Sunday 25th April 2021

Welcome to our service from Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial Churches in Edinburgh for the fourth Sunday of Easter. We consider what the love of Jesus meant for his’ disciples and what it means today for us.

Call to Worship. 1 John 4: 11, 12 KJV

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Prayer of Approach

God of Love,
Help us to follow the example of Jesus, to show goodness,
that we may do your will.
Create in us what is pleasing to you.
As the shepherd gathers his flock so we are gathered here today as your flock.
Draw us into the shelter of your fold that we may be nourished and refreshed.

Some of us come before You rejoicing,
because our path has led us through green pastures
such that our cup is overflowing with happiness.
Some of us have come to you in sadness,
as our journey has taken us through dark valleys.
Some of us are seeking your forgiveness,
as we have wandered from your fold and are feeling ashamed.
May each of us know that we matter to You,
however far away we may have strayed.
When we become preoccupied and distracted,
may we hear Your voice afresh that we are drawn ever closer to You.
Help us to follow Jesus’ footsteps,
to be aware of those around us.

May our actions, lives and interaction with others be a living example of the gift of giving and receiving of love.
We entrust the week ahead to You.
May we have the courage to follow You today and every day,
as we consider the words that Jesus taught us…

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Scriptures

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

1 John 3: 16 – 24
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Hymn 694 Brother sister let me serve you.

Reflection

Is it easier to give or receive a gift? I don’t mean a material item, like a birthday present. I’m thinking more of the gift of love, of sharing and of giving of ourselves. While we sometimes struggle with giving these gifts, it can be equally difficult to receive them.

Just over a year ago our routine lives were disrupted by the Covid pandemic. We were required to follow a new and unfamiliar road. Our journey has had many twists and turns, encountering hills and valleys. Like the shepherd we looked after our flocks offering provisions and refreshment, reassurance and support, guidance, and protection. As the shepherd moves his sheep to new pastures so we became resourceful and adapted to the changing restrictions. Under Covid, we learned to look out for and listen to those around us and how to respond to them. When others were found in need, they were welcomed into the fold, maybe not in a physical sense, but certainly by way of a phone call, kind words and thoughtful deeds.

The 23rd psalm has shaped the consciousness of God’s people over centuries. It is a promise of the presence and protection of God throughout life in all its ups and downs. Our journey in our Christian lives has different phases, it is not static and not always settled. There are times when it can be testing and difficult. How easy it is to stray for the path or to be paralysed by fear. We have all faced, or will face, such challenges. Instead of turning from God, we should accept that our only protection is in the grace and love of God.

In the second reading, John is very clear that we must love each other, although he clearly admits that it is not always infused with a sentimental glow. Sometimes those closest to us are the most difficult to love. We do not always success in what we set out to achieve and we may feel like a failure. We all fall short at times, but this is when we should turn to God, he knows us better that we know ourselves. What we can do, we should do, like offering a word of encouragement, a card in the post, an offer to go shopping, or an extra item in our shopping bag to give to the food bank. This love in action is characterised by a determined attitude of kindness and generosity toward others and is demonstrated in a myriad of small acts throughout a day.

We should not be embarrassed by the gifts and talents that God has given us. We must use them whether it be at home, at work, to help a neighbour or a friend. It may even be a stranger that needs our help. If we are to follow the example of sharing that was shown to us by Jesus, we also must be prepared to receive from others. Being offered a word of kindness, a complement or a thoughtful deed are often difficult to accept but we must do so graciously.
Indeed, many of us will have experienced the support and love of a Christian community at times of sadness or during a joyful event, whether it be at Craigmillar Park, Reid Memorial or elsewhere. It can truly be seen as love in action. Love is central to believing in the name of Christ, and, to love one another is in obedience to Him.

There are many good things to come out of the Covid pandemic. The gift of love, of sharing, of giving of ourselves, and of receiving from others has been clearly evident over the last year. As the restrictions are eased and we move into a more sociable environment, we can be grateful for the love that we have shown to each another. We have hope for the future and have learned much about the giving and the receiving of love.

Prayer of Intercession

Loving God,
As Jesus and the early Church cared for those in need,
show us how to give the help that is required rather than what makes us feel good.

We pray for all who suffer and are not cared for.
We pray for the young who are neglected, or cruelly treated.
We pray for all who have grown hopeless,
are lonely and weary as each day is like the one before.
We pray for those who face hunger and homelessness,
for refugees and asylum seekers
who have fled due to fear and have no place to call home.
In this world of so much suffering,
we pray too for all who are affluent, comfortable, warm, and loved.
For those who would like to offer help to those in need but are unable to do so, for whatever reason.

We pray for those who care and who are willing to go the extra mile,
giving of their time and talents.
Father, as we pray, increase the depth of love in us,
and in those who have the skills and training to help the ill, the troubled and the dying.

Give us voices full of compassionate and wisdom.
We thank You that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that we are part of His flock.

You know us by name,
You understand what we are like,
You call us to follow you and You accompany us along the path,
seeking us out when we stray, keeping a loving eye on what we do.
Please accept our prayers as we offer them through Jesus Christ, your Son, and our Saviour
Amen

Hymn 259 Beauty for Brokenness

Closing prayer

Gracious God,
Help us to make a difference in the world this new week.
Let our words and actions be pleasing to you.
Help us to be a blessing to everyone that we meet and interact with.
Bless us as we leave this place.
Amen

Acknowledgements:

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