Didsbury URC – Service for 15th November 2020

Today’s service has been provided by Mrs Anne Wilde from a local Didsbury church. Please look on YouTube if you would like the music to the hymns.

A Service for Autumn

Opening Sentences:      

Loving God, open our hearts,

So that we may feel the breath and play of your Spirit.

Unclench our hands

So that we may reach out to one another, and touch and be healed.

Open our lips, our ears and our eyes

That as we drink in the delight and wonder of life, we may truly worship you.

Amen

 

Hymn:  ‘Praise the Lord, ye heavens’

1 Praise the Lord! Ye heavens, adore him;                   

praise him, angels, in the height;                                  

sun and moon, rejoice before him,                                

praise him, all ye stars and light.                                  

Praise the Lord! for he hath spoken;                             

worlds his mighty voice obeyed:                                   

laws, which never shall be broken,                                

For their guidance he hath made.         

                       

2 Praise the Lord! for he is glorious;

never shall his promise fail:

God hath made his saints victorious;

sin and death shall not prevail.

Praise the God of our salvation;

hosts on high, his power proclaim;

heaven and earth and all creation,

laud and magnify his name!

 

Prayer

For fiery sunsets and red-breasted robins let us thank God.

For Jesus who shed his blood out of love for us, we praise God.

For juicy oranges and warming fire let us thank God.

For the Holy Spirit whose life sets our hearts ablaze, we praise God.

For winter jasmine and watery, winter sunshine let us thank God.

For complete joy and perfect goodness, we praise God.

For frosty grass and sparkling stars let us thank God.

For endless patience and total kindness, we praise God.

For grey winter clouds and dark velvet nights let us thank God

For perfect peace and endless gentleness, we praise God.

For mountain heather and the moon’s soft light let us thank God.

For complete self-control and heavenly love, we praise God.

For purple patches in the midst of our struggles let us thank God.

For a chance to say sorry for things we know have hurt God, others or

ourselves we take the opportunity now.

                              Take a moment to bring before God the things you need to get off your chest.

Because we have been forgiven and have no need to feel guilty any more, we praise God.

Rainbow God of promises, hear your peoples’ prayers in the name of Christ. Amen.

 

Jesus teaches us what will happen before God’s work is complete.

Reading: Luke 21:29 – 31.

He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Jesus tells us we should recognise signs of the Kingdom.  So, what are the signs of God’s kingdom around us?

Dramatic reading:  ‘Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven’

I, … I am the man, … I am the man with the withered arm.

I, … I am the woman, … I am the woman condemned by the crowd.

I, … I am the boy, … I am the boy who was sightless at birth.

I, … I am the girl, … I am the girl presumed to be dead.

I am the man with the withered arm, who never intended to bother or harm, till I felt myself shaking with sudden alarm, when he asked me to move during worship.

I am the woman condemned by the crowd, whose pleading for mercy was never allowed till a man who I never knew scattered the proud, as he knelt by my side and kept silent.

I am the boy who was sightless at birth, the butt of cruel jokes as my stick scraped the earth till I silenced the noise of despicable mirth, when he opened my eyes at the roadside.

I am the daughter presumed to be dead who no one believed would get up from her bed  till they heard the request,

‘Please make sure that she is fed,’ when he called me to wake from my slumber.

I, … I did not come to lounge about with the leisured classes;

I came to heal the sick.

I did not come to patronise the wealthy;

I came to preach the good news to the poor.

I did not come to speak for the always articulate;

 I came to listen to the voiceless.

I did not come to be shown what was wrong;

I came to tell those who say,

‘We see, we see’ that their vision is in fact blindness and their clear thinking is undermined by ignorance.

I did not come to speak words of peace;

I came to make signs of peace,

Knowing that the reconciliation God requires might cost me your friendship.

I did not come to identify problems; I came to meet people, for people are always more important

Than their problems as life is always greater than its failures.

I did not come to build a casualty clinic and call it my church;

I came to announce God’s kingdom where all are taught and touched by each other, where all are sisters and brothers of each other, where justice and peace join hands and conviction and commitment share the same lodging…………..and because the creatures of this earth seem convinced that help comes from above and scale the heights of fashion and intellect to find it ………. for that reason, for that reason I want you to know that the love of God comes … from below… in the child, … in the stranger, … in the wounded, … in the woman.

WE ARE THE PEOPLE WHOM NO ONE WOULD TOUCH THE POOR OF THE WORLD WHO WERE NEVER LOVED MUCH

TILL A VOICE FROM AMONG US DECLARED THAT OF SUCH, OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

Hymn:   ‘The Kingdom of God’

1.The kingdom of God is justice and joy,                  

for Jesus restores what sin would destroy;              

God’s power and glory in Jesus we know,               

and here and hereafter the kingdom shall grow.      

 

2.The kingdom of God is mercy and grace,             

the captives are freed, the sinners find place,           

the outcast are welcomed God’s banquet to share,   

and hope is awakened instead of despair.   

             

3. The kingdom of God is challenge and choice,

believe the good news, repent and rejoice.

His love for us sinners brought Christ to his cross,

our crisis of judgement for gain or for loss.

 

4. God’s kingdom is come, the gift and the goal,

in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole;

the heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call,

and all things cry glory to God all in all.

The prophet Joel speaks of signs of future Kingdom

Reading: Joel 2: 23 – 32.

Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.

He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten – the great locust and the young locusts, the other locusts and the locust swarm– my great army that I sent among you.

You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.

Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

Reflection :

Once the clocks change, we seem to become overwhelmed by the darkness. The light summer evenings are but a distant memory! In mid-summer it gets light well before 6am and doesn’t go dark until after 10pm. But in the winter, it’s dark by 4.30pm and doesn’t get light until after 8am. In the UK both humans and animals and trees recognise the changing seasons by length of the days. There are other signs too, the falling leaves signal autumn and the growing shoots signal spring. Everywhere we recognise nature acting as clock, calendar and weather forecaster. “Red sky at night – shepherd’s delight, red sky at morning – shepherds warning!”  But in the past there were no clocks, no calendars, no meteorologists! People had to read the seasons by the signs alone.

So, the people who heard those words of Jesus would have understood him perfectly – “when you see the leaves sprouting on the trees you know the summer is on its way”. But Jesus is not talking about the ability to recognise the signs of nature, but to recognise the signs of God’s kingdom, God’s rule. It was the ministry of Jesus’ that kickstarted God’s rule on the earth. All his actions were examples of what life under God’s rule is like. There is no tolerance for injustice, for rejection, for illness, for death. The drama you read gives examples of what living in God’s Kingdom is like. It is not a place but a way of being and behaving, thinking and living. It comes about when people work towards justice. When they are open to accept others, despite differences or demands. When others are enabled to become whole human beings. Where ways are sought to bring new life into dead or dying situations. There is the Kingdom of Heaven. And as Christians we should recognise the signs of God’s rule wherever we see it, or hear about it.

In the Lord’s Prayer we say ‘The Kingdom come’ and God’s Kingdom comes in so many ways.

2007 saw the bi-centenary of the Act making slave trade illegal in the UK. Through men like John Wesley and William Wilberforce and John Newton, justice was restored to displaced African slaves and God’s Kingdom came. In developing nations, some farmers’ livelihoods were virtually destroyed by Multinational Companies virtually stealing their crops and profits and giving nothing back. ‘Fairtrade’ provides new life, new hope, new futures for some of these farmers. In this way God’s kingdom comes. In East Jerusalem many Palestinian young people and children suffer from the violence of Israeli settlers, having their schools attacked or their homes demolished, or worse! The YMCA provides a ‘Psychological First Aid Programme’ to help the children and young people deal with the aftermath of such traumatic experiences. So, God’s kingdom comes. In north Manchester many young women find it impossible to get together all the clothes and equipment needed for their new babies. At Moston Methodist Church they are reaching out to these new mums by providing ‘Baby Baskets’ and all kinds of other equipment. Here the kingdom of God comes.  

Signs of God’s Kingdom ought to be visible here in the UK. We’ve seen the rise this year of ‘Black lives matter’, reminding us that there is still racial inequality over 200 years after William Wilberforce. Marcus Rashford has made us aware that there are children who go hungry when schools are not open to provide meals. Every city has homeless people living on its streets. Soon the bleak economic situation caused by the Pandemic will really start to bite. Are we, as society, as church, as individuals, prepared and ready to work to bring God’s kingdom into those and so many other situations like them, by our actions. As Christians there is another dimension too, if we believe in Resurrection, are we willing to allow old ways and ideas to die, even when they are loved  and previously successful ideas and ways?

In the world, in the church and in our lives, we should be able to recognise signs of God’s rule.

The final questions is what happens when the Kingdom ends? At this time of year traditionally we focus upon Jesus’ teaching about ‘The End Times’, and chapter 21 in Luke’s gospel, of which we read just a snippet refers to those End Times. We have no problem understanding the idea of things coming to an end, experience teaches us that everything does, so, we are programmed to the idea. We might sometimes find the idea of an ending unpalatable but it is acceptable that all things have to end. It is the opposite that gives us problems, it’s very hard to imagine eternity! We are surrounded by things that finish. Our favourite T.V. series, wonderful holidays, chaotic house alterations, pain and suffering. So, it isn’t too hard to understand that present human history will come to an end.

Both the Old Testament and the New speak about ‘The Day of the Lord’ or ‘The End of the Age’. They are the same thing. Jesus talks of wars, famines and plagues during those times. Joel talks of blood and smoke and darkness and destruction. These times don’t seem to offer much to look forward to! The experience of our history teaches us all this horror is possible. Indeed, sometimes at the moment it really does feel as if the end of the world is nigh, especially if we believe Prof. Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Valance! Are the things that are going on now “signs”? Who knows!

Jesus frequently tells his disciples that no one knows the time. But he tells us to watch for signs because those signs herald his return and with it the completion of Kingdom. After all the predicted horrors Jesus will return.

Then everyone who has put their faith and trust in Jesus will be completely saved. The New age – the age of perfection will begin. So, never lose sight of the promise that Jesus will return and God’s work will be completed.

How can we recognise these signs, and really know that we will be saved? The prophet Joel talks of death, destruction and the promise of Spirit. Only through the Holy Spirit can we have the trust and faith in Jesus, that enables us to recognize the signs and know that we are completely saved. God, offers his Spirit to everyone because he cannot bear the thought of anyone not being saved – Jesus comes to be Saviour of all. Because of God’s love he wants everyone saved. He is on our side.

15 years ago Rev. Tom Stucky told the Methodist church of his conviction that a new Pentecost was coming soon. He listed various signs he saw pointing towards that new outpouring and encouraged us to look for signs and be ready to receive Holy Spirit in power as his first followers did. We must heed his words because if he is right then the end of world may be nigh. It is time to sit up, take notice, learn through present experience of the Holy Spirit to read the signs of the age. Then act upon the signs, get busy building his kingdom, and letting the world know that Jesus is the Saviour of world today so that God’s heart is not broken on the terrible day of judgement, but all will be saved and the God’s kingdom will finally come.

Prayers of Concern:

Lord God, in Jesus you came in the body: flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, one with us in searing pain and delirious laughter.

We thank you that you did not remain an idea, even a religious idea, but walked, wept and washed feet among us.

By your love, change our ideas, especially our religious ideas, into living signs of your worth and will.

Through our lives and by our prayer, your kingdom come. Lord God, in Jesus you touched the suffering, listened to the ignored, gave the depressed something to hope for.

You bandaged the broken with love and healed them.

We believe that your power to heal is still present, so, on your help we call, remembering those whose minds are menaced by thoughts which worry or wound them, those whose hearts are broken because love has gone or because the light they lived by has turned to darkness, those whose feet walk in circles, stopping only when they feel tired, resting only to walk in circles again, those whose flesh and bone or mind and spirit are filled with pain, those who feel discarded or disposable.

Take time to allow the Holy Spirit bring to your mind those for whom you would pray.

O Christ put your hands where our prayers beckon.

Through our lives and by our prayer, your kingdom come.

Lord God, in Jesus your body was broken by the cowardly and powerful.

The judgement hall of Pilate knew your silence as surely as your critics knew your voice.

In word and silence, take on the powerful of the world today; those whose word sentences some to cruelty or unmerited redundancy or loss of business, those whose word transfers wealth or weapons for the sake of profit or prejudice; those whose silence condones the injustice they have the power to change.              

O Saviour of the poor, liberate your people.

Through our lives and by our prayer, your kingdom come.

Lord God, by the authority of scripture, we learn that we are the body of Christ …yes, even us, we, whose understanding of you is so changeable, even we who, in our low moments, make an idol of our insignificance.

We are your body, we are told. Then Lord, make us like you that our souls may be the stained glass through which your light and purpose bring beauty into the world, through our lives and by our prayer, your kingdom come.

Your kingdom come, in joy and generosity, in the small and the large, the ordinary and the special, and to you be the glory now and always.              Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer.

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.

Hymn:   ‘I cannot tell’

1. I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship, 

 should set his love upon us now and then,     

or why, as Shepherd, he should seek the wanderers,   

to bring them back, they know not how or when. 

But this I know, that he was born of Mary     

when Bethlem’s manger was his only home, 

and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured,   

and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.           

 

2. I cannot tell how silently he suffered,     

as with his peace he graced this place of tears,           

or how his heart upon the cross was broken,   

the crown of pain to three and thirty years.     

But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted 

and stays our sin and calms our lurking fear 

and lifts the burden from the heavy laden;             

for still the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here. 

          

3. I cannot tell how he will win the nations,

how he will claim his earthly heritage,

how satisfy the needs and aspirations

of east and west, of sinner and of sage.

But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory,

and he shall reap the harvest he has sown,

and some glad day his sun will shine in splendour

when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.

 

4. I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,

when at his bidding every storm is stilled,

or who can say how great the jubilation

when every heart with love and joy is filled.

But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,

and myriad, myriad human voices sing,

and earth to heav’n, and heav’n to earth, will answer,

‘at last the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is King!’

 

Blessing:   

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever he may send you.

May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm.

May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you.

May he bring you home rejoicing once again into these doors. 

Amen.

If you are able, listen to ‘My Lord he is a-comin’ soon’ available on YouTube.