Sunday Services from Connexion for July 26th 2020:
Sunday Services from Hillside Circuit for July 26th 2020:
Date: July 26th
Occasion: 8th After Pentecost
Old Testament: Genesis 29: 15-28
Letter: Romans 8: 26-39
New Testament: Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52
[Click or tap on a Bible reference above to go down the page to the Bible reading to read it for yourself or hear a recording (or both) and then click or tap on Back to top to come back here.]
Theme: God’s faithfulness
Alternative call to worship: Psalm 126.
If you would also like to use prayers from the Methodist Service Book, they can be found at the Prayers for worship webpage.
Prayers for today:
Almighty and gracious Father,
we give you thanks
for the fruits of the earth in their season
and for the labours of those who harvest them.
Make us, we pray,
faithful stewards of your great bounty,
for the provision of our necessities
and the relief of all who are in need,
to the glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer/Book of Divine Worship
We give you thanks, most gracious God,
for the beauty of earth and sky and sea;
for the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers;
for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers.
We praise you for these good gifts,
and pray that we may safeguard them for our posterity.
Grant that we may continue to grow
in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation,
to the honour and glory of your Name, now and for ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer/Book of Divine Worship
1 It seemed like a dream when the LORD brought us back
to the city of Zion.
2 We celebrated with laughter and joyful songs.
In foreign nations it was said,
“The LORD has worked miracles for his people.”
3 And so we celebrated
because the LORD had indeed worked miracles for us.
4 Our LORD, we ask you to bless our people again,
and let us be like streams in the Southern Desert.
5 We cried as we went out to plant our seeds.
Now let us celebrate as we bring in the crops.
6 We cried on the way to plant our seeds,
but we will celebrate and shout as we bring in the crops.
1 Praise the LORD and pray in his name!
Tell everyone what he has done.
2 Sing praises to the LORD! Tell about his miracles.
3 Celebrate and worship his holy name with all your heart.
4 Trust the LORD and his mighty power.
5 Remember his miracles and all his wonders
and his fair decisions.
6 You belong to the family of Abraham, his servant;
you are his chosen ones, the descendants of Jacob.
7 The LORD is our God,
bringing justice everywhere on earth.
8 He will never forget his agreement or his promises,
not in thousands of years.
*9 God made an eternal promise
10 to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
11 when he said, “I’ll give you the land of Canaan.”
12 At the time there were only a few of us,
and we were homeless.
13 We wandered from nation to nation,
from one country to another.
14 God did not let anyone mistreat our people.
Instead he protected us by punishing rulers
15 and telling them,
“Don’t touch my chosen leaders or harm my prophets!”
16 God kept crops from growing
until food was scarce everywhere in the land.
17 But he had already sent Joseph,
sold as a slave into Egypt,
18 with chains of iron around his legs and neck.
19 Joseph remained a slave
until his own words had come true,
and the LORD had finished testing him.
20 Then the king of Egypt set Joseph free
21 and put him in charge of everything he owned.
22 Joseph was in command of the officials,
and he taught the leaders how to use wisdom.
23 Jacob and his family came
and settled in Egypt as foreigners.
24 They were the LORD’S people,
so he let them grow stronger than their enemies.
25 They served the LORD, and he made the Egyptians plan
hateful things against them.
26 God sent his servant Moses.
He also chose and sent Aaron 27 to his people in Egypt,
and they worked miracles and wonders there.
28 Moses and Aaron obeyed God,
and he sent darkness to cover Egypt.
29 God turned their rivers into streams of blood,
and the fish all died.
30 Frogs were everywhere, even in the royal palace.
31 When God gave the command,
flies and gnats swarmed all around.
32 In place of rain, God sent hailstones
and flashes of lightning.
33 He destroyed their grapevines and their fig trees,
and he made splinters of all the other trees.
34 God gave the command, and more grasshoppers came
than could be counted.
35 They ate every green plant
and all the crops that grew in the land of Egypt.
36 Then God took the life of every first-born son.
37 When God led Israel from Egypt,
they took silver and gold, and no one was left behind.
38 The Egyptians were afraid and gladly let them go.
39 God hid them under a cloud
and guided them by fire during the night.
40 When they asked for food,
he sent more birds than they could eat.
41 God even split open a rock,
and streams of water gushed into the desert.
42 God never forgot his sacred promise
to his servant Abraham.
43 When the LORD rescued his chosen people from Egypt,
they celebrated with songs.
44 The LORD gave them the land
and everything else the nations had worked for.
45 He did this so that his people
would obey all of his laws.
Shout praises to the LORD!
15 Laban said to him, “You shouldn’t have to work without pay, just because you are a relative of mine. What do you want me to give you?”
16-17 Laban had two daughters. Leah was older than Rachel, but her eyes didn’t sparkle, while Rachel was beautiful and had a good figure. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he answered, “If you will let me marry Rachel, I’ll work seven years for you.”
19 Laban replied, “It’s better for me to let you marry Rachel than for someone else to have her. So stay and work for me.” 20 Jacob worked seven years for Laban, but the time seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much.
21 Jacob said to Laban, “The time is up, and I want to marry Rachel now!” 22 So Laban gave a big feast and invited all their neighbours. 23 But that evening he brought Leah to Jacob, who married her and spent the night with her. 24 Laban also gave Zilpah to Leah as her servant woman.
25 The next morning Jacob found out that he had married Leah, and he asked Laban, “Why did you do this to me? Didn’t I work to get Rachel? Why did you trick me?”
26 Laban replied, “In our country the older daughter must get married first. 27 After you spend this week with Leah, you may also marry Rachel. But you will have to work for me another seven years.”
28-30 At the end of the week of celebration, Laban let Jacob marry Rachel,
26 In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. 27 All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God’s people. 28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose, 29 and he has always known who his chosen ones would be. He had decided to let them become like his own Son, so that his Son would be the first of many children. 30 God then accepted the people he had already decided to choose, and he has shared his glory with them.
31 What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us? 32 God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won’t he freely give us everything else? 33 If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them? 34 Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God’s right side, speaking to him for us. 35 Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? 36 It is exactly as the Scriptures say,
“For you we face death all day long.
We are like sheep on their way to be butchered.”
37 In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. 38 I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, 39 and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!
31 Jesus told them another story:
The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a farmer plants a mustard seed in a field. 32 Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows larger than any garden plant and becomes a tree. Birds even come and nest on its branches.
33 Jesus also said:
The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a woman mixes a little yeast into three big batches of flour. Finally, all the dough rises.
44 The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when someone finds treasure hidden in a field and buries it again. A person like that is happy and goes and sells everything in order to buy that field.
45 The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a shop owner is looking for fine pearls. 46 After finding a very valuable one, the owner goes and sells everything in order to buy that pearl.
47 The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when a net is thrown into a lake and catches all kinds of fish. 48 When the net is full, it is dragged to the shore, and the fishermen sit down to separate the fish. They keep the good ones, but throw the bad ones away. 49 That’s how it will be at the end of time. Angels will come and separate the evil people from the ones who have done right. 50 Then those evil people will be thrown into a flaming furnace, where they will cry and grit their teeth in pain.
51 Jesus asked his disciples if they understood all these things. They said, “Yes, we do.”
52 So he told them, “Every student of the Scriptures who becomes a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.”
The message for today in English, with Mr Ivan Chigwada: God’s faithfulness
In terms of our Church Calendar today is Harvest Sunday and appropriately the theme for the day is God’s faithfulness. The LORD God is faithful in His promises and the LORD God is faithful in His providing for us. He makes His promises to us in the full knowledge that He will meet all of them. God’s promises to us are in His word most of us have it in our homes and we comfortably wait for each day to come and go because we believe that word. As His children and members of the Church of Christ we celebrate this aspect of God’s goodness through observing harvest and harvest festivals at varying times during the months June to September each year. I say appropriate because in the Christian Kingdom, the symbolic meaning of harvest in Scripture recognizes and acknowledges two main areas which are God’s provision for us and God’s blessing for others. God is always at work and He never stops to bless and provide for us His children, if He stops then we will not live to see the next moment. God is not like us the human parents. By way of example little children look forward to mum and dad returning from wherever it is they will have gone at the end of each day because the parents always bring goodies, which make the little ones believe that life is good. When our children mature and move away, on visiting them, not only do we not take presents to them but we conveniently omit carrying those goodies which they always used to enjoy getting from us daily. God is not like that He does not stop providing, even when we have matured in our walk with Him.
Harvest is a term that is synonymous with farming and when harvesting crops from his fields, man celebrates God’s provision of food. The thing to note is that we reap or harvest what we sow. If you do not sow you do not harvest. For God to bless you must be in a relationship with Him. For God to provide you must be His child. After His provision we have to exercise wisdom when using what He gives us. It looks like harvest festival celebrations started among rural agricultural societies before getting to urban based communities. When celebrating this festival, we decorate our churches with the produce of the land. When we go on to distribute those goods on display to the needy in society it is our way of praising and thanking God for faithfully providing. Whether we call it the Harvest Festival, the Festival of Weeks or the Festival of in Gathering, the idea is to celebrate the LORD God’s provision of our daily needs which include but are not limited to food. Yes God gives us all we need and when we harvest that which He sends our way we should thank Him for His providence through giving some of those blessings to others. We experience the spirit of harvest all the time, yet celebrate a harvest season just once in a year because God’s instructions to us are very clear ‘Count off seven weeks from when you first begin to cut grain at the time of harvest. Then celebrate the Festival of Harvest.’ God’s ways are not based in human logic, they are based in His commandments which we must observe and not question.
Psalm 105 is all about David reminiscing on all of God’s mighty deeds in bringing Israel to the Promised Land. When we look at all those miracles God wrought in that entire process we feel encouraged to keep living close to Him since He is the God who faithfully keeps His promises. To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob yes the Jacob who moved Israel to Egypt, God made His promises concerning the whole land of Canaan, numerous descendants and blessings. More than 500 years later God shows his faithfulness by taking Israel back to the Promised Land and it is this act which excites David so much he writes Psalm 105 his praise song to God. I believe there may be God’s promises that were made to you in the past? If any have not been fulfilled remember He is faithful and because of that His promise will come true.
While David talks of God’s faithfulness in this Psalm let us see if we can find God’s faithfulness and provision in the life of Jacob particularly during the initial stages of his stay in the land of Haran? If we look at it through human eyes we might miss the hand of God in all of it. The fact is that throughout chapters 29 and 30 of Genesis we see Jacob making his own arrangements. He had no thought of asking God His will regarding marital and monetary matters. Filled with self-confidence, he felt quite capable of handling his own affairs. So upon arrival at his uncle’s home he began to make himself useful to his uncle so much so that Laban offered him a fulltime Job. Within a month Laban began to wonder how he had ever managed his farms before Jacob came. Never had he seen such industry, such business acumen, such cleverness in closing a deal, such an uncanny skill with cattle and sheep. The lad was worthy a fortune to anyone shrewd enough to get his name on the dotted line. When Laban opened the question of wages Jacob was ready. ‘Rachel!’, he said, ‘I want Rachel. I’ll serve you seven years for Rachel.’ The bargain was struck and ‘Jacob served seven years for Rachel: and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had for her.’
Jacob was still to demand to be paid his wages, Laban would deliver and Jacob would make a discovery. There is a ‘poetic justice’ in the dealings of God with men. God sees to it that in what measure we meet it is measured to us again. (Matthew 7:2) Observe the law in action here. Jacob used the law of the first born to take that which belonged to Esau. The law of the first born was used to deprive him of the love of his love on that crucial night. Laban did not care and he had not cared. Now he had to reap just what he had sowed. The mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine.
Where is God’s faithfulness in the schemes of Jacob and Laban at outdoing one another? And where does this take us given our theme God’s faithfulness? The words of Paul’s letter to the Romans will put our hearts at rest if only we follow them closely. ‘And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes for them.’ God chose Jacob to be part of the family that would deliver the Messiah of the world. That family started with Abraham and moved to Isaac. So even if Jacob was busy cunning everyone the end result would be the realization of the plan of God for him. The human being says but God why do you use bad people to achieve your plans and God says I use them because I chose them. That is the faithfulness of God. He uses those he chooses to achieve His plans according to His purposes for those people.
Those in Church today who have read Bible passages in which God speaks to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will want to know how they are connected to the plan of God for these men. It is there in the Bible. Like them you are children of God. Talking of Himself Christ says ‘But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.’ We go back again to Paul’s words “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God.’ Is there a parent who does not love his offspring? No! Is there a child who does not love their parents? No! Those who accepted Christ like you and I become God’s children who love Him so He will cause everything to work for our good but strictly according to God’s purpose for us! Everything in Jacob’s life was caused to work for the good of bringing the Messiah into this world and that is why he ended up with 4 wives one of whom would be the mother of Judah and the other the mother of Joseph.
God’s purpose for you was for you to be the lead singer in Church and when you joined the drum majorettes at school, got to like music lessons, was led to this church and someone put you in touch with that choirmaster who got you to be a member of the singing group, God was causing all things to work for your good according to His purposes for making you that singer in His Church. That is God’s faithfulness! Your harvest and your blessings were following you! Can you ask for anything better! Another example. God’s purpose was, for Winston Churchill to be Prime Minister of Great Britain during the World War 2. Those who know are aware that at school he was one of the dullest boys yet when he went through all he went through including a short stint covering some war in South Africa the doors to politics were opened for him. As Prime Minister when he told the British to ‘never, never, never give up,’ the war against Hitler was on the road to being won and it was won. That is God’s faithfulness.
God’s plans for you were made a long time ago. They are not an afterthought but a permanent position adopted by God for you. He is faithful, and will see them through. Even if the Labans of this world swap your gifts God’s plan and promise for you will not fail.
Here are the other blessings that follow those who are the children of God. The Spirit of God is always with them all the time to guide and guard but more importantly to note their needs and present them before the throne of God. He prays for us with ‘groanings’ that cannot be expressed in words. But more importantly because the Father knows the hearts of His children, He understands the prayers presented by His Spirit before Him, since His Spirit takes only those things that agree with His purpose for us to Him. The same God loves us so much such that when we had sinned He sent His one and only Son to be our redeemer. The Son loves those He redeemed He will not let anything separate them from enjoying the love that He has for them.
In the Gospel of Matthew we listen to Christ teaching about how the Kingdom of God was set to evolve. When we talk of the Kingdom of God, in essence we are referring to the establishment of the Gospel of Christ and how it would come to cover the whole world. The scope of the parable of the mustard seed is to show that the beginnings of the gospel would be small, but that its latter end would greatly increase. The scope of the parable of the yeast is to show that the gospel should prevail and be successful in degrees. Thus it was in the world. The apostles, by preaching, hid a handful of yeast in the great mass of mankind, and by degrees, it made a wonderful change in the taste and relish of it. In the parable of the hidden treasure Jesus is the true Treasure, in Him there is abundance of all that which is rich and useful. The gospel is the field in which the treasure is hidden. He that has found this treasure hides it, which denotes a holy jealousy, lest Satan come between us and the gospel. Those who discern this treasure in the field and value it will never be at ease until they have made it their own upon any terms. Jesus is the pearl of great price, a jewel of inestimable value, which will make those who have it rich toward God. In having Him, we have enough to make us happy here and forever. Those who would have a saving interest in Christ must be willing to part with all for Him, and leave all to follow Him. Whatever that stands in opposition to Christ or in competition with Him for our love and service, we must cheerfully quit it, though ever so dear to us.
The last of the parables shows us that the world is a vast sea. The preaching of the gospel is the casting of a net into that sea. This net gathers of every kind, as large dragnets do. In the visible church there is trash, dirt, weeds and vermin as well as fish. The net is now filling. When the net is full and drawn to the shore, there shall be separation between the good and the bad that are gathered in it. The good shall be gathered into vessels and to be kept but the bad shall be cast away as vile and unprofitable. Then and not till then, will the dividing day be. We must not look for the net full of all good fish. The vessels will be so, but in the net they are mixed. This is the faithfulness of God. He allows the planted seed to grow, He allows the yeast to change the dough, He allows the field to look after the treasure, He puts the greatly valued pearl at our disposal and He allows the net to fill up before it is dragged ashore. Judgment will surely happen and it is only then that the separation will happen but in the interim He will let the net fill up. The disciples were now learning that they might teach and maybe would have to preach. After Christ had commissioned and left them the Church of God began to grow and we hear that one day more than 3000 were added to the number of the Church. This is the concept of the mustard seed a tiny dot which within time become a huge entity. God who is faithful to His word told us of this parable and when Christ told that miserably small group of 11 ‘And you will be my witnesses telling people about me everywhere- in Jerusalem, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ He knew what He was talking about. 2000 years later the Kingdom of God whose expansion was started by that tiny group has reached the ends of the earth. The blessing of God and Christ to those disciples was that He compared them to a householder who brings forth out of last year’s growth and this year’s gathering abundance and variety. The same blessings are following you so that the Kingdom does not shrink but like the fishing net will keep filing up. As fishers of men you shall harvest their souls and as faithful children of a faithful God He will keep on blessing you and providing for you so that you may achieve His plans for you. As you go through today celebrating this goodness of God, even if there are a few of you like the 11 refuse to be discouraged, remember God is with you and rely on God’s protection and guidance. You can rely on His faithfulness to surround you all the days of your life. May the LORD bless you and protect you. May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD show you His face and give you His peace. As you celebrate God’s goodness in blessing and providing, will you go on to bless and provide for His Church, for His children who may have less than you, will you bless and provide for others for as long as you shall live since He faithfully does the same for you?