When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
Bible Reading - Acts Ch2 vs1-21
StF 385 Holy Spirit we welcome you
Welcome and prayer of praise
StF 370 Breath on me breath of God
Bible Reading - John Ch7 vs37-39
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[a] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
StF 447 Jesus be the centre
Prayers For others and the Lord's Prayer
StF 21 Born in song
May the Power of the Spirit challenge you
May the peace of the Spirit comfort you
May the presence of the Spirit enable you to live in love and service
in the name of Christ. Amen.
God of majesty and might,
your glory shines throughout the universe.
Prayer of Adoration
Stf 94 To God be the Glory
Prayers of Intersession
Stf 332 Lord I lift your name on high
Psalm 91 (The Message Translation):1-13
StF 293 All Heaven Declares
Call to Worship: Psalm 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life;
Your presence fills me with joy.
StF 335 Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Loving Lord God,
You are a great and glorious God,
a loving and faithful God,
a merciful and compassionate God,
a God who we sometimes perceive as far away but who is really close by waiting for us to see you.
You make so many promises to us;
like, ‘In your presence is fullness of joy’, and ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’.
And you always keep your promises.
Forgive us when seek our joy in other places, other people, and then wonder why it is so elusive.
Forgive us that we are so often weak when we could be strong.
Forgive us our lack of desire to enter more deeply into our relationship with you.
To all who are truly sorry Jesus says: ‘You are forgiven, go in peace.’
Lord, thank you.
Fill us again with your Holy Spirit to help us to be open to you, to receive forgiveness, peace, joy and all that you long to give us, so we may go on our way rejoicing. Amen.
StF 367 When I was lost you came and rescued me
Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice, the Lord is near!
Questions to consider
Praying for others when there is so much need can be exhausting and dispiriting. Below is a way to pray which I hope you find helpful. Allow 20 – 30 minutes for this.
Prayer of Intercession - In His Presence
It is tempting in our intercessions to give God a “shopping list” of what we want him to do, sometimes in great detail! Our aim should be to align ourselves with God’s will, recognising God’s intention that his creation should be fulfilled and everyone made whole. This is the kind of attitude expressed in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
There are many ways to pray for the needs of others, here is one you might like to try.
Begin by relaxing –
Let go of any anxieties of tensions you may be carrying.
Spend a few moments becoming aware of your breathing, let it calm down.
We are always in the presence of God, but try to become aware of his presence.
He who made you and loves you is here with us now, around us and within us, so rest safe in his love for a while.
Taking others into God’s presence –
Lift the person who is most on your mind into the loving and healing presence of God, imagining the light of his love shining on them. Hold them there as long as seems right to you.
One by one take all those you love and care about into God’s presence in the same way.
Take a few moments to rest in God’s presence yourself before continuing.
Some people can be difficult (or may find us difficult!) or have hurt us and we don’t really want to or know how to pray for them. Lift them into God’s presence and hold them there. No words are needed.
Now rest in God’s presence again.
Taking large-scale concerns into God’s presence –
Lift to God the things happening in this country that worry you most and ask that his will be done.
On a wider scale, bring other parts of the world into God’s presence, perhaps somewhere that you have particular concern for.
Wider still, bring into God’s presence our world with all its fauna and flora. This is the planet we have been given to live on, and in harmony with.
You may feel worn out with holding such big things in God’s presence so remember his love holding and enfolding you, and let him fill you again with his strength.
Anyone, anything else?
Wait quietly for a few minutes, open to God and the leading of his Holy Spirit, to see if there is anyone, or anything else that comes to mind as needing your prayers…
To finish –
Rest again in God’s presence, allowing him to fill you with his peace and strength.
You might like to finish by praying together the following, or similar prayer:
Loving and merciful God, accept these prayers for we bring them in the name of your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The last hymn is a Taize chant, and yes, it is very repetitive! It’s designed to take a simple truth about God deep into your mind, heart, even your subconscious so that you know it in the very depths of your being.
StF 776 In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful
A blessing from the Northumbria Community:
Gracious God, you are the rock of our lives, Your strength sustains us.
Your power delivers us and your mercy brings forgiveness to us.
Stf 296: Christ is alive let Christians sing
Reading 1 Peter 2: 2-10
Stf 608: All praise to our redeeming Lord
Peter builds a picture based on stones and buildings. The letter was written to a young in faith church threatened with or undergoing a time of persecution. The reading speaks of the way are connected together. It is an ironic reading when we are not allowed in our buildings and we are physically separated. But the reading reminds us of our connection that goes beyond the physical.
Peter quotes Psalm 118:22. This psalm of thanksgiving was sung in the temple at Jerusalem as the people remembered God's goodness to the nation of Israel. The verse probably refers to a massive squared stone that ensured the stability of adjoining walls. It may be that this stone was not originally intended for use in the building but was now of supreme importance. Jesus quoted this verse about himself in Matthew 21:42 in the parable of the landlord and the tenants. The first readers of 1 Peter faced the real possibility of persecution and rejection themselves.
The picture is of a spiritual building founded on Jesus and we his people as stones in that building. It is Jesus who died for us and rose again for our salvation. Our faith is based on Jesus. He is the cornerstone that underpins the building. In the temple at Jerusalem worship centred on priests offering the sacrifices in line with Old Testament law - a picture that is strange to us but would be familiar to the people of the time from both Jewish temple worship and the temples of various Greek religions. Peter draws on this picture and describes Christian people as a holy priesthood offering sacrifices to God. But sacrifices are not dead animals anymore but the committed lives of Christians who love and serve the Lord. We are all different and serve in different ways. The picture in my mind is a dry stone wall of different shaped stones built with skill and fitting perfectly together - held by our common need of God's grace and our love for God and each other. We are not called to serve alone but are to be together to help and support each other.
Yet at the moment the doors of our physical building are closed and we are physically separated from each other. But we can support each other by prayer, by phone calls and e mails and helping each other as we can. In all the ways we can we seek to worship together through the shared materials we distribute including this service. We can we express our love in the help and support to each other and our neighbours.
Our connections go beyond our own fellowship. We can see ourselves as part of a spiritual temple that embraces Christian believers across the world and down the ages. The spiritual sacrifices are not only our works but those of all God's people through time. We are part of the worldwide church called to love our neighbours. This brings us to the other focus for today as we are at the start of Christian Aid week.
Even before the lockdown we started to miss some things we often take for granted. We faced a temporary shortage of basic necessities including toilet rolls. Staple foods including rice, tinned tomatoes and pasta almost disappeared from the supermarket shelves. Now the position does seem to be improving if not fully resolved. I have to queue to enter shops at times. It is unusual me to be concerned that I will not be able to buy basic foods. I can only speak for myself but in this time I have had only a glimpse of the challenges that many people in this country and across the world including our sisters and brothers in Christ face on a daily basis.
Many people face uncertain harvests made worse by the ravages of war, drought, climate change and debt. We also need to remember the many countries across the world where health care is not as advanced as ours and lack PPE and ventilators. They will suffer greatly as COVID-19 spreads. How can you 'socially distance' in a crowed refugee camp? In our own country we must remember those who rely on foodbanks and people who are homeless. I can think of the lady who sold me The Big Issue' for a few weeks before the lockdown. No doubt you can think of others.
We hear talk of a return to normal but what are we hoping for. Does God want a new normal? Do we want a society where so many are reliant on foodbanks? There are so many questions raised about world trade, housing, welfare systems and climate change.
I can't pretend there are simple solutions. What we can do this week is to remember, support and pray for the work of Christian Aid across the world in camps, in health care, in developing agriculture, in campaigning for justice and in many other ways. We can also support various agencies and charities in our own country.
Christian Aid is under increased pressure at this time but continue to show God's love in it's work. This is part of the sacrifice offered in the spiritual temple.
Stf 409 : Let us build a house where love can dwell
StF 693 : Beauty for brokenness
Jesus says, ‘I am the gate.’
Come, and be loved.
Come, and receive peace.
Come, and find life.
A Gathering Prayer- Response after each line: we come in the name of Jesus.
We come because we know we are welcome, O God.
We come because you call us by name, O God.
We come together to offer you our worship, O God.
John 10: 1-18
Stf 479 The King of love my Shepherd is
Being an Interactive Service, if we were in our building we would now choose a group we would like to go to to explore the theme. So, being at home, you now have three options:-
Option 1 Craft Activity - To make a Pasture Biscuit
You will need: plain biscuits, green icing, long sweets, e.g. cola strips or liquorice laces, and mini marshmallows, or whatever you have at hand – use your imagination!
Cover the top of the biscuit with green icing using a spoon. Place long sweets around the outside edge of the biscuits to make a fence (leaving a gap for the gate) and add a few marshmallows to the centre of each biscuit to represent sheep.
Take a photo if you can and send it to Keith to share next week.
Thank you Margaret for your picture, sorry you hadn't got a biscuit!
Option 2 - Meditate on Psalm 23 while listening to the video below 'The Lord is My Shepherd' by Howard Goodall
Option 3 - Reflect on Questions on John 10 ; 1-10 to consider:-
We gather back together to sing:-
StF 322 How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
Throughout the Bible God likens his relationship or the relationship of his son with the people to that of a good shepherd and his sheep. This morning we are concentrating on our New Testament reading from John and I want us to think firstly about the false leaders who try to take us away from Jesus the Good Shepherd, secondly about Jesus as the door and finally about Jesus as THE good shepherd.
Our passage begins with: “Jesus said: I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.”
Jesus is the only Good Shepherd. The thieves and robbers are false leaders who try to take us away from Christ, for example in Jesus’ time the Pharisees were blind leaders, bogus shepherds if you like, for they claimed to be caring for God’s flock yet despised God’s only son. Today false leaders are perhaps those in authority whom we look up to and yet do not hold the truth. They encourage people to trust in themselves rather than God. Some pretend to be good shepherds and people follow them and yet following them is worse than being a sheep without a shepherd. If people become lost no-one looks for them. Such shepherds could easily expect us to do things for their purpose and so exploit us. Such shepherds could easily take advantage of their sheep.
Having got these negative feelings out of the way, let’s move on to think about true shepherds. People such as Moses and the prophets to whom God entrusted his flock did a good job. They were true shepherds and in a sense forerunners of Christ. They tended the sheep carefully. We are so blessed to have Jesus, the best ever shepherd looking after us.
This leads me on to the second part – Jesus as the door. It really does help me to think of Jesus as the door or gate of the sheep.
Let me share with you the reasons why:
Many years ago, in the East, the shepherd of a flock used to lie across the opening to a fold to protect the sheep by keeping out wild animals. Jesus is acting as our door – protecting us from outside influences which may corrupt us and yet at the same time he is not wrapping each one of us in cotton wool and keeping away colds and illness. Just as the shepherds in the East did not stop rain and wind from falling on the sheep but cared for their greater needs so Jesus cares for our greater needs
Jesus is a welcoming door. We can think about this every time we walk through an automatic door like at Sainsbury’s. Just as we approach the door, arms laden with shopping or pushing a trolley, it opens automatically. Jesus opens up the fold for all those who wish to enter and is first to meet and welcome them.
Jesus often opens up a new door in life for those who are stuck or trapped and so brings new hope. I remember feeling great relief when one of our sons let himself out of the bathroom in my brother’s house after accidentally locking himself in. I also remember feeling great relief when someone managed to let my mum, dad and me back into our house on Christmas Eve after we had been out for a meal at a restaurant and returned home to find that no-one had a key to our front door. (They got in through a window.) I was at Junior School at the time and was particularly worried because I knew the importance of Christmas Eve.
Jesus then can be usefully thought of as the door to the family of God, an unlimited family bounded by love. The membership of the family of God is the key to a fuller life and we need to be renewed by Christ in order to live life more abundantly and appreciate the beauty of creation. The important point is that God can be reached through this door – that is the door of Christ Jesus.
Once inside the fold we may learn to find out Christ’s way for us and to develop trust which will allow us to follow wherever He leads. But we must be prepared to obey Him and realise that we, as His sheep, do not know more than the shepherd.
Lastly let us consider Jesus as THE good shepherd. To begin with let’s think about what a shepherd is. Everybody knows that a shepherd is someone who leads his sheep, but if all we think of Christ is that he leads us, then we have not got the full picture. Earlier on in the passage from John, in verse 3, we are told: “the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out.”
Bearing in mind that name in the Bible signifies character, we are told that Jesus knows the character of every single one of us. There is a real personal relationship between Jesus and us: not only is He our Leader but also our friend. He loves us and requires our obedience. In England a shepherd always goes behind his sheep; but Jesus travels before us like the shepherds in ancient Eastern Cultures who often stayed with their flock for 8 or 9 years and gave their sheep names to which they responded. Jesus though is no dictator. He prepares our way ahead and calls us to Him, giving us strength to tackle situations facing us. Power for Jesus is in love and not bullying.
Jesus tells us more than once that He is the good shepherd. His presence as the good shepherd inevitably results in the separation of those who belong to God’s flock and those who do not. He knows exactly what people are made of but He also knows the purpose and will of God His Father. He is therefore ready to lay down His life voluntarily for His sheep. If we think of the biggest sacrifice made in the world we must surely think of the death of Jesus (a guiltless man) for the forgiveness of our sins and give thanks.
Let us pray.
Dear Father, We thank you for Jesus the good shepherd. Help us to be aware of the great sacrifice which He made on our behalf and help us to follow and obey Him wherever He may lead and whatever He may ask us to do. We know that we are weak and yet we know that we are all Christ has to do His work on earth. Help us not to let you down but to follow our good shepherd as good sheep should and also to become good shepherds for others and to accept help from others who have been sent by you to shepherd us. Amen
A Prayer of Confession
Father, when we think of Jesus, his example and obedience to give even his life on the cross and compare ourselves to him, we feel very aware and ashamed of our own failings. So we come to you in the quietness of a few moments to confess our sins.
Generous God, you offer us abundant life, yet we ask for more;
you offer us security and sanctuary, yet we seek our own way – despite the risks;
you offer us guidance and direction, and we ignore you and take our own way.
We are sorry for our ingratitude.
We are sorry for our arrogance.
We are sorry that we think we know best.
Forgive us, renew us and restore us to abundant life in you,
in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Thank you that we know our sins are forgiven. Help us, knowing this and the love and care you show for us, to live out our lives in a way which reflects something of Jesus particularly in the way we treat and serve others. We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray saying:
Prayers of Intersession
Stf 323 I will sing the wonderous story
Samantha, Cheryl and Nigel singing and playing their arrangement of My Lighthouse, My Lighthouse by Rend Collective.
The Lord Bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord look on you with kindness and give you peace. Amen
These are the Worship at Home Services, led by our Minister :-