28th June Service

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We apologise for not recording the 28th June service. Measures have been put in place so we don't have this issue again!
Deacon Annette Sharp have provided the following from Sunday. Enjoy!

Call to Worship

There is a magnet in a seeker's heart
whose true North is God.
It bends towards the Voice of God
with the ear of the heart
and, like sunflowers in the sun,
turns all of life toward
the living of the Word.
The compass for God implanted
in the seeker's heart
stretches toward truth
and signals the way to justice.
( From: The Monastery of the Heart — Joan Chittister)

Reflection Sunday 28th June 2020 — Conference Sunday

1.This, this is the God we adore
Our faithful unchangeable friend,
whose love is as great as his power,
and neither knows measure nor end;

2.'Tis Jesus, the first and the last,
whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
we'll praise him for all that is past,
and trust him for all that's to come.

Hymn 67 StF — View on YouTube by clicking here

Today's Reading

Romans 6:12-23 New International Version (NIV)
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Slaves to Righteousness
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life ina Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reflection

Today is designated as Conference Sunday in the Methodist Church calendar and it normally marks the beginning of the representative session of what is essentially our Church's decision-making body.

It is also the Sunday that those Presbyters and Deacons in training have been so looking forward to over several years of training and study. It is the day when they will be accepted into Full Connexion within the Methodist Church and later in the day receive their Ordination at a special service in the presence of family, friends and supporters.

Things will be a little different this year and although these Ministers will be accepted into full Connexion, they are having to wait for their Ordinations. This is disappointing and our best wishes and prayers go out to them.

When a Minister is accepted into full Connexion it is the start of a life — long covenantal relationship between that person and the Church. Both parties to this covenant accept certain rights and responsibilities towards each other.

Throughout our scriptures we read about the covenantal nature of God's relationship with both Creation and the Jewish people, a relationship that God remains faithful to regardless of the waywardness of humanity.

In our reading today from the letter to the Romans, Paul speaks about the choice believers have, to live lives that reflect the Grace that we have been gifted by God, or to reflect our own flawed human nature.

He could have used the language of covenant in this passage; spoken of the way we can enter into a new understanding and way of life with God, but Paul knew the power of using language and imagery familiar to his audience. Covenant was a very Jewish concept and so Paul drew on an experience that was very familiar to his hearers. The experience of slavery.

There are quite a number of problematic passages in our Bible and this is perhaps one of them, especially in light of recent events and contemporary sensibilities. The image of being enslaved to God, and by implication suggesting God as a slave master is not one that sits comfortably in our 21st Century mindset, and quite rightly too.

However, slavery in the 1st Century Roman Empire was a much more complex social construct than we might understand and was very much a fact of life; it was not seen as the evil it is today. For much of the time it is estimated that about 2/3 of the population of the Empire were slaves, and it was not based on ethnicity. Yes, life was harsh for many, in a generally brutal world, but there was the prospect of eventually becoming free and even of gaining citizenship. There was even a retirement age, and in a time with no welfare system, the destitute could at least find food and lodging by offering themselves or their children into slavery.

So, what are we to make of this? Well, Paul is endeavouring to explain that a believer's commitment to God and to the Gospel has to be a whole of life experience. Just as a slave's whole being is given over to the will of his/her master, so we are expected to give ourselves whole heartedly to God and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This of course doesn't mean we give up our free will or freedom of thinking but it does suggest a heart change. Paul says, 'you have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted'.

There is an implication within this passage that people could nominally call themselves believers and yet continue to live with the values and morals of the world.

There is a clear choice of commitment laid out for this young Church in Rome and also for us in the re-emerging Church of the 21st Century. Obedience to the values of the world — commercialism, individualism and celebrity, giving advantage to the few and leaving the many to live with poverty, deprivation and prejudice — slaves to their circumstances. Or, obedience to the values of the Gospel; love, generosity, community, justice and equity — offering the prospect of life and freedom to all.

The choice is ours, just as it was for those that heard Paul's message so many years ago.

Prayers

If you are able, take a moment to play a piece of music that you enjoy and that you find uplifting or calming. While you listen, just sit quietly and focus on being drawn into God's presence. Don't force it. After a short while, become aware of your thoughts and where God might be leading your thinking, again, run with this. When you feel you have come to a natural ending, offer a simple word of thanks for what you have experienced and if some of your thoughts have touched on areas of hurt or sadness ask God for the healing of these.

Take a little time now to pray for those you know.

A Prayer for Our World

'Lord, you call all people into the depths of your Grace, so that they might learn what it is to be accepted, loved and free.

Lord, hear our cry for justice, so that every person's life will be honoured and respected regardless of ethnicity, wealth, gender, age or ability.

Lord, hear our cry for peace, so that violence of every kind will be banished; that homes will be places of safety and welcome, that crops will be grown and lives rebuilt where war has ravaged the land.

Lord, hear our cry for generosity, so that all will have a fair share of the world's resources; that advancements in health, education and science will be shared with everyone.

Lord, hear our cry for truth and integrity, so that there will be trust between national leaders and their people and between individuals and nations.

Lord, hear our cry that all of these graces might be born in our own hearts so that we will become catalysts for change.

Amen

Blessing

May we leave this place with God's love in our hearts and go out into the world in his name. May those who meet us on the way, see a little of Christ in all that we do and all that we say, and may we live each moment in joy, sure in the promise that Christ walks with us on the way.
And may the Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us and give us peace.

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