Worship for Sunday 9th July 2023, by Rev. Ken Stokes

Opening Prayer

The Lord is here – in faith and in praise:
God binds us together in love.
The Lord is here – in joy and in hope:
God binds us together in love.
The Lord is here – for now and forever:
God binds us together in love.

Hymn: StF 161 “Speak O Lord”

1   Speak, O Lord, as we come to you
to receive the food of your holy word.
Take your truth, plant it deep in us;
shape and fashion us in your likeness,
that the light of Christ might be seen today
in our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfil in us
all your purposes, for your glory.

2   Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
in the radiance of your purity.
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail;
let their truth prevail over unbelief.

3  Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
help us grasp the heights of your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
that will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we’ll stand on your promises,

and by faith we’ll walk as you walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till your Church is
and the earth is filled with your glory.

Keith Getty (b. 1974) & Stuart Townend (b. 1963)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith 161 Electronic Words Edition,
Words and Music: © 2005, Thankyou Music. 

Prayer of Confession

Hear us, O God, as we ask forgiveness:
for the hurt we have caused you,
and the hurt we have caused those around us:
Lord, please forgive us.
For the unkind words we have used,
and the things we have failed to do:
Lord, please forgive us.
For our unwillingness to forgive,
while depending on your forgiveness of us:
Lord, please forgive us.
For our selfishness and greed,
for our jealousy and pride:
Lord, please forgive us.
For the prejudices we carry,
and the way we accept the unacceptable:
Lord, please forgive us.
For the sins of our family,
for the sins of our community:
Lord, please forgive us.
For the damage to our environment,
for the damage to our nation and our world:
Lord, please forgive us.
Compassionate God, hold us when we stumble,
pick us up when we fall:
We ask it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect Prayer

Servant Lord, grant us both the opportunity and the will to serve you day by day.
May all that we do and how we bear each other’s burdens be our offering of love and service to the glory of your name. Amen.

Gospel Reading Matthew 11.16-19,25-30

At that time Jesus said, 16‘To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
17“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

25I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’


Do you remember playing singing games in the school playground when you were a child?

Singing games are sometimes based on nursery rhymes or on a child’s eye view of something drawn from real life.

Songs like “Humpty Dumpty” Seem to be about an egg which once broken cannot be put back together again.

Or may be “Ring O ring of roses, a pocket full of poses, a tissue a tissue we all fall down” – apparently goes back to the time of the terrible plague called the Black Death when a third of the people in Britain died with strange marks on their body – ring of roses – and sneezing – a tissue a tissue and people did “all fall down”.

One of the things about singing games is that they work best and are more fun when more people join in. My granddaughter insists that her grandparents always join in and woe betide us if we get the actions wrong.

Singing games were just as popular among children 2000 years ago in Israel. Everyone would have played them when they were children.

Jesus uses the idea of a children’s singing game to criticise the reluctance of people to commit themselves to God

He paints a picture of some children playing a game of “Weddings and funerals”

The boys can take part by dancing while the children all sing wedding music – interestingly dancing was the job of men at weddings.

The girls can all take part by pretending to wail and cry – because this was the job of women at funerals.

The trouble is that some of the children are not willing to take part – they just want to sit at the side and criticise.

Sometimes the Church is like this isn’t it?

Sometimes we want to criticise what someone else has done but we don’t want to do anything about it ourselves. “He shouldn’t have done that”, “She got that wrong”, or “Why don’t they do it the way I would do it”. But then when someone asks for more help we sit on our hands and make excuses. We can’t get involved. We are too old, we haven’t got the time, we are far too busy. It is easy to criticise from the side-lines- isn’t it. It’s funny I always know how much better to play than the England footballers when I am watching the TV, but I am not sure I could deliver it on the pitch.

Being a Christian, being a Jesus person can never be about being an armchair critic. It is reserved for those who throw themselves wholeheartedly into living life as they believe God calls them.

Jesus points out the armchair critics condemned John the Baptist for not drinking wine and fasting – you can hear them can’t you – “He just takes things too far”, “He’s nothing but a kill joy”. So, they wouldn’t listen to John’s message.

Jesus threw himself into life. I often say that as Christians we need to recognise that Gospel records suggest that Jesus went to a lot more parties than synagogues. He eats and drink and join in the fun of life. Yet the same armchair critics who criticised John condemned Jesus for being a glutton and a drunkard. They would not listen to Jesus’s message any more than they listened to John.

The armchair critics are so busy criticising that they don’t see what God is doing. We can be like that too. We need to ask ourselves whether we really want to join in with what God is doing? Do we sit at the side and prefer to criticise others?


  • When did you last say thank you to someone for their work for the Church?
  • When did you last say, “that was great!” or “I think that is brilliant!”.

Positive praise can make a massive difference it can lift spirits and give people energy when they feel that they had none left. Why not give it a try?

Song to reflect upon
“How can I keep from singing – Audrey Assad

There is an endless song, echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring
And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love?
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes in the darkest night
For I know my Saviour lives
And I will walk with You
Knowing You’ll see me through
And sing the songs You give

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love?
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I can sing in the troubled times, sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step and I fall down again
I can sing ’cause You pick me up, sing ’cause You’re there
I can sing ’cause You hear me, Lord, when I call to You in prayer

I can sing with my last breath, sing for I know
That I’ll sing with the angels and the saints around the throne

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love?
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart… I am loved by the King X2
And it makes my heart want to sing, yeah
I can sing

Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Edmond Martin Cash, Matthew James Redman. For non-commercial use only.
StF 471 “Lord I come to you”

  • Lord, I come to you,
    let my heart be changed, renewed,
    flowing from the grace
    that I found in you.
    And Lord, I’ve come to know
    the weaknesses I see in me
    will be stripped away
    by the power of your love.

       Hold me close,
       let your love surround me;
bring me near, draw me to your side.
       And as I wait,
       I’ll rise up like the eagle,
       and I will soar with you,
       your Spirit leads me on
       in the power of your love.

2     Lord, unveil my eyes,
let me see you face to face,
the knowledge of your love
as you live in me.
Lord, renew my mind,
as your will unfolds in my life
in living every day
by the power of your love.

Geoff Bullock (b. 1956)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 471 Words and Music: © 1992 Word Music LLC. Used by permission.

Prayers of intercession

Loving God, as we reflect on the words of Scripture and learn from the wisdom of your Son, so we pray in his name:

We pray for all entrusted with the gift of teaching children and young people;
for those who struggle to learn and for those denied an education;
we pray for more resources, more opportunities, more equality.
God of love, we entrust our prayers to you

We pray for all who care for those with serious mental health issues;
for those who work with patients who potentially pose a threat to others
and those who feel bowed down with their responsibilities,
who are struggling under the weight of the decisions they have to make;
for those with family or friends who are depressed,
and for all those engulfed by mental turmoil.
To you, God of love, we entrust our prayers.

We pray for the people of Ukraine who continue to suffer following the Russian invasion.

for the people of Israel and Palestine and their governments;
for all places where in the past there has been violence,
where today there is unrest
and where the future is full of fear and mistrust.
To you, God of love, we entrust our prayers. 

We pray for wisdom to learn from, and to act on, the mistakes of the past –
as a community and as individuals.
Where there have been disappointments may we learn courage.
Where there have been setbacks may we learn resilience.
Where there has been division may we learn generosity of spirit.
Where there has been self-centredness may we learn humility
To you, God of love, we entrust our prayers. 

We pray for churches throughout the world,
that we may learn new ways of sharing the gospel.
We give thanks for the vision and compassion, the integrity and faithfulness
of our national and international church leaders.
We pray for all leaders and pastors in our local church families.
We pray too for those who have been damaged by religion,
for one another in our daily encounters,
and for those we hold in our hearts who we would love to see come to faith.
To you, God of love, we entrust our prayers
in Jesus name. Amen.

StF 503 Love divine

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

2   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.

3   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 (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith 503 Electronic Words


Final Prayer and Blessing

Though the road be long and weary,

and the burdens hard to bear,

go forth with Jesus, yoked to him,

in friendship, love and prayer.

The blessing of God, the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit be with us now and evermore. Amen