Morning Worship for 2nd May 20214 days ago
As we begin this act of worship let us remember all those not able to be with us who are joining us in their own homes, we remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with us in worship. Although we will not be having hymns in church for those of you at home If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the suggested hymns and join in the singing online. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.
Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us new life and hope. He has raised Jesus from the dead. God has claimed us as his own. He has brought us out of darkness. He has made us light to the world. Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Collect of the day:
Almighty God, Who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ Have overcome death and opened to us The gate of everlasting life; Grant that, as by your grace going before us You put into our minds good desires, So by your continual help We may bring them to good effect; Through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, Who is alive and reigns with you, In the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. Amen.
Our Declaration of faith:
Jesus Christ, risen Master and triumphant Lord,
We have lived by our own strength,
And not by the power of your resurrection.
May the Risen Lord transform our hearts and minds
That we in faith may be restored and renewed
By the power of your resurrection.
Hymn: Christ is made the sure foundation.
Readings: Acts 8: 26-end, 1 John 4:7-end.
Hymn: Bread of heaven on thee we feed.
Gospel Reading: John 15:1-8.
Jesus the true vine:
As we continue to move through the various dates for the relaxation of the lockdown, foreign holidays still seem to be a bit further in the distance. I guess like many of you I have been looking back at some of the glorious holidays that I have had in the past and today I was especially reminded of those holidays spent in Greece. We have travelled extensively to a large number of Greek Islands but there is always one thing which we have always enjoyed and that is sitting out in beautiful warm weather underneath grapevines full of glorious produce. Enjoying a glass of wine in the sunshine in the evening is what makes a holiday! It is that space to relax, reflect and simply soak up the ambiance which I guess we are all missing at the moment.
Jesus speaks of himself as the true vine but he does remind us that it is God who is the vine grower. I love this image of Jesus being cared for by his Father. It speaks so positively of the deepest of relationships through which we as well as Jesus can grow and flourish. The vine grower has a difficult job to do, as it is his responsibility to ensure that the vines are protected, carefully fed, beautifully tended and when ready carefully harvested. In the film ‘A Good Year’ we see this beautifully and humourously played out with the vine grower being a little eccentric and yet totally committed to his charge. His life is devoted to his vines. Just as the Father is totally committed to his Son.
Jesus then builds on this glorious image by reminding us as his followers that we are the branches of the vine. We cannot survive as disciples of Jesus without him, we become as one with him, an extension of his very being. Being as one with Jesus not only brings us strength and sustenance, it also fills us full of reassurance for the future. It is so important in life that we have a solid foundation before we seek to build anything. Just as that applies to any building, it also applies to our faith structure. Without Jesus as the foundation stone of our faith, whatever we build up within and around ourselves will inevitably be like the house which was built on sand. When difficulties arise and the storm winds approach us, everything we have will simply crumble and fall away unless it is built on the foundations laid down for us by our Saviour.
What do those foundations look like, what are they made from? This is a key question for everyone of faith, we are people who look for certainties in life. We are generally bound by practical realities in order to substantiate reliability. In today’s modern age even when considering the purchase as something as simple as a new washing machine we will inevitably find ourselves going online and checking out reviews left behind by other users of the product. We can it seems do the same in relation to our faith structures, however there is one dramatic difference, the results you will find online about other peoples’ experiences of Jesus, will be entirely dependent on their own relationship with him. Each review is therefore rather unique.
That again is one of the beauties of the image of the vine which Jesus presents us with. God nourishes it, Jesus is it, and we are the branches which hold so much of its promise, producing fruit in abundance, but only when cared for effectively. Part of that care is created through a gentle pruning of the old in order to stimulate the new. You cannot simply start from scratch with a vine, it produces grapes only when it is established, and well cared for over a long period of time. The Church is the vine, created by Jesus, the Church is Jesus in the midst of the world, but it is time for a serious prune in order to stimulate new growth. The image of the vine is totally dependent on God being welcomed to prune us, to refeed us and to recharge us so that we can continue to be fit for purpose. At the moment we are not. There is much which has fallen away, become rather separated from the foundation of Jesus and as such it needs to be pruned back, and those branches which have become distant from the reality of Jesus need to be cast away. This is not brutal, or disrespectful simply a reality of life. We must once more be prepared to dedicate our lives to the vine in order that we may be the branches which bring forth new fruit. Growth is the key to the future of the Church, whether we like it or not, without it we will continue to wither away. Withering away is simply not an option if we are true to the foundation of Jesus, for if we truly abide in him and his words abide within us all things are achievable. Our challenge as followers of Jesus today is to glorify the Father and we do that simply by becoming disciples of Jesus and by bearing much fruit.
So let us be strong branches of Jesus the vine, let us allow ourselves to be pruned back where we need to be pruned, so that we can be enabled to grow into the vibrant Church of tomorrow which the Father is encouraging us to be, simply by faithfully abiding in Jesus the true vine.
So how do we know what needs to be abandoned, how do we know what the important foundations of our faith really are? We need to abandon what we have and rethink through the message of Jesus for our modern world. We need to use what we have experienced not from our life within the institution of the Church but from our relationship with Jesus. That is where the confusion truly rests and it is at times difficult to recognise. For if the Church, truly is part of the vine of Jesus, how can we abandon it to become something different? The answer is really quite simple, when we care too much to remain the branches of the vine and pay no regard to the production of the fruit, we become superfluous. We lose the very reason for our existence. We must listen to Jesus and respond to him with total commitment and it is imperative that we do this quickly. We can and must grow new disciples, yes it will be tough and it may well bring some unwelcome change but we owe it to Jesus the foundation of our faith to try with all our heart to allow ourselves to be tended to by the Father whose name we seek to glorify by being disciples of Jesus.
God bless you all.
Hymn: Love divine all loves excelling.
Prayers for others:
This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations.
Jesus said to the disciples, “I am the true vine.” Heavenly Father as your beloved Son came to us as the source of the true vine, we pray for all whom today seek to bring forth the fruit of your kingdom into the hearts and minds of others. We pray for those who teach your Word, especially those engaged in the proclamation of the kingdom through the wisdom of their written words, inspired by your grace. We pray for Theological expressions to be fully realised in all your disciples, so that they and we may have all the tools we need to teach, proclaim and build up the faith in all who are seeking to engage with your beloved Son. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer We pray for all taking up positions of responsibility in the diocese to promote our future together, we pray that they filled with the power of your Holy Spirit may be enabled to inspire, challenge and lead your Church following in the footsteps of Christ. We pray at this time for the Clergy of the Diocese, for their preparations for a new way of working, we pray that you may inspire them, encourage them, and allay any feelings of anxiety due to the change of working practices placed upon them at this time. We pray for Lay Leaders in the multiplicity of ministry that they engage in, that they may be filled by your grace and be allowed the freedom to explore new opportunities as they emerge. We pray for all whom you have called to ministry that so filled by your personal invitation, they may prayerfully support the congregations and communities which they represent and serve. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. We pray for all who are suffering at this time, especially those who are ill and receiving the care of others. We pray for all who are known to us personally, and those members of our faith community who are feeling isolated and lonely. We give you thanks and praise for our fellowship of faith and pray that we may be encouraged to maintain, build and secure our friendships with others throughout this difficult time. Lord in your mercy, hear us. As we pray with those glorious words of Jesus ringing in our hearts: ‘Abide in me as I abide in you’ let us remember those whom we have recently lost, Lord, we place them into your loving embrace, where in heaven they will be restored into the true vine, where they will rest eternally with all your faithful servants. Lord in your mercy, hear us.
And so we pray
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn: All hail the power of Jesus’ name.
A Song of Triumph:
O come, let us sing out to the Lord; Let us shout to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his face with thanksgiving, And cry out to him joyfully in psalms. For the Lord is a great God, And a great king above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, And the peaks of the mountains are his also. The sea is his and he made it; His hands moulded dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down, And kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is the Lord our God; We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. If only you would hear his voice today; For he comes to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with his truth.
The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.