August 2, 2021

Sunday Worship Service for 1st August 2021

Passage: Ephesians Chapter 4 verses 1-16

A prayer of thanksgiving
Thank you, Lord, that we can trust you in all things.
Even when we don’t understand,
when we feel lost and alone,
we can trust you.
When we wander in the wilderness,
thank you that you are there by our side,
that you reach out and touch us
with outstretched, open arms.
Thank you, Lord, that we are safe with you.
For you provide all we need,
that which is ‘on earth’ and that which is eternal.
Amen.
Read Ephesians Chapter 4 verses 1-16
Sermon by Rev Peter Lyth
At the moment, the headline news each day contains the latest successes of Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics. From a time, (literally just over a week ago), when there was some uncertainty as to whether the games would actually take place, they are now in full swing and the huge challenge of logistics in holding such an event in the midst of a pandemic seems (so far at least) to have been met. So far, Team GB have been successful in winning medals. The men’s swimming events hogged the headlines on Tuesday and Wednesday and many were captivated with the success of our swimmers. Tom Dean’s victory in the 200m freestyle with Duncan Scott’s pursuit to get silver was particularly memorable, as was Georgia Taylor Brown getting a silver in the triathlon despite having a puncture. But one of the things that is important is held in the title, “Team GB”. For its not just about the athletes themselves but the huge number of support staff that enable them to reach the heights of performance that they reach. It was announced a few weeks ago that the athletes would be accompanied by 44-person performance services team that will provide day-to-day support of the athletes. In addition to the sport’s own performance staff these performance service members – including doctors, physiotherapists, a psychologist, performance scientists, performance analysts, nutritionists and a chef. Each sport has its own coaches – many sports have centres of excellence that provide specialist support. It is all these working together that means that Team GB can be successful. Although it may be an individual performance on the day, there are a lot of people working together behind the scenes that make it happen. It’s not long since we were watching the Euro 2020 tournament in which the England football team reached the final. One of the striking things was how they played as a team. It was not just about a couple of star players but the whole team playing as a unit with assists being regarded as nearly as important as the goals themselves. Again the support staff at the St George’s centre near Burton on Trent played a major part. In a nutshell, it’s all about team work. That seems to be what Paul is telling is in the passage from Ephesians. During my ministry, one of the delights has been to work with Churches Together in Ainsdale. The mainstream denominations in the village have worked together on such projects as the Schools Carol service, the Children’s activities at the Ainsdale Show (with the Sunday service in the tent), the Remembrance service on the village green and latterly with TLG (Transforming lives for good) in providing “Bags of Hope” for struggling families during the pandemic and providing family lunches during the school holidays. The churches have worked together, acknowledging their differing heritages and theological viewpoints whilst achieving a unity of purpose. The clergy have provided mutual support, encouragement and sometimes challenge. There are many such organisations across the land, and indeed locally whose purpose is to work together to bring the Kingdom. There is much to feel blessed about. Team work again.
Paul, writing in his letter to the Ephesians is very much concerned with unity. In the reading from chapter 4, he makes two specific pleas. Firstly to bear with one another in love, and secondly to maintain the unity of the spirit. The two work hand in glove in order to enable the church to work together.
I’m sure that in all Christian communities, there are tensions that emerge from time to time. After all, churches are composed of real people. However, it is how these differences are dealt with that marks out the Christian community and its success. Clearly it important the Paul as he mentions this on a number of occasions throughout the letter.
The first thing to bear in mind is that this all comes through Christ. Elsewhere in the letter (in Chapter 2) Paul says of Christ, “he is our peace”. He is the head. Christ gives us the grace and the Holy Spirit to motivate and direct the church. He gives us the gifts and this leads on to my second point. Paul tells us some of the roles within the church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These could be described as the “front line” of the church. I suppose that they could be regarded a bit like the athletes competing for Team GB in Tokyo. But Paul is also arguing for all the other gifts. Like the athletes, with their back up team of coaches etc, the church also relies on these less glamorous roles – the treasurers, administrators, greeters, encouragers and property stewards. All these people with their gifts enable the church to work. All these form one body – an image that is used by Paul quite a lot. Here he says that it is “knit together by every ligament” – It is not a series of disparate parts but instead is joined together as a body under control of the head – Jesus Christ himself.
And finally, in order for it to work together as a body, there needs to be unity. It is clear that all the parts of the body are different, they have different functions but they all work together. Paul tells us, “ There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” We are united in one purpose. We share all these elements in common and so working together to build up the church.
Of course, the reality is very different. Over the centuries, there has been fragmentation of the church rather than unification. Even now churches often identify themselves by that which sets them apart from others. Even within individual congregations there are constant threats to unity. Yet when it occurs, great things can follow.
As it is, we have something to strive for. Christ is our head who directs the body of the church. He gives us the gifts that we need – some for “front line” roles but also for the less visible, yet vital parts that enable their work to be done. And finally, we are united under Christ – one faith. Working together Christ can build up the church.

Prayers of intercession
Lord, we come to you, the Great Provider, with all our cares and our needs, trusting that you will provide for us. So often we tell you what we want rather than asking for what we really need. Teach us to listen to your voice so that our wills join with yours and so that our asking becomes harmonious with what you want for us. As we lay our petitions before you, remind us that what you give us is what we truly need even if we don’t always recognise it.
Jesus, bread of life,
help us to trust in your provision for us.
We commend our athletes to you, Lord, as they compete in the Olympic Games. We thank you for the joy that sport brings to so many, whether watching or participating. We pray that all the athletes will be able to bring their best to their competitions. We pray for the witness of those who are Christians, that their love for you will have an impact for good on those around them.
Jesus, bread of life,
help us to trust in your provision for us.
Lord, we bring our land to you today. Every day we hear of the further spread of Covid-19, even if numbers infected are going down, and we begin to wonder if there will ever be an end to the pandemic. Even though in the UK the restrictions have lifted, for so many the anxieties and isolation remain. Give us the insight this week to see who needs our help: whether it’s doing their shopping, giving them a call or something else. Give us the courage to step out of our comfort zones to serve others in our communities. Keep us from despondency and help us look for positives each day.
Jesus, bread of life,
help us to trust in your provision for us.
Lord, we have heard harrowing tales of historic abuse in our land this week. We pray for all those who have suffered and still live with the consequences. We pray that they will be able to find peace of mind and healing of deep hurts with you. And we pray for their abusers, that they will come to a place of repentance and know your forgiveness.
Jesus, bread of life,
help us to trust in your provision for us.
We pray for our school children during this summer holiday season. We ask your peace for those awaiting exam results. We pray for those saddened by not being able to say a proper goodbye as they left school. We pray that families will have opportunities to have rest and relaxation and recharge their batteries in the sunshine. We pray for safety for all those on holiday and for your comfort for the families of those who have lost their lives in the recent heatwave. Lord, we particularly bring to you those children for whom the long summer holidays means going hungry and maybe living in fear of someone at home.We ask that you will provide nourishment and safe spaces for them.
Jesus, bread of life,
help us to trust in your provision for us.
We thank you, Lord, for this church community and the nourishment we find by spending time here with you. Fill us with your Spirit as we praise you so that we may go out from here enriched and ready to serve you in the wider world. Help us to encourage one another and build each other up, that this may be a place of affirmation, acceptance and love. We pray for our leaders, both locally and nationally, asking that you will provide them with wisdom, patience and grace.
Jesus, bread of life,
help us to trust in your provision for us.
Lord, we offer ourselves to you as we prepare to go forward into the coming week. We pause in the stillness now to think of the places we will go to and name some of the people we will meet. We offer any potentially difficult situations up to you, asking for your courage to face them. Teach us not to take your gifts for granted, but instead to keep our eyes fixed on you. Draw us constantly back to you to find the energy, strength and refreshment that we need for our daily living.
Jesus, bread of life,
help us to trust in your provision for us,
to feed on you and draw our strength from you,
and help us to be truly blessed by the nourishment you give us.
Amen.
Prayers are © ROOTS for Churches Ltd 2002-2021. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

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