Sunday 17th May 2020

‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

Praise: Listen to or sing a hymn or psalm of praise.

Prayer: Lord, once more we marvel at the mystery of your love – how you love us, know us, listen to us…In You, we have grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy – thank you Lord. May the wonder of Your love continue to enthral and captivate our hearts….Lord, you invite us to, ‘Ask, seek and knock’. Help us to believe that as we ask in faith, so we shall receive according to Your gracious will. As we seek You and the things of Your kingdom, so we shall find in You all we will ever need. As we knock at the door of opportunity that You place before us, the door will be opened. May we live our lives in You in humble trust, with a sense of adventure and a willingness to step out for You. In Jesus’ name, the One who taught us to pray, ‘Our Father…’

Reading: Acts Chapter 2:42-3:10 Luke tells of the growing community of faith and of the wonders and miracles done by the apostles in the name of and by the power of Christ (Acts 2:43). To illustrate his point, Luke gives an example of the Spirit at work through the Apostle Peter….

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the ways in which You speak to us through Scripture, prayer, worship and the daily experiences of life. Thank you for the burden You lay upon our hearts to pray for others and for situations….Today, we continue to pray for ourselves, families and friends, for the NHS and all Care workers, for our church and community. We pray too for all who have responsibility when it comes to deciding when lockdown restrictions might be eased – give to them wisdom and discernment as they plan the way forward. We pray for the work of Christian Aid in this year in which house to house collections have not been possible- may we remain prayerful and generous as Christian Aid and other agencies continue to work to help some of the world’s poorest people. (Pause now and ask the Lord to bring to mind any situation He calls you to pray for.)

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Reflection: More Precious than Gold

If you’re a sports fan, then there’s not been much to cheer about over the past two months…postponements and cancellations…the football, the tennis, the bowls, the golf and even the Olympic Games. It looks like competitors will only be able to dream about gold medals this year….but as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to dream about gold because we have something even better, and what is that? Faith – Scripture teaches that your faith and mine, faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, is more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7). Last week, we pondered together the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believers and the preaching of the first Christian sermon. Today, we focus a key story both in the life of the Early Church and in your life and mine: a story that hammers home how God works through believers, the importance and value of faith, the transforming power of Jesus Christ and of how God’s strength comes into its own in our weakness. And in these challenging days, that is very good news indeed….

Acts Chapter 3 tells us that Peter and John were going up to the temple to pray. There were lots of ways into the temple, but on this day they chose to enter by the gate called Beautiful and there they encountered someone who wasn’t feeling beautiful at all. He was a man crippled from birth, carried every day to beg from those going in and out of the temple. He sees Peter and John and cries out as he must have done hundreds, maybe thousands, of times, ‘Any coins to spare? Anything…’ Peter fixes his gaze on the man and replies, ‘Look at us!’ The man gives his full attention expecting something to happen and it certainly did: ‘I don’t have any silver,’ said Peter, ‘Or any gold either, but I’ll give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk!’

There is no name like the name of Jesus Christ; there is power in His very name…At the mention of Christ’s name, Peter helps the man up and instantly his feet and ankles become strong (how must that have felt!), and he jumps to his feet, not struggles, jumps, and begins to walk. He doesn’t run off down the street, he goes with Peter and John to the temple courts, still jumping like a spring lamb and praising God, and not surprisingly the watching crowd were filled with wonder and praise.

What an inspiring story that clearly points to the power of the Risen Christ at work through His followers, and the encouragement just keeps coming: This man was powerless and helpless – his weakness is emphasised in the text – but God used that weakness, combined with the faith of Peter and John, for the setting of the miracle. In the same way, these days can be times in which any of us can feel powerless, helpless, weak and even afraid. And so, it is all the more helpful to remember that these are the very circumstances in which Scripture demonstrates and promises God’s strength comes into its own; just listen to these words from the Apostle Paul, ‘I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks [we could add corona virus]. I just let Christ take over! And the weaker I get, the stronger I become.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 The Message) So, come to God in faith asking that His power at work in your life would give you strength, joy and a heart of praise to face these days and beyond. And come expecting something to happen…remember the lame man expected something (Acts 3:5) and in the end got far more than he could ever have imagined! Once again, the Apostle Paul reminds us, ‘Now to him [our God] who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…’ (Ephesians 3:20)

I began talking about gold medals….with most sport on hold, there may not be too many gold medals awarded in 2020 but remember this and be encouraged: like Peter and John, silver and gold we may not have but we have faith, faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord, faith that brings us expectantly to the place of prayer, and that faith is more precious than gold.

Praise: Listen to or sing a hymn praise. (Perhaps: He’s got the whole world in His hands/ Father I place into Your hands/ To God be the Glory/ Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord.)

Benediction: The Aaronic Blessing Numbers 6:24-26 (I’ve given you two versions which you may find helpful).

 The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lordlift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

May the Lord bless you and take care of you; May the Lord be kind and gracious to you; May the Lord look on you with favour and give you peace.