Sunday 7th June 2020

Call to Worship: ‘I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation’. (Habakkuk 3:18)

‘My soul magnifies the LORD, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour’. (Luke 1:46-47)

Prayer: Take a moment of quiet to pray, ‘God of grace, we come before you in this another new day. May the light of your love dawn afresh in our hearts and shine out of our lives, to the glory of your name. Amen.’  

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

Prayer: Lord God, Greater than we can fathom or understand, we reach up to you in these moments of worship in love and in trust, knowing that You will hear our prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, the One who conquered death, You are the One who came that we might know life and that at its very best. Help us to grasp the life that You offer and live each day for You. Holy Spirit, You give us strength when we are weak, wisdom when we are unsure, light for dark days, be our Guide and Help today and in the days ahead. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves wholly to You, blessed to be a blessing in this world today, in Jesus’ name, the One who taught us to pray as we say, ‘Our Father…’

Reading: Acts 8:1-8 & 26-40 Philip and the Ethiopian

Prayer: Take time now to pray for your family and friends, for our town and wider community and for our church. Pray too for doctors, nurses, care workers and all in the front line in the fight against the Coronavirus. Pray for missionaries and their families who have had to remain overseas during these difficult days – ask God to keep them safe and to bless their continued witness.

Reflection: Right person, right place, right time….

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…’ (Romans 8:28). Last week, we looked together at the story of Stephen, a leader in the Early Church, brutally stoned to death for speaking in the name of his Saviour Jesus Christ. Following Stephen’s death, a terrible persecution broke out against the Church, but far from keeping quiet or cowering before the authorities, the believers continued ‘to preach the word wherever they went’ (8:4). One such believer was Philip and as we focus on his story today, we’ll see how the Lord continued to work for the good of those who love Him and serve Him faithfully…Philip’s story is one of the most encouraging in all of Acts as it shows the difference one life can make in the hands of our amazing God…

Philip was a gifted preacher and evangelist described as, ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’(6:3). When this great persecution broke out, he travelled to Samaria and preached the gospel; the good news was well received and there was ‘great joy in that city’ (8:8). But then the call of God came to leave that place and go south to a lonely road…why?….unknown to Philip he had a divine appointment…The man he was to meet was an Ethiopian, an important man in his own country, and although from a place where many no doubt worshipped foreign gods, there was something about Judaism that had attracted this man, and so he had made the long journey to Jerusalem to worship. He had also gone to considerable expense in acquiring a copy of the Jewish Scriptures, which on this day, he had stopped to read. I picture Philip standing alone on that lonely, dusty road, looking perhaps skyward and praying, ‘I’m here Lord, what now?’ And then in the distance he sees someone and the Spirit again prompts him, ‘Go to that chariot….’ Philip responds again without question….Can you imagine how Philip’s heart must have soared when he heard what the man was reading, that magnificent passage from Isaiah 53, and when the Ethiopian asks Philip to explain the reading, Philip beginning with that very passage, answers his questions and points him to the good news about Jesus (8:35). The story concludes with the gentleman’s request to be baptised and tells how he went on his way rejoicing. Tradition has it he became an evangelist in his own country….I’m sure Philip left that place rejoicing too and we’re told he continued to travel, preaching the gospel everywhere he went.

What an encouraging story! Against a backdrop of trouble and persecution, one ordinary man in the hands of our extraordinary God is used in an amazing way….Philip, in God’s hands, was the right person, in the right place at the right time….In the same way, against the backdrop of all we are going through, our God is still at work using ordinary people like you and me, setting up divine appointments for us to share the good news. And so, it’s worth noting what Philip did well in his witness, to help us in ours…Firstly, God was at the centre of Philip’s life leading him to be open to the prompting of the Spirit. We need to keep God at the centre of our lives and keep our ears open. It can be as simple as asking each morning, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do today?’ The more we do that, the better we will find ourselves tuning into God’s voice. Note too that Philip responded to God’s leading right away and without question. But what if he hadn’t? What if he had responded, ‘I’m not really feeling up to this today….Couldn’t I just stay where I am…..that’s a very lonely road you’re calling me to…’ Philip may well have had his own plans but he was willing to drop them and go, wherever….and we need to be willing to set aside our plans too….to make that phone call, send that text or email, have that chat over the fence…whatever the Lord calls us to do….and if the thought of God calling you out of your comfort zone is unsettling, always remember that as with Philip, God goes ahead of us and will prepare us and those we meet – and that is very good news! Bear in mind as well, that when the Ethiopian gentleman asked his question, ‘Can you explain this to me?’ Philip began with that very passage, that is he began, to use a modern phrase, ‘where this man was at’…It’s amazing how often in ‘ordinary’ conversations the big questions of life can come up, questions like, ‘Why is all this happening?’, ‘Where is God?’, ‘Who is Jesus?’ So, as you answer remember Philip and try to begin where the person is – perhaps with a question of your own, ‘Why do you think all this is happening?’, ‘Where do you think God is?’, ‘Who do you say Jesus is?’ And then take things from there….

Our God is an amazing God; He is the Extraordinary One, we are just ordinary people. But having said that, God chooses to use ordinary people like you and me to share the good news of Jesus Christ and the difference Jesus makes. So, watch out for those surprise encounters – those divine appointments – because this week you might just be the right person, in the right place at the right time. Praise God!

Praise: Conclude your worship with a hymn or prayer of praise. Suggestions: Will you come and follow me if I but call your name/ You servants of God, Your Master proclaim/ Go forth and tell.

Prayer & Benediction: Living God, go with us on our journey of discipleship. Grant us faith to follow where You lead, courage to step out for You and commitment to travel to our journey’s end. And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us, this day and ever more. Amen