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Leytonstone United Free Church Sunday 2nd May 2021

Call To Worship

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:

“I will sing to the LORD, for the Lord is highly exalted.

The LORD is my strength and my defence; the Lord has become my salvation.

The Lord is my God, and I offer my praise, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Who among the gods is like you, LORD?

Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

Song

Rescuer

Rend Collective

Let Us Pray

As we approach the end of our Covid restrictions, help us Lord to deal with the new set of challenges ahead, returning to normal sounds easy but it will be difficult for some and we ask Lord for your guidance, reassurance and strength in the times ahead.

In many countries such as India, Mongolia, Argentina, Turkey, Columbia and Iran Covid rates are increasing and health systems are struggling to cope. People are dying through lack of basic facilities and often only the wealthy can afford the health care that is available, we ask Lord that our politicians are brave and take bold decisions to share resources that means we deal with Covid on a global scale rather than thinking selfishly about our national situation.

We ask that the vaccine is distributed widely without thought of profit and the Covid pandemic can be a turning point in human history, we start to think about the health of the earth as a whole.

We are grateful for the progress in climate talks between China and America, we ask that the leaders of all countries will come together in Glasgow in November and realise the necessity to work to heal and steward wisely, our world. We pray that 2021 will be the turning point, in years to come future generations will look back as say this was the time our leaders made agreements that led to a sustainable future.

Lord we come before you now in a moment of silence as we ask for forgiveness for the times we have fallen short in the last week……

Lord you know us and the times we fail to live by your rules. But Lord we know you are our rescuer through You we are free from sin forevermore Oh how sweet the sound Oh how grace abounds We will praise the Lord our rescuer

Amen

Bible Reading 1

In today's reading Jesus is talking to the disciples at the last supper, Jesus comforts them for the difficult journey ahead talking about the way to the Father and promising the Holy Spirit will be with them for ever.

John 15:1-8
The Vine and the Branches

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.

This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Let's Sing

Living Waters

Keith & Kristyn Getty

"Are you thirsty Are you empty Come and drink these Living Waters"

Bible Reading 2

Acts 8:26-40

Philip and the Ethiopian

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Reflection

by Simon Owen

These two passages bring simple messages which we can all understand.

I love the images of the first reading being a keen gardener.

Anything that is separated from the vine will not be able to bear fruit, all plants are different and respond differently to this separation. Some wilt before your eyes and some will continue to grow for weeks but the result is always the same in the end. They will bear no fruit. To bear fruit requires a massive input of energy from the sun, the right amount of cardon dioxide and water to make the glucose through photosynthesis and minerals and nitrates from the soil to make proteins, all of which have to be transported to the tips of the branches to create fruit.

Without that strong connection to the main vine there can be no fruit. The message is simple, without a strong connection to God, through Jesus we will not bear the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5 22-23 love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. We all experience times when we feel separated from God, we feel like deadwood, only good for the fire, but thankfully we are a part of church family to help us remember…

He's our rescuer He's our rescuer

We are free from sin forevermore

Oh how sweet the sound

Oh how grace abounds

We will praise the Lord our rescuer

The second passage has a simple message too, the background is this:--

The disciples have been spreading the Message of Jesus and healing the sick and baptising the crowds. The Sanhedrin, the leaders of the synagogue, seize Stephan and accuse him of ‘never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law of Moses’. Stephen gives a long speech recounting the story of Moses and finishes with this statement. Acts 7:

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

At this the Sanhedrin lose it, Stephen is taken out of the city and stoned to death. The early church is persecuted, Saul goes house to house putting followers in prison.

The Apostles were scattered with Philip travelling to Samaria spreading the message as he goes. An angel tells Philip to go south along the desert road where he meets a eunuch, an important treasury official of the Queen of the Ethiopians.

The Eunuch is wrestling with a passage from Isaiah

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

He complains that he doesn’t understand it and has no one to explain it. Philip explains this passage which is prophesising the death of Jesus and tells him the Good News.

The black eunuch from a foreign land asks the question, What can stand in the way of my being baptized? Philip baptises him and when they come out of the water the Spirit of the Lord comes and takes Philip away. The eunuch goes on his way rejoicing.

What is the simple message?

No matter who you are man or woman or in between, black, brown or white, no matter what country you are from, you can hear the Message, you can be baptised and saved and you can rejoice.

Intercession

We pause to offer prayers for those people and situations that are close to our hearts:

For the world......

For our country......

For our community......

For our church......

For our leaders......

For our family and friends......

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Amen

Song

Power Of Your Love

"Lord I come to You Let my heart be changed, renewed Flowing from the grace That I've found in You"

Closing

Prayer

King of glory, thank you for revealing your love to us today in a powerful way.

As we leave this place and go out there may we go in the power of the Holy Spirit.

May your grace and love be with us each day.

Bless us O Lord with your unfailing love and cause the work of our hands to prosper.

Uphold us in the palm of your hand and see us through each stage of our lives.

Bless us when we go out and when we come in.

In Jesus’ name, we believe and pray,

Amen.

The Grace

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all, now and evermore.

Amen.

Let us go in peace and serve the Lord

Credits:

Created with images by jarmoluk - "information information board message" • Kanenori - "mountain peak clouds" • 41330 - "light death memorial" • Hucklebarry - "bible scripture book" • Pexels - "bible book pages" • JillWellington - "grapes vines grapevines" • Arcaion - "anger impotence oppression" • ValeriaRodrigues - "worship praise singer" • pastoruben - "man baptism faith" • Himsan - "prayer hands church" • MabelAmber - "cross symbol religion" • Bru-nO - "wheat grain cornfield"