Introduction.

Sometimes we need to go back to basics.  Today, let’s consider the question, ‘What is the Church for?’  Or to make it a bit more personal, ‘What is your Church for?’

Call to worship.

Jesus says, ‘Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.’  Let the Spirit of the Lord be upon us as we seek to bring good news to our communities; binding up the broken hearted, comforting those who mourn and setting free those who feel imprisoned.

We listen to a hymn that speaks of our calling to serve others.

Songs of Fellowship 1120   

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?  Will you go where you don’t know

And never be the same?  Will you let my love be shown,

Will you let my name be known, Will you let my life be grown in you, And you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?  Will you care for cruel and kind

And never be the same?  Will you risk the hostile stare, Should your life attract or scare?

Will you let me answer prayer In you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?  Will you set the prisoners free

And never be the same?  Will you kiss the lepers clean,

And do such as this unseen, And admit to what I mean in you  And you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?  Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?

Will you use the faith you’ve found To reshape the world around,

Through my sight and touch and sound In you and you in me?

Lord, Your summons echoes true  When you but call my name.

Let me turn and follow you  And never be the same.

In Your company I’ll go  Where your love and footsteps show;

Thus, I’ll move and live and grow  In you and you in me.

Graham Maule & John L. Bell.  Copyright © 1987 WGRG, Iona Community

Let us pray,

Lord, you have called us and we are here today; we have come to worship, pray and seek your forgiving power.  We have come to find a new direction for our lives, a direction that leads to the values of Your Kingdom.  We have just listened to the challenging words of a hymn that calls us to follow you in the service of others.  That sounds costly, that sounds like effort and commitment and we would prefer our comfortable ways.

Lord, strengthen us and show us your will.

Lord, we live in the midst of confusion and uncertainty.  We are surrounded by challenges that frighten and worry us.  We wonder just what we can do in our communities to bring peace and hope, justice and freedom.  Grant us courage as we seek to follow you.

Lord, strengthen us and show us your will.

Lord, help us to hear your voice as we listen to others,

Help us to see with your eyes what needs to be done.

Grant us joy and peace as we seek to serve those around us and grant us grace and humility as we accept your love and the power of your Spirit into our lives.

Accept our worship and in it and through it challenge and speak to us.

In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN

A hymn that reminds us of the power of love.

Songs of Fellowship 511  

Spirit of the living God, Fall afresh on me; Spirit of the living God, Fall afresh on me.  Fill me anew,

Fill me anew, Spirit of the living Lord  Fall afresh on me.

Paul Armstrong.   Copyright © 1984 Restoration Music Ltd./Adm. by Sovereign Music UK.

A reading from Mark’s gospel, chapter 1:14-20

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God,[b] 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[c] repent, and believe in the good news.”[d]

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Some thoughts to get us thinking.

‘When what we desire to do meets with what needs to be done, then we discover what God wants us to do.’

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.’

Jesus of Nazareth (modified)

Reflection:

Sometimes it feels necessary to pause and ask ourselves the question, ‘What are we doing and why’, or, put another way, ‘What is our mission and purpose as a Church?’  There may be many answers to these questions.  Perhaps the most obvious might be, ‘We meet as a Church to worship God.’  That said, our worship needs to be the very best it can be.  It should be inclusive, using language that is clear and understandable, Church jargon can be unfathomable at times!  Our worship should try to honour God, build each other up and seek ways to serve others. This reflects the great commandment given by Jesus to his disciples.  ‘Love the Lord your God with all that you are, and your neighbour as yourself.’  In the weeks before Advent, we looked at some of the teaching of Jesus as recorded by Matthew.  The Beatitudes form the bedrock of Jesus’ teaching; here he spells out Kingdom values which honour God and serve others.  (Matthew 2: 1-12).  We then moved on to the troubling parables which speak of judgement.  ‘Woe to those who bury their talents, woe to those who are not alert to the circumstances around them, woe to those who ignore the hungry, the sick, the naked and the homeless or the prisoner.’  Challenging stuff!

Let me share with you what is happening at Raunds. Our building is just not good enough, the access is terrible, and the inside needs a complete makeover.  This is very expensive, so before we consider spending money, we are asking ourselves the question, ‘What are we being called to do and be in our town?  What is God’s will for us, how do we honour God and serve our neighbours?’  ‘What is our mission and what is our vision?’  When we answer these questions, we can then move on.  For some, these questions are hard to address, but we have, as a result of prayerful thinking and consultation come up with some suggestions, which now need to be carefully evaluated.  Here are some of our thoughts, but there will be more that await our discovery:

Create a meeting space, a café with wi-fi that could cater for those with dementia, the lonely, anxious or depressed;

Create space for young people who need space to study or play, and space for those in our town who are in crisis.

Create a safe place for those who need assisted showering.  Link up with the food bank.

Provide space for creative endeavours, a ‘Shed Men’ activity.

This is not the definitive list; our thinking and consultation continues. This could be summed up as ‘hospitality and caring.’  Of course, we would need help to do these things, but there are agencies that can assist us.

We ask for the prayers of our Circuit friends as we seek to move forward.

Consider this:  when the Covid pandemic is under control, in our society there will be a lot of damaged people.  Physical, psychological, emotional, and yes, spiritual damage will have occurred; hunger and isolation will also have taken its toll.  Surely, we cannot ignore this and as congregations we need to play our part, to be, ‘the hands of Christ, His eyes and ears in our communities.’

This is just one example of how a congregation might determine its God given vision and redefine its purpose.  Not to become an agent of Social Services but rather a reflection of Christ’s teachings about the Kingdom of God to which we aspire and wish to share.

‘Follow me’, says Jesus, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  Do we truly believe this and how might this apply to all our congregations?

Let us pray,

We pray for our town and local communities, their needs, their hunger and poverty, their health and well-being.  May we be moved to display God’s love in practical and loving ways.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all those whose lives have been affected by Corona virus, for those who suffer, those who care and those who man the front-line services.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those known to us who need our prayers at this time, for those who carry great responsibilities, for those who are fearful and those who are bereaved.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Finally, we pray for ourselves, give us joy in our calling, courage in our decision making, and strength in our endeavours.  Amen

As our Saviour taught his disciples, we pray:

Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed by thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever, Amen

Our final hymn sums up our thinking today:

Singing the Faith 415 

The Church of Christ, in every age beset by change but Spirit-led,

must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.

Across the world, across the street, the victims of injustice cry

for shelter and for bread to eat, and never live until they die.

Then let the servant Church arise, a caring Church that longs to be

a partner in Christ’s sacrifice, and clothed in Christ’s humanity.

For he alone, whose blood was shed, can cure the fever in our blood,

and teach us how to share our bread and feed the starving multitude.

We have no mission but to serve in full obedience to our Lord:

to care for all, without reserve, and spread his liberating Word.

Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000)  Words: © 1971, Stainer & Bell Ltd, 23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ

As we prepare to leave, let us go not only in peace but with joy, believing as John Wesley said,

‘The best of all, God is with us.’

Now we bless one another as we say together.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us this day and forever more.  Amen

Please be assured that we are still here if you need anything at all during this time.

Rev’d Lesley can be contacted on 01933 312778 and Rev’d Kim on 01933 622137.

Words for the hymns are reproduced under CCLI licence No. 1759067.

…………

Following on from the Advent booklets the Nene Valley Circuit is looking to publish a Lent devotional series based on the Psalms.

We are therefore asking for pieces that reflect a psalm of your choice and how it sustains and helps you or even challenges you during the season of lent.

This could be in the form of a reflection, poem, picture.  We will not have room to print the Psalm but if you wish to include a verse or two or use the Psalm as your title that would be helpful as we will be asking people to have their bibles to hand to aid these devotions.

The format will once again be A5 with a word count of around 280-300max.

This is open to all, and we look forward to receiving your reflections by the deadline date of 31st January, but it would be helpful if you would send your contribution as soon as you have completed it to Rachael Newman at nvmethodistypf@gmail.com

We would especially like to hear from those who missed out from submitting a piece to the Advent book and from those who creative writing might be a new skill.

With 40 days to cover we hope to have a wide selection of devotional material to share with each other around our circuit.

It would also be really helpful If you would email Rachael Newman at nvmethodistypf@gmail.com to sign up for a page at this time.

To our artistic friends we are also looking for a piece to feature as the front cover under the title ‘Spending Time with The Psalms’ and please contact Rev’d Kim (01933 622137 rev@theshorleys.co.uk) for further details.

With thanks

On behalf of the Nene Valley Circuit