Sunday Worship – 4th December – A Methodist Way Of Life

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) & Hymns & Psalms (HP) numbers will be given where available)

Welcome to our Sunday Service, today shared on paper and video across our Circuit and with the congregation at Allerton Methodist Church, and led by Rev Nick Blundell.  This is our monthly ‘Methodist Way of Life’ service, this month looking at the aspect of Our Calling, under the heading of Worship, specifically entitled We will look and listen for God, in scripture, and the world’.

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

Call to Worship

Matthew 13:14-16 

Song STF 451 Open the eyes of my heart

Let us pray:  Lord of all creation, as we gather together today to share fellowship, and offer you the praise and worship of our hearts, draw us close to you.  Help us to see you in the unfolding stories of scripture, and to hear you in our reflections on the events of our week, and so to know your presence with us, here and now and day by day. 

For you are the light shining in darkness, the quiet voice in the cacophony of the world’s noise, the steadfast companion ever faithful when others betray.  You are present from dawn to dusk and dusk to dawn, at every wave’s roll and every tide’s change, each inhale, each exhale, you are present.

Help us to notice your presence, and so find peace and purpose.

In the name of Christ we pray.    Amen.

Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19 


Scripture comes in different measures.  From the ocean of words that is the Bible, Old and New Testaments, through the seas of books and gospels, the lake district of chapter this and that, the rivers and streams pouring out their stories verse by verse, the drops, sentences, sometimes single words, which touch our dryness, enabling refreshment, cleansing, new growth.

Scripture comes by different channels too.  The page opened at random. The story revisited when a memory is triggered.  The book read as part of a bible-study group.  The passage chosen for a particular day and read in church.  The verses included in our morning or bedtime prayers.

The invitation in today’s theme is to ‘look and listen for God, in scripture, and the world.’  We’ll come to ‘the world’ in a while, but can I at this point invite you to do a couple of things. 

Firstly, to re-read the Psalm above, given us on this second Sunday in Advent, carefully looking and listening for God as you do so. Notice particular words, perhaps images, which catch your attention. Listen for thoughts that are current, live issues, and let them speak to you. Be attentive, deliberately open to the scripture.

Secondly, decide that, at some point this week, outside your normal routine, you will read a bible story, or a psalm, or a chapter, and as you read ‘look and listen for God’.     Perhaps ask how God is reassuring you, and how God is challenging you, in what you read. Again, be attentive, deliberately open to the scripture.

Prayer: God who meets us in the pages of scripture, open our eyes and ears to your presence there. Fire our imaginations, that the familiar might speak in fresh ways. And lead us to ways of reading, routines of engagement, which feed and challenge us in our discipleship.  In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh we pray.  Amen.

Song StF 153/HP 467 Break thou the bread of life, O Lord, to me

Matthew 3:1-12         

Reflection     ‘We will look and listen for God, in scripture, and the world’.

What do we mean by the world?       I want to offer four worlds, or ways of thinking about the world, in which we can look and listen for God.   These worlds, albeit a little obscurely, are present in the passage we’ve just read, as John preaches in the wilderness, baptising the repentant, lambasting the powerful, and bearing witness to the One who is to come.

Firstly there is the created world, the natural world, with its rhythms and seasons, flora and fauna, capacity to amaze and calm and strike dumb in awe at its beauty.     Down the ages we have looked at creation and praised the creator, gazed at the heavens and the earth in wonder, praised God for providing such bounty.      It is only in our age that we have recognised the fragility and vulnerability of the natural world, and our responsibility for its perilous state as the climate warms and the glaciers melt.    The river in which John baptised is but a trickle now, and the call for repentance more necessary than ever.

Then there is the human world, the world of culture and politics, of art and literature, of technology and media, a world ever-changing, never standing still.   We know that some change is for the best, and some not, but how do we discern which is which?   Where do we see goodness which speaks of God, and where evil which denies God?   Who are the Pharisees and Sadducees in today’s changing world?

Thirdly, the social world, the world made up of our relationships.  Parents and children, partners, spouses, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren, neighbours and colleagues, friends and enemies, past and present, people who make up our world.   The people who went out to John the Baptist were all these things and more, and became more as they were baptised into a new community.

Finally, there is our internal world, the world of thoughts and feelings, of experiences we carry and aspirations we hold. This world is, by definition, subjective, open to changes wrought in all those other worlds.   A glorious sunset, a fine piece of music, a falling out in the family, these external events can touch and change our internal world.

In all these worlds, I believe, we are called to look and listen for God. We look to the hills and our hearts lift.  We engage with culture and find the creativity that mirrors God’s creativity. We enter the political arena and are reminded of the calling to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.   We spend time with significant others and find blessing and challenge.  We spend time alone and wonder what it’s all about.

Can I invite, perhaps challenge, you this week to look into each of those four worlds, and in doing so to look and listen for God.  Or perhaps a better word, a sharper one, than looking and listening is to notice.  Some of the versions of a Methodist Way of Life have this theme as ‘We notice God in scripture, and the world.’

As you look and listen, where do you notice God?  What do you notice about God?  What is God doing, giving, redeeming, transforming?   What is God wanting you to notice?                                               Amen.

We respond with the prayerful words of Clare Stainsby’s hymn

Song StF 659 As dawn awakes another day.  

1  As dawn awakes another day,                                                     
the working sphere rolls into view,                                                   
and all attention centres on                                                                               
the many tasks we have to do.

2  Distracted by demands of time,                                                        
and squeezed by pressures, deadlines, needs,
there’s scarcely any space or thought                                                
for you from whom all life proceeds.

3  You challenge some to leave their nets                                
and follow unfamiliar ways,                                                                
but most are called to live their faith                                                          
in humdrum tasks of working days.

4  Affirm us, Lord, as we employ                                                          
our hands and minds in every place,                                                             
let worship flow through busyness,                                                  
responding to your love and grace.

5  Your patience is our endless hope,                                     
your Spirit present to inspire,                                                                   
the freedom to explore your truth,                                                          
your loving service our desire.

Let us pray:     As we notice your presence around us this week Lord, show us your way, and help us to follow.

Show us the natural world, and as we appreciate its beauty, direct our actions against damage to its climate and unsustainable use of its resources.

Meet us in the human world, and help us to make right and generous choices in what we value, and how we behave.

Sneak up on us in the social world, surprising us with love and giving us opportunities to care and serve.

Walk with us in our internal world, calming our thoughts, granting forgiveness, acceptance, seeding hope.

And bless those facing dangers and difficulties who we notice and lift in prayer now.

We notice those listening for missiles in Ukraine.

We notice those waiting for grain in Somalia.

We notice those who are afraid or unable to heat their homes.

We notice those stretched beyond breaking point in health and social care roles.

We notice those fearful of the costs of Christmas.

And we notice those who are tired, unwell, infirm, lonely, grieving.

As we lift these folk to you now Lord, and ask your blessing, be close to each one, and show us how to challenge the systems and sins which create the dangers and deepen the difficulties.

In the name of Jesus, Saviour of the World.      Amen.

We bring our prayers together, as we pray, with all God’s people, the Lord’s Prayer.

You might like to sing, or reflect on the words of Jan Struther’s

Song StF 526/HP 552 Lord of all hopefulness

We go in peace, in the power of the Spirit, to live and work to God’s praise and glory. Amen.

We bless one another, and all those we have brought to mind this day, as we share the Grace:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and always.  Amen.        

  (CCLI 1094975. Service prepared by Rev’d Nick Blundell 8 Cecil Ave, BD17 5LH.)

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