Welcome to our joint service of worship from Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial Churches. As we continue our journey through the season of Easter we turn to reflect upon our hope and life in Christ, the ‘true vine’.
Call to worship
Psalm 118: 2-3
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
HYMN 436 Christ triumphant, ever reigning
Prayer c/w Lord’s Prayer
God, we turn to you,
you who is the focus of our lives,
you who is the source of life.
God, we turn to you,
yet our minds are distracted,
by all that goes in within and around.
Yet still we turn to you,
seeking hope, seeking peace,
seeking to praise your holy name.
As we gather,
still our minds that we may know your peace,
calm our hearts that we may feel your love.
As we worship,
lift our souls that we might praise,
our spirits that we might rejoice.
Turn us to Christ,
ingraft us into his living body,
and make us one with him.
As we come before you this day,
cleanse us and restore us,
renew us once again.
In our foolishness give us wisdom,
in our carelessness give us love,
in our hurtfulness give us healing.
Hear the good news,
in Christ you are restored,
in him you are renewed.
Rejoicing in Your new creation, as our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
1 John 4:7-21
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
HYMN 536 May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Many of you will, no doubt, be familiar with the term, ‘repurposing’. You may have read it in print or have watched a television programme about it. You may even be a practitioner of repurposing. More than just finding a new use for an item or piece of equipment it often is a form of recycling, taking something and giving it a new lease of life beyond simple restoration. Today’s Gospel reading sees Jesus take a well-known image of the people of Israel and repurposes it for his own ends.
In the Old Testament, Israel is often likened to a vine. That said, the image is often used negatively, pointing to judgement for unfaithfulness. Here, though, Jesus adopts the symbol for himself repurposing it. He takes the negative connotations and turns them on their head. He proclaims himself as the ’true vine’. Now the image of the vine is a positive one, and so can be used to speak of possibilities and hope. That positivity is not a vague or abstract idea but is concrete. It is so because it speaks to those who are disciples of Jesus. These words are spoken by him in the time before his arrest and trial; they are from before his death and resurrection; yet they look forward to a time beyond the ascension. They look from then into now, and beyond.
Jesus speaks of himself as this ‘true vine’ and of his disciples being a part of that same living plant. Life speaks of growth and blessedness; as part of a vine it promises fruit too. More importantly it speaks of a relationship. It speaks of a union between the divine life and the human, his life and ours, for we are his contemporary disciples. In becoming grafted into the vine that is Christ we allow ourselves to be upheld and nurtured. In being nurtured we can bear fruit. Yet such a metaphor also implies that there will be pain for there may be some pruning ahead. Pruning though is not necessarily about the removal of dead or unwanted parts of the plant. Pruning can be about taking cuttings to create new plants, with new growth and possibilities. Whatever the case, what matters is the union of the life of Christ Jesus with the life of the believer.
We must note that Jesus describes his disciples as being ‘the branches’. That is, it is in the plural. Sometimes in congregations we may find ourselves trying to carry too much. Like an overly fruitful vine branch if we carry too much we can bend and bow until we break. If we break the fruit is lost. Perhaps the load is put upon us by others, perhaps we are simply too quick to say ‘yes’, perhaps we simply like to feel that we are being called to serve our Lord. Whatever the reason we need to remind ourselves that we are not alone; there are other branches. These other branches are not just other members of the congregation, but other congregations too.
Over the coming months we will see news of significant changes to take place within the Church of Scotland. There has been some radical restructuring, and there is more to come. To use another popular term, there will also be significant ‘downsizing’; indeed, this has already begun at our offices in George Street. There will be fewer ministry posts, fewer congregations, and fewer Presbyteries. This may make us, as branches of the vine, feel compelled to take on more but that comes with the risk of overloading ourselves. If that happens then, like the vine with too much fruit, we may bend and bow until we break. So, what are we to do?
The key to the future is, perhaps, twofold. Most importantly we need to remind ourselves that we are part of the vine that is Christ Jesus. In the love of God we have been ingrafted into him. Through this we are nourished and strengthened to continue onward. Through this we have life. We need, too, to take Jesus as our example, and learn to repurpose our lives in him. This may mean we look at the who, when, and how of the use of our buildings, perhaps becoming more imaginative in how we do so. Perhaps we may need to look at our own service; is it time for us to reimagine how we serve God, and perhaps repurpose this? This all will be challenging and may leave us with more questions than answers. But remember, he is the vine, and we are the branches; in this we have both possibility and hope.
HYMN 43 O God, You are my God alone
(from Ballykeel Presbyterian Church – Tune: resignation)
May we go from this place,
may we go from this time,
may we go from this day,
as a people who are one with Christ.
English translations of Lord’s Prayer © 1988 English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC). www.englishtexts.org. Used by permission.
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Second Prayer – Church of Scotland Weekly Worship. This was written by Rev Fraser Penny, Minister of Dunkeld Parish Church