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Leytonstone United Free Church Sunday 9th May 2021

Welcome

by

Bob Park

Welcome to everyone whether you are worshipping here in the Church building at 55 Wallwood Road or joining together in the feeling of real congregation that has grown over the last extraordinary year through Zoom. Or whether you are working your way through the Adobe Spark presentation or the printed copy of this service at some time later.

It is always worth reminding ourselves that however, and whenever, we worship together, we are an Inclusive Church and all are welcome, there is room at the table. As Ken and Fiona reminded us couple of weeks ago: Church is the people, not just the building, wherever and whenever we meet.

It’s great that we can lead the service today from here at the Church and we hope that the technology run’s smoothly so that we can be as one with those of you at home - but bear with us if not. As part of the guidance on worshipping in a Covid-19 secure way, I will try to keep today’s service relatively short, but not too short I hope, and a reminder to people here that we should should follow the normal rules and, in particular, not sing out loud and to leave the building without socialising at the end of the service. Those at home can sing out as loud as you want!

Call To Worship

Let’s call ourselves to worship - using the, perhaps, familiar words from Brian Doerkson’s hymn:

Come, now is the time to worship

Come, now is the time to give your heart

Come, just as you are to worship

Come, just as you are before your God

Come

Willingly we choose to surrender our lives

Willingly our knees will bow

With all our heart, soul, mind and strength

We gladly choose You now

Come, now is the time to worship

Come

Song

Our God Is A Great Big God

"He's higher than a skyscraper, He's deeper than a submarine, He's wider than the universe, And beyond my wildest dreams"

Prayer

Show us Jesus

Take us to the wilderness where five loaves feed five thousand

Take us to the sick places, the possessed places, the hurting places

Where there is always enough time and love and grace to go round

Enough and always more much more

And take us to the hill

Where infinite love and forgiveness

Meets infinite sacrifice

Take us to where you are waiting in the streets, to be the friend the neighbour

To rage with you where injustice spirals

To be our neighbours servant, to be as Christ to them

To walk one step behind you

Knowing that when we need, when we are in the rock valley, you will hold our hands and lead us home

For you are our shepherd and Lord we trust in you alone.

Amen

The Lord's Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,and the glory are yours

now and for ever.

Amen

Bible Reading 1

1 John 5: 1-6

Faith in the Incarnate Son of God

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth

Song

A New Commandment

"A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another As I have loved you, That you love one another as I have loved you."

Bible Reading 2

John 15: 9-17

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

Reflection

And his commandments are not a burden

By Bob Park

Today’s Gospel reading follows on, in the Lectionary, directly after the reading from John 15: 1-8 that Simon reflected on last week. That, you may remember, was the passage where Jesus describes, to his disciples, himself as the Vine and his Father, God, as the Farmer: he says the disciples are the branches and when pruned and joined to the vine the branches will bear fruit in abundance - you can’t bear fruit, he says, without being joined to, living in, me.

Simple, says Simon. Whoever you are you can hear the message and be joined to Him.

And today’s passage that follows perhaps shows the disciples, and us, how to to achieve that simple goal and be part of the vine. As I remember saying in a previous reflection a couple of years ago, Mary Poppins would have us start at the very beginning, a very good place to start - but here it’s perhaps best to cut to the end of the reading:

This is my command: Love each other.

Simples and Amen - but I said we shouldn’t be too short!

The context of these passages is that Jesus is preparing to say goodbye, to leave. In chapter 13 Jesus has washed the disciples feet as they came to the table: to supper together for the last time. Judas has left to do his worst and earn his silver. Jesus tells his remaining disciples that he will soon leave them “Children I will not be with you much longer” and “I am going to prepare a place for you” He talks about God’s house having many rooms and “ so you can follow me - you know the way to the place I am going”

Simples but, perhaps not surprisingly, they don’t all get it

“I will lay down my life for you” says Peter. Will you really, says Jesus, before the cock crows you will disown me three times “

Jesus has already said in verse 34 of Chapter 13:

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

It is, and remains, simple.

Obey my command.

Recently one of our congregation started basic training on their way to becoming a musician in the army. Some of us reflected on them receiving a gun, then a vision of them doing an assault course with a trumpet in hand!

Simon mentioned a ten foot wall and I said I’d done that! 20 odd years ago I was a Divisional General Manager with Barts and the London NHS Trust as it was then and our Chief Executive was a retired soldier - a Major General who had earlier in his career commanded a regiment of the Gurkha Brigade. He took us for a management development day to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst where all British Army Officers, and the odd King from overseas, are trained.

This was a real privilege and if only to experience the huge area of grounds. We went on a 15 minute Land Rover drive and sat on a hill watching the resident Gurkha Demonstration Company capture an enemy command station (it was actually a big bush).

The Army practice the highest standards of modern management training and the point was to show us how to make decisions and command. The amusing reflection is that, remember, we are in the middle of nowhere, from somewhere the Gurkha’s produced a tray of tea and biscuits for our Chief Executive, with a bone China teapot and cup - with a chair and a sunshade. Amusing perhaps but he was and remains a great leader and, to them he was ‘General Ray’. If he had told them to do anything they would obey his command. It was at that time that I introduced the managerial conundrum of the shepherd, sheep and sheepdog and of who is in charge when one party, unlike the Gurkha’s, are allowed to say no. Is it the shepherd, the sheep dog or the sheep. But perhaps another time.

And, yes they have an assault course with a 10 foot wall and yes I got over it.

The reading from Mark’s Letter is, on the face of it very closely linked to the Gospel passage - it’s also about obeying God’s commands and that this is also simple - “and His commandments are not burdensome” but the inevitable check with Google suggests that the context of this is of the writer challenging a part of the early Church that was indulging in heresy so perhaps more complicated. But the message does remain the same and simple - show a love for God in doing what he commands us to and the primacy of loving God and each other.

But whatever was going on in the early Church, let’s return to Jesus who couldn’t be clearer. This short passage is full of the words ‘command’ and ‘love’.

Love each other as I have loved you - this to be a sacrificial love and Jesus adds “ Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends“. Surely he is anticipating his own death on the Cross to disciples who have not yet fully understood this. He says to his disciples, and implicitly to us, that we can be his friends if we follow his command and join him - be in him – be one with Him and God and all believers as part of the Vine.

So back to the Vine - God is the Farmer, Jesus is the Vine and, it’s His invite but our decision, if we accept him as this we can be part of the vine for if we accept His gift and His command of sacrificial love to others, thinking of them not us, then we will live lives that conform to God’s commands - simple perhaps but equally perhaps the most profound thing that you could think of and a reflection that we have put 2000 years of complicating theology around the simple metaphysical message.

This is my command: Love each other.

Prayer

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

We Are One (In The Father's Love)

"Sister let me wipe your tears, Brother let me bear your fears, Come on every daughter every so, Let us walk in love for we are one"

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 mikefoster - "runner obstacle run" • TimHill - "tree sun sunshine" • jeffjacobs1990 - "jesus christ god" • doungtepro - "praying kids cambodia" • Hucklebarry - "bible scripture book" • Pexels - "bible book pages" • JillWellington - "grapes vines grapevines" • jeffjacobs1990 - "jesus christ god" • Ande_Hazel - "tough mudder teamwork tough" • ashleyamos - "holding hands circle of friends supporting one" • webandi - "candle light candlelight" • Pexels - "blonde sitting wall"