Written Circuit Service for Rugby and Daventry Circuit on 9th August 2020

In this time of uncertainty, confinement, and for many both anxieties about their own health or that of their families, or their involvement in combatting Covid 19, it is a time to remember this is God's world. We are his people, who while experiencing trials and doubts in our belief, can look back on such occasions experienced by those in both the old and new Testaments to see his presence and helping hand guiding them through. The hymns and lessons for today remind us of these truths.

Call to Worship
Psalm 105 v1-5 (The Message)

Thank GOD! Pray to him by name!
Tell everyone you meet what he has done!
Sing him songs, belt out hymns,
translate his wonders into music!
Honour his holy name with Hallelujahs,
you who seek GOD. Live a happy life!
Keep your eyes open for GOD, watch for his works;
be alert for signs of his presence.
Remember the world of wonders he has made,
his miracles, and the verdicts he's rendered.

Come now is the time to worship
Come now is the time to give your heart

StF 24
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.

One day every tongue
will confess you are God,
one day every knee will bow.
Still, the greatest treasure remains
for those who gladly choose you now.
Come, now is the time........

Brian Doerksen (born 1965)
© 1998 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire)/Admin. by Song Solutions CopyCare,
Used By Permission. CCL Licence No. 5310

Prayers of Adoration Praise and Thanksgiving with confessions
Yes God and our Father NOW is the time to worship in whatever shape you find us
Now is the time for us to be in awe of so great a creator,
Now is the time to marvel, despite all the imperfections we have made, at the physical world
With its endless variety of colours, vegetation and life with which you surround us.
So we come to adore you.

Now is the time to praise you our God for the creativity of human beings -
Our abilities to understand, to copy and then create new wonders for good and difficult times such as now. The telephone, TV, even old fashioned letters and cards even if Zoom is not for us mean contact and relationship- all from existing properties you have freely given us in the world and ourselves
So our praises, despite our misuse of the world, resound to your glory

Now is the time to thank you our Father for our ability to feel emotion, to be able to care, to be able to show compassion for others, not just kith and kin, to actually go further and actually love others, however difficult at times we find it, because in Jesus you have shown us the depth of love to which you will go for us, so often lost sheep and even wolves in their clothing.

Now indeed is the time to worship you and ask you accept our adoration, praise and thanks

But, and it is a big but, as we would worship you in spirit and in truth, we must plead for your forgiveness for the ways, even confined though we are, we have not been your true daughters and sons this past week. We come very aware how very short we have been of the hopes you have for us, and in the things Jesus has shown us that we could do, even when confined or lacking in energy we may be……
Preserving your world, valuing its richness and miracles of growth, and being for others light in their lives reflecting and speaking of our faith in you.
Help us through this act of worship to see your way of becoming better conductors, better reflectors, better instruments of your creativity, compassion, forgiveness and love shown us by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Our first reading is part of a well known case of family rivalry and jealousy with real consequences
Genesis 37 v1-4 & 12-28 (Good News Bible)
Joseph and His Brothers
Jacob continued to live in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived, and this is the story of Jacob's family.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, took care of the sheep and goats with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's concubines. He brought bad reports to his father about what his brothers were doing.
Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he had been born to him when he was old. He made a long robe with full sleeves for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner.
Joseph Is Sold and Taken to Egypt

One day when Joseph's brothers had gone to Shechem to take care of their father's flock, Jacob said to Joseph, "I want you to go to Shechem, where your brothers are taking care of the flock." Joseph answered, "I am ready."

His father told him, "Go and see if your brothers are safe and if the flock is all right; then come back and tell me." So his father sent him on his way from Hebron Valley.
Joseph arrived at Shechem and was wandering around in the country when a man saw him and asked him, "What are you looking for?" "I am looking for my brothers, who are taking care of their flock," he answered. "Can you tell me where they are?"

The man said, "They have already left. I heard them say that they were going to Dothan." So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted against him and decided to kill him. They said to one another, "Here comes that dreamer. Come on now, let's kill him and throw his body into one of the dry wells. We can say that a wild animal killed him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams."
Reuben heard them and tried to save Joseph. "Let's not kill him," he said. "Just throw him into this well in the wilderness, but don't hurt him." He said this, planning to save him from them and send him back to his father. When Joseph came up to his brothers, they ripped off his long robe with full sleeves. Then they took him and threw him into the well, which was dry.

While they were eating, they suddenly saw a group of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead to Egypt. Their camels were loaded with spices and resins. Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain by killing our brother and covering up the murder? Let's sell him to these Ishmaelites. Then we won't have to hurt him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed, and when some Midianite traders came by, the brothers pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

Some years ago while I could still remember I wrote my auto biography, covering a number of apparent deadends and disappointments, not to be compared with Joseph's, but seen in hind sight very much that though HE had not caused them, our God had used them. I had wondered how I might end my testimony but it was Cowper's hymn that sprung into my mind as I wrote the last page. We sing it now as it might well too reflect your experience in hindsight not just Josephs.

God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform

StF 104

1 God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in thesea,
And rides upon the storm.

2 Come all you saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

3 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

4 His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

5 Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

William Cowper (1731-1800)
CCL Licence No. 5310

Reading 2 Matthew 14 v22-33
A case of failed faith and the helping hand

Jesus Walks on the Water
Then Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people away. After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray. When evening came, Jesus was there alone; and by this time the boat was far out in the lake, tossed about by the waves, because the wind was blowing against it.

Between three and six o'clock in the morning Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water. 26 When they saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. "It's a ghost!" they said, and screamed with fear. Jesus spoke to them at once. "Courage!" he said. "It is I. Don't be afraid!"

Then Peter spoke up. "Lord, if it is really you, order me to come out on the water to you." "Come!" answered Jesus. So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. "Save me, Lord!" he cried. At once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him and said, "What little faith you have! Why did you doubt?"
They both got into the boat, and the wind died down. Then the disciples in the boat worshiped Jesus. "Truly you are the Son of God!" they exclaimed

I suspect I was going to get you to rehearse 'Will your anchor hold in the storms of life' at this point, but then I came across this new hymn that spoke to me of recent experience for so many and for the central truth of Jesus coming amongst us.
God give us life when all around spells death……
Then in the end make death a friend
And give us faith to stand and walk to where no eye can stare
But Christ can grasp our hand.
StF 612

1 God give us life
when all around spells death
and some have died;
and few are clear that hope is near
or fate can be defied.

2 God give us love
in heart and hand
to hold the hurting one,
to free the anger, meet the need
and wait till waiting's done.

3 God give us skill,
insight and will
to find, when none are sure,
new threads to mend the web of life,
new means to heal and cure

4. God give us faith,
Should all else fail
and death unsheath its sting.
O help us hear, through pain and fear
the songs that angels sing.

5 Then, in the end,
make death a friend,
and give us strength to stand
and walk to where no eye can stare,
but Christ can clasp our hand.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Is God moving for you in a mysterious way, and have you clasped his hand?
This is a time to think about our lives, to take stock, and to ask where our Lord may be seeking to take us as individuals, and indeed as congregations.
These two stories- the well-known dysfunctional Jacob family drama, and the lack of faith in those nearest to our Lord in his earthly ministry, must have a message for us connected to why our Lord came and the hope he brings us.

1. We heard about the beginning of the Joseph saga in our reading and have to recognize that, with Jacob the deceiver, Joseph the spoilt brat,and his brothers, God is going to have to work hard again to bring about a good ending- well spotted by Rice and Lloyd Webber. After a tortuous journey with a number of apparent dead ends Joseph gets reunited with both Jacob and his brothers in time to save them from Famine. But we also know this did not last and a few generations later a Moses becomes vital.

2. Then there is Peter, as usual putting his neck out, and failing at walking on water as we all might, but again it's not only his failure but that of the whole group. Why did they doubt it was Jesus and thought it was a ghost? Were they glad Peter tried it out and not them? Clearly they were amazed when Jesus saved Peter from drowning. He reached out his hand and grasped him- bringing Peter back to the boat with him. Again we know this wasn't thelast of Peter's failures yet Jesus doesn't give up on him and will eventually recommission him on that very shore to 'feed my sheep'.

3. The question for all of us is twofold, or given this is a Methodist sermon- three fold! Does God in our lives deliver us from our own mistakes and other peoples' destructive intentions towards us, when all appears lost? Does God intend or has He already used ourhesitant steps in Faith to assure us His hand is there for us too, and will use our experiences from these attempts to encourage us in other ventures in His name? Will our accounts of these amaze those around us enough to praise His name? Finally from these two characters and God's outcomes for them can we see the connection to Jesus's betrayal, trial, crucifixion and glorious resurrection? And if we can who have we told about it?

4. You see when I came to write that autobiography, which I urge you to do, I found looking back that there were a number of setbacks, disappointments, and apparent dead ends, that God, while he had not made them, used them in a most unexpected way to produce a good outcome. The only precondition for seeing this, as with Joseph and Peter, I could see was that I had put my faith in His being there to help however unpromising it appeared to be.

5. Now I hear you saying like those brothers and the rest of the disciples in the boat this is the stuff of fairy tales-happy endings-make belief before that situation that doesn't end well, and ultimately death. WE don't need our own experiences, just look at good men like Bonhoeffer or Martin Luther King, or if we must, what Joseph's happy ending in Egypt became, or the story we have of Peter's crucifixion upside down.

6. It is then of course that we must turn to 'the man in the street' or on site we might say today, view of the end of Jesus. We know it was the religious who raised the charge, it was Pilate, the civil authority that allowed it for a quiet life, it was the mob who denied a way out, it was his fear filled followers who watched in great anguish and dismay as the military carried out their orders, displaying the brutality of absolute power as they do, and dividing even his few clothes as pickings amongst them,- the end until God acted!

7. It is in this context we must see Joseph as Governor of Egypt. Peter as the Preacher on Pentecost Day. Bonhoeffer's last comment to those he was leading in Bible study as he was led away to be hung at Hitler's last orders-'This is the end but for me the beginning of life!' Luther King's I have a vision…, but like Moses before him, 'but I may not get there with you'.

8. And what of ourselves asks the writer of Hebrews? What have we to say before that day when all will made be plain? My testimony lies in that hymn- written by a man with mental health issues some 20 miles down the road from where I sit to type this:
God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform, He plants His footsteps on the sea and rides upon the storm.
A message of hope, faith , and love for our time and each and every one of us, if we will grasp His hand, as our next more modern hymn makes clear.

One human family God has made and all for each to care….
And are we brave enough to join with that great company….
And take his love outside the wall to all the crucified?

StF 687

1 One human family God has made, and all for each to care.
One world, to be the home of all, with all its wealth to share.
One Christ, to manifest on earth love's ultimate design.
One Church to know the mystery of broken bread and wine.

2 One race, one world - yet torn apart, we spurn the way of love.
But still ahead, the Christ leads on and calls his Church to move
from love of power to power of love, to give the word to all -
to trust the love that conquered death, outside the city wall.

3 And are we brave enough to join With that great company-
the cost not less than all we have or are or hope to be-
the bitter cup of human sin to drink with him who died,
and take his love outside the wall to all the crucified?

4 Claim him who claims us for his own, to share his pain and grief,
to bear the scars that stamp us his - the hallmark of belief.
As partners of the living Christ, who risk the path he trod,
with wondering love we find we share the timeless joy of God.

Rosemary Wakelin (b.1932)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition
Words: © Rosemary Wakelin

Our Intercessions for a world in such need. Where so many are suffering for how others see them, and those in difficult places not of their making and not within their recent expectations.
Lord we pray for those in dangerous situations of war, and other forms of violence arising from abuse of power and the many forms of discrimination.

Me too, Black lives matter, modern forms of slavery and exploitation, persecution, of minorities, and domestic violence all speak of a timeless and ancient need of the love of God the absence of which continues to disfigure, disable, and stunt so many lives.

Lord we pray for our transformation- Help us and enable us
We pray for those in power with responsibility for decisions that will affect so many lives and the environment for generations yet unborn. We know they must wrestle with the results of Covid, lost revenues, lost employment, missed opportunities, and wrong decisions as well as old problems of inequalities in the distribution of earth's riches. We pray for your light in Government, Finance, Employment, administrators of public funds, and all who have to make decisions about others health and wellbeing. But above all we pray that we be prepared to take our part in making your ways known, and your pathway clear, whatever that costs.

Lord we pray for our transformation- Help us and enable us
So we pray for those whose health and wellbeing hang in the balance, and those who look after them at home or care homes or hospital. WE name those known to us in a moment of silence- those we love, those know, and those who worry at their bedside or must mourn and adjust to their passing. At this time of pandemic we would ask a special blessing on those seeking solutions which in the past crises have freed and saved so many lives.

Lord we pray for our transformation- Help us and enable us

Finally we pray for ourselves whether we are in the company above in some way, or know the modern changes of fortune of a Joseph, or the uncertainties of a Peter, that we may ever feel you close, know you are at work beside us, compassionate and forgiving as always, and will really recognize your call to us to demonstrate your love for the other as we too stretch out one hand to those on this restless sea while firmly holding on to you with our other hand.
Lord we pray for our transformation- Help us and enable us
Through Jesus your saving and reassuring Word to us we ask all these things. Amen.

Charles Wesley and brother John achieved nothing till God transformed them, used what they had learnt of Him in their bad times, and set them alight for the truths of the Gospel. Shall we commit ourselves anew as we ponder his words handed down to us as their heirs in equally unpromising times:
Give me the faith which can remove and sink the mountain to plain…
Thy love, let it my heart o'er power and all my simple soul devour.

StF 661

1 Give me the faith which can remove
and sink the mountain to a plain;
give me the childlike praying love,
which longs to build thy house again;
thy love, let it my heart o'erpower,
and all my simple soul devour.

2 I would the precious time redeem,
and longer live for this alone:
to spend, and to be spent, for them
who have not yet my Saviour known;
fully on these my mission prove,
and only breathe, to breathe thy love.

3 My talents, gifts, and graces, Lord,
into thy blessèd hands receive;
and let me live to preach thy word,
and let me to thy glory live;
my every sacred moment spend
in publishing the sinners' friend.

4 Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart
with boundless charity divine:
so shall I all my strength exert,
and love them with a zeal like thine;
and lead them to thy open side,
the sheep for whom their Shepherd died.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition

Benediction. The night shall be no more, and we will need no light from lamps.
For God is our light and always walks before us.
Go forth into the light and share the recreating of the world
And may God the beginning give you a new day
God the Christ take you by the hand
And God the Spirit give you energy and p