Sunday Worship – 4th June 2023

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF) 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 Revd Melvyn Kelly, the Deputy Chair of our District using prayers taken from the Methodist Worship Book. Today is Trinity Sunday when we rejoice in the Triune God who meets us as father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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

Opening Words
By day and by night around the throne they sing:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty:
who was and is and is to come.

Song – StF 25 – God is here as we his people meet to offer praise and prayer


Holy God,
holy and strong,
holy and immortal:
have mercy on us.
Holy God,
holy and strong,
holy and immortal:
have mercy on us.
A silence is kept
Eternal God, source of all blessing,
help us to worship you
with all our heart and mind and strength;
for you alone are God,
Father Son and Holy Spirit,
forever and ever Amen

Praise be to you, O God,
the maker of the universe,
by whose wisdom we are created and sustained.
Praise be to you, O God,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whose love we are redeemed and forgiven.
Praise be to you, O God,
the source of all holiness,
by whose spirit we are made whole
and brought to perfection.
Praise be to you, O God,
source of all being,
Eternal Word and Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be forever  Amen

Song – StF 103 – God is love let heaven adore him.


We listen for God’s word to us in Scripture:

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!


2 Corinthians 13.11-13

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Song – StF 106 – God whose almighty word


Matthew 28.16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’


There are some weeks I find it just too hard to preach. There have been a few weeks like this is recent times, given the context in which we are living: The war in Ukraine goes on with unimaginable suffering and loss of life, we read news reports about shootings in America, dishonesty, greed and hypocrisy in our political leadership, a pandemic that has not gone away, a hostile environment that greets those seeking refuge among us, the grief of friends at a cancer diagnosis in their family, another friend grieving the death of a loved relative. And in the midst of all this it is my job to help us today to find God’s word to us in scripture appointed for this Sunday which the church calls Trinity Sunday.

Well of one thing I am certain on this day – God’s word to us in scripture is not the doctrine of the Holy Trinity! The doctrine issued from debates in the 4th century whilst the Christian church was thrashing out what it truly believed about God. I will not spend time trying to do the impossible task of explaining the doctrine of the Trinity or of how to get our minds around the idea of one God in Three persons. As I read once ‘When your health has gone bad, or you’ve lost your job, or your kid is in jail, you don’t spend all that much time contemplating the Trinity’.  To my mind the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be explained – it is a reality which is not to be understood but rather to be lived day by day as we encounter the God who meets us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; as creator, redeemer and sanctifier. Rather I want to suggest that God’s word to us in scripture today is a word of ‘hope’.

I am glad in my work as a chaplain in Higher Education to have the opportunity to engage with many people of all faiths and of no faith. Often it is deeply rewarding to speak of faith with someone from another faith tradition. One conversation was with a Muslim student who engaged me and one of my colleagues in a fascinating conversation about God and about the life of faith in the society in which we live.  During the chat my Quaker colleague reminded us of the life of the former bishop of Durham, Rt Rev David Jenkins – who was a Professor of Theology at Leeds University. He was brought up a Methodist – his grandparents were Methodist local preachers.

Some of you will remember how David Jenkins was often portrayed by the media as a bishop who didn’t believe anything! I urge you, if that is how you remember him, to put the idea out of your head. Whatever headlines were written about him to sell newspapers – David Jenkins was a man of deep faith whose tireless concern was to make the reality of God and therefore the offer of hope, accessible to anyone and everyone. He was always looking for and urging the church to find a genuinely contemporary language in which to express faith.

For me there is one phrase of David’s that has stuck in my mind – it was written and spoken in the days long before social media, but it is the perfect encapsulation of the Gospel in what would have made a wonderful tweet on Twitter. He wrote this: ‘God is, he is as he is in Jesus, therefore there is hope.’

As we read today’s passages from the Psalms, 2 Corinthians and Matthew’s Gospel which speak of God as creator, of Jesus as the embodiment of God’s love and of the Holy Spirit as the spirit of Christian community, what a perfect affirmation for Trinity Sunday this is: ‘God is, he is as he is in Jesus, therefore there is hope.’

It is a phrase that I have committed to memory – I urge you to do the same – it is a phrase that I turn to again and again when the world, and people, and circumstances get me down.  It becomes for me an anchor of faith. I may wonder like the Psalmist how the creator of the universes can be mindful of mere mortals like me and yet I know it to be true in the depths of my being. David Jenkins desire was for Christian people like you and me to be true to God’s love as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ. It is said of him that he sought to lift people’s sights above issues of mere historical factuality to truths that go to the heart of what it means to be human beings fully alive and thereby glorifying God.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus told his disciples to go out into the world ‘teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’. Jesus’ primary command, of course, was to love: to love God, to love your neighbour, to love as he loved. Jesus told his disciples often that that the key to life is love. Love was to be their brand, love was to be there defining feature, their distinctive mark in the world. Remember how he told them ‘by this shall all people know that you are my disciples if you love one another’. That’s why in the Epistle the brothers and sisters of the early church are urged to see that love puts things right: put things in order they are told, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

I’m reminded of my days as a youth leader back in my 20s and the posters we had on the wall of the youth fellowship room there was one I really remember, because at the time I was working as a lawyer, it pictured a judge sitting in a courtroom with his wig and his gown (and inappropriately a gavel). The poster said this: ‘if you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?’ Well, taking David Jenkins’ cue: what about the way we love? Would that be evidence enough? Do we love like Jesus loved, with love that gives it all, love that holds nothing back? Do we love as we see it in Jesus – unconditional, all-inclusive and all welcoming – that kind of love? Jesus gave the commandment over 2000 years ago – how are we doing 2000 years later? Why has it taken us so long? And why is there still so far to go?

If this is God’s word to us the question, then, is where can you and I join in this week? Where in our lives might we be called to risk a love that changes the world? Jesus was quite clear when he taught his followers how to behave: love one another – he said – as I have loved you. And whilst the love within the church is the defining feature – this is a love that must spill out into the world too. For me that is the foundation of Christian ethics and of Christian relationships with other people, whether people of faith or not. The test will be not how we love those most like us, but how we love those not like us at all.

Tina Turner the American singer died this week and there have been numerous tributes to her. One of her most famous songs is called ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ A clever spark created a cartoon showing Tina arriving at the pearly gates of heaven and being told ‘Up here love has got everything to do with it!’ It made me smile but I want to insist that is not just in heaven but on earth as in heaven – that love has got everything to do with it!

The calling of the Methodist Church is to respond to the gospel of God’s love in Christ and to live out its discipleship in worship and mission. That is why I also welcome the new strategy for Justice Dignity and Solidarity introduced at our Methodist Conference last year. It’s a strategy aimed at making our church a more loving place to be. I am glad too to serve our District as the officer with responsibility for Equality Diversity and Inclusion and to have the opportunity to commend the strategy to the Methodist people.

The strategy is a call to celebrate the God who made each person in God’s own image; it is a call to recognise that we are disciples of Jesus who treated each person with dignity; it is a call to rejoice in the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to all people. It is a call to recognise our Triune God’s presence more fully in our lives together; to live as people with a culture of justice and respect for all people – because that’s how love lives! The hope is for a church that is a safe place to be, whatever our differences; a church to meet with a rich diversity of people; a church that does not countenance discrimination or prejudice.

 In short, a church that lives out the truth spelled out by David Jenkins: God is, he is as he is in Jesus, therefore there is hope! As followers of Jesus, we are called to be signs of the presence of the Triune God in the world, signs of God’s kingdom, reflections of God’s unconditional love to all people, and so we are called, each one of us, to be living examples of Christ’s command to love as he loved – in the church and in the world. Amen

Song – StF 654 – The love of God comes close

Prayers of intercession

Blessed are you, eternal God,
to be praised and glorified forever.
Hear us as we pray for your holy catholic church:
make us all one, that the world may believe.
Grant that every member of the Church may truly and humbly serve you:
that the life of Christ may be revealed in us.
Strengthen all who minister in Christ’s name:
give them courage to proclaim your Gospel.
Inspire and lead those who hold authority in the nations of the world:
guide them and all people in the way of justice and peace.
Make us alive to the needs of our community:
help us to share each other’s joys and burdens.
Look with kindness on our homes and families:
grant that your love may grow in our hearts.
Inspire us to have compassion on those who suffer from sickness, grief and trouble:
in your presence may they find your strength.
We remember those who have died:
Father, into your hands we commend them.
We praise you for all your saints.
who have entered eternal glory;
bring us all to share in your heavenly kingdom.
A silence is kept
Heavenly Father,
you have promised to hear
what we ask in the name of your Son:
we pray you accept and answer these prayers,
not as we ask in our ignorance,
nor as we deserve in our sinfulness,
but as you know and love us in your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer Our Father…

Song – StF 664 – Lord you call us to your service


The love of the Father enfold us,
the wisdom of the Son enlighten us,
the fire of the Spirit enflame us;
and the blessing of God, the Three in One
be upon us and abide with us now and forever. Amen.

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