Online Sunday Service – 22nd March 2020 – Lent 4

Good Morning.

Today is the first Sunday of the ‘close-down’ of pretty much all the churches in Scotland. For many of us it will seem strange not meeting up with family and friends at our local church, worshipping together, chatting and the all important cup of tea and a blether after the service. But it’s something we are going to have to come to terms with as the battle against the terrible COVID 19 virus continues around the world.

It would be easy for us to become dispirited and disheartened, seeing only gloom and doom all around. But as sad and difficult as things are, there are so good and many positive things on which we should focus our minds.

Such as looking to see if there is anyone nearby you can help out.

Keeping in touch with family and friends via Skype, Facebook, face time and the many other ways to contact them., perhaps write a few letters to old friends.

Use the time to your advantage ie take an online course ; catch up with those books you have been promising yourself you’ll read some time; and the many other things you never seem to have the time to do – like thinking about your life and your future ambitions and how you can fulfill them, or praying and reading your bible more.

The Bible is an amazing book, or rather, set of books. It is not just one book but a set of 66 books written over a period of approximately 1,500 years from around 1400 BC to AD 90 by at least 40 different authors. It contains Ancient History, Wisdom Books, Poetry, Prophesy, why and how he sent His son to Earth, and so much more.

Collectively these books teach us about the Past, Present and Future of God’s amazing plan for the world and for His people (you and me) as we make our journey through life here and on to life hereafter.

Each Sunday in Church we take a couple of Readings from the Bible, usually one from the Old Testament and another from the New Testament – and we hear them read, then spend some time thinking about what they mean for us, in our modern High -Tech world of today.

Paul, who was an early Christian, wrote “Everything in Scripture is God-breathed and for our instruction” so we know that these passages and texts have something to teach us, aye but what!? Well, that’s what we try to discover.

Today is what we call the 4th Sunday in Lent, which is a period of preparation and self analysis before Easter. It is also (always in the UK) Mothering Sunday too.

Today we are going to take a look at that well known Parable of the Prodigal Son. We shall be looking in depth to what it saying to us, and you’ll be surprised at what we will find!

But before all that – let us share in a Prayer ~

“Holy, heavenly Father,

as a mother loves her child so you love us.

We owe our very lives to you.

You have watched over us from our birth,

tenderly nurturing us,

showering us with love.

When we have needed you, you have been there.

You have given us strength in times of need, comfort in times of distress, encouragement in times of despair, guidance in times of uncertainty.

Whatever we have faced, you have been with us.

And Lord we thank you.

What a great and glorious God you are!

What a caring and comforting God you are.

Today we ask for your protection from all that would harm us and our loved ones as the COVID 19 virus spreads around the world.

And we ask that you will watch over our families and friends at this difficult time – keep us all safe in your loving arms, protected and secure.

We particularly pray for the elderly and the vulnerable, and those who put their own lives in danger to save ours. Protect them from infection and continue to give them your strength so that they may continue the fight against this insidious virus which creeps up on the unsuspecting.

Hear our Prayer for we pray in the name of your only Son, our only Hope, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

LUKE 15 : 11 – 32

The Parable of the Lost Son.

11 Then he said, “A man had two sons, 12 and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. 13 After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. 14 When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. 15 So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. 16 And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. 17 Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. 18 I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ 20 So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. 25 Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. 27 The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. 30 But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ 31 He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. 32 But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

Amen.

This is a well known Parable to many of us.

A ‘Parable’ is a story which has a number of layers – like an onion, every time you peel off one layer, go deeper, you find another layer underneath – and so on until you get to the heart of it.

On the surface the narrative talks of an everyday ‘dysfunctional’ family. A Father has 2 sons, one is faithful, the other has a wanderlust and is eager to see if the grass really is greener on the other side. He is unhappy, bored and is most likely a thorn in his fathers side.

We can imaging the daily arguments between them. Perhaps we don’t have too far to look to see something similar in our own or some we knows’ family.

Then we have the ‘stay at home son’, resentful of his brother who causes so much disharmony in the family. He appears to be the ‘good son’ quietly going about the work which has to be done around the homestead, but is he? It seems that he has been quietly brooding for some time, erupting and spilling over when his wayward brother returns home to an extravagant celebration. His father has never had such a celebration for him. He forgets that the father has been looking after him and providing for him all the time.

But, I wonder, where was the Mother in all this? Was there a mother around at all? Perhaps she has long since passed away which might bring some understanding as to why this is such an unhappy family.

 

Would she have kept the peace? Or perhaps calming the situation between father and son as Mothers tend to do?   The story doesn’t tell us, but a Mother’s love has remarkable powers of reconciliation and healing.

But these family dynamics are an allegory for deeper issues.

As we peel off a layer – we find a lovely story about a loving and caring God (the Father) who loves and values all of his children (you and I) and is overjoyed and jubilant when one has strayed and seemed lost – realizes his (or her) mistakes, turns their life around and returns into the fold of the family, asking the Father (God) for forgiveness.

It tells us that God always grieves when one of us goes astray and turns away from Him. It breaks His heart. But he doesn’t give up on us, He remains faithful to us even when we fail to be faithful to Him.

 

But it is never too late for us to turn back to Him, no matter our past. God is a God of second chances, a ‘forward looking’ God who looks forward to the day when all His children are back in His fold, all safe, secure with a wonderful inheritance awaiting us.

Have you turned away from God?

Has your life taken you down other roads, perhaps without really noticing?

Are you off doing more ‘interesting’ and ‘important’ things?

Have you forgotten about the love of the Father that is waiting for you to return ?

Will you turn back to Him who loves you so very much?

I pray that you will.   How happy He will be!

What a wonderful day that is going to be –what an extravagant party there will be !

Are you looking forward to it?

I know I am !!

And in Jesus’ precious name.

Amen.

 

Prayer

Loving, Heavenly Father, keep us from wandering away from you, remind us often just how much you do for us, provide for us, love us. Draw us close to you, draw us close to each other at this time of difficulty, help us to help those in any form of need, that this time might bring out the best in us, reflecting the love that you have for us on to others.

Keep us safe, keep us faithful – and all this in the holy name of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

And finally – a thought for you to take away and think about this week –

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

HERE’S A WEE STORY – IT’S ABOUT A YOUNG MUM WHO FELT HER LIFE WAS GOING NOWHERE.

SHE WAS EVEN MORE SAD AS HER FAVOURITE GRANDMOTHER HAD RECENTLY PASSED AWAY..

SHE FELT RUN DOWN – WEARY AND FED UP WITH EVERYTHING AROUND HER.

AND THEN SHE REMEMBERED THE ENVELOPE THAT HAD BEEN GIVEN TO HER BY HER GRANDMOTHER, JUST BEFORE SHE DIED.

SHE RAN UP THE STAIRS AND OPENED THE DRAWER BESIDE HER BED AND RIPPED IT OPEN. PERHAPS IT WAS MONEY, OR A DIAMOND RING WORTH THOUSANDS! ??

BUT INSIDE WAS JUST A SMALL GOLD KEY – AND THE WORDS, WRITTEN IN HER GRANDMOTHER’S OWN WRITING WHICH SIMPLY SAID – “ THEY KEY TO A GREAT TREASURE”

HOW EXCITING SHE THOUGHT – “A GREAT TREASURE !” NOW THAT WOULD CERTAINLY CHANGE HER LIFE SHE THOUGHT!!

 

AND SHE SET ABOUT FIND THE LOCK WHICH THE KEY WOULD OPEN. SHE TRIED EVERYTHING – BUT COULDN’T FIND A LOCK, AND WORSE THAN THAT – SHE COULDN’T FIND THE FORTUNE WHICH WOULD CHANGE HER LIFE!!

SHE WENT TO A LOCKSMITH FOR HELP BUT HE SAID THERE WAS NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT THE KEY AND COULDN’T HELP HER…

SHE WAS GRUMPIER THAN EVER NOW!

A FORTUNE WAS WAITING FOR HER – A FORTUNE SHE MAY NEVER FIND! AND AS SHE GOT HOME SHE REALISED SHE HAD LOST HER` KEYS AND COULDN’T GET IN TO THE HOUSE – AND TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE – IT WAS BEGINNING TO RAIN!

AS SHE BEGAN TO FRANTICALLY SEARCH THROUGH HER HANDBAG AND THEN HER PURSE – HE NOTICE THE GOLD KEY..

“ I WONDER” SHE SAID TO HERSELF – “BUT IT CAN’T BE – MY KEY IS A SILVER COLOUR…BUT…” –

AND SHE TOOK THE GOLD KEY – SLIPPED IT INTO THE LOCK……….. SLOWLY TURNED IT……….

AND THE FRONT DOOR OPENED!!!

AS SHE STEPPED IN – SHE LOOKED AROUND AND SAW HER CHILDREN’S TOYS LYING AROUND – HER HUSBAND’S COAT HANGING BY THE DOOR – AND AS SHE WALKED IN TO THE KITCHEN – SHE SAW A CARD ON THE TABLE – SAYING – “HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MUM!”…

AND SHE REMEMBERED THE WORDS WRITTEN ON THAT SMALL PIECE OF PAPER BY HER GRANDMOTHER – “THE KEY TO A GREAT TREASURE !” –

SHE SMILED AND FELT A WARM GLOW AND SAID “THANK YOU NANNA” I HAVE EVERYTHING I COULD EVER WANT RIGHT HERE… HOW BLESSED I AM!”

SOMETIMES WE WANT THINGS TO CHANGE, TO BE BETTER, BE DIFFERENT – AND WE FORGET ABOUT ALL THE MANY BLESSINGS WHICH WE ALREADY HAVE…

THE FRIENDS – THE FAMILY – THE LOVE WHICH SURROUNDS US…….

AND SO OFTEN – TOO OFTEN – WE FORGET TO GIVE THANKS FOR THE ORDINARY, EVERYDAY THINGS WHICH WE TAKE SO MUCH FOR GRANTED…..

I SUSPECT THAT – AT TIMES – WE ALL FAIL TO RECOGNISE AND GIVE THANKS FOR THE MANY BLESSINGS WE RECEIVE FROM GOD EVERY DAY.

SO QUESTION IS – ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE?

IS THERE ANY ONE, ANYTHING THAT YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED?

AND WILL YOU SAY A SIMPLE “THANK YOU” TO GOD FOR ALL THAT HE HAS BLESSED YOU WITH??

WILL YOU?

Mmmm –  FOOD FOR THOUGHT  FOR ALL OF US…!!

‘See you’ next Sunday morning. Have a good and safe week.

Take care and God Bless you and your loved ones.

Amen.

Rev Iain Ramsden.

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