Sunday Worship – 18th June 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) and Hymns and Psalms (H&P) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Christchurch LEP, and led by Deacon Merry Evans our Circuit Deacon.

Click on the blue links to follow them for bible readings and associated links

‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ Exodus 17:7


You have a story, your own life story. Your story is a part of God’s story. That story includes bad bits as well as good bits. It includes boring bits and it includes exciting bits as well. God’s story of love buries itself and entwines itself within the story of your life. Share your story with others, even if you tell only small parts of it, for your story helps others to discover that they are part of God’s story too. They, too, are loved and valued by God, even when they have made mistakes or suffered unfairly in life. They can learn from us. And, as we listen to their stories, we learn from them and can discover love, faith, hope and healing for ourselves. Sharing our stories helps us to join together as the people of God. Sharing our stories helps us to celebrate who we are in Christ. We are a people on a journey from brokenness to wholeness, from confusion to faithfulness, from rejection and self-pity to acceptance and confidence, from selfishness to wisdom and grace. In the ‘old’ language of the church this is the journey from ‘sin’ to ‘salvation’.
Just think: if the people of ages past hadn’t told their stories we wouldn’t have the Bible: stories that help, comfort, challenge and guide us today. Let us share the stories of God’s love entwined and buried within all of our stories, yours and mine, and those of the Bible.

Let’s tell those bits of which we are less proud as well as those bits of which we are proud. Let’s discover and cherish the fact that each one of us is God’s treasured possession. That God’s life, and our lives, are joined together in a story of tripping and falling and being raised up again and again and again.

Surely, this is a story we could tell anyone and everyone we meet.

Song – StF 323 or H&P 223 – I will sing the wondrous story


The people of Israel, having escaped from Egypt, are travelling through the wilderness. It is a story with ‘good bits’ and ‘bad bits’.  The ‘bad’ bits are to do with the people complaining to God, blaming God, resenting the place they find themselves in, not believing that God will keep them safe. The ‘good bits’ are to do with the people being given what they need. Both the good bits and bad bits help us to see that God was with the people all the time, even though they didn’t realise it. Re-telling and hearing the story helps us realise what God is like, and how we can trust God, even in difficult times. We can see how God’s people move from the attitude of ‘sin’ to the receipt of ‘grace’. It is interesting that the name of the place where this story begins is Sin! And that the name of the place of grace where it ends is ‘quarrelling’ and ‘testing’!

Exodus 17 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us

and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Pause for a moment to remember our own sins: self-centred unbelief, resentful doubt, being argumentative, allowing anger and fear to get the upper hand, accusing others unfairly. Let us confess our sins to God in silent prayer…


Forgive us, creator God, if our story is not as you want it to be –if it is marred or dishonest, if it is littered with mistakes, if it gives the wrong impression of who you are. Forgive us if our story does not really reveal the love, care and compassion you have for all people. Forgive us if our story stops people coming to know you, or to find in you redemption, forgiveness and new life. Forgive us if our story doesn’t express how much your story matters to us.

As long as we live, may our stories be a vehicle for your never-ending love.


Hear the word of Grace: In Christ your sins are forgiven. Amen.

Song – StF 433  or H&P 429 – Out of the depths I cry to thee (based on Psalm 130)

Song – StF 575 – Before I take the body of my lord

Reading: Paul’s letter to Philemon

There are so many stories in the Bible! Most of those in the New Testament have been written down in order to help readers, especially new Christians, understand what following Jesus meant in their day. The stories are often told in a way that proclaims Jesus as saviour of all people, and as a heavenly priest and king. They often are told in a way to help Christians understand Jesus as being sent by God, and frequently use the words ‘Son of God’.  They are intended to inspire and encourage. When we read stories about Jesus or about the Apostles, they frequently jump from talking about the things that have just happened (such as a healing, a miracle or an interruption when someone is preaching) to explaining what has happened as God acting through it. There aren’t many, if any, personal experiences written down as stories in a way we’re thinking about today – telling ‘our story’ from a very personal point of view – how someone experiences the presence of God in their ordinary, everyday lives. However, there is a very personal letter of Paul to a man named Philemon. Philemon clearly is a Christian, and Paul is writing to tell him to welcome back one of his servants, Onesimus, who has run away to Paul and thereby wronged his master.

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith towards the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, 16  no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

22 One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.

23 Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow-workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Song – StF 611 Brother, Sister let me serve you

or H&P 762 – May the grace of Christ our Saviour

  • TO THINK ABOUT AND TALK ABOUT or maybe write about:
  • Can you remember a time when someone shared a significant story with you?
  • How is God revealed through the sharing of stories?
  • What part of your faith story might resonate with others when you tell it?

My Story: Two weeks ago, I was attending a conference for people involved in therapy and healing. It was a secular conference, not religious. After I arrived, I shared a brief conversation over coffee with a young woman. She had caught and held my eye, and so I said, ‘Shall we talk?’  We did the usual thing of saying where we had come from and what we did, and then which workshops we were going to attend. Then we were called in for the start of the conference.

Later, I was sat in the sunshine eating lunch at a picnic table. The young woman I had spoken to came and sat with me. A couple of minutes later two more young women came and joined us. One of them had been my partner when we were paired up in a workshop which had involved us being a pair for 20 minutes dancing and moving together. We all talked as we ate. Part of our conversation was sharing our thoughts and feelings about the workshop.

They were all around 30 years old. I’m in my late 60’s. They were really interested to know about me. One question led to another and another. I told them I was a Methodist Minister, had done community work on behalf of the church, been a Chaplain in prisons and mental health hospitals, worked in charities, been the minister in several churches across the north. Of course, they told me about themselves as well. One had been a FE college lecturer in graphic design, another a massage therapist, the third about to qualify as a psychotherapist. Amazingly the conversation went deep. They asked about my experience of God, and what led me into being a Minister. I asked them and they told me about their spiritual experiences in return. One had been deeply affected by a vision experienced during a music festival where she had attended a Shamanic drumming workshop. I asked her about that, and we talked about the similarity and differences between her experience and those of Christians and other faiths. We also talked about some deep philosophical questions.   I haven’t had a conversation like that for a very, very long time.

I don’t find it easy to talk to strangers. I was initially uncomfortable, but when I said ‘Shall we talk?’ it broke the ice. Then our stories began to unfold. When I danced with my partner, it gave us a common experience to talk about and turn into a story later over lunch.

As we trusted one another with some of our personal stories we discovered more and more about each other, and there was more to talk about. I had talked about myself, and that led to talking about God, and faith, and life. Who knows what the impact of our conversation will be? Maybe you may find a way to talk about your life stories and listen to other people’s stories too.  I think Jesus did a lot of that – usually over sharing a meal as well.  Such conversations change lives. Telling our stories is energising and brings us all to life. I pray you find opportunities to tell your story with someone this week.


Prayers for the church; for the world; for those with power and those without; for those in need; for neighbours, friends and family; for yourself.

Song – StF 707 or H&P 776 – Make me a channel of your peace

Closing Prayer

Transforming God, as we go from here, may we be full of your amazing story,
wanting to share it with those we meet, so that more lives may be transformed.
Fill us full, with your Spirit. Amen

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