Sunday Worship – 21st May 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) or Hymns & 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 Wilsden Trinity Church and led by Deacon Merry Evans, our Circuit Deacon.

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

Call to Worship

Come, and worship: the Creator God calls out to us in love.
Come, and worship: the Risen Jesus calls us to follow him.
Come, and worship: the Holy Spirit calls and seeks us out.

Song – STF 314 & H&P 213 – This Joyful Eastertide

There are two special days to mark and explore this Sunday. The first, Thursday just gone, was Ascension Day in the Church’s Year. According to Luke’s account in Acts, Jesus, having died and then seen alive and having conversed several times with his disciples, is taken away ‘to heaven’ not to be seen on earth again. Let’s read that passage:

Acts 1: 6-11 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

The second special day we are marking is this coming Wednesday. In Methodism May 24th is marked as Wesley Day. On that day, in1738, John Wesley unwillingly attended worship at a Moravian ‘Religious Society’ meeting on Aldersgate Street in London. It was during this service that he felt his “heart strangely warmed”, as he experienced God’s love in a most personal and life-giving way. Until then he had known God in his mind, but not in his heart. Now he understood the value of a personal experience of God that would bring assurance of salvation to the believer. Both John and his brother Charles thereafter found new energy and commitment to spread the Christian faith and John is remembered for his preaching in the open air up and down the country, and Charles for his many hymns which the gathered Methodists sang whenever they met.

John & Charles Wesley
Open Air Preaching

For the first Christians in the 1st century, and the Methodist Christians of the 18th century, the experience of God in their lives caused them to preach and to sing. And the book of Acts in the New Testament, and John Wesley’s own journal record how the Christian message spread. We celebrate this movement of God in human lives in our next hymn.

Song – STF 21 & H&P 486 – Born In Song


A Prayer for Openness God of love, God of hope, God of all creation; we praise you for your spirit moving in the lives of people in every generation, and moving in the lives of people everywhere today. Move us, we pray, that we may know your heart-warming presence, and to be assured of your saving and transforming grace. Make us diligent in prayer, bold in proclamation and praise, that others may be drawn to you. May they know your indwelling presence and power, for the saving of your world from human selfishness and sin.

We join with Christians across the world as we confess our sins We confess our failing to love and trust in you. We confess we have followed our own inclinations and desires. We confess we have not loved one another, in either word or deed. We confess we have not cared for your world as we ought. We confess our failure to live as Jesus lived, and our failure to give witness to our knowing You. Forgive us, and so work your spirit in us that we amend our ways, for your glory’s sake. Amen.

Hear the word of assurance that your sins are forgiven Through the saving power of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, God forgives you. Receive the Holy Spirit into your hearts. May you be filled with the life and love of God as you journey onwards. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Song – STF 639 – Through the love of God our saviour  

OR H&P 441 – Through the night of doubt and sorrow


Just as Jesus’s message made him unwelcome in many synagogues, so his disciples as they began preaching also became unwelcome. So, as the book of Acts describes, they often spread the message in the open air. When John Wesley, who was a Church of  England priest, began preaching with his new found conviction and commitment, he too became unwelcome in many churches. His preaching unsettled the establishment, unsettled the status quo. His preaching, like Jesus’s, was seen as dangerous. It was George Whitfield who introduced him to the practice of open-air preaching as an alternative way to spread the message. In fields and in market places crowds gathered and heard the message of God’s saving love, available to be experienced personally in heart as well as mind. Just as the followers of Jesus became known as Christians as a nickname for their placing Jesus as the focus for worship rather than the Roman Emperor (who claimed divinity) so converts and followers of the Wesley’s became known as Methodists, as a nickname for their disciplined way of living out their faith. Both the early Christians and the Methodists quickly found themselves the targets of attacks and persecutions. The book of Acts and Wesley’s journal record examples of opposition, stoning, pandemonium, riot, false accusations and being hauled up before magistrates. Both the early Christians and the Methodists were commonly viewed by the authorities as seditious rebels. (Don’t forget in the 1700’s the French revolution brewed and raged just a few miles across the Channel from Britain and the authorities feared it would foment similar revolution here. Any sign of trouble was stamped on hard.) Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned as he preached. Wesley and Methodists faced attacks and violence in many places too.

Stephen is stoned Acts 7
Depiction of the riot in Wednesbury, 20th Oct 1743

Opposition to, and the persecution of, Christians has been common throughout history. We may forget, here in the West, that in manycountries throughout the world today Christians face discrimination, attacks, persecution, violence, imprisonment, and other forms of oppression and even martyrdom. We could spend many hours listing these here. What keeps them faithful?

In late 1st century a letter circulated around the Christian communities of Asia Minor (Turkey) to encourage them in the face of the discrimination and persecutions they sporadically faced. We read:

1 Peter 4: 12-14    12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

The writer, (probably someone who had known Peter rather Peter himself) compares their sufferings with those of Jesus and reminds them that Jesus continues to live within them, and that the promise of Jesus for the coming of God’s kingdom of liberty and peace is soon to come (as our reading from Acts about the Ascension relates).

Two thousand years later idea of the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom of peace has rather faded. We still look for, work for and celebrate its arrival in the precious moments of healing, justice, mercy and love between people in the present, and as a process of social, political, and environmental healing unfolding day by day. (The reward of ‘Heaven’ is as much here today as it is still to come.) However, in those times and in those places where we as Christians face opposition, ridicule or other ‘sufferings’ the whole idea of the Ascended Christ seated in heavenly glory, ruling with ultimate truth, power and love can inspire great confidence and endurance. It has often been those qualities that non-christians perceive and admire in us and can gradually draw them towards commitment and openness to God.

I close with the observation that the words of the Lord’s prayer ‘…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…’  are most recently translated as ‘…save us from the time of trial…’  or ‘…do not bring us to the time of hard testing…’. I’m sure our fellow Christians experiencing trials and hard testing in the face of discrimination or worse pray these words to the ascended and glorious Jesus with great fervour and yearning. Perhaps we should learn from them and pray like them too. While we look for the kingdom in the world here and now, we also look to the heavenly kingdom to inspire us and draw us ever on.

Song – STF 564 & HAP 745 – O Thou Who Camest From Above

Make your own 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 297 & H&P 190 – Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing!

Christ our King, make us faithful and strong to do your will. So inspire us that we may first live your kingdom life on earth, then reign with you in glory. Almighty God bless us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and for eternity. Amen.

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