Home Service 28

Home Service for Sunday 4th July 2021 ~ Presence and Joy, Sorrow and Advantage

In your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Though we have faith that our LORD is present with us all the time, in this time we consciously give our attention to experiencing his presence with us. As we do so, we open ourselves to be filled with joy, a foretaste of what we will enjoy in his eternal company.
Those two strands weave through our worship:

his presence with us here and now;

our presence with him there and then.

Jesus was physically present on earth for a short lifespan. When he departed, the Holy Spirit came to be God present with us. We celebrate that Jesus is The Redeemer, sent by The Father, who has also given The Spirit

Song: There is a Redeemer

There is a redeemer,
Jesus, God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
Holy One.
Jesus my redeemer,
Name above all names,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,
O for sinners slain.
Thank you, O my Father,
For giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on Earth is done.
When I stand in Glory
I will see His face,
And there I’ll serve my King forever
In that holy place.
Thank you, O my Father,
For giving us Your Son,
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on Earth is done.

Prayers of praise and joy
Use your own words to express your joy and praise.

Reading: Matthew 26: 1-5; 14-35. New King James Version
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to
betray Him. Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and
say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ’ ” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. When evening had come, He sat down
with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?” He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.” And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the
cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never
be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.

Song: Salvation belongs to our God

Salvation belongs to our God,
Who sits on the throne,
And unto the Lamb.
Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks,
Honour and power and strength:
Be to our God, forever and ever,
Be to our God, forever and ever,
Be to our God, forever and ever, amen.
And we the redeemed shall be strong
In purpose and unity
Declaring aloud
Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks,
Honour and power and strength:
Be to our God…

Sermon: Sorrow and advantage
Text John 16:6-7 NKJV
“Sorrow has filled your heart.
Nevertheless… it is to your advantage that I go away.”

Jesus was with his disciples for a pretty intense 3 years. In the final year, he began to speak plainly about when and how it would end. The disciples didn’t want it to end. They wanted to avoid the sorrowful truth of Jesus’ words. They could see no possible advantages to his going. When the end came, they weren’t well prepared to face it.
In trying to prepare them Jesus highlighted these two elements of sorrow and advantage. These elements are, I think, common to the majority of separations, planned or unplanned.
There are times when sorrow dominates: “Oh no! You can’t possibly leave.” There are times when advantage dominates: “I’m glad to see the back of him!” Frequently, they are intertwined and that can produce tension, making it difficult to face what is happening, to cope with what is happening, and to recover from what has happened.
I hope it’s not grandiose to apply Jesus’ two elements to the situation which we face over the coming year. Compared to what was happening to Jesus, retirement looks pretty mundane. Yet in the life of any church, the transition
between ministers is a significant event. How we face it can have a huge impact on the character and effectiveness of the church in ministry and mission. Many of you weren’t here 9 years ago, when this church graciously called me to
be pastor for 3 years, until the money ran out. Others of you remember it well. By God’s grace and a good bit of human generosity, we’re still solvent. Instead, time is running out. State retirement age is a natural cut off, though it’s
not obligatory. But if not then, when? It’s tempting to prolong the staying, in order to avoid the sorrow. Yet avoiding the sorrow also avoids the advantages. Ultimately, leaving becomes unavoidable. Unavoidable leaving is often messy, difficult, and even more sorrowful, swamping advantage.

We had no idea, in 2012, (did we?) what a great opportunity would be presented by the retirement of the pastor. This is a great gift from our LORD, with major advantages for you, the church, and for me, the departing pastor, ‘put out to
pasture’. We’re shortly going to embark on the next episode of The Story: The calling in which we find ourselves. In much of the coming year, it will be ‘service as usual’. Just because we know the end date, we’re not setting aside the solemn covenant made between us in 2012 and again in 2015. Yet a significant part of my calling this coming year is to leave well. This is for your well-being as much as for mine. I hope you will recognise good leaving, or perhaps good letting-go to be part of your calling too.

Usually there is a wall of silent secrecy around ministers leaving. The announcement lands on the congregation like a bombshell, scattering fragmented feelings all over the place. The normal 3 months’ notice is hardly ever long enough to pick up the pieces. It’s even worse with no notice. Big, emotive questions linger unresolved. Why? Who? What?
Our human minds don’t like unresolved questions. They leave us unsatisfied, frustrated. Any answer is better than no answer. Needing satisfaction, we piece together some answer out of the disjointed scraps we can pick up. We all do this; and we all come up with different answers. Rather than soothing our sorrow, or healing our pain, such scrappy answers tend to include blame, guilt, shame. These are toxic. They multiply and prolong our sorrow. They rob us of the advantages. The toxicity hangs around for a long time, poisoning the health and relationships of the congregation,
surfacing from time to time in conflict that no-one can adequately explain. We have a year to resolve our questions with substantial, clear, honest, healthy, satisfying answers.

Each of us will express our answers in our own way, but I hope there will be shared understanding and broad agreement on the main elements. When spoken, the answers, though different, will tell the same story. Today, I’m laying a foundation on which I hope you will all build. On Sunday 19th July 2022, I will be 66 years old. It is my personal conviction that on that day, the solemn, joyous calling of our LORD and of this his church for me to serve you
as pastor will be fulfilled, completed. If that is so, then the very best thing that we can do is to lay down the covenant
between us, which has served us well, but will then be done. Not yet. Not sometime beyond. Then. On that day.
You may not share my conviction. Yet. I hope you will consider it carefully, to see if you can make it your own.
July 19th this year is heralded as ‘Freedom Day’ from Covid restrictions. I hope that July 19th next year will also be a day of freedom, of a rather different kind!

I hope we will all step forward freely into the next stage of our LORD’s calling of you, his church, and of me, together with Michal. In the lives of individuals and of any congregation, there are always good and bad things happening. None of us knows how life will be in July 2022. We may be riding on the clouds. We may be languishing under a cloud.
However good or bad things are, it will make no difference to the reason or the timing. Please don’t hear this as presumption. Life is uncertain. We live each day and each year by God’s continuing grace. What I have laid out is so far as I can see. Yet we live not by sight, but by faith. It is my profound hope that, as we face this particular ending together, we will know greater health and fuller healing in relation to other endings in our past, in our present, or in our future experience. I hope that, for each of us, this will be an interchange, not a terminus; a healing process, a maturing process, a growing up, growing stronger, growing wiser process; a growing together process; a process of sorrow and a process of advantage. A great gift from our LORD.

Song: Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice
The video joins BBC Songs Of Praise in 2006 at St Mary’s Church, Ealing

Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice,
You became nothing, poured out to death.
Many times I’ve wondered at your gift of life,
And I’m in that place once again,
I’m in that place once again.
And once again I look upon the cross where you died.
I’m humbled by your mercy and I’m broken inside.
Once again I thank you,
once again I pour out my life.
Now you are exalted to the highest place,
King of the heavens, where one day I’ll bow.
But for now, I marvel at this saving grace,
and I’m full of praise once again,
I’m full of praise once again.
And once again…

Celebration of communion
[We regularly make it plain that we welcome all to participate in our shared services of communion in chapel, on the understanding that doing so means saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus. This season when gathering together has been interrupted
has raised questions about inclusion and participation in communion when we are not together. There is a wide spectrum of views on this. I invite you to make your own decision on if and how you participate on this occasion. I want to emphasise that Jesus loves, accepts and wishes you to be included in him and in his church. That leaves us with a wide scope of freedom. Please exercise your freedom in Christ, in deciding how you make use of what follows, if at all. – Pastor Pete.]
We’ve read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ last Passover supper with his disciples, in which he re-framed the ancient celebration of escape from slavery into a celebration of his death being the means of escape from the tyranny of death. It seems that the church quickly adopted the celebration to be more than an annual event. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

We affirm our faith in the three-in-one God in this song,

Song: We believe in God the Father

We believe in God the Father,
Maker of the universe,
And in Christ, His Son, our Saviour
Come to us by virgin birth.
We believe he died to save us,
Bore our sins, was crucified.
Then from death he rose victorious,
Ascended to the Father’s side.
Jesus, Lord of all, Lord of all,
Jesus, Lord of all, Lord of all,
Jesus, Lord of all, Lord of all,
Jesus, Lord of all, Lord of all,
Name above all names
Name above all names
(Last time)
Name above all names
We believe He sends His Spirit,
On His church with gifts of power.
God, His word of truth affirming,
Sends us to the nations now.
He will come again in glory,
Judge the living and the dead.
Every knee shall bow before Him,
Then must every tongue confess.
Jesus, Lord of all…

Prayer of humble access, which we say together.
We do not presume to come to this your table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same LORD, who by nature always shows grace and mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
The bread is distributed mirroring Jesus’ words, ‘The body of Christ, broken for you.’
We eat as we are served and pause in silent ‘memory’.
The cups are distributed mirroring Jesus words, ‘The blood of Christ, shed for you.’
We drink together and pause in silent ‘memory’.

Prayer of thanksgiving
We thank you, Father, that you have fed us with this sacrament, united us with Christ, and given us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all of humanity. Thank you for joining us with your people across the world and across all time. We offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice, that we may live and serve to your praise and glory,
by the power of your Spirit dwelling in us. Amen.

Pastoral prayers
Please pray for those whom you want to experience in greater measure the presence and joy of our LORD. You are probably already aware of Jivan’s situation. You might also wish to pray for his uncle, Kalyan, who is seriously ill, and of course the family members whom you know.

Song: In thy presence is fulness of joy
This song is simply the words of Psalm 16 set to music. In the video, it’s simply sung at the Christian Fellowship Church in Bangalore, India.

In Thy presence there’s fullness of joy,
Fullness of joy, fullness of joy.
At Thy right hand are pleasures forever,
Pleasures forevermore.
I keep the Lord before me,
I shall not be moved.
My heart is glad and my soul rejoices;
I shall dwell in safety.
And in Thy presence there’s fullness of joy,
Fullness of joy, fullness of joy.
At Thy right hand are pleasures forever,
Pleasures forevermore.

Such pleasure is deeply genuine and therefore truly satisfying. We don’t pursue it for its own sake, nor really for the sake of feeling good. We pursue our LORD himself, and we are united with him in rich fellowship, which is wonderfully
pleasurable. One day, we will know the overwhelming fulness of that. Meanwhile, may each of you know as much of his presence and joy as you are yet able to receive. There’s no shortage, so as you receive, give as much of it away as freely
as you know how.