Hello everyone. Welcome to our Totley AllSaints virtual service. Wether you are a Totley All Saints regular, or a first timer to our virtual services , you are all welcome! Although we can’t physically be together its really important and comforting to know that there is a community of us worshiping and praying together,even though we can’t physically see each other. Now more than ever we can see that the Church isn’t just a building, it is the people that normally meet together in it.
And the circumstances that force us to meet like this are extraordinary. I know these are worrying times, sad times for some and quite right scary for many. In fact it was quite hard to know where to start.
And so I’m going to start at a place where I start sometimes when I am scared, sad or worried. And that is some words from a church service that was written hundreds of years ago – What was known as the Book of Common Prayer which formed the basis of church of England services right up until the 1980s. These come from the first service I ever led and one of the things about that service that has always stuck with me are what were called the Comfortable Words. These were used just after confession – where we say sorry to God, And the Absolution, the bit where the vicar asks God to forgive our sins. And they go like this:
Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all that truly turn to him.
Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.
So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that
all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Hear also what St Paul saith.
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Hear also what St John saith.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins.
For those of you younger than I am you’re probably wondering why I’m quoting an ancient service book. Yes, Its really old fashioned language but these comforting words from the bible– that Christ comes to refresh us, save us, and intercede on our behalf with God – that he pays for our sins – is something that has stuck with me and I hope that these few simple words can convey to you much more than I could, that, despite everything going on in the world right now, Jesus is still our saviour, he still forgives our sins and still intercedes for us and above all, Loves us.
We are going to pause now to do your own confession, say sorry for the things that haven’t been so great this week and then, remembering the Comfortable Words, those comforting words that remind us that we have a saviour in Jesus who forgives us when we have got it wrong, know that he forgives all of us who are truly sorry.
Take some quiet time to say sorry to God for anything you wish.
Before we look at our bible reading lets reaffirm our faith with this song: I will offer up my life.
I will offer up my life
In spirit and truth,
Pouring out the oil of love
As my worship to You
In surrender I must give my every part
Lord, receive the sacrifice
Of a broken heart
Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a friend, to so loving a King
Savior, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done
Oh my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed
By this thankful heart
You deserve my every breath
For You’ve paid the great cost
Giving up Your life to death,
Even death on a cross
You took all my shame away,
There defeated my sin
Opened up the gates of heaven
And have beckoned me in
Last week we heard John’s account of the time when Jesus appeared to the disciples after his death. They had been locked in an upstairs room, hiding from the Jewish leaders who they knew would be after them next. Of course they were all overjoyed to see Jesus – the only disciple who wasn’t there and who famously doubted was Thomas – the man who didn’t belive until Jesus appeared to him a week later and allowed Thomas to touch his wounds. The important bit for me in last weeks passage was that as Jesus appeared to those in that upper room he commissioned them to go out and spread the word, he said:
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’
So this week the passage I have chosen moves on a few weeks to Pentecost, about 50 days after Easter, the day that the holy spirit came on the disciples enabling them to speak in many languages –In the first part of Acts 2 Peter’s is speaking in the middle of Jerusalem, He and the disciples were fulfilling the job that Jesus had given them – to spread the word. – He turned up with the other disciples in the middle of a busy, bustling street and preached loudly that the King that they had all been waiting for had, in fact, been with them all along and that, despite all the wonders and signs that Jesus had performed, the people had rejected him, handed him over to the Romans and had him crucified. Peter’s amazing news was that Jesus couldn’t be defeated, even in death, and that the same Jesus of Nazareth who had been rejected had now been raised up to God’s right hand.
That’s the point at which our reading starts today…Peter in v36 declares “The Jesus that YOU crucified was made Lord and Messiah by God” and we know that many people believed Peter – they were “cut to the heart” and desperate to know how to fix things.
Peter has a solution for the crowd – “Repent and be baptized” he tells them. When there is nothing left, all you can do is say sorry and mean it. There comes a point where nothing you do can fix something that has been done, there is no going back. All you can do is say sorry and really mean it.
Peters talk was giving some of the Jews who heard him confirmation of any nagging doubts that they might have been having, some of them were realising they had got it very wrong about Jesus and there was no way to put it right – we are told they were “Cut to the heart”. Peter got that same feeling when he finally realised he had denied Jesus 3 times, some of the crowd here realise it now that Peter is explaining that Jesus really was who he said he was.
Imagine if you were one of those people that, like many, had seesawed between believeing Jesus, then not believeing him, Shouting “Hosanna” one day then “Crucify him” a few days later. Maybe in the days since his death you’ve been wondering if Jesus really was the Messiah the scriptures predicted, and what if now having seen the disciples and heard Peter you think on balance Jesus probably was what he said he was? How do you feel having rejected God’s only Son? And initially att least Peter doesn’t help you feel any better – he says “YOU crucified him”, You did it, its your fault.
Fortunately Peter is able to bring them hope through the central message of our faith – You can be forgiven, all you need to do is say sorry – and mean it –Repent and be baptized – to show you want to be spiritually washed clean, and you will receive the holy spirit. Peter tells them that now they realise Jesus really was the Messiah there is a way back for those who disbelieved him or who turned away –just say sorry and mean it and then you can be baptised to show that you are right again with God.
When you stop and think about it that is pretty amazing, Peter not only tells the crowd that God wants to forgive those who killed his son, he also wants to give them a present -the Holy Spirit. “You’ve killed my Son. But I forgive you. Here have a present.” That’s incredible!
But that’s our God isn’t it?. He so desperately wants us to turn to him and he doesn’t stop giving. We killed his Son but he still gives us the Holy Spirit. And that in a nutshell is God – no matter what we do he loves us, and there is always a way back to him if we truly mean it when we say Sorry – whatever we have done. And actually Repent doesn’t just mean to be Sorry – It means more than that, it means to be sorry and also to make a 180 degree turn away from what you did before and turn towards God – that’s the reason Peter said they should get baptized , as an outward symbol that they had turned to God.
And the most amazing thing about the passage this morning is that we are being told that this promise of the Holy spirit isn’t just for the Good people, the “Holy” ones amongst us – its for everyone who repents and believes – even those who killed Jesus.
In fact that’s WHY Jesus allowed Himself to be killed – to offer Himself to us and to offer forgiveness and the gift of His Spirit. He gave Himself to sinners. So this promise is, verse 39:
“…for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
It’s for young and old, near and far, Jew and Gentile. It’s for all of us. No one is too sinful to be forgiven and given the Holy Spirit. This promise is for those who killed Jesus. It’s for all of us. Do you think you’re too young to receive Jesus? Peter says, this promise is for children too. Do you think you’re too far from God? Peter says, it’s for those far off too. It’s for you. Christ is for you, if you want Him.
And Peter didn’t just tell this to the crowd – we hear that he “Pleaded with them” – he was desperate to convince the crowd that there was a way back to God for them just as God is desperate for us to come back to him.
God loves us that much that he will keep trying with us, keep forgiving us, even as he did with those who killed his own son.
So thinking about this morning’s passage:
Do we sometimes doubt our faith and whether we are worthy of it?
Do we need to say sorry for something?
What do we think about the way God loves us after looking at this passage and thinking about the Comfortable Words that we started with?
Prayers of Intercession
Spend some time in prayer with your family group or on your own and prayer for whatever and whoever is on your heart and then end with the Lord’s Prayer
All working to battle the Coronavirus, our health workers and other essential workers.
The sick and the bereaved
Countries in the world that are struggling to cope with and corona virus, especially 3rd world countries who are already struggling with war and famine.
Our Church family and the local area of Totley
Our family and friends
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.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”
As we come to the end of our time together today we may not be physically going out – but we can shine the light of Christ in these challenging times. So even though we cant go out, lets get on the phone , go on the internet, maybe talk to someone you haven’t done for ages, write a letter or a card , use whatever means we can to share God’s love with others.
And we will end by saying the grace together:
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.