Welcome to Craigmillar Park and Reid Memorial Churches, and to our service of worship for Sunday 3rd October. This week we look at where we find hope in a world that seems to be ever more challenging. As we worship, either at home or together in a church building, may we be drawn closer to each other and to our Lord.
Call to Worship (Psalm 95: 1-2)
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Let us worship God.
SGP 86 O Lord my God! (How great thou art!)
(from Winchester Cathedral)
Let us pray:
God of light, lighten the day ahead of us
that we may see you more clearly.
Let us reach out with vision
praising your holy name
and serving your kingdom.
God of grace, show us your love this day,
that we may know the assurance of your presence.
Let us reach out in love
praising your holy name
and bringing healing to your world.
God of eternity, open our eyes this day
that we may see beyond the now.
Let us reach out with your Gospel
praising your holy name
and sharing your truth with the world around us.
God of mercy, to you we bow the knee
for you alone are worthy of our praise.
You made us and called us to be your own.
In Christ you renew us and strengthen us for your service.
May your holy name be praised!
Our prayers we bring, as ever,
in the name of the risen Jesus
in whose words we pray together, saying:
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 Thessalonians 5: 5-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Mark 13: 1-8, 24-27
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
HYMN 472 Come, thou long-expected Jesus
(from Red Mountain Music)
I wonder if you remember the television show, ‘Dad’s Army’ and, in particular, the character of Corporal Jones. I wonder, too, if you recall his often used phrase, “Don’t Panic Captain Mainwaring”. The phrase “Don’t Panic” has had something of a resurgence in recent weeks as various crises have affected the daily life of our country. We hear of shortages, and queues, and concerns for the future, and are told not to panic. The difficulty is that the phrase “don’t panic” is guaranteed to cause one thing to happen, panic!
Crises naturally give rise to feelings of anxiety, sometimes fear, and on occasion anger; all are perfectly natural. We know, too, that the Kirk has its own crises to attend to. Our scripture readings today come from times of panic within the early church. Most of the members of the church led subsistence lifestyles so shortages were no stranger to them. There was also anxiety because some believers had died and yet Jesus had not returned. Further, the church to which Paul wrote had experienced persecution for their faith. The church was anxious for a whole range of reasons. Anxiety, though, also presents a challenge to faith. If all that you hold dear is being threatened it becomes difficult to look forward positively, and in hope. Both the reading from Paul, and the passage from Mark’s Gospel, speak into such times and feelings. They seek to offer encouragement and vision for the future, our future, for eternity. They offer us timely advice.
Focussing on Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica we find a number of points that offer us something to hold on to as we journey through uncertain times in both our nation and in our church. Firstly, Paul looks to the future and the hope of the return of Christ Jesus. He reminds us that this will come as a complete surprise to the world at large and calls us to be alert so as not to get caught off-guard. We are to do this by remaining focussed on the goal of our faith, union with Christ.
Next Paul moves on to words that echo Jeremiah the prophet. He warns us against the false assurances of the world and its leaders, calling upon us to be wary of falling into the fashions and fake news of the day. Again, we are to remain focussed on the truth of the Gospel. Paul goes on to assure both his first hearers, and us, that we are children of light. He reminds us that in that we are special; he reminds us that this means, too, that we can see the truth and are blessed in so doing. He warns that things will be difficult but that we are not alone. Reminding us that we have true safety and peace he compares this to the armour worn by a soldier in battle.
Finally, Paul reminds us once more that we are blessed since, as disciples of Jesus, we are heirs to eternity. Eternity, it must be remembered is a gift and not something to be earned by us; it is also more than quantity of life, it is quality too. We are encouraged to encourage one another in our discipleship. We, after all, are the body of Christ in this time and place.
The Gospel text picks up on these themes of trouble leading to anxiety. It reminds us that Jesus will return, that there will be a day of the Lord’s justice. Yet this return of Christ is not something for us to be afraid of. Rather, we can look forward to its coming as a day of hope, a day of joy, a day of fulfilment. Yet note that in both passages today the focus is not on the institution of the church nor is it upon the individual congregation; neither is the focus on the individual disciple. Rather, the focus of scripture is on the union with God of the people of God. It is our union with him, in Christ, that makes hope and eternity possible.
In our times, just as in the days of the early church, there are many things to distract us from our calling just as there are many things that may make us anxious. But both then and now the antidote is focus on Christ and our relationship in him. It is there that we find not just the strength to carry on but we find eternity too.
HYMN 500 Lord of creation, to you be all praise
(from Isle of Man Methodist Church)
Let us pray:
God of light,
we pray for a world where fear and lies prevail.
We pray for those caught up in the world’s crises
and for those with the power to make a difference.
May your light so prevail, that truth is seen
and darkness overcome.
May the world marvel in your light
and the hope that it brings.
God of love,
we pray for a world where anxiety and anger reign.
We pray for those caught in destructive patterns
and ask that your peace would break in.
May your love so prevail, that it is both felt
and lived by all day by day.
May the world rejoice in your love
and the healing that it brings.
God of eternity
we pray for a world so trapped in the moment.
We pray for a world that sees eternity as a dream,
seeking that your eternal joy may sweep over all.
May your power so prevail, that justice would reign
and peace come to dominate lives.
May the world know your eternal presence
and wonder at your being.
God of grace,
we pray for ourselves and those around us.
Where we are anxious may we know your peace,
and seek to share it with all around us.
May your grace so prevail, that hope would re-awaken,
and peace dwell within each heart.
May these prayers we bring be acceptable in your sight,
our Lord and our God. Amen.
HYMN 517 Fight the good fight with all your might
(from First-Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska)
May the grace of God go with us.
May the joy of God uplift us.
May the presence of God renew us.
And may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Be with us all, now and always.
Bible Quotations taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
English translations of The Lord’s Prayer, © 1998, English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), and used by permission. www.englishtexts.org