Sunday 26 May 2024

Trinity Sunday

Welcome!

We know not everyone who is part of Westwood Church is able to be in church on Sunday morning however, we thought it would be good to offer some excerpts from the Sunday morning service. Where we can, we offer parts of the service in text and audio, whichever works best for you. If you want to plug in headphones to your computer, tablet or mobile phone now is a good time to do it ! If you want to offer some comment or feedback just use the comment box at the end of this post.



Scripture

John 3: 1 – 17 ~ Jesus and Nicodemus


Praise – There is a Redeemer


Prayers

Almighty and everlasting God, we give You thanks that You revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that You live and move and have your being in the perfect unity of Love.

We thank You for the knowledge that we may always come to You in prayer,

as we seek to do Your will, and that because of Your indwelling Holy Spirit we are never alone.

We worship You in the beauty of holiness. We worship you for everything you are; so full of mystery, so perfect, so majestic, so powerful, so gentle. You give strength to Your people and You bless them with peace.  We are ever mindful of the gifts You have given us and seek to use them to advance Your Kingdom.

Living and loving God, we acknowledge that in our experiences of life, it is so easy for us to lose sight of You.  We know much about earthly things, but so little about heavenly things.  We come into Your presence, Lord, and Your holiness makes us all too aware of our sinfulness and shortcomings.  We are not all that you want us to be.  

Touch our lips and cleanse our hearts that what is within us may not be sullied by the way we live it or express it.  May our lives reflect Christ and show love for God and love for others just as He did.  May our desire be like His to fill the world with the Glory of God and serve God as we see Him in our brothers, our sisters, our neighbour and our enemy.  Help us not to limit or restrict the reach of Your all-embracing love.

As we ask for Your help, may more and more people see that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son. And in so doing, He didn’t come to condemn, but to save.

Father in heaven it is our privilege to be able to offer to you from out of our resources.  Accept our offering.  Yet, our greater privilege is to be able to offer of ourselves to a Holy and just God who sees not our wrong but sees only the Christ within us, the love we share and the forgiveness we offer.  Accept our offering we pray.

Hear us as we join in the words of the Lord’s Prayer saying…

Our Father who art in Heaven Hallowed be 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 debts as we forgive our debtors and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever.  Amen.


Address

It’s strange how easy it is to condemn people if you think of them as a group. With a General Election coming up there will be much talk of Tories and Nationalists and Socialists; terms which will sometimes be used in a disparaging way.  And no doubt some will be maligned as “illegal immigrants” no longer human beings with rights or dignity just an irritation to deposited elsewhere, probably Rwanda.  It’s as though any member of that group is coloured by the characteristics of the entire group, no one can be seen as an individual and therefore all are bad.

The Bible appears to condemn the Pharisees – as a group. I grew up  assuming the Pharisees to be wicked people. Most of the time they certainly receive a bad press in the Bible, and Jesus seemed to reserve his harshest judgement for the Pharisees; he called them hypocrites. He preferred to spend his time with other groups such as thieves, prostitutes, and sinners, rather than with Pharisees. On those occasions when he did mix with Pharisees socially, such as when he went to supper with Simon the Pharisee, Jesus openly criticised them.

Yet to believe that the Pharisees were totally bad is to believe a half truth. 

In fact, the Pharisees were on the whole, good people. They followed a very strict religious code, which determined their conduct, for it coloured the whole of their life. The Pharisees were never a huge party, but they had a great deal of support from the people, who tended to be very sympathetic to their ideals.  They were very nationalistic, and their exacting views of the law held the nation together. It was the Pharisees who began schools to educate the young. It was the Pharisees who tithed their income, so that through the synagogue the poor and the sick would receive care. And it was the Pharisees who were the evangelists, who went out to convert Gentiles to Judaism.  We can then picture Jesus as a boy going to the synagogue to learn about the Law at the hands of the Pharisees.

And yet, it was their very strict adherence to the letter of the law, that brought them into conflict with Jesus who tended to favour the spirit of the Law over the letter of the law. It was the Pharisees’ very literal adherence to God’s law which caused such distortion in the practice of their religion.

But not all Pharisees fitted into this distorted mould. Nicodemus, who is only mentioned by name in John’s gospel, seems to have been a good, gentle, open-minded Pharisee, who came to Jesus by night. So often the Pharisees are portrayed as trying to trap Jesus, but it’s clear that Nicodemus was genuine. He seems to at least recognise Jesus as a rabbi, a spiritual teacher.

Nicodemus comes across as a much more cautious and thoughtful character than Jesus’ immediate disciples. The moment Jesus called his disciples, in a spontaneous, impulsive response, they left their nets and fishing boats to follow him, but Nicodemus needed to test the water first. He wanted to make sure he was doing the right thing before he threw in his lot with Jesus.

Caution isn’t always a bad thing.  People are sometimes led to believe that they should make a sudden and urgent commitment to Christ. But perhaps it’s also OK to take things slowly, to consider carefully before making a commitment.  Jesus was very accepting of Nicodemus. He didn’t tell him he must decide now; Jesus never put Nicodemus under pressure to become a disciple.

In fact, it seems Nicodemus never became more than a closet follower of Jesus until after the crucifixion. It was only after the death of Jesus that Nicodemus discovered his faith was so deep that he went with Joseph of Arimathea to take Jesus body down from the cross for burial.  That was a courageous statement, considering that it was his own people, the religious authorities, who had caused the execution of Jesus.

People come to faith and grow in faith in their own time.  Like Nicodemus, those who have not spoken for Jesus are not necessarily against him. Many people are in the Nicodemus position of just looking, of finding out for themselves, of hesitating over making a commitment, of coming to Jesus by night. Jesus welcomed Nicodemus, as he welcomes everyone, who has genuine questions to ask. 

Jesus told Nicodemus that he would have to be born again. What he actually said was, “born from above”, but Nicodemus misunderstood the word Jesus used which could mean “again” or “from above”. Jesus didn’t dismiss him as stupid, or even draw attention to his mistake. 

And what did Jesus mean by “you must be born from above”? Nicodemus was a typical child of his religion, a typical Pharisee. He followed very closely the letter of the law, because that was how he believed you grew close to God, but he had to learn that a relationship with God was not dependent on the following of the law but was something quite different.

“The wind blows where it will,” said Jesus. There is something unpredictable about God. We cannot apply rules or processes or systems to God and think that we have truly understood Him.  Like the wind, God’s spirit goes where it chooses ignoring the rules and the patterns that we think help us discern if it is God at work or not. 

No-one can determine the movement of God’s spirit. Those who seek to build a relationship with God, take the risk of going where they think he’s leading, even when they’re not sure they’ve got it right. If that sounds precarious then yes, it is, but that’s the nature of faith and that’s what it means to be “born of the Spirit”.


Praise – Come Holy Ghost


Prayers for Others

General Election

The long awaited and much anticipated news of a General Election was presented to us on Wednesday by a rain battered Prime Minister outside Number 10.  For a nation weary of politics, and politicians who don’t come up to standard, we might groan at the prospect of weeks of campaigning, dubious promises and facts we cannot verify; trust is such a  big issue in politics.  Or maybe we just can’t wait for the opportunity to shake the foundations, start over in a new direction, rid ourselves of the past and look to the future.  Whatever the next six weeks brings Lord, help us to hold to the principles of our faith, to seek truth and vote with wisdom.  Lord hear us in our prayers as we prepare for the next chapter in the life of our nation…

The UK’s infected blood scandal

Father in Heaven, you are a God of justice, a God who upholds the oppressed the downtrodden, those who are not listened to and denied their rights.  We are left incredulous that families in the UK have fought for 50 years to find justice, to be heard and believed and now that Sir Brian Langstaff has issued the report of the inquiry into the UK’s infected blood scandal, we are left in no doubt that shame hangs over successive governments, doctors and the NHS for lives lost, families denied justice and children used as medical experiments.  From 1970 to 1991 30,000 people infected with Hepatitis and AIDS; 3,000 have died, lives and reputations have been torn apart in a sustained act of cruelty toward those who were meant to be cared for, supported, protected. And Lord, we ask that question that we have asked before in recent times, why is it that governments, organisations, authorities always seem to try to bury the truth, hide the facts, deny, and blame others and fail to take responsibility for mistakes and wrong doing?  Why is it that humanity acts this way?  Why do we live in the shadows and not in the light of truth?  Lord, we pray for lessons to be learned, truth to shine and the healing of searing wounds to the soul.  Hear our prayers…

Lord Jesus, you placed your Spirit within us so that we may know the truth and walk always in the light of your love.  Your light shines upon our darkness, the darkness will never put it out.  We thank you for hearing our prayers; may we walk ever in your truth and bring light into the darkness.  AMEN.


Praise – Love Divine all loves excelling


The Grace

And now… May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and all whom you love, now and for evermore. AMEN.

One Reply to “Sunday 26 May 2024”

  1. Alan Wales

    Great and moving service even the bible reading was very interesting to hear. Thanks to Rev Kevin McKenzie for the great service.

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