot find work and those who are over-worked.
In silence now, let us make our own specific prayers for those on our hearts and minds today.
Lord, where there is illness bring healing, where there is sadness bring joy, where there is anxiety bring a sense of peace and where there is despair bring hope. Lord, may they know your love and the comfort of your presence in the days to come.

In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Sharing of Holy Communion

Hymn:  We want to see Jesus lifted high

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The Blessing  
May the love of the Lord Jesus draw you to himself;
May the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen you in his service;
May the joy of the Lord Jesus fill your souls;
And may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you and abide with you always.   Amen