Sunday 12th July 2020

Call to Worship: ‘Be still and know that I am God….the LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.’ Psalm 46:10,11

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28

PRAISE: Take time now to sing or listen to a hymn of praise.

Prayer: Much of our journey of faith is lived out through the rhythm and balance of ‘going out and doing’ and ‘being still and knowing’ – of going out and serving and pausing to pray and study…In these recent times, the ‘going out and doing’ has proved difficult or even impossible and so the scales are well and truly tipped on the ‘being still and knowing’ side. But at times in our lives that can be a good thing – like an extended Sabbath as a time of rest and refreshment. So, take time now to thank God for His gift of rest and ask Him to help you use this time wisely. You might find it helpful to read aloud a Psalm, perhaps Psalm 23 or 46, and when you are ready move on to the Lord’s prayer, ‘Our Father…’

Reading: Acts 28:11-31 Arrival at Rome. Paul, under arrest, has been taken to the very centre of the Empire, Rome.

Prayers for Others: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened’…. Our call to worship from Matthew 11 reminds us of Christ’s call to find rest in Him. Any of us can feel burdened, tired and weary…take time now to pray for all who may feel especially burdened at this time: those who are unwell and their families, those who are struggling with high levels of anxiety and stress, those who are sad or lonely, leaders for whom the burden of decision making is taking a heavy toll…pray that all would find rest and refreshment in Christ….

Refection: Amazing grace, unstoppable salvation…

Through every danger, trial and snare I have already come; His grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home…

If you had to sum up the book of Acts in a few words, you might choose the above….Peter, Stephen, Philip, John Mark, Paul, and many, many others, all believers who faced so much for the sake of the gospel and their love of Christ. For them there were dangers, there were trials and there were snares right, left and centre, but all knew God’s grace for the journey and beyond and that grace was enough, more than enough…God’s grace brought the gospel from a small, prayerful gathering of believers in an upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15) to the ends of the earth, Rome, and by the conclusion of Acts followers of Jesus would be counted in the tens of thousands…. Amazing grace, unstoppable salvation….

How would you describe the last months of your journey and the journey of those you love? At this time of pandemic, there have certainly been plenty of dangers and trials; plenty of snares to trip us up along the way….but for us too, the promise is and remains, God’s grace is and will be enough….He will get you, He will get me, through…and through us and others, ordinary people like you and me, the message of the gospel will continue to spread; amazing grace, unstoppable salvation….

Today, we complete our journey through the book of Acts in the company of the Apostle Paul. What an interesting character he is and what grace he would know in his life….Paul who went from being the Pharisee who hated Jesus and His followers to a champion for the gospel; who went from being blind (Acts 9:8) to really ‘seeing’ who Christ is; who went from imprisoning Christians to being a prisoner for the gospel himself; who went on a journey to Damascus to arrest Christians and ended up on multiple journeys as Christ’s ambassador. Today, Paul’s story reaches a climax as he arrives in Rome – his life in Christ has been building to this – God had promised Paul would testify in that great city (Acts 23:11), and no amount of dangers, trials and snares including storms, shipwrecks, snakes and a walk of 140 miles (Chapter 27), could stop God’s promise from being fulfilled. I can’t think of a more encouraging end to the book of Acts than the one we have here that tells of Paul, although in chains, continuing to proclaim the kingdom of God and the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘boldly and without hindrance’ (Acts 28:31).

Let’s return to our journey over the past months. What challenging days these have been and continue to be…who would have thought as we welcomed 2020 what this new year would hold….but God’s grace has carried us and will continue to carry us through, and now in July although many challenges remain, we have much to be thankful for and one of those is the reopening of our church for services, God willing, on 26th July. Things will be different in terms of the layout of the church and the service itself but by the grace of God we will be able once again to sing His praises (the guidance from PCI says ‘softly please!’), pray together, listen to the gospel being preached and be with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And for those who will not be able to attend church for a while, we will miss you, but we want you to be safe, so we will do everything we can to bring the service to you for as long as you need it. At the conclusion of the book of Acts we are left with Paul in Rome. We don’t know for certain what happened next. Perhaps Paul lost his life for the gospel, perhaps he was released and continued to travel….we can’t be sure…but we do know this: God’s grace brought him through ‘thus far’ and God’s grace would led him eventually to his heavenly home, and until that time he would continue to live for Christ and preach the good news…. For us in July 2020 we don’t know what will happen next: how long will we have to live with social distancing? When will it be safe to go wherever we want? When will this pandemic be over? When will we be able to sing loudly again! We don’t know, but we too know this: God’s amazing grace will bring us through whatever lies before us and our calling to live for Christ is ever true….’Amazing grace – how sweet the sound’…Amazing grace, unstoppable salvation….praise God!

Prayer and Praise: Take a moment of quiet to pray. Thank God for His Word and how it has spoken to you today. This may be the perfect time to sing or listen to, ‘Amazing Grace’.

BENEDICTION: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, today and always. Amen.