Worship for Sunday 10th June 2024, by Rev. Ken Stokes

Call to worship

Come, all of you, just as you are, to worship.

Whether today you feel strong or weak, full or empty,

God welcomes you all into God’s in-crowd.

Come just as you are to worship

Hymn: StF 51 “Great is thy faithfulness” v1&3

   1    Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
           there is no shadow of turning with thee;
           thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
           as thou hast been thou for ever wilt be:
           Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
           Morning by morning new mercies I see;
           all I have needed thy hand hath provided.
           Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

  2      Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
           thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
           strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
           blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Thomas O. Chisholm (1866–1960)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 51
Words and Music: © 1923, renewed 1951, Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188, USA.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

Prayer of Approach

God of all, as one family we worship you.
We are mothers and fathers,
we are sisters and brothers,
and we worship you.
We are sons and daughters,
aunts and uncles, grannies, granddads,
and we worship you.

We are cousins and neighbours, friends and colleagues, and we worship you.
As your family, as your church, as your community,
we worship you. Amen.

Prayer of Adoration

Loving God, in Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit you show us that there is always room at your table for one more. Alleluia!
There is always enough time for everyone to be listened to. Alleluia!
There is always enough respect for everyone to be valued. Alleluia!
There is always enough truth for everyone to grow and learn. Alleluia!
There is always a second chance for those who once turned away. Alleluia!
For the in-you crowd is always growing and always welcoming. Alleluia! Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Lord Jesus, when our in-crowd is not your crowd:
forgive us, and help us to build community.
When our words are harsh and our actions unkind:
forgive us, and help us to build community.
When we judge others rather than join with others:
forgive us, and help us to build community.
When we are set in our ways and not open to change:
forgive us, and help us to build community.
To the glory of your name. Amen.

Prayer of Praise

God of truth and mercy, 
where we break down – you build up;
where we damage – you repair;
where we blaspheme – you bless;
where we isolate – you include;
where we go wrong – you put us right;
where we confess – you forgive;
where we begin again – you are with us.
In Jesus’ name. Amen

Hymn: StF 337 “There is a higher throne”

     1    There is a higher throne
            than all this world has known,
            where faithful ones from every tongue
            will one day come.
            Before our God we’ll stand,
            made faultless through the Lamb;
            believing hearts find promised grace:
            salvation comes.
            Hear heaven’s voices sing,
            their thunderous anthem rings
            through emerald courts and sapphire skies,
            their praises rise.
            All glory, wisdom, power,
            strength, thanks and honour are
            to God, our King who reigns on high
            for evermore.

   2      And there we’ll find our home,
            our life before the throne;
            we’ll honour him in perfect song
            where we belong.
            He’ll wipe each tear-stained eye,
            as thirst and hunger die;
            the Lamb becomes our Shepherd King:
            we’ll reign with him.

Keith Getty (b. 1974) and Kristyn Getty (b. 1980)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 337
Words and Music: © 2002, Thankyou Music.  Administered by worshiptogether.com Songs, excluding UK & Europe, administered by Kingswaysongs, a division of David C Cook <tym@kingsway.co.uk>  Used by permission.      

Gospel Reading Mark 3.20-35 NRSV

(20) and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  (21) When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” (22) And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”  (23)  And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? (24)  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. (25)  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (26)  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. (27) But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. (28) “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; (29) but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin”— (30) for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (31)  Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. (32)  A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” (33)  And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”(34) And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! (35) Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”


In our Gospel reading the government investigators from Jerusalem reckon they are God’s official spokesmen and that since Jesus is arguing against them Jesus must be on the side of the enemy of God – they call Satan.

But Jesus argues against this – he says that everything that he does is the opposite of what Satan, or the Devil would want. So how can he be working for Satan. In fact, it is those government investigators who have got a big problem. Jesus tells them that they had better be careful that they were not arguing against the good that God was doing through him. Most people could see that the healings and exorcisms Jesus performed and the way he had cared for the poor and knew that these things were self-evidently good. So, Jesus says that it does not matter if they don’t think too much of him but if these investigating officials are arguing against goodness itself there is no hope for them.

This is what Jesus means by a sin against the Holy Spirit. It is not a simply a case of not recognizing what is loving or what God wants. We can all fail to do that. Rather a sin against the Holy Spirit is when we deliberately reject what we already know is good and loving because we don’t think it is in our interest. It is this that is the unforgiveable sin because it is like saying evil is good and good is evil.

Sometime ago in Germany a 93-year-old man was put on trial. His name was Oskar Gröning, and he was one of the last Nazi’s to stand trial for his work in one of the Nazi death camps. People argued as to whether such a frail old man should stand trial. In his own defense Oskar Groening argued that he wasn’t actively involved. He was just the bookkeeper recording in detail how much money and gold was taken off the camps mainly Jewish victims. He also recorded exactly how many men, women and children were killed each day. Gröning admitted he knew exactly what was going on but like many before him he said he was only following orders. He didn’t do anything bad, he never hurt anyone. So, he argued he didn’t have a criminal case to answer. Yet Hitlers conspiracy to murder and kill disabled people, Jewish people, gay people, Slavish people and Gypsies was not built for the most part on the work of evil monsters. It was built on the actions or inactions of inoffensive bookkeepers’ ordinary men and women who simply did what they were told and never stood up for the weakest and the most vulnerable. Groening knew what was happening was wrong, but he hated the Jews, so he went along with it. The only time he protested was one time when he saw a small child being bashed to death against the side of a train by an SS officer. This was the moment when his conscience could have been awakened. When he could have opened himself to the Holy Spirit. He protested. Yet he only protested because the child was killed in an unseemly way. He was still content to complete the books while tens of thousands went into the gas chambers.           

On 15 July 2015, Gröning was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews. Following a few unsuccessful appeals against the court’s judgment, Gröning died on 9 March 2018 while in hospital before he was able to begin his prison sentence.

Strangely I don’t think it matters that Oskar Gröning was never imprisoned. For he was condemned by his own mouth, his own indifference, his own callousness.

We sin against the Holy Spirit If we deliberately say that something evil is good in order to get our own way. This sin is unforgiveable simply because when we take such a path as Oskar Gröning we stop recognizing that we need forgiveness. But we are not like that are we?

Sometimes I see and hear British people say if people choose to try to cross the English Channel in rubber boats, we should just let them drown and then they will stop coming. I am reminded how the British Government refused to allow many Jews including children escaping from Nazi Germany to come to Britain. This was because the thought of immigrants produced the same reaction in the 1930’s as it does today. The consequence was that thousands died in the death camps who did not need to do so. This was a direct consequence of the prejudice of the British public and the prejudice of peoples of other nations in Europe during the 1930’s

As Christians we know that the people trying to cross the Channel to escape war and poverty are not evil, they are suffering human beings and God‘s children. They are therefore our brothers and sisters. Members of our family.

Some “populist” politicians make themselves very popular and attract voters because they make a show of being hostile to refugees.

But is closing the door to everyone except rich businessmen and dodgy Russian oil tycoon’s moral? If we do this, might we not be accused of sinning against the Holy Spirit?

We need to remember that in pursuing our self-interest we must not go so far as to call what is evil good and what is good evil because when we do so we sin against the Holy Spirit. I think as a nation we need to repent and ask for forgiveness for the way we accept and applaud people who caricature and despise those who need our compassion.

Prayers of intercession

God of truth, we pray for those who are slandered today;
for those in the public eye whose lives are laid open to the world…
Protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

we pray for journalists tempted to tamper with truth;
and for those whose lives are in danger for telling hard truth,
especially those living under authoritarian regimes
protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for politicians who are tempted to stir up hate descend into the gutter to get a few more votes. We pray also for politicians who speak with your compassion, loving God, even when to do so is not popular and leaves them accused of being a soft touch.
protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for refugees who feel rejected wherever they go

For those who risk their lives to gain a better future for themselves and their families..

protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for sportsmen and women facing the pressures of winning…
and losing…
protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for families where half-truths have destroyed trust and broken relationships, especially where there is fear and estrangement….
protect them mentally and physically and draw them close to you.

We pray for one another,
especially where we have been hurt by the words of others and felt excluded.
protect us mentally and physically and draw us close to you.

In Jesus name we pray.

Hymn: StF 716 “There are no strangers”

     1     There are no strangers to God’s love,
            yet we have privatised God’s grace.
            Bounded by nationhood and lies,
            in fear we shrouded love’s own face.
            Acknowledging our sin and greed
            we come confessing common need.

   2       These are our neighbours and our friends,
            the ones who run in fear from war,
            who dread abuse by power or state,
            or seek the means to be less poor;
            these are the ones we have denied,
            as in each one the Christ has cried.

   3       When people seeking sanctuary
            come to this place and need our aid,
            then in Christ’s name let’s offer care;
            through this our debt of love is paid.
            God’s grace is free, this grace receive,
            let actions show what we believe.

Andrew Pratt (b. 1948)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number   716 Words: © 2010, Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London,  N3 1DZ  <www.stainer.co.uk>


We go into the world in the power
of the Spirit

to fulfil our high calling as servants of Christ.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.