Category Archives: from the Minister

Sunday 18th October 2020

Call to Worship (from Psalm 99)
The Lord reigns,
let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
let the earth shake.
Great is the Lord in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name –
he is holy.

HYMN 470 Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun

Prayer

Loving Lord, Jesus,
we come into Your presence to worship and praise You.
We come from different places,
different families
and different circumstances.

However we have come here today –
whether the last week has been good or bad,
whether we have known joy or sorrow,
let us leave our cares and concerns aside
and come united in our faith and hopes for the future.

We bring our skills and our talents which You have given us,
and we promise to use them to help others
and to reach out in love
showing others what it means to be a child of God.

Help us not just to listen to Your voice but to obey.
Help us not just to talk, but to put our words in to action,
so that all we do is done in Your name.

Gracious and merciful God,
we are sorry that we seldom live up to Your expectations.
We are sorry that our promise to follow Your example
and to share Your never-ending love
are too often promises made in vain.
So, forgive us, Lord.

We are ashamed that we fail You so often.
We are ashamed that we do not always follow in Your footsteps.
We ask You to guide us and set us on the right path.
When we are weak, make us strong.
When we are discouraged, encourage us.
When we take for granted all You have given us
and do not share what we have with those who live in poverty,
forgive us, Lord.

Remind us that everything we have comes from You
and everything we do is done for the work
and the glory of Your kingdom. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures:

I Thessalonians 1: 1-10
Paul, Silas and Timothy,To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace to you.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Matthew 22: 15-22
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?’

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax. ’They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’

‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

HYMN 192 All My Hope on God is Founded

Reflection:

Which side are you on?

So goes the opening line and title of one of the most famous protest or union songs of the twentieth century. From its creation in 1931 until very recently it has been a staple of many folk singers in the English-speaking world. The background to it is the violent disputes between the unions and mine owners in depression era Kentucky; against this setting it says that there can be no neutrality. In other words, you are either on one side or the other.
The song raises issues of loyalty and allegiance, as do both our scripture readings today.

Matthew:
As we continue our journey through the Gospel of Matthew we find that the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day continues to develop. This time around, though, the Pharisees seem to have asked an unanswerable question. In a society divided along lines of tribe, politics, and faith, matters of loyalty or allegiance are paramount.
The Pharisees have taken quite a lot of criticism from Jesus, and not surprisingly they are keen to get their own back. The question about paying taxes is intended to force him into antagonizing either the crowds or the Romans with his reply. Jesus’ answer might appear evasive, but it shows how nuanced an answer must be given to what is quite a complex question. The question of loyalty to the state vis-à-vis loyalty to God is always a difficult one, and in general the New Testament writers advocate compliance with the worldly authorities. This is largely because they thought that with the end of the world being imminent, spiritual reform was more important than political or societal reform. Jesus’ saying is compatible with this sort of outlook; it implies that there is a duty to the state that is not necessarily incompatible with duty to God. On the other hand, the two are not the same; at times they may overlap, and at times they may clash. In the end, it depends on the individual circumstances where the duties to God and Caesar begin and end.

Thessalonians:
If you look closely at our reading from Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica you will not find the word ’loyalty’, though the idea is there. Paul congratulates his audience on their faith, hope, and love, and it is the former of these that we should look at more closely. The word used in the original Greek can also be translated as ‘allegiance’, which is a form of loyalty. What Paul is flagging up for praise is not the abstract idea of ‘faith’ but the very concrete practice of loyalty. Surrounded by opportunities and incentives to turn from Christ, and to follow other gods, they chose to remain faithful. In other words, the Thessalonian Christians remained loyal. It is this allegiance, or loyalty, that matters here. It earns them praise but, more importantly, it illustrates the underlying depth and strength of their faith.
Paul refers to how their loyalty to Christ is reflected in how they live life, and for this they are to be praised. However, he immediately goes on to say that the Thessalonians have been chosen by God, and that their joyful reception of the gospel in the face of persecution was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not just a matter of the Thessalonians’ own excellence, but a case of God working in them to inspire such praiseworthy responses. Both divine initiative and human response are important components in any Christian endeavour, and we need to hold on to the sense of balance between them.

What about us?
Today, we face many of the same challenges as the people of both the time of Jesus, and the church in Thessalonica. We are expected to show multiple loyalties, not all of which are in harmony. Likewise, our allegiance, or loyalty, to Christ is also challenged as we find ourselves enticed or distracted by other gods, both ancient and modern. Like the listeners and readers of these stories when they were first told, we need to learn to walk a fine line between our faith and the world in which we live. We will be challenged to stray; our loyalty to Christ will not meet the approval of all, especially where it inconveniences them. However, like Paul’s readers we must remain firm. Like them we are not alone, for the God who chose us also inspires us to continue. That loyalty, allegiance, or faithfulness is what will be noticed and remembered. It is this that will draw others to Christ more than fine words or ceremonies. It is this that will bring us the praise of God.
Amen.

Prayer

Lord,
We bring to You now our prayers for others and for ourselves.
Lord we ask that You bless and guide Your church
here in this parish and throughout the world,
helping us to reach out to others,
sharing with them the good news of Christ
and standing with those who are most in need of our help,
love and support.

Guide us in our relationships with others,
within our families, with friends, neighbours
and those who we struggle to love or try to avoid.
Fill our homes and communities with the warmth of Your love,
may we learn to love and accept all.

Pour out Your Spirit into the world,
bless those struggling with poverty and homelessness,
evil and war.
Help us to reach out to those who are in need.

Bless those who are ill at home or in hospital,
those who are feeling anxious or low,
feeling like they would rather just give up than live on.
May they know Your love and sense Your presence with them
and may we as a church
reach out to them in their time of need.

Bless the leaders of nations and people.
Guide them in the decisions that they make,
ensuring they work hard and fight for the people they represent.
Lord, may we always sense Your presence in our lives
and in the lives of others.

Transform us to be the people that You would have us be.
All of this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Saviour.
Amen

HYMN 562 Through the Love of God Our Saviour

Benediction
As our time of worship closes
let us go out into the world
loyal to Him who died
and rose again for us,
Christ our Lord.

And as we go,
may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be with us all,
now and evermore.
Amen.

Acknowledgements:
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Prayers from the Church of Scotland, Weekly Worship for 18th October 2020.

Sunday 11th October 2020

The service this week is led by Pauline Weibye.

Call to worship (from Psalm 90)

Lord, you have been a refuge
from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born,
from age to age, you are God.

Satisfy us by your loving kindness in the morning:
so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

Glory to the Father and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and shall be for ever.

Amen

Hymn 159 Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided

Prayer

God of presence

You invite us your people to listen, to read, to look and to question. Meet with us now through our worship. Challenge our thinking and deepen our understanding that we may be ready to follow You wherever your work needs to be done.

God of mercy

We thank you that you always listen even when our voices are hushed, when we fail to pray. We thank you that you still wait for us even when we dawdle or drag our feet. We thank you that your generosity always overflows even when we are less than generous to others.

God of grace

The stories from your word show us how great the gap can sometimes be between the divine and the human. Forgive us when we have let attachment to our own comfort and convenience deter us from committing to your way.

If we can remember a time when we loved more than we currently do, restore.

If we have become good friends with some favourite sin, rebuke.

If the flame of our commitment to the world’s immense needs is flickering instead of burning brightly, rekindle.

If, along the way, our relationships to our brothers and sisters in the faith are endangered through some wrong, real or imagined, reunite.

Show us the relevance of Christ for the life we live within and the world we make for others, that we may no longer live to ourselves, but in the light of him whom we call Saviour, Lord, and Friend,

in whose name we ask it and in whose name we further pray:

Our father
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come
They will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

Amen

Scriptures

Daniel 22, 1-13

Daniel in the den of lions

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three chief ministers over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the chief ministers and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the chief ministers and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’

So these chief ministers and satraps went as a group to the king and said: ‘May King Darius live for ever! The royal ministers, prefects, satraps, advisors and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered – in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.’ So King Darius put the decree in writing.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: ‘Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?’

The king answered, ‘The decree stands – in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.’

Then they said to the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.’

Luke 22, 39-46

Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Hymn 493 Standing in the need of prayer

Reflection

Daniel – before the lions’ den

The Minister asked me to lead worship today and didn’t tell me I had to stick to the lectionary reading – so I didn’t. We’ve been following Matthew’s Gospel but today I’m departing from that to look at a passage from the book of Daniel that you, like me, may not have read or thought about for many years. The second part of this chapter, not included in the readings today, has long been a beloved Bible story – and no wonder. It’s a very dramatic story and, if you went to Sunday School when you were little, you will almost certainly have acted out the lions in the den. But the first part of the chapter, that we are reading today, is less well-known, though here too there are dramatic features aplenty – the jealousy of political subordinates, the vanity of a king and the courage of a faithful man. It also explains how Daniel overcame the challenge of the lions’ den, with God’s help.

Let’s think about the characters first. We’re not actually sure who this King Darius was. Secular history of this period has no record of a ruler named Darius and the chapter comes in the middle of stories about a ruler called Belshazzar – he of the feast with the writing on the wall, if you remember another story from Sunday School. Nor, actually, do we know who Daniel was. Does that matter?
It is clear that Daniel, whoever he was, was a Jew in exile in Babylon but had managed to rise to the dizzy heights of the civil service and he had won the trust of the king, whoever it was at the time. He was able, hard-working and honest, a man of conspicuous integrity, but this made him an object of scorn and fear to his rivals for power at the court. They planned to trap him by using what we would nowadays call ‘fake news’ since they could find no skeletons in his closet (the Sun newspaper would have despaired).

We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God. These men knew Daniel well. They knew he could not be trapped into evil, but they also knew that he would be faithful to his God in all circumstances. Every Christian should consider if others could say the same about them. If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you, or me? It is said that former American President, Jimmy Carter, a devout man, used that question to guide his life and to place his faith at the centre of his being. Do we do the same?

And what about Darius the king? Daniel’s enemies clearly knew the king well too. They knew they could exploit Darius’ pride and his desire for a unified kingdom. They decided to persuade Darius to forbid prayer to any god – and that in a polytheistic world – or to any person but himself for 30 days. Darius, perhaps flattered by the proposal, agreed. He either did not think about the implications for Daniel and his people, with their strong faith in the one true God, or he did not care. For him, this was a way of showing his power and strength and he clearly gave little thought to the likely reactions of his subject peoples.

So King Darius put the decree in writing. If that law were to be introduced in Scotland, how many of us would continue to pray? Or would we give up? After all, it’s just for a month… and no-one wants to be torn in pieces by wild beasts. Would we look for excuses to postpone public worship too for a few weeks?
Daniel did not react this way. We assume, given his high position, that he was a faithful servant to Darius the king but he clearly placed his loyalty to God above that, whatever the consequences for himself. What did Daniel do? He went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. He kept up his prayers and he did not even try to keep them private but opened his windows so that he could be seen. Not for show, although he was obviously spotted, but because he was not ashamed of his faith. He had made a lifetime commitment to God and he held to that commitment whatever the cost to himself. Daniel didn’t let the decree change his actions one way or another. He didn’t do more praying or less; he simply continued his excellent prayer life. He was duly cast to the lions but emerged unscathed, saved by God precisely because of his faith and his courageous public profession of that faith.

We too have made a commitment to God and Daniel’s story reminds us that God comes first. Do we put enough emphasis on our prayer life and on other private devotions? Do we bend with the weight of public opinion and perhaps try not to offend others by outward signs of our faith? Do we give ill-wishers like Daniel’s colleagues the power to control our behaviour?

Daniel prayed just as Jesus did, in the hours before his arrest, as he too faced torture and death. And both prayers were answered though in different ways.
Our prayers too will be answered. But we are required to be faithful, to admit to what God means to us and to show others where our loyalties lie. We are not generally asked to enter a lion’s den so how much easier is it for us to remain constant in prayer and personal devotions? Let’s set ourselves that challenge in the coming weeks; let the world see the evidence that would convict us of being faithful servants of God and his Son.
Amen

Prayer of the people

God of the harvest
Bless the gifts we have brought to you today or in other ways.
We give you what we can afford because we delight in your service
and in freely offering to you and your world
the products of our hard work and our good fortune.
Hold us to account for what we do with the riches
with which we are blessed;
grant us wisdom; make us generous;
and continue to work out your purpose in and through us.

God of all mercies
hear our prayer

God of compassion,
we remember before you
the poor and the hungry,
the sick and the dying,
prisoners and all who are lonely,
the victims of war, injustice and inhumanity,
and those who face persecution because of their colour, their faith or their nationality.

God of all mercies.
hear our prayer

Lord of all providence
holding the destiny of nations in your hand,
we pray for our country.
Inspire the hearts and minds of our leaders
that they, together with all nations,
may seek your kingdom and righteousness
and not their own glory,
so that order, liberty and peace may dwell with all your people.

God of all mercies
hear our prayer

God the Creator,
we pray for all nations and peoples.
Take away the mistrust and lack of understanding that divide your creatures;
help us understand that we are all your children.


God of all mercies
hear our prayer

Amen

Hymn 510 Jesus calls us here to meet him

Blessing

May God, who is the ground of hope,
fill us with all joy and peace
as we lead a life of faith and prayer
until, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
we overflow with hope.

Amen

Acknowledgements

Holy Bible
, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Prayers based on material from the Church of Scotland and from the World Council of Churches

Sunday 4th October 2020

Call to Worship (Psalm 80: 1-3)
Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
come and save us.
Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.

HYMN 543 Christ be our light

Prayer
Faithful God,
we awaken ourselves to Your presence
as we awaken too,
to our discovery of who we have become.
We know we were created in Your image,
that You have a history of bringing us out of slavery
and into freedom
and we long to find that freedom today.
We know You as the great restorer –
able to transform all injustice
into the kingdom of heaven on earth
and we open ourselves
to be part of Your future that is coming.
We hold You to account God, for the things that do not go to plan.
We blame You.
We are angry.
We see You stopping justice from being served.
For we know You could do it better.
We know that You could make it perfect
And so who else to rage at but You?

And it is in this moment of honesty that we find ourselves
And our part in the story –
the things we stayed quiet about,
the things we accepted as being okay,
when deep down we know they are not,
the times we served ourselves first
so that there wasn’t enough to go round.

We ask for Your restoration,
for You to make Your face shine upon us
that, having released our anger and blame
we discover the tools for planting again.
The hope for our future becoming our vision
that together, we can be Your people again.
Forgotten God
You are hidden beneath our idea of being “good Christians”.
We long to rediscover Your faithfulness and love.
We want to reflect Your grace and mercy in our lives
so that we may become the tenants of Your vineyard,
ready to share our harvest with all.
Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures:

Isaiah 5: 1-7
I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
my loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.
‘Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?

Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.’
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

Matthew 21: 33-46
‘Listen to another parable: there was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall round it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
‘The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said.

‘But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

‘Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’
‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes”?

‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

HYMN 259 Beauty for brokenness

Reflection:
One of the features of the Gospel of Matthew is the matter of authority. Our reading today is the third response to queries about the origins of Jesus’ authority for his activity in the Temple. The first response was a counter-challenge about the authority of John the Baptiser; the second was a parable that directly challenged the Temple leaders’ understanding of the activity of God. Now Jesus recalled and re-interpreted Isaiah’s love-song about a vineyard.
The allusion to Isaiah was unmistakable. The prophet made clear that the vineyard was a metaphor for the “house of Israel and the people of Judah”, and that God was the caretaker of this vineyard. Despite careful attention, the vineyard produced only “wild grapes.” The vineyard’s failure to produce better fruit forced the owner to end his care. If the land was unable to produce with proper care, what would it do without it?

In Jesus’ parable the problem was with the tenants themselves. These were extremely violent tenant farmers, harming and slaughtering the various groups of slaves sent by the landowner. The rationale for their brutality and murderous ways was stated explicitly when the son visited: “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance”.

On the surface, the landowner’s decision to send his son despite the tragedy of his servants seemed unwise but the parable did not highlight it as such. Rather, in that culture, the landowner’s decision to send his son was appropriate since he could expect proper respect for his appointed heir.

Culturally, the leasing of land to tenant farmers was a common experience in the first century. Landowners could expect tenants to turn over a portion of the crop. Those who failed to meet the landowner’s standards would be removed from the land.

In addition to a twist on Isaiah’s vineyard, Jesus cites Psalm 118. This shifts the focus of the parable, from a critique of the tenants to a statement about the son (or stone). The story was no longer about the vineyard, the produce, or the tenant farmers. Now, Jesus turned attention toward the abused son: “they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him”.

For Matthew, this twist was important as the abused son became “the stone that the builders rejected” which, in turn, determined who was in or out. The son who was sent becomes an allegory for God’s son, Jesus. The tenant farmers, who represented the temple leadership, would be replaced by other tenants. What looked like a landowner’s foolishness was really God’s plan: “this was the Lord’s doing”.

In Matthew’s account, the temple leadership realized the parables question their leadership abilities over the vineyard (i.e., Israel, the kingdom of God). Yet they are unable to act, despite their anger, due to the crowds. The leadership’s concern was that the crowd viewed both John and Jesus as prophets.
A note on the “landowner” is in order. The term may be translated as “household master”, and was used an analogy for God in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s Gospel. To the modern reader the analogy may cause concern, since many of these masters owned slaves. Within Jesus’ parables, household masters generally make wise decisions, even if misunderstood.
While this was a parable about the actions of evil tenant farmers, it was also a story about the abused son, especially once Jesus refocused the story with the attachment of a passage from Psalm 118.

Proper care and oversight of those people and things entrusted to us should receive fair hearing from this parable. We, too, are like those who wish to receive more credit for our labour, as if we “own” the “land.”

In Jesus’ teaching, there was a fundamental reminder that only the Creator owns everything and we, too, are simply tenants leasing out the talents God has granted to be used for the greater good in the kingdom. This means, for us, that we should consider the gifts that we have been given, and how we use them to further the Kingdom of God. Unlike the characters in either Isaiah or the parable we should be endeavouring to be good tenants, worthy of the land.
Amen.

Prayer

Loving and amazing God,
Your constant relationship of love and faithfulness
is one which sustains us through all things.

Your stories speak to us,
transcending time and place,
meeting us here today.

We give You thanks for the choice to let go
of who we have thought ourselves to be
and become a runner in Your race,
with the experience of the love of Christ as our only goal.

We give thanks too, that You call us again and again
to be Your people,
that You love us and want us to live together
in fullness of community and life,
that You send people, prophets and Jesus,
to show us Your love.

In turn, send us as Your people and prophets,
and as Christ to those who need to meet You.

We give thanks that You want us to be part of the harvest,
In the gathering of it and the sharing,
so that we might learn more
of what it is to be like You. Amen

When it is our walls coming down
and we see our family under attack,
when we see the hope of harvest crumbling before us
May Your presence be revealed
When it is the walls of others that are crumbling
when the family under attack are our neighbour’s,
when we have enough, but they do not
May Your justice be stirred within us
When we are tearing down the walls
when we are attacking our neighbours
when we are taking what is not ours
May Your mercy be upon us

When we have a choice to restore the walls
when we have room for others
when harvest will feed everyone
May Christ’s light shine from our hearts
as we share what we have.
Amen

HYMN 359 He came down that we may have love

Benediction
May we be blessed with the restoration of Your vineyard
May we all have a part to play in that joyous task
May we see you in the tearing down of walls
and in our discovery of the Cornerstone that is Christ –
yesterday, today and forever.
Amen

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Prayers adapted from ‘Church of Scotland Weekly Worship’ for this Sunday.

Sunday 27th September 2020

Call to Worship (from Joshua 1:9b)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

HYMN 181: For the beauty of the earth

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

Loving God, thank you for bringing us together for worship today. Thank you for the beauty of this church and for all the people who have worshipped here over the years that makes this sanctuary unique.

We recognise you as the God of creation and of life.
We praise you that through your Son and Spirit you give us hope in a troubled world.
And yet we know,
When we open our eyes Lord, we can see your presence more clearly.
When we open our ears Lord, we can hear your scripture afresh.
When we respond to your Spirit, we can journey through life by serving you faithfully within this church family and beyond.

God, on the journey of your people through the wilderness
we see and hear how you help people through difficult times.
God, as your Son Jesus journeyed through life on earth, both human and divine, we see and hear many things, which challenge our prejudices and comfort zones.
God, in the passage of your Spirit, we see and hear many things,
which show us that we can change and follow your ways.
God, we open ourselves to all that you would show us now, through worship, Word and prayer.

In Jesus Christ, you revealed your salvation in all the world, which gives us confidence of the heavenly world to come.
Through your Holy Spirit, you give us love, joy and peace.
Keep us firm in faith, that we may serve and praise you all our days.
But gracious Lord, so often we fail to do and say what you have taught us to do and say, so forgive us for getting things wrong –
sometimes we know we are selfish or unhelpful to others, so hear us now as we pray to you in silence with penitent hearts as we seek your forgiveness

… SILENCE

As we worship you again this day gracious Lord God, we gladly say together the prayer that your Son and our saviour taught us to say, by saying:

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 debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

Amen

Scriptures

Old Testament Reading: Joshua 1: 1- 9

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the River Jordan into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites.I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates – all the Hittite country– to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’

New Testament Reading: John 14:15-27

‘If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever –the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’
Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
‘All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Amen

HYMN 528: Make me a channel of your peace

Reflection

John 14: 27: Theme – Inner Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


Jesus offers us a peace that the world cannot give.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid, he says, no matter what your situation………
and yet most of us are afraid of some things: illness, ageing, bereavement, misfortune, anxieties about loved ones and the threat of the coronavirus……. but Jesus says, in spite of all that can happen to us, we can be at peace when we let Jesus and the Holy Spirit into our hearts.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you (verse 27a). Jesus had no money or property or a book to leave to his followers, but he could leave them with his peace. And Jesus also left his disciples with love (15:9-10) and joy (15:11).

I do not give to you as the world gives. (verse 27b). Christ offers real peace. We see it in the lives of those who have truly entrusted their lives to Christ. We admire their calm strength and sense of inner peace, like the saints over the centuries.
St Cuthbert for example spent much time in peace with God as a hermit on a remote island of Inner Farne, close to Lindisfarne, before becoming a bishop for a period of his life when he promoted evangelism because he was concerned to save ordinary souls.
Saint Columba also had a strong sense of inner peace that enabled him to have the drive to set up a monastery in Ireland and then later one on Iona. His followers sometimes watched him at prayer and witnessed a blinding light on him…. he was at peace with God, which enabled him to become a Christian leader.

Christ offers real peace to all who truly turn to him. We see it in the lives of those who have entrusted their lives to Christ. We envy their calm strength but God does not offer anyone a trouble-free life.

Jesus was preparing himself for his death on the cross when he was speaking these words to his disciples in order to prepare them for persecution because they too would be pursued by powerful enemies.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (v. 27c). Faith drives away fear. The person who knows that in life and in death he or she is in God’s hands has peace that transcends anxiety and fear.

Charles Spurgeon, the renowned Victorian preacher, in 1878 preached on peace.
He took his text from Philippians 4: verse 7 which says: And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (KJV)
And this is what Charles Spurgeon wrote:
Peace, in the form of perfect calm and serenity, is a very delicate and sensitive feeling, and needs more careful handling than the most expensive crystal glass.
It is hard for the sea of our heart to remain long in a smooth state, it may be rippled and ruffled by a word of anger or frustration.
Perhaps, too, some of us here have not been walking near to God; and if so, our sense of inner peace will not be perfect.
It may be that your faith has become lukewarm and if so, your peace has fled.
Your heart may be troubled, and though you are believing in Christ for salvation, and therefore have eternal life to look forward to.
Yet for all that, your inward peace may be troubled; therefore, we seek God’s peace — which passeth all understanding
May you all know the serene inner peace by experience preached Charles Spurgeon, as we too search for an inner peace to cope with all the anxieties we encounter today, not least the impact of the coronavirus.
But what about Joshua in our Old Testament reading…. did he know such peace?
The length of Joshua’s rule is not specified in the Bible; however, the number of years have been estimated on the basis of Joshua’s age and in consequence some scholars suggest Joshua ruled for 52 years.

(Note: Joshua started ruling when he was 59 and continued to rule until his death at the age of 110 (Josh. 24: 29).)

During that time, he was a warrior leader, a spiritual leader and a political leader of the Israelites in Canaan as they established their kingdom after years in the wilderness. To have ruled effectively for so long, Joshua must have known the peace of God at different times as he coped with the pressures of leadership.

Our Old Testament reading records how Joshua sought inner peace from God: Verse 7 & 8 says:
‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night.

In the New Testament, Paul the great evangelist of the emerging Christian communities in the First Century sometimes experienced such inner peace even in the darkness of a prison or after beatings and at the prospect of a sudden death.
Paul loved peace, preached peace, lived in peace, died in peace, and dwells in peace before the throne of God.
We acquire inner peace by praying for everything. We give thanks for the good things and we pray for deliverance from the bad things that happen to us in life.
We pray for our families and loved ones and we pray for the world. We pray for everything and in every situation.

Life is full of things to worry about, but to worry about the things we cannot change does not help our spiritual, mental and emotional health. So, pray about everything and accept God’s gift of inner peace.

PeaceI leave with you; my peace I give you. (said Jesus) I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Amen

Acknowledgements:
1. Charles Spurgeon Sermon – January 1878 on Philippians 4:7 From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 24 speaking about Peace
2. Reference: The length of the rule of Joshua and periods of Subjugation in the Book of Judges by Elihu A Schatz

Prayer

Almighty God, we pray for your soothing love and wisdom as we struggle at times with the anxieties we have for loved ones and all the challenges we face each day.

Sometimes we allow our emotions to overwhelm us. We know that only your presence in our hearts, minds and souls can bring us calm and inner peace.
We ask you to help us through difficult times, not least with the coronavirus pandemic on-going, to give us hope and strength. Encourage us to use the talents and skills you have given us to help our neighbours, and to fulfil your purposes.

Give us a peaceful perspective on everything that happens each day. Lead us on the right path as we encounter choices we need to make. Enlighten us on how to cope in our daily lives and give us inner peace.

We pause now Heavenly Father in silence as we seek your peace in our hearts, minds, and souls, and ask you to take away our anxieties and worries this very moment…

We continue to pray for our church family. For all who serve you faithfully here.
We pray for our minister Alex and for Louise as they take a holiday that they will indeed find peace during this time of refreshment. We pray for our elders and all the leaders of this church that they will continue to manage our finances, property and administration in these changing times.

We ask you to bless our offerings today and those given through the banking system to build up the church here and in the wider world. May you encourage us all to be joyful givers of our time, talent and resources.

We give thanks for all our church family whether they read this service on-line or are here today. We pray for all those known to us in silence who need your comforting presence and healing power…Silence

We pray for people everywhere throughout your world. So many suffering the great loss of life from war, famine, strife and now from the coronavirus pandemic. Bring the nations together to overcome all these problems and give all people peace in their souls.

May our eyes be open to what you remake from the aftermath of the pandemic.

May our hearts and arms be opened to you and to one another.

May our imagination be filled with Spirit inspired creativity
To become the church, you mean us to be tomorrow
To become the church, you call us to be today.
To become the church, you have been planning to build since yesterday.

For these prayers and all the unspoken prayers of our hearts, we pray though your son and our saviour Jesus Christ,
Amen.

HYMN 561: Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine.

Benediction

If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character, there will be peace in the home.
If there is peace in the home, there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

And now may the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

And the blessing of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you this day and evermore.

Amen

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible
, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday 20th September 2020

Call to Worship (from Psalm 32:11)
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

HYMN 286: Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord

Prayer of adoration and confession

Almighty and eternal God,
we gladly come to worship you, to praise you, to learn about you from the Bible, to pray for one another and the worldwide church family, and to be in fellowship.

We know through your Word and Spirit, that you created all things in the universe and through your son Jesus Christ you offered us all love, joy and peace, in this life, and in the life to come.

Through Your Spirit, you gave us your helper to help us meet the challenges of every day, whether that is at home or the workplace or at school or when out and about.

Keep us firm in the Christian faith and all we learn from the Bible, fill us with your energy that we may serve you all our days.

But gracious Lord, we know we often fail to do and say what you have taught us to do and say, so forgive us for getting things wrong – sometimes we know we are selfish or unfriendly or fail to do what you have taught us to do, so hear us now as we pray to you in silence with penitent hearts as we seek your forgiveness, and a fresh start……

We pray again gracious Lord the prayer that your son and our saviour taught us to say by saying together:

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 debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, Amen
Amen

Scriptures

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 32: 8-11

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

New Testament Reading: John 16: 16-24. The disciples’ grief will turn to joy

Jesus went on to say, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’ At this, some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,” and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by “a little while”? We don’t understand what he is saying.’

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me”? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.

A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

HYMN 449 Rejoice the Lord is King

Reflection

The joy that the world or secular communities offer is a poor imitation of the true joy that God give to us.

The joy that secular people experience is usually a temporary joy that comes and goes depending on the situation that person is in at the time. If things are going well, there is joy. Such temporary joy is sometimes aided by alcohol or spending large sums of money on oneself.

But such joy is often short-lived because when things become difficult, there is no joy. Such people build their lives on sand; not on the foundation of God’s Word.

Joy is a prominent feature of the true worship of God in the Old Testament.

Wherever people know, love, and worship God, his love instils a joy, that only he can give, into the hearts of his worshippers
Believers today can experience this same joy when he or she knows Jesus.

In today’s Old Testament reading Psalm 32 says:

10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Be glad we are told by the psalmist! Be joyful! Joy is a gift from God. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, who resides in the heart of the Christians who keep their faith. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22 & 23)

When one becomes a Christian and is united to God through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit imparts these qualities to the believer.

Joy exists wherever believers are present. It is why weekly worship is so important and why it was so important for the church services to take place on-line during the lock down.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, we read in Romans 14: 17.

As many Christians here today or reading on-line can confirm, being involved in the spread of the Gospel brings joy to the believer’s heart.

When we see someone come to faith in Jesus and discover the truth from God’s Word, we feel a sense of joy and encouragement.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth says John the Beloved disciple, who most scholars think wrote the third letter of John 1: 4

No one can take away your joy of knowing God and Jesus and sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This means that even when we are in the midst of a situation that brings us sorrow, a serious illness or a bereavement for example, no one can take away our inner joy. No matter what the circumstances, God is always with us and there is a life to come. We have the joy of knowing that.

Godly joy is a wonderful feeling; it is a supernatural gift from God to every believer. However, we need to be aware that sin can prevent our sense of joy.

It is difficult to experience the joy of our relationship with God when we have done something wrong that damages that relationship, which is why repentance and seeking forgiveness is so important in our daily prayers.

If we have lost the joy in knowing God through Jesus, we may need to re-energise our relationship with Jesus through prayer and worship and Bible reading. ……and sharing in fellowship with other believers, which is why our weekly services are so important.


There are several passages in the New Testament where Paul instructs us to ‘rejoice’.

A Bible verse that many of you will recall is:
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5 16&17)

Joy, prayer, and thanksgiving should characterise our lives as Christians.

“Rejoicing always” does not mean that we are to pretend we are happy and content no matter what is going on in our lives or in the lives of those we love – neither should we be blind to events happening in our country or world.

It means that we are to remain steadfast in our knowledge that God is our strength and comforter, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves during this worldwide coronavirus pandemic or whatever anxieties you have.

If our relationship with Jesus is right, and we confess and repent our sins, we will experience this supernatural joy at all times…whether those times be good when things go well or we suffer ill health, bereavement or misfortune.

Enjoy your Christian faith, by uplifted in spirit and experience the joy of knowing the Lord God and his Son and our saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Prayer

Gracious Lord and Father God, we bring our thanks to you.
in our darkness and questioning,
in our sadness and joy.
In the assurance that you hold us in love,
may we be able to serve others,
holding out hope for a world in fear.

May we be conscious of your divine presence
as we travel through these uncertain days,
but experiencing moments of joy and peace.

We pray for our fellowship here.
We give thanks for our minister Alex for his ministry and leadership in helping us through this difficult year. We continue to give thanks for the work of the Kirk Session, and the leaders who run the groups in our church community.

We give thanks for all those people who look after our finances, property and administration.
We also give thanks to all who help prepare our services of worship, lead our music, and do much pastoral work for our church family.

We give thanks for the offerings today and those given through the banking system. We ask your blessings on these offerings and that they will help to build up the church here and in the wider world. Help us always to experience the joy of giving of our time, talent and resources.

Give healing to those who are suffering in body, mind and spirit, and those who are grieving because of bereavement. We pause now in silence as we remember those by name who are known to us that need your comforting presence. SILENCE

Give love to those who feel unloved; resurrection to those who need new life and to begin life again by reading and reflecting on your Holy Word.

Help people to understand that your Word is part of the solution for addressing all the challenges that people face in everyday situations.

We pray that the Church of Scotland will continue to preach the gospel faithfully to all who live in Scotland, as well as helping people to look afresh at scripture. We ask your blessings on the initiative called the radical action plan – that it will help your church to grow and be relevant to all people throughout our nation and beyond.

We pray for our troubled world……… so many countries suffering from war, famine, terrorism and natural disasters, and now the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic………

Gracious Lord, accept these prayers and all the unspoken prayers of our hearts through you son and our saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

HYMN 180 Give thanks with a grateful heart

Benediction
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

And may the blessings of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, be with you this day and evermore
Amen

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible
, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday 13th September 2020

Call to Worship (from Psalm 103: 1-5)
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

HYMN 110 Glory be to God the Father

Prayer

God of freedom and deliverance
You led Your people of old
with cloud by day and fire by night.
You parted the sea with Your breath,
and saved Your people from oppression.
Free us, O God, in our own age,
from
…indifference in the face of poverty,
…ignorance in the face of fact,
…disbelief in the face of evidence before our very eyes.
Deliver us good Lord.
Lord of the living and Lord of the dead,
we are conscious of our sin.
We are weak in faith,
quarrelsome in nature
and there is no health in us.
Give us time, O God,
even now,
to change,
to turn away from destruction
and back to You.
God is the fount of all mercy
and through the life, death, and new life of Jesus Christ
has shown us how to live,
calling us to renewal and commitment.
Through Christ
may you receive pardon, peace, and wisdom,
that you may use your time well,
be filled with grace,
and help to renew the earth.
Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures

Exodus 15:1b-11, 21b – Song of Moses and Miriam
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
‘I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

‘The Lord is my strength and my defence;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, Lord,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
shattered the enemy.
‘In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.

By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted,
I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
and my hand will destroy them.”
But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.

They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.
Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you –
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?

Miriam sang to them:
‘Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.’

Matthew 18:21-35 – The Unmerciful Servant
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’
Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.
‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.
‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”

‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

HYMN 14 The Lord’s My Shepherd

Reflection

I don’t recall ever seeing them in my time in Edinburgh but back in Glasgow city centre they were common – street preachers. You would see them, sometimes congregated, in the pedestrianised areas of the city centre. Despite the hubbub of a busy city shopping street on a Saturday afternoon you would often hear them before you saw them. And what you heard was fascinating; it was the language of the sixteenth century, a form of words that were already out-of-date by the time that the King James Version of the Bible was published. The language was full of words like ‘repentance’, ‘sin’, and ‘salvation’. For many, these men were no more than a background noise; for others they were a curiosity, a throwback to a bygone age.

A bygone age – that’s what their language represented! Yet, in the not so distant past, the story was somewhat different. In the past our nation had a sense of community that was perceived as rooted in God’s presence – we were a God-fearing people. It was often taken for granted, but what of it today? Where, today, has gone the talk of ‘repentance’, ‘sin’, or ‘salvation’? Where today is talk of ‘deliverance’? Today’s readings each speak of deliverance.

The parting of the Red Sea and the journey of the people out of slavery in Egypt is well known, though perhaps better so through the Hollywood film of it. Images from the film will have shaped what you see when you read this story. Much of what it shaped will not be accurate but, for today, the details are not what matters. What matters more is the intense drama as the people of God are liberated. They are set free not just from physical slavery, but from a mental one that held them back from being all that God had formed them to be. Indeed, it is not until the Exodus that the people really begin to be shaped as the children of God.

As the water is crossed the scene is set for the clash between the people on one side, and the power of Pharaoh and his army on the other. A desperate plea is raised to God that they be delivered from their impending doom. The message then comes to the people: “Do not be afraid …..” This is the same message that is repeated by God many times throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the same message that Jesus also brings to the disciples when they cower in fear after his crucifixion.

What is it that we are afraid of? A lot has been written about where these events took place. Was it the Gulf of Suez? The Gulf of Aqaba? The Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds? While this is interesting, ultimately it is not important to the message. What is clear is that this people is learning what it means to live with God’s presence. As their Exodus continues the pillars of cloud and fire become a symbol of God’s presence. Later this will develop through the Ark of the Covenant, and later again the Temple.

Most people in our communities have a limited understanding of the presence of God in their lives. They have grown up outside the community of faith in which that understanding can develop and be nurtured. So where does the church begin in growing a community of faith today? We need to begin by living primarily as a community of faith. Yes, we can provide community resources and facilities but those are not our primary purpose. We need to start living our lives as people who have been redeemed. We do not need to use the language of the street preachers we thought of earlier; neither do we need to follow their practices. Note that the favoured words of the street preachers are not found in our translations of the two readings for today. What we do need to do is witness.

Sharing our faith in our words can be a daunting, sometimes frightening, challenge yet it is one that we are called to face. We can have strength and confidence as we witness, for the same God who rescued the Israelites from slavery is the same one who also says to us, “do not be afraid … “
Amen.

Prayer

Everlasting God, Lord of compassion and gracious understanding, we come with an openness to express our concerns for the Church and the world, and to thank you, for your goodness.

Creator God, we pray for our world, where through television, we see the misery and tragedy brought about by wrong choices and brought into our home day by day. We pray for wisdom and compassion in all negotiations and decisions taken by our world and local leaders; and ask that there be humility in leadership and responsibility for right action shared by all and we particularly pray that this may apply to all things associated with the Pandemic.

Father God, help and guide our colleges and universities as they return for a new educational year, especially with all their concerns about the Coronavirus and how they will cope with social distancing but still be with one another and learn with and from one another. May their teachers inspire a love of learning for its own sake and kindle joy in all subjects and help them to grow into caring and knowledgeable adults.

Gracious God, we raise before you those from our community who are ill, hospitalised or recuperating and for those we know within our families and circle of friends.

Merciful God, give us ears to hear and minds to understand the message of immortality for the children of your kingdom so that we may look forward with patience and confidence to that time when we will join you in the peace of eternity.

Faithful God, forgive us for those times when we treat ourselves with less kindness than you do. We want to believe in ourselves the way you believe in us and so as we go out to live the coming week show us more of the life you have designed especially for us to live.

Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen

HYMN 161 O God, our help in ages past

Benediction
Go from our time of worship
in faith, hope, and love.
Go from our time of worship
knowing that He who made you watches over you.
Go from our time of worship,
knowing that He who watches over you will redeem you.
And may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
go with you now and evermore.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible
, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Opening prayer adapted from ‘Church of Scotland Weekly Worship’.
Prayer for the World adapted from Costa Blanca Anglican Chaplaincy

Sunday 6th September 2020

Call to Worship (from Psalm 28: 8, 12)
Lord, I love the house where you live,
the place where your glory dwells.
My feet stand on level ground;
in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.

HYMN 63 All people that on earth do dwell

Prayer

God, you call us to this new day,
summoning all creation to praise you;
great is your name.
Your love knows no bounds,
and your justice is eternal;
great is your name.

In the vastness of space,
and with the smallest thing,
you are there.
From the simplest of joys,
through the most complex of problems,
you are there.

When we wander off,
when we turn away from you,
you reach out.
When we deny your love,
when we reject your calling,
you reach out.

Call us back to you,
this day and every day,
that we may know your love.
Touch our hearts,
touch our minds,
that we may know your healing.

As we wander through this day,
lift us and renew us,
revive us and enthuse us,
that we may serve you,
and bless your Holy Name.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures

Jeremiah 15: 15-21
Lord, you understand;
remember me and care for me.
Avenge me on my persecutors.
You are long-suffering – do not take me away;
think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
Lord God Almighty.

I never sat in the company of revellers,
never made merry with them;
I sat alone because your hand was on me
and you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unending
and my wound grievous and incurable?
You are to me like a deceptive brook,
like a spring that fails.
Therefore this is what the Lord says:
‘If you repent, I will restore you
that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,
you will be my spokesman.
Let this people turn to you,
but you must not turn to them.

I will make you a wall to this people,
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
to rescue and save you,’
declares the Lord.
‘I will save you from the hands of the wicked
and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.’

Matthew 16: 21-28
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’

Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’

HYMN 533 Will you come and follow me

Thought:

Throughout this year we have been exploring the Gospel of Matthew. We have now come to a crunch point in the story. It is not long since the disciple Peter had revealed that he understood Jesus to be the Messiah. He had been commended for his spiritual insight. Now Jesus was taking Peter’s understanding, turning it upon its head. He shares that the Messiah will know betrayal and suffering. This is alien to all that the disciples knew. For Peter it is too much, and it leads to a confrontation with Jesus. Jesus sees no other path than to the cross; he must follow it. The disciples are bewildered. It is not until after the resurrection that they begin to grasp all that had gone on. For Jesus, the path of serving God is not an easy one. From a human perspective it ultimately costs his life on the cross.

If we look to the prophet Jeremiah we see another path of service. The prophet has been delivering the message with which he has been charged, and it has not been well received. The crowd turn against Jeremiah. If he had been alive in our culture he may have been tempted called out, “don’t shoot the messenger!” Like Jesus, the path of the prophet was not an easy one; on this occasion though, this servant of God did not pay with his life. The call of Jeremiah had taken him through amazement and motivation, yet it hard turned to anguish, pain, and even rejection. There were ways in which he felt abandoned by God; he ultimately realised that he had not. The path of service was not an easy one.

But what about us? How would we describe our path of service for God? Where would our individual or community challenges be as we sought to walk the path God had chosen for us? More fundamentally, do we know our path or call from God? These are lots of questions calling out for answers, even when we do not know what the latter look like. As we continue to ease out of lockdown the church is at a significant juncture in its life. It has become clear that it cannot continue as it has always done; we knew that before last March. The church will have work to do, questions to ask, and answers to seek. The church has to discover its corporate call, its purpose. It is not as a religious country club or holy huddle, both terms we thought we had ditched in the eighties. It is a call to be the dynamic presence of God in each community where we are found. Like Jeremiah it will have a message to share, and it will not necessarily be a popular one. After all, the church of the future may look unlike the church of the past. It may feel, like Jesus and the twelve, that nobody understands or that the cost may seem too great. Yet it must go on.

What about us? Each of us has a calling from God. At its most basic it is a call to come into His presence, and know His love restoring you as His child. It is that basic call to know God in, and through, Jesus. Yet there is more than this. In these times it becomes imperative for each believer to seek to identify what God calls him or her to do beyond know His love. This is a call to walk the path of discipleship. It is a call to walk the path of Jeremiah, the path of Jesus. It is in seeking God’s call upon our life, and in striving to follow it, that we know both greatest joy and peace. Without deeper inner joy and peace there would be neither prophet nor Messiah.

What about you? It is also a call to answer the demands of God in each life, your life. Elsewhere, Jeremiah points out that we are made by the hand of God, and that in an incredible way. We are His handiwork, fashioned to know and love Him. We are made also to follow. Will you, will I, seek his call on our life? Will we listen for his voice crying out to us? If we will, will we then follow the command of Jesus to “pick up your cross, and follow me?”
Amen.


Prayer
All life comes from you;
all life is sustained by you;
all life knows its end in you;
so we bring all life before you now.

You transform wrong into right;
transform darkness into light;
transform despair into hope;
so we seek your transformation now.

From injustice bring restoration;
from privilege bring equity;
from hatred bring love;
so make a world that knows peace.

To the hungry bring food;
to the thirsty bring refreshment;
to the homeless bring shelter;
and so restore your world.

To ourselves bring meaning;
to ourselves bring clarity;
to ourselves bring purpose;
that we may work for your kingdom.

To the world let us bring light;
to the world let us bring hope;
to the world let us bring truth;
and all to your glory.
Amen.

HYMN 167 Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah

Benediction
Let us go from this time,
seeking faith,
seeking truth,
seeking love.

And as we go,
may the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with us all, evermore.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday 30th August 2020

Call to Worship (Based on Psalm 141: 1-3)
We call to you, Lord, come quickly to us;
hear us when we call to you.
May our prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of our hands be like a sacrifice.
Set a guard over our mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of our lips.

HYMN 110 Glory be to God the Father

Prayer

You Lord, are our God,
and earnestly we seek you;
we thirst for you,
our whole being longs for you.
Your love is better than life,
and so our lips will glorify you.
We will praise you as long as we live,
and in your name we will lift up our hands.
You have searched us, Lord,
and you know us.
You are familiar with all our ways.
You created our inmost being;
you knit us together for your glory.
We praise you because your works are wonderful.
Have mercy on us, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion.
Wash away all our iniquity
and cleanse us from our sin.
Cleanse us and we will be clean;
wash me, and we shall be whiter than snow.
Let us hear joy and gladness again.
Create in each of us a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within us.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation
and grant us a willing spirit, to sustain us.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scripture Readings:

Psalm 19: 1-6, 14
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 137: 1-4
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?

Matthew 6: 5-8
‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

HYMN 189 Be still, for the presence of the Lord

Reflection

By the rivers of Babylon
A few weeks ago, I was asked to think about how I may share with the congregation what worship would look once we re-opened our building on a Sunday. With us currently prohibited from singing, I thought about how strange it could feel to us. That led me to thinking of one of the Psalms; it is the one that many in our land probably know better from a pop song than from scripture. The song is, ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’.
If the tune is now stuck in your head, and will not go away, then I offer my apologies. It is a pity that we here know only this version of the song. It originated in Jamaica, had strong connections with Rastafarianism, and links to the ‘Back to Africa’ movement. These were movements that sought social justice, and to re-establish a sense of African identity among the descendants of former slaves. Remember, these people had been forcibly removed from their homelands. So, too, had the Jewish exiles whose emotions we find in the Psalm. It is a song about being far from your homeland; it a song about a sense of alienation; it is also a song about longing. Arguably it has the oldest lyrics ever to make it to the UK charts, with the chorus coming from the end of Psalm 19. However, both the song and the quote from Psalm 137 are relevant to us today. Together they speak of ‘singing the Lord’s song in a strange land’. Compared to the suffering of both the Israelites and the slaves, and the continued victimisation and oppression of their descendants, our discomfort pales to insignificance. Yet for us all there is a sharing of emotions, in this instance pain, in song. For us it is not exile that challenges us but the strange land of the pandemic. It is the latter that prohibits our singing in church and causes us, like the exiles, to weep. As we begin to return to our church buildings that strangeness may become more acute.
The location of the manse is on a side street that is not far from a couple of busy road junctions. In the year since moving in it has seldom been quiet. Lockdown changed that. The roads and pavements have been quieter; the air has been cleaner; the sun, when it appeared, seems to have been brighter. These are not the figments of a romantic imagination, but scientifically observable facts. These ‘missing’ things have left something behind – silence. It is a silence that is almost concrete in nature; it’s a silence that many have never experienced before. Silence can be terribly disquieting, especially if you are not used to it. It may feel worse for us because, in our tradition, we like to make lots of noise, whether it is singing or talking! Yet silence can be enriching. It is good for both head and heart; it is good for the soul too. Although we are not going to be returning to silent churches, it may seem so without the presence of hymns. So, what are we to make of this strange, new, silence of sorts?
Silence has an enormous spiritual value, and a place in all the Christian traditions. It is in silence that we most clearly hear the ‘still, small voice’ of God. It is in silence that we most clearly hear the workings of our own minds. These, together, may feel threatening yet with time they may also be liberating and enlivening.
As we regather on a Sunday, we may find the absence of singing to be almost a silent experience for us; it will be strange but may give us space to reflect. We may find ourselves asking “just why is it we choose to sing in church?” We may also find ourselves asking “why do we always need to be making noise?” This form of silence may be uncomfortable however, like more thoroughgoing silences, it will have its value. Like the psalmist, we will be in a land that is strange to us. However, also like the psalmist, we may learn new ways to serve and honour God. In the spaces where once we sang, we will now be able to listen. Perhaps we will hear in this the busyness of our own minds; perhaps we may hear the voice of God calling to us. Perhaps the call will be to “be still and know that I am God.”
Amen.

Prayers

Lord our God,
we come to you today
giving thanks for the privilege of praying for others.
Strengthen us, that we may come before you boldly,
and pray with confidence, according to your will
knowing that you hear us.
We bring before you those in our parish,
in our city, and in our church.
May those who follow you influence others for good.
Let them be salt and light, pointing others to you.
Deepen their love for you and for the people around them.
We pray for teachers, for students,
and for all those in authority and leadership throughout the world.
Give them your mind, and surround them with good counsel.
May they exercise integrity and work for justice, truth, and freedom.
We pray for the lost, the hurting, the lonely, and the sick.
We forget not the bereaved,
and those who are imprisoned—behind both visible and invisible walls.
Send your comfort, your peace,
and your calming presence to those who are without hope.
Protect the defenceless, and hold them close to your heart.
There are so many needs,
but you, Lord, are adequate for every one.
Your name is powerful, and your power is great,
and so in your name we pray – and believe.
Amen.

HYMN 519 Love divine, all loves excelling

Benediction
Let us go from our time of worship
sharing the good news of God’s mercy.
And as we go may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
go with us all,
now and evermore.
Amen.

Rivers of Babylon – the original version by The Melodians (1970):

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday 23rd August 2020

A couple of weeks ago we said that over the latter part of the summer our Sunday services would be created by various members of our congregations, all of whom have experience in leading worship. This week leading us in our praise and reflection is Louise McAspurren.

Call to worship (Psalm 128: 1-2)
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart …
I will bow down towards your holy temple and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness’.

Hymn 739 The Church’s One Foundation

Prayer

Faithful One,
Everlasting and true,
We give you thanks
For your unending love.
Thank you that when we call, you listen.
When we are scared, you comfort us.
When we feel tired, you renew us.
When we grieve, you weep with us.
In all times and all places, you stand with us.

And so, you are with us now.
As we come to worship you.
Forgive us our failings,
Help us begin again in your grace.
Open our eyes to see you.
May we feel your Spirit’s presence.
Open our ears to hear your truth.
Guide our steps to walk the journey ahead of us,
Living and working to the glory of your holy name.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scripture Readings

Romans 12: 1-8
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Matthew 16:13-20
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. ’Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Hymn 559 There is a Redeemer

Reflection

In our gospel reading, we find Jesus and his disciples at a time where Jesus’ miracles and teaching had brought him both supporters and critics. To many he offered hope, healing, and forgiveness. To others he threated their understanding of faith.
It is in this context, that Jesus asked his disciples, ‘who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ The disciples gave several answers. People had different ideas about who Jesus was. Interestingly, rather than trying to define him as someone new, folk tried to link him back to their faith history, identifying him as a manifestation of prophets or leaders from the past.
However, then comes the BIG question – ‘But who do you say I am?’. This was no longer an academic question about what other people thought – this was a direct challenge to those closest to him. In other words, Jesus was asking his disciples whether they really knew him.
It is Simon who answers: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’.
Jesus blesses him immediately, making it clear that this was not an answer based on public opinion or harking back to history – this was an answer given by God. This was new – this was the start of recognising Jesus as both Son of Man and Son of God, the Messiah! A different kind of leader to save his people.
But Jesus did not leave it there – this was also a new start for Simon. From now on, his name was to be Peter – he would become the rock of the church and the keys to the kingdom of heaven would be his. Imagine Peter’s reaction! What would he be thinking? Did he really understand what Jesus was saying to him? Did he grasp what kind of Messiah Jesus was, and how that would affect his future life?
Today, as Christians we know the story of the resurrection. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. We believe that Jesus defeated death, overcame the power of sin, and sits at the right hand of the Father. In many ways, it is easier for us to call Jesus the Messiah. But, how ready are we to hear our Messiah as he calls to us? For just as Jesus responded to Peter, can he not also speak to us? In this time of COVID19 the church is being called to reflect on how to develop its worship and mission. Perhaps this is also the time for us, as individuals, to ask questions of ourselves and of God. Is now the time to know our Lord better and to seek our place in Him? In knowing Jesus as the Messiah, Peter found his purpose– he became the rock for the church. We can find our calling in Christ, too.
We may be called to do different work, to use our God given gifts to spread the good news and show God’s love for all (whether in the church, at home or in the community). No one person or one gift is greater than another, and all are accountable to each other. As Romans 12: 4-5 puts it ‘For just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’
It may not be a straight forward path. After being told he would receive the keys to the kingdom of heaven, Peter went on to deny Christ three times. Yet, Christ’s love for him remained. After Jesus rose from the dead, he sought out Peter. He strengthened him and commissioned him to shepherd his flock. There were challenges, but Peter continued to build up the church because this was his destiny. In the same way, Christ will strengthen us to find and bring about our purpose regardless of the challenges we face, if we let Him. In Christ we can learn of God. In Christ we can learn who we are. In Christ we can find our place in this world and in His kingdom. Let us take this time and opportunity to do so. Amen.

Prayers

Listening God, You call us to come to You with our prayers for others. And we do so in a spirit of gratitude for all the ways Your grace and mercy fills our lives …
We thank You for creation, and for all the blessings of this life, and, most of all, for Your boundless love in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our redeeming presence.
Give us a constant awareness of Your mercy. Call us to take time to immerse ourselves in Your grace. Make us aware of signs and symbols of Your love in action.
You made all things in Your wisdom, and, in Your love, You save us. So we pray for all creation, that evil might be cast down, that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness might be fed, and that all Your children might enjoy in equal measure the fruits of Your world.
We pray for the Church. Keep us one in faith and service, so that Your Good News might be proclaimed, and so that Your love and light might be a beacon of hope and purpose in the darkest places.
We cannot love You fully unless we love our neighbours as ourselves. So we pray for all those in need, in body, mind and spirit; we pray for all who suffer from pain and sorrow; especially those who are affected by the COVID19 pandemic. We remember those known to us at this time …
God of compassion, bless us and those we love, that, drawing close to You, we may be drawn closer to each other. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen

Hymn In Christ Alone (This is a new one to us, and is not found in CH4.)

Benediction
Let us go out into the world in peace.
Let us love our God with all our heart.
Let us be challenged by the Spirit’s promptings
Let us hear the call to serve Christ and be obedient to God’s will.

And may God bless us,
the Spirit restore us,
and Christ’s presence strengthen us,
now and always.
Amen.

Acknowledgements:
Scripture readings: Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Second Prayer, and Benediction: adapted from:
Church of Scotland Weekly Worship, 23rd August 2020, by Tom Gordon.

Sunday 16th August 2020

Call to Worship (Psalm 67: 3-5)
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.

HYMN 182 Now thank we all our God

Prayer

God, our maker
the wonders of your creation,
the beauty of the earth,
the diversity of nature,
all speak to us of your glory.
The coming of your Son,
the presence of your Spirit,
the fellowship of your Church,
speak to us of your love.
We worship and adore you,
God of grace and glory,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God of mercy, God of love,
with humble hearts
we confess our sins.
We forget to love and serve you,
and wander from your ways.
We are careless of your world,
and put its life in danger.
We talk of our concern for others,
but fail to match our words with action.

Merciful God,
forgive us our sins
and bring us to everlasting life,
through Jesus Christ
your Son, our Saviour.

Heavenly Father,
be with us in each step of life.
When we forget you,
remind us of your presence;
when we are frightened,
give us courage;
when we are tempted,
give us strength to resist;
when we are anxious or worried,
give us peace;
when we are weary in service,
give us enthusiasm;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures:

Isaiah 56: 1-8
This is what the Lord says:
‘Maintain justice
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
Blessed is the one who does this –
the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps their hands from doing any evil.’
Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’
And let no eunuch complain,
‘I am only a dry tree.’
For this is what the Lord says:
‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant –
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure for ever.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant –
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.’
The Sovereign Lord declares –
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
‘I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.’

Matthew 15: 10-28
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’
Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’
He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.’
Peter said, ‘Explain the parable to us.’
‘Are you still so dull?’ Jesus asked them. ‘Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.’

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.’
He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’
The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said.
He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’
‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’
Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.

HYMN 198 Let us build a house where love can dwell

Reflection

Perhaps you recognise this: #MeToo. If not, then perhaps you’ll know this one: BLM. Both are recent movements centred on the call to justice and equality. Justice and equality are two values promoted by Jesus yet, at times, they seem to be strangely missing from the life of the church.
Our Gospel passage seeks partly to address these issues. It is located in the midst of a debate between Jesus and the Pharisees where the focus seems to be about what makes a person clean or unclean. In other words, they’re arguing over what makes someone acceptable to God. Is it following all the rules and traditions of the faith, or is it something more difficult to pinpoint? This is not a friendly encounter; there is offence and insult to be found. The Pharisees, accused of being focussed on rule-following, are described as blind guides leading others astray.
Our focus, though, is on a short passage that is very difficult. On the surface Jesus and the disciples seems to be acting out of character. They are seen to be dismissing a woman coming to him seeking help for her daughter. Other people coming to Jesus in similar circumstances have been met with compassion. The words of Jesus that He had been sent only to the ‘lost sheep of Israel’ seem flat. Jesus had chosen to come to a place where he would not have been able to avoid people from other ethnic backgrounds, so we have to wonder about what is going on.
The way in which you read this text affects what meaning you give to it. You could read it as speaking of a Jesus who is bound by ancient prejudice, only giving in to get peace from a woman who persists in her cause. You could read it as speaking of a Jesus who is demanding of real faith and persistence in contrast to a life of rule-following and tradition. If we turn to look at our reading from the prophet Isaiah we find support for the latter interpretation of our Gospel text. Here we find an affirmation of all who call upon God, irrespective of how they may be perceived by the dominant culture. For Isaiah, the Canaanite woman in the Gospel is welcome.
In the Gospel, the contrast between the Canaanite woman and the Pharisees passes without comment. It is stark and, no doubt, further offended the Pharisees. According to Jesus the Pharisees, for all their focus on purity, are defiled on the inside. Meanwhile the Canaanite woman, who was seen as impure, is spiritually alive and commended for her faith.
We began with mention of #MeToo, and BLM. These are relevant not only to wider society but to the church. If Jesus is correct in his words, then what makes a person ‘clean’ is not what comes from the outside but what arises from the heart. This means that we are not to judge based on external factors. It means that we are not to judge based on gender or skin colour. We live in a world that continues to see the rise of movements based on ethnic identity, ancient prejudices, and gender superiority. Our own land is not exempt. We, as the church, are called to share a different perspective. We have the opportunity to stand with those who are oppressed or devalued, and to proclaim that we all have value. Everyone is, after all, made in the image of God.
Both prophet and Christ in proclaiming that the Temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations refused to be drawn into ancient prejudices. We, the church, should be doing the same.
Amen.

Prayers

God of love and power,
we pray for your Church in this place
and throughout the world;
may the courage and faith of your people,
preach and live out your word.

We pray for the Queen and those in authority.
In the fulfilling of their duties,
may they be guided by your Spirit
and upheld by your grace.

We pray for our community, our country,
and the nations of the world.
Following the ways of truth and justice,
may they be free from bitterness and strife.
By the power of your love, may they live in peace.

We pray for all who are in trouble.
May those who are sick may be cared for.
May those who are lonely be sustained.
May those who are oppressed be strengthened.
May those who mourn be comforted.
May those who are close to death
know their risen Lord.

We give thanks
for those who have died in the faith,
especially those known to us,
who have entered into the joy and peace
of your nearer presence.
Grant that we may follow their example,
and come to share with them
the glory of everlasting life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
is worshipped and glorified for ever.
Amen.

HYMN 624 In Christ there is no east or west

Benediction
May the peace of God
which passes all understanding,
keep our hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us go in the strength of God.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us, and remain with us,
now and always.
Amen.

Acknowledgements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

All content Copyright © Craigmillar Park Church 2020