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God So Loved the World

'God so loved the World.' A favourite bible verse of the international congregation at Wesley's Chapel whose diverse make up means it can be heard in over 50 languages there. Preacher: Leslie Griffiths (Superintendent); Organist: Elvis Pratt; Music Director: Andrew Earis; Producer: Clair Jaquiss.

Release date:

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 23 Feb 2014 08:10

Wesley's Chapel

Please note:

This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.

Radio 4 Opening Announcement

BBC Radio 4. It’s 10 past 8 and time for this morning’s Sunday Worship which comes live from Wesley’s Chapel in London. The service is led by the minister, the Reverend the Lord Leslie Griffiths and opens with a call to worship from West Africa: Come, O Holy Spirit, Come.


Good morning from Wesley's Chapel in the East End of London. That call to prayer from Nigeria opens our service: "Come, Holy Spirit, come." This place of worship, often referred to as "the Cathedral of World Methodism," is sandwiched between two of London's inner city boroughs. In front of us, to the West, lies Islington while Hackney stands behind us to the East. The night life of Hoxton (just a block or two away) attracts thousands of young clubbers, especially at weekends, and keeps us on our toes. Other neighbours, the thousands of dissenters buried in the Bunhill Fields graveyard across the street from us, are far more serene. Down the road, just two or three hundred yards to the South of us, we enter the famous square mile of the City of London with banks and finance houses galore. And then, just a hundred yards to our North, the newest development of them all, a very busy techno-city is springing up with hundreds of start-up businesses foaming and frothing away. Our local traffic intersection is now fondly referred to as "silicon roundabout."

This Chapel was built in 1778 by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. When it opened, it catered for local people living in a rapidly developing slum quarter called Moorfields. Our congregation still lives locally but their origins lie often in the far corners of the globe. So Charles Wesley's hymn, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise" has never been more appropriate than now. And it's with that hymn that we continue this morning's service.



[Singing the Faith 364: verses 1 and 2, 6 and 7]



Almighty God,

unto whom all hearts are open,

all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hidden;

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts,

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us confess our sins to God.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought and word and deed. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. Silence.

In your mercy,

forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are, and direct what we shall be; that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If we confess our sins,

God is faithful and just

and will forgive our sins,

and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Amen. Thanks be to God.



Dr Joy Leitch is a long-serving member of the leadership team at Wesley's Chapel. Before her retirement, she was a lecturer in Education at one of the universities in London. She was raised a Congregationalist in Georgetown, capital city of her native Guyana. She now reads our first lesson from the fifty fifth chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah.



Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;

and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labour on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,

my faithful love promised to David.

See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander of the peoples.

Surely you will summon nations you known not,

and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,

Because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,

for he has endowed you with splendour.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.

Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,

and to our God, for he will freely pardon.




The Great Amen by Peter Klatzow, sung by the St Martin’s singers, neighbours from St Martin in the Fields.

Kido Baek is a lay worker at the Chapel and he works with our young adults. He hails from South Korea but is a candidate for the Methodist Ministry here in the United Kingdom. He now reads the second lesson from the third chapter of the gospel of Saint John.


8. Second Lesson:

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done through God.



[715 in Singing the Faith with verses 1, 3, 5 and 6? And possibly with rhythmic drum.]



Priests in the Church of England work under the authority of a Bishop. It’s the Bishop who spells out the kind of work his priests should be doing and exactly where they should be doing it. John Wesley was himself a priest in the Church of England. So when he started wandering up and down the land preaching wherever he found opportunity, in church and out of church, it seemed obvious that he was out of order. "You must stick to your parish", the voice of authority thundered. "I look upon the whole world as my parish," was the startling reply. Was this insolence? Or subversion? It sounds like it even though there was some justification for his behaviour. He was a Fellow, a teacher, at Lincoln College in Oxford and this gave him greater freedom of movement than that enjoyed by a normal parish priest.

"I look upon the whole world as my parish," that's one of John Wesley’s best known sayings. But even he would surely be surprised if he turned up for worship at the Chapel built by him and named for him, here on the City Road in London today. Sunday by Sunday these days it seems as if the whole world has taken Wesley at his word. They’ve come to live in his parish. We can count people from 55 different nations in our membership. There are two dozen mother tongues other than English spoken by our people. Every Sunday it looks like we see the whole, wide world in microcosm. And there was one Sunday when the implications of this really struck home.

For some reason which I’ve now forgotten, I asked the members of the congregation to tell us their favourite verse from the Bible. Suggestions came in thick and fast. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;" "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God;" "When anyone is in Christ, they are a new creature;" "Love God and love your neighbour as yourself." They kept on coming until someone shouted out "John 3.16" and we all knew at once exactly what that meant. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." Once those words had been spoken, everyone agreed that this, at least that day, was our very favourite Bible verse.

But it was now the fun began. "Can anyone here recite this verse in a language other than English?" I asked. Hands shot up. In one language after another, we heard the words of our favourite verse spoken out loud. From Fiji in the South Pacific, from a translation made by a British missionary with close connections to Wesley’s Chapel as it happened, we heard Naibuka Qarau, a former soldier in the British army and a senior office-holder in our church, announce the good news of God’s love for the world: [John 3.16 in Fijian read by Naibuka Qarau]. From the continent of Asia, we could have chosen to hear this declaration of love in Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), in Japanese, Korean or Indonesian. But let JoJo Bautista from the Philippines, announce it in his native Tagalog [Here follows the verse in Tagalog].

When we move from Asia to Africa, we’re truly blessed with members from across the entire continent. We have Afrikaans and Xhosa speakers, for example, two languages which until recently represented opposing sides of segregated South Africa. Their presence reminds us that God didn’t love the Afrikaans-speaking population alone, nor indeed the Xhosa-speaking people; God loved them all just as he loves the whole wide world. But our African voice this morning hails from Ghana in West Africa. Anna Morrison, a long-time member of this church announces the message of God’s universal love in Fante, her mother tongue, [here follows the verse in Fante].

There's an intriguing note in the passage we heard earlier from the Old Testament, a note that's struck again and again in the writings of the prophet we know as Second Isaiah. Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, the nation suffered a heavy defeat and a great part of its population was taken off into exile in distant Babylon. A whole people was on the ropes and it was the prophet's task to rally their forces and raise them from their torpor. He held out the promise of a return home, a return that would be, in effect, a second Exodus. Just like the time in their history when they left slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea into freedom, so now it would happen all over again. But there was going to be one big difference between their earlier experience and this. Then it was a case of a chosen people being freed to live their own life in their promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

This time, their freedom was going to be a matter of consequence not only for the chosen people but, as the text puts it, for nations at present unknown and unnamed, nations who will see the restored Jewish people as a light to lighten all the nations. No first and second class citizens here. God has no favourites. His rule is for all the world, Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white and his providence and bounty will be shared by all. That’s a truth we live with and glory in every day in our life together at Wesley’s Chapel. It’s shameful to hear people who should know better speak dismissively of those who’ve come to live amongst us from other places. We live in a multicultural society and its very diversity is a daily reminder of God’s love for all his children, wherever they’ve come from, places we know and also nations unknown and unnamed. That what St John makes abundantly clear in the verse we keep on quoting. God loves the whole world, and he loves it so much that he gave his only Son in the hope that, by believing in him, following his example, sitting under his teaching, trying to be more like him each day, we should not perish but have everlasting life.

That should be that but I must add one last word. Next Saturday will be Saint David’s Day. Our favourite Bible verse, John 3.16, which we heard in so many languages, rang out true in Welsh too. So let me end by blessing you with the now-familiar words in the language of the bards: "Do, carodd Duw y byd gymaint, nes iddo roi ei unig Fab, er mwyn i bob un sy'n credu ynddo ef beidio â mynd i ddistriw ond cael bywyd tragwyddol."



11. Music: "God so loved the world." (Chilcott)



And so to our prayers. Katherine Baxter, a lay preacher and a professional artist, will lead these. She will be joined by Ken Pippin, American and lawyer in a firm of investment bankers.

Dear Lord, hear us as we pray for the church and for the world.

You showed your love for us when you gave us your one and only Son. Help us to reflect that wonderful love and shine with that light in the world where we live. Let us never shrink back from who we are in you, or hide our light inside us. Renew in us a sense of joy, painting the dark shadows around us with your light, your truth, your love. Hear us today as we pray for a world too often darkened by hatred, prejudice, power and greed. Let your light shine we pray.

Lord in your mercy:

Hear our prayer.




Generous God, we pray for all those places where war, the threat of war, rumours of war bring fear, despair, suffering and death. We think of Ukraine, Syria, the Central Africa Republic and so many other places. We pray for those who have had to flee from their homes, all who have been imprisoned, and all those who bear arms. May they see your light and know the truth of your promise that we shall not be overcome by the dark shadows of life or the darkness of human nature.

Lord in your mercy:

Hear our prayer.


Dear Lord, you created this wonderful world with so much colour and beauty. Too often we abuse it. This morning we pray for all those whose homes have been flooded, whose communities have been beaten by massive waves, hurricane force winds and rising water levels. As the clear up continues, we thank you for the care and compassion of rescue workers, neighbours and friends. We pray for all in local and national government, in the Enterprise Agency, and in the stricken communities as the clear-up continues.

Lord in your mercy:

Hear our prayer.


Finally, we pray for all who are sick, in hospital or at home; for all who are crushed by loneliness or the breakdown of a relationship; we think of those who are walking in the valley of the shadow of death; of those who are mourning the loss of someone they have loved. Console them with your presence, dear Lord; lighten their burdens; dispel the gloominess of their lives; fill them with hope as they sense your light shining within their darkest night.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.  


We offer these our prayers in the name of Jesus who taught us, when we pray, to say:

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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Introduction to hymn:







13. Hymn: "God is love" (Blaenwern)

[with Saint David's Day in view]


14. Blessing.

May the Lord bless us and protect us;

May the Lord smile on us and show us his favour;

May the Lord befriend us and prosper us;

Whoever and wherever we are.

Now and always. Amen.


15. Postlude: Elvis Pratt

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