Midweek Meditation – Wednesday 8th July 2020

8th July 2020

MIDWEEK MEDITATION

Morning all. I hope your week is going well and life is being good to you and your loved ones. Please find this weeks’ Midweek Meditation below. I hope you can make the time to read it over and find something there which will give you some comfort in these difficult times.

NEWS EXPERTS
I don’t know about you but when I’m watch unfolding news on TV, I’m quickly fed up with so-called ‘experts’ going into endless detail, attempting to explain reasons for what has happened.
Whether it’s Covid updates, Political squabbling, shootings or whatever, the newscasters all seem to feel the need to give us their personal opinions and explanations.
Realistically, these self-proclaimed “authorities” don’t know why these things happen, but they fill up endless hours of time with their ramblings.
As believers, we’re also tempted to seek reasons for why things happen, especially if we’re personally affected.
We question why God allows bad things to happen to good people or why those of the world seem to experience so few problems while we struggle with unanswered prayer and unexpected trials.
We want to believe that God has reasons for all that we go through but we wish he would enlighten us as well.
However, those unanswered questions help us to develop our faith.
Even though we may never fully understand why certain things happen, we can walk our path with confidence, one step at a time, trusting that our Lord is in control and is walking beside us all the way.

READ – Isaiah 55 : 8 – 9 from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

PRAY – All powerful God, the horizons I see are often clouded with questions and concerns. Help me learn to trust more and accept your plans for my life – safe in the knowledge that you walk with me each day, even through the ‘Valley of the Shadow’ kind of days.
Amen.

READ –
Psalm 23 verse 4 from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff… they comfort me….”

and –

Deuteronomy 31 : 3
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Amen.

PONDER – Do you trust God enough to believe that He really does walk with you through your life? It’s a lovely thought isn’t it? Having God beside you watching, caring, comforting. Well you can be sure that it is more than just a thought, He really is with each moment of each day. Jesus says – “For I will always be with you.” (Matthew 28:20). And you can trust in His promises because of His great love for you, yes you. How blessed we are !
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Based on Reflections on Life through the 23rd Psalm by Wanda Wood
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Have a good day and keep safe

Online Sunday Service – 5th July 2020

5 July 2020

Online Service

 

Good morning folks,

I hope that you and your loved ones are managing to keep well in this unprecedented time. An unusual feeling of freedom is seeping through or communities as we slowly unlock from the safe haven of our homes. Of course, some have been working to keep things going in our absence – but many of us are like rabbits coming out of our warrens and into the daylight – rubbing our eyes as we tentatively look around to see what the world is like now.  Perhaps that’s a wee bit dramatic but we still have to be aware that danger is still out there, and it’s important that we keep ourselves, and others, safe.

 

These past few months we have seen and witnessed so many acts of kindness and caring.   People going the extra mile, stepping up, in order to help others who are in need, in a wonderful and heart warming way. Providing food,  masks, gloves and so much more for the most vulnerable in our society.

 

In our Lesson for today, Jesus tells us a Parable, a story  with a deeper meaning, which reminds us to ‘be aware of those in need’ – ‘helping the needy’ is what we must do He tells us….

Jesus says – “Whatever you do for the least of my people – you do for me.”

But before all that  – let us pray –

 

PRAYER –

Loving, heavenly Father – we have come into this place and gathered in your Holy name – to worship you. To bring you our praise and our thanks – our amazing and holy God.

What a wonderful God you are ! – you are so immense we cannot begin to imagine or envisage all that you are – yet we know that you are closer to us than our very breath – nearer than the air we breath.

 

But lord we know that there are many, aye too many – who do not know your love – do not know the deep, inner peace and contentment which only comes from you.

 

And Lord, we are painfully aware that there is so much to do – so many that need help and support – that we can be overwhelmed by all that there is to do.

 

Forgive us for not always seeing what needs to be done – for not seeing the problem – for being too sheltered by our own comfortable lifestyle – to see those who are crying out for help – perhaps closer to our homes than we might think.

 

Bring to us an understanding and a willingness to actively seek out the needy and show them the love of jesus in both practical ways and in prayer.

 

Lord, we know that we have a long way to go if we are to come close to living as you would wish – and we take time now to express regret for the many things we have said and done which must disappoint you – hear us now as we bring you our personal and private prayer of confession – things we dare not speak out – but we lay them at your feet – and ask for your forgiveness.

Hear our silent prayer Lord, as we pray in the peace of our silence……………..take time to think of something(s)  for which you wish to be forgiven…………….

 

Listening lord – as undeserving as we are – we pray that you will forgive us and bless us with your awesome mercy and your amazing grace.

 

Lord we know that you hear us when we pray 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.

 

Our 2 readings for today are –

 

Amos 6 : 1– 7    from the Old Testament (O.T,)

Luke 16 : 19 – 31 from the New Testament (N.T,)

 

Our O.T reading this morning is taken from the book of the prophet Amos – the shepherd  of Takoa – the plain speaking, dependable, ‘straight to the heart of the matter’ man of the land – the prophet who could see the decadence of the Israelites – the, “people of God” – and wasn’t afraid to speak up and speak out.

What are you doing!?” – He says to them –“just look at yourselves ! – call yourselves the people of God ! And yet you lounge about – eating and drinking – while others starve ! – be careful !” Amos is warning “one day – you will get your ‘come-uppance !!”.

 

In our N.T. reading – Luke presents us with yet another difficult parable. It is full of symbolic biblical language as it tells of two people who lived very different lives in this life – and of how their fortunes were to be reversed – in the next……

 

Let’s read those passages now ~

 

Amos 6 : 1 – 7  from the  New International Version

Woe to the complacent

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!
Go to Kalneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?
You put off the day of disaster
and bring near a reign of terror.
You lie on beds adorned with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.

 

And ~

 

Luke 16 : 19 – 31  from the  New International Version

The Rich man and Lazarus

19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 ‘The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”

25 ‘But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

27 ‘He answered, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”

29 ‘Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”

30 ‘“No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

31 ‘He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

 

This is the Word of the Lord – thanks be to God

Amen.

 

2 difficult readings for us, let’s unpick them and see what they are saying to us, in our own everyday lives, today  ~

 

SERMON                                                         

 

A few years ago – in a former life – I was a Civil servant in Customs & Excise – and I was asked to be the local Union Rep.

It was a job I felt ill-equipped for – but my colleagues must have had some kind of confidence in me – or maybe nobody else would do it (!?) – either way, I took on the role.

 

The one thing that used to rile me – and still does – is  injustice. I hate to see everyday working people being looked down upon – mistreated and bullied by those who should know better.

 

As I became more involved, I found myself at national conferences where major decisions were taken – and none more so than pay structures – which inevitably led to disputes with management.

 

They were denying the lowest paid workers even a realistic wage rise by the standards of the day – while many of them enjoyed massive salaries – with enormous pay rises. And that angered me – and still does…

 

It wasn’t that I begrudged the bosses their money – but it was the injustice of it all – it was a classic case of “the rich getting richer while the poor got poorer”.

 

The Bible has plenty to say about poverty and social injustice – in particular, the apostle Luke.

 

Luke was a Gentile – and a Doctor, and was particularly concerned about the physical and social welfare of the people – and how the followers of Jesus should act – and re-act towards the social outcasts of his day, the sick, the poor, women, tax collectors and sinners.

Contrasting them with the rich and the powerful who ‘Lorded it’ over them.
Just as we see happening today – the divide between rich and poor was growing ever wider…. And Luke felt it was important that – as Christians – we should engage with these issues – do you remember the words of Jesus saying “whatever you do for the least of my people – you do for me ?” ………….
So, Lukes’ Gospel is concerned with the practical expression of Christianity, the everyday living out of our faith – and how it relates, amongst other things, to issues of wealth and poverty – which were the big issues of the day – and for many – still are.

 

So he includes a number of stories in his Gospel which particularly reflect his own concerns, and are not recorded by any of the other Gospel writers.
One of these stories is the Parable of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus – our text for today.

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The rich man’s was accused of walking by the beggar at his gate, without even noticing him.

 

It wasn’t that he was rich or miserly – in accordance with Jewish law he may have given generously to charity, we don’t know.

 

And it wasn’t that he was cruel to the beggar Lazarus – his problem was that he failed to notice the plight of another human being who he walked past everyday..

 

The rich man may have been a very good Jew, a pillar of society.

But he didn’t even see someone in need under his own nose.    He was insulated against all that.
As many in the world are today…

 

The rich man wasn’t necessarily a bad man, as far as we know, but he was – complacent – and in Amos’s warning he says – “woe to you who are complacent”.
And, even when he died and passed over and his offences were pointed out to him in words of one syllable by Abraham, the rich man still didn’t really get it…..

There he was burning in Hades, that grim place of gloom and shadows, when he spotted Abraham and Lazarus having a blether, up there in paradise.

 

But even at that stage, with his own obvious disadvantage in circumstances, the rich man still didn’t regard Lazarus as an equal.

But called out – asking Abraham to send Lazarus down to Hades to serve him!

 

Despite all that had happened, and despite the fact that Lazarus was in Heaven enjoying the company of the most elite of Jews, (Abraham was/is the father of the Jewish people) the rich man still regarded Lazarus as a mere servant.

He was unable to see beyond that social structure and see the person underneath.

Abraham pointed out that the rich man had had his good life on earth, while Lazarus had a terrible life of poverty.

 

Now Lazarus was enjoying heaven while the rich man received his come-uppance.

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This parable must have been very satisfying to the early listeners, most of whom were probably poor and would be thinking “YES !! – the good times are coming!!” J Or something like that…
Maybe – but disturbing and uncomfortable times for those who were better off !!
At this point, you might have expected the rich man to break down in hopeless remorse and beg forgiveness for his selfishness and lack of compassion. But not a bit of it.

 

It seems he still didn’t quite realise why he was in Hades at all !! – a man of his standing in the community – what could God be thinking !?? – there must be some kind of mix up at reception surely !!

 

And so he continued to hold a conversation with Abraham about Lazarus, just as though Lazarus wasn’t there.     You can almost hear Lazarus saying “hello !! – I am here you know !” withnd the rich man looking round – wondering where the voice is coming from !
But Abraham said it was impossible to cross the great chasm from hell to heaven  (see Luke 16 : 26 above).

 

You’re there for a reason – and no amount of squirming is going to get you out – live with it!” (or words to that effect).

 

And so when the rich man realised Lazarus was unable to help him, he looked around to find some other use for Lazarus.
“I know” the rich man said “then why not send him back to warn my brothers – so they don’t get caught out like me !?” and here we see that the rich man still had no thought for anyone except himself and an extension of himself, his own particular family.

He didn’t care about the rest of the world, or about Lazarus’ family, or even about the Jewish nation.      He really only cared about himself and his own concerns.

His opulent lifestyle had cushioned him from the realities of life….

Could you and I be accused of that at times??

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Abraham said to the rich man, “Just like you – your family have already had lots of chances – they haven’t listened to Moses or the Prophets of old – what are the chances that they are likely to take heed of a servant who returns from the dead !?”– (Luke 16: 31)

 

In other words –

 

Those without a social conscience, those who are self absorbed and only pay lip service to any kind of religion, will surely be incapable of believing in Christ’s Resurrection – and so be saved.

 

An issue for many today….
Life had dealt Lazarus a poor hand, but that didn’t prevent his faith in God – indeed it was his faith that had helped him through so many difficult times in his life.

He believed from his heart.

His belief was beyond wealth or power, for he had neither. But he didn’t say, “why me, Lord? Why am I having such a rough time? What have I ever done to deserve this?”.

 

Despite his appalling circumstances, he believed and trusted in God’s love and goodness.

And that love and goodness which grew within him throughout his life, was what he received overwhelmingly in return – in the life which followed…
That same promise is given to us.
Wealth may bring us comfort, but without knowing it – without intending it – without realizing it –it can also act as an insulation against life and against God,

 

Because, you see, God is in the middle of life with all its darkness, difficulties and  distress.

And when people are insulated against God, it’s as difficult for them to recognise God’s presence –  as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

The rich man failed to discover that, even after his death.

He only knew he was in torment, but still didn’t understand what he had done to deserve it.

 

But he did find just a glimmer of understanding, for he wanted to save his family from a similar fate.

 

But the answer was harsh but true – “it’s no good trying to tell them anything, they’re too insulated to be able to hear the truth, like you”

Each of us must discover life’s truths for ourselves. And none of us can discover them if our insulation against life is too thick.

 

So this parable of Lukes’ – challenges us to look at ourselves and ask –

“How is my insulation against the lost and the lonely – the  sad and the  sorrowful – the heartbroken and the hungry…. the unhappy and the unloved..?”

 

The poor, the hungry, the disabled and the disadvantaged  are all around us – but do we see them? Do we pray for them? Do we  think about what life must be like for them?……..

 

It can put our own issues and problems into perspective – but more than that –

It draws us closer to God –

 

For as the Bible tells us –“man sees the outward things – but god sees what is in our hearts..”

 

So I hope you don’t mind if I ask you a very personal question – “Just how is your insulation ?????”

 

It make you think doesn’t it ?

– or at least –

I hope it does.

 

And in Jesus’ name.

 

Amen.

And may God bless this preaching of his Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.

 

Prayer

Holy, heavenly Father – we take a few moments now to give you our thanks for all that you have blessed us with.

With think of our loved ones – those who make life good for us – those who watch out for us and care for us.

We thank you for the many blessings we receive from you each day.

We think of our homes – food on our table – a comfy bed to sleep in and a roof over our heads.

 

You have blessed with these things – and so much more beside.

But lord we know that there are many in our world, in our communities who do not have these things which we take for granted.

 

Keep us ever aware of those in need – those for whom everyday is a struggle.

Those who have little or nothing while many have too much.

Those who just want a simple, happy life – but  seem beset by hassles and worries.

Those whose lives are disrupted and disturbed by the thoughtless and unkind words and action of others.

Keep us aware of our own thoughts and actions that we might never be the cause of unthinking pain or anxiety to others.

 

Today we particularly pray for those who are mourning the loss of a dear one – watch over them, bless them with your peace and your strength as they come to terms with their loss.

 

We continue to hold in our prayer, the NHS on this their 72nd  year Anniversary. We pray for the staff and all others who do tremendous work, many behind the scenes to keep us free from sickness and disease.

 

Keep them safe, that they may return home each day to their loved ones, well and safe from harm.

 

Hear us now listening Lord – as we sit for a few moments of quiet – each with our own thoughts and silent prayers……

 

…take a few moments to think of someone you know who needs a prayer…… whisper their names… God hears your prayers….

 

Hear our prayer Listening Lord – for we ask it in Jesus’ precious name.

Amen

 

 

‘Thought for the week’

 

There’s a story about a botanist who was studying the bell-heather found in the Highlands of Scotland.

While looking through his microscope at this beautiful flower, he was approached by a shepherd who asked what he was doing.

 

Rather than trying to explain, the botanist invited the shepherd to peer through his microscope and observe for himself.

 

When the shepherd saw the wonder of the flower, he shouted, “Oh my God…. and to think –

I have been tramping on them all my life!”

Is that the word of warning we need? Wake up! Pay attention! Look around you.

You may be tramping on the heart and feelings of someone nearby.

 

So here’s a thought – who is the Lazarus at your gate?

 

MMMM!!! Now that IS food for thought for us all.

 

Blessing

Go – and may the God of love

Walk with you – watch over you and keep you safe

In the knowledge that your Saviour  Jesus Christ is always with you….

 

And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

 

AMEN

 

Take care and may God Bless you and those you love.

Keep safe.

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Be sure not to miss my

‘Midweek Meditation’

Posted each Wednesday morning.

 

Have a good week

 

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Midweek Meditation – Wednesday 1st July

Midweek Meditation

A New Kind of Gift

 

“…yet it seems to me that finishing well in this life is not so much about who is the best or greatest at something, but rather who embraces lowliness of heart.

Laying down one’s rights—meekness—is a blessed virtue, one that must surely come straight from the Throne of Grace.“

 – The Prodigal, Beverly Lewis

 

For many of us “life just happens’.  We are in our teens, enjoying (sometimes enduring) life – we blink and middle age is upon us – and before we know it – old age is beckoning – if it hasn’t already. “Where did those years go?” we might well ask ourselves. “What have I achieved ?”  Almost certainly more than you give yourself credit for.

But it might be argued that ‘quality of life is more important than quantity of life’. Living life to the full might be preferred to living a long yet unproductive or cheerless life.

 

In her novel “The Prodigal”,  Beverly Lewis uses her association with the Amish community to create characters who, through personal tragedy and difficulties, reflect on the ‘meaning of life’ and the quality of their own lives.

“The most important thing” they conclude “is not  about wealth or accomplishments – but about having the Christ-like qualities of humility, meekness and  gentleness.

 

 

Moses was blessed for his meekness and given great honour by God. Ask God to bless you with a meek spirit like Moses, that you may be used and blessed by God all of your days.

 

Read – Numbers 12:1 – 3

 

“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite]woman he had married (for he had married an Ethiopian woman). They said, “Has the Lord spoken onl] through Moses? Has he not also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard it.

Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth.

 

Miriam and Aaron gossiped  about Moses through their jealousy – but God chose Moses because of  the qualities of his character.

 

Don’t be concerned if you feel that life has passed you by – Moses was a shepherd until he was called by God at the ripe old age of 80 – so there’s hope for us yet!

 

Ponder – Are you living your life as God would want you to?

Do you treat others with respect, living in humility and thanksgiving – as He would wish you to?

Are there areas in your life which need addressing? If so, let’s take this time that God has given us to  reflect and take stock.

 

Pray – Loving God,  thank you for loving me – thank you for being tolerant and forgiving of my ways which are not always in accordance with your wishes. Help me to look at my own life so that I may be open and honest with myself and with you.  Hear my prayer Lord, for I bring it to you in all humility and – in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Online Sunday Service – 28th June 2020

28 June 2020

Online Service

Good morning folks,

How has your week been? We are certainly seeing an easing of  restrictions which should make life easier for us – but I believe that we should remain cautious for some time yet. While it might seem good to be ‘back to normal’, the Virus is still out there, so please be careful, you are precious to too many people – you are precious to God who loves you more than you could ever imagine.

Today’s Lesson is a tricky one – there’s some hard talking  too – but the bottom line is – it’s about how precious we are to God, and a whole lot more…

But before that – Let us Pray ~

PRAYER

Gracious God, Heavenly father – King of Kings – Lord of Lords – you are the amazing Creator God – with all Power, Majesty and Splendour – it is with awe and with thanks giving that we bring you our praise and our worship – in the name of our dear Jesus.

We  praise you that we can open our hearts to you, that we can pour out our innermost souls and share our deepest thoughts, in the knowledge that you are there, always ready to listen and understand.

What a dependable, consistent and faithful God you are ! – if only we were so devoted to you – as  you are devoted to us!

Forgive us father – and hear our prayer as once more, we lay our lives before you, open to your gaze – the bad as well as the good, the doubt as well as the faith, the sorrow as well as the joy, the despair as well as the hope.

We bring the anger as well as the peace, the hatred as well as the love, the confusion as well as the certainty, the fear as well as the trust.

Gracious God, we bring these,

not with pride or any sense of self-importance, but honestly, recognising that you know us through and through – you know us better than we know our very selves..

Lord, we know that we are not always as good as we should be – that we don’t always live our lives as we ought to – when bad things happen we don’t always turn to you for help. When good things happen we rarely give you our thanks.

Help us to be truthful to ourselves and truthful to you, and so may we discover the renewing love which only you can offer – a love that frees us to live as you would have us live, and allows us to be the people you would have us be!

Help us to build our lives on the good and wholesome foundation that Jesus offers to all who put their trust in Him.

Hear now our silent prayers – as we sit for a few moments, drawing strength and comfort from the sure and certain knowledge that we are safe with our church family – safe in your hands – as we bring your fears, concerns and our apologies – for falling short of what you expect of us – as followers of Christ – as your holy children.

Draw close to us Lord, in the peace of our silence…

…… take a short time to think about something you may have said, done or thought, which you now wish to apologize for…

Forgive me Father – bless me with your mercy and your grace, I pray – and hear me now as I pray 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.

We have 2 Readings this morning ~

 Exodus 33 : 1 – 6   from the Old Testament (O.T.)

  &   Luke 13 : 1 – 9   from the New Testament  (N.T,)

 

PREAMBLE TO READINGS

IN OUR O.T READING THIS MORNING WE HEAR GOD SPEAKING TO MOSES  – COMMANDING HIM TO LEAD HIS PEOPLE INTO THE PROMISED LAND.

GOOD NEWS FOR THE ISRAELITES WE MIGHT THINK – BUT THERE WAS NO GUARANTEE THEY WOULD GET THERE.

THE GIFT OF THE WONDERFUL ‘LAND OF MILK AND HONEY’ WHICH GOD PROMISED HIS PEOPLE – LAY IN THEIR HANDS –

THEIR BEHAVIOUR WOULD DETERMINE THEIR FATE.

OUR N.T. READING IS A ‘NO-NONSENSE’ – STRAIGHT TALKING KIND OF TEXT. IT’S A “REPENT YOUR SINS – OR PERISH” KIND OF READING SO FAVOURED BY MINISTERS OF OLD. NOT THE KIND OF LANGUAGE WE ARE USED TO HEARING THESE DAYS – BUT YOU KNOW – THE WORDS MAY CHANGE BUT THE MESSAGE REMAINS THE SAME.

ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE LIVE GOD’S WAY – BEARING ‘GOOD FRUIT’ IN THEIR LIVES – AS THE BIBLE SAYS – WILL ENTER GOD’S ETERNAL KINGDOM. THERE’S NO REAL GETTING WAY FROM IT.

So let’s read them now ~ as we read God’s Holy Word ~

READINGS –

 

 Exodus 33 : 1 – 6    from the New International Version (NIV)

 

V1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’”So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.

And ~

Luke 13 : 1 – 9   from The Passion Translation (TPT)

The Need for True Repentance

13 Some of those present informed Jesus that Pilate had slaughtered some Galilean Jews while they were offering sacrifices at the temple, mixing their blood with the sacrifices they were offering.

Jesus turned and asked the crowd, “Do you believe that the slaughtered Galileans were the worst sinners of all the Galileans? No, they weren’t! So listen to me. Unless you all repent, you will perish as they did. Or what about the eighteen who perished when the tower of Siloam fell upon them? Do you really think that they were more guilty than all of the others in Jerusalem? No, they weren’t. But unless you repent, you will all eternally perish, just as they did.”

The Parable of the Fig Tree

Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was a man who planted a fig tree in his orchard. But when he came to gather fruit from his tree he found none, for it was barren and had no fruit. So he said to his gardener, ‘For the last three years I’ve come to gather figs from my tree but it remains fruitless. What a waste! Go ahead and cut it down!’

“But the gardener said, ‘Sir, we should leave it one more year. Let me fertilize and cultivate it, then let’s see if it will produce fruit. If it doesn’t bear fruit by next year, we’ll cut it down.’”

This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.

SERMON 

As some of you will be aware – I was brought up in a wee village in Argyll, in the Highlands – and on one of my home leave from the Royal Navy – I went to church in the ‘tin hut’ (Free Presbyterian Church) behind the McBraynes Bus Garage.

 

And after a particularly lengthy ‘hell-fire and damnation’ kind of Sermon – the lady who sat next to me leaned over and whispered – she said “I know that I’m a sinner, but I don’t want to be reminded of it every week!”.

 

And I suppose that’s true for us too.    Deep down, we know that we’re far from perfect – but feel uncomfortable when we are reminded of it.

 

Nowadays we tend to emphasize the Good news rather than the bad – but today’s New Testament reading pulls us up rather sharply.

It talks about sin – there’s a lot of it about – we are surrounded by it – and yet we rarely hear it mentioned !

 

Did I ever tell you about the lady who said to me “Oh Mr Ramsden – we never knew what sin was until you came here !!”

 

Both of our readings this morning mention it – “sin” – (“Oh dear -there’s that  s word again”)

 

But sin really means – doing, saying or thinking something that God wouldn’t approve of.   Sounds simple – aye – but as we all know – it’s not so easy to avoid in real life.

*

In the O.T. reading we heard God say to Moses – “I’ll show you the promised land – but whether the people  enter it or not depends on their attitude”

 

And the N.T. reading says something much the same.

Jesus said “if you don’t change your ways – you won’t enter God’s kingdom” –

 

That too is the ‘promised land.’

Then comes a tricky bit – Jesus spoke about the 18 people killed when the great temple-tower in Siloam fell on them – and the events in Galilee where Pontius Pilate had just murdered several people. “What do you make of that?” Jesus was asking – “do you think these people were killed because they were greater sinners than you?”

“Do you really believe that!?” Jesus asks them –

 

“Do you think they suffered that because they were sinners” Jesus was saying –“don’t kid yourself –if God was to send calamity upon all those who sinned – everybody would be destroyed! – for no-one is without sin !

 

You were all put here to glorify God – but how many of you actually do”?”

 

What He was saying is “do you think these people are worse than you? Don’t get too high and mighty – you’re no Saint either!”

 

And just incase they didn’t fully understand what He as saying to them – he told them the story of the Fig tree.

 *

In O.T. times – the fig tree was often used to symbolize good and godly living.

And figs bushes were often planted in the rich soil of the vineyard.

And those plants which didn’t give good fruit were not only using up precious, rich soil, but were of no use to the owner.

They were planted for a reason – to produce good fruit – and if they didn’t do that – then they weren’t ‘fit for purpose’ and so taken out, root and branch.

Perhaps you can see where Jesus’ mind was leading his listeners……

 

That’s a bit like you” He was saying to them between the lines – “you were created for a reason – to live a good and upright life – glorifying God and live His way – bearing good fruit for all to see –

“ But if you don’t” he warned “then I’m afraid you’re not fit for God’s purpose !”

 

This is important stuff” he was saying “because if you choose not to admit your faults and ask for God’s forgiveness – then the bottom line is that you’re simply not going to make it in to that promised land!” – in other words, ‘your fate is in your own hands’.

 

God had been telling his people that since the time of Adam – through Moses – and the Prophets – and then again through Jesus – and the message remains the same today.

 

That’s a bit harsh! – you might think – but Jesus wasn’t known for “pussy footing around” – He called a spade a shovel – just so everyone would know exactly what He meant !!

 

But Jesus was kind, understanding and compassionate too.

He knows what we’re like – He knows that it’s easier said than actually done.

 

And so we see in His story, that the gardener (Jesus) gave the ‘fig tree’ – (you and I) – another chance.

 

In verse 7 we heard that for all the tending and care it has received – it still hadn’t produced good fruit and the vineyard owner said – “cut it down – why waste good soil.But in verse 8 Jesus the kind gardener said –  “give it another chance – I’ll look after it and then if it doesn’t come good – well – then you can cut it down”.

 

He’s talking about us.

Our God is a God of second chances – that’s why, when we make mistakes –when we go down wrong roads – or we feel lost and bereft – God gives us the opportunity, the strength and the encouragement to pick ourselves up – dust ourselves off – and – as the song goes – start all over again!

 

God wants us to live good, happy and productive lives – that’s why he gave us the 10 Commandments – that’s why He sent his son Jesus – to show us the way.

 

That’s why He gives us chance after chance after chance – opportunity after opportunity to make good – to turn away from the way we are – to the way He always wanted us to be. The way we were supposed to be – the way we were created to be…..

 

But eventually – like that fig tree – there will come a day when God will say – “you’ve had so many chances – there’s only so much I can do – the rest is in your hands – don’t just think about it – do something about it ! –

but be careful not to leave it until it’s too late – or you will not enter that land that is promised to you – and to all who follow my way – it’s up to you!

*

It’s a strong and difficult message – one that none of us want to hear – but perhaps it’s one that many of us need to hear.

 

Some may say that this is an uncomfortable and difficult passage – making them feel guilty as it leads us to face the unpleasant things about ourselves that we’d rather not have to admit to.

 

But I see it as a good and positive passage.

 

Warning us, yes, but also offering us yet another chance to mend our ways. Giving us another opportunity to take stock – to look at ourselves and see our faults and failings – and make a positive change for the better.

 

Jesus doesn’t want us to fail but to grow, blossom and produce ‘good fruit’ in our lives….

And He gives us chance after chance to do just that……….. So that one day – a day of His choosing we will might enter into the Kingdom of Heaven – that  ‘promised land’ –  Promised to each of us – when we live His way….

 

Who wouldn’t want that?

*

When we read and study the Bible – it is important to see beyond the words on the page. To read between the lines – and to say to ourselves ‘this is what it is saying – aye – but what does it mean!?’

 

Well – what it is saying in our Reading for today – is about towers, fig trees and the s. word – but what is it meaning ??

 

It is intended to urge us to take a good, honest look at ourselves and ask – “am I bearing good fruit in my life ?? –or am I lying dormant.”

 

“Am I living as God would want me too – is my language, my actions, my attitude to others – a good example to others, helping them to see how a child of God ought to be?

 

Or am I too busy ‘doing my own thing’ to be able to do good things for my God who created me”.

 

Perhaps it’ll lead us to ask of ourselves –

Am I the person God wants me to be ?   –  

Am I the person I want to be ??”

 

So many questions – so few answers…

 

Maybe it’s time we gave this some serious thought –

 

Don’t keep putting it off –

Think about it – pray about it.

 

Open your heart and your mind to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, guidance and help.

 

And you know – in the whole scheme of things – both here – and in all eternity – it really doesn’t get any more important than this – because the way we live this life – determines the way we will live the next.

 

Now that is something for us to think about!…

 

And I pray that you will

 

And I pray for each and every one of you – in Jesus’ precious name.

 

Amen.

And may God bless this preaching of his holy word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.

 

Let us pray –

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

Almighty God,

we thank you for your great and never-ending love which never stops seeking us out, never fades, and never lets us go.

We thank you that you care for each of us  – we thank you for all that you have done for us through that love, that you reach out to us – in Jesus………

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

Caring Lord, we know that it pains you to see suffering and distress in the world and so we bring the lonely, the unloved, and the unwanted to you in our prayer this morning..

 

We pray for those whose relationships have been broken, whether through separation, divorce or bereavement; and we pray for those who have never enjoyed the relationships they might have had —children unwanted by their parents, parents alienated from children, family members estranged from one another.

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

We pray for individuals who feel rejected by society —those who have no confidence in their abilities, no place where they feel accepted, no sense of their own worth.

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

We pray for communities divided by prejudice, race or religion, for churches where there is disagreement, tension and disharmony, and for nations broken by war and violence.

 

And today we pray especially for  the many places around the world where intolerance and fanaticism cause the death of countless people – and we pray for peace in these places – in the world and in our hearts………

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

We pray for those who are losing their livelihoods, their homes – their families – their self esteem – because of the pandemic crisis – and we pray for a turnaround – a lack of greed and an increase of integrity on behalf of those who seek to gain from others misfortunes.

Lord, in your mercy,     Help us to reach out in love.

 

Today we particularly pray for the many people who are helping ordinary people like us, and our families, to keep  safe and well. Help us to be patient for a while longer until we can be sure that it is safe to mix with other people – for their sakes as well as our own.

Bless them all, from the medical staff through to the people that take our rubbish away each week.

Bless their families too.

Today we particularly pray for our Armed Forces – and we give our thanks to them for their Service – and for those who didn’t return home to their families.

We thank them for their bravery and their willingness to serve their country and give their lives if necessary.

Bless their families who wait at home for the safe return of their loved ones.

And hear our silent prayers as we sit now, for a few moments silence – as a silent tribute them…

……sit for a few moments in silent tribute….

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

Bless our own families, watch over them and keep them safe –

May your love be shared among us, bringing hope and healing.

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

For we bring them all before you in the name of the one who reaches out to us in love – our dear Lord Jesus.

Amen.

 

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

 

In view of all that you have read this morning ~ here’s a wee story for you to take away and think about ~

Do you remember the famous William Barclay ? He had a wonderful way of putting things across ~ He told the story of a group of soldiers during World War II who had lost a friend in battle and wanted to give their fallen comrade a decent burial. So they found a church with a graveyard behind it, surrounded by a white fence. They found the parish Priest and asked if their friend could be buried there in the church graveyard.

“Was he a member of the church?” the priest inquired.

“No he was not,” answered the soldiers.

“I’m sorry, then,” said the priest. “Our graveyard is reserved for members of the holy church. But you can bury your friend outside the fence. I will see that the gravesite is cared for.”

“Thank you, Father,” said the soldiers, and they proceeded to bury their friend just outside the graveyard on the other side of the fence.

When the war had finally ended, before the soldiers returned home, they decided to visit the gravesite of their friend. They remembered the location of the church—and the grave, just outside the fence. They searched for it, but couldn’t find it. Finally, they went to the priest to inquire as to its location.

“Sir, we cannot find our friend’s grave,” said the soldiers to the priest.

“Well,” answered the priest. “After you buried your fallen friend, just didn’t seem right to me that he should be buried there, outside the fence.”

“So you moved his grave?” asked the soldiers.

“No,” said the priest. “I moved the fence.”

 

You know – that’s exactly what god does for us.

 

With some of the things we say and do  and think – we don’t deserve a place in His kingdom – but He  graciously ‘moved the fence’ – he sent His Son Jesus – to die for us – so that we might be included in his ‘forever family’ – so that we can have a place inside the fence – inside His glorious Kingdom- when we follow His way.’

 

That’s not just ‘Good News’ – it’s  Absolutely brilliant news !

 

And all promised to you.

 

Now that IS food for thought – don’t you think?

 

Amen.

 

Blessing

 

Go out in love, joy, peace and hope……….

Go out and stand on the promises of Christ your Saviour….
and may the blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

 

AMEN.   

 

Take care and may God Bless you

and those you love.

Keep safe.

*

Look out for my Midweek Meditation

Posted Online each Wednesday Morning.

 

Have a good week.

 

Midweek Meditation – 24th June 2020

Morning all – another beautiful day just beginning.

Please find my ‘Midweek Meditation’ copied below for anyone who may wish to read it. I hope that you will take some comfort from it – and maybe a thought for you to carry with you through the week.

Take care.

Midweek Meditation

I am not Lost

 

David whispered as his voice choked. “Jesus – I feel so lost.”

A hand reached out and squeezed his and didn’t let go. “I know. But it’s not true. I am with you and I’m not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly: you are not lost.”

–The Shack, William Paul Young

Many of us can feel anxious and alone at times. More especially with ‘self isolation’, distancing and lockdown.

We can be concerned about family and friends that we cannot be with. Perhaps you are not coping too well with your world as it is just now.

It can raise our anxiety levels and leave us to feel worried, helpless and alone.

That is how David in the book ‘The Shack” felt – alone and lost at the recent loss of his daughter. He tried to deal with it on his own. He doubted that God could help.

But circumstances led him to see light at the end of the tunnel – that light was the “Light of the World’, Jesus Christ.

Jesus held him tight and wasn’t going to let him go until David’s pain had been healed.

Read – Psalm 57 verse 1

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed..”

We can try to  deal with our issues alone – but Jesus says to us – “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”

Take your problems to Him in prayer, talk to Him. Put your trust in God; relax in His company; allow yourself to rest in the safety of His loving arms – for only He can give us that deep inner peace that we crave. And that is a promise

Read Psalm 62 : verses 1 & 2 

“Truly, my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Pray – “Heavenly Father, come close to me at this time ; keep me from getting lost as I pass through this journey of life. Protect me, protect my loved ones – may we never feel alone – always assured that your loving presence  is with us every moment of every day.

And this we ask in Jesus’ precious name.   Amen.

Ponder – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”   (Philippians 4 : 6 – 7).

*

May God Bless you

And give you His Peace.

*

Based on ‘Daily Meditations for Christians’

by Rebecca Hastings

Online Sunday Service – 21st June 2020 – Father’s Day

21st June 2020

Online Service

Father’s Day

 

Good morning folks,

Well, that’s another week nearer to ‘freedom’, I hope it hasn’t been too bad for you. But seeing what is going on in the News,  we might wonder what kind of world we are going back to.

Society seems to have gone mad in our absence! With riots, killings and everyday people being inadvertently caught up in the demonstrations. Between that and the ever present fear of picking up the dreaded CV19 virus – perhaps staying indoors is the safest place to be at the moment!

Our Lesson for today talks about being safe – safe in the loving arms of  God our Father.

But before we hear about that, let us pray ~

 

Loving God,

we come on this Father’s Day,

reminded that you are the Father of us all. You have been with us from our birth,

guiding, nurturing, and sustaining us.

Father God, we praise you.

You have taught us and brought us to maturity, always concerned for our welfare,

constantly seeking the best for us.

Whenever we have needed you, you have been there, willing to listen and advise, yet giving us freedom to make our own choices and find our own way

You have called us to be your family,

a people united through your Son, Jesus Christ,

and through Him you have revealed your love,

a love that reaches out to us day by day

despite our failure to love you in return.

Father, forgive us.

 

Gracious God

you are the Creator of the ends of the earth, and yet you call us your children.

Teach us to live as your children —to hear your voice, obey your instruction, and respond to your goodness.

You are greater than we can ever begin to imagine,

and yet you invite us to call you ‘Our Father’.

Indeed, we do call you ‘Our Father’, yet so often fail to live as your children.

We do not trust you as we should,

preferring instead to follow our own inclinations.

We are reluctant to accept your will,

repeatedly thinking that we know best.

We are slow to seek your guidance,

but swift to forget you and wander from your side.

We all too rarely thank you for what we have,

but all too often complain – when we do not receive what we ask for.

Forgive me Father.

Hear me now listening Lord – as I bring to you those things I have said, done or thought which are not in accordance with your way of love, care and respect to others.

 

…………time for you to think about the things you feel you want/need forgiveness for – and whisper them to God – He hears your prayers…….

 

I ask for your forgiveness Father – be merciful to us and bless me with your mercy and your grace.

Lord hear our prayers – spoken and silent – public and private – and hear us now as we pray together – 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.

 

We have 2 readings this morning –

Genesis 1 : 23 – 27  from the Old Testament (O.T.)

and – John 14 : 1 – 9  from the New Testament (N.T.)

In our O.T reading this morning – we hear that wonderful story of the creation – how – through God’s grace – all things were brought into being – including the human race.

And it’s interesting to note that He made us – you and I – whether black or white – of many different races with very different features – yet we are all in His own image. How can that be? Well, you are about to find out….

 

In our N.T reading – we hear Jesus explaining to the disciples how He and the Father are one.

You just need to look at me” He was saying – “and you see what our Father in heaven is like”.

 

Jesus in the likeness of the Father – and as we heard in our O.T. reading – so too – are we….

But let’s find out more – as, together, we read God’s holy word~

 

READINGS

 Genesis 1 : 23 – 27     from the New Living Translation (NLT)

23 “And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth        day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. 25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[a] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[b] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings[c] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

 

And ~

 

John 14 : 1 – 9    from  New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

V 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[ my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Amen.

 

This is the Word of the Lord – thanks be to God.

 

SERMON

 

Do you think it’s true that we grow like the people we live with?

Some people even say we grow like our pets !!

 

My wee dog Rannoch was a bit of a scruff – and was a cheeky monkey – so I don’t know what that says about me !!

 

And I was always amazed just how many of the children I used to meet in the 3 schools I visited in the Highlands  – that had a very close resemblance to one or other of their parents – or as they say in Aberdeenshire  – “ a fair swipe”   of them both !”

 

Of course being “like someone” isn’t just about looks – a child can have no apparent similarity to their parents – until they open their mouth  – that is, or have some other trait like the way they walk or act – then the close-ness of their relationship becomes much more apparent..

 

So, being “like someone”,  is perhaps more about “being” than “seeing.

 

“Being like someone” is more relational than physical ……

 

When Jesus said “when you see me, you see the Father” – He didn’t mean that He looked liked his father – but rather, He was saying ~ “when you see how I live, I act, my very being – then you see how God is..”

 

But you know, when Jesus first spoke those words – it would have been an absolute bombshell to those who heard them,  “What did He say !?” they would have asked themselves …..

 

“Did he just say He and God were one in the same person ?? –

 

Isn’t that Joseph’s son – the carpenter’s boy ? – who does He

 

think He is !! – talk about getting ideas above your station !!”…

 

But worse than the misunderstandings and the gossip – was the mind-set of the Jewish people.

 

Anyone who looks upon the Lord will die” their holy scriptures say, because that’s what God had said to Moses at the ‘burning bush’ incident –  do you remember ? – God said to Moses – “I will be merciful and compassionate – but you cannot see my face – for no-one can see may face and live” (Exodus 33 : 20).

 

 

And here was Jesus saying – “when you’re looking at me – you’re looking at God”……

 

Heresy !!’ Some would have shouted – ‘here’s someone saying he’s like God !!’ others would have cried.

 

But Jesus wasn’t saying – “I look like God” – not in physical terms – but that He was like God – “look at me” – He is saying – “ see how I act towards others –

see how I love and care for everyone and want only the best for them – well that’s how God is .”

 

That’s what God is like – and that is what Jesus is like too…

 

He had “a fair swipe” of his Father – if you like…… maybe not in looks – but in His character – His mannerisms and in His qualities.

 

*

But what if I were to say to you that you  – yes you – have those very same “God-like qualities that Jesus has !??”

 

You might immediately think no way !

 

“Iain, you’ve finally lost the plot – I knew it would happen one day!

Me, Holy??  –  that’s alright for Jesus – He was – Well – holy”  you might say – “but not for me – there’s no way I can be like God or Jesus”….

 

Aye, but I have faith in you –

 

And so – I ASK YOU TO THINK AGAIN…

 

Our Old Testament reading from Genesis tells us that God made mankind – that’s you and me – both male and female – made in  His  own  image….you and I….! (Genesis 1 : 26 – 27).

 

And so whether we like it or not – whether we accept it or not – you – me – everyone around us – even those people we might not be too keen on – are made in God’s image – we all have – a ‘fair swipe of  God the Father’ !!……

 

For many, that gives the comfort of knowing that God is in everything they say and do.

 

But others recognize the great responsibility it brings.   “If we are like God – then we’d better start behaving like God  – living in a ‘Christ-like’ way!!”.

 

And then we think of all the things we say and do which are far from being “God-like” – or “Christ-like”.

And say to ourselves “oh dear  – thank goodness God isn’t like me !!”

 

And that is true for all of us – if we’re completely honest.

 

To the early Greeks, God was referred to as ‘the invisible’ – ‘unknowable’ and ‘un-seeable God.’

 

To the Jews, God was both ‘fierce and distant’ – a million miles away from their everyday comings and goings.  To them God was both a stern and judgmental deity.

 

But then along came Jesus – God in human form – entering the world as a wee baby – just like we did – growing up in a village like all the other children – working as a carpenter with His Father, Joseph.

 

Here was Jesus – identifying himself with our own human experiences – yet responding to God’s call – healing the sick – helping the poor – loving the little children – eating meals with sinners as well as with saints.

 

He wasn’t so distant now – not so unseeable –  invisible or fierce now !

 

Here was Jesus at the very heart of the people – in the very heart of the people – living with us – sharing our heartaches and our joys.

 

Here was God – showing His unconditional love of his people – getting involved in their daily issues – helping – supporting – guiding – befriending the sad and caring for the lost and the lonely.

Showing us – physically – how God feels towards His people,

showing us that as hard as it is to understand – as difficult as it is for us to take in – God is here – God is with us – with you.

 

God the Father takes part in your life – just as He does in mine.

 

God – through Jesus – is in the great issues of your life – just as he is in the small, ordinary, ‘everyday’ things that we all experience day by day.

 

So – with the coming of Jesus – we see a different view of God – a very different view.

 

Instead of God seeming remote and indifferent – Jesus shows us that He is close, caring and willing to take over your troubles and allow you to live as He first intended –  free and with joy –just what every good Father would want for his children.

 

He wants you to stop worrying – and start living.

 

He wants you to trust in Him enough to let Him lead you forward  –  and talk things over with him when difficulties arise.

 

He wants you to stop looking back – to how things were –  but to look forward with hope to what new things are yet to come.

 

And whether we have a good and close relationship with your earthly father – or if your relationship wasn’t so good – perhaps you don’t know your biological father – whatever your circumstance – you can be assured that you can know your Heavenly Father – and form a good, close and loving  relationship with Him who first gave you life and has looked after you ever since.

 

He is not an ‘absent father’ who never gets in touch or refuses to provide for his children. He is anup close and personalFather who takes a real interest in your development – each and every day.

 

That’s not the God that our early ancestors would recognize – and it’s not a God that those who first heard the message that Jesus proclaimed would recognize either.

 

But it’s a God that we can know and love – thanks to Jesus  – thanks to our Heavenly Father – who is both Father – Son and Holy Spirit………

 

The one who holds you in the palm of His hand and promises to never let you go.

 

All you have to do is ask – and you will receive – ask and all these wonderful thing will be yours.

 

So – what do you make of all this??

 

Do you think this might be a dream ??… A delusion ?…

Is it all this fiction and fantasy ??

 

No – this an absolute promise !!

 

And God makes that promise to you.

 

God – He is your eternal and heavenly Father……..

 

How wonderful and amazing is that !?

 

And all this, in Jesus’ precious name.

Amen.

 

And may God bless this preaching of his holy word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.

 

PRAYER –

 

 

Gracious God,

you know the joy of Fatherhood and also the pain, for you witnessed the life and death of your Son, and you see each day the triumphs and tragedies of us, your children.

Lord God our Father – reach out in love.

 

In Jesus you experienced the delight of being a Father —as you watched Him grow and mature into adulthood, as you saw Him Baptised in the Jordan, as day by day He responded to your guidance, faithful to the very last —a beloved son with whom you were well pleased.

 

Lord God our Father, reach out in love.

 

We pray for our world with all it’s wars and violence.

 

We pray too for our world at this time of  the Covid 19 pandemic – praying for al those who are vulnerable and exposed to serious ill health, or worse.

 

We pray for all who have contracted the virus – those who have been tested and fear the worse.

Bless them Father, bless us all at this time – bless our families too.

Lord God our Father – reach out in love.

 

 

We pray for all those who, on this Father’s Day, feel pain instead of joy— those whose who barely see or know their fathers.

Draw close to them Father – bring them your reconciliation and peace.

Remind them of your care – remind them of your eternal love – remind them nothing in life or death – in the world as it is or as it shall be – nothing in all creation can separate them from the love of our Father God….

Lord God our Father, reach out in love

 

 

Hear me know as I remember the those who need a prayer at this time. Whether it be family, friends or someone we know – we ask for your blessing and healing hand upon them

 

And hear our prayer as we sit for a few silent moments – each with our own thoughts, each with our own prayer for those whom we love and are concerned about – Lord be with us in the peace of our silence………………..

 

 

…….take time to think of someone you know who is in need of prayer……. God will  hear you………….

 

Bless them all dear Lord for we bring them before you in the name of the one who loved his father and was loved by him – the one who blesses us – His children –

our dear,  precious, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

 

Nothing Can Separate

From her bedroom window, Rebecca eyed the other children playing in the snow enviously. How she longed to play with them!
“Now, Rebecca,” she remembered her father telling her that morning. “You can’t play in the snow today.”

“Why not, Father?” Rebecca had asked. Every day, the other children gathered at a park just behind Rebecca’s house.

“Just trust me, Rebecca. It’s not what’s best for you today,” her father had replied.

At the time, Rebecca had responded by kissing her father on his cheek and assuring him that she would stay inside and read. But now she was having second thoughts.

It is beautiful outside, she thought to herself. It was true: the sun was shining brilliantly. Why wouldn’t her father let her go play?

Why should she have to miss out on all the fun?
When a snowball exploded just outside her window, Rebecca decided she couldn’t stand it any longer. She simply had to go join the others!
Leaving her book on the table, Rebecca slipped outside. She tried to tell herself she was having a good time, but all the while her heart felt uncomfortable. She kept looking this way and that, fearful least her father see her.
After a few hours, Rebecca finally said her goodbyes and headed back towards the house. But as she walked up  the path – she slipped on the ice and fell, bruising her arm and leg.  She managed to hobbled up to her bedroom, where she lay for the remainder of the day, in agony.

Her body ached from the bruises she received on her fall. But her heart—ah, that ached worse of all! She felt certain that her father would no longer love her. She had messed up in the past, but surely this time she had gone too far! He would probably never want to speak to her again. How could he still love her?

She sobbed uncontrollably on her pillow. She had always been close to her father.

Who knows how long she would have lain there had not her nanny come out to check on her. Rebecca’s nanny had a way about her of finding out exactly what was wrong and offering solid, wise counsel. Today was no exception.

“Rebecca, dear,” she said firmly, but gently. “You’ve been very wrong. But you must not continue in your wrongness by sitting here. You must go to your father and tell him everything.”

“Oh, but I can’t! I’m not worthy of His love!” Rebecca sobbed.

Her nanny sighed patiently. “You were no more worthy of it yesterday than today. Your father loves you because you’re his child, not because of anything you do or don’t do.

Hasn’t he told you everyday since you were a little girl, ‘I love you’? Do you doubt his word? Do you really think his love is dependent on you?”

Doubt his word—that was an angle Rebecca had never thought of before. Maybe she should go see her father…yes, she must go see him, for if she didn’t, she’d never be able to rest…..

Her father was sitting in his favourite chair. . He looked up when she entered, and a smile radiating with love illuminated his face.

“Ah, you’ve come at last! I’ve been waiting. Come, sit here on my lap.” As he spoke, he opened his arms widely.
Rebecca couldn’t stand it. “Oh, you don’t understand, Father! You can’t love me anymore. I’ve been terribly bad and disobeyed your words.

“I know, Rebecca—more than you think. I watched you go outside. I watched you playing outside. I saw it all.”

“You did?” Rebecca was flabbergasted. “But-but weren’t you at work?”

Her father shook his head. “I took the day off to spend some special time with you. That’s why I told you not to go outside to play. Ever since I saw you fall, I’ve been longing for you to come to me so I could bandage your wounds and help you. Won’t you come now?”

Rebecca could hardly believe her ears. Her father had planned to spend the afternoon with her…and she had missed it. Oh, what foolishness! Yet her father knew it all…and loved her anyway. Could it be? “But, Father, how can you love me now?”

Rebecca’s father smiled a smile she would never forget. “Rebecca, dear, I loved you before you were born. You’re my child and I will always love you.

Although sometimes your actions will result in consequences you could have avoided, but nothing can ever separate you from my love. Now won’t you come and let me help you with those bruises?”

The Bible tells us that .. “nothing, aye nothing can ever separate us from the love of God…” (Romans 8 : 39).

*

 

So, what does this simple little story have to teach us?

  1. God the Father caringly watches over us…
  1. The Father knows all our faults and failings…
  1. He never stops loving us…. [Read Romans 8 : 37 – 39]

 

So here’s a thought ~

With such a caring and compassionate Father loving you – it begs the question – how often do you thank Him for all your Blessings?

He has blessed us with family, friends, a nice home and food on your table, so much more – so much to be grateful for – shouldn’t we take time, more often, to come to Him in prayer and say a simple “Thank you Father…” ?

We should – aye but will we?

Food for thought for us all…

Amen.

 

BLESSING

 

Go in love, joy, hope and peace –

Go and love God and love one another –

 

And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father – Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – be with your families, friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day – and every day.

 

AMEN

 

Take care and may God Bless you

and those you love.

Keep safe.

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Look out for my Midweek Meditation

Posted Online each Wednesday Morning.

Midweek Meditation for 17 June 2020

Midweek Meditation

 

The EGO says – “Once everything is in place, I will find peace.”

The SPIRIT says – “Once you find peace – everything will fall into place.”

*

How often do we busy ourselves, chasing this or that – looking for fulfillment or trying to get up on to the next rung of the ladder? Many do. We say “I must get this done or I must get that done” – consuming our every thought.   But at what cost?

If we are not careful, life can pass us by – we can lose touch with what is really important in our lives – like family, friends, helping others and so much more.

Deep down we know that these things are important, but  for all the promises we may make to ourselves, nothing much changes. And that can bring us guilt and even more stress.  It can become a vicious circle – if we let it.

And it can also have serious consequences on our health.

Read – Proverbs 14 : 30 says “A heart at peace gives life to the body..” reminding us that being calm and at peace brings the benefit of  better health.

Jesus says –    “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart.

This is the kind of gift the world cannot give. So do not worry yourself.”

John 14:27 from the New Living Translation

Pray – Holy, Heavenly Father,  I am grateful for all your goodness to me, help me to see just how blessed I really am – and strengthen me to focus my time on those who are important to me, my family and friends – and my faith. Forgive my selfishness when I so often focus on what’s good for me – for what will help me – rather than what I can do for others. Open my eyes heavenly father that I may live your way and so come to know you better and discover the great joy and blessings which will transform my life – and the lives of those around me.

Amen’

Ponder – We know that we ought to take more time for the important people and things in life – but knowing and doing something about it are two different things.

Are you willing to use this time of ‘lockdown’ to take stock and re-assess your lifestyle, your activities, so that when we return to ‘normal’ you will not go back to the same busy routine – so that you can spend more time focusing on family, friends and make the changes needed?

Are you? I pray that you will give it much thought and change what needs to be changed. But that is in your hands.

Food for thought…

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Online Sunday Service – 14th June 2020 – 1st Sunday after Trinity

14th June 2020

Online Service

The Persistent Widow

 

Good morning folks,

How are you this week? Has it been a good week, or another long week for you? Keeping busy  is the secret to passing the time quickly, but I suppose it’s easy for me to say as I’m always up to something.  ‘Time flies when you are having fun’ or so the saying goes,  I’m not so sure about that but a dogged and determined attitude will certainly help us through this difficult time.

 

Our Lesson for today talks of the Persistent Widow who was determined to get justice, and nothing was going to stop her. Her unwavering determination won the day for her  and she was blessed far beyond her imagining.

 

Persistence, resolve and determination are qualities which improve our chances of success – that’s true of Prayer too. “Pray and keep on praying” Jesus tells us – and that is good advice for us in all of our undertakings.

But before that – let us pray ~

Loving, Heavenly Father – we bring you our worship and our praise.

We come from our different lives, our different homes  – for it is the day we remember your goodness – your creation – and the day that you rested from your labours.

You really are an amazing God – who first spun the Heavens and the Earth – into life.

You created all the elements that we need – in just the right amount – so that life in all its variety – may grow and flourish.

You are an awesome God too – God of the Universe – so big – so mighty – yet you are the God who walks and talks with us each day. Who holds us in the very palm of your hand – and you watch over us as we make out way through the complex and sometimes difficult maze of life.

You see us stumble and fall– and you lift us up again.

You hear our profane words and you forgive us.

You listen as we ignore, reject and overlook you – as we neglect your written Word – fail to pray – harbouring dark thoughts –

Yet you continue to love us, forgive us, time and time again.

What a merciful God you are!

Lord – we hardly deserve such kindness, such forgiveness – and we say thank you, thank you, thank you Lord – help us to show our gratitude and appreciation – not by the words we speak – but by the lives we lead – lives full of love for you – love for each other – and a deep love for our dear Saviour, your son, Jesus Christ.

Hear us now we pray – as we spend a few moments in silent contemplation – in open and honest reflection of all the things for which we need your forgiveness –

Hear now – our personal and silent prayers ~

…..take a few moments to think about the things you may have said or done – or thought – for which you seek God’s forgiveness…………bring them to God in prayer……..He hears your prayers………..

We bring our thoughts, our need of forgiveness – and hand them to you – praying that you will forgive us – once more – and in Jesus’ name.

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.

If we were in Church just now we would be singing that beautiful Psalm 121 – “I to the hills will lift my eyes”…

 

We have 2 Readings this morning –

 

Psalm 121   &   Luke 18 : 1 – 8

 

Our O.T. reading this morning is that well known Psalm, Psalm 121. It was a song that was sung by the pilgrims as they travelled through rough and perilous countryside – with danger on every side – as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the many festivals which were celebrated there.

It lifted their spirits and gave them the strength and determination to continue – as they appealed to the great unsleeping God who constantly watched over them.

Our N.T. reading is taken from the Gospel of Luke.

It’s a difficult text which seems to condone the actions of an unjust Judge – but as we might expect – there’s a whole lot more to this short passage than first meets the ear!

 

So let us read them  now ~

Psalm 121   New International Version (NIV)

1 “I lift my eyes up to the hills,
from where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who guards Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your guardian;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not harm you during the day,
nor the moon during the night.

The Lord shall protect you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
from now and for evermore.”

 

And ~

 

Luke 18 : 1 – 8  New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

18 v1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

 

This is the Word of the Lord – thanks be to God

Amen.

 

SERMON

 

I recently read a twist on a well known saying which read ~ ‘if at first you don’t succeed –

Give up – it’s probably not worth it anyway!’  J

 

And sometimes – when things become difficult – we can certainly be tempted to give in and give up.

 

But both of our Readings this morning, speak of determination and persistence – when the going gets tough.

*

Psalm 121 (our O.T. reading) talks of Pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem – singing to keep their spirits up as they travel through bandit country – as we might ‘whistle a happy tune’ when walking along a dark and scary path.

 

They kept their eyes on the hills – yet looking – knowing – that their good and faithful God – that higher source – was watching over them as they kept going forward.

“I to the hills will lift my eyes – from where does come my aid?

My safety comes from the Lord – who heaven and earth has made

 

The God who never sleeps (verse 3) – was travelling with them – and that gave them the comfort and the strength to carry on with their dangerous and hazardous pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

We saw something similar a few years ago.

Do you remember, about 10 years ago, when the Chilean Miners were rescued from the mine which could so easily have been their tomb – so far below the ground?

We saw persistence – determination – and much prayer.

A rescue plan that didn’t work – so a plan B was quickly put in place.

It was too important to give up – and so what seemed im-possible – was made possible – and the very moving images were beamed into our homes of miners dropping to their knees and praying in thanksgiving – for the determination of their saviours – and the goodness of God, who had been with them throughout it all.

The newspapers spoke of ‘Resurrection’ – calling the whole thing – a ‘miracle’.

And an article in the Scottish Daily Mail had the headline – “God and the devil were in that mine.     But it was God – and the human spirit – who triumphed”.

Unusual language for the British Press!

One of the miners was an evangelical preacher – and held 2 services each day – “to keep their spirits up” it was reported.

And the BBC’s correspondent seemed visibly transformed by what he experienced by being there with the families, as they waited for news of their loved ones.

THEY’RE PRAYING NIGHT AND DAY!’ he commented – ‘AND THEIR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED! – I’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT!’.

What a wonderful – true life story of determination – and of God and Man working together, for the good of His people.

What a witness to the world !!

*

Our N.T. reading from Luke’s Gospel – is also a true life story of adversity and perseverance.

The heading for this text is – ‘the Persistent Widow and the unjust Judge’.

It begins by telling us about an unscrupulous judge – “who neither feared God or cared about people” (v 2).

In these few words we can paint our own picture of an arrogant, self serving, and corrupt man of dubious character.

And it was to a Judge such as this – that the widow had come – seeking justice.

Widows were particularly vulnerable in that culture – they had no voice – and no-one to stand up or speak up for them in an aggressive and male dominated society.

They had little hope of receiving justice – and lost everything on their husband’s death – so – no resources.

No resources – except one – hope –

No, 2 ! – hope – and persistence.

And it was these two qualities that paid off for the widow.

It was her hope that brought results –

Her persistence which won the day.

*

But  – as we heard, this is a Parable –so we know that it has a deeper meaning – which gives us a whole other layer of understanding.

And this Parable – is also about the unjust and the unheard – it’s about the voices in our society which are not heard ~

The poor and the homeless – the abused and the lonely – people suffering in silence because no-one hears their voice – their cries.

Perhaps someone sharing this Service with us this morning knows that pain.

Many don’t need to be counseled – they need to be cuddled.

They need to be helped and hugged – not hindered or  held back.

They need our love – not our lethargy…

They need to be heard – respected – valued – listened to – prayed forPersistently prayed for.

Prayed for with determination  – with purpose and perseverance.

Verse 1 Of our N.T. reading says we should ‘pray and never give up.’

And those few words – ‘pray and never give up – give us a challenge.

Yes we may pray regularly – if we pray at all – but do we pray persistently – do we pray for those we love – and ought to love – regularly –and repeatedlyconstantly  and consistently?

What about that friend or neighbour – that person you now who is struggling with the loss of a dear one – or perhaps the loss of a job – loss of dignity – loss of health – or of Faith?

Maybe they’re just finding life difficult at the moment – are you still praying for them?

Is there someone you once prayed for and have given up on them ? Have you stopped praying for them?

Don’t give up !! – this Parable tells us – don’t give in.

God never gives up on us – on you and on me – even though, at times, He may have good enough reason to.

No  matter how strong or weak our faith in Him may be – you can be absolutely sure and certain – that He will never give up on you – never treat you with anything other than love, forgiveness, mercy, care and compassion.

That’s absolutely guaranteed, promised and delivered.

Talk to Him regularly – pray to Him consistently.

For our God is a good and merciful God – He’s unbelievable, unimaginable unfailing.

He’s incredibleindescribableinconceivable to our human minds –

And He loves – you – yes you

He knows all about you – He’s known you since before you were born.

He knows your strengths – and your weaknesses –

And He loves you still, with all of His heart..

And that is a promise – made to you in heaven –

And confirmed to you – this very day.

How blessed we are !!

And all this –

In Jesus precious name.

Amen .

May God bless the preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.

Let us pray –

Holy, heavenly Father – it is with joy and thanksgiving that we come to you in prayer – knowing that you are a loving God who watches over us as we journey through this life.

And we thank you sincerely for all your many, daily blessings.

We really are so blessed – yet so often we fail to see it.

So we say thank you Lord – for your goodness, your faithfulness, your closeness – your kindness and your compassion.

But we hope and pray that all these blessings will not blind us to the needs of others who are less fortunate than ourselves.

We pray for the poor – and the poor in spirit.

The hungry and those who hunger for your word.

Those who feel lost and unloved – and those who have lost their way.

We pray for the sad and the lonely – and those who mourn lost loved ones.

We pray for those who’s voices are not heard – and those who seek for justice.

We pray for those caught up in the wars of others – the everyday men, women and children for whom everyday is fraught with danger and difficulty .

And we pray for those who find it difficult to cope with the ordinary pressures of everyday life.

We continue to pray for those who put their lives in danger for the good of others.

The ‘front liners’ – those who work quietly in the back ground  but do an amazing job that we might be safe.

We pray too – for those who have succumbed to the CV19 virus and those left behind who mourn their loss.  Bless them Father, watch over them and may they know your presence as they make their journey back to your comforting, warm light.

We think particularly of those who live under the dark cloud of ill-health – of depression – of those awaiting the results of medical tests.

The uncertainty of epilepsy – the fear of cancer – the loss of faith – and the doubt that the promise of  life eternal is available to them.

Bless each one with the knowledge and certainty of the promises of God – the love of Jesus – and the constant presence of your Holy Spirit.

Lord – hear now, our silent prayers – as we sit for a few moments, each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayers. As we bring our families and friends to you in prayer – as we remember those who need a prayer at this time…………. Lord, be with us – in the peace of our silence………….

 

…….. Take a few moments to think of those you know and love – and those who you know need a prayer at this time…… God hears your prayers…..

 

Listening Lord – hear our prayers, both spoken and silent – for we bring them to you in the name of our precious Saviour – your only Son, our only hope – Jesus Christ.

Amen.

A THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

Once upon a time a farmer had a tiny Shetland pony which fell into a dry well. It was an old pony and when the farmer saw what had happened – he determined that neither the pony nor the well were worth the trouble of saving.

Instead, he called his neighbors together and enlisted their help in burying the old pony in the well and putting him out of his misery.

Initially, the old pony was very upset. You would be, too, if you were in a deep hole and people started throwing earth in on top of you!

But as the earth rained down on his back, the wee pony had a thought.

He decided that every time a shovel of earth landed on his back, he would shake it off and step up.

And that’s what he did.

As the earth cascaded down the well, the  pony kept shaking it off and stepping up.

Hours later, the exhausted wee pony finally stepped over the wall of the well. What was meant to bury him, actually helped him!

I don’t know if that’s a true story – but it shows us that when we feel trapped, under pressure and things seem to be coming in on top of you – we might do well to remember that pony – and “shake it offstep up and step out !”.

Perseverance is something which we must all learn to master – easier said than done I know – but listen to this reading from the letter written by James – the ‘brother of Jesus’ ~

“Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of any kind – because the testing of your faith develops perseverance”

 – see James 1 : v2.  (FYI – James is a good book for us to read, so why not read it through some time this week).

So when things get tough – shake yourself up – keep going – keep stepping up – looking up and most of all – keep praying !

Another wonderful Lesson for us – from God’s Holy Word.

Food for thought for us all…..

Amen.

 

BLESSING

 

Whoever you are, wherever you go,

whatever your strengths,

whatever your weaknesses,

be assured that God will be with you, to hold and to heal –

To guide and to bless.

Go, then, in love, hope, joy and peace –

Go – assured of His love for you.

And may the Blessing of Almighty God – Father- Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you all – may He be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

 

Amen.

  

Take care and may God Bless you and those you love.

Keep safe.

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Be sure not to miss the

‘Midweek Reflection’

Posted each Wednesday morning.

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Online Sunday Service – 7th June 2020 – Trinity Sunday

7th June 2020

Trinity Sunday

 

Good morning folks,

Well here we are, week 11 of isolation, things are slowly getting better but there is still a while to go before this awful pandemic is under control I am sure.

I don’t now about you but I would much rather be safe than sorry, even if it does mean another wee while in the house.

How have you used the time ? I was going to start a ‘Learn the Bagpipes’ for beginners online course – but my wife Jo, objected!! And so, I guess, would the neighbours! J

I know some have used it to ‘Spring Clean’, taken up a new hobby, learned a new skill, perhaps an online course – or maybe you have chosen to make use of this ‘down time’ to relax, chill out and take a much needed rest from an otherwise busy life – using it as a time of restoration, rejuvenation and renewal.

 

Our lesson for today is the narrative of Nicodemus, the Pharisee who called in on Jesus one night, seeking wisdom and understanding.

This passage also talks about the need for  restoration, rejuvenation and renewal.

But before that – let us pray ~

 

PRAYER

 

Living, loving and Holy God,

once more we bring you our praise and worship.

 

We acknowledge you as our God.

We recognise your greatness and power.

We marvel at your love and compassion.

 

We come before you with awe and wonder.

 

You are Lord of heaven and earth, of space and time, of this world and all of the universe, of life and death.

 

Living, loving and Holy God, draw near to us

and help us to draw near to you.

Come to us through your Holy Spirit

and help us to open our hearts to the risen Christ.

Speak to us through the worship we offer this day,

and through it all, deepen our faith.

 

Living, loving and Holy God,

we praise you that there is so much that speaks to us of your love and purpose —so much in our lives, in our daily experience, in the world around us, in the vastness of the universe, in the fellowship we share with one another, and in the relationship we enjoy with you, through which you teach and guide and challenge us.

 

Forgive us that we do not always hear your voice, that often we do not want to hear it.

Forgive us that sometimes we refuse to listen, that often we are closed to anything but our own words.

 

Living, loving and Holy God,

Open our hearts

to all the ways you are at work.

Open our eyes

so that we may glimpse your purpose more fully.

Open our ears

so that we may hear your voice more clearly.

Open our minds

to receive your truth more completely.

 

Open our hands Lord  – in your service – working, loving, caring, soothing and healing – all in Jesus’ name.

 

And speak through us as we work and witness for you, that others may come to know you for themselves – our living, loving and Holy God ~ Father – Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in 1.

 

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 silently pray – in the peace of our silence……………

……..think of the things that you would like to confess/apologize for……… and ask for God’s forgiveness……….He hears you words…………

 

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 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.

 

This morning we have 2 Readings ~

 

 

Proverbs 3 : 1 – 6   &  John 3 : 1 – 17

 

Our first reading talks about a need to trust in God – even although we many not fully understand His ways.

“lean not on your own understanding” – it tells us – and the word ‘leaning’ has the sense of putting your whole weight on to something – or someone – that someone – is God.

 

Our second reading is taken from the New Testament – and in it we hear of a Jewish religious leader coming to see Jesus in the night, looking for advice, guidance and understanding.

He knew what it said in the Holy Scriptures – but wanted to find out what it meant – first hand – from Jesus himself.

 

He had come seeking the secret of eternal life  – “It’s no secret” Jesus said to him – “but it will mean you changing your life and your way of thinking…”

 

It’s a difficult reading for us to understand at first reading – but all will be revealed, read on…. and you will see that there’s a whole lot more to this passage than first meets the eye.

 

So let’s read these passages for ourselves ~

 

 

Proverbs 3 : 1 – 6   from the Modern English  Version (MEV)

The Rewards of Wisdom

v1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and long life
and peace will they add to you.

Do not let mercy and truth forsake you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart,
so you will find favor and good understanding
in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths.

 

And ~

 

John 3 : 1 – 17  from the Revised Geneva Translation (RGT)

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

There was now a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus – a ruler of the Jews.

This man came to Jesus by night, and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher from God; for no one could do these miracles that You do, except God were with Him.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born who is old? Can he enter into his mother’s womb again, and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.

“That which is born of the flesh, is flesh. And that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

“The wind blows where it will, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell from where it comes, and where it goes. So is every man who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus answered, and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered, and said to him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and know not these things?

11 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that we know, and testify that we have seen. But you do not receive our witness.

12 “If when I tell you earthly things you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you of Heavenly things?

13 “For no one ascends up to Heaven, except he who descended from Heaven – the Son of man, who is in Heaven.

14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

15 “that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.

16 “For God so loves the world, that He has given His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

17 “For God did not send his Son into the world that He should condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.

 

This is the Word of the Lord – thanks be to God.

 

Amen.

 

SERMON

 

Here’s a topical question for you ~

Are you proud to be British ? – perhaps you’re proud to be Scottish – English or Welsh – perhaps Irish.

 

My Paternal Grandfather was an orphan from York.

 

My Maternal Grandfather came from Newtownards, County Down in Northern Ireland. And my maternal Grandmother came from Kinlochleven in Argyll.

 

My mum and I are from  Kinlochleven too – and so I suppose I’m just glad to be here,  irrespective of  my roots!

 

The only dilemma will be when I’m called up to play football for the national team  – is which team will I play for ??  J

 

But national pride is not a new thing of course. Even in the time of Jesus – there were people who were fervent about their nationality – and their faith.

 

And the Pharisees were one such group.

 

They were the ‘heavy squad’ of the Jewish faith – who dedicated their lives to the strict observance of God’s sacred Law – as written in the first 5 books of the Old Testament – aka  the Pentateuch – and made sure everyone else did too !!

 

Their number was restricted and they were known as the ‘Chaburaah’ or “Brotherhood” (the da Vinci Code hadn’t a look in !”).

 

If you were a particularly dedicated and enthusiastic Pharisee – you could make your way up to be part of the ruling body – the Sanhedrin.

 

That’s what the “stranger who came in the night”, Nicodemus, was, a Pharisee – a member of the ruling council of Jews – as verse 1 of our New Testament reading tells us.

 

So Nicodemus was no fool.

You don’t get to be a member of the Jewish ruling council without some pretty serious religious credentials.

 

Yet here He was – coming to Jesus for help and advice.

 

He was acknowledging Jesus as an authority – he even said “We know you are a teacher who has come from God– see verse 2.

A bold statement for a Pharisee – the very group who were undermining Jesus at every turn and were eventually to bring about his downfall.

 

But Nicodemus came to Jesus – genuinely trying to understand – earnestly seeking answers – and he got them – but for all his knowledge – he didn’t understand what Jesus meant when He said –

“You can only see the kingdom of God if you are born again ?” (v3).

 

 How can we be born again !?” – it didn’t make sense to him.

How can you enter your mothers womb and be born again ?? – but of course – that’s not what Jesus meant.

 

Nicodemus was thinking in earthly and human terms – Jesus was thinking of a more Spiritual re-birth.

 

And you can almost see Jesus smile as He says to this religious leader “…you – one of the great Jewish teachers – and you don’t understand that !?”…(v10)

 

And if Nicodemus, that learnéd religious scholar didn’t understand – perhaps it’s okay if we struggle to understand too.

 

So let’s take a closer look at this narrative of Nicodemus – and see what we can make of it ~

 

But before we do – let me say that today is what the church calls – ‘Trinity Sunday’ – the day when we think more particularly about who God really is – the God we call ~ Father – Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity, three in one.

 

We hear a lot about God the all loving Father – the creator of all life –

We hear about Jesus – the Son of God – God’s physical presence in the world…. And last week – was the day of Pentecost – the day when God’s Holy Spirit came to earth.

 

It can be a difficult concept to get our heads around.

 

It tells us that there are 3 sides to God – three facets to God if you like.

 

One God – 3 persons – Father – Son and Holy Spirit.

 

It can be pretty confusing – even for those who spend their lives studying such things.

 

What hope is there for us then !?

 

But if we think of a Clover leaf – with three leaves, yet still one plant.

Or a triangle – 3 corners, yet still one shape.

3 persons – one God.

Simples!!

 

However, there are some denominations who simply do not accept the belief or Doctrine of the Trinity – “tell me where in Bible it talks of God being three….” – they say…….. And that’s true, nowhere in the Bible does it mention “one God – Three Persons.”

 

However, if we read between the lines – if we see the trail of clues left for us – such as in the story of Nicodemus, our New Testament reading for this morning, we can see that God is expressed in three ways…….. Yet still remains one God.

 

Confused ? – don’t worry – so are most people!

 

But let’s have a look at this story of Nicodemus – the man who came to Jesus in the night – and see what we can learn about this mysterious ‘Trinity of God’.

 

During the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, we hear mention of  God –  Jesus, the Son of God  – and then of the Holy Spirit….

 

“The wind blows where it will,” Jesus says (v8)

And so it is with the Spirit.

Just as we can’t control the wind, but can feel it’s presence – so it is with God’s Holy Spirit – it’s in God’s hands and it will go where He directs.

 

But we can feel its presence in us when we believe in God – and have Jesus – God’s Son – in our hearts.   Then we are filled with the Holy spirit – as we heard last week at Pentecost.

 

Father – Son and Holy Spirit – three in one.

 

And so – in this well known story of Nicodemus – we meet the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – we meet all three – yet we are only meeting one God.

 

We can’t fully explain or understand it – but then – why should we expect to ?

 

God is so immense – so beyond anything our human minds can comprehend.

 

All we can do – is try to make some sense of it all……

 

And you know – that’s what Nicodemus was doing  – trying to make sense of it all.

 

He knew the Book of the Law – perhaps he even knew God too – but he couldn’t grasp what Jesus was saying – “ it’s not just the book you need to know – but what the book is actually saying – what it means for us” – that is important!

 

In other words, it’s no use being able to quote chapter and verse, if you don’t live according to it principles and teachings.

 

“You need to take a look at yourself, see the way you live and how you treat others – you need to realise that it’s not what  or who you know – or how high a position you may hold in society  but what’s in your heart that’s important.

 

If you have any hope of entering Heaven then you need to re-asses – re-adjust – re-invent – re-create – and in doing so, you will become like a different, a new person – just as you would if you were to be re-born.”

 

“Do that – Jesus says – and you will see the kingdom of heaven when you pass from this life to the next.

 

For me it’s a wonderful story of hope for each one of us – that through God’s love for us – no matter what our past – we can start a new life – be a new, better person – with  a new, better future.  And that’s why they call it the “Good News.”

 

But it’s also a message of hope for the world.

 

In a world with all its’ turmoil – strife and division – where  poor people starve while others gorge themselves. In a world where the rich get richer and the poor are getting poorer; a world where greed and materialism and a turning away from God seems to be the trend – then this story of Nicodemus – gives us the hope that things don’t need to be like they are – things can change – we can change – and so – though us and our faith – the world doesn’t need to continue on a downward slope to eventual self destruction.

 

Life can change – people can change – we can change – you can change – if you listen to the words of Jesus  – reassess your life and make the changes that are necessary for you to become a ‘new person.’

 

That’s what Nicodemus did – for we hear later that he defended Jesus when the other Pharisees tried to arrest Him (look up John 7 : 50-52) – and again – after the death of Christ – Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body, anointed it with oils and perfumes and laid Him in the tomb (look up John 19 : 38 – 42).

 

We know that Joseph of Arimathea was a follower of Jesus – and so too, it seems, was Nicodemus by that time.

 

That meeting with Jesus – that ‘encounter in the night’ – must have profoundly changed his life.

Perhaps the penny finally dropped for him.

 

He came in the darkness of night – and left enlightened.

 

Perhaps he went away and mulled over all that Jesus had told him – and out of his darkness – came the light of understanding – like a light being switched on in a darkened room –  now he could see what Jesus had been getting at.

 

And that is true for us too.

 

If we want things to change for the better – then we first have to change ourselves  –  change our lifves – and then our eternal future will be changed too – for the better and for ever.

 

There is a well known ‘wisdom saying’ in which an elderly wise man to his students –  ‘when I was young I wanted to change the world – but then I I realized that before I could change the world, first I had to change myself…”

 

It’s a challenge for us all right – change.

 

No-one likes change – unless it’s the kind which jingles in your pocket !!  – but change we must – if we are to know the Father’s healing hand – the Son’s love and the constant friendship – guidance and companionship of the Holy Spirit.

 

Change we must if we are to know those blessings in this life – and in the eternal life in the next.

 

Think for a wee moment – “what in your life do you think needs to change ?” – are you short tempered – even although the bible says “it is better to be a patient person who controls their temper – than one who causes trouble”……..

 

Do you talk about others – even although the Bible says that we must “keep our tongues from evil and deceitful speech !”

 

Do we see ourselves more important than others ? Even although the Bible says “do not to consider ourselves better than others” ?

 

Do you get angry with people who don’t agree with your way of thinking?  Even although the bible tells us to “love one another as God loves us?”

 

There are so many things that all of us are guilty of at some time or another.

 

“Sort that stuff out first” Jesus says to us – “and then you might be considered for greater things”.

 

Or as he said to Nicodemus – “how can you expect to understand heavenly things – if you can’t understand everyday earthly things !?”

 

Jesus said that we must be ‘lifted up to obtain eternal life’ – but how can we be lifted up with all that kind of baggage holding us down ??

 

Let it go – like a child releases a balloon. Unshackle it – like a prisoner casts of his ball and chain.

 

Only then will we be free and able to be ‘lifted up’ – only then will we be able to receive those blessings in this life – and in the eternal life hereafter, the hope which we have through God’s amazing love  – and the promises He makes to us when we turn our lives around and make Christ the very foundation of our lives.

 

Blessings – hope and promises – sounds good to me – how about you ?

 

Will you – take up that challenge – or will you leave it lying and so  lose out on all that positive power.

The power of God – Father – Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in one.

 

Well  – that – is in  your hands!

It’s your life – your choice – but it seems too good to pass up to me – don’t you think?

I hope you do – and so come to know all these wonderful promises and blessings for yourself…

 

…and in Jesus’ precious name.

 

Amen.

And may God bless this preaching of His Holy word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.

 

Let us pray ~

 

 

Gracious God,

we thank you that you value each one of us,

that we are all important in your eyes.

We thank you that everyone matters to you,

none more than others and none less.

 

Hear now our prayers – for those who have lost that sense of perspective.

We pray for those who fall into the error of pride, thinking of themselves more highly than they should, looking down on others, trusting in themselves rather than in you.

Help them to recognize their weaknesses as well as their strengths, their need to receive as well as to give.

 

We pray for those who have no sense of worth,

who feel they are unimportant, unvalued, or unloved.

Victims of broken homes and broken relationships, the powerless and the poor, homeless and refugees, shy and depressed, lonely and rejected.

Grant them the assurance that, whatever their circumstances, they are precious to you,

each one your unique creation.

 

Gracious God,

give to all a proper sense of their own value, a true appreciation of the worth of others, and, above all, help them to see your greatness, to whom we cannot compare,

yet you love us enough to call us as your children  – and we can call you “Our Father’.

 

Lord today we think of  the many places around the world where people are suffering – in so many ways – we think particularly of the ongoing wars around the world – and ask that your love and peace will be with those who have lost loved ones.

Give to those serving, both courage and strength and the knowledge that you are watching over them.

Bless those at home who are anxious – and we pray for a speedy end to all conflict and for the participants to be brought safely home to their loved ones.

 

Bless all who suffer through mans inhumanity to their fellow man – bring to them a justice and a love as they have never known – and may they feel the peace of Jesus in their hearts.

 

Watch over those who are on the ‘frontline’, and those behind the scenes, who continue work for our good even although it means putting themselves in danger . Bless them Father, bless their families and loved ones who fear for their safety.

 

Bless those who have lost loved ones to this dreadful virus, hold them in the palm of your hand, we pray.

 

Lord hear us now as we sit for a few silent moments – separated by distance but united in prayer – each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayer for those we know and love-

………..think of someone you know who needs a prayer – whisper their name – God will hear……

 

Be with them all dear Lord, for we bring them before you in the name of the one who carries all our burdens and gives us His amazing gift of love – our dear Jesus – your only Son, our only hope.

Amen.

 

A wee thought for you to ponder this week ~

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

A man called 999 and spoke frantically into the phone, “My wife is expecting our child any minute !! –  her contradictions are only two minutes apart!” (I think he meant ‘contractions’).

The operator on the other and of the line said – “Is this her first child?”

“Don’t be daft !!” the man shouted. “This is her husband!”

*

Picking things up the wrong way – not understanding things that are said – that’s what Nicodemus did – it’s what many of us do too.

And so to save any misunderstanding – here’s the Gospel message in just a few words ~

Like a good and loving father – God loves each of us and He offers us un-numbered blessings – but He loves us too much to leave as we are.

He wants better for us.

All we have to do is believe in Him – through his Son Jesus Christ – give our lives to Him – live His way – and we will receive His life giving Holy Spirit – now and for all time. That’s a promise.

So here’s a thought –

You know – all this is there for you – promised and delivered when you open your heart to His loving Son and Saviour – Jesus Christ.

 

So here’s a thought – what will your response be ?

Will you respond??……

 

I pray that you will –

 

 

And I pray for you in Jesus’ precious name.

 

Amen.

 

 

BLESSING

 

And may the love of Jesus go before you –

The Lord Almighty watch over you –

and the Holy Spirit be with you –

guiding and protecting you in all you say and do ….

 

May He be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.

 

AMEN

 

Take care and may God Bless you and those you love.

Keep safe.

*

Pentecost – Sunday 31st May 2020 – Rev Dr Martin Fair – Moderator of the Church of Scotland

Pentecost – Sunday 31st May 2020

The Moderator of the General Assembly, Rev Dr Martin Fair, will lead a service for Pentecost Sunday, 31 May, at 10.00 am which will be streamed on the Church of Scotland website and Facebook.  All members are encouraged to participate so that as much of the Church of Scotland as possible will be gathered in fellowship and praise at that time.

The Moderator will open the service and invite you to worship. Others taking part will include: Rev Fran Henderson, minister in Shetland; Rev William Boyle of Port Glasgow, New Parish Church; Ann Lyall, DCS from Glasgow; and Rev Ruth Morrison, of Clydebank Waterfront.

The musical offerings will feature hymns and songs from across Scotland including:

  • Rev Jonathan Fleming of St. John’s Largs and Cumbrae and his family
  • the worship team at Fullarton Parish Church
  • junior choir members from Aberfeldy
  • the worship team at Chryston Church of Scotland

The service will be recorded in advance and will be available for viewing on the church website and Facebook page at 10am on Sunday 31 May.

Three versions will be available: fully captioned, no captions and with BSL interpretation.

Ministers will be sent a link where they can download the service as a video so those who wish to embed the service on their own church websites may do so. We ask that congregations do not view the service before 10am on Sunday.

Ministers will also be able to download a print copy of the sermon at the same link.

An audio version of the spoken parts of the service (not the musical sections) will be available via a telephone line. Check back on this page later this week to find the number to call.