Sunday Worship – 30th April 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 Bolton Methodist Church and led by Rev Christine Crabtree, one of our Circuit Ministers.

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

Call to worship

On this fourth Sunday of Easter we gather together,
in churches and at home,
to sing praise to God
who loved us too much to let us go where we had wandered;
who came to be with us;
to live with us;
to die for us;
and to rise again bringing the message of forgiveness and new life.

Song – StF 297/H&P 190 Christ is alive! Let Christians sing

Prayers of approach

God of Easter awakening, for so many people Easter is in the past. 
For some, Easter was three weeks ago, and the world has moved on to the next thing;
but we still celebrate Jesus rising to newness of life, and calling us to follow him.
For some, Easter was two thousand years ago, and has little meaning for them;
but we praise you that what you began at Easter is an ongoing work of redemption for your world.
For some, Easter was a moment of change some time ago, and they give it little thought today;
but we give you thanks that you walk with us through every moment of our lives.
Thank you that we can come together and worship as people who put our trust in you, as Easter people who have met with you and cannot remain the same.
Help us to open ourselves to you today, so that we can hear you speak to us and see more of what you long to share with us.
We ask in the name of Jesus who loves us to the uttermost, Amen.

Song – StF 348/H&P 256 He is Lord, he is Lord


1 Peter 2:19-25

‘It could be you’ was the slogan that came with the huge blue finger pointing down at an unsuspecting someone.  ‘It could be you’ who wins the Lottery and whose life is changed by doing so.  We like that kind of potential. 

Some people put their trust in it, and buy tickets, hoping that one day it will be them, and life will change from scrimping and saving to having everything they want, and being able to provide for others, too.

We are far less happy with ‘It could be you’ when it means it could be us who suffer – who suffer for our faith, as Peter is writing here, or who lose everything we have in a hurricane, who get cancer, who need to leave our homes because of war.  The Bible is quite clear that faith is not a way out of these things.  It is a way through them. 

Taking up our cross and following Jesus means walking to a death – something that Peter knew from a conversation he had had with Jesus on the shore of Lake Galilee.  Jesus had told Peter that there would come a time when someone would bind him and take him somewhere he did not wish to go, and John in his writing noted that this was to show Peter that he would die for his faith (John 21:18-19).

It may not be a literal death for us – it may be a death of our ego, as we put God first instead of ourselves; a death of choosing our own way of going, as we try to follow where God is leading us; a death of a hope that we dearly wanted fulfilling, but seems not to be appearing.  These are painful times of dying to ourselves and letting go of control into God’s hands – yet in them, we can find that, if we embrace the pain as Jesus did, we can come out the other side into new life, new hope, new ways of understanding ourselves.

The pain does not have to shape us, to make us knotted, turned in on ourselves, afraid to look up and out.  Instead it can actually help us achieve our potential, as we trust God that it will not last forever, and that he will lead us through it into whatever comes next.

And we move from ‘it could be you’ to ‘it is you’ as we know we are loved by God who walks with us, who weeps with us or laughs with us, wherever we might be.

Hymn – StF 492/H&P 709 Christ be my Leader by night as by day


John 10:1-10

‘I am the gate for the sheep’ says Jesus.

What do you think of, when you think of a gate?  An ornate gate, or a functional one? A metal gate, or a wooden gate? A gate with ‘KEEP OUT’ on it?  A gate which bars the way you want to go? Or a gate which seems to beckon you into what lies beyond?

Do you remember a particular gate from childhood perhaps which seemed somehow magical, with wonderful things behind it?

Which of the gates above seems friendlier to you?  Which would you find it easiest to open and walk through?

Jesus is the gate for us, but he is not talking of a gate like we see on sheepdog trials which, when the dog has got the sheep in the pen, closes on them so they cannot escape.  Jesus talks about coming in and also going out. 

If there wasn’t a gate for a sheep pen, a Middle Eastern shepherd would literally be the gate for the sheep, lying down across the entrance to the sheep pen at night to keep them safe from attack by wild animals.  He would take the sheep out to pasture and bring them home safely to rest.  They would hear his voice when he called them, and would come running to him, trusting him to lead them in the right way.

Jesus is the way in, and the way out, not a gate that closes us in, but a gate that keeps us  safe from whatever who would do us harm, and by which we can go out to get what we need.  He goes on, after this passage from John, to talk about being the good shepherd, which speaks of his all-encompassing care for the sheep, providing for all they need at every stage of their lives.  He is with us and will provide for us, both in the times when that provision is obvious, in the green pastures and beside plentiful water; in the times when we think we have been abandoned and the way ahead is dark and unclear; and in the times when everything we do seems like a hard slog and we thirst for something better. 

We may not know the way ahead, but we know the One who leads us.  We may not know what is out there in the dark but we trust in the One who lies across the gate to keep us safe.  We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we put our faith in the one who is with us always, and will lead us, day by day. This is life in all its fulness, life in abundance, that Jesus promises us.

Song – StF 481 or H&P 70 The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want

Prayers of intercession

Picture yourself as the large blue hand, looking down on people in a busy street near where you live.  Some are in cars, some on the bus, some are shopping; others talking in the street; some are rushing to work or appointments; some are sitting in the bus shelter trying to have a conversation, because there is no-one at home to talk to.  All are living out their lives in the best way they can, the only way they know.

What would be your prayer for them, these people?
When you say, ‘It could be you’, what would you want to give to them?
What do you think God would want to give them?
Let these thoughts take you into prayer for your neighbourhood.

Now see Jesus as the shepherd, calling out to the sheep.  Some come straight away; some dawdle; some do not appear.  See him leaving the flock in a safe place while he goes to search out the lost ones, and bring them home rejoicing.
Let this picture lead you into prayer for your friends and family who do not know Jesus.
Now offer your prayers for your church family; our Circuit, District, and the Connexion, and the other churches in your neighbourhood.  What does God want to give us?  Where does he want to lead us?
Pray for the world, for the stories you have heard on the news; for people who are afraid, hungry, homeless, on the move, searching for something better.
Pray for those who rejoice in new birth, new beginnings and opportunities, new faith or depth of faith.
Bring to God anything else that is on your mind today.
And finally let us bring all our prayers together, those at church and those at home, as we say the prayer that Jesus gave us:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us our sin
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours, evermore. 


Song – StF 312/HP 209 The head that once was crowned with thorns


Let us bless all those who share in this service today, and who meet in other places of worship around us, as we say together:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord look on you with kindness
and give you peace.  Amen.

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