Sunday Services for May 17th 2020 from Connexion:
Sunday Services for May 17th 2020 from Hillside Circuit:
Message for the 6th Sunday of Easter with Rev Bekithemba Phiri: THE TIME OF IGNORANCE IS PAST (Acts 17: 22-31)
[Continue scrolling to read the message for yourself or find the audio version here:]
Athens was regarded as a centre of culture and education in the Ancient times; it had famous University and numerous beautiful buildings. The city was given over to a cultured paganism that was nurtured by idolatry, novelty (something unusual) and philosophy. Greek was devoted to philosophy and that’s where great philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates came from. When Paul saw that the City was wholly idolatry he was heartbroken, for he knew that many of Greek gods were only characters in stones that were unable to change their lives. With all their culture and wisdom, the Greeks did not know the true God, but they were very religious and worshipped objects, built altars inscribed ‘To the Unknown God’.
1. DON’T CONFUSE TRANSCENDENCE WITH DISTANCE
Athenians confused transcendence (lofty, position above, far from the world) with distance thought of bringing this unknown God to them, that they might have him with them in those images, the absurdity which Paul here shows. Paul then shows them that our God is an infinite Spirit and is not far from any of us to give us the mercies we ask of him. Paul was surprised that how could they worship the unknown God? How could that God help them, this was their level of ignorance (they were un-aware of this transcendent-immanent God). Paul here indicates to them and to us that God from His lofty position, above the world became intimately involved in history trough Jesus Christ his Son. This then means that God predestined the elect to salvation and entered human affairs repeatedly and sporadically (time and again) and through Jesus continued to be operative in human life. Paul preaches a God who is the creator of the universe and who dwells not in houses made with human hands versus their gods whom they made/created with their own hands and dwell in their man-made houses.
2. THE TIMES OF IGNORANCE GOD OVERLOOKED FOR OUR SAKE
The times of ignorance are gone by; God cannot overlook sin any longer on the plea that one does not know. Let me rightly say, the day of terror to the wicked is coming whether they profess to know the truth or not, but their day of terror is coming. Besides condemning the wicked even we the Christians will be judged for Peter says judgement will begin in the house of God (1 Peter 4: 17), a day of rejoicing also is coming to the righteous, but everyone will be judged according to the deeds done in their body. God was patient with our sin and ignorance and held back his divine wrath, since he has sent the Saviour to the world, he then commands us all to repent of our foolish ways. Our Christian faith has a satisfactory answer to our faith related questions, no-matter the level of education or philosophy we have, only faith or theology related questions can be answered by Christian faith. The truth of faith is above that of reason but we can use them together to explain religious claims. The Athenians were highly philosophical but were ignorant (lacked awareness on things of God) and it is the place where philosophy was cooked, but they could not answer theology related questions.
Brothers and sisters we need witnesses who will invade the halls of ‘academe’ and present Christ to the people who are wise in this world, but ignorant of the true wisdom of the world to come. Man-made idols like those of Athens and gods which are not true God which we worship trying to bring down the invisible God will not take us anywhere. The God we worship is both transcendent and immanent, he is with us from His lofty position and our Christian faith has answers to all God related and life related issues which the philosophy of the Athenians could not answer. And no level of education can satisfy our questions we have save our faith. The God present by Paul to the Athenians is The creator of the world, The governor of the world, The judge of the world, Our father- we are his off spring and Knowable, never think that He is transcendent and not with us therefore we can replace him with carved images and he has in these last days overlooked the times of ignorance.
Message for the 6th Sunday of Easter with Mrs Julie Caddick: There’s always Hope
[Continue scrolling to read the message for yourself and sing along with the songs, or find the audio version here:]
Let us pray: In the words of Psalm 66: 16 – 20
Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me. I cried out to Him with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!
An address to the children – if we have not already heard from our President then we will be waiting today what is the next step which is planned about the lock down conditions in this country. I wonder what you have been hoping for during these last six weeks whilst we have been made to stay home and not go about our normal activities. Do you hope you will be able to go outside your yard to play with your friends, participate in sporting activities, be able to go to church and perhaps back to school? Perhaps you never want to hear the words “lock down, Corona Virus” or “Covid 19” again.
What do you understand by the word “hope”? Talk with your family about this and each say what they are hoping for.
Hope in the way we use the word every day, is not something we can touch or feel. It is what we call an abstract noun. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. We all have different hopes but the one hope we have as Christians is the hope in Jesus Christ and what He has done and will do. Christian hope is not abstract – it is not a feeling – it is something concrete and this is what we will be looking at in the following sermon.
Today’s readings are
Acts 17: 22-31,
1 Peter 3: 13-22
John 14: 15-21
Please pause and read these passages aloud.
Hope always carries the element of the future whether it be the immediate future today, “ I hope there will be bread at the shops now” or somewhere in time “ I hope the children will be here for Christmas”. This kind of hope is almost wishful thinking – it is a hope without certainty but Christian hope is not like that. Christian hope is rooted in a certainty and in the concrete, visible reality of God revealed in Jesus Christ who “is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation” Col 1:15.
I would like to comment briefly on the Acts passage then delve a bit further into the hope we have as Christians and how that hope becomes ours and becomes a hope for us to live with and by.
In Athens, a pagan society who had no belief in God, the “objects of worship” which Paul observed vs 23 indicated the Athenians had a belief and hope in something beyond themselves, something to worship but it was abstract – there was no definition of their hope or belief. It was a religious observation. It is that which Paul addresses pointing to the living God who is the creator God has acted, bringing salvation and a relationship with Himself. That is hope indeed.
In his letter to Christians Peter urges the believers vs 15 and 16 “ But in your heart set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have, Do this with gentleness and respect , keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”. What is the reason for the hope that we have?
Christian hope is the confident affirmation that God is faithful, that He will complete what He has begun. It is also, therefore, that confident expectation which waits patiently and ardently for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.
On what do we base our confidence? – it is on the faithfulness of God, the ways in which He has acted in the past and is acting today, fulfilling His promises, revealing His character. We read in Scripture of the ways in which God saved His people time and time again and the reasons that these stories are repeated are because we so easily forget the faithfulness of God and that as we read and read again we begin to understand more of God. On the past experiences we can hope today and have it for tomorrow. What God has done foremost and primarily through Jesus is the visible and concrete proof that what we hope for is not wishful thinking. Though we do not have the physical presence of Jesus with us we have the physical presence of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus as we read in John 14. In vs 17 Jesus tells us “But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” Because we have the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus we are confident and we have confident hope.
I cannot deny that there are many millions of Zimbabweans who are living without hope at the moment. Not only do they have no hope for today but they see no hope for the future. This was the situation for many before this present crisis and has just magnified over the past 7 weeks. Perhaps you are one of these.
Of course hope is something we can give – in the physical, with food, compassion, companionship, education – in whatever circumstances we have around us and as we see and hear of the opportunity – and it will be different for each one of us but in the end the hope that everyone needs is the saving presence of Jesus Chris and that hope needs to be spoken of and proclaimed at every opportunity. You may feel with Peter “silver and gold I do not have” but we all have what Peter did have “what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
To whom do you need to speak those life giving words today and in the coming week? To whom this week will those words give hope? For the cripple these words meant his life took a new turn (and Peter and John and the emerging church faced new challenges as they spoke these words). These words are not based on wishful thinking but on the character, actions and name of the Lord Jesus, based on the experiences of His faithfulness to us through the ages but more importantly because He is hope. That is what we need to remember.
I end with this prayer for you from Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
[If you would like to use prayers from the Methodist Service Book, they can be found at the Prayers for worship webpage.]
Mid-week services for May 13th 2020 from Connexion:
Sunday Services for May 10th 2020 from Connexion:
This is the link for Sunday Services from Connexion on Facebook.
Sunday Service for May 10th 2020 from Hillside Circuit:
Date: May 10th
Occasion: 5th Sunday of Easter
New Testament: Acts 7: 55-60
Letter: 1 Peter 2: 2-10
Gospel: John 14: 1-14
Theme: Comfort for troubled hearts
Here are the songs for today’s Sunday service. Click or tap on each to open YouTube in a new tab. Alternatively go to the Songs for Worship page where they are embedded.
Christ be our light.
O God, our help in ages past.
Ten thousand reasons (Bless the Lord, O my soul).
Be lifted up.
If you would like to use prayers from the Methodist Service Book, they can be found at the Prayers for worship webpage.
The message for Sunday Service May 10th 2020 presented by Rev. Nobuhle Sibanda:
COMFORT FOR THE TROUBLED HEARTS
The words of Jesus are part of a lengthy farewell discourse that he gave to the disciples in the upper room following the Last Supper. Jesus addresses his followers, in every generation, preparing them for his return to God and the sending of the Holy Spirit as his way of being present to them. The disciples are already troubled by the departure of Jesus and each inquiry deals with Jesus’ departure. Peter wants to know where Christ is going, Thomas doesn’t know too and wants to know the way, while Philip demands that the Lord shows them the Father and finally Judah who wonders how the Lord will reveal himself to them and not to the world. All these four questions are a cry to Jesus that why must he leave them?
Christians are not exempted from suffering
Often we have thought that being a Christian means that we do not suffer, or face hard times. We think that believers have it easy in life, opportunities come knocking from all angles and that everything is just a walk in the park. While opportunities are there, there is another side of the coin that when we flip the coin we realise that Christians suffer, they face closed doors, they miss opportunities too. It’s not always the case that they have it easy, trials and hard times are there. They get troubled and that is what Jesus is telling his disciples before he lives that they should not be troubled, but they should take heart. Jesus tells the disciples not to let their hearts be troubled. Troubled here is the same word that is used in each of the three chapters. When Jesus went to see his good friend Martha, following the death of her brother, “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” (John11:33). Anticipating his crucifixion, Jesus prayed to God the Father, “My soul is troubled.” (John12:27) even on the night before his crucifixion as he was celebrating the Passover with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in his spirit. (John 13:21). It is clear that the devil would rejoice in taking advantage of the troubled hearts of the disciples, he would certainly bring doubts that could be overcome by obedience. This is not the time for the disciples to lose their faith, but it is the time to trust more in God. And these circumstances of a loss of a friend, the betrayal by a friend and imminent painful death certainly made Jesus to be troubled in his heart.
Jesus is the source of comfort
We have a saviour whom without a doubt identifies and relate to the incredible pain we sometimes have in our lives. To the hearts that are broken, troubled by the loss of the loved ones, troubled by the betrayal of our loved ones, troubled by the pandemic that has kept us under lock down for the past 7 weeks and we are not even sure when this shall end and when we shall gather up again as a church. Christ is saying in this world we shall be troubled, trouble will always be there but take heart, overcome. Yes, Covid-19 is real people have died, the loss is unexplainable and the pain is just too much not to mention the loss of jobs for some and income, but take heart.
To the troubled hearts Jesus’ promise is that he is not going forever, instead he is going to prepare a place for each and every one of us. We are assured that all of us have a room prepared for us. We are not going to stay on this earth forever; this earth is not our permanent residence. However, it is possible to have a room waiting for one but fail to reach it because of the dangers on the way. Whatever challenges may arise on the way, we need not worry, Jesus will come again and he himself will escort us to our destination.
Dear disciples of Christ the present parting with Christ is only a temporary separation. Keep on trusting in Christ, keep on believing keep on holding on. This is not the time to have weak kind of faith. This is not the time to have doubts neither is it the time to throw in the towel. Continue keeping on, continue looking up to hills where our help comes from, and continue trusting in the Father.
Faith enables us to overcome suffering
Beloved people of God, though we are suffering and we are trialled, let us not lose our faith. I don’t know what trials you are facing today, maybe you are facing challenges similar to the ones of being stoned, stoned by the economy, stoned by the loss of a job, stoned by being deserted by all those close to you. But such challenges do not last forever, they pass for those who do not give up, for those who hold on. Yes we are tired, and on the verge of collapsing but we need to keep the faith, we need the hope. And it is only faith that will help us to overcome, in spite of being under lockdown, watching our beloved ones dying and not being able to bury them, we need to keep the faith and not collapse. We need to keep the faith that will remind the church and nation that troubles do not last forever.
While we are here, we are not alone his promise of the Holy Spirit is real, the Holy Spirit that comforts us when we are troubled, the Holy Spirit that strengthens us under this lockdown, and enables us to soldier on. Though we are troubled beloved people of God we are not despaired, though we are troubled we are not alone, though we are troubled we are not forsaken, though we are troubled we are not forgotten and though we are troubled our hope is not lost, our faith is shaken but we never lose hope, we never forsake our faith and we never compromise on our faith and the teachings of Christ. For when we are troubled he comforts us, he comforts the troubled hearts, he comforts the broken hearts, he comforts the hearts that can’t take the pain anymore, and he comforts the hearts that have had enough of the challenges. Is Holy Spirit is with us to comfort us. Therefore, beloved people of God, l call upon every heart that is troubled, and is on the verge of giving up, the troubled families on this lockdown who have barely anything to eat. The troubled parents who wakeup as early as 3am risking their lives to queue for $100 to sustain their families and yet that money is not even enough. Our children who are home and anticipating writing their examinations but they are on lockdown and we do not know when they shall go back to school. People are troubled and do not know where to find comfort, they want to be shown where the father is. We all want to see where our help will I call upon the church that is being greatly tested and worshipping at homes and not in our churches we built to gather together, l call upon the nation of Zimbabwe and the world at large grieving for the economy meltdown that it is experiencing. I call upon all of us all to take heart and that our troubled hearts may find comfort in God. Indeed our hearts are troubled. Let us seek Christ for he is the one who comforts the troubled hearts.
Mid Week Services for May 7th 2020 from Connexion:
Note that the mid-week service in Ndebele with Rev Nkobi was delayed by technical issues and the audio version is not expected to be ready until Sunday May 10th 2020. Meanwhile you can find the video version on Facebook.
Sunday Services for May 3rd 2020 from Connexion:
[Sorry. Once again I have been unable to upload the audio version of the service in Ndebele. Please try the Facebook version by searching for The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe on Facebook.]
Sunday Service for May 3rd 2020 from Hillside Circuit:
Date: May 3rd
Occasion: 4th Sunday of Easter
New Testament: Acts 2: 42-47
Letter: 1 Peter 2: 19-25
Gospel: John 10: 1-10
Theme: Known by the Great Shepherd
Here are the YouTube links for the songs for today, chosen by the Hillside Methodist Church Worship Team, or you can play them direct in the Songs for worship webpage where they are embedded.
Rejoice and be glad; the Redeemer has come! (This version omits verses 2 and 4).
All creatures of our God and king
The King of Love my Shepherd is
I will sing the wondrous story
Father God I wonder
Sunday Service presented by Rev Margaret James
Good morning. This is the 4th Sunday of the Easter season and I want to begin our worship with one of our great Easter Hymns which I have so missed singing this year.
The Hymn is no 230 in the old Methodist Hymnbook or 207 in the new Hymns & Psalms
1. Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come;
Go look on His cradle, His cross and His tomb.
Sound His praises, tell the story of Him who was slain,
Sound His praises, tell with gladness He liveth again.
2. Rejoice and be glad! It is sunshine at last;
The clouds have departed, the shadows are past.
3. Rejoice and be glad! For the blood has been shed;
Redemption is finished, the price has been paid.
4. Rejoice and be glad! Now the pardon is free;
The just for the unjust has died on the tree.
5. Rejoice and be glad! For the Lamb that was slain,
O’er death is triumphant, and liveth again.
6. Rejoice and be glad! For our King is on high;
He pleadeth for us on His throne in the sky.
7. Rejoice and be glad! For He cometh again;
He cometh in glory, the Lamb that was slain.
We may not feel like rejoicing while we are ‘locked down’ and isolated from our church community, but the Christian message is a message of joy; a message of victory over trouble, disease and disaster.
In Romans 8 verse 28 Paul says, “We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good.” God is with us even when nobody else is with us and we know that in all circumstances God is always with us.
In Galatians 2 verse 20, Paul also says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”.
Let us pray.
Lord God Almighty, we praise and thank you that you are with us day by day, even in the current situation of isolation and anxiety. Thank you that you never leave us or forsake us. We pray that as we share in this service today
the lonely may feel the reality of your presence;
the anxious may be able to relax in the truth that you are guiding and leading us day by day;
the sick may find their healing in your touch; and,
the tired may find their rest in you. AMEN.
Although we are still in the Easter Season, our Bible readings which were set for today, don’t actually contain one of the resurrection stories, but they are definitely based on the certainty that Jesus is alive and that we are known by the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
Our first reading is from John’s Gospel chapter 10, verses 1-10. In this passage Jesus uses the well known situation of a shepherd looking after his sheep on the Judean hills.
“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.
The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore, Jesus said again,
“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.
All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate, who ever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”.
We have all of us had some experience of thieves. I clearly remember the distress, the devastation I felt when a thief stole my handbag at the bus station in Jo’burg as I was travelling home to Bulawayo. Thieves are motivated by their own wants and needs. They don’t care what damage they do or how much hurt they cause. They are only hoping that they will get something that will be to their benefit.
Jesus says that he is completely the opposite.
The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus comes to bring us real, abundant and fulfilling lives.
Many people think of Christianity in negative terms. Christians mustn’t smoke, or drink alcohol or go to parties. Christian women mustn’t wear certain types of clothes or reveal certain parts of their bodies! I have known some Christians who have refused to watch a popular film because of the immoral lives of some of the famous film stars.
Jesus came to this life in order to help, heal and teach people. In another translation of this passage Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” He offers us a life of joy, peace and fulfilment. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we will never suffer pain, distress or heartache. No! It means that we will always know his comfort, his strength, his power and his peace even when we face troubles of various kinds.
The second Bible passage which I want to read comes from Acts Chapter 2, verses 42 – 47.
Acts chapter 2 brings us the wonderful story of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the disciples. The background is that, after the resurrection of Jesus, there were 40 days in which he appeared to his followers at different times and in different situations.
Then came the dramatic day of Ascension when they saw Jesus being carried up into his home in heaven and they realised that they would not see his physical body again.
He told them to wait in Jerusalem and 10 days later came the dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit and they realised that Jesus was indeed with them in a new and dynamic way. On that day of Pentecost, Peter, who, 7 weeks before, had been so terrified that he denied even knowing Jesus, stood up before an enormous crowd and clearly declared the resurrection of Jesus.
He preached with such power and inspiration from the Holy Spirit that about 3,000 people were converted that day. Our appointed reading is verses 42 to 47. It summarises the way those first Christians lived and worshipped.
Acts 2 verses 42 to 47.
They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
Praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
In verse 42 we find that those first followers of Jesus devoted themselves to four things.
1. The apostles teaching. The term “apostles” means ‘sent people’, and at this stage means the 11 who had been Jesus’ disciples and were now sent out with his message. They were teaching what Jesus had taught them; passing on to others the things that we now find in the four Gospels. The gospels are more than just biographies of the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. They are full of Jesus’ teaching and we need to continue to study them regularly.
2. The fellowship. Fellowship means sharing with one another; listening to one another; and reaching out to help one another. This is one aspect of church life which we really miss in these days of Covid-19 lockdown. We miss the loving support of fellow Christians. Yes, we keep in contact as much as we can, but we do miss meeting together. I was rather hurt when the recent ‘lockdown’ extension classed church gatherings with things like gathering ‘to drink in bars and other recreations’. Fellowship is far, far more important than just a gathering of friends. Services like this whether on the church web-site or on ‘whatsapp’ don’t really make up for the loving fellowship of the body of Christ meeting together. However, it does remind us of the problems faced by Christians who live in countries where Christian gatherings are illegal. We need to keep praying for them.
3. The Breaking of Bread. This phrase refers directly to the sacrament of Holy Communion but it also includes all of our worship services, including this one. It is so important that we take time to focus our minds on God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to praise and thank God for all he has done. When Jesus promised abundant life, this included a daily, hourly, moment by moment walk with him, through the Holy Spirit living in us. I really miss being able to meet with other Christians and sing the great worship hymns of the Church but, in a very real way, we can still worship in our homes. I enjoy listening to Christian music and also singing the great Christian hymns in my mind. No-one else can hear me, but God can.
4. Prayer. The life of the early Church centred around prayer and we find many examples of their prayers in the New Testament.
Rather than talk about the great subject of prayer, I will rather finish with a few verses of a hymn written by James Montgomery and found in our Methodist Hymn Book as number 533 or in Hymns & Psalms as number 557.
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
His watchword at the gate of death;
He enters heaven with prayer.
O Thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way,
The path of prayer thyself hast trod;
Lord! Teach us how to pray.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
[Here is a link to a version of the song Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire.]
[If you want additional prayers, you can find some, taken from the Methodist Service Book, at the Prayers for worship webpage.]