Service – Sunday 24th May

Canzon by Paul Peuerl played by Canadian Brass
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Call to worship
You have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry out, Abba! Father! It is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are) children of God.                                                                              Romans 8 v 15a-17

StF 297 – Hymn – Christ is alive
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Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.
The cross stands empty to the sky.
Let streets and homes with praises ring.
Love, drowned in death, shall never die.

Christ is alive! No longer bound
to distant years in Palestine,
but saving, healing, here and now,
and touching every place and time.

In every insult, rift and war,
where colour, scorn or wealth divide,
Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,
and lives, where even hope has died.

Women and men, in age and youth,
can feel the Spirit, hear the call,
and find the way, the life, the truth,
revealed in Jesus, freed for all.

Christ is alive, and comes to bring
good news to this and every age,
till earth and sky and ocean ring
with joy, with justice, love and praise.

Brian Wren

Let us pray together
Everyday God,
We praise you that you are with us in every part of our lives and you never stop loving us.
We praise you for the world you created and the beautiful things we see around us.
We praise you that you came to earth in Jesus to show us in person how much you care about us and the world we live in. As we remember your ascension we thank you that you did not leave us alone but sent your Sprit so that we can always know you are with us.
You invite us to join in your work of loving people and the planet and we pray that you show us how we can share in your mission of love. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Let us confess our sins to God.

A short silence

God of mercy,
we confess to you our selfishness and lack of love:
fill us with your Spirit.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

God of grace,
we confess to you our fear and failure in sharing our faith:
fill us with your Spirit.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

God of love,
we confess to you our stubbornness and lack of trust:
fill us with your Spirit.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

God our Father,
who forgives all who truly repent
have mercy on us
pardon and deliver us from all our sins,
and bring us to newness of life;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

A Collect for Aldersgate Sunday
God of overwhelming grace,
you ignited the spark of your grace in John and Charles Wesley and a passion for holiness, justice and sharing your great love with others.

Warm our hearts that we may trust in you.
Renew our conviction and inspire us to embrace new opportunities even in difficulty.
Pour out your spirit on your people that we may be united in your love and ready to share hope with the world through Jesus who is one with you. Amen

Readings
Isaiah 12 v1-6

Romans 5 v1-11

StF 454 – Hymn – Where shall my wondering soul begin?
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The Wesleys’ Conversion Hymn

Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
a brand plucked from eternal fire,
how shall I equal triumphs raise,
or sing my great deliverer’s praise?

O how shall I the goodness tell,
Father, which thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a child of God,
should know, should feel my sins forgiven,
blest with this antepast of heaven!

And shall I slight my Father’s love?
Or basely fear his gifts to own?
Unmindful of his favours prove?
Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,
refuse his righteousness to impart
by hiding it within my heart?

Outcasts, to you, yes, you, I call,
Christ’s love invites you to believe!
He spreads his arms to embrace you all;
sinners alone his grace receive:
no need of him the righteous have;
he came the lost to seek and save.

Come, O my guilty kindred, come,
groaning beneath your load of sin!
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
his open side shall take you in;
he calls you now, invites you home:
come, O my guilty kindred, come!

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Address
Click here to listen to the Address presented by Rev Mark Barrett

This Sunday we are celebrating Aldersgate Day. This is often referred to as Wesley’s conversion. I am not minded to call it as such, I see it more as Wesley’s realisation. He was already a Christian, perhaps he was what he later called in a sermon ‘An Almost Christian.’ He was not converted from unbelief or disbelief, but he was changed in how he believed. He was supposed to say that God had moved in him from his head to his heart.

He understood that he could be forgiven. Like many people who have faith yet who have done wrong they often believe that others are to be forgiven and they are not. We look deeply into the dark corners of our hearts and think they are deeper and darker than anyone else’s.

Wesley realised that Christ had died for him, for John Wesley. He realised that God loved him, loved John Wesley. He came to see that his relationship with God in Christ was one he could have, it did not have to be filtered through the church alone. The same held for his forgiveness. He could know in his own heart that he was forgiven by knowing the love of God in his heart. His forgiveness did not have to be sanctioned by the church alone.

This led him to begin to challenge the indolent and disinterested church in which he served, but he felt did not serve the people.

Eventually agreeing to preach out of doors to the poorest of people’s, what he saw and heard deeply influenced his faith and action. Thus, he became, in one context, the firebrand plucked for a purpose.

This is what a heart strangely warmed went on to do, and eventually to lead Methodism to emphasise charity and support for the sick, the poor, and the afflicted through the works of mercy. These ideals, collectively known as the Social Gospel, are put into practice by the establishment of hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, and schools to follow Christ’s command to spread the good news and serve all people.

Early Methodists were drawn from all levels of society, but the Methodist preachers took the message to labourers and criminals who tended to be left outside organised religion at that time. In Britain, the Methodist Church had a major effect in the early decades of the developing working class.

For the Wesley’s, ‘works’ as well as faith were essential to the whole of Christian living, and caring for the poor, for prisoners, for widows and orphans mattered a great deal.

Methodists were not only interested in welfare, they were concerned to remedy social injustice.

The Wesley’s were an influence in prison reform and they earned a reputation as pioneers in education.
Methodists were encouraged to work to their utmost to improve the lives of others. John Wesley exhorted them to “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”

In 1774 he published ‘Thoughts on Slavery’ and he influenced many of the major players in the fight against slavery in 18th Century Britain and America. His very last letter was sent to a young politician named William Wilberforce, who would spend much of his political life fighting for the abolition of the slave trade.

Wesley’s opposition to the widespread use of liquor was not moralistic, but economic. Half of the wheat produced in Britain was going to the distilling industry which made wheat expensive and in turn made bread expensive and beyond the means of the very poor. Expensive meat was caused by gentlemen farmers finding it more profitable to breed horses for export to France and to meet the increasing demand for horse carriages. Pork, poultry and eggs were so expensive because owners of large estates were earning more from cash crops than from leasing land to small tenant farmers. Wesley called for Government intervention, increased employment opportunities, a prohibition on the distilling of hard liquor, a reduction in the demand for horses and an additional tax of gentlemen’s carriages and a tax of £10 on every horse exported to France. Wesley also advocated the discharge of half the national debt.

He deplored the stupidity and futility of war, especially Britain’s war with the American colonies. He frequently wrote and spoke about the use and abuse of money and privilege. He supported fair prices, a living wage, honest and healthy employment for all. There is no question but that Wesley was more familiar with the life of the poor than any other public figure of his age. Constantly moving all over Britain, he could and did sense the mind of the people. He ceaselessly called upon the rich to help the poor, and to his thousands of followers he gave this warning, “Give none that asks relief an ill word or an ill look.  Do not hurt them.”

He fearlessly criticised aspects of the penal system and prisons (paving the way for John Howard and Elizabeth Fry), depicting prisons as “nurseries of all manner of wickedness”.  He campaigned against the near-medieval practice of medicine and for funeral reform.

In addition to Wesley’s wide interests, concerns and activities which we have noted, should be added his practical interest in the potential uses for electricity; vocational training for the unemployed; raising of money to clothe and feed prisoners and to buy food, medicine, fuel, tools for the helpless and the aged; the founding of a Benevolent Loan Fund and the Stranger’s Friend Society.  He believed in God-given nature and, therefore, the nobility of work and the qualities such engendered.

In this country Methodism was involved in the support of workers, four or five of the Tolpuddle martyrs were Methodists, three of them being preachers and as we know this went on to lead to the formation of trade unions.

In America much later there appeared the Social Creed.

The Social Creed originated to express Methodism’s outrage over the miserable lives of the millions of workers in factories, mines, mills, tenements and company towns. It was adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1908. As a part of United Methodist social principles, United Methodist congregations are encouraged to regularly reflect upon the creed and use it in worship services.

1908 Methodist Social Creed:

The Methodist Episcopal Church stands:

For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.
For the principles of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.
For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and mortality.
For the abolition of child labor.
For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.
For the suppression of the “sweating system.”
For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life.
For a release for [from] employment one day in seven.
For a living wage in every industry.
For the highest wage that each industry can afford, and for the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.
For the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.

When the Federal Council of Churches adopted the social creed in December 1908, they added the following phrase at the end:

To the toilers of America and to those who by organized effort are seeking to lift the crushing burdens of the poor, and to reduce the hardships and uphold the dignity of labor, this Council sends the greeting of human brotherhood and the pledge of sympathy and of help in a cause which belongs to all who follow Christ.

As we read of what early Methodism did and continued as it sought to emulate the gospel concerns of John Wesley we understand that Wesley believed that God was for all, the kingdom was for all people. Society’s political, social, racial and economic divisions had no part in the kingdom of God. God’s mercy, forgiveness, grace and love were for all.

Our ‘Four All’s’ states:

1. All people need to be saved.
2. All people can be saved.
3. All people can know they are saved.
4. All people can be saved to the uttermost

If we are to be Methodists then let us not just celebrate this day, but in our living and being we need to reflect those early values, actions and social gospel commitments, especially in the situation we find our nation, our world in today.
Amen

StF 610 – Hymn – Best of all God is with us (Tune StF 341 All for Jesus)
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Best of all is God is with us,
God will hold and never fail.
Keep that truth when storms are raging,
God remains though faith is frail.

Best of all is God is with us,
life goes on and needs are met,
God is strongest in our weakness.
Love renews, will not forget.

Best of all is God is with us,
hearts are challenged, strangely warmed,
faith is deepened, courage strengthened,
grace received and hope reformed.

Best of all is God is with us,
in our joy and through our pain,
till that final acclamation:
‘life is Christ, and death is gain.’

Best of all is God is with us
as we scale eternal heights,
love grows stronger, undiminished;
earth grows dim by heaven’s lights.

Andrew Pratt (b. 1948)

Intercessions
God our protector,

We come before you in prayer for your world, your children and ourselves.

We pray for the world that you have made. We thank you for the renewal of creation springing up as human activity has been restricted.  We pray that we will learn to value these gifts and to live more gently in the future.

We pray for the leaders of nations making impossible decisions on our behalf. We pray that they will speak and act with integrity and protect those who are most vulnerable.

We pray for our church communities. We bring you our sadness at not being able to meet together and we thank you for the people finding it easier to explore faith at this time. We pray that we will find new ways to reach out to the world.

We pray for the people we miss.  Our friends and families and those we long to see face to face. We pray for safety and protection for our loved ones.

We pray for those who have lost someone they love and haven’t been able to say goodbye. We pray that they will know the comfort of your loving presence and that you will show us how to reach out in love and friendship.

We pray for ourselves in these difficult days shared by so many people but also lived in isolation. Help us to know your protecting love and to live in the power of your Spirit.

In Jesus’ name we pray. 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

StF 462 – Hymn – Come with me, come wander
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Come with me, come wander, come welcome the world,
where strangers might smile or where stones may be hurled;
come leave what you cling to, lay down what you clutch
and find, with hands empty, that hearts can hold much.
Sing Hey for the carpenter leaving his tools!
Sing Hey for the Pharisees leaving their rules!
Sing Hey for the fishermen leaving their nets!
Sing Hey for the people who leave their regrets!

Come walk in my company, come sleep by my side,
come savour a lifestyle with nothing to hide;
come sit at my table and eat with my friends,
discovering that love which the world never ends.
Sing Hey for the carpenter leaving his tools!
Sing Hey for the Pharisees leaving their rules!
Sing Hey for the fishermen leaving their nets!
Sing Hey for the people who leave their regrets!

Come share in my laughter, come close to my fears,
come find yourself washed with the kiss of my tears;
come stand close at hand while I suffer and die,
and find in three days how I never will lie.
Sing Hey for the carpenter leaving his tools!
Sing Hey for the Pharisees leaving their rules!
Sing Hey for the fishermen leaving their nets!
Sing Hey for the people who leave their regrets!

Come leave your possessions, come share out your treasure,
come give and receive without method or measure;
come loose every bond that’s restraining the spirit,
enabling the earth to be yours to inherit.
Sing Hey for the carpenter leaving his tools!
Sing Hey for the Pharisees leaving their rules!
Sing Hey for the fishermen leaving their nets!
Sing Hey for the people who leave their regrets!

John L. Bell & Graham Maule

A prayer of blessing
Holy God,
be with me as I leave this time of worship.
May I know your presence in my every day and live your message of love and hope.
Amen

Toccata & Fugue in D minor BWV 565 by JS Bach
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