Welcome to Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial Churches, and to our service of worship for Sunday 17th October. This week we look at our calling to be servants of God. As we worship, either at home or together in a church building, may we be drawn closer to each other and to our Lord.
Call to Worship (Psalm 104: 1-2)
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.
Let us worship God.
HYMN 111 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
(performed by Audrey Assad)
Let us pray:
All praise and glory,
honour and power be to Your name,
You are holy and majestic in Your person
and in Your ways.
High and lifted-up, nothing escapes Your view.
Jesus taught us that You even know when a sparrow falls from a tree
and You tend to the flowers of the field
as if each one was irreplaceable.
How much more are we, all humankind,
the work of Your hands and the apple of Your eye.
Such a reminder is staggering,
difficult for us to comprehend,
especially when we know ourselves to be far from perfect.
Yet, because of Christ, You look past our faults to our potential,
You show mercy rather than condemn us,
You express interest in what we can be
rather than what we have been,
You grant grace upon grace.
Thank You, Lord.
Thank You that rather than write us off and leave us without hope,
You draw ever closer to us and promise that,
where we turn away from our past failings
You will bring restoration.
Thank You, Lord.
Thank You that in Your hands
our brokenness is not something that resigns us to the rubbish tip.
Instead, You renew us,
taking what we are,
wasting nothing of our life experience,
and fashioning us into something beautiful.
Thank You, Lord.
Thank You that despite our waywardness
and because of Your compassion,
there is still hope for us to be purposeful in the things of Your Kingdom.
In this regard, the stories of old,
the tales of those who have gone before us,
both in bible times and since then,
give us reason to believe that all is not lost.
And so, we pray that You will speak to us clearly today
as we read from and reflect upon scripture.
May Your written word be brought to life
by the presence of Your living Word.
Take our lives, then,
as we once more lay them before You,
as we submit to You and Your ways
as we put fresh faith in Your plan and purpose,
as we again take on trust the promises of Christ.
Hear us as together we pray the words of Your Son, our Saviour:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
Job 38: 1-7, 34-41
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
‘Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
‘Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go
and say to you, “Here we are”?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,[a]
or given understanding to the mind?[b]
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods cling together?
‘Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God,
and wander about for lack of food?
Mark 10: 35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
HYMN 132 Immortal, invisible, God only wise
(from The Scottish Festival Singers)
Growing up, who were your idols? Were they actors or pop stars? Sporting heroes? We all had them, though they may have changed according to fashion or whim. The Church is no stranger to this phenomenon either. There have been people seen as so holy that other Christians would go on pilgrimage to literally sit at their feet and listen to their teaching. Sometimes, it was enough just to be in their presence. Think of those known as the Desert Fathers of Mothers as an example. Perhaps more recognised, though, are those Biblical characters that become idolised, such as the twelve disciples. Often, they have been portrayed as the holiest of people, without flaw or stain, and as people to emulate. The truth, however, is rather different. Today we will look at two of them and Jesus’ response to them.
What do you make of James and John? Their nickname, the ‘Boanerges’, suggest that they may be both loud and troublesome. After all, the name means ‘sons of thunder’. Asking to be at the immediate side of Jesus in his kingdom was quite a request. It required more than a little hubris on their part for them to seek such positions of prominence. It’s no wonder, then, that the other ten disciples are more than a little annoyed by this. Their behaviour is a far cry from the way the church has traditionally come to represent them. Rather than perfection they have ambition, hopes, and a sense of self-importance that is irritating to those around them. In other words, James and John are human. They are less than perfect just like the rest of us.
In a sense we see this too with the character of Job from the Old Testament. The story of a righteous man tested to breaking point by Satan is well known. Yet, in today’s reading from his story, we find the tenor of the previous chapters turned around and we hear for the first time the perspective of God regarding the whole matter. Job, and his friends, are reminded that they do not know it all; they are reminded that they do not have a complete perspective on events; they are reminded that only God sees and knows everything. To put it another way, Job and his friends have to be reminded that they are human, just like James and John and just like you and me.
But what matters most in these stories is not the reminder of our mutual humanity but the approach of Jesus to the challenges this presents. We may have expected him to react with a telling off. We may have expected, perhaps, something of an incentive to ‘toe the line’. We get neither of those. What we get is something completely different; there is no ‘carrot or stick’ approach but something truly new, something revolutionary.
Jesus begins not by reprimanding James and John for their pride but by asking them if they can face the pain and suffering that he will face. He challenges them to let him be more than their teacher; he challenges them to let him be the role model that they will follow no matter the cost. What he is calling them to do is then spelled out. They, and all his disciples, are to become great in the Kingdom of God by first becoming its servants. They are not to lord it over each other. Rather, they are to tend to each other and the needs that are brought to them. In opposition to the worldly perspective of rulership and power through domination their greatness will come through being servants one to another.
The four Gospels were not written primarily as a record of the life of Jesus but as instructional guides to the life of a Christian. This means that the stories that we read or hear from them are not just of historical interest but are meant to have an application for the believer or community receiving them. We, then, are to look to these stories and find where we are in them and to then learn from that. In the story of the sons of thunder we are to put ourselves in their place. We are to be aware of our dreams, hopes, and aspirations. Perhaps we are also to acknowledge our own hubris too. Just as Jesus halts the hopes of the brothers and shows them another way so too does that other way then become applicable to us. We may be living almost two thousand years after the events of the Gospels, and we may be living a long way away, and in very different cultural settings, but the demand upon us is the same. The question of Jesus applies to us also: can we drink the cup that he must drink.
We live in a world where we see many driven by their own sense of self-importance or a drive for power through being a lord over others. Yet, as today’s disciples of Jesus, we are called to take another path. Will we risk all to become servants, to nurture and tend to each other’s needs? Will we reach out beyond the safety of our own four walls as serve the needs of our surrounding communities? Will we become servants for the sake of the Kingdom of God?
HYMN 184 Sing to the LORD a joyful song
Let us pray:
Lord, before we pray for the needs of those we love
and for so many around the world
we pause to acknowledge that, like Job,
sometimes we are caught up in complicated situations
that cause grief and raise questions.
We confess that, even when we are aware of the tension that has arisen,
we still find it challenging to address the brokenness
and the pain of the world.
Unity of spirit and purpose,
along with the healing of broken relationships
is what we also seek for our nation and world.
Where there is contention, bring co-operation.
Where there is unhealthy competition, usher in collaboration.
Where there is false accusation, let there be truth.
Even when differing in opinion from one another,
may we do so with mutual respect.
And this is our prayer also for Your church.
In our generation, may we increasingly become an answer to the prayer of Jesus,
whose desire was to see his people become as one.
Now, as a church family,
we bring before You the particular needs of those who are facing hardship at present.…
Draw very close to all whose burden is heavy.
Continue in them the process of healing that has begun.
May physical rest and peace of mind be their experience
now, and in the days, to come.
At the same time, we rejoice with each one of our local congregation
who has something to celebrate…
Lord, how wonderful it is
for us to share the pleasure such good news brings
to those directly involved,
and to us as a congregation.
And finally, in the silence of this space,
we bring to You our own needs and those of others
especially those who cannot be mentioned publicly at this time.
Lord, in Your love for all humankind,
reach out to everyone who needs a deep touch from Your healing hand this day.
Hear and answer us according to Your mercy, Heavenly Father,
and glorify Your name in our midst
that all may know You are the LORD,
and that nothing is impossible for You.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.
HYMN 374 From heaven you came (Servant King)
(performed by Graham Kendrick and Nicki Rogers)
Go from this time
Serving the Word
through service to the world.
And may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Be with us all, now and always.
Bible Quotations taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
English translations of The Lord’s Prayer, © 1998, English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), and used by permission. www.englishtexts.org
Prayers adapted from Weekly Worship, © the Church of Scotland 2021.