Sunday 18th October: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
If you wish, you can listen to the service recorded for BishopFM 105.9 on Thursday, which will be repeated in the church today at 11am
Parts of this short act of worship has been prepared for you to use if you are unable to attend church by the Methodist Connexion. If you are well enough why not spend a few moments with God, knowing that other people are sharing this act of worship with you. For Bishop Auckland Methodist Church, the slides and creative prayer from Hope, Hannah and Millie have been added as well as an audio sermon by Local Preacher, Susan Thorne and also an all-age talk by Youth Team member, Millie.
Welcome to our worship, where we will travel about 2000 miles south east to Greece and the city of Thessalonika on the Aegean Sea. Like here in Bishop Auckland it has Covid-19 restrictions, hands, face, space and reduced numbers able to gather together. But we are also travelling 2000 years back in time. It was not an easy time back then, but the people had faith, love and hope – and that is my prayer for you today. Faith, love and hope.
Hymn StF 638: Through all the changing scenes of life
A Litany of Faith, Hope and Love
Lord God, please give me the grace of the virtues of faith, hope, and love that you promised at baptism and that only you can give.
Act of faith.
My God, I believe in you, and all that your Church teaches, because you have said it, and your word is true.
Lord, I believe in you …
… Because the beauty of the world speaks of you.
… Because the goodness in the world comes from you.
… Because I can discern and know the truth.
… Because the laws of the universe are ordered.
… Because your creation is sustained in being.
… Because I am a mystery to myself that your words illuminate.
… Because you are the foundation of truth.
… Because you are too great for me to fully understand.
… Because trustworthy people have believed in you for centuries.
… Because of the witness of science.
… Because of the witness of the saints.
… Because of the witness of the Gospels.
… Because you have given me the gift of faith.
… Increase my faith.
Act of hope.
My God, I hope in you, for grace and for glory, because of your mercy, your promises and your power.
Lord, I hope in you …
… Because everything else decays.
… Because you always keep your promises.
… Because you are the King of the Universe.
… Because you created me for your purpose.
… Because I have seen your hand in my own life.
… Because your words direct me.
… Because your goodness is the ground I walk on.
… Because you are greater than anything that threatens me.
… Because in history, good has triumphed.
… Because you have sustained your Church despite the weakness of men.
… Because you have provided for me all my life.
… Because you are all powerful.
… Because without you, I would not exist.
… Because of the witness of the saints.
… That I may I be happy with you forever.
… Increase my hope.
Act of love.
O my God, because You are so good, I love You above all things and for your sake I love my neighbour as myself.
Lord, I love you …
… Because you loved me first.
… Because you are infinite goodness.
… Because you are inexhaustible beauty.
… Because you are unfathomable truth.
… Because you made love the fundamental law.
… Because I wouldn’t exist without love.
… Because you created me.
… Because you gave me every good thing.
… Because you gave me my faith.
… Because you have protected me.
… Because you have tested me.
… Because you have trusted me with your life in my soul.
… Because you have surrounded me with love.
… Because you died for me.
… Give me deeds of love and not just words.
… Increase my love.
Let us pray
Lord God, give me the faith I need to know your will, the hope I need to accept your will, and the love I need to do your will, even when I don’t understand it, knowing that your way is better. I ask this through Christ Our Lord.
Today’s Old Testament Reading:
The Lord appoints Cyrus
The Lord has chosen Cyrus to be king.
He has appointed him to conquer nations;
he sends him to strip kings of their power;
the Lord will open the gates of cities for him.
To Cyrus the Lord says,
2 “I myself will prepare your way,
leveling mountains and hills.
I will break down bronze gates
and smash their iron bars.
3 I will give you treasures from dark, secret places;
then you will know that I am the Lord
and that the God of Israel has called you by name.
4 I appoint you to help my servant Israel,
the people that I have chosen.
I have given you great honor,
although you do not know me.
5 “I am the Lord; there is no other god.
I will give you the strength you need,
although you do not know me.
6 I do this so that everyone
from one end of the world to the other
may know that I am the Lord
and that there is no other god.
7 I create both light and darkness;
I bring both blessing and disaster.
I, the Lord, do all these things.
Today’s Gospel Reading:
The Question about Paying Taxes
15 The Pharisees went off and made a plan to trap Jesus with questions. 16 Then they sent to him some of their disciples and some members of Herod’s party. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you tell the truth. You teach the truth about God’s will for people, without worrying about what others think, because you pay no attention to anyone’s status. 17 Tell us, then, what do you think? Is it against our Law to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor, or not?”
18 Jesus, however, was aware of their evil plan, and so he said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin for paying the tax!”
They brought him the coin, 20 and he asked them, “Whose face and name are these?”
21 “The Emperor’s,” they answered.
So Jesus said to them, “Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Today’s Epistle Reading:
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
From Paul, Silas, and Timothy—
To the people of the church in Thessalonica, who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
May grace and peace be yours.
The Life and Faith of the Thessalonians
2 We always thank God for you all and always mention you in our prayers. 3 For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm. 4 Our friends, we know that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own. 5 For we brought the Good News to you, not with words only, but also with power and the Holy Spirit, and with complete conviction of its truth. You know how we lived when we were with you; it was for your own good. 6 You imitated us and the Lord; and even though you suffered much, you received the message with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. 7 So you became an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For not only did the message about the Lord go out from you throughout Macedonia and Achaia, but the news about your faith in God has gone everywhere. There is nothing, then, that we need to say. 9 All those people speak about how you received us when we visited you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God 10 and to wait for his Son to come from heaven—his Son Jesus, whom he raised from death and who rescues us from God’s anger that is coming.
Time to Reflect
Don’t forget that you can also tune into the website here every day of the week to listen to church friends sharing daily reflections, including Bible readings and inspiration… or get them on the telephone on 01388 436810… do join us!
As we continue to worship online, we have a pick and mix approach to this sermon slot. You can choose to listen to (1) Susan’s sermon as we have had through lockdown. Today you might also choose to look at (2) the pdf sheet from Roots or (3) an all-age video talk by Youth Team member, Millie, or (4) the Connexional reflection or otherwise to come (5) to the church garden to prayer walk the labyrinth or or if nothing else to stay home (6) and simply take time for yourself and reflect on the readings you have just read and heard.
1. If you would like to listen to a sermon for today by Local Preacher Susan Thorne, click on the video below
2. or you might choose to click on the image below to go to the pdf rootsontheweb adult sheet with further thoughts on these readings
3. or an All age Talk this week, reflecting on the Gospel passage:
4. or read the reflection from the Methodist Connexional Worship Resources for this week below:
There have been times in the past months, in those moments between sleeping and waking, where I have ‘come to’ and then remembered ‘yes, we are still here, in the middle of the pandemic’. Like everyone who thought they had ‘a settled life’, I find myself continually adjusting to new levels of uncertainty, and expectations which have changed so much. Often all we can know is that another day starts and we are still ‘here, in the middle’ and we do not know how or when this ‘new normal’ will end.
This is a strangely interim life, fluid and marked by waiting, stuck in what is sometimes described as the ‘messy middle’. It may have been like too for the early Christians Paul wrote to at Thessalonica. His letter offers testimony to the extraordinary dynamism of early Christianity. Probably written within twenty years of the Crucifixion it presents a recognisable picture of established church life. But these Christians are keenly conscious that they are living ‘in the middle’ between God’s great act of rescue and their eternal hope. In the midst of persecution and bereavement they may well have felt stretched and disorientated. The Gospel passage gives us the feeling of ‘coming in in the middle’, as if we had walked into a room in the middle of a conversation or turned on a television or radio in the middle of a drama. Whether it was right to pay taxes to the Romans was a long-running debate on which many took entrenched positions. It is a clever and dangerous ‘trick question’ because a direct answer lays Jesus open to charges of collaboration or revolution.
Matthew shows us Jesus taking and holding the coin, perhaps turning it over in His hand, studying the image of the Emperor, reading the imperial titles with their grandiose claims. In the hands of Jesus, a new perspective emerges and tense political and ethical question is seen in a new light. The principle is the priority of God, the need to render God what is due. The question of ‘what is owed’ to Caesar is addressed to the questioners. What new perspectives on entrenched issues and problems might Jesus open for us when we turn them over and put them in His hands?
To those Thessalonians picking their way through the ‘messy middle’, Paul’s words were surely hugely encouraging. He shares how he thanks God for them in his prayers. He observes how their genuine faith and change of priorities was apparent to him and all the churches. When we think about how we support each other as Christians, we often focus on giving kindly advice or practical help. Paul shows us that one of the most affirming and valuable things we can do is to point out signs of God’s presence in their lives. Paul is like a field officer, actively searching for and affirming signs that the Spirit is at work in these new churches. Moses told God that he didn’t want to go on another step, didn’t want to budge, unless assured of continuing God’s presence (Exodus 33 vv. 15-16). With joy Paul discovers such signs of God’s Presence bringing renewal and change in the lives of his fellow Christians and it brings him to his knees in thankful joy. May God open our eyes and hearts so we like Paul can start our own scavenger hunt for signs of God’s presence and offer words of encouragement and affirmation, and prayers of thanks.
thought from the connexional resources during the pandemic this week by Miriam Stevenson
5. or take a walk to the church garden and pray as you walk around the labyrinth there, silently listening to God as you travel inwards to the cross at the centre and then back outwards again into the world
6. and/or sit quietly and reflect on the prayers, readings and thoughts here and listen for what God might be saying to you through them
Take a time to sit quietly.
Hope and Millie’s Reflection
Prayers of Intercession
Hannah’s Creative Prayer
If you are able, find a stone and write the word ‘peace’ on it.
Are there any areas of your life where you need to feel God’s peace?
Hold onto the stone and think
about these areas of your life.
Thank God for the peace of mind, heart and spirit that he has given to you already and ask for a renewal of this peace, for yourself and others that you know that need God’s peace.
Keep this stone as a reminder of God’s peace.
Hymn StF 406: Have you heard the good news
There is a God who can help us. So go in the blessing of God to practice faith, work on love, and never lose hope. Amen.