Sunday Stuff is a place to find on-line worship material shared by Bishop Street Methodist Church, Leicester
What is this?
At the moment Bishop Street Methodist Church can’t meet on Sundays but we remain a praying and worshipping community. This is a place where Sunday by Sunday we can share resources and link to other material some from the Methodist Church and some ‘home grown’. We also have a facebook group: Bishop Street Community
Rev. Helen Cameron (Chair of the Northampton District) has asked churches to keep in pastoral contact week by week, with Pastoral Visitors forming a link between their group and our minister. This is an extract of the pastoral letter she sent us when the local lockdown was announced on Monday 29th July.
I wanted to write to you to assure you that the whole District is praying for you and to thank you for your continued faithful witness as Methodist people in Leicester. I know that you will continue to be kind, generous and compassionate Christian neighbours to all who are impacted by this decision.
We hold you, and all whom you care for, in the everlasting and generous love of God.
Sunday 2nd August: The Good Measure
Miriam Stevenson, Local Preacher in the Trinity Circuit and member at Bishop Street
(you might want to cup your hands open as you say these words)
Call to Worship
We come with empty hands
Holding them out to You
We wait with open hearts and minds
Knowing You have promised to come and meet us
We offer what we can, we seek to offer what we are
For we have nothing which You have not already given us
StF 438 Your ceaseless, unexhausted love (Charles Wesley)
(the accompaniment here is four verses- so selected from the hymn)
- Your ceaseless, unexhausted Love
Unmerited and free
delights our evil to remove
and help our misery.
- You wait and you are gracious still
You will with sinners bear
that, saved, we may your goodness feel,
and all Your grace declare.
- Your goodness and your truth to me,
to every soul abound
a vast, unfathomable sea
where all our thoughts are drowned.
- Its steams the whole creation reach
So plenteous is the store
Enough for all, enough for each
Enough for evermore.
(Charles Wesley 1707- 1788)
Prayer of Adoration and Approach
God, your love – gentle, immense, unconditional – arcs a rainbow of grace to shelter us all and creates a space of belonging and healing.
Your love – grounded in reality, accustomed to suffering – welcomes the excluded, tends hidden bruises, binds wounds and remakes lives and community.
God, may the astonishing truth of your love, your wide span of hope, dawn afresh in our hearts and turn us inside out as we act on your call to share your compassion.
Renew our faith and courage that we may live as people transformed by the gospel and inspired by the limitless horizons of your Spirit.
(Methodist Prayer Handbook, 2012/20: Louise Gough, presbyter, Bramhall and Wythenshawe Circuit)
A prayer before silence
we seek your presence
in the silence beyond words
looking to you for comfort,
strength, protection and reassurance
breathing with gratitude
holding on to hope
trusting with faith
that you are still God
in the midst of the turmoil
and that your love reaches
to the ends of the earth.
Be present with us now.
(Christian Aid, Prayers in the time of Corona)
Confession- God invites us to come so we can reason together
In the quietness and in the Presence of Love
We see what we are
We face where we fall short
We admit what we have done wrong
and what we have failed to do.
Loving and Ever Present God
Have mercy on us
Forgive us and grant us peace.
Stf 254 Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
Ruth and Boaz on the threshing floor – in the morning: Ruth 3 vv. 14-18
The harvest is gathered in with rejoicing. Once night has fallen Naomi tells Ruth to clean herself up and go out and find Boaz sleeping among the heaps of grain on the threshing floor. She lies down at his feet claiming his protection, he is overjoyed that she might want him as a husband, but there is another kinsman whose claim must be dealt with first…
4 So she (Ruth) lay at his feet until morning, but got up before one person could recognize another; for he (Boaz) said, ‘It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.’ 15 Then he said, ‘Bring the cloak you are wearing and hold it out.’ So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley, and put it on her back; then he went into the city. 16 She came to her mother-in-law, who said, ‘How did things go with you,[e] my daughter?’ Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, ‘He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said, “Do not go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.”’ 18 She replied, ‘Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today.’
The prayer that Jesus taught us
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 forever.
Generous Living – Jesus preaches on the plain: Luke 6: 30-38
30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[a] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
- Luke 6:35 Other ancient authorities read despairing of no one
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Big and Small things
When all our days seem the same
We pray Father of heaven
That you alert us to your glory
In small things
Make a sabbath in our routines
So we can pause and wonder
Remember the needs of others we cannot see
And forgive the debts we think we are owed
Finding prayers of thanksgiving
In our daily blessings
Amen (prayer of Rev. Barbara Glasson and Prof Clive Marsh)
StF 416 There’s a wideness in God’s Mercy
(play video twice for the six verses of the hymn)
1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in his justice
which is more than liberty.
2 There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the head.
3. There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.
4 For the love of God is broader
than the measure of the mind;
and the heart of the eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
5. But we make God’s love too narrow
By false limits of our own
And we magnify God’s strictness
with a zeal he will not own.
6 If our love were but more simple,
we should take him at his word;
and our lives would be illumined,
by the presence of our Lord.
Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)
The Good Measure Sermon by Miriam Stevenson
Engaging with the twists and turns of the Book of Ruth for Bible Month brought this saying to mind. Given the resonance between Jesus’s sayings about the simple gift of a cup of water (Mark 9:41: Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward) and many Old Testament encounters in which a cup of water is a sign of kindness, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to suggest that this picture also carries an echo of generosity from the time of the Judges. At the same time this image of the good measure comes from the world of retail. It is grounded in the ‘weights and measures’ of the jostling first-century market-place and the enduring realities of life on the margins where receiving a good (or at least an honest) measure might still be the difference between making it to the end of the week and falling short and going hungry.
In the Book of Ruth the action of Boaz filling Ruth’s lap with a bulging portion of grain, not only practically demonstrates his generosity, but is full of fruitful, even suggestive promise. In the private exchanges in the dark of the night and the public transactions of the coming day, Boaz shows himself willing to ‘go the extra’ mile, to respond to a generosity of heart he recognises in Ruth’s treatment of Naomi and himself. The full measure of grain, is more than a ration for a day, more than a pittance, it is an expansive, big-hearted sharing of the harvest (and of the self) and a pledge of future sharing, future provision.
I told the person coaching me, not only was I ‘not good at boundaries’, indeed I was unsure I wanted to be ‘good at boundaries’ because of my faith’. ‘But surely, religion is about boundaries, it is about the rules, about the Ten Commandments…?’ I went away to ponder, and in the week ahead, particularly in the prayers of our prayer handbook, I became aware of how central the concept of ‘unboundedness, limitlessness’ is to the way that Methodist people speak about God. We are fired by a vision of God and God’s love, grace, concern and power which is unlimited, unmeasured, unconfined. That language runs like a golden thread from the poetry of Charles Wesley which we sing, through the preaching of his brother John who sermons and tracts often riffed with these hymns, into our prayer handbooks and our church practice, even when our we have to acknowledge ‘the false limits of our own’ by which we have made God’s love too narrow’ through our own fears, selfishness, prejudice and self-regard.
Methodism as a movement is captivated by the grandest conception of Christian living, the often misunderstood doctrine of Christian perfection, which is meant to have nothing to do with perfectionism, but is to do with coming through Jesus to love as God loves and resisting the temptation to set limits on what God might do in the lives and characters of human beings, including ourselves. It is about the unlimited possibilities of grace, an aspiration to an unconfined love and generosity, which is a response and sharing in the all-embracing, unexhausted Love of God, made clear to us in the big-heartedness of Jesus. At this time when many of us Leicester people in local lockdown long for a glimpse of the sea, for us as Christians (as for John Wesley in his writing about Christian perfection) the vastness of the ocean, the wide distant horizon, the unfathomable depths are an engaging experiential metaphor of what we affirm about the ‘bigness’ and ‘boundlessness’ of God.
But we are limited. Surely if we have learnt anything from the pandemic, we have learnt this. I’m writing this still ‘contained’ by the lines of the red zone, drawn on the map. As the Narborough Road drops south out of the city, I can almost see the invisible boundary from my front door, but nearer still are the big orange letters reminding me not to travel unless it is essential, warning me to stay at home. This virus is a salutary and stark reminder that our lives are finite, we can’t see our own expiry date, but we have one as surely as if it were printed on us. And our capacity is limited, we have realised actually can’t do all the things we felt assured we would if only we had the time and the ‘space’ – learn a new language, a new instrument, sort out our paperwork. And there are other limits – emotional limits, limits of patience – how many of us – silently or out loud – have found ourselves saying in these long week ‘that’s it, I’ve had it up to…, I’ve reached my limit’. And in a more subtle way, the Coronacoaster, the endless adjustments, postponements, disappointments, leave us ‘overstretched’ (think of a piece of elastic), we are managing, but our capacity for adaptation, imagination, creativity, even for graciousness, is depleted. We have lost the reserves of buoyancy which have helped us to spring back into shape, we are more weary, less open, less responsive.
These sentiments, these experiences are real and they come from confrontations with and acknowledgements of the realities which define our lives. They are not simply a failure of character and faith. Indeed, Christianity is realistic about this boundedness, the limits of our energy, time and resources. But in The Book of Ruth and in the life of Jesus it speaks of a God known within these defining limits, indeed in Jesus ‘contracted to a span’ – accepting boundaries, limitedness, mortality. Yes, Jesus walked on water and raised the dead, but often he chose our limits, chose the thirst and hunger of fasting, chose the homeless existence of a drifter, chose the silence of the innocent in the face of oppression and violence. Jesus goes the distance, Jesus stays with us, Jesus chooses shame and weakness. Jesus who came from a place that other people thought was no good, is with us in the red zone. In Jesus God inhabits and makes God’s own the inescapable bounds and the particularities of being ‘a human being’. Ruth places Jesus in a human lineage with heroines and skeletons, a family tree with its fair share of shame and failure and grounded in place and time.
The Good Measure
So this is where we live now. The boundless, often cloudless blue sky above stretching ‘to infinity and beyond’ and the invisible line at the end of the street that we have been told we should not cross. And we know a boundless God of infinite love and care, able to do ‘more than we could ask or imagine’ and a God incarnate who shares our boundedness from the inside out. We have moments when we are fired by this measureless Love to pour ourselves out in boundless devotion and tireless service and moments when we know can’t do or think anything more until we’ve taken a quiet five minutes (and probably put the kettle on).
Perhaps here the good measure is a helpful image, for ourselves, for our church. It is a measure, it is bounded and contained, it is necessarily limited. But it is because of that it can be handled, it can be given, it can be shared. With a good measure, something of value can be received by another. It isn’t an overwhelming heap, an unbounded flood, something which you can’t get a grip on. Nor, and here we part company a little with Boaz, is it the bulging bundle, the overflowing cup, drawing attention to its own big-heartedness. It has the quiet, secret quality which Jesus often teaches as an aspect of religious life. (As an aside, I think can be hard for us to interpret this aright in an age in which expressions of faith seem marginalised and invisible rather than showy and empty and in which an unfamiliar degree of explicitness and deliberateness may be required of us effectively to share our faith). There is an intentional generosity hidden in this dole. It hasn’t ‘settled in transit’ as it says in the small print on the cereal boxes, but it has been shaken together. The giver is deliberately making sure that they squeeze all they can, give all they can, in the measure. The good measure is more than duty, perhaps more than justice, it is kindness. It isn’t just gruel. It is the hidden sweetness of the sugar in the milk. Perhaps more often than the physical cup, it is that extra bit of attention, of empathy, of helpfulness.
And this leads me to the challenge of the good measure. For we having been living through a time which has required us to curb our expressiveness, the giving of hugs, the sharing of food, even that cup of water, become dubious, contagious, forbidden. To draw close to others in their need without the proper protection opens a potentially dangerous encounter for both parties. The caution, the boundedness has been necessary, it stems from the objective public health reality of a virus which doesn’t care about our motives, our needs or the needs of others. We have accepted (with greater or less willingness) these ‘unprecedented’ restrictions, and the related constraints on our lives – we no longer go where we please (as Jesus warned Peter) or do what we want. And at times, when someone else has moaned to us about this cancelled event or that unobtainable grocery item we have perhaps been tempted (at least inwardly) to roll our eyes about ‘#firstworldproblems’ in a ‘don’t you know there’s a war on’ sort of way. Some of us find we have internalised this ‘new normal’ to the extent that we want to shout at the people on the telly who stand too close, we have nervy transgressive dreams about being in a crowded place, we find we are anxious and on edge at the thought or in the experience of places and encounters which previously made up our daily lives. And in the days ahead, the sense of scarcity, the resentment at deprivation, has the capacity to justify and feed selfishness (look at the debate around the Developmental Aid budget) and to fuel mutual suspicion and bigotry (look at the shaming and blaming around the local lockdown). We have, some of us, also simply got used to be being able to stay home and not do the things we perhaps found a bit irksome and some of the way ahead will be going back to tasks which have simply become more complicated. This is no sprint, we will need all the wisdom and humility that boundaries teach, but from the One who gives boundlessly we can be moved to sustain the quiet, costly, generosity of the good measure.
12 Morning Glory, starlit sky
listen to the choir or sing at home
by William H. Vanstone
- Morning glory, starlit sky,
Leaves in springtime, swallows’ flight,
Autumn gales, tremendous seas,
Sounds and scents of summer night;
2. Soaring music, tow’ring words,
Art’s perfection, scholar’s truth,
Joy supreme of human love,
Memory’s treasure, grace of youth;
3. Open, Lord, are these, Thy gifts,
Gifts of love to mind and sense;
Hidden is love’s agony,
Love’s endeavour, love’s expense.
4. Love that gives gives ever more,
Gives with zeal, with eager hands,
Spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
Ventures all, its all expends.
5. Drained is love in making full;
Bound in setting others free;
Poor in making many rich;
Weak in giving power to be.
6. Therefore He Who Thee reveals
Hangs, O Father, on that Tree
Helpless; and the nails and thorns
Tell of what Thy love must be.
7. Thou are God; no monarch Thou
Thron’d in easy state to reign;
Thou art God, Whose arms of love
Aching, spent, the world sustain.
Prayers for others
God of heaven and earth,
in these times of isolation,
apart from loved ones
distant from friends
away from neighbours
thank you that there is nothing
in all of creation,
not even coronavirus,
that is able to separate us from your love.
And may your love that never fails
continue to be shared
through the kindness of strangers
looking out for each other,
for neighbours near and far
all recognising our shared vulnerability,
each of us grateful for every breath,
and willing everyone to know the gift
of a full and healthy life.
Keep us all in your care.
Amen. (Christian Aid, Prayers in the time of Corona)
“We will meet” by Hans-Olav Moerk and John Bell
For this new song written for this time please visit the relevant Iona Community page
Words copyright © 2020 Hans-Olav Moerk and WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow, ScotlandMusic copyright © 2020 WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland www.wildgoose.scot
A Prayer of Blessing
Even though we must stay apart
We hold each other in our hearts
Great Giver and Boundless Lover
You hold us all in one embrace
So bless us, each one,
This day and every day
That filled by You with every good thing
We may reach out with hands and hearts
Which bless others with a good measure.
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