Sunday Worship – 9th June – Ordinary 10

(All our songs this morning are from Singing the Faith (StF), Hymns & Psalms (H&P) or Mission Praise (MP) 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 Phil Drake our Circuit Superintendent Minister.

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

Over the past four years, members from Bolton and St Andrews have come together online for a fortnightly ‘Zoom fellowship’, and we have recently completed a study of the Letter to the Philippians, which is a favourite book of mine from the bible. I have kept on thinking about the passages we looked at together and, in this service, I share an exploration of verses from Philippians chapter 1.

Call to Worship

The Lord our God is great and to be highly praised.
We come to worship.
The Lord our God is great beyond our understanding.
We come to worship.
The Lord our God is loving and full of mercy.
We come to worship.

SongH&P 86, StF 186, MP 631Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord

Song – StF 50, MP 199Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise

Introduction to the theme:

Two of my children are hoping to pass their driving test in the not-too-distant future. It took me more than one attempt to pass. My driving instructor used to say to me, ‘You just need that bit more confidence. You’re quite competent but just lacking that little bit of confidence.’ That’s the theme of our reading from Philippians: Confidence, specifically, confidence in Christ.

Opening prayer

We come in confidence to you.
Receive us as your children, Lord. 
We come humbly to you.
Cleanse us from our sins, Lord.
We come in faith to you.
Remind us of your grace, Lord. 
We come knowing that we are loved by you.
May we know the joy of everlasting life.

Bible reading:

Philippians 1:12-30

Confidence in communicating the gospel

Paul is in prison; he writes his letter to the church at Philippi from his prison cell. Paul comments on some remarkable consequences of his imprisonment. A first reaction could well be to say that as Paul is locked away that would be the end of his ministry. Yet, far from debilitating or preventing his mission to spread the gospel, Paul’s incarceration brings a new effectiveness to it. In the first place, the gospel is now noted by his captors, and brought to the attention of those in authority – most probably not only the guards, but also into higher levels of Roman government as well.

And in the second place, his fellow believers, find in Paul’s own witness an inspiration, as it says, to ‘speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.’ Even Paul’s rivals, who have little love for Paul, proclaim the gospel, even if it is in a way that is at Paul’s expense. But for Paul this does not matter – the only thing that matters is that Christ is being proclaimed.

We should seek a confidence in sharing our faith. Now that’s not to say that we should all be evangelists in the sense of being a speaker in front of hundreds of people at a mission rally. Nor does it mean that the only worthwhile form of evangelism are the words we speak – after all actions do speak louder than words, and our acts of service can be a very powerful witness our faith. I am very fond of St. Francis’s saying, ‘preach the gospel and if necessary use words.’ But sometimes we are called upon to speak about our faith as well as to act upon it, as Wesley was so keen on stressing ‘to be prepared to give an account of the faith that is within us.’

How confident are we about speaking about our faith? One real test is how prepared are we to speak about our faith to one another within the congregation. If we are not even able to do that, then how can we expect ourselves to speak about our faith with those outside of the church?

Confidence in our calling

A wonderful phrase from Paul – ‘living is Christ and dying is gain’ (verse 21) – but what does it mean? Paul seems to be going through some kind of inner struggle between life and death. Is he wishing rather to be dead than alive? Later, in Chapter 3, Paul expresses the tension in terms of a race – as he reaches out for the heavenly prize of his high calling whilst remaining faithful to his call in this life.

What is the character of this call in Christ for this life?  Well, Paul speaks of worthwhile work, fruitful labour to be done. Sometimes we find it hard to see ourselves matching the contribution of others and we need reassurance that every person’s contribution is acceptable to God – the important thing is that it is offered faithfully and with thanksgiving.

Paul also makes comment about his vocation that it is for the benefit of others – in Paul’s case the Christians in Philippi. And the key point is Paul’s phrase ‘living is Christ,’ that is to say, life is filled up with Christ; life is occupied with Christ. It is the whole of life which gives our sense of call.

For reflection:

Consider these words of Frederick Beuchner:

The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work a) that you need to do most and b) the work that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement a), but if your work is writing deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement b), but if most of the time you are bored and depressed by it, the chances are that you have not only bypassed a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt or the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

How do these thoughts speak to you in your calling to serve Christ?

Prayers of intercession
With confidence in Jesus,
who calls us to walk alongside him,

And is present with us in times of adversity,
we bring our heartfelt needs before God.

We pray for all in this community of faith,
that we may always remain open and receptive
to the call to trust in God’s will for us.
We pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray that the knowledge of God’s love
will grow strong in our hearts,
leading us to use our lives, body and soul,
for the glory of God.
We pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who struggle
to see God’s presence in the world and their own lives.
May our faith and generosity help them
to recognise his loving touch.
We pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those in need,
remembering in particular the unemployed,
the sick, the elderly
and those who have asked our prayers.
May we reach out to them in gentle solidarity
as Jesus reached out to us.
We pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
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,
now and for ever. Amen.

Use this final song as a call upon God for a renewal of our confidence in Christ.

SongMP 133Father, I place into your hands

Closing prayer:

Holy Spirit, fill us with your confidence,
as we go out into the week ahead
to face every situation
that comes our way.

Acknowledgments: Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Prayers taken from Roots resources, copyright Roots For Churches Ltd

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