Sunday Worship – 19th November 2023

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

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across our circuit and with the congregation at Baildon Methodist Church and led by Rev Nick Blundell one of our circuit ministers. Most of our prayers this morning are courtesy of Roots (‘Worship and learning for the whole church’).

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

Call to Worship
You are all children of light and of the day,  
we are not of the night or of darkness!
So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, 
but let us keep awake and give our praise.

Creator God, who has furnished us with all that we have,
we give you praise and thanks.
Remind us of our gifts when we lose sight of them.
Show us where and how to share them.
Give us the courage to offer them freely, as you give to us.
What others may seek to destroy, help us to protect and care,
and give us the conviction to stand fast when we are called to do so.
This we ask of you, in Jesus’ name.        Amen.

Song – H&P 653 or StF 25 – God is here as we his people

Prayers of approach, confession, and an assurance of forgiveness.

We come, O God, seeking your forgiveness.
You gave us stewardship of your creation – yet what have we done with it?
Our environments are changing; weather patterns swinging between extremes.
Creatures are becoming endangered as their habitats are altered by climate change,
with some at risk as a result of being hunted to satisfy man’s greed.
Forgive us, O God, for not being good caretakers of your created world;
help us to right our wrongs.
Forgive us for not always being good caretakers of what you’ve given us personally.
You have given each of us talents.
Forgive us for not always using them wisely,
for hiding away those we think too small to be of consequence.
Or for when we brag about what we have and what we’ve achieved.
Forgive our small mindedness, our selfishness, our greed, our desire for recognition.
Forgive us and help us to grow,
and to use well all you give us to benefit others and further your kingdom. Amen

God’s wrath can be frightening but, because of Jesus, God’s love and light shine upon us.
Because of Jesus, we are children of light.  Because of Jesus, we are loved and forgiven. Amen

Bible Reading    

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11     

Song – MP 799 or StF 489 – All I once held dear

Bible Reading

Matthew 25:14-30  

Song – StF 706 – Longing for light, we wait in darkness


Today’s gospel reading sounds a little bit like a mathematical homework question:
A man is going travelling and entrusts his subordinates with a portion of his wealth. If one worker is given five bags of gold, and another two, and a third one bag, how many bags of gold will there be when the man returns? Now we know the answer – the reading tells us.  There are fifteen bags.   Five doubled, two doubled, and one covered in soil. But if we didn’t know, if the story didn’t give us the answer, what would we be thinking?

We’d be wondering about the trustworthiness of the three.  Are they going to run off with the man’s gold? Has he taken up references?  There might be no bags of gold waiting for him on his return. I imagine that there would be a lot more weeping and gnashing of teeth were that to be the case! We’d be wondering about the experience and skill of the three, their capability to undertake the responsibility.  Have they got qualifications – perhaps the first two have accountancy certificates and the third one a horticultural qualification? We might be asking about interest rates and economic conditions.  Or we might want to know the weather forecast and the season – is the ground going to be sodden or frozen so it’s hard to get a spade in? And if we’ve explored interest rates, then how long is the man going to be away for?  Is he on a round the world tour or a day trip to Bognor?  Can we tie up the gold in bonds or shares, or do we need instant access?

As we muse on these questions, and imagine the situation, filling in gaps in the narrative, let’s notice a few things. The man trusts the three.   He seems to know them well, in that he doesn’t give them equal levels of responsibility, but rather distributes the bags of gold ‘according to ability’, presumably on the basis of their experience, character, imagination, in the light of what he has seen in them thus far. There is a sense of testing in the story. It becomes clear that the subordinates’ performance in fulfilling this responsibility is shaping decisions about future possibilities. There is a strong thread affirming appropriate risk-taking, approving the using of the resource of the gold, the putting it to work, and condemning the taking of what might be considered the safe option and hiding it.

As we reflect on these things, let’s remind ourselves of the context of the reading. The ‘it’ at the beginning (…’it will be like a man going on a journey…’) is the kingdom of heaven – the kingdom of heaven will be like….

And this story of the kingdom sits with others, as Matthew has gathered them, looking to a future time, the precise locating of which we do not know.  The thief in the night (echoed in our epistle to the thessalonians), the wise and foolish virgins, these stories which precede our maths problem have the purpose of challenging their hearers to be alert and ready, to be living their lives in the light of a kingdom glimpsed but not yet fully accomplished.  That future kingdom is both the one brought in by Christ’s death and resurrection (we are in chapter 25, in chapter 26 Jesus will be betrayed and arrested, in chapter 27 crucified), and the future kingdom for which we still wait and hope and work.

Our story speaks into this context. It recognises that we are known by God, and suggests that God has entrusted to us responsibilities and possibilities appropriate to our abilities. It encourages us strongly to take up those responsibilities, to explore the possibilities, to be prepared to take a risk or two in our discipleship. It discourages us from ignoring the gifts we know we have because we lack confidence or fear making mistakes. it suggests a kingdom principle which says that gifts which are used will develop and flourish, while gifts which are ignored will atrophy and die.

As always when we read a bible story we will hear it through the filter of our current situation. Can I encourage you to consciously and deliberately do that – to  revisit Jesus’ story of five and two and one asking what it might have to say to your current situation. What might the story  offer you, what might it ask of you? What bags of gold are you carrying, and how might you put them to best use?    What peace may be found in using well the gifts with which you have been blessed?           Amen

(with actions).rad
Holy one, (reach out and up)
may your peace (hands over heart)
surround me; (hug self)
may your peace (hands over heart)
work through me; (push away, with palms facing out, pointing up)
may your peace (hands over heart)
reach all the world. (spread arms wide)
Amen (hands together, bow head) 

Song – StF 663 – I, the Lord of sea and sky     

We pray to God, who is always ready – 
for those whom God is calling
Give openness, O Lord
for those who glimpse new possibilities
Give courage, O Lord
for those whose talents are buried or forgotten
Give imagination, O Lord

for those overtaken with demands.
Give rest, O Lord.
For those overburdened with anxieties.
Give peace, O Lord.
For those overcome with debt.
Give relief, O Lord.
For those oppressed by powers that despise them.
Give salvation, O Lord.
For those in situations they cannot see a way out of.
Give freedom, O Lord.
For those in need of hope.
Give hope, O Lord.
For Israel and Palestine, Ukraine, Sudan and Yemen
Give peace, O Lord.     Amen.

We share together in praying the Lord’s Prayer

Song – H&P 648 or StF147 – The Day thou gavest Lord is ended.  

An evening hymn I know, but carrying the sense of God’s love wrapping the world – somewhere the sun is rising!

Sending and blessing           
This earth, this good earth,
the sunlight, the moonlight,
the sky that reaches over us,
the soil beneath our feet.      
We will hold all this in our hands
with gentleness and love.     Amen

And so may the blessing of God, Creator, Son and Spirit,
remain with us, and all those we love, now and always.   Amen
(CCLI 79951. Service prepared by Rev’d Nick Blundell)

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