Welcome to Worship at Home, a time when, though physically separate, we can gather together in spirit to worship God. I am Martyn Laverick, a local preacher in the Middlesbrough and Eston Methodist Circuit and we begin our worship with a few words of prayer.
Loving God, we come to you today, some of us full of enthusiasm and energy, some of us tired and weighed down, some of us feeling all these things at once.
Help us to find space in our worship to hear your voice calling to us, to feel your Spirit present with us and to know your love's healing in our hearts.
In the name of Jesus.
All hail the power of Jesu’s name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all..
We turn now to our prayers, first of praise and then of thanks.
in an ever-changing world, we come to you for stability.
In a world of so many choices, we come to you for guidance.
In a world so full of knowledge, we come to you for wisdom.
In a world awash with rights, we come to you to discern our responsibilities.
In a world of countless opinions, we come to you to discover what you think, that we may praise you with our faithfulness in our promises and the wholeheartedness of our service.
Lord God, who reveals to us the true nature of family,
we thank you for all those who show us love and care;
for all who bear with us when we take wrong decisions.
We thank you for those who embrace us in our heartache,
listen to our outpourings of sorrow or regret,
and do not condemn us.
For all who accept us as we are;
for all who make us aware of your grace,
your forgiveness and the transforming power of your love,
we thank you.
For we acknowledge these gifts come from you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
who live and reign in the perfect unity of love.
And, physically separate as we are we can nonetheless join in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.
Who art in Heaven
Our reading is from Matthew’s gospel.
Jesus is preaching in the temple when the chief priests and elders question his authority. As so often, Jesus replies with a question of his own.
Matthew, chapter 21, verses 28-32.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
What do you think, Jesus asks the chief priests and the elders Which of the sons did what his father wanted?
The fact is that neither son in the story was the kind to bring full joy to his father. The ideal son would be one who accepted his father’s orders with obedience and respect and who unquestioningly and fully carried them out. Instead he had one son who said no and then obeyed and one who said yes and then disobeyed.
I suspect that all of us have been both of those sons at one time or another. Perhaps saying no to a request with good reason. We had other plans, maybe friends were calling round or we had promised to take somebody on a longed for visit and didn’t want to disappoint them but when, for whatever reason, those things didn’t happen, we remembered what we had been asked to do and went and carried it out. Or maybe, with less good reason, we said no because we were fed up of being asked. Asking ourselves, why is it always me and saying no in a spirit of rebellion before relenting and actually doing what was asked. Whatever the reasons at least the work was eventually carried out.
On the other hand, what of the son who said yes but then did nothing. Again, I suspect all of us have done that to one extent or another. As I sat down at the pc to prepare this message I decided to check my emails first and found myself 40 minutes later doing nothing very important whilst I had not made a start on my thoughts on this passage from Matthew’s gospel. That of course was delaying rather than not doing at all and is, I would think, fairly common. Yes, I’ll go and do that, we say, but just let me watch the game finish first, or the TV program to end or I finish reading this article.
No great harm provided we do then actually do what we said we would but, probably more times than we care to remember, there have been occasions when we have intended to do something and then failed to do it. Sometimes we forget or are too busy but too often initial enthusiasm falls away as we find the task is harder or less attractive than we thought. On other occasions it can be sheer old-fashioned laziness that causes us to fail.
With luck, our failure to do as we promised may not matter all that much. It could however, matter a great deal and the pity of it is that it may well be what to us seems a small matter. The visit to the lonely person we promised to make and didn’t. The phone call of encouragement that we forgot or were sure someone else would make so it didn’t matter that we didn’t do it. and so and so on. They could easily have consequences far greater than we could ever envisage. It may even be that the opportunity we have missed may never come our way again so please, please if God is calling you to do something, no matter how small a matter it may seem, don’t put it off. Say yes, mean yes and act now, before it’s too late. Amen
We turn to prayer again and first a prayer of confession by Nick Fawcett.
Gracious God, forgive us for those things we should have done but have left undone; the acts of kindness we never found time for, the thoughtful word never spoken, the message of encouragement or concern never sent, the helpful deed never attempted.
Forgive us for all the opportunities we have missed: the plans we never made, the dreams we never brought to reality, the possibilities we never even imagined, the gifts we never used.
Forgive us for our failure to serve you as we promised: the prayers we never offered, the sacrifices we never made, the faith we never had, the commitment we never gave.
Forgive us for so often having the time only for self: for being self-centred, self-important, self-righteous, self-interested, self-indulgent, self-opinionated.
Forgive us for forgetting our friends, our neighbours and, above all, you,
Gracious God, save us from being people of unfulfilled intentions. Help us to translate our thoughts into actions, our words into practice and to turn our good intentions into good deeds, to the glory of your name.
So often we want to pray for others.
But sometimes, God, we don’t know how.
We can’t remember names or numbers;
other issues weigh heavily on our hearts.
Thank goodness, God,
that you know what we mean when we pray.
So, we bring in this moment those names and faces, images and desires for others that pop in and out of our minds throughout the day:
the old lady at the bus stop who needed a hand up the step;
the young mum at the checkout trying to contain her four kids;
the chap up the road who’s lost his dog and is calling for him;
the teachers struggling to understand the needs of those in their class;
the doctors who wants to give us more time but who simply can’t;
the young families who can’t make ends meet;
those without work, who can’t find new jobs;
those helping people to find work, knowing it is an uphill struggle;
those with mental health issues and seeking help,
or who are afraid and ashamed to seek help,
or who are ignored and can’t get help.
So, God, for all these people and countless others,
we offer our prayers.
We know you do not need reminding,
but you do need willing workers – even us – to help them know your love and have their needs met.
Hear our ramblings, O God.
Our closing hymn is number 563 in Singing the Faith
O Jesus, I have promised to serve you to the end;
Lord, be for ever near me, my master and my friend.
As the coming days unfold in front of us, let us be determined to answer whatever God, our Father, calls us to, knowing that, large or small it is important to Him and will be to His glory.
And the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to himself; the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in his service; the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our hearts; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always.