'Encourage' in Jesus's name


This short act of worship has been prepared for you. I invite you to share in a few moments with God knowing that other people within Paulton, Trinity and Chew Stoke Methodist Churches are sharing this act of worship with you.

Revd Martin Slocombe

Stubbling Blocks & Stepping Stones

Call to worship – gathering prayer

Inclusive God, we gather together.  Welcoming God, we come to you.  Valuing God, we see our worth in you.  Challenging God, open our ears to your words, open our minds to explore your ways, open our hearts to receive all that you offer.

Loving God, we come to you.



Hymn – 73 – Through all the changing scenes of life

   1      Through all the changing scenes of life,
           in trouble and in joy,
           the praises of my God shall still
           my heart and tongue employ.

   2      Of his deliverance I will boast,
           till all that are distressed
           from my example comfort take,
           and charm their griefs to rest.

   3      O magnify the Lord with me,
           with me exalt his name;
           when in distress to him I called,
           he to my rescue came.

   4      The hosts of God encamp around
           the dwellings of the just;
           deliverance he affords to all
           who on his succour trust.

   5      O make but trial of his love;
           experience will decide
           how blest are they, and only they,
           who in his truth confide.

   6      Fear him, you saints, and you will then
           have nothing else to fear;
           make you his service your delight,
           your wants shall be his care.

Nahum Tate (1652–1715) and Nicholas Brady (1659–1726)
Based on Psalm 34



Today, the focus of our readings is on supporting each other, and all who work in the name of Jesus, even if they are not part of our own church community.  To place a stumbling block in their path is a mighty sin indeed.


Prayer of adoration & confession

God of eternity, you are at the very heart of our lives: we adore you.
God of miracles, you add flavour to our world.  You are the salt that seasons us,
you preserve all that is good and make us whole: we worship you.
God of humanity, you look on us with love
and we cannot help but love you back:
we bless you, Lord.


For the times we don’t live our best lives,
or even recognise what that might be:
Lord, forgive us.

For the times we have the sulks because we think our nose is out of joint, and we are too blinkered to see you in others:
Lord, forgive us.

Sometimes we just don’t understand your word; when we haven’t the patience to work out what it really means:
Lord, forgive us.

For the times when we try to water down your Gospel because we don’t like what it is saying to us:
Lord, forgive us.

Sometimes we judge others harshly, and try to stop them because we don’t agree with what they are doing – even though it may be for good:
Lord, forgive us.

Assurance of forgiveness

Loving Lord God,
you care so much for each one of us.
You are there for us whenever we turn to you.
When we are truly sorry, and intend to move forward, to live our best life, you graciously forgive us all our sins.
We gratefully and humbly accept your forgiveness and peace.


James 5:13-20 - The Prayer of Faith

13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Mark 9:38-50 - Another Exorcist

38 John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’39But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

Temptations to Sin

42 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

49 ‘For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’


I must begin with words of reassurance.  We must be careful not to take the rather gruesome figurative words of this reading as literal instructions advocating self-mutilation.  Here, Jesus sees in his disciples a desire for honour for themselves when He becomes King.  In trying to promote themselves, they reject all others in their wake, and therefore, fail to be disciples at all.  Anything that prevents us from being the disciples God wants us to be, or prevents another from learning about Him, must be removed.  Discipleship is demanding and calls for personal sacrifice that might be costly, but does not call us to harm ourselves.

I recently took only my 2nd wedding in 6 years.  I’m afraid, even then, I was second choice because they told me that they had originally asked at the local Church of England, and the vicar had refused because they were both divorced.  Conference this year approved the God in Love Unites Us report and paved the way for Same-Sex Marriages in our churches, but some are still against it. 

When there are any number of places you can choose to get married, and a couple choose to be married in a church, before God, what message are we giving if we prevent them, and say “No”?

I have 2 baptisms coming up, neither of which are church families.  There is often a dilemma for a Minister when it is clear that the family have no real idea of what baptism is about, but just want it done, often for all sorts of non-theological reasons.  But should I say “No”?

When people who do not normally want to come to church ask to do so, should we turn them away because they are not part of our regular congregation?  By saying “no”, are we being the stumbling block that Jesus warns about in this passage?  Or can we recognise a spark within them that wants God to be a part of their special day, however small that spark may be, and can we welcome them and fan that spark into a flame?

In the previous paragraph to our gospel reading, we hear of an argument amongst the disciples about who will be the greatest.  And then, John wants to stop someone from casting out demons in Jesus’ name because they are not part of his select group.  You can almost hear him saying, “They are not doing it right” or “Our way is the proper way”.  Rivalry between Christians, or between churches, does nothing to promote the work of Christ. We would serve God much better by being the best Christian people we can be, rather than wasting our energies comparing ourselves with each other.

John’s motivation is not about promoting the work of Christ, but is more about establishing his own place of importance in the pecking order.  In promoting our own preferences, we exclude others, whilst Jesus values all that is done in his name, and includes all of a similar mind.

Whereas Mark talks about the danger of failing to acknowledge the good works of others and therefore placing a stumbling block in their way, alternatively James talks about the blessing received in bringing another to faith.  Perhaps this is especially relevant to us today.

Few of us would actively prevent someone from coming to Jesus, but it can easily be done if we are not sensitive in our words or actions towards another.  What many of us can do is help to bring people back to faith.  I hear so many times of people who willingly came to Sunday School, or even church, but have since fallen by the wayside.  I am sure you can think of many amongst your circle of family and friends.  What can you actively do to bring them back to Jesus?  Perhaps not overtly by dragging them physically to church on Sunday morning, but by talking to them about your faith, or by showing them by your actions, what it means to know Jesus in your lives?

By being inclusive, and welcoming others to share in our faith community, we share Jesus with them, whoever they are.  By rejecting those who are different to protect our own fragile positions, we place a stumbling block between them and God.  May we embrace the universality of God’s love, and welcome all who seek him, or work in his name.


 ‘We thought we were doing the right thing, telling Jesus that we saw someone casting out demons in his name. We thought he’d be a bit annoyed and have words with him because he wasn’t one of us. But what happened? It was me that got it wrong, that’s what. Jesus let me know in no uncertain terms that people doing things in his name shouldn’t be turned away. I don’t think it was the first time he had said something like that to us, either. But I was a bit confused when he started going on about stumbling blocks. More than that, I thought he’d lost the plot. Yes, I get it (now!) that I shouldn’t get in the way of those who want to do the things they saw Jesus do, even if they are not part of our group. But, surely it’s going a bit far to suggest putting a millstone round my neck and jumping in the sea? Or cutting off bits of my body – it’s more than a bit extreme! Just how important is this kingdom living? I got the bit about the salt, I think. Something that looks like salt but isn’t salty is no good to anyone. 


Hymn – 230 – There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

   1      There's a wideness in God's mercy
           like the wideness of the sea;
           there's a kindness in his justice
           which is more than liberty.

   2      There is plentiful redemption
           in the blood that has been shed;
           there is joy for all the members
           in the sorrows of the Head.

   3      There is grace enough for thousands
           of new worlds as great as this;
           there is room for fresh creations
           in that upper home of bliss.

   4      For the love of God is broader
           than the measures of the mind;
           and the heart of the Eternal
           is most wonderfully kind.

   5      But we make his love too narrow
           by false limits of our own;
           and we magnify his strictness
           with a zeal he will not own.

   6      If our love were but more simple
           we should take him at his word;
           and our lives would be illumined
           by the presence of our Lord.

Frederick William Faber (1814–1863)


Prayers for others

This morning, Lord, we have thought about the importance of each other, about the blessing of bringing others to faith, and the dangers of placing obstacles in their path.  And so we pray for your whole creation, those who are like us and part of our community, and those who are different, and far away.

We pray for the world …….

We pray for your church in the world ……

for the North East Somerset & Bath Circuit, of which we are a part, for it’s ministers, lay workers, churches and congregations – especially this week we join with the Circuit as we pray together for Farrington Gurney, and their minister, Stephen Robinson

for the congregations of Trinity Radstock and Westfield, for the grief and sadness at the end of an era, and for the joy of new opportunities as they unfold.

We pray for our friends who are unwell, and their families who are supporting them, and for all those we know and love …………

And we pray for ourselves ……

In silence or spoken aloud, we bring our own prayers


Lord of all, who hears all our prayers, may your will be done, on earth as in heaven.


The Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us


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 who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory

for ever and ever.



Hymn – 136 – I heard the voice of Jesus say

   1      I heard the voice of Jesus say:
           ‘Come unto me and rest;
           lay down, O weary one, lay down
           your head upon my breast.’
           I came to Jesus as I was,
           weary and worn and sad,
           I found in him a resting-place,
           and he has made me glad.

   2      I heard the voice of Jesus say:
           ‘Behold, I freely give
           the living water; thirsty one,
           stoop down and drink and live.’
           I came to Jesus, and I drank
           of that life-giving stream;
           my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
           and now I live in him.

   3      I heard the voice of Jesus say:
           ‘I am this dark world’s Light;
           look unto me, your morn shall rise,
           and all your day be bright.’
           I looked to Jesus, and I found
           in him my star, my sun;
           and in that light of life I’ll walk,
           till travelling days are done.

Horatius N. Bonar (1808–1889)


Lord God,
bless us and keep us.
And may we be a blessing to others
in all we think and say and do.


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