Loading

Leytonstone United Free Church Sunday 18th of April 2021

Welcome

Ken and Fiona bring us this week's service and reflection in which they underline the view that it is the people who make up the church and provide it's strength and purpose. People are far more important than the building and any ornamentation, though it will be fantastic of course when we do eventually get back to services on our church premises!

Call To Worship

For Whom the Bell Tolls

by

John Donne

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

Let's Listen And Sing

Jahweh

Bible Reading

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness. Give me relief from my distress. Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

You sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonor? Will you love vanity and seek after falsehood? Selah.

But know that Yahweh has set apart for himself him who is godly: Yahweh will hear when I call to him.

Stand in awe, and don’t sin. Search your own heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness. Put your trust in Yahweh.

Many say, “Who will show us any good?” Yahweh, let the light of your face shine on us.

You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and their new wine are increased.

In peace I will both lay myself down and sleep, for you, Yahweh alone, make me live in safety.

Bible Reading

Romans 13: 8 - 14

Love Fulfills the Law

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

The Day Is Near

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Song

There's a quiet understanding

Prayer

Intercession

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

This weekend as we witnessed the funeral of the The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen's husband, we pray for the royal family and remember all who grieve at this time. Especially, we are mindful of the restrictions under which funerals and the retrospective celebrations of loved ones lives can take place at this time.

Lord, in your mercy - hear or prayers.

Amen

Song

Church

Written by Ken Buddell

Reflection

by Ken Buddell

I hope you like or at least quite like my little song because you were part of the inspiration. I wrote it about two years ago for one of our church anniversaries and it declares my belief that it is the people rather than the building that form the foundation of any church. So although right now we meet in an unexpected and at times difficult situation nonetheless we are still the church. We can continue, if necessary, without the building though obviously we all hope to get back there soon.

Of course we must not get complacent The guidance of God, Jesus and the Bible very much holds us together. But I believe that churches via the people are a foundation of Christianity.

I was also inspired for my song by some of the words and imagery of the Psalms including Psalm 121 which opens with the line “I lift up my eyes to the mountains” I refer back to mountains several times in the lyric.

I feel that I cannot talk about Church without referring to the Apostle Paul who was the primary builder of so many of the early churches in Europe and Asia minor and wrote hundreds and possibly thousands of letters, often very opiniated letters, asserting how they should be organised and run. I have not read them all but they make up the New Testament Books of Romans, both Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. There are other books that may also comprise of his letters but their style seems different creating doubt over whether Paul himself was indeed the author.

The teachings of Paul are among the most influential in the evolution of Chrisianity though he saw himself as a humble preacher, rather than a scholar or architect. His mission was simply to spread the word of Jesus and God.

We first encounter Paul in the Bible shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus He is known as Saul of Tsarus and is a persecutor of the early Christians though he seems to have stopped short of actually killing any of them himself. But on the road to Damascus he has a vision of Jesus that leaves him blind for three days and on recovering his sight he converts of Christianity.

The second reading is from Romans 13 8-14 where Paul declares in the opening verse that the only obligation we have is to love each other. He echoes in part the words of Jesus in Matthew 22 36-46 who said that the second most important commandment was “To love your neighbour as yourself” The first and most important being to love and worship God.

Paul’s reasoning is that you will not harm someone you truly love and so other commandments will automatically fall into place. You will not murder your neighbour if you love them as yourself or steal from them or damage their property of goods or use them to commit adultery and so on. The driving force of Christianity and a better world is love.

The passage goes on to talk about the imminent second coming of Christ which was Paul’s fervent belief though obviously it would seem not to have happened yet.

I was very tempted to leave out the last two verses of the reading. Paul says very severely no orgies, no drunkenness, no immorality, no indecency no fighting or jealously and I thought does our church really need to be told this and quite honestly I could do without it. And we all know that Paul can go on a bit, he’s of his era but he’s still very old fashioned and narrow in his views and elsewhere he has said that women should not speak or teach in church and in fact should obey their husbands without question, oh if only, and in general be completely subordinate. There’s hardly a man or woman in the modern world who believes that. Some of our best preachers and leaders have been women. I personally share this latter view.

Maybe what we should do is just take the best bits of Paul and ignore the rest. Pretend it is not there.

My problem with that is that in general I don’t approve of those who only quote the bits of the bible that support their point of view. That’s open to abuse. The Bible is an enormous collection of writing, some of it contradictory, some of it quite bloodthirsty and we wonder is it giving us a good example. But I rather think that those who teach have a duty to tell us the whole story and be willing to share everything that is in the Bible.

Another factor is the view of Biblical scholars. Volumes and volumes have been written about Paul. I certainly have not read it all or anywhere near. But a common view is that Paul is perhaps not as severe or narrow as he might appear.

The reasoning is that he never actually sat down to write a book or treatise declaring how all churches and Christians should organise and conduct themselves. What he wrote were hundreds or maybe thousands of individual letters which were later compiled into books but that is not atall the same thing. His letters were addressed to specific people in specific churches and were concerned with specific local issues within those churches. They were not necessarily written as a declaration of universal laws to be applied in all circumstances forevermore. Some of them seem more positive on the role of women than others. I’m no scholar

But I try to see if there is anything in this where all Christians might agree. I go back to the opening verse and the sentiment love your neighbour as yourself because you will not do harm to those you love. I don’t think Paul is a misogynist or woman hater, he would not wish to harm or repress anyone or do anything to obstruct the Lord’s message.

When he uses words such as orgy indecency, immorality he’s mentioning things that would do harm to others. So his main message is perhaps that whatever your pleasure, whatever you need to unwind or relax it should never be anything that would do harm to others ie abuse the helpless, exploit the weak and so on.

We all live in different households and I’m sure hold different views on what is acceptable conduct and behaviour all the way from what is a fair allocation of cleaning duties in the house, to what consenting adults can do in private. But we would all agree that whatever you do it must not harm other people and if you love the world and it’s people you would not wish them any harm.

Communion

Jesus was often a guest. He shared many meals with his friends, and they long remembered his words at the table.

Though some disapproved of the company he kept, Jesus ate and drank with all kinds of people and showed everyone the love of God.

Wherever people met together Jesus was glad to be welcomed and to be fed. Today, we are the guests of Jesus. He welcomes us, whoever we are and whatever we bring, and he will feed us at his table.

Old or young, rich or poor, joyful or in sorrow, Jesus invites us to share bread and wine with him, to remember the story of his life and death, and to celebrate his presence with us today.

On the night before he died, Jesus shared a meal with twelve of his disciples in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. The Gospel writer tells us what happened that night.

The Story of the Lord’s Supper

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body’. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I tell you, I will never again drink the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

We are the friends and disciples of Jesus today. He invites us to break bread together, to remember him and to pray that God’s Kingdom will come.

Offering Prayer

We bring this bread and this wine to the table of Jesus.

With them we bring ourselves, all that we are and all that we own.

May the ordinary become holy, and heaven be opened to the people of earth.

May God be blessed forever!

May God be blessed forever!

The Thanksgiving

God is with us! God is with us!

We give thanks and praise to God! We give thanks and praise to God!

Loving God, the world you made is beautiful and full of wonder.

You made us, with all your creatures, and you love all that you have made.

You gave us the words of your prophets, the stories of your people through the generations, and the gathered wisdom of many years.

You gave us Jesus, your Son, to be born and to grow up in difficult times when there was little peace.

He embraced people with your love and told stories to change us all.

He healed those in pain and brought to life those who had lost hope.

He made friends with anyone who would listen and loved even his enemies.

For these things, he suffered.

For these things, he died.

And he was raised from death and lives with you forever.

You give us your Holy Spirit, to teach and to strengthen us, to remind us of Jesus Christ, and to make us one in him.

For all these gifts we thank you, and we join with all your people on earth and in heaven, in joyful praise:

Hosanna!

Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!

We praise you that we are here today, around the table of Jesus.

We have heard the good news of your love;

the cross is the sign of your arms stretched out in love for us

and the empty tomb declares your love stronger than death.

Christ has died! Christ has died!

Christ is risen! Christ is risen!

Christ will come again! Christ will come again!

Send your Holy Spirit upon this bread and wine,

and upon your people,

that Christ may be with us,

and we may be made ready to live for you

and to do what you ask of us, today, and every day to come.

We make this prayer through Jesus Christ,

in the power of the Holy Spirit,

in the love of the Creator,

one God, to whom be glory and praise forever,

Amen

The Breaking of the Bread and the Blessing of the Cup

Eat this bread. It is the bread of life.

Drink this wine. It is the cup of blessing.

The Sharing

Thanks be to God for this gift beyond words. Let us eat this bread together

Thanks be to God for this gift beyond words. Let us drink of the cup together

Let Us Sing

A Place At The Table

"For everyone born, a place at the table, to live without fear, and simply to be, to work, to speak out, to witness and worship, for everyone born, the right to be free"

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 tiburi - "typo typography design" • Hucklebarry - "bible scripture book" • Falkenpost - "cornfield wheat field cereals" • Couleur - "grapes fruit vine" • LaCasadeGoethe - "dna project lumina walter waymann" • kie-ker - "wheat wheat field cereals" • dengri - "cross jesus christ" • Pezibear - "wheat field sunset" • hudsoncrafted - "bread communion eucharist" • congerdesign - "good friday cross the cross of jesus".