Online Service 3.
5 / 4 / 20
“The Triumphal Entry’
Good morning, I hope that you are all safe and well and keeping out of harms way. It’s getting quite scary isn’t it!? We are now hearing of people we know who have the Virus and that brings it closer to home for us.
I hope you are coping well with the isolation and managing to find some peace in this very difficult situation. It’s like nothing most of us have ever experienced before, so how can we prepare ourselves?
Keep calm, keep healthy, keep praying and keep others in your prayers too.
As you will probably know, today is Palm Sunday – the day we celebrate the Entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, on a donkey. It is the beginning of a week of extreme highs and intense and heart breaking lows.
But before we look at that – let us pray together ~
Dear Lord of heaven and earth – we come to praise and worship you – you are our amazing king – you are the Lord of lords, yet you humbled yourself on that first Palm Sunday when you rode into Jerusalem on that small donkey. Today we remember the joy and excitement of that day and we come to sing your praises at your coming into our lives today. We give thanks for all Jesus achieved in His ministry, in those 3 short years- and all that was achieved in that week, in those 7 short days. But we know that our human ways can be fickle – and we remember that the cheers of “hosanna” soon turned to shouts of “crucify him” in just a few days – remind us to remain faithful to Him who gave his very life for us – Jesus Christ.
Remind us of all that He endured, the humiliation, the pain and the suffering – was all for us.
But we know that for all your kindness, your consideration and your compassion – for all you suffered ~ we show little gratitude or appreciation. For all your guidance and your encouragement, we fail to follow your advice or live in accordance with your ways……. We say and do things which we know we shouldn’t – we hunger for things which we are aware give us no real satisfaction – forgive us we pray ……… and hear our silent prayer now as we bring our personal prayer of confession to you – so Lord be with us – in the peace of our silence ………
……………..short time of silence…………..
Caring Lord, as undeserving as we are, we ask for your forgiveness, your mercy and your grace…. be with us on our journey of life and guide along the right paths, we pray.
Lord we know that you hear us when we pray to you in faith – so hear us now as pray together – the family prayer –
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.. Lead us not into temptation.. But deliver us from evil .. For thine is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.
Our New Testament reading is that great narrative of Jesus entering Jerusalem to a royal welcome – cheers – palm leaves, cloaks laid at his feet – He was following his destiny – following God’s will for him – and the crowd went wild ! It was a day of great celebration – aye – but was it to last ?? ~
Let us read God’s word together ~
Mark 11 : 1 – 11 Jesus comes to Jerusalem as King
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”’
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
‘Hosanna! ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
10 ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”
May God bless to us this reading of His holy word.
In that reading from Luke’s gospel – we hear the well known account of Jesus entering Jerusalem to a hero’s welcome.
The crowd were high – they were shouting and cheering. There was a real ‘carnival’ atmosphere that day – as the Saviour entered through the gate of the holy city of David – riding on a donkey – just as the prophets of old had foretold.
The Psalmist – Isaiah – Malachi –
He prophet and priest Zechariah – had written over 500 years before ~ “ rejoice greatly, shout, daughter of jerusalem, see, your King comes to you – righteous and having salvation – gentle and riding on a donkey”.
And here – now – before their very eyes – the prophesies were being fulfilled.
*Jesus and his companions would have been weary – it had been a long journey – 3 years in the travelling ––
An eternity in the planning.
The preparation for this journey had begun before time.
The wheels – so to speak – were set in motion, long before the earth was created.
And on that very first ‘Palm Sunday’ – in Jerusalem – God’s ‘master plan’ was continuing to unfold.
*Jesus had travelled a long way since his birth in Bethlehem.
But then, Jesus was used to journeys.
33 years before – he had made a journey to life – as he travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem – cradled in His Mothers’ womb.
Then their was the flight from Bethlehem into Egypt as the cruel king Herod sought to kill the boy Jesus.
There were the lazy days of childhood – about which we know very little.
Then came his Baptism by his cousin John the Baptiser..
His mission had begun………………
He had called his disciples into service.
Then came the miracles and the healings – the personal encounters – the mass hysteria – followed by times of solitude and prayer.
There was the preaching and the teaching – the wanderings – accompanied by a small band of loyal followers – who never really understood what it was all about – yet faithfully followed Jesus anyway – because they could see that there was something very special about this man from Galilee.
There had been journeys into His homeland of Galilee – Palestine – Judea – journeys on boats – journeys on foot – journeys into dark places – journeys which brought joy.
And then there was the last lap of the journey – the road to Jerusalem – Jesus was journeying to his death – death on a cross.
Yes, Jesus knew all about journeys.
His ‘triumphal entry’ – as it has been called – was a brave act of defiance – he was a man with a price on his head – wanted by the authorities – yet instead of sneaking in by another way – he calmly and boldly – entered the city with head held high !
What amazing courage that must have taken
Now – the end was now in sight ~
Or was it just the beginning!?…..
The day had come – the wandering was over – as Jesus entered the gates of that ancient, holy city – a city with attitude – a city with a history.
It had withstood invasion after invasion – it had seen more than it’s share of bloodshed. It was populated by very rich – and the very poor – the holy – and the heretic.
It was a city whose religious leaders were far removed from the everyday lives of the everyday people.
Their ancient religion bore no relevance to their reality – the people saw only restriction and hypocrisy.
It had become a religion of “thou shalt not’s” – and sadly, many still think that is what religion all about today – instead of seeing the joy and the freedom that it brings.
It was a city in need of a God who would love and care for them. A city in need of a Saviour – who would free them from all that they endured – who knew their problems and their needs – and their names.
Their traditions told them that God would send a rescuer,
a ‘man on a mission’ – someone who would drive out the occupying roman forces by the strength of his arm – a strong saviour.
Their hopes were raised – their expectations were high ~
No wonder they cheered – no wonder they shouted Halleluiah ! – no wonder they laid out palm branches like a ‘red carpet’ – for their Saviour to walk upon.
And so, it was into this melting pot that Jesus entered that day – riding on a donkey.
And so the people cheered!
But wait a minute ! – are those ‘alarm bells’ I hear??
What kind of warrior king was this?
What kind of hero was this?
Where was the crown?? Where’s the army??
And riding a donkey ? – whatever next!
That was the means of transport for a merchant or a priest, perhaps!
Where was the white charger that a conquering king triumphantly enter a city on?
But this was no ordinary king – no ordinary saviour. Jesus came to save alright – but not by the strength of His arm – by the power of His love – the power of God!
He was laying out his credentials – showing just what kind of king he was.
He was a King and a Prince – rolled into one.
He was the king of kings and the prince of peace – come to save them – but not from the Roman rulers – but from themselves – from their lack of faith – their insistence on going their own way rather than God’s way – and to save them from the awful consequences of living a life apart from the Father.
But they didn’t know this yet – that’s why they cheered.
They were full of excitement and hope – Jesus was full of love and compassion.
His very entrance in to the city – was a challenge to the establishment – a threat to the religious leaders – an act of defiance to the roman overlords –
And a promise kept, to the people.
God’s promise – God’s pledge to send a messiah – a deliverer – was being fulfilled.
That too – is why they cheered. Jesus was fulfilling God’s promise – God’s plan was rolling on, like an ever rolling stream.
And so – yes – Palm Sunday was a day of celebration and joy – for many reasons – but Jesus knew that lay ahead… betrayal, agony and death…
That was the bad news.
But there was good news too – there always is when Jesus is around !
And although what came in the short term was intrigue, plot, betrayal, humiliation, suffering and death………..
Long term it brought love, care, peace, a chance of a new life, a chance to have eternal life with Him who suffered and died for us during that awful ‘holy week’………
That’s what this all about – it’s what it’s always been about !
That’s why Jesus came in the first place – cradled in his mothers womb as she entered Bethlehem on that silent, holy night – riding on a donkey.
All to fulfill God’s eternal plan – birth, life, death – and resurrection to a new eternal life.
And that plan is still being worked out today – in you and in me – in all who put their trust, their faith, their life – in the hands of jesus.
We all have birth, life and we will all, one day, pass away – and because of Easter – because Jesus chose to go to Jerusalem and fulfil God’s plan for him, we too can know a resurrection to new life, both here and hereafter.
It’s what Easter’s all about and we will hear all about that next Sunday, on Easter Day.
No wonder the people were excited and cheered and shouted ‘Halleluiah’ !! …….. Maybe we should get excited and shout about it more often too !!……………
And so – as we walk towards the cross with Jesus, this ‘holy week’ – let us give thanks for all that Jesus endured, for our sakes – let us pray for the strength and courage to stand with and stand up for our Saviour – in this ‘melting pot’ of a world that we live in…
A world where God is too often side-lined, dismissed and rejected as irrelevant in a modern day world.
Short sighted thinking, short sighted lives. Seeking short term pleasures but losing long term gains in the process.
We pray for them, that they may come to know just what Jesus did for them, what He promises them ‘life here and life hereafter’ – a promise made to you in Heaven and reiterated to you this very day.
But how will they know if we do not tell them?
As the old Hymn says, let us, you and I ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus…’ the Saviour of mankind – the Saviour of each one of us… who gave up His life for us.
That really is something to shout about!
And let us do it – in the precious name of Jesus.
Let us pray together –
Lord – on Palm Sunday, you were given a hero’s welcome, but you chose to demonstrate your power with humility.
Help us to put behind us our pride and arrogance – so that we may follow in your steps – in humility – on the journey that you have chosen for us – and so, in your time – enter your gates with thanksgiving………
As we celebrate and sing your praises – we know that elsewhere there are those who do not know the love and peace that we have found. And we pray for them.
Those involved in war – starvation and deprivation of so many kinds –
Today, we particularly think of the many areas where our brothers and sisters who suffer – and watch their families suffer because of the lack of the basic necessities of life.
Lord, we pray that their suffering will be a short one – but we fear that it may not..
Stir us to help – wake the world up to their cry – and call all of us to see that if we profess to be followers of Christ, then we too must feed the hungry and clothe the naked……..
Lord – you came as the Prince of Peace – and we pray for peace in the world – and ask that your love and peace will be with those who have lost loved ones – give to those serving in all conflicts, both courage and strength and the knowledge that you are watching over them………
Bless those at home who are anxious at this time – and we pray for those who put their own lives in danger to keep us safe – watch over them and their loved ones too.
Be with those who are struggling with the time of isolation. Give them your peace and your calm, may they know the love of Jesus for themselves.
We pray for the sad, the lonely and the abused, aye maybe someone reading this today feels that.
Touch their lives and bring them comfort in their dark times. Shine your light upon them, cast away their shadows and remind them that they are never alone – for you are with everyone of us – you do not fail or forsake us, you are our ever present help in troubled times.
Listening God – be with us now, Lord, as we sit for a few moments in silence, each with our own thoughts, each with our own prayer for those whom we know, in our own lives, who are in need of your hand upon them, at this time – so hear us now listening lord – in the peace of our silence………………………….
Lord there are so many who need your blessings upon them – be with them as we bring them before you today – in the name of our dear Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A ‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ for our young people – and for the ‘young at heart’ J
Imagine the scene ~ it’s the day after Palm Sunday – Palms and banners litter the streets of Jerusalem – the donkey who carried Jesus the day before – wakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride.
He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought.
But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind.
“Throw your garments down,” he said crossly. “Don’t you know who I am?”
They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move.
“Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me.”
But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market place.
“The Palm branches! Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches!”
Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother.
“Foolish child,” she said gently. “Don’t you realize that without Jesus, you are just an ordinary donkey?”
You know – that’s like us, we are ordinary people – but when we are in His service, working for His good – and we have the knowledge that He is with us – then we are lifted up with confidence and strength to become much more than just ‘ordinary’ – we are ‘key players’ in His great and wonderful plan – for the world and for our own lives – and that makes us very special indeed !!
What a lovely thought…
And may the Blessing of almighty God – Father – Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all, with your families, all who you know and love – and ought to love –
this day – and every day.
Take care, God Bless and keep safe.
Online Service 2 – 29.3.20 – Lent 5
I hope your week has gone well and you are managing to keep well clear of the dreaded COVID 19. Things are getting a lot worse and becoming very real for us as the numbers of those affected rise every day.
Our God is a God of love and compassion and our prayers go out for those who are vulnerable and for those who give so much of their time to keep the rest of us safe – and we mourn with those who mourn the loss of a dear one.
And we remember those who are suffering financially because of the restrictions and the homeless whose lives have become even more unstable.
When and where will it all end? Only God knows, so we place ourselves in His Holy hands, safe in the knowledge that He watches over us each and every day.
Today is the 5th Sunday in Lent, and as we draw closer to Easter, to the Cross, we focus our minds on the event when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed the head and feet of Jesus with an expensive perfumed oil.
But before we take a look at that – let is share in a prayer ~
Let us pray…
Loving and Heavenly Father – we offer you our praise, our worship as we sit in our different homes in many different locations, but we are all are in your presence this day.
Not that you aren’t with us every day – but we are so often too busy to experience you.
Today we take time from our busy lives to focus on you – to relax and recharge – to unwind and unburden ourselves.
We bring you our worries and concerns – we bring you our fears and our anxieties.
We bring you those things which burden us – and we hand them over to you – we lay them at your feet – knowing that you will take them from us and lighten our load. What a wonderful God you are !
How you must love us – yet – how disappointed you must be when you see the things we do – hear the words we speak – and the thoughts which go through our heads at times…..
Forgive us – we pray – for putting ourselves before you – for thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought – for the many times that we stay silent instead of witnessing our faith before others and praising your name – for fear of what our friends and colleagues might think of us.
Listening Lord – hear us now as we sit for a few moments to clear our minds of the events of the past week or so – as we recall the ups and downs in our lives and bring all our worries and concerns to you in prayer.
We bring too – our personal prayer of confession as we think of the things we have said, done and thought which have hurt or upset others – hurt and upset you………….. we are sorry lord – and we pray for your forgiveness in Jesus’ name……… so be with us now Lord – as we gather up all these thoughts and bring them to you in our silent prayers ~
………..….SHORT TIME OF SILENCE……………….
Listening Lord – as undeserving as we are – we pray that you will forgive us and bless us with your mercy and your grace.
Lord we know that you hear us when we pray to you in faith – so hear us now as we say together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the lord’s prayer ~
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.. lead us not into temptation.. but deliver us from evil .. for thine is the kingdom.. the power and the glory forever…. Amen.
READINGS – John 12 : 1 – 8
The Anointing at Bethany. 1 [a]Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. 3 Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus[b] and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, 5 “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages[c] and given to the poor?” 6 He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. 7 So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.[d] 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
In our New Testament reading this morning we hear of Jesus visiting some friends on the outskirts of Jerusalem – Mary and Martha – and their brother Lazarus.
It seems to be a pretty normal kind of visit – we can imagine it – chatting, laughing – sharing a drink and a meal – but then – out of the blue – Mary does something which seems strange – to say the least – she opens a jar of really expensive perfume, and pours it over the head and feet of Jesus.
The oil was called ‘Nard oil’ and was one of the 11 oils used for the incense of the holy temple at Jerusalem – and it was also used to anoint the bodies of the dead – as was Myrrh – one of the 3 gifts given to Jesus at his birth – a foreshadowing of things to come!
And so – it was a very special oil – and a very expensive one too!
As Judas reminded them – it was worth a years wages !! – what would that be worth today ??
£25 – 30, 000 – maybe more!!! I wish !!!
But this didn’t seem to matter to Mary – nor to Jesus.
“the poor will always be with you” – Jesus said to Judas in v.7 – “you can look after them anytime – but I am only here for a short time – Mary knows that and is doing a good thing !”.
It’s a well know reading which has much to say to us –
and its cleverly crafted narrative gives us a whole series of character sketches about the main people in the story – Martha – Mary – Judas and – of course, Jesus.
There is the ever practical Martha – busying herself – serving at the table – she loved Jesus and she showed that love by the work of her hands.
Many of us can – and do that too – serve God in practical ways.
It’s true to say that we can serve God just as faithfully in the kitchen – serving God’s people – as we can in the various committees – or cleaning God’s house – or in the pulpit.
And Jesus recognises our different ways of serving Him.
Then there was Mary –
She knew what lay ahead for Jesus – He had told his disciples a week or two before that he must soon go to Jerusalem and die – and Mary wanted to show her great love for him while she could.
Jesus knew this – for in verse 7 Jesus says ~ “leave Mary alone! – it was intended that she save this perfume for my burial”.
But Mary couldn’t wait. Another week or so – and it might all be too late.
And so she acted on impulse – prompted by love – doing what she felt she had to do for Jesus – in her own way – and while she could still do it.
If she didn’t do it now – while she had the chance – she may have thought – then perhaps she wouldn’t be able to do it all.
Perhaps it ought to remind us – that we should not put off those things which are important – ‘strike while the iron is hot’ as the saying goes – for the opportunity to do good for someone – may not come your way again.
Perhaps Ignatius had this passage in mind when he wrote these words ~
“Teach us Lord to serve you as you deserve.
To give and not to count the cost.
To fight and not to heed the wounds.
To toil and not to seek for rest.
To labour and not to seek for any reward –
Save that of knowing that we do your will”
Mary served Jesus in her own way, she gave to Him and didn’t count the cost.Was she extravagant ? – yes – but for Mary the monetary cost didn’t enter in to it – it wasn’t about the money – it was about her love for Jesus.
That was the guide to her actions.
In both Martha and Mary – we see a humility and a willingness to serve Jesus – each in their own way.
Judas, on the other hand, was dark and difficult – a very different character altogether.
He had just witnessed the most amazing and beautiful act of self-less love – yet remained untouched by it.
For Judas it was all about the money – he complained that the money would have been better spent on the poor – but of course, Judas cared little for the poor.
His great love was money – indeed verse 6 tells us that he was a thief.
And very soon – he was to betray Jesus – for just 30 pieces of silver.
It shows us the true character of Judas, that he forgot – or chose to forget the words in Deuteronomy – words which all good Jewish children would have been taught at their mothers knee – “there will always be poor people in your land – therefore I command you to be open handed towards your brothers and to the poor and needy..”
The only person Judas was ‘open handed’ to – was himself!
Love money or love God – you can’t serve both – the Bible tells us.
Judas loved money –
Mary and Martha loved Jesus.
And then we see Jesus – laid back and unruffled. “stay calm” he was saying to Judas – “chill out” as the young people might say today – “Mary’s doing a good thing ! – there’s more important things in this world than money you know !”
But Judas remained unconvinced – just as many do today, sadly.
But Jesus could see through Mary’s wild extravagance – He could see that it wasn’t about the perfume – or the cost – it was about the action – the symbolism of being anointed – and the love that was behind it.
Mary wanted to do it – simply because she loved Jesus.
Different people – acting in different ways – when in the company of Jesus.
But the line that I like most in this passage is the last sentence in verse 3- “and the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil”.
The whole house was effected by Mary’s actions.
Perhaps like one of those calming scented candles which we might burn at home. You know – lavender and camomile or something similar.It’s gentle and soothing scent can be smelt and felt – throughout the whole house – bringing a feeling of calm and comfort – touching our senses – as we inhale it’s beautiful fragrance.
And that too has a lesson for us – it tells us that the way we live and act – has an effect on those around us.
If we are loud, obnoxious and unpleasant – don’t be surprised of those around you act the same!
But if we are kind, friendly and calm – living a life if faith, then it will rub off on those who are close to you – just like the beautiful scent, as it winds it’s way from room to room in your home.
Those who were present in that room –and the millions who have read or heard the story since – have all been effected by Mary’s kindness and her love for Jesus……
The aroma has permeated through the centuries…
Mary’s actions have been called – “the extravagant act of love” – and – for me – it’s one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.
We think of the bible as being a Holy book – and so it is.
And we think of the people in it – as ‘Holy people’ – and so they are.
But when we take a closer look – we see that it also tells us that “Holy people” are just like you and I – flawed, imperfect, with all our human imperfections – and yet able to serve God, as do we, in our own circumstances and in our own particular and individual ways – just as they did.
So you and I are ‘Holy people’ too – children of a loving God – our heavenly Father – we are made in His image…
Each of us has a ministry – different ways of serving God in our everyday lives – and that can take many forms – as diverse as the people we are.
We say that Mary was ‘extravagant’ with her love. But in a couple of weeks– Jesus was to give all He had – His very life – for Mary – for all who love and accept him into their hearts and their lives.
It really doesn’t get more “extravagant” than that !
And so – the question is – how do we – you and I – respond to His extravagant, amazing, love for us?
Are we extravagant with our time, our talents – our love – for Him ? Some of you are, I know.
What do we – you and I – give to Jesus that is of “extravagant” value?
He doesn’t want our money – some of us have little enough of that to give.
He doesn’t want things of this earth – things that we put a value on.
All he wants – is you – the most precious thing in all the world.
All He yearns for – is your love.
Your praise – your worship.
Your trust and your faith in Him.
That’s the most valuable – important and treasured –thing you can give Him.
Is that really too much to ask – when we think of all that He gave for you – and for me??
He suffered betrayal – humiliation – pain – and death on a cross – so that when – on that final day – you arrive at the gates of heaven and you stand, holding your breath as your life is scrutinised – you will hear those words – “Enter – your sins are forgiven – my Son has paid your price!”
That’s what He did for us – what are we doing – for him??
He showed an extravagant love for us –
Do we show an extravagant love for him?
Maybe we do – maybe we don’t
Maybe we haven’t given it too much thought –
Aye – maybe it’s time we did!!
And in Jesus’ precious name.
Let us share a prayer ~
Loving, caring, providing god – we come to offer our heartfelt thanks to you for all that you provide for us each and every day – family and friends that make life good – food on our table –a roof over our heads – clothes to wear – all things we take for granted – but things which are denied to so many in our world.
Lord – thank you for blessing us… and our families..
But we are aware that there are many – aye, too many – who are not so blessed as we are – and we pray for them today.
We pray for the world with all its needs.
The hungry and the homeless, the lost and the lonely, the sad and the bereaved.
Watch over them and bless them with your strength, love and peace.
And we pray for all who are engaged in coping with the effects of this crisis – those who are searching tirelessly to produce a vaccine – all medical and ancillary staff throughout the world , those who care for the vulnerable and the those whose sense of isolation and need is heightened at this time.
In these difficult days, may we all find something of that peace that ‘passes all our understanding.’
Give us an open mind and an open heart to help others – remembering the words of Jesus when he said “whatever you do for the leas to my people, you do for me…”
Lord, hear our prayer, for we pray from our hearts – and in Jesus’ precious name.
‘Thought for the week’
As you know – I like to leave you each week with a ‘thought for the week’ – and today I’d like to leave you with a short story about a wee girl who wanted to become a world famous pianist. The only problem was – that she couldn’t play the piano !
Well – not very well.
She could play a rather bad version of the tune ‘chopsticks’ but that was all.
So, one day – her parents arranged for her to visit a famous piano teacher – to teach her to play properly.
Naturally, the wee girl was excited – and on arrival at the teacher’s house – she ran over to the grand piano and started to play her version of chopsticks.
The parents were embarrassed and were just about to tell her to stop playing – when the teacher told them to let her play.
He listened for a while – and then went over and sat beside her – and after a couple of minutes – he joined in and began to play all the extra notes – harmonies and lots of ‘twiddly bits’ which enhanced the wee girls playing beyond all recognition.
The parents couldn’t believe their ears ! – their wee girl was playing a duet – and it was beautiful!!
Sometimes we can feel that we would like to do great things but we don’t believe we can.
We don’t have the confidence or the skill – or so we think.
But we have a teacher too – one who sits beside us – who joins in our feeble efforts and enhances them and makes them more wonderful than we ever could.
He gives us the encouragement and confidence to do amazing things – to serve him – and others, in amazing ways.
He is able to take what little we are able to do – and turn it into something much more beautiful.
When we put ourselves in His holy hands – He will transform us – and our service – into a glorious offering of praise and worship – whatever we do and wherever we are.
Do you want to show your ‘extravagant love’ for Jesus ? – then give him your talents and your gifts – give him your very self – and he will help you to turn them into a wonderful offering to him – and to God’s glory.
Will you do that? I pray that you will.
Mmmmmmmm – it’s food for thought isn’t it!?
May the fragrance of God’s love fill your life and your home –
And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you all – may He be with your family, your friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day – and every day.
Take care – keep safe – and God Bless.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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??
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.
Rev Iain Ramsden.
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