Worship for Sunday 30th January 2023, by Rev. Ken Stokes


Loving God, we thank you that you call us
to a new way of thinking,
and we bless and praise you;
to a new way of living,
and we bless and praise you;
to a new way of being,
and we bless and praise you now and for ever.

Hymn: StF 55 Immortal, invisible, God only wise

Immortal invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might
thy justice, like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all life thou givest, to both great and small,
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render, O help us to see
‘tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908)


We thank you, Loving God,
that you bless us in so many ways.
But we thank you too,
that blessing doesn’t stop with receiving.
Help us to appreciate, with no false modesty,
how much we can be a blessing to others.

Loving God, I confess to you
that I don’t always feel aware of my blessings.
Help me to count them today.
Please forgive me, and bless me.

Loving God, I confess to you
that I don’t always listen to
what you are saying to me.
Please forgive me, and bless me.

Loving God, I confess to you
that sometimes I worry too much;
I don’t trust you to sort things out.
Please forgive me, and bless me.

Loving God, I confess to you
that sometimes I let things get me down;
that I do not always feel full of hope.
Please forgive me, and bless me.

Collect Prayer

God of heaven and earth,
whose power is made fully known in your pardoning mercy:
ever fill us with your grace,
that, entering more fully into your promises,
we may come to share in the good things of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bible reading
First letter of Paul to the Corinthians Chapter 1 verses 18 – 31

18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’


In our reading St Paul tackles head on the question “is the cross of Christ wisdom or foolishness?” At many levels this is a demanding question. Usually the bravest course if we are given a choice between life and death is to choose life.

Last week we remembered the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz where millions died in the concentration camps but there were those people who survived by being skilled, braver, or just more persuasive than others. One woman who had arrived in Auschwitz as a 13year old described how she was saved from the gas chamber by persuading an SS guard that she was a skilled tailor. Needless to say she wasn’t, but she was quick to learn. Her luck and quick thinking saved her when many others did not get that chance

This raises the question why should anyone rely utterly upon someone like Jesus who was apparently so cavalier in sacrificing his own life.

Paul recognises that many Corinthian Christians would be hard to persuade. Many of Corinthian Christians seem to have lacked education, and they were easily impressed by eloquent speakers (such as Apollos), but Paul tries to detach them from ‘superior culture’ by reminding them that not many of them were regarded as wise by human standards, or seen as powerful, or of noble birth (v.26).

Paul turns this to his advantage by encouraging the Corinthians to identify instead with the wisdom of God, which is foolishness to this world. The wise might have recognised God in creation, but they hadn’t recognised the power of God’s love that the Corinthian Christians accepted when they turned to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour..
The Greeks tried to find their way to a good life by following the wisdom of their philosophers and the Jews tried to live the life God wanted them to lead by looking for revelations in history. Yet God has used apparent foolishness to save humanity. God comes to meet them in love and offers them Jesus who looks just like a crucified criminal. It is this seeming foolish Christ who has been raised from the dead.

Many Jews rejected Jesus because they wanted Messiah (an anointed king) who would rule in Jerusalem, not hang naked in shame on a cross. Yet Paul says this Crucified Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s loving foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s loving weakness is stronger than human strength’.

In love God has chosen to bring salvation to the poorest, weakest and most insignificant of people. Paul says that this, includes the Christian believers in Corinth, Paul says God has reversed conventional worldly values. The Corinthians are now no longer just slaves and nonentities. They are God’s chosen ones. None of this is a result of human effort it is God’s gift.

Today, at least in Britain, we are more often struck by the weakness of the Church than by its strength. Our relative weakness is obvious and yet the gospel message is clear. Paul tells us that God rarely picks the strong and the mighty to do his will. Though it seems like foolishness God often chooses the weakest and least significant. So it is for us too. I believe Manchester Methodist Circuit still has a role to play in God’s work amongst the people of Greater Manchester. We need to keep the faith and trust that, if we are willing and trust him, God can to take our apparent weakness and use it for his glory. For God’s foolishness is greater than human wisdom and God’s weakness is greater than human strength.


  1. When do you feel closest to God?
  2. Is it when all is well or is it when things are going badly and you feel weak?
  3. Why might trying to appear strong act as a barrier both between us and other people and us and God

Hymn: StF 271 “Come wounded healer”

  1. Come, wounded Healer, your sufferings reveal
    the scars you accepted, our anguish to heal.
    Your wounds bring such comfort in body and soul
    to all who bear torment and yearn to be whole.

  2. Come, hated Lover, and gather us near,
    your welcome, your teaching, your challenge to hear
    where scorn and abuse cause rejection and pain,
    your loving acceptance, makes hope live again.

  3. Come, broken Victor, condemned to a cross
    how great are the treasures we gain from your loss!
    Your willing agreement to share in our strife
    transforms our despair into fullness of life.

Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray:
for message and messenger,
preacher and listener,
teacher and learner,
for debater and cynic,
that the world might know you, O God.

Let us pray:
for those who trust and those who doubt,
for those who know and those who seek,
for those with faith and those without,
for those religious and those non-believing,
that the world might find you, O God.

Let us pray:
for those powerful and powerless;
for those with wealth and those in poverty;
for those with status and those without a voice;
for those the world calls worthy and those chosen by God,
that the world might turn to you, O God

Let us pray:
for the weak and the strong,
for the despised and the admired,
for the righteous and the boastful,
for the wise and the foolish,
that the world might serve you, O God.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever, Amen.

Hymn:  StF 717 “We do not hope to ease our minds”

  1. We do not hope to ease our minds
    by simple answers, shifted blame,
    while Christ is homeless, hungry, poor,
    and we are rich who bear his name.
    As long as justice is a dream
    and human dignity denied,
    we stand with Christ; disturb us still
    till every need is satisfied.

  2. We cannot ask to live at peace
    in comfort and security,
    while Christ is tried in Pilate’s hall,
    and drags his cross to Calvary.
    As long as hatred stifles truth
    and freedom is betrayed by fear,
    we stand with Christ, give us no peace,
    Till his peace reigns in triumph here.

  3. We will not pray to be preserved
    from any depth of agony
    while Christ’s despairing cry rings out:
    God why have you abandoned me?
    As long as we have hope to share,
    of life renewed beyond the pain,
    we stand with Christ all through the night
    till Easter morning dawns again.

    Marnie Barrell b.1952

Final Prayer

We go out into God’s world,
as those who are seeking to serve with faithfulness,
as those who are pure in heart and mind,
as those who are true to God’s purposes.
We go out into God’s world, as we are, and as we would be,
and know that as we live out the love of Christ we will be Blessed, today and forever. Amen