Sunday Worship 28th January 2024

(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 Allerton Methodist Church and led by Stuart Ayrton one of our Circuit Local Preachers.

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

Call to Worship

As individuals, we have heard God’s call to be here today, to listen for God speaking to us through Scripture, through teaching, music, and all we experience together, and through each other. As a community, we have gathered to help one another in discerning the word of God.

Song – H&P 499/StF 56 – King of Glory, King of peace


God of all truth and all wisdom, of all authority and all power, we come together as your people in this place, to reflect on the words of your prophets, to be inspired by the words and actions of your Son, Jesus. To be challenged by the spirit of your laws, to discern the will for us individually and as a church, to offer you our prayers and praises, and to grow closer in fellowship with you and one another.

God of all ages, in you is found all wisdom, all wonder, all love. Lord Jesus, In you is found all healing, all truth, all goodness. Holy Spirit, in you is found all power, all cleansing, all enabling. And so, as one and as many, we lift our hearts to you in awe, in reverence and in humility.

God of truth, we bring to you those times when we have used cheap words to avoid costly action. Forgive us and grant us your spirit of strength. We bring to you those times when we have hidden behind the letter of the law to avoid the challenge of the spirit of the law. Forgive us and grant us your spirit of discernment. We bring to you those times when we have disrespected the authority of those you have called to show us a new way. Forgive us and grant us your spirit of wisdom.

Assurance of forgiveness

Gracious God, you bless us with the gifts of forgiveness and compassion and encourage us to turn away from our mistakes towards your love, and we pray with that confidence that not our will be done but yours, not our words be spoken but yours, not our authority be revealed but yours, in all we think and do and say.

Living God, we praise you for the people you have called to speak your words of power to us and to our world – words of life and death, of opportunity and risk, of comfort and challenge, of wisdom and clarity. Help us to step out to the rhythm of their beat, the beat of justice, of compassion, of reverence for you, so that we might grow in wisdom and confidence, and sing our life’s story to the music of your gospel. In Jesus’ name.


Song – H&P 83/StF 178 – Long ago prophets knew


Psalm 111

Mark 1:21-28

Song – H&P 535/StF 666 – Master speak! Thy servant heareth


Psalm 111

Today we think about the ways that Christians praise God — for all that is past and for God’s continuing care. This psalm is a carefully written hymn or prayer that would have been used in the worship of the gathered Jewish people, perhaps at some of the special festivals.

It is carefully composed because it is written as an acrostic, that is, it has twenty-two lines, the first word of the first line begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each subsequent line begins with the next letter in turn.

In Mark the journey begins and the first followers see something of its purpose: restoration in the context of faith. In the synagogue on the Sabbath, they discover first that their master is a teacher: this was unlikely to have been a surprise, given the power of his call. But a more sensational discovery follows, for a man with an unclean spirit is healed and the story begins to spread. This is the first exorcism in Mark’s Gospel. The story is set in Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Anyone visiting Capernaum today can see the remains of a synagogue that may well have been on the same site as that mentioned in this passage.

At first we think that Mark is simply giving us another summary of Jesus’ ministry. Mark likes summarizing things. However the focal point of this passage is not just Jesus’ teaching, but his act of healing and deliverance. Here, Jesus does not come with a message alone, but with the power to change lives. His words and his deeds are linked, for both are clear signs of the presence of the kingdom of God and of Jesus’ identity as God’s son.

The crowds who witness the scene recognise this. At first they are astounded at his teaching, by the end they also recognise his authority over unclean spirits. The unclean spirits also recognise and confess Jesus’ true identity. This ‘demonic confession’ is a part of a strange feature of Mark’s gospel. Note how Jesus commands the spirit to be silent. This is a repeated command in the gospel. It suggests that during the time of his ministry Jesus wants to work quietly, without drawing attention to the fact that he is the Son of God (in order to prevent misunderstanding of what that might mean?). For Mark, the real sign of Jesus’ identity as Son of God is his suffering and death.

The issue of exorcism raises all sorts of questions for readers of the Bible today. When Mark was writing belief in demonic spirits was widespread. Jesus’ authority is seen in his ability to defeat these spirits. For readers of the gospel, such stories speak of Jesus’ authority over every malign, malicious and evil influence in our world.

Finally, note the question at 1.27: ‘What is this?’ This is the question that Mark wants all his readers to ask when they encounter Jesus’ words and deeds. Neutrality is impossible. Jesus forces people to ask challenging questions, and to seek the answers in him.

Some may remember Methodist minister Donald Soper preaching from his soapbox on Hyde Park Corner; around him crowds of people, listening with focused attention. This kind of preaching is something of a lost art. In present-day society, information comes as a soundbite or a tweet, and authority is gauged by the number of likes a ‘post’ attracts. But authority can be undermined rapidly by inconsistent behaviour or actions that are seen as hypocritical. The demand for consistency between words and actions takes us straight back to Jesus, whose words are powerful because they match his works. He embodies authenticity and integrity. Do we?

It is said that people get a new job on the basis of the first 30 seconds of their interview. We form opinions of one another very quickly and this sets the tone for ongoing relationships. So, the impact Jesus made on that Sabbath in Capernaum was vital to the flourishing of his ministry later on. The impression of authority and integrity would have stayed in people’s minds and attracted them to listen to him again. Does our church create a striking first impression? This isn’t just about the physical surroundings, though they matter. Rather, will visitors get a sense of Jesus’ presence, his authority, his passion for good, when they come into our church?

You are ‘the Holy One of God’ – the unclean spirit shouts these words at Jesus, rejecting him and everything he stands for. In doing so, Mark’s hearers gain a new way of understanding Jesus – he is the Holy One of God. What are the attributes of holiness? The story tells us that holiness and uncleanness cannot coexist, and that holiness drives out evil. Lived experience may lead us to query this. We know that often evil seems to come out on top, and that the line between holiness and uncleanness can seem blurred and messy. This story helps us see that, in Christ, it is possible to distinguish clearly between good and evil, right and wrong, and so there is hope that for us too, a truly good life will be possible in Christ.

Imagine there has been a traffic accident. The road is impassable and someone is trying to direct traffic the other way. How much difference would it make if that person were wearing a hi-vis jacket? Are there other things that would make a difference – e.g. age, gender, disability? Do we attribute authority more readily to some people than to others, especially if there is a close fit with our stereotypes of authority figures? On this basis, would we attribute authority to Jesus?

Whether it’s climate change, life-changing diets, or dealing with the economic fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic, we are surrounded by experts who speak authoritatively on their given subject. This is often followed, especially in the news media, by another expert speaking authoritatively on the same subject – but with a completely different view! On social media, it is even worse; often you have no idea whether the person speaking authoritatively is an expert or not – but you can probably guarantee there will be a lot of people shouting at each other!

This doesn’t look like changing any time soon, but it can leave us longing for genuine authority. This was why Jesus’ teaching received the reaction that it did. He not only spoke with certainty and confidence, but he backed up his teaching with actions that confirmed his authenticity and authority. He really did hold power! An unclean spirit looked to heckle him, but was firmly rebuked and sent packing.

As Christians, we recognise God’s authority, and we look to both the words and actions of Jesus to reveal it. If someone claims to have authority today, we are right to ask: do their actions match their words? And what is the fruit of those words?

Song – H&P 673/ StF 479 – Dear Lord and  Father of mankind

Prayers of Intercession

God of our impressionable world, We pray for the leaders of the nations,

That they would be wise, just and compassionate as they exercise their authority.

We remember especially those in power in Russia – And those protesting at the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny. We remember the governments in the Ukraine, as they cope with Russian aggression. In the United States, and here in the UK, praying for all leaders as they discern the way forward amid the difficult social and economic challenges of the world’s troubles

May your truth be known,

And your love be shared in Jesus’ name.

We pray for a smooth and just rolling out of vaccine programmes, in light of the measles outbreak, for those who are vulnerable, for those who mistrust the vaccine, f7or those for whom it has come too late. We pray for the families, and friends of affected by illness, and all ministering to the sick and needy, the dying and the bereaved.

May your truth be known,

And your love be shared in Jesus’ name.

We pray for those who feel overwhelmed by the additional pressures of home and relationships, for those whose relationships are at breaking point. We pray for those who have lost their lives to depression, and for their families and friends. We pray too for those whose lives are blighted by anxiety and stress. We pray for the health services and charities trying to support them.

May your truth be known,

And your love be shared in Jesus’ name.

We pray for your church – around the world and in our own community, we pray for creative ways to serve and to share, for courage and integrity as we listen and pray, for urgency and daring as we respond to the needs around us.

May your truth be known,

And your love be shared in Jesus’ name.

We pray, in a moment of silence, for all those on our hearts and for all those who have no one to name them in prayer.

May your truth be known,

And your love be shared in Jesus’ name.


Lord’s Prayer

Song – StF 545/H&P 378 – Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart


Lord, like your first disciples you send us out as sheep among wolves.

Teach us to be wise as serpents as well as innocent as doves.

Remind us that your peace comes with us and your hand is there to guide and encourage. Amen.

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