Circuit Worship: 20 December 2020

Led by Rachel Blainey

If you would like to join this service of worship using just the videos playing one after another, you can visit our playlist on YouTube by following the link below:

YouTube playlist for 20 December 2020

Welcome 

Hello and welcome to this service of worship. I’m Rachel Blainey and I’m a local preacher in the Oxford Methodist Circuit in the UK. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from and why ever you are watching this, welcome! We’re glad that you are able to join in worship with us. Our service today begins with our Advent liturgy, led this week by the Arnold Family from Wesley Memorial. 

Advent Liturgy

A candle burns
the sign of your love.
God of Mary, come to us again this Advent.
May the light of your love be born anew in us.

Song: Light a candle in a darkened place STF 174, vv 1 & 5

Prayers

Let us pray:

Lord God,

We recall at this joyful season how, through her willingness to hear your word and commit herself to your service you were able to use Mary to fulfil your purpose, entering our world, inaugurating your kingdom and bringing closer that day when sorrow and suffering, darkness and death will be no more.

Help us then as we follow this service of worship to hear your word, and to respond with similar obedience, prepared to be used as you see fit.

Through our discipleship, weak feeble though it might be may your grace be revealed. 

Almighty God,

You are greater than our hearts can fathom, higher than our highest thoughts, sovereign over all worthy of praise and honour. You are the one who threw stars into space, who set out the great laws of physics, who brought order out of chaos. And yet we remember this Advent that you humbled yourself, being born to a woman of no power in a town of no importance, so that you could live with us, sharing our human frailness and suffering, so that you could more perfectly love us and more perfectly redeem us. It is impossible to find words for all that you have done for us.

Forgive us that sometimes however, we lose our sense of awe and wonder, we grow oblivious to your greatness and forgetful of your goodness. Instead of seeking to understand your ways and working to fulfil your plans for the Kingdom we focus instead on our own way of doing things, our own plans for our lives. We seek to help ourselves rather than those who truly need our help. We are careless and unthinking with those around us. We ignore problems that seem to hard for us to fix. Forgive us today and show us a new way to be.

Speak to us as you spoke to Mary and help us to catch a new sense of who you are, of all you have done and of all you will yet do in our lives. Thanks to your love and your forgiveness, we can magnify again your name, sing your praises and tell of your greatness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Read by Simon Blainey

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[b] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[c] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Song: The Angel Gabriel from heaven came H&P 87, STF 187

Reading: Luke 1:46-55

Read by Jenny Arnold

46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Sermon

Song: Behold the servant of the Lord, H&P 788, STF 546

Prayers

We respond to God’s word in prayer. Let us pray.

Lord of all love,

We are reminded today that you know every one of your children, that you look after each of them and have a special task for them each to do. But we know also that many of your children as well and we bring them before you now.

We pray for those in positions of authority, who are not called lowly or hidden in small towns, but instead live in the spotlight, their every thought and decision questioned. We pray that you will guide them in those thoughts and decisions, steering them towards actions which benefit the poor and the weak rather than the rich and the powerful. We pray too that you will support them as they experience the consequences of those decisions, whether good or bad and give them the strength to keep working to make better decisions each day.

We pray for those who feel that they are unnoticed and unloved, for those living on our streets as the winter draws in, for those trapped in their own homes due to ill health, and all of us who miss the company of friends and family this Christmas time. We pray that you will help us all to reach out in new ways and that you will help us to connect even through our social distance, and that you will keep your promised that when just two or three are gathered, you too are there.

We pray for those who feel lowly and poor, for those who have not succeeded in society’s measures of wealth, fame, or achievement. For those who are ashamed of their status and who worry about what the future holds. We pray that you will show them how to have hope in the future once again and that you will remind us all of those kingdom values which are more important than worldy accolades and teach us to appreciate them in others and live them out in our own lives. 

We pray for all those who are suffering at this time, whether in body, mind or soul. For those affected by Covid-19 and for all those who work in our caring professions. We pray that this Christmas we may all celebrate the gift of your great love, given to us in the baby Jesus, and fulfilled in his death on the cross. May we remember that you suffer with us and know the depths of despair as we have done. We pray that as we remember too your resurrection we may celebrate the promise of new life and hope in the future and that we may bring that joy to all those places that need it this year.

We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Amen

And we bring all our prayers together with the words of the Lord’s prayer:

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 trespasses
as we forgive those we trespass against us,
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory,
Forever and ever.
Amen 

Song: Tell out my soul H&P 86, STF 186

Blessing

And so our service concludes with some words of Blessing:

Whoever we are, whatever we think we can or cannot do, let us start by sharing the Great Good News. Let us ponder in our hearts and share with our friends the Greatness of our Lord. Let us remember and live out the wonder of the greatness of his might, and Trust in his firm promise and his sure mercy, going out with his blessing.Today, tomorrow and forever more. 

Amen 

Organ Voluntary

Herr Christ, der ein’ge Gottessohn, BWV 601 (one of four Advent chorale preludes from J.S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein)

Jonathan Bunney plays the William Drake organ of St Giles-in-the-Fields, London: the Poets’ Church

Circuit Worship: 13th December 2020

Led by Paul Spray

If you would like to join this service of worship using just the videos playing one after another, you can visit our playlist on Youtube by following the link below:

YouTube Playlist for 13 December 2020

Welcome and call to worship

A warm welcome to our Circuit service for the third Sunday in Advent. I’m Paul, and I am joined by Sizwe, Freda, Lauren, Wendy, and the singers who enrich our worship each week.

Let us worship God.

We start with a meditation from Iona – a story of light and darkness.

It speaks of God’s involvement with the Jews of Old Testament times – and how we may share the same experiences today.

Advent meditation: A story of light and darkness

Wild Goose Worship Group, Cloth for the Cradle, 1997, pp32ff

In the beginning God allowed for chaos, for troubled dreams, and uncertain sounds, and fear in the darkness.   Then, when the chaos was most threatening and hope was bleakest. God said “Let there be light.”   And there was light.

So, remember the chaos, the uncertainty, the confusion in which you once floundered, and give thanks for the light.

In the course of time, God allowed for a journey, from restriction to freedom, from a forgotten place to a promised land.   And when the journey was hardest, and the way ahead unclear, and the temptation to turn back most alluring, God said “Let there be light.” And there was light.

So, remember your journey And how far you have travelled, And give thanks for the light.

Later yet, God allowed for the special: for friendship to grow, for truth to be discovered, for faith to become real.   On the mountain top and in quiet places, God blessed us, saying “Let there be light”   And there was light.

So, remember not why you’ve been blessed, but how, and when, and where, And give thanks for the light.

And then, when the light was brightest, and life was good, despite our better judgment, but in solidarity with all human kind, we chased shadows, and chose darkness.

So, remember how, and when and where And perhaps why You have wandered from the light.

Because God loves us, there will be light again. Not first in chaos, not first on the journey, not first for the special place but on the ground, and in a hidden place, God will come, offering a baby’s hand, to greet us.

Advent candle prayer

A candle burns,

the sign of our faith.

God of the Baptising One,

come to us again this Advent.

May we have a faith that renews our lives.

May we live in the light of your promises.

Advent Candle song

Readings

Isaiah 61:1-4

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

John 1:19-23

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”[a] 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23

 He said,

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’

as the prophet Isaiah said.

Sermon

Song:

For everyone born, a place at the table

Church Hymnary 685 

Intercession

Dear God I come before you this morning in prayer.

I come before you with a humble heart and with hope that you will hear this prayer.

Many other people have come before you God and still do come before you praying and singing praises to your name asking for your mercies. Like them, I ask you Lord to hear this prayer.

This is a prayer in a time of Advent. A time that reminds the Christian family, different families across cultures, traditions, and communities about the birth of Jesus Christ. The one born for all of us, the one who comes in peace. The kind of peace we yearn for.

God, hear our prayers.

This period (advent) is about love, sharing and hope. We ask, Lord that you expand our hearts. That we may love more and that we may come before you with pure hearts filled with love. That we may grow in loving one another as you have done when you gave us your only son.

We ask dear Lord, this morning – that you instill equal love. Love, that sees no race, sees no gender, color or sexual orientation. We come before you Lord, in this prayer.

I pray for sharing during this time. A time that is difficult for many households. A time also challenging to many people around the world. Some have lost their jobs and some do not know where the next meal will come from. Others have also been deprived the opportunity to gather and to share in the life that there is for everyone. All due to the pandemic. A pandemic that has many doors locked, closed and many people isolated.

In this challenging time, father God, we ask that you give us the strength to stay connected, and to share in your love. In a world that is not fair and with so many roles – gender roles, divisions, and varying political opinions, I pray that you give us a heart of fairness and a mind of equality where all of us can find it easy to share the little that we have.

I pray, dear father, that you help us stand up for justice to (South African – amongst the highest in the world) protect women (and children) against gender based violence. I pray that you open our eyes to start looking at roles in a different way. Where a father may think like a mother and a mother like a father. Where no binaries will continue to divide our society.

We pray father for health during this covid-19 pandemic that you may grace us with the opportunity to see more years of life and that those who lost their loved ones you comfort them in hope and love. Father, I pray, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Psalm and farewell

Let’s conclude by saying together the great and cheering psalm set for today – psalm 126.

If you are by yourself, do say it all. If there are two or more of you, you might like to divide it up, one side saying the words in black, and the other side the words in red.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,[a]
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
    reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    carrying their sheaves.

Amen

That concludes our service for today

And we go out with Bach’s great instruction for advent – Wachet Auf! Sleepers, wake!

Organ Voluntary

Organ voluntary: Wachet auf, BWV 645 (J.S Bach)

Jonathan Scott plays the organ of St Mary’s Church, Petworth

https://youtu.be/JGqDnzQtQJw

Circuit Worship: 6th December 2020

Prof. David R. Matthews

The service this week is integrated into a single video. This is very much the easiest way to view the service without interruption – to play this go to:

If you would like to join this service of worship using just the videos playing one after another, you can visit our playlist on YouTube by following the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLc2KHyGgDaLudvjX4A5CNrK0azyCMWU8_

Welcome and call to worship

The lighting of the Advent Candle

God of surprises,

when we think you are not present our lives,

you reveal yourself in the love of friends and family

and nurture us in your never-ending affection.

God of surprises,

when we think you are not present in our community,

you labour to make us of one heart

and cause us to share gladly and generously.

God of surprises,

when people think you are not present in our world,

you bring hope out of despair

and create growth out of difficulty.

God of surprises,

you are ever with us.

When the days go by and our vision fades,

keep surprising us.

When our hope dims and our patience wears thin,

keep coming to us.

Teach us to keep our lamps lit

and to be prepared,

that we may see your loving presence among us.

Francis Brienen

Song:

Praise the Lord to the sound of trumpet

https://youtu.be/FC4uitrfolQ

Readings

Isaiah 40: 1-11

Mark 1: 1-8

Sermon

Prayers and the Lord’s prayer

Loving God, in this season of Advent you come to the world again as light in the darkness:

as enabling light

as guiding light

as light of hope and healing

– and you call us to be spreaders of the light.

We pray for your enabling light to shine on all those who persevere in the quest for peace and justice:

on people and organisations around the world who are seeking, in large ways and small, to dispel hatred and reconcile divided communities

on those who are striving to break the ingrained patterns of violence and war across the fractured countries of the Middle East.

We pray for your guiding light to shine on the world’s leaders as they struggle with the vast problems posed by the Covid pandemic and climate change.

Guide them away from personal ambition and national rivalries; inspire them instead to seek the solutions which can only be found in unity of purpose and action, so that this beautiful, fragile planet and all its people may be restored to health and wholeness.

We pray for your light of hope to shine out in the world’s wilderness places:

on the desperately poor for whom basic survival is a daily struggle

on those forced to flee their homes in search of a safe haven

those trapped in the misery of refugee camps

those living on the winter streets of our own cities.

We ask you to bless and uphold all who are working in these desolate situations to bring comfort and change.

We pray for your healing light to shine on all whose lives or livelihoods have been damaged by the pandemic:

on those who are struggling today with loneliness or anxiety or grief

on those who are sick and those who are exhausted.

We ask you to bless and encourage all our health workers and research scientists to whose skill and dedication we owe so much.

We pray for your transfiguring light to shine on our own lives and relationships, so that others may catch its reflection there:

so that our speaking may be full of grace

our listening full of sympathy

our actions full of loving kindness

so that we can be torchbearers of the love you showed when you came into the world as the stable-child of Bethlehem –

as the light that the darkness can never put out.

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.

Save us from the time of trial

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power

and the glory are yours,

now and forever.

O come, O come, Immanuel

Blessing

Organ Voluntary

Circuit Worship: 29 November 2020

Led by Simeon Mitchell

If you would like to join this service of worship using just the videos playing one after another, you can visit our playlist on Youtube by following the link below:

YouTube Playlist for 29 November 2020

Welcome and Advent candle liturgy

Welcome to this online service from the Oxford Methodist Circuit 

My name’s Simeon Mitchell and as you can see I’ve been joined for the first bit of the service by the rest of my family – Jenny, Rowan, Jasper and Alice. 

Whoever you are, whoever you are with, and wherever you are today, you are most welcome.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It marks the moment in the church’s year when we begin of our countdown to Christmas and to celebrating the birth of Jesus and God coming among us. Advent is a season of anticipation, a time of waiting, preparation, and hope.

And so Jasper is going to light our first Advent candle.

A candle burns,
the sign of our hope.

God of hope, 
come to us again this Advent.
May your hope live within us, 
burning as a light in our lives.
Amen.

(By David Hamflett, in Candles and Conifers (Wild Goose Publications, 2005))

Song: Light a candle in a darkened place (Singing the Faith 174), verses 1 and 2
Introduction

Advent begins with The End. Every year, the scriptures appointed for the first Sunday of the Advent focus our attention on the vision of the Last Days – the time when Christ will come again in glory and inaugurate God’s kingdom on earth – and the longings and the hopes and the promises through the Bible which look towards this transformation of the world. 

Our first reading today comes from the book of Isaiah, chapter 64. The people have returned from exile, but returned too to their old ways and are turning away from God. The prophet cries out, wishing that God would just come, like in days of old, and sort things out.

Reading: Isaiah 64:1-4 

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
   so that the mountains would quake at your presence— 
as when fire kindles brushwood
   and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
   so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
   you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 
From ages past no one has heard,
   no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
   who works for those who wait for him.

Reflection: Waiting
Song: Wait for the Lord (Taizé)
Prayer

You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time, want us to wait 
for the right time in which to discover 
Who we are, where we must go,
Who will be with us, and what we must do.
So, thank you…for the waiting time. 

You keep us looking.
You, the God of all space,
Want us to look in the right and wrong places for signs of hope,
For people who are hopeless,
For visions of a better world that will appear among the disappointments of the world we know. 
So, thank you…for the looking time. 

You keep us loving.
You, the God whose name is love,
Want us to be like you –
To love the loveless and the unlovely and the unlovable; 
To love without jealousy or design or threat,
And most difficult of all, to love ourselves.
So, thank you…for the loving time. 

And in all this you keep us,
Through hard questions with no easy answers;
Forgiving us when we fail or fall short;
Encouraging us in unexpected ways when we feel we useless; 
Through the patience and the dreams and the love of others;
And through Jesus Christ and his Spirit, you keep us. 
So thank you… for keeping us 
as we wait, and look, and love
until your kingdom comes.
Amen

(Iona Community, adapted)

Our second reading is from the Gospel of Mark. Mark does not give us a vision of some future second coming of Christ so much as it gives us a vision of the events that the early church had to navigate as they witnessed the might of Rome crush their nation. Jesus is preparing his disciples for these days of conflict and change, and advises them on what they should do as they wait.

Reading: Mark 13:5-8, 21-37

Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginnings of the birth pangs of the new age. 

And if anyone says to you then, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything.

‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light, 
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 

Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

‘Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its tender shoots appear and are breaking into leaf, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will live to see it all. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 

Be on your guard, stay alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work to do, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

Reflection: Staying Alert
Film: Stay Alert to Justice
Prayers of Intercession

Lord,
You tell us to be alert to signs of your kingdom
To keep awake so we will not miss the chance to encounter you.
As we bring before you our concerns for our neighbours, our community and our world, we pray, open our eyes to see and our hearts to respond.

We pray for our community, and especially neighbours in need.
For people who are lonely, or sick, or bereaved
People struggling with addictions and broken relationships 
Those for whom Christmas is not an event to look forward to, for whatever reason.
We pray particularly this week for the work of researchers, public health workers, and those now rolling out the vaccination programme.

Lord,
You promise that justice, peace and freedom will surely come.
As prisoners of that hope, we pray for everyone waiting for good news today:
those who are hungry or lack a safe place to stay
farmers, fishing people and exporters who will be particularly affected by the outcome of the Brexit negotiations
others anxious for their livelihoods at this time
all imprisoned without case or cause
and those who yearn to feel the touch of love or a whisper of salvation.

We give thanks and pray for those working to put right some of the wrongs in our society, that they may be strengthened and supported and bring your kingdom closer.
Truth-tellers and fact-checkers
Community organisers and climate activists
Lawyers and public servants 
those who reach bravely across the divides to forge peace and rebuild relationships.

We pray too who hold power, influence and wealth in our world, 
That as they exercise their responsibilities and use their resources
they will stay alert to those on the margins
act with wisdom and compassion
and work for the common good.

Lord,
there is no shortage of ways that we can help to bring your kingdom closer,
but we need be watching for them, especially in these strange times.
We pray for inspiration and strength,
that we may use the abilities, resources and opportunities we have, however limited
for the sake of those things and people who need them,
and be carriers of your light into situations of darkness.
Again, we ask, open our eyes to see and our hearts to respond.

We ask all this in the name of your son Jesus.
Amen.

In our final hymn, Charles Wesley offers a vision of the glory that is to come at the end of days. 

Song: Lo, he comes with clouds descending (Singing the Faith 177)
Closing prayer

May our bright and beloved God
travel with us through Advent.
Shine into our dark corners,
Warm us with joy and wonder,
Lead us into ways of peace and justice,
And bring us to new birth and new life. Amen.

Organ voluntary: Sinfonia, from Cantata No 29 (J.S. Bach, transcribed by Marcel Dupré)

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