• Rossendale Circuit

Darkness & Light - Sunday Service 14.03.21

with Revd. David Burrow & David Hollows


Video Service

Watch directly on youtube here.


Part 1


Hymns & Songs:


MP 664 'The Spirit lives to set us free'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDcbYk-9C-Y


MP 673 'There is a Redeemer'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDgZ1v3l9go

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_YM_hYzcPo – sung by Keith Green


Part 2



Hymns & Songs:


MP 62 'Born in the night'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP2_amxU9vY


MP 1086 'Light of the world / The Call'

'Here I Am To Worship' / The Call - Hillsong Worship

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CKCThJB5w0



Part 3


Hymns & Songs:


MP 486 'Now thank we all our God'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItfKjxkXhMk&t=42s


MP 631 'Tell out my soul'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6ji4y9Q-K0&t=41


'Everlasting Arms' - Lou Fellingham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvNfjLmlviI



Want to talk more about something in this service? Have any worries or issues you want to discuss with someone?

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Transcript


*Not always exact to the script


This Sunday, as you know, is Mothering Sunday.


When my mum left school, she got a job as a domestic worker. Being one of nine children, she had to work to contribute to the family income. Her five brothers stayed at home to work on the farm, but the girls had to find gainful employment. Mum lived in where she worked, rising in the early hours to get the fire going in the range (which every week had to be black-leaded), then preparing breakfast for the household before labouring through the day. She was often the last one to get to bed, after the man of the house had returned home from a night out. In years gone by, if she hadn’t been a Congregationalist, she would have had Mothering Sunday as a day off to return home and visit the Mother Church and her own mum and family.


The tradition dates back to the 16th century. On the fourth Sunday of Lent, priests and people returned to their Mother Church for a special service. This pilgrimage was apparently known as "going a-mothering” and became a holiday event.

The day was also known as Refreshment Sunday and one of the tastiest traditions of Mothering Sunday was the baking of Simnel cake. The rich fruit cake was a bit of an indulgence in the middle of the austerity of Lent. Having only had porridge, bread, cabbage, leeks and the remaining over ripe apples from the previous autumn to eat for several weeks cake was a wonderful treat.


Consisting of layers of cake and marzipan, a traditional Simnel cake also reflects the religious overtones of the time of year as it is decorated with 11 balls of marzipan, representing the disciples of Jesus, minus Judas Iscariot of course.

Flowers were also part of the Mothering Sunday tradition with violets being a particular favourite. Over the years churches have often given out bunches of daffodils, or house plants, to all the female members of their congregations. Sadly, we can’t do that this year, but I hope that everyone will be able to celebrate this rather special day in some way.


Photo by Molly Belle via Unsplash


I am not going to follow the age-old tradition of writing a sermon about mother figures from the Bible as I want to use the set Bible readings for this Sunday. In our intercessions David Hollows prays for mothers around the world so we look forward to joining in with those.


Our worship today begins with an invitation to us to come to God:

Come to God who gathers us in.

Come to God who redeems us from trouble.

Come to God who heals our distress.

Come, draw near to God who sees us as we really are, and loves us. Amen


And as we come to God, we turn to the book of Numbers in the Old Testament where we find God’s people in the wilderness and once again complaining. This time it’s about the boring food they have to eat. Rather like children complaining to their mother – as it’s Mothering Sunday.

We might think they should have been grateful. After all, God had rescued them from a life of slavery in Egypt, he had provided for them in the wilderness, and had never left them even though they often rebelled and complained. On this occasion God allowed them to suffer the consequence of their sin. Poisonous snakes attacked them, and many died.


Moses prayed for them and God gave them a way of escape. What was it?


Read: Numbers 21:4-9


‘Look at the serpent of bronze and live’ commanded Moses. The people did so. Whenever they were bitten, they looked at the bronze serpent and lived.


Prayer: Patient God, we thank you that you did not give up on the Israelites as they grumbled and complained when the path of faith got difficult. We thank you that you loved the Israelites even when they were grumpy. Patient God, we thank you that you do not give up on us as we grumble and complain when the path of faith gets difficult.

We thank you that you love us even when we are grumpy.

Patient God, we thank you that you sent the light into the world not to show us up or make us feel bad but to coax us out of the darkness. May we be drawn gently towards the light and learn to live in your love. Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer


Hymns & Songs:


MP 664 'The Spirit lives to set us free'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDcbYk-9C-Y


MP 673 'There is a Redeemer'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDgZ1v3l9go

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_YM_hYzcPo – sung by Keith Green



In John’s Gospel we meet Nicodemus, a ruling member of the Jewish Council, a Pharisee, who was puzzled and worried.

If Jesus was who he said he was, then he couldn’t afford to ignore him, but if Jesus was a charlatan, a false messiah, and Nicodemus followed him he would lose everything.

What should he do?


Afraid of being seen, he went to Jesus by night and sought answers, but Jesus’ answers left him even more perplexed.

What did Jesus mean by ‘being born from above of the Spirit’. ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old?’ Nicodemus asked. Jesus told him that no-one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit and then reminded him of Moses and the snake in the wilderness and compared it with what was going to happen to himself.


John allows us to listen in on the conversation; remember it’s night time.

Read: John 3:14-22


Many of us know John 3:16 off by heart, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’


It’s a wonderful summary of the good news of Jesus and is surely at the heart of what we believe.

But what about the rest of the passage that we read?


Jesus makes it clear in verse 17 that he did not leave the glory and light of heaven to enter our dark world in order to condemn people but to save everyone.


Yet, even in the face of such a loving God we bring judgement on ourselves by making self-centred choices, allowing evil to keep us in the dark and failing to live according to God’s promise of love.


Thankfully, when we find ourselves in the dark, Jesus, like Moses praying for the people of Israel, is there for us.

Jesus is the light of the world who showed his love for us by being lifted up on the cross, so that when we look on him and believe he lifts us out of the darkness into his glorious light and promises us eternal life.


For Jesus, in John’s gospel, being lifted up on the cross was the moment when he was glorified.

Jesus speaks twice more (8:28 & 12:32) of his calling to be ‘lifted up’, referring to his coming crucifixion and how when he is lifted up on the cross he will draw all people to himself.

As Andrew Watson writes, ‘With humanity stricken with the venom of sin, only the death of the Son of Man can provide healing, salvation and eternal life.’.


Anyone bitten by sin can lift their eyes to Jesus and live; from darkness to light, from death to eternal life.


How different this is to the world’s view.

People try so hard to lift themselves up in the eyes of others, be it through power, wealth, and the most recent one, instant celebrity status.

On Wednesday, the nominations for the BAFTA’s were announced. Last month it was the Golden Globes, and the Oscars are in April.

In all award events people are glorified. They are lifted up into the spotlight.

To be lifted up in the world’s eyes is often a very brief affair. The media have a tendency to bring people crashing down again and ask, ‘Where are they now?’ And certainly, those lifted up by the world aren’t always wonderful role models for others to follow.


Too often darkness seems more attractive than the light; and all of us, at times, are drawn in.

The darkness is not just about crime and the evil we all easily recognise, it’s also, as Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians (5:19-22) about: fornication (sex outside marriage), impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you’ he writes, ‘as I warned you before; those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’

From the Roman Empire to today, things haven’t changed much have they?

Once we have made choices that lead to us being in the darkness, it is difficult to admit we are lost and in pain.

Coming into the light isn’t easy, the light shows things up. Perhaps it’s easier to stay as we are, to be what we have allowed ourselves to become. After all the light will show us as we truly are, warts and all.

But to admit to Jesus, to confess what we’ve done in the darkness, is to open our lives to Jesus’ healing, forgiveness and power.


Lift your eyes to Jesus on the cross, hanging there because of your sin and my sin, and receive not judgement or condemnation, but rather forgiveness and healing.

Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world.

Without Jesus being willingly lifted up on the cross we are lost.

Thankfully Jesus went to the cross and the way for the healing our relationship with God is open for each one of us.

Which leaves those of us who have moved from darkness to light with a job to do: how can we lift Jesus up and glorify him in our lives so that others will be drawn to him?


One way is to reflect the light of Jesus in all we do. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, or bucket, or anywhere else for that matter. Let people see how much you care; let them see your compassion, your ability to forgive and see the best in people.

Show people, as hard as it is sometimes, what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Go the extra mile; carry the burdens of those who can’t do it for themselves, and in all things do it as though you were doing it for Jesus himself. As Jesus says, ‘Whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for me.’

Those watching us, and people do watch Christians, may themselves eventually be drawn from the darkness into the light, from death to life.

Sometimes there may be people we know, like Nicodemus, who struggle to understand us or the faith we proclaim. Maybe they will come to us in private and ask what it’s all about.


Remember where Nicodemus was when Jesus was crucified, and the others ran away?

He bravely went to Pilate, with Joseph of Arimathea, and asked for Jesus’ body, and together they prepared the body for burial and placed Jesus in Joseph’s tomb.

Nicodemus, it seems, had finally understood and had come into the light.

May the people we love, those we know and those we meet who are still in darkness be like Nicodemus. And through the way we and others follow Jesus may they lift their eyes to Jesus, leave the darkness, discover the light and move from death to life.


Hymns & Songs:


MP 62 'Born in the night'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP2_amxU9vY


MP 1086 'Light of the world / The Call'

'Here I Am To Worship' / The Call - Hillsong Worship

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CKCThJB5w0


Prayers of Intercession – David Hollows


We come to God now with our prayer requests for those we know and love and for the needy of our world, please take this opportunity to offer your own prayer requests or use the following prayer:

Gracious God, on this Mothering Sunday we remember all those mothers who are shielding so not able to hug a loved one today. We pray for those mothers who are anxious and worried about family members, for those who are separated from their children, and for those who struggle to feed and care for their families. Great God, we ask that you grant your peace, your provision, your protection and your amazing love to mothers across the world in need today. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.


As we continue to worship God, please feel free to sing the following hymns of praise:

Hymns & Songs:


MP 486 'Now thank we all our God'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItfKjxkXhMk&t=42s


MP 631 'Tell out my soul'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6ji4y9Q-K0&t=41


'Everlasting Arms' - Lou Fellingham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvNfjLmlviI


A Blessing upon you: Go from this place of worship and if the journey is long, God will walk with you. If the way is a struggle, God will provide for you and protect you. If the way is lonely, God will place His arms of love around you. Go and be blessed, in the name of Jesus.


Amen

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