Sunday Worship – 30th October 2022

All our songs this morning are from Hymns & Psalms (H&S) numbers will be given where available.

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper across the Circuit and with the congregation at Thackley Methodist Church and led by Rev Geoff Reid, one of our Supernumerary Ministers.

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

Call to Worship

The Psalmist writes …
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice. O you righteous,
And shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Hymn H&P 513 Stand up and bless the Lord

Prayer – Facing the real world together.

Generous and loving God,
When we open our eyes in the morning, may we be ready to see the world as it is and not simply as we want it to be.
When we open our lips to speak with those that we live amongst from day to day, may we welcome honest conversation, admitting our own struggles and times of confusion.
When we hear about the pain of others, the struggles of others, the dangers which shape people in our own country and across the world, save us from closing our ears.
May our coming together with your people in worship be a rich reservoir of compassion imagination and love.
As we open ourselves up to a wider humanity, may the power of your spirit spare us from retreating into ourselves and our own narrow concerns.
Whatever the years behind us or ahead of us, may we live our lives holding together a clear view of the world and a deep rooted understanding of the reality of a generous and transforming love at the core of our being.
In the name of Jesus and as the people of Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Hymn H&P 762 May the grace of Christ our Saviour

Luke 19:1-10

Hymn H&P 215 Amazing Grace


Those of us of a certain age cannot get out of our heads that Zacchaeus was a very little man and that he climbed up a sycamore tree. Luke’s account of Zacchaeus has a number of translation bear traps and I have to tell you that the tree is a sycomore fig. In recent years sycamores in Bradford Met have hardly ever qualified for tree preservation orders. In the Middle E.ast the fruit producing sycomore fig is seen as rather more valuable.

However I too am a little man, perhaps not necessarily as short as Zacchaeus. When I go to M & S and try to buy casual shirts or trousers, the height is not a problem but size in the other direction makes me feel discriminated against. There will be plenty marked L and XL and XXL. In some larger stores there are even XXXL.  I have to look hard for small or medium.

So yes size does matter. It can make a difference. It matters in the case of Zacchaeus. But ultimately he is discriminated against because there is something more important that affects how people see this man with whom Jesus has an encounter in Jericho. In older translations of the Bible, like the King James Version, Jesus is described as fraternising with publicans and sinners. Occasionally I have had to explain patiently to my friends in the Campaign for Real Ale that Jesus was not socialising with innkeepers but tax-collectors. It gives me great pleasure to introduce discerning beer drinkers to New Testament studies. Not a lot of people can say that!

Modern translations do say tax-collectors but we have to unpack that a bit further. The publicani were not like your friendly representatives of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. They were not civil servants as we understand them but they did work for the Roman Empire on a commercial basis. Zacchaeus was a publicanus-in-chief, operating a franchise. He had the right to organise the collection of taxes with a number of collectors beneath him. If you were number one in that business you had greater opportunities for extortion and corruption. In our society we are used to people getting rich by dodging their taxes. In Jesus’s day the tax-fiddling was in the collection of taxes.

 The people in the province of Judaea in the time of Jesus had no sense of humour about fellow-Jews who collaborated with the Romans and took more money from honest Jews than they were entitled to. They might be rich but they were hated as the lowest of the low.

Why Zacchaeus was interested in seeing what Jesus was about we have no idea. He may have suspected the Galilean preacher of inciting rebellion which could be a threat to his own position and therefore he needed to hear what was been said. He was short of stature but there was no way the locals were going to take pity on him and let him come to the front. So he climbed up a tree. 

Now let’s just pause a moment. In any society, any country, rich people, even those whose wealth comes from dirty money, do not climb trees. That would be a guarantee of looking silly. But that is only one of the surprising elements of this story. Jesus surprises the crowd, many of whom would know his reputation as a friend of the poor. Yet Jesus invites Zacchaeus, who is both rich and despised by the people, to come down from the tree and meet him. He even takes the liberty of inviting himself to this sinful rich man’s house, probably one of the finest houses in Jericho.

Luke regularly portrays Jesus as homing in on people on the edge of things. Normally this means the poor and the dispossessed. We use the expression “up a gum tree” to refer to someone in a difficult place, which for English readers is quite appropriate here because the sycamore fig actually produces gum. However the important thing is Zacchaeus’s exclusion from normal society. In this story, being on the edge of things, literally on the edge of the crowd, reflects his isolation. He is a man of high status yes, wealth yes, but sitting awkwardly between his own people and the Roman Empire, and regarded not so much as a public servant but as a public enemy. 

Jesus invites himself to Zaccheus’s place as if it were a perfectly reasonable suggestion – which it wasn’t. Zaccheus realises that there is something truly amazing going on here. When something happens that doesn’t have to happen, very often we use the word grace. In his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus gets a powerful message about the incredible generosity of God, the grace of God. He cannot help but look at himself in a completely new way. This high status little man threatens to make himself bankrupt by putting right the crimes he has committed. This is very costly repentance. He offers over-generous compensation to anyone he has cheated. This very practical response comes about because of amazing grace. 

We immediately think of the hymn when we hear those words. It seems to me that the most amazing rendering of Amazing Grace in our time was President Obama singing it at a Methodist funeral. Nobody expected that. It came in the eulogy for Senator the Reverend Clementa Pinkney in the face of the massacre at Charlestown Methodist Church in South Carolina but also in the face of a wider problem of violence rooted in racism in different parts of the US. As a party politician who was also an ordained minister, Clem Pinkney would have been delighted to see his ministry crowned with words from America’s first black President. 

Obama knew that the grace of God is not just about you or me. It spills over into all our personal and social relationships. The grace of God can empower our not giving up in our struggles for a better world. We are sustained in a belief that the most unlikely people can be changed and the most difficult situations can be changed.

Before we end I offer a quick word about Thessalonica. Thessalonica was a seaport, second only to Corinth as a coastal port in what we now call Greece. It is sometimes said of Corinth that if the church could take root there it could be a presence anywhere. The same could be said of Thessalonica. Seaports were tough territory with all the social problems that go with large numbers of men away from home and with money to spend. What Paul and Silvanus and Timothy were sending to the Thessalonian congregation were words of encouragement for a church that was struggling. “We’ve been telling all the other churches about you,” they insist. The churches in other places were probably more successful but grace passes from the strong to the weak, making possible what might not otherwise be possible – a bit like the way a Methodist Circuit ideally works. So well might the apostle offer grace and peace.

Grace and peace was offered by Jesus to Zacchaeus and there would be many in that crowd who did not like it. Yes, Zacchaeus responded but when you look at where this happened it could be seen as Jesus sowing the seeds of his own destruction. Remember this story is located in Jericho and this is the last story of Jesus’s ministry told by Luke before Jesus moves on up the road to Jerusalem. The offering of grace here may be more costly than we imagine but it transforms, it changes, it brings salvation. Jesus tells the people that the one who they saw as beyond the pale is no less a son of Abraham. That one would be difficult to swallow. It would not go down too well. Perhaps we should see Jesus’s act of amazing grace as helping to ensure that the road from Jericho to Jerusalem was the road to crucifixion. Amazing grace indeed.


We move our prayers from the wider world to our own continent and then to our own land.

A prayer about climate change.
Holy and Gracious God,
hear the cries of your people across the world,
facing up to the complexities of climate change.
We pray for those whose harvests fail because of drought
while other parts of the world are devastated by floods, remembering especially,  
those who grieve, especially in Pakistan but also in southern states of America and the Caribbean. We pray that, even as we try to find ways of living that will ensure the future of the planet who come after us, the nations may find common cause in discerning ways of sustaining life on Earth.

    Lord in your mercy

    Hear our prayer.

A prayer about war in Europe.

Holy and Gracious God

We pray for the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia; for their countries and their leaders. We pray for all those who are afraid; that your everlasting arms hold them in this time of great fear. We pray for all those who have the power over life and death; that they will choose for all people life, and life in all its fullness.

We pray for those who choose war; that they will remember that you direct your people to turn swords into ploughshares and to seek peace.

We pray for leaders on the world stage; that they may be inspired by the wisdom and courage you offer them.

   Lord in your mercy

   Hear our prayer. 

A prayer for those in our our own country and in our own city

at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis.

Holy and Gracious God,

As some of us look at gaps on supermarket shelves with regret, we pray for those who struggle to pay for what is on the shelves, for parents even in our own City and District who have to choose whose turn it is to eat less from one day to the next.

We pray for families who fearfully look towards winter months wondering whether the choices will be food or heating or simply debt.

We pray for politicians national and local who have the power to make hard choices they would prefer not to have to make. Preserve them from blind eyes and deaf ears and grant them seriousness of purpose and an ability to face hard truths. 

     Lord in your mercy

     Hear our prayer.

And finally….

God of the whole world
to whose table all are invited
Hear the cries of the hungry and excluded
the persecuted and those fleeing from danger.
Heed the pain of our self-inflicted divisions.
Restore to the fulness of humanity 
those whose lives are limited by their riches 
and those who bear the scars of poverty.
Gather us all up into the joy of your salvation
and the wonders of your new creation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Communion Hymn H&P508 Because thou hast said: “Do this for my sake.”


Hymn H&P 619 Now let us from this table rise

Blessing and Dismissal

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