Worship for Sunday 22nd May 2022, by Liz Stuart

Call to Worship:  ‘Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death.  This fills us with a living hope. (1Peter 1:3)

StF 117 Sing praise to God who reigns above

Sing praise to God who reigns above,
the God of all creation,
the God of power, the God of love,
the God of our salvation;
with healing balm my soul he fills,
and every faithless murmur stills:
to God all praise and glory!


What God’s almighty power has made

that will he ever cherish,

and will, unfailing, soon or late,

with loving-kindness nourish;

and where he rules in kingly might

there all is just and all is right:

to God all praise and glory!


The Lord is never far away,
but, through all grief distressing,
an ever-present help and stay,
our peace, and joy, and blessing;
as with a mother’s tender hand,
he leads his own, his chosen band:
to God all praise and glory!

O you who name Christ’s holy name,
give God all praise and glory:
O you who own his power, proclaim
aloud the wondrous story.
Cast each false idol from its throne:
the Lord is God, and he alone:
to God all praise and glory!

Johann Jakob Schütz; Frances Elizabeth Cox; Honor Mary Thwaites

Prayers of Praise and Confession

Almighty God, as we come to worship you this morning, may our words of praise and thanksgiving be not only from our lips but from our hearts, inspired by the beauty with which you have surrounded us, by the many ways you have blessed us, and the tenderness with which you have cared for us, those moments when we have known ourselves held in the palm of your hand and not felt insignificant, but precious and loved.

In so many ways, Lord, you have given us glimpses of your glory, but never more so than in this Easter season, as we recall the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, and the promise of his continuing presence with us through your Holy and life-giving Spirit.

Generous God, you give us all we need for life in all its fullness, you shower your gifts and your grace upon us, and yet so often we are dis-satisfied, looking for contentment in those things which will never give lasting peace or joy.  Help us to shift our focus away from ourselves and onto Jesus; may His light dispel the shadows from our hearts and minds, and clear the debris of self-interest from our lives, that we may be fully open to all you would have us be, more faithful in our discipleship of Jesus Christ, and more aware of the guidance of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

N.T. Reading:  John 14:23-29

Jesus said, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.


It had been a strange evening, not the quiet supper among friends that they had anticipated, but an evening where both the events and the conversation had left the disciples in a state of confusion and disquiet.  There had been talk of betrayal and denial, of Jesus leaving them, and the uncertainty of where He was going, for it was somewhere they couldn’t come.  It was a letting go they were not ready for, weren’t prepared for – what was going to happen to Jesus, what would happen to them, how would they cope without Him, what had it all been for? The future seemed bleak and somehow threatening!  Yet Jesus knew that this had to happen if the disciples were to stand on their own feet, if the gospel was to spread, and the early church take off and grow.

Change is never easy, and while moving on, whatever form it takes, is sometimes necessary for us to grow, it is often an uncomfortable and unsettling experience. So it was important for those disciples that Jesus provided some continuity for them, and that continuity would be in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  For the Holy Spirit would reassure them that God was with them, He would ‘stand beside’ them, guide, and teach them.  He would remind them of all Jesus had said and done and promised, keeping them grounded in the truth of the Gospel.  And through all this they would experience the peace of Jesus – ‘a peace such as the world cannot give’.  Although Jesus would no longer be with them in a physical form, in some mysterious way they would know Him present with them in a way that was even more real, more personal, and even more empowering. 

They had a future, one in which the Holy Spirit would take them to places and to people beyond anything they could imagine, crossing racial, geographical, cultural, social and religious boundaries, as we shall hear in our next reading.

N.T Reading: Acts 16: 6-15

Paul, Silas and Timothy went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.  On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.  A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.  When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.

StF 498 God of all power and truth and grace    

God of all power, and truth, and grace,

which shall from age to age endure,

whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,

remains and stands for ever sure;


That I your mercy may proclaim,

that all the world your truth may see,

hallow your great and glorious name,

and perfect holiness in me.


Your sanctifying Spirit pour

to quench my thirst and make me clean;

now, Father, let the gracious shower

descend, and make me pure from sin.


Give me a new, a perfect heart,

free from all doubt and fear at last;

that mind that was in Christ impart,

and let my spirit hold you fast.


O that I now, from sin released,

your word may to the utmost prove,

enter into the promised rest,

the Canaan of your perfect love!


Now let me gain perfection’s height,

now let me into nothing fall,

be less than nothing in your sight,

and feel that Christ is all in all.     

Charles Wesley


Paul was a man of vision and passion – a vision and a passion to spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness far and wide.  He was also a man with a plan, together with Silas and Timothy to strengthen and encourage the young churches already established, and then to move on to other places in Asia to preach the gospel. And it was a good plan, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t entirely God’s plan.  For God had an even bigger vision and that was for the gospel to cross not only racial and cultural and social boundaries, but to cross continents.

Speaking as one who still relies on a Satnav to get to some parts of the Circuit, and who panics at diversion signs, I can only admire Paul’s calmness when he finds the way to places he had planned to go to somehow blocked!  But here was someone who was open to God, who listened to God and was prepared to follow God’s guidance no matter where it led him, or however long it took.  It became clear their plans to stay in Asia were being changed when they arrived at the major Mediterranean port of Troas, and Paul received a vision during the night of a man from Macedonia urging him to come over and help them, which convinced Paul that this was where God intended them to go.  

And this was confirmed by the response they received when they eventually arrived in Philippi, and Lydia, a business woman and herself a traveller, having come over from Thyatira in Asia Minor, becomes the first Christian convert in Europe, an event of tremendous significance in the progress of the Christian gospel.  Not only was it being established for the first time in Europe, but crucially in a leading city and trading centre, where the message would spread far and wide along the network of trade routes.  And I believe there is a lot in this story that we can learn from in the ways we go about sharing and spreading the Gospel.

To begin with, Paul and his companions always looked for some ‘common ground’ as a starting point to share their faith. You may remember how in Athens Paul found a statue to ‘the unknown God’, capturing the interest of the crowd by using this as a starting point for talking about Jesus.  In other places Paul usually went to the synagogue, where there was a foundation of shared religious knowledge on which to build.  However, Philippi for some reason didn’t have a synagogue, and so Paul went to where people often gathered, to the ‘place of prayer’ by the river. 

Many of our churches have been established in our neighbourhoods for a long time, and though the buildings may have changed, been redeveloped or modernised over the years, they are well rooted in the community. We already have many existing networks through the groups that come onto our premises, as well as the people we ourselves know through activities we engage in.  These are all avenues we could explore in order to build bridges and find opportunities to share our faith, our personal story, in a natural and friendly way.

But Paul not only went to places where people gathered, he went to people who had an interest in spiritual things, who were already open to receive.   Lydia is described as a worshipper of God – Thyatira had quite a strong Jewish community, and although she probably wasn’t Jewish by birth, Lydia was an adherent of the faith.  Moreover she was clearly accepted by the Jewish community in Philippi and supported them in their work.   And so here in Philippi, Paul is using another kind of network – a network of those whose ideas and practices were already sympathetic to him and open to the message of the gospel. 

God doesn’t only operate within the confines of the church, but I believe God does work through the church, and there are many people and groups within our local communities who are sympathetic to the gospel, who may well partner with us in church-led initiatives, opening up all sorts of exciting possibilities.  Food banks are one example of this, many set up under the auspices of the Trussell trust, which is a Christian organization, involving not only local churches, but also other members of the community in their volunteer force.  What other opportunities might there be in our area for similar partnering, and how might we, as God’s people, get involved?

But perhaps the most important question to ask is of ourselves – about how open we are to, for example, a change of plan, a new initiative, a new focus for our mission, a new direction of our ministry?  How ready are we to receive God’s call on our lives, and how willing are we to respond as individuals and as a church?  Paul and his companions crossed over land and sea to spread the Gospel; sometimes it seems we find it difficult to cross the street!  This may be due more to a lack of confidence than a lack of commitment, and to a fear of how we will be received than to a reluctance to share our faith.  Yet the same promises are there for us as Jesus made to His disciples on the night before He died, the promise of His Holy Spirit to teach us, to guide us, to encourage and stand beside us in every situation we face. 

Lydia’s heart was open to receive the message of the gospel, opened, I believe, long before Paul set foot in Philippi, and we too can trust the Holy Spirit to go before us and to open hearts and minds to the good news of Jesus.  To lead us into those places and to those people who are ready to begin a conversation, remembering that it is not our task to convert – that is the work of the Holy Spirit – but it is for us to plant seeds.  And we can count on God to provide those opportunities for us to show and to share God’s love – as a Street Pastor I know that to be true.

There are many today like the Macedonian in Paul’s vision, who are crying out for help – people who need the hope and the promise of the gospel.  Are we willing to respond, to play our part?  If we are, we can be sure that, just as Jesus promised those disciples, the Holy Spirit will equip us and enable us; that He will remind us of all Jesus said, and give us the words to say.  And as we do so, we too will experience not only the joy and excitement of sharing in God’s work, but the deep peace of Jesus filling our hearts, peace which the world cannot give, but equally cannot take away, and the assurance that He is with us at all times and in all places.  Amen

StF 391 O breath of life come sweeping through us  

O breath of life, come sweeping through us,

revive your Church with life and power;

O breath of life, come, cleanse, renew us,

and fit your Church to meet this hour.


O wind of God, come, bend us, break us,

till humbly we confess our need;

then in your tenderness remake us,

revive, restore; for this we plead.


O breath of live, come, breathe within us,

renewing thought and will and heart;

come, love of Christ, afresh to win us,

revive your church in every part.

Elizabeth Ann Head

Prayers of Intercession

Creator God, where the world’s poorest communities cry out against the affect global warming is having on their harvests and their livelihoods, we pray for all working to combat climate change, acknowledging our own responsibility to respect and honour the earth’s resources.

Lord, in your mercy:  hear our prayer

Almighty God, where people cry out against warfare, oppression and the violation of human rights, and where people are forced to leave their homeland to seek a better future, we pray that you will change the hearts of the leaders of the nations, that they may seek peace, justice and equality for those they are called to serve.  We remember today the people of Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan.

Lord, in your mercy:  hear our prayer

Liberating God, where people cry out against discrimination due to difference of race, colour, class, gender or sexuality, we pray for inclusion acceptance, and freedom from stigma of any kind.  May we live up to our commitment to offer belonging and welcome to all.

Lord, in your mercy:  hear our prayer

Compassionate God, where people cry out in their suffering because of illness, bereavement, or hardship; where families and relationships are under pressure through rising prices, unemployment, or debt, bring people alongside them who can offer advice and help.  We pray for those we know going through difficult times.  May they know the comfort of your presence, your love and your peace.

Lord, in your mercy:  hear our prayer

Commissioning God, where Christians cry out through persecution or through discrimination; where people struggle to hold onto their faith in an increasingly secular society, and when we lose heart, call us again and give us a new vision of your greatness and your glory.  On this Aldersgate Sunday we pray for the Methodist Church throughout the world, for our District and for our Circuit, that in all plan and seek to do we may be led and inspired by your Holy Spirit.

Lord, in your mercy:  hear our prayer, for we offer our prayers in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.  Amen


The Lord’s Prayer

StF 503 Love divine, all loves excelling

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee:
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Charles Wesley


The Blessing

May the blessing of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you now and always!  Amen