Sunday Worship – 3rd March 20204 – Lent 3

(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 Thornton 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

Come, worship the Lord!
Join with all his people, near and far, and sing his praise.
Tell of his wonderful deeds and extol his name,
who loves and tends his people.

Song – StF 34 or H&P 505 – O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness


Where are you?
Are you at church?
How does it feel to be there?
Do you come in and take your seat, or do you spend the time before the service rushing round getting things ready?
Are you at home?
Are you in the place where you usually pray?
Are you relaxed, or are you thinking about things you will need to do after this time?
Where is your mind as you come to sit with this time of worship?
Can you open your mind and heart to God, and allow him to come in, so that you can worship?

Loving Lord, who is ever present, help us to open ourselves up to your loving indwelling at this time. Help us to look at your loving face that sees our hearts and loves us with an everlasting love.  Help us to set aside our fears, worries and doubts, and simply relax in your presence, so that you might minister to us, heal us and strengthen us.  Amen.


1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The people who lived at Corinth valued gifts of oration, taking part in and winning debates with the power of their persuasive speech.  When the believers there met Paul, they were unimpressed with him, thinking that he wrote weighty letters, but did not make a good presentation in person (2 Corinthians 10:10). Paul did not see the need for clever words, because he was telling the people about Jesus who had been crucified but was alive again, which made sense to neither Greeks nor Jews.  Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, Paul writes, but neither are on offer; instead, he asks people to see the foolishness and weakness of God who loves us to the uttermost, and realise that God’s foolishness is beyond our wisdom, and his weakness is true strength, stronger than our shows of power.

The book of Deuteronomy had made it clear to the people of Israel that they were not to be led astray by signs, even signs such as prophecies being fulfilled, which might seem to prove that God was with the prophet.  Instead, they were to look for the fruit the prophet produced, and if that person were to try to lead them away from God, they were not to follow, despite the signs (Duet 13:1-4). Just as signs could prove to be a hazard, so too the persuasiveness of a person’s argument could lead people away from God to follow the most impressive talker.

Jesus has turned the thinking of the Corinthian people on its head by giving in to power, allowing all the anger of the world to fall upon him. In giving way to power he looked for a while as though he had been consumed by the might that opposed him, but he came through to new life, proving himself to have the true power – the deeper, fuller power. 

If you have the book, why not re-read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis for his take on how this worked? 

Song – StF 158 – Lord, you sometimes speak in wonders


John 2:13-22


As we read this account of the turning over of the tables in the Temple, one of the first questions that may come to us is, why does John have this account so early in his Gospel, when for Matthew, Mark and Luke, it happens in the last week of Jesus’ life?

We need not be afraid of asking these questions, as the writers of the Gospels are not trying to write the events of Jesus’ life in chronological order, in what we would understand as a biography of Jesus’ earthly life; instead they often group similar stories together to better make their point, such as Matthew’s gathering together different parables of the Kingdom into what we call chapter 13 (he didn’t, of course, write in chapters – they were added later).  Even though these might have been told at different times, Matthew thought that it would make a stronger impression if he put them all together.

What kind of point might be made with an early or a late Temple event? Does John record the timing correctly, and did the other Gospel writers move it to a later date for dramatic purposes, as the time of Jesus comes to a climax that leads to the cross? Or did the other Gospel writers have the correct timing, and John brought it forward to show that the Temple system was corrupt, before moving on to show that Jesus is replacing the Temple with himself, a point underlined when he makes wine out of water kept in stone jars for ritual cleansing? 

There may, of course, have been two cleansings. John may have chosen to record the first, and the other Gospel writers the second. The second cleansing may have led to the reaction we see from the authorities wishing to kill him, because it has happened before and must not happen again.

Whichever explanation we accept, the reaction to Jesus’ actions is different in each telling.  When it happens late in Jesus’ ministry, the authorities immediately seek a way to kill Jesus, and the action moves on quickly through the following week to his arrest, trial and cross.

In John’s account, the Pharisees etc ask for a sign of authority, and John’s Gospel shows us seven signs – the turning of water into wine (ch. 2), the healing of the official’s son (ch.4), the healing of the man at the pool of Bethsaida (ch. 5), the feeding of the 5,000 (ch. 6), walking on the water (ch.6), the healing of the man born blind (ch. 9), and the raising of Lazarus (ch. 11).  As Paul writes to the Corinthians, Jews look for signs, yet although Jesus presented many signs to his and Paul’s fellow-countrymen, they did not believe.  He asked them to believe what he did, even though they were not willing to believe what he said (John 10:37-38), but they would not.

When we prove ourselves unworthy, however, God simply loves us more, and the death and resurrection of Jesus shows us that his love knows no bounds.  Our continued rejection leads us straight into the fullness of the love of God, so that we might at last respond by taking our trust away from religious rituals, signs or speeches, and putting all our trust in God himself.  Signs are exactly that – signs that show the way.  If we stick with the sign and fail to look past it to God, we fail to get to where we are headed. The only way we will find true fulfilment is to focus on what the sign is pointing us to.

What signs do we mistake for the real thing? Are we focused on particular ways of worship, for example, that make it hard for new people, who are not used to church, to experience God? Can we let go of those signs for the sake of others, realising they have been an important sign but now we move on from them to the next sign? What might that next sign be? What will it help us discover? What might Gpd have to show us next?

Song – StF 341 or H&P 251 – All for Jesus – all for Jesus

Prayers of intercession

We use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for our prayers, with each line taking us leading us into prayers for ourselves and others.

Our FatherThank you that you are our Father – not just my Father, but Father God to all the world, those who know you and those who do not.  
Who art in heavenThank you that, in prayer, we look above the things of earth and our usual ways of seeing things. Give us your vision, and let that vision shape our prayers.  
Hallowed be Thy nameYou are holy, and we seek to become like you in holiness. Help us to put that into action in our everyday lives, in the small things as well as in the big decisions.  
Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heavenWe bring you our prayers so that, through them, we might be part of the transforming of the world and of ourselves, to become what you intend us to be.  
Give us this day our daily breadWe pray for all who hunger, in this country facing our cost of living crisis, or around the world dealing with floods, famine, war and terror; help all those trying to feed families and those who eat alone.  
and forgive us our trespassesForgive us our wrongdoings, and help us to forgive ourselves so that we might receive the forgiveness you offer.  
as we forgive those who trespass against usHelp us to forgive one another, bearing no grudges, and knowing the freedom that forgiveness brings. May there be reconciliation between those who differ, and those who keep to their entrenched positions.  
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evilFree us from all that would hold us back and that would make us less than we could be.  
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the gloryHelp us to remember that if yours is the kingdom, it is a kingdom of peace; if yours is the power, it continually seeks to give itself away; if yours is the glory, it sees its glory in humility.  
for ever and ever, Amen.May we always be committed to your ways. Amen.

Song – StF 545 or H&P 378 – Be thou my vision


May God, who turns tables in our lives, be with us in all that we do, and in the faces of all we encounter, that we might live for him; and the blessing of God, Creator, Saviour and Comforter, be with us all, today and always, amen.

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