Midweek Meditation – Wednesday 5th August 2020

Midweek Meditation

5th August 2020

No Worries

 

Does this sound familiar to you? ~

 

It’s late at night, you’re lying in your bed  staring at the ceiling.  Your eyes are wide open and your mind is replaying your worries over and over like they are on a never ending loop?

 

As much as you try, you can’t switch off  and it’s draining you of all your energy and strength.

 

If you recognize that – you are not alone – many of us do the very same thing!

But there is a lovely passage in Paul’s letter to the early church in Philippi which says to us – “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything (everything!), by prayer, petition and thanksgiving – present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6).

 

Easier said than done, I know. But as the  old saying goes “a trouble shared is a trouble halved” so why not accept His offer to share your troubles with Him by taking three deep breaths, holding each for a couple of  seconds and slowly exhaling to calm you – then consciously  turning your mind to talking to God, and say this prayer ~

 

PRAY – (slowly) –  “Loving Father, Lord of love and life – you know me better than I know myself  and you know my worries and my fears.  Hold me safe in your arms; breath your new life in to me; bless me with peace and open my heart and my mind to let your love for me flow in and fill me with your loving Spirit. Remind me that I am always safe with you and there is nothing, nothing, that you can not do  –  and that through you – I gain your strength in my troubled times. And now – as I close my eyes – Help me to sleep a deep and  comforting sleep knowing that you watch over me until morning comes. Thank you Father. Hear my prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

(why not copy this out and use it whenever you feel in need of comfort ?)

 

PONDER – At some time or another,  we have all been bothered by worries and the sleepless and restless nights which come with all of that. Sometimes these fears can overwhelm us which can bring stress and anxiety upon us.

 

When you are concerned about something or someone – is it your first instinct to turn to God in Prayer?

If we are honest, it probably isn’t for many of us – but it should be.

He offers us His peace and comfort, if we open our hearts and simply ask Him.

Online Sunday Service – 2nd August 2020

2nd August 2020

Online Sunday Service

How has your week been? Things seem to be getting back to some sort of ‘normality’ now but caution is still the best policy for now – we’re not out of the woods just yet.

It is sad how some have been severely effected by this awful virus – businesses closed down, jobs lost, loved ones isolated from us and dear ones have passed away.

And yet others have got through these past few months relatively unscathed.

Life is not fair is it?

Today’s Parable reminds us of that – life, it seems,  is not fair.

 

But before that –

 

Let us pray together ~

 

PRAYER

 

Heavenly Father, we come here to worship you – to meet with our church family and to sing our praises to you. We come to hear your word to us and to talk to you in our prayers. We come as your family, your children, looking to you for help, support – we come seeking answers to life’s big questions – why are we here ? – what are we to do ? – what is it that you want of us ? Questions which only you have answers for – answers which are here for us in your Holy writings – if we have the ears to hear and the eyes to see them.

 

Guide us Lord, help us to respond to all that you teach us – and then we might know the glory and the joy which awaits us – which awaits all people who answer your call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as we travel this road of life…..

 

Loving father – we worship and adore you – we praise you for all that you are and all that you do……….. we praise you for being the great and awesome God who created all things – and for the way you continue to re-create life each day……………… and we praise you that for all your greatness – we can still call you ‘Our Father’……….

 

Lord, we praise you for the way you can take the ordinary things

and make them new;

you are able to take ordinary lives,

lived by ordinary people, just like us, and fill them with meaning.

 

We praise you for your promise of joy and your offer of peace

that can utterly transform how we live and respond.

We praise you for Jesus, who walked a hard path through his life;

for the way he shared in the hopes and the fears of those around him;

for the way he shares in the hopes and the fears of each one of us………

We praise you for the way Christ touches and changes the whole of life.

He opens our eyes to the wonder of your creation and our ears to the songs of your love.

He opens our lips to praise you for his coming, living, dying and rising.

He opens our hearts to receive him and to be filled with his life-transforming Spirit.

 

Lord, there is no God like you, you are Lord of the whole of creation. The universe is not large enough to contain the praise we want to offer you. We praise you for Christ and that through Him we might be washed, cleansed and renewed – given life anew – life in all it’s fullness…….

 

Listening Lord, as we prepare ourselves for worship – we sit for a few moments to clear our minds of the events of the past week  – we bring to you our sadnesses – our disappointments – our frustrations and our regrets – and so we pray that you will draw close to us as we confess that which we have said, done and thought – things that we are not proud of – things we pray you will forgive us for – in Jesus’ name……… so be with us Lord – in the peace of our silence……………

 

Merciful Lord – as undeserving as we are – we pray that you will forgive us, put our transgressions behind us and set us on a new path  – in Jesus’ name.

 

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 Reading today is taken from Matthew’s Gospel –

 

Matthew 20 : 1 – 16

 

Where we hear the ‘Parable of the Workers’ in the vineyard – it seems unjust – it seems unfair – but as with all parables of Jesus – you can be sure that there’s more to it than at first appears.

 

As you read it – you might like to think about what it is really saying to us, here – today

 

 

Matthew 20 : 1 – 16     from The Passion Translation

A Parable of Workers in the Vineyard

20 “This will help you understand the way heaven’s kingdom operates: “There once was a wealthy landowner who went out at daybreak to hire all the laborers he could find to work in his vineyard. After agreeing to pay them the standard day’s wage, he put them to work. Then at nine o’clock, as he was passing through the town square, he found others standing around without work. He told them, ‘Come and work for me in my vineyard and I’ll pay you a fair wage.’ So off they went to join the others. He did the same thing at noon and again at three o’clock, making the same arrangement as he did with the others.

“Hoping to finish his harvest that day, he went to the town square again at five o’clock[a] and found more who were idle. So he said to them, ‘Why have you been here all day without work?’

“‘Because no one hired us,’ they answered.

“So he said to them, ‘Then go and join my crew and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard went to his foreman and said, ‘Call in all the laborers, line them up, and pay them the same wages, starting with the most recent ones I hired and finishing with the ones who worked all day.’

“When those hired late in the day came to be paid, they were given a full day’s wage. 10 And when those who had been hired first came to be paid, they were convinced that they would receive more. But everyone was paid the standard wage. 11 When they realized what had happened, they were offended and complained to the landowner, saying, 12 ‘You’re treating us unfairly! They’ve only worked for one hour while we’ve slaved and sweated all day under the scorching sun. You’ve made them equal to us!’

13 “The landowner replied, ‘Friends, I’m not being unfair—I’m doing exactly what I said. Didn’t you agree to work for the standard wage? 14 If I want to give those who only worked for an hour equal pay, what does that matter to you?15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Why should my generosity make you jealous of them?’[b]

16 “Now you can understand what I meant when I said that the first will end up last and the last will end up being first. Everyone is invited, but few are the chosen.”[c]

Amen.

 

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

 

 

SERMON

 

Are you an early bird in the mornings ~ up with the lark – “up and at ‘em” while everyone else is struggling to get their eyes open ?

 

Or are you slow to rise – bumbling around the house as you slowly re-gain consciousness  ?

 

Do you get all your best work done in the morning ?

Or are you a ‘late person’ – only really coming alive as the day goes on ?

 

So, the question  is – are you and early bird – or a late night owl ?

 

Of course, the trouble starts when we try to be both !

 

We are all different – we start work at different times of the day – a bit like those workers in the vineyard that we just heard about.

 

Some starting early – doing a full day,  others got going about lunch time – while the last worker only got just got started when it was time to stop – yet all were paid the same – a days wages.

 

It hardly seems fair – and you can understand why those who worked the longest – complained the loudest !!

 

But what does all this mean ? – is it a story which tells us that life’s not fair ? – does it say that God is promoting an unjust practice?  That is it okay to treat people unfairly ??

 

It might seem like that – on the surface.

 

But if we dig a bit deeper, look a bit closer –  we see that it is a story which reminds us that Jesus has a great way of turning things upside down – of using everyday examples that  we can understand and perhaps even identify with – to convey something far deeper to us….

If – we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

 

So – what does this story have to say to us – here – today ?

 

Well – first of all – we’re told that this story is a parable – and so we know that it’s a story with another meaning –

The first line of the passage says “the kingdom of God is ‘like’ a landowner who went out early in the morning..”

 

So then we know that’s it’s not really about workmen,  a vineyard and an unjust landlord.

 

So what then,  is it about ?? ~

 

Well – it’s about the world as it was – as it is now – and as it shall be.

 

Let me explain what I mean ~

 

Let’s look for a moment – at how the world was in the days of this parable.

 

There was very much a “them and us” society – the rich land owners – the Pharisees – the holy elite.

There were those and such as those – the master and the slave.

 

And there were the poor and the starving.

No social security – no benefits to help the worst off – no trade unions to represent the underdog – it was an unjust and unfair society.

 

Today – things may have moved on – but there are still many who live or die at the will of others – there are still poor and starving people in the world .

 

As much as we might not like to admit it – it is still a ‘them and us’ world.

 

Go to just about any country in the world  ask one of the millions who live in abject poverty – in a hovel for a home – who have a daily struggle to feed their children – no income – no hope of a rosy future – in many cases – no hope for any kind of a future at all !!

Ask them – if it’s a fair and just society !??

 

That’s how the world was – and for many – too many – still is today.

 

But in that world of vineyards and workers – of jealously  injustice and inequality – there was one – a vineyard owner – who was willing to go against the trend – and offer kindness, mercy and generosity to those who he called to labour for him.

 

The vineyard owner  – of course – represents God – who’s ideals are far different from those of our society.

 

And that’s what I meant when I said that this parable is also about the world as it shall be –

 

In God’s kingdom – there will be no starving – no homeless – no injustice or unfairness……… no ‘them and us’ – only love, tranquillity and a peace beyond anything our human minds can ever understand – that’s what is meant by a ‘peace beyond our all human understanding’.

 

Life as it shall be – in God’s kingdom.

 

Everyone will be equal – no-one will be given more than anyone else – in god’s eternal kingdom.

God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.  And that’ is an absolute  promise..

 

In this parable – we see through the actions of the landowner – an incredible generosity.

 

He took on workers late in the day – and he paid them the same wage as those who had ben working all day ! –

 

No right mined businessman then – or today – would think of such a thing ! –  it doesn’t make financial sense ! –

 

Those who worked all day received a fair days wage – but they felt that others – those who had come late in the day – should receive less.

 

That’s “human thinking” – not “god thinking”.

 

As unfair as it might seem to us – no-one was treated unfairly – no-one was underpaid.

The workers who had done a full days work – received a full days pay – as promised.

It’s just that the others were treated with ‘unexpected and undeserved generosity.

 

But you see – that’s what God’s kingdom is like.

God’s kindness, generosity and grace – is not limited to our idea of fairness……… His gifts are far beyond anything we can ever ask for or deserve.

 

As I said last week – he  loves us all equally – no favourites – no ‘special cases’ – no extra brownie point for minister or “holy people” – each one of us is special in his eyes – and He rewards all equally.

 

This parable shows us that everyone who comes to Him – who puts their life – their trust – in His hands – will receive the same reward.  No matter if you have had a strong faith for forty years  – or a fortnight.

No matter if you are an old hand at this business of faith – or if you are just starting out on your journey  of faith.

 

He loves those who search for him – as well as those who have already found him.

 

He loves those who are lost along the way – He offers you encouragement and the reassurance that the faith you once had – the faith you long for – is  still there, waiting for you to  return, rekindle and revitalize your life.

Giving you the hope and the promise of life here, in all it’s fullness – and life hereafter in all it’s glory.

 

No matter whether you’re a child or well past the ‘first flush of youth’ – this parable tells us that it’s never too early or too late to respond to God’s call – because  everyone who turns to Him – no matter when – will receive all the wonderful promises he makes to us.

 

Love, care, compassion – 3 things we don’t hear much about in our ‘too busy’ society – but all there for you and for me – when we put our faith and our hope in your Saviour and mine – Jesus Christ.

 

How blessed we are!

 

Amen.

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

 

And now we come to our prayer of intercession – our prayer for those around the world who need a prayer at this time.

 

We think of the wars – the starving – those who are sad and those who are suffering.

 

And  we pray for our loved ones….

 

 

So let us pray together ~

 

Father, we pray for the world – your creation.

You gave us responsibility for all that you have made. You entrusted every living creature into our care. But we have betrayed that trust and neglected our responsibility ~ we have allowed your good earth to become polluted by our greed, damaged by our selfishness and sucked dry by our materialism.

 

Father, by your holy spirit, give us a renewed urgency to fulfill the task you laid upon us.

 

Lord, hear my prayer.

 

Father, we pray for governments around the world; for those whose decisions will affect the whole of your creation;

For those who ignore the implications for future generations of the decisions they are making today; for the leaders of nations who are genuinely seeking to behave responsibly, to act justly and to be faithful stewards of your creation.

Lord, hear my prayer.

 

Father, we pray for ourselves.

We are your creation.

We acknowledge that we are wonderfully made.

We are capable of amazing acts of kindness, love and understanding.

Yet we also know our need of your healing, forgiving, transforming grace.

We ask you to touch our hearts with your love, our lives with your grace and our lips with your truth. Father, enable us so to live that others may live in you. Lord, empower us so to speak that others may glorify you.

 

Lord, hear my prayer.  

 

Father, we pray for our families – those who are close to us – we pray that you will bless them and watch over them – keeping them close to you –

Father, draw close to us – as we sit together for a few silent moments – praying for those we love and care for – those who we keep in our prayers – be with us in the peace of our silence…………

take time to pray for your family and loved ones…and anyone you know who needs a prayer at this time………..……..

 

Lord, hear my prayer.

 

We know that the Lord hears our prayers both for others and for ourselves – because we pray in faith and in the name of our dear Jesus – your only Son, our only hope.

 

Amen.

 

 

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

 

This morning we have been talking about God’s unexpected and undeserved generosity, kindness and love ~ and we might wonder why He does it  – well – here a wee story ~

It’s about a wee girl called Sally……….. she was a lovely wee girl – always happy and smiling – and she just loved going to school so she could meet and blether to her friends……

She was just about big enough to walk to school on her own – which was just around the corner from her house – but her mum would still worry about her until she got safely home each afternoon.

But one day – the clouds grew darker and the rain began to fall – “thank goodness Sally took her umbrella with her today” her mum said to herself.   School finished- but Sally was never coming home – the time went passed – and still no sign of Sally. The rain got worse – and then suddenly a rumble of thunder and a flash of lightening lit up the sky – “oh dear” she thought “Sally will be frightened of the storm – she’s probably hiding somewhere – I’d better go and find her”

And so Sally’s mum put on her coat and went out find Sally.

Just around the corner, Sally’s mother saw her little girl walking along with her umbrella, splashing in all the puddles.

But instead of being frightened – at each flash of lightning, Sally would stop, look up at the sky, and give a big smile.

Sally’s mother watched this routine repeat itself three times. Each lightning flash caused Sally to stop walking, look up at the sky, and smile. Finally, Sally’s mother called to her, “Sally, what on earth are you doing?”

Sally answered, “Don’t worry mum – I’m smiling. God keeps taking pictures of me.”

It’s been said that if God has a wallet, you can bet your picture is in it.

Each one of us special to God – that’s why he does all these wonderful, unexpected and undeserved things for us –

So the next time you’re in a storm of life, you might like to remember wee Sally – and smile – you never know – God might just be taking pictures of YOU !!

 

That is surely worth a smile, don’t you think?

 

What a comforting thought for us to ponder in these challenging times !!

Amen.

 

BLESSING

Go with God’s love in your heart – and His hand on your shoulder, watching and guiding you in all you say and do..

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

 

AMEN

 

May God bless you and all those you love.

Take care and God bless.

*

Be sure and look out for the Midweek Meditation which

is Posted every Wednesday Morning.

*

Midweek Meditation – Wednesday 29th July 2020

Strength

 

READ – Psalm 55 : 22 – New Life Version (NLV)

22 Give all your cares to the Lord and He will give you strength. He will never let those who are right with Him be shaken.

PONDER

How strong are you?  I don’t mean do you have a personal trainer or work out in the Gym – but how strong are you in mind and spirit?

Sometimes life throws some pretty nasty wobblies at us doesn’t it? And it might be easy for us to be shaken into believing that we  cannot cope.

The Psalmist reminds us that our strength lies not in our bodies but in our faith.

So, instead of lifting weights in the gym – lift your eyes up to God, open your heart to Him in prayer. Get your heart pumping beyond your own limitations and rely on Him who gives’ us His strength in our weakness.  He will be your strength as well as your personal trainer, guiding you, strengthening you as you build up your faith.

Put your trust in Him, open your heart and your mind, follow His fitness plan as laid out for us in His Word and when things seem bleak – you know for sure that you don’t deal with  these issues alone – you have the power of almighty God within you – and you will be fit for anything life throws at you.

 

READ – Psalm 59 : 9-10  – New  Life Version (NLV)

O my Strength, I will watch for You. For God is my strong place. 10 My God in His loving-kindness will meet me. God will keep me safe from those who would harm me.

PRAY

Heavenly Father – I thank you for being in my life. You give me the strength and the power to get through the ups and downs of all that life puts before me.  Strengthen my faith O Lord; increase my gratitude that I might be a better ambassador for you – in my heart, in my life and in all I say and do.

Amen.

Online Sunday Service – 26th July 2020

26 July 2020

ONLINE SERVICE

 

Please find this week’s Sunday service copied below should you wish to read it. I extend my usual weekly invitation for a cup of tea or coffee, a comfortable chair and a time of peace and quiet to relax and read today’s message.

I know that not every message touches everyone every week.  Some weeks you might feel a particular service is meant just for you – and maybe not so on other weeks. That’s okay – someone else will be finding that week helpful for them. But either way, I hope that you will gain something from simply relaxing, reading God’s word and absorbing the prayers – you may get more from it than you think.

 

 

Good morning folks, I hope this finds you well.

How has your week been? Not too stressful, I hope.

As I mentioned on my Midweek Meditation, taking time, MAKING time to chill out is important. Recharging our batteries, counting our blessings, are necessary if we are to keep healthy and well.

 

Our Lesson for today is about appreciating and giving thanks what we have been blessed with.

 

But before that – let us pray ~

 

 

PRAYER

 

Living God,

we have come together to worship you, to meet here with our families and friends – and we come, in love and humility – to worship you – our great and glorious God.

But we come, not simply because we feel we should do, nor because it is expected of us, but because we want to praise you.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

 

Help us to bring you our heartfelt worship -to reflect on you and not ourselves, to think about your love rather than our problems, to seek your will for us rather than our expectations of you.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Help us to draw close to you, rejoicing in your presence, receiving your love, reviving our faith.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Help us to put aside everything that comes between us -our foolish deeds, our trivial concerns, our unpleasant ways.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Living God,

there is so much in our lives that is not as it should be, not as it could be, and not as it would be if only we walked more closely with you.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Forgive us the unkind words, thoughtless actions, and unworthy thoughts, that deny our faith.

 

Forgive us the self-centred lifestyles, half-hearted commitment, and careless discipleship, that undermine our witness.

 

Forgive us the lack of devotion, lack of faith, and lack of love, that demean your name.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Living God,

As we pray in the name of Christ, assure us, as we worship you, of the forgiveness, the guidance, the love, and the life you offer through him.

Meet with us now, we pray.

 

Hear us now Listening Lord – as we bring to you our own personal prayer of confession – things we may have said, thought or done which we know is not in accordance with your ways – and we ask for your forgiveness Father.

Hear now – our prayer –

……..is there something that you wish to be forgiven?………… for………..hand it over to God by apologizing from the heart – and you will be forgiven…………God hears your words………….   

 

So may we worship you not just through our words but in our lives, not merely now but always, not simply here but everywhere.

 

Hear our prayer dear Lord – and hear us now as we pray 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 this morning are ~

 

Deuteronomy 21 : 15 – 21  &   Luke 15 : 11 – 32

 

Our O.T. Reading is part of the Judaic law which lays out the entitlements and birth rights of the sons, when the Father passes away. It seems old fashioned and not how we would deal with things today – but of course, we are talking about many centuries ago.

And our N.T. Reading is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Another well know Parable, but there is so much more to this story than meets the eye…..

 

Let’s read them now ~

 

Deuteronomy 21 : 15 – 21New International Version (NIV)

 

The Right of the Firstborn

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

And ~

 

Luke 15 : 11 – 32 from the New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus told this Parable : “There was a man who had two sons.12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything, so he has to eat the pig food.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.27 ‘Your brother has come home,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes and wild living comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.’”

Amen.

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

 

SERMON

Today we look at another very well know story – the Parable of the ‘Lost Son’ – sometimes called the Parable of ‘the Prodigal Son.’

It’s a well known story – we may have heard it many times before – but today I would like us to look a wee bit deeper to see what we may have missed previously.

 

And to understand it – we must take a look at the culture in which this story was told.

 

It’s a story which, at first, we might struggle to understand.

How can this wild youth who disrespected his father – be so lovingly welcomed home – while the loyal brother who stayed at home and worked the farm?

 

And to be fair – the early listeners of Palestine would have struggled with it too.

 

Ask any Palestinian what they think of this story and their reaction would be – “It would never happen ! – no son would dream of asking for his share of his inheritance – it would be like saying “dad, I wish you were dead, so I could get your money !!”   Which makes this narrative all the more intriguing.

 

So – what  is his Parable all about?

 

Well – first – let’s remember  – as I explained last week – this is a Parable – a story within a story, so we know that it has a deeper meaning.

 

So let’s have a look to see what it is saying to us, today –

 

We are clearly dealing with a rebellious young man who showed no respect for his father or his traditions…. And sadly, there are many, aye too many – like that in our society today.

 

We heard in our reading from Deuteronomy that the older son gets a double share – meaning two-thirds of his fathers estate – while the younger son gets a third…..

 

And so – this young rebel was looking for a third of his fathers estate…… which he could convert it into cash and live an independent life – ‘doing his own thing’.

 

But of course, it didn’t turn out too well for him……he lived a wild life – and was now paying the price for his waywardness.

*

We know that Jews regard the pig as an unclean animal – not only would they not eat one – but were not allowed to even touch one.

So for this young Jewish boy to stoop to actually feeding pigs and eating the food that they had touched – was to be degraded beyond belief – He really had, sunk to the lowest depths.

 

And so we see that when things were about as bad as they could possibly get – that he turned to his father – and his father did not reject him.

 

For many of us – it is at times when we are at our lowest – when life seems at it’s worst – that we turn to God, our Father – for comfort and help. And like this boy’s father – He does not turn us away – but welcomes us with open arms.

 

“That which has been lost – has been found”

 

And this is the usual interpretation of this parable ~

God – the Father – welcomes us all – as wayward as we may be – and rejoices as we turn from our sinful ways and return to him – asking for his forgiveness – He too welcomes us with open arms.

 

And while that is the major theme of this story,   I believe that this story has another important lesson for us –

 

And it’s found when we realize that this Parable is not just about one son – but two.

Perhaps it should be called “The Parable of the 2 Sons.”

 

The younger one who ‘goes off the rails’ and is reunited with his father and given a great party –

 

While the older brother – who, let’s not forget – “worked hard for years and never once disobeyed his father’s orders” – seems to be treated rather harshly by his father – after all – should loyalty not be rewarded too ?

 

Again – if we look at the culture in which this story was set – we learn that at every big family party – it was the elder son’s duty to act as head waiter.

So – by refusing to take part in the festivities – he was not only dishonouring his brother – but his father and his culture too.

 

His anger – his emotions – his ‘self righteousness’ had stopped him from doing what was the right thing to do.

 

But even here – we see the father coming out and pleading with the older son to come and join in the party in honour of his young brother, but he refused.

So, twice in one day – the father had held out his hand to a son – but only one had gratefully accepted it – the other (the elder) rejected it.

 

In these 2 sons – we see reflected, 2 types of people.

 

Those who are far from perfect – and can recognise their failings – yet come to God and ask for His forgiveness.

(Typified by the younger Son).

 

And those who are far from perfect – but cannot see it….. and so lose out on the blessings of God – because of their own stubbornness and failure to appreciate what they have been blessed with.    (Typified by the older son).

 

God the Father does not reward arrogance and intransigence.

But He does reward genuine humility and sincere repentance.

 

But you know – I think that these two sons – are also a representative of one person – ourselves – you and I – all people.

 

Showing the two sides of our own human nature,

 

One – impulsive and frivolous at times.

 

The other – inflexible and set in our ways.

 

If you don’t recognise yourself in any of these descriptions – may I ask you to give it some more thought….. I can see myself in there – and so, I think, will most of us.

 

There’s story about a man who was beginning to fall into a life of sin and was finding it increasingly difficult to fight temptation.

 

It bothered his conscience so went to see his doctor. “can you give me something that will help ?” He said to the doctor.. “oh, you want me to give you something to  strengthen your will power, do you ??” Said the doctor….

Oh no !” said the man – “I want you give me something to weaken my conscience !!”

 

*

And so  – this parable is not just about a young man who goes of the track and is re-united with a nice dad –  it’s about much more than that – as we have seen.

 

This parable tells us that we are all accepted, loved and precious to God – and we can all live in harmony as God’s family – no matter our background or upbringing – or personal circumstance.

 

He loves the Nationalist as well as the Conservative (honestly!) Labour or Green (yes!) – Black lives matter to Him as do White and any other colour of human being.

 

Because, you see, we are ALL His beloved children – it is we, in our limited, human ways, who make differences between ourselves.

 

We choose who we like, love and care for.

Whereas our heavenly Father – loves us all, without fear or favour.

 

A powerful lesson for humankind.

 

He doesn’t concern himself with our petty squabbles, the way we divide ourselves through race, political persuasion, colour or creed.

 

God loves us – simply because we are all his children, all “made in His own image.”

“Love others as I love you” the Bible tells us, aye but do we?

 

The Bible also tells us that no-one is guaranteed a place in heaven – just because of long service or loyalty to the church.

 

Selling lots of Tombola tickets or making delicious scones will not assure you a place  in the hereafter. (Mind you it might give you a few extra Brownie points with the Minister!J)

 

It’s the love and humility in your heart, your acceptance of God’s precious Son – the heartfelt love for one another that will get us into heaven.

 

Everything the 2 sons had – was due to the generosity of the father – but they didn’t appreciate it…

 

Do we – I wonder – appreciate how much our Father loves us and all that He has done for us?

 

Do we – I wonder – appreciate just how everything we have – however much or however little – is due to the Father’s generosity ?

 

Or do we just take it all for granted?

 

This story talks of God’s pure unbounded love for us – for you and for me – but it also leads us to consider – our love for Him – and therein lies the very heart of this parable……….

 

Because, you see – it’s not just about how much God the Father loves us – but how much we love Him!

 

Perhaps you might like to read this parable again sometime this week and then give it some thought for yourself ?………….

*

So, which Son are you most like ? – And if you are anything like me – perhaps you’ll see that we all have a bit of both in us..

 

But be absolutely sure  – absolutely sure – that  you are precious and treasured by your Heavenly Father – He knows your name – your faults and failings – mine to – and He still loves us so very much.

 

How blessed we are!

 

Amen.

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

 

PRAYER –

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

Heavenly Father,

You sent us your Son

To make all things new;

We have, in your Spirit,

A new relationship with you,

A new way of seeing,

a new way of life.

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

With new eyes we look

At the world around us

And see the old ways re-enacted

Time after time after time:

The tyranny of the powerful;

The greed of the wealthy;

Injustice, cruelty and aggression.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

But we also see

God’s Spirit at work,

Disturbing the dirt of ages,

Challenging, stirring people up;

And we pray

For that new, clean world

To which he calls us on,

Where lands are ruled with wisdom,

Justice and mercy and compassion;

Where honesty lays open

The thoughts of those in power.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

With new eyes we look

At the faces of the people of the world

And we see those age-old expressions

That haunt humankind:

The gaunt, listless look

Of the lost, hungry, child;

The lines of pain and suffering

On the faces of the sick;

The startled, nervous twitching

Of the victim of a disaster;

The contortions of grief and anguish

In the features of the bereaved.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

But we also see

God’s Spirit at work,

Bringing new hope into tired despair,

Feeding, comforting, healing,

Giving strength and peace.

And we pray

For a newer, greater concern

For the suffering of the world;

For a search for better priorities

In the use of our resources and love;

For new reasons to smile

And new causes for laughter.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

With new eyes we look

At ourselves, at the church

And see ourselves clinging

To the pillars of the past,

Afraid of where we will find God

In this fast changing age;

Fearfully hiding behind

Our traditions and worship,

Nervous of that new life

That is the life of faith in Christ,

Lived in union with one another.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

But we also see

God’s Spirit at work,

Constantly surprising us

With the beauty of old truths

Revealed in new ways.

 

And we pray

That through us, God’s church,

Breathed into life by his Spirit,

Others may hear the Gospel Word

As disturbing, fresh and new,

That together we may walk in hope

Towards the unseen paths of tomorrow.

 

Lord, this is our prayer:

 

     Help us to know and to do your will…

 

And be with us now as we sit together, each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayer for those we know and love – and for those we OUGHT to love … be with us Lord in the peace of our silence …………

 

Hear our prayers for we pray in Jesus’ name.

Amen

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

There’s a story about a church who were enjoying a summer fete in the lovely gardens of the church grounds.

 

It was in the ‘better’ side of town – and as they sipped their tea from beautiful china cups – they admired the great spread of  lovely food which was laid out for them on wooden trestle tables.

The sun shone and the congregation were enjoying themselves as they chatted and nibbled away at the scones and lovely cakes.

 

But then, a scruffy looking man, much in need of a wash and some fresh clothes – entered the church garden and made his way over to the table. His mouth watered as he spied all the  tasty food on offer.

 

He was obviously very hungry for he crammed two cakes in his mouth at once – and he began to fill his pockets with food.

 

The members of the congregation stood, horrified – and looked over to the Minister, mouthing “DO SOMETHING!”

 

The Minister went over and spoke to the man.

He then looked under the table and took out some empty boxes and began to fill the boxes with food, gave them to the man who thanked the Minister and then walked away smiling.

 

The onlookers stood in shock as the Minister walked over to them and said –

 

“That IS what you meant, wasn’t it!?”

*

There are those who are blessed but rarely give thanks to God the Father.

And there are those who have so little – yet give heartfelt thanks for every small blessing that they receive.

The question is – which one are you?

 

Something for us all to think about.

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 peace – assured of his love.

 

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 every day.

 

Amen.

Take care and May God Bless you

And those who you love.

*

Be sure to see my ‘Midweek Meditation’ which is  posted online every Wednesday Morning.

*

Keep safe

Midweek Meditation – Wednesday 22nd July 2020

Midweek Meditation

22nd July 2020

A Peaceful Place.

 

READ

“The Lord blesses His  people with Peace” Psalm 29:11”

Jesus said – “Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give to you. The Peace I give you is not the same the peace the world gives you – I give you the deep Peace of God.” John 14 : 27

REFLECT

“Peace perfect peace” – isn’t it something that we all long for in the busyness and chaos of life?

How often, over these past few months, have we thought ‘it would great to get away for a few days’ – whether it be on a beach, a mountain walk or some other peaceful place?

Some might be lucky and be able to jet off to some exotic destination – but most of us can’t just drop everything and head off, as much as we might like to.

 

But there IS a place where you can go whenever you want to.

 

A very special place. All you have to do is close your eyes and think of a ‘happy place’ with happy memories. It might be somewhere you went on holiday or a place which holds special memories for you. We all have a place – where is yours?

 

So whenever you feel the need to ‘get away from it all’, take a few moments, close your eyes (unless you’re driving!) imagine yourself in that place – look around, feel the atmosphere, the sun, the warmth. Take a few deep breaths and slowly exhale slowly – relax your arms, your shoulders and your legs – if only for a few minutes. Look around you, what can you see?

 

Take a ‘short break’ to your favourite place anytime you like – at no cost.

 

God promises us a ‘Peace which surpasses all our understanding’ – a quite refuge ‘in the midst of the raging storms of life’.

Go to your place of peace – immerse yourself – feel at peace – know that God is watching over you and keeping you safe.

Take that wee holiday – you deserve it – you’ll be glad that you did.

 

PRAY – God of all Love, God of all Peace – I turn from the world for just a few moments, to draw strength and comfort from you. Keep me safe, keep me mindful of your great love for me – and that in itself gives me great comfort.

Thank you, in Jesus’ name, thank you.

Amen.

 

Online Sunday Service – 19th July 2020

Good morning all, I hope you are all well. Please find my Sunday Service copied below for any of you who may wish to read it. I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, find a comfy chair, close your eyes and take a deep breath, hold if for a few seconds then exhale – and then read through the service. I hope you will find something, some thought that you can take with you through the week which will give you some comfort at this difficult time.

 

19th July 2020

Online Service

 

Wee glimmers of light are appearing in our everyday lives, like precious stones in the sand – with shops opening, many people back to work and so on.  It’s good news – but there is a warning for us too – be careful, be alert and be aware that a ‘spike’ is very likely to appear in a month or two, so it is incumbent upon each of us to ensure that neither ourselves or our families are caught by the trap of complacency.

 

The language and instructions emanating out of from London and Edinburgh often seem complicated and confusing.  I guess the simple version is Be Safe and Keep safe. I hope and pray that you do.

 

Today I intend to change things around a little, by starting a short series of  looking as some of the Parables of Jesus.

 

The parables of Jesus make up a crucial part of the Bible. Jesus had the wisdom to simplify the profound spiritual truths he needed to share with humanity in the form of relatable stories that are easy to understand.

 

A parable is a tale about a simple, common subject to illustrate a deeper, valuable moral lesson. The source definition of the word “parable” means a placement side by side for the purpose of comparison – as in com-parable.

 

Imagine an  Onion, it has many layers. As you peel off one layer, so you find another beneath, and another layer beneath that – and so on until you reach the centre or “the core of the matter” which is the at the centre of all  life ie God’s love for His people.

That‘s how it is with the Parables.

On the outside it has a simple, relatable meaning – but as you peel away the layers, so the meaning, the message, gets deeper.

 

In those Biblical times it was common for News, Stories etc to be communicated by means of the spoken word – it was an Oral tradition.  No Sunday papers, no magazines just father passing on to son or travelling storytellers passing on the news and other tales.

So it would have been quite normal for people to hear important stories  put in to everyday language, using everyday illustrations eg the Sower in the field,  the weeds, the mustard seed and so on, for the people to understand.

A simple story telling a deeper truth.

.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking and explain the meaning of a number of better known Parables of Jesus.

There are at least 5 Parables in the Old Testament – and we might even look at a couple of those too.

 

I hope you will find it interesting – and perhaps realize the relevance and significance that these old Stories have for the everyday lives of everyday people, such as you and I.

But before that – let us pray ~

Holy, Heavenly Father, we come to you from our different homes, in our different stages on our journey of faith, but united in our wish to learn more about you and your ways – and how we can learn to live as you would wish us to.

Walk with us on our journey, enlighten your Word to us that we might put your teaching into practice in our everyday lives.

 

Bless us father – bless our families and friends too – watch over them and keep them safe, we pray.

 

Lord, I know that I have no right to ask you all these things – more especially when I think of the things I so often do, say and think – things which I know are not in keeping with my claim to be a person of faith.

Forgive me father, teach me, guide me, help me to be a better person, so that I might be a better example to my family and those around me – but most of all, that I may be a good, shining example of a child of God, for that is what I am, in a world which needs as much light and love as we can give.

 

Hear my prayer Listening Lord – and hear me now as I pray with all who are praying to you at this time – the family Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer ~

(note slight change of wording to make it more personal to you)

 

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 me this day my daily bread.. And forgive me my debts as i forgive my debtors.. Lead me not into temptation.. But deliver me from evil .. For yours is the kingdom.. The power and the glory forever…. Amen.

 (read it through again if need be)

 

 

We have 2 Readings this morning ~

Numbers 11 : 4 – 9 – from the Old Testament (O.T.)

Matthew 14 : 13 – 21  from the New Testament (N.T.)

 

In our O.T reading we hear Moses reminding the people of God’s goodness to them – and how – instead of being thankful to God – they were ungrateful and unappreciative of God’s provision to them.

It must be remembered that when the Israelites were led out of captivity from Egypt – many people of other, and of no beliefs came too. Those that didn’t know God.

Moses calls them a ‘rabble’ – and it was this group who were a constant source of complaint and unrest.

 

Perhaps there are those today who don’t know God – and cause unrest and unsettle us in our faith ?

 

 

In our N.T reading we hear of that well known miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.

Well – “we know about that” – you might be thinking – but here’s something you might not know – this is the only miracle – apart from the resurrection of Jesus – which is reported in all four gospels.

 

And it’s probably the best known of all the Parables – so I thought I would begin this short series with it.

 

There is more to this miracle story than Jesus feeding the 5,000 plus from a wee boy’s piece box.

It echo’s gods provision for his people in the desert – as we heard in our O.T reading – but it also tells us ~ well – see what you think it might also be telling us –

 

Let’s read them now ~

Numbers 11 : 4 – 9

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong hunger; and the people of Israel also wept again, and said, “O that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;  but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium (a kind of camphor-gum)  The people went about and gathered it, and ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.

And ~

 

Matthew 14 : 13 – 21

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”

16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”

17 Another disciple, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up “Here is a boy who has 5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

18 “Bring them here,” Jesus said.

19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!

Amen.

 

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

 

SERMON

 

It’s good to see that things are showing signs of getting back to ‘normal’ – whatever that is.

For many, these past few months have been pretty much ‘business as usual’ – and for other’s it’s been a much needed break from an otherwise busy life.

 

With the easing of some restrictions, we might feel that we could do with “getting away from it all” – maybe on some Mediterranean beach   – or even a long weekend in Millport!

 

But getting a break from the usual routine is important.

 

Recharging your batteries – clearing your mind – blowing away all the cobwebs and returning refreshed – is something that does us all good.
As many find by going to church each week – it’s takes our mind off of the ordinary, everyday things of life and gives us something deeper to think about as we recharge our batteries to see us through another week.
So we can sympathize with the apostles in today’s Gospel reading.

Jesus had just heard of the death of His cousin, John the Baptist and was sad and needed to be alone for a while.

 

The disciples had just returned from their very first mission and were exhausted.

They’d put the whole of themselves into this demanding and new work of mission, and they were tired.

And Jesus – always sensitive to people’s needs, calls them to rest and recuperate in a lonely place. To recharge their batteries.

Just what they needed!

So they all jumped into a boat and set off for this lonely place across the water.

Perhaps they had shorts, shades and sunscreen with them – who knows !? – the Bible doesn’t actually tell us that – but one thing is for sure – they were more than ready for a break – for some time away from the pressures of work, from the constant demands and the needs of others.

This was going to be their time to chill.

But unfortunately, the people had other ideas – and when the disciples set off in their boat for their lonely place – everyone decided to follow !

 

It’s a bit like telling my congregation that I am going on holiday to, say, Oban – and everyone decides to go there too, at the same time!  And as much as I love them – sometime you just need to get away.

 

You’d have thought Jesus might have had compassion on His own workers, and say to the crowd something like ~

“Just give us a bit of space will you !?…. You can come back tomorrow, but today we really need to be alone.

We need some time for prayer. Some time just to recharge our own batteries. So go home now and come and find us again tomorrow, we’ll still be here.”

But He didn’t say that.   Rather than having compassion on His own workers, He had compassion on the crowd, because He saw them as sheep without a shepherd, lost and afraid and in need of understanding.

 

So straightaway – He began to teach them – almost as though he couldn’t help himself.

 

And the apostles went along with it – even though they were desperate for a break – they dragged out that last ounce of their resources and helped Jesus as He ministered to the crowd.

 

Jesus talked – Jesus taught – and the people sat at His feet and listened –

 

But time went by – it was getting late.  Tummies rumbled – perhaps there were a few grumbles – like their ancestors before them in the desert – as we heard in our Old Testament reading.

 

The disciples could ‘sense the mood’ – and so they suggested that Jesus send the crowd on their way before it got too late – to buy food and find a comfortable bed for the night in a local village.

But amazingly, Jesus refused. What’s more, He gave His disciples, His weary and exhausted disciples, an impossible task. He said: “they don’t need to go away.

you give them something to eat.”
This wasn’t a case of making a few fishpaste  sandwiches –

Verse 21 tells us that 5,000 men  – plus women and children – were fed that evening !! So it’s thought there were actually around 6 – 7,000 present that day.

 

But we only have  five small loaves and two wee fish” they said  – well – you don’t get much in a small boy’s piece box !

 

Bring them to me”   Jesus said in verse 18.

 

I think that it might have been about now that many of us would have said something like – “look Jesus – I’ve seen you do some pretty amazing things – but there’s no way that 5 wee loaves and 2 even wee ’ er fish are going to feed all these people !!”

 

But none of the disciples said that.

Despite their tiredness, and in the face of common sense, they trusted Jesus.

Even though privately they may have thought it was a waste of time – they followed Jesus’ instructions and waited to see what He would do.
And what they witnessed, amazed and astonished them –He took the bread – just as we do in our Communion services even yet –  gave thanks for it – broke it and then handed it around for all to share in it.

It’s a miracle !” – someone may have shouted – we don’t know – it’s not recorded for us.

But that’s what it was – a wonderful, astonishing, unexplainable miracle – but then, why not !?.. Jesus is the son of God after all !!

*

But  what was the point of this particular miracle?

What lesson is there for us here, today ? –

What else is this story saying to us ?

 

Is it to remind us that through God’s power – amazing and seemingly impossible things can be done from seemingly impossible situations.. ?   Well – yes –

 

Is it to show us that when we put our trust in Jesus – He puts His trust in us ? or is it the other way round ?

Or that He puts his trust in us – hoping that we will respond and put our trust in Him ?  Perhaps it’s both !

 

Does it highlight that when followers of Jesus – follow His word – as the disciples did – even though they didn’t feel like it – or fully understand it – then amazing things can happen ? – yes it tells us that too.

 

All of those are true.

But it is also a very practical demonstration  – showing that  Jesus nurtures and sustains everyone, not just a chosen few.

 

He doesn’t turn anyone away.

He didn’t question the crowd first, to discover whether they’ve reached a suitable stage in their faith or have made a firm commitment in order to receive His goodness –   all were fed………..

 

He didn’t say to his disciples “feed only those who are true believers” – no,   all were fed………..

 

He doesn’t judge anyone, to discover whether or not they’re living the right kind of life. He didn’t say “feed only the righteous” – all were fed………..

 

He doesn’t demand repentance before He offers nourishment. He didn’t say “get them all to show remorse for their sinful ways before feeding themall were fed………..

Everyone who was present, received their fill – verse 20 says – “they all ate – and were satisfied !”.

 

Those hanging about on the edges, just looking but not really taking part – and those anxious to be right in the middle of the action – they were fed.

 

Those content to wait around and let someone else do the organizing – and those who were tired and fed up with it all, and who just wanted to go home to a decent meal and a soft bed – they were fed.

 

Those timid people, who don’t mind mingling with the crowd, but who couldn’t possibly be singled out for any reason – Jesus fed them too.

 

Those who simply followed the crowd. And those who came for a good story or just to be with their friends – they were fed – all received His provision – no questions asked, all were fed.

 

People like us – different people – coming for different reasons. And that’s okay – because no-one is turned away..

 

He caters for us – for you – as you read this service – each with our own personal and very different needs.

 

He knows your needs – your own personal, innermost fears and concerns. He knows how your faith is – whether it’s strong and unshakable or shaky and in need of building up.

He knows if you are fully committed to Him – or if you just manage to fit Him in between other things you feel are more important.

 

And he knows if you have made that decision to give your life to Him – or if you have yet to make that all important commitment.

 

He knows each one of us – He knows that, just like those at the lakeside – we are different – all from different places – different ages – at different  stages in our beliefs and faith, yet the love and care of Jesus – linked with the faith of the disciples – made a miracle come true for each one of them – as He will for us – for you.

 

He transforms our vastly inadequate resources into something deeply enriching and satisfying and filling.

 

Bring yourself to jesus – just as you are – this miracle tells us – however unworthy you may feel –  bring your gifts to Him – however inadequate they may seem – place them in His Holy hands – and then sit at His feet and wait for His transforming miracle.

 

Have faith – this miracle tells us – and you’ll be amazed and astounded at what Jesus can do.
He knows the needs of each one of us – he knows your every need – and he calls you to follow Him to a safe and quiet place within yourself – where He will perform a personal miracle in your heart – as He has in mine – and provide you with all you will ever need.

 

So – here’s the question raised by this passage –

 

Do you believe in miracles ?? –

 

And here’s the challenge

 

Will you put all your trust in Him and follow Him ??

 

Those early followers did – and their lives were never to be the same again –

And that can be true for you – if you give your life – aye – fully give your life to him.

 

Aye – but will you ?

 

Well – that’s in your own hands isn’t it !?………..

 

But I pray that you will – and I pray for you in  our Saviours’ name, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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

 

Let us pray ~

 

 

Dear Lord, you are our great provider – you give us so much, much more we have ever asked for – much more than we could ever deserve – and we give you our heartfelt thanks.

But we know that there are many, aye too many, who do not have the many blessing that we have.

We ask you to watch over them, help and  bless them. Give us a willing heart to search out those in need and help them with their  troubles – and where we my not be able to physically help them, let us bring them to you in our prayers.

 

We continue to remember those who put their own lives to keep us all safe.

The frontline NHS staff – those working behind the scenes – our Police men and women – our Armed Forces and so many more. Watch over them, we pray. Keep them protected and healthy so that they may return home to their families safe and well.

 

Watch over our families too, we pray, and those we love – and those we ought to love.   Remind us that you don’t pick and choose who to love – as we do – you love us all, will all our many faults and failings – how blessed we are!

Help us to find you in our minds and in our hearts, that one day, we will be called into Your home, Your Holy Kingdom, that place of peace and tranquillity – there to live for all eternity. What a wonderfully comforting vision for us to look forward to in this life – as we prepare ourselves for the next.

 

Hear our prayers Listening Lord – for we bring them to you in the name of your only Son, our only hope – Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

WE’RE ALL GOING TO HEAVEN – AREN’T WE ?

AREN’T WE !??

AND I AM FAIRLY SURE THAT CAN YOU THINK OF SOMEONE YOU KNOW WHO WON’T BE THERE WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT THOSE PEARLY GATES ?

HERE’S A WEE POEM THAT SOME OF YOU MAY KNOW ~ IT’S A BIT OF FUN – BUT HOPEFULLY IT’LL GIVE US SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT ~

“I WAS SHOCKED, CONFUSED, BEWILDERED
AS I ENTERED HEAVEN’S DOOR,
NOT BY THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL,
BY THE LIGHTS OR ITS DECOR.

BUT IT WAS THE FOLKS IN HEAVEN
WHO MADE ME SPLUTTER AND GASP–
THE THIEVES, THE LIARS, THE SINNERS,
THOSE ALWAYS ON THE BASH.

THERE STOOD THE BOY FROM SEVENTH YEAR
WHO SWIPED MY LUNCH MONEY TWICE.
NEXT TO HIM WAS MY OLD NEIGHBOUR
WHO NEVER SAID ANYTHING NICE.
JIMMY, WHO I ALWAYS THOUGHT
MOST SURELY WAS IN HELL,
WAS SITTING PRETTY ON CLOUD NINE,
AND LOOKING VERY WELL.
I NUDGED JESUS, “WHAT’S THE DEAL?
I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR TAKE.
HOW’D ALL THESE SINNERS GET UP HERE?
GOD MUST’VE MADE A MISTAKE.

AND WHY IS EVERYONE SO QUIET,
SO SOMBRE? – GIVE ME A CLUE.”
“HUSH, CHILD,” SAID HE. “THEY’RE ALL IN SHOCK.
NO ONE THOUGHT THEY’D SEE YOU.”  J

*

Each one of us has a ‘heavenly’ place waiting for us when this mortal life ends for us. EVERYONE.

But the question is – will you live a life worthy of claiming  your place?          I hope and pray that you do.

*

IT MAKES YOU THINK DOESN’T IT?

AT LEAST – I HOPE IT DOES!!

 

BLESSING

Go with God’s love in your heart – and His hand on your shoulder, watching and guiding you in all you say and do..

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 every day.

Amen.

 

Take care and May God Bless you

And those who you love.

*

Keep safe

Midweek Meditation – Wed 15th July 2020

Midweek Meditation

15th July 2020

Surviving turmoil

 

“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m jumping for joy to my Saviour God.”

–  Habakkuk 3:17-19 from ‘The Message’ Version

 

During the past few months we‘ve experienced a lot of turmoil, both among our circle of friends and family, in our country and in the world.

Friends have lost jobs, families have struggled with relational problems and some may have passed away – and because of the extreme circumstances, they have been denied a decent and meaningful send off.

And we cannot listen to the news without  hearing all sorts of doom and gloom.

It would be very easy for us to become discouraged and not have the inner peace that God desires for us.

We sometimes feel like God isn’t watching – or listening.

But, for all the many bad things we have seen or experienced – many more good things have come out of this pandemic.   Many acts of kindness, caring and innumerable selfless actions by so many.

In Habakkuk we are reminded that God works through all circumstances and we can praise him no matter what’s happening.

His purposes and plans are being unfolded before our eyes and everything is right on schedule.

To coin a modern day phrase: “How cool is that!” What a blessing it is to know that God is in control!

PRAY –

Understanding Father, you know the uncertainties I face in life.  Surround me with peace, safety when I feel surrounded by difficulty and distress. Remind me of your ever faithful presence.

Amen.

 

READ & CONSIDER –  Psalm 23 : 1 – 6

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; how my cup overflows…”

Amen.

 

Take a few minutes to sit quietly and take this all in…

 

*

Have a good day and keep safe.

God Bless.

 

Online Sunday Service – 12th July 2020

SUNDAY SERVICE

Good morning all,

I hope that you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.

Please find this week’s Sunday Service copied below for those of you who may wish to read it.

I hope that you will be able to find the time to make a cup of tea or coffee, pull up a comfortable chair and read through the service, saying the prayers with us.

I hope too, that you will find something which will give you food for thought and some comfort too in these difficult times.

 

12th July 2020

Online Service

 

Good morning folks,

I hope you are keeping well and your spirits are lifted by the few sunny days and promise of more freedom. It’s been quite a roller coaster hasn’t it? And we are being told that there may well be a ‘spike’ over the winter – so safety and common sense must be our priority.

Sadly, many seem to have ‘lost the plot’ and insist on putting themselves, and others, in danger by visiting crowded pubs and beaches, rubbing shoulders with strangers who may well be carriers of the dreaded Covid 19 virus.

It’s a risky business, dicing with death, quite literally. I don’t know about you but I think that for my and my family’s wellbeing, I’ll choose to live in safety , security and sheltered a little longer.

I suppose it’s a matter for each of us to decide – whether to live a safe and secure life – or flirt with danger and so risk the inevitable consequences.

 

Our Lesson for today talks about choosing how we are going to live our lives. It gives us two images, one  of  safe and the other of unsafe living……

 

But before that, let us pray ~

 

PRAYER

 

Heavenly Father ~ we join together to praise you, our great and awesome God.

Lord – you are the God who so loved the world that you created the world and all that is good..

You are the God who so loved the world that you sent your only Son – for us……

Lord, your love for us brings wonder into our hearts as we see the beauty of your creation.

Lord, your love for us brings a smile to our faces as we share the joy of being alive.

Lord, your love for us brings tears into our eyes as we remember the pain you carry for humanity.

Lord, your love for us brings us joy as we remember the new life and hope that is ours through the resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus.

We worship you, O God of love – and we praise you above everything and everyone.

We come to join with our friends and family, wherever we may be this day to sing your praises, and to hear your word to us…….. And we ask that it enters our hearts and our minds – and so helps us to live our faith – rather than mere words or religious rhetoric.

We need your guidance, O Lord, and we pray that you will support us as we try to improve our lives – try to live as a good example of your children .. so that we might draw others to believe in the risen Christ – and be His light, shining in a dark world…..

Forgive us when our faith falters, forgive us our cynicism – our need for hard evidence before we believe…… draw close to us as we come cautiously to you – for fear that your amazing power might be too much for us to comprehend…

 

Loving Lord, we know that we must sadden and disappoint you at times – we know in our hearts that our lives are not as you would wish them to be – yet we find it so hard to change….. Help us Father – help us to make the changes we know must take place if we are to truly be your disciples, here where you have placed me.

Hear our prayers Lord – as we bring to you our prayers of confession for those things which we regret having said or done – asking for your forgiveness….

Hear our silent prayers – in the peace of our silence…

 ……take time to think about something you may have said or done – or thought – which you now regret and  would ask for forgiveness……silently confess them to God…. He hears your words…….

Forgive us father – bless us with your mercy and your grace….. For we ask it in Jesus’ name.

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.

 

We have 2 Readings this morning –

Psalm 30  from the Old Testament (O.T.)

 

Matthew 7 : 21 – 29 from the New Testament (N.T.)

 

Our O.T reading is taken from the lovely book of Psalms – Psalm 30.

It’s a beautiful Psalm of thanksgiving in which we hear the psalmist – almost certainly king David – giving thanks for God’s saving hand in his difficult times.

 

Our N.T reading this morning is that well know text about the two houses – one built on sand and the other on rock.

And before we say ‘Oh – I  know that one’ – be sure to read the words carefully – you might see something you haven’t noticed before !

(the clue is in verse 24……..)

 

Let us read God’s Holy word together –

 

Psalm 30from the  International Standard Version (ISV)

Thanksgiving for Deliverance

V1 I exalt you, Lord,
for you have lifted me up,
and my enemies could not gloat over me.
Lord, my God!
I cried out to you for help
and you healed me.
Lord, you brought me from death;[a]
you kept me alive so that I did not descend into the Pit.[b]

You, his godly ones,
sing to the Lord,
give thanks at the mention of his holiness.
For his wrath is only momentary;
yet his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may lodge for the night,
but shouts of joy will come in the morning.

As for me,
I said in my prosperity,
“I will never be moved.”
By your favour, Lord,
you established me as a strong mountain;
Then you hid your face,
and I was dismayed.

I cried out to you, Lord,
and I make supplication to the Lord:
“What profit is there in my death[c] if I go down to the Pit?[d]
Can dust worship you?
Can it proclaim your faithfulness?”
10 Hear me, Lord,
and have mercy on me!
Lord, help me!

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you took off my sackcloth
and clothed me with a garment of joy,
12 so that I may sing praise to you
and not remain silent.
Lord, my God,
I will give you thanks forever!

And now ~

Matthew 7 : 21 – 29  from the International Standard Version (ISV)

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who keeps saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom from[a] heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, drove out demons in your name, and performed many miracles in your name, didn’t we?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!’”

The Two Foundations

24 “Therefore, everyone who listens to these messages[c] of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not collapse because its foundation was on the rock.

26 “Everyone who keeps on hearing these messages[d] of mine and never puts them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the floods came, the winds blew and battered that house, and it collapsed—and its collapse was total.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying all these things,[e] the crowds were utterly amazed at his teaching, 29 because he was teaching them like a person who had authority, and not like their scribes.”

Amen.

 

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

 

SERMON

 

I don’t know if you saw it – but a while ago there was a programme on the television about houses which were built on cliffs beside the sea – and as the shore line became more eroded – the houses – peoples homes – were crumbling into the water.

And they weren’t just talking about a few inches each year – but in some cases – a few feet !

 

“Why would anybody want to buy a house in such a dangerous position ?” – we might ask – but of course, this problem wasn’t envisaged when the houses were built – they were built on firm foundations and would have been expected to stand for a few generations at the very least.

 

And so – as I was preparing this sermon – and re-read this text, where Jesus talks about the foolish and the wise builders – I immediately thought of that television programme.

 

And in the context of matters of faith – it goes without saying – of course – that we believe that we are the wise builders – our lives are built on a solid foundation – on the rock of our faith….

 

We are okay…………………… aren’t we ??

 

Isn’t it always ‘someone else’ who needs to worry ?…

 

But we should remember that Jesus didn’t just say in v 24 “whoever hears my words is like a wise person who builds his  house upon a rock”…….

 

What He actually said was ~ “whoever hears my words – and puts them into practice !   And that’s something completely different !

 

It’s not hearing the words of Jesus – it’s not even accepting that they’re true – it’s about whether you live out your faith – whether God’s Word makes a difference to your life.

It’s not about being a good church goer who can quote the Bible, Chapter and verse – but cares little for the feelings and lives of others and whose language and actions bear little resemblance to the teachings of our faith.

 

It’s about whether the words, life and promises of Jesus make a difference to who you are – how you live. That will determine if you will stand or fall when tested. .

*

In the first three verses of our N.T reading – we heard Jesus say “there will be those who call out my name – who will say look what I’ve done ! – but they will not be saved – only those who have ‘done the will of the Lord’ will be saved !”

 

So it’s not just about hearing – it’s about doing too.

It’s about putting God’s words into action – practicing what we preach…….

It’s not about what we say

However much we may mean it –

It’s about what we do – what’s in our hearts…

And when we realize that – we see that it is a game changer for people of faith, like you and I….

No longer is our faith – our lives – just  about coming to church – praying – as important as they are to our Christian growth –

No longer is it about talking the talk – it’s about walking the walk

No longer is it about what you wear to church – but about what you do in your everyday life… “outside of the church”…

It’s not just about  knowing the word of God – it’s about living the word of God…

 

*

 

In this world of change – the word of God is the one constant truth on which we should build our lives. That Rock who has stood firm throughout the ages.

Never changing –

The same, yesterday, to day and tomorrow.

 

The wisdom of Jesus is a rock of truth on which we can make decisions and commitments in life.

To read slowly the word of God in prayer each day is to place ourselves on that stable, solid foundation which will give us both insight and compassion in all we do in our lives.

And this is no new message – no modern day revelation – it’s what “having faith”  is really all about… and always has been…

Listening to God’s word – and then going out and putting it in to practise in our every-day – every-moment lives.

As the TV advert would say – Simples!!

*

And so this text challenges us – to build our lives and the firm foundation of the rock which cannot move – as the old hymn tells us.

It tells us that our lives should be grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.

 *

But what does it mean to ‘build your life on the rock which is Jesus Christ ?’

It means reading his word – as found in the Bible…

It means spending time  in prayer each day…

It means praying for others – wanting the best for them…

It means embracing the concept that every person – even those we find difficult to get on with – are precious in God’s eyes…

It’s about realizing that we are not the only ones made in God’s own image.

It’s about forgiving the faults of others– easier said than done I know…

It’s about letting God guide your footsteps along life’s road…

It’s about putting your life and your faith in Him – even when there are clouds overhead and you can’t see or feel God is with you.

Remember the words of Jesus when He said “I will always be with you – aye – always!”…..

It’s about  showing your faith by the way you behave and conduct yourself in all you say and do.

It’s about being humble……

In essence ~

It means being obedient to God’s word.

Obedience is a word which isn’t fashionable these days.

obeying others isn’t so popular as it once was !

We see a lack of respect for authority in society – and we question rather than obey.

Consider this –

Living a good life is important –

Living a Godly life is imperative, essential – if  we are to pass through the very Gates of Heaven, there to rest in peace for all eternity in His glorious Kingdom.

*

I remember of an incident when I was in the Royal Navy – there was a case of a fellow sailor who was very severely punished for a breach of discipline.

So severe was the punishment that it was thought, by some, to be far too severe.

There was an enquiry – and an old sailor who had served for many years in the Royal Navy (“an old salt”) – said – that in his view, the punishment was not too severe.

He held that discipline was absolutely essential – because the purpose of discipline was to condition those in service to automatically and unquestioningly obey orders, and on such obedience their lives might well depend.

He told the Court of an incident when he was in a launch which was towing a much heavier vessel in a rough sea.

The vessel was attached to the launch by a wire cable.

Suddenly in the midst of the wind and the spray there came a single, insistent word of command from the officer in charge of the launch.

‘Hands, DOWN!’ he shouted – and immediately, the crew of the launch flung themselves down flat into the boat – not knowing why.

But, just at that moment, the ‘towing-cable’ snapped, and the broken ends of it whipped about like a enraged steel snake.

If anyone had been caught by it, they would certainly have been instantly killed.

But no-one was hurt – because the whole crew automatically obeyed.

If anyone had stopped to argue or to ask why, they would have met a certain death.

Obedience saved lives……………..

It is that kind of obedience that Jesus demands of us – if we are to be saved…

Jesus commands – we trust and obey…..

In the words of that old Hymn ~

“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey”

Jesus claims that obedience to Him is the only sure foundation for life –

And it is His promise that the life which is founded on obedience to Him, built on a sure foundation – is safe – no matter what storms of life may come our way.

*

Is it going to be easy – no!

Is it going to be worth it – absolutely yes!!

So – let God take you by the hand

Let God take you by the heart

 

Let God lead you into His glorious kingdom – there to remain safe and secure….  In this life – and in the next.

That is His promise to us – you and I – when we live His way…

Will you commit yourself to following Him through your journey of life?

I hope and pray that you will – and I pray for each one of you – in the precious name of Jesus Christ.

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, we give you our thanks for our families and our friends – for those who love us and care for us, for those who make life good.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray.

 

We are so blessed and we offer our gratitude, appreciation and our recognition of all that you do for us and our loved ones.

But Father, we know that there are many in this world, aye, too many, for whom life is not good – and it is these, our brothers and sisters who share this earth with us, that we bring to you in our prayers this morning.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

We pray for those who have so little, while we have plenty.

 

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

We pray for those who cry – while we are content.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

We pray for those who do not have the most basic medical help, while we are blessed with the latest ‘high-tech’ advances that modern technology can offer.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

We pray for those who are hungry and homeless while we have nice homes and our stomachs are full.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

We pray for the situation in CHINA –where many Christians are being ostracized, separated and  persecuted for their faith.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

We pray for those who mourn the loss of a loved one, whose lives seem to be empty of all hope and feel that life no longer has meaning.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

We pray for those places in the world where greed and the need for personal gain is causing conflict – and we pray for those ordinary, everyday people who become embroiled in such conflict, whether on a national scale or a more domestic level – closer to home. Perhaps someone reading this Service this morning knows that pain – Lord, bless them.

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray

 

Be with us listening Lord – as we sit in silence for a few moments – each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayers – for those we know and love.

Be with us lord – in the peace of our silence –

….take time to think of someone you would like God to bless…….. whisper their name(s)…..God hears your words……… 

 

Loving Lord ~  Walk with them – we pray.

 

Walk with each one of us – we pray – For we ask it in the name of our dear Saviour – Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveller who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.

The hungry traveller saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveller left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.

Please share with me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone without hesitation.”

The wise woman laughed. “I have the love of Jesus in me – there is nothing more for me to share with you.

By returning the stone you have shown that your heart is open to His ways too – and that is more precious than anything in this world.”

 

A lovely story – which prompts us to ask –

Is my heart open to live His way ?

Is yours?…

I hope and pray that it is – and I pray for you in Jesus’ precious name.

Amen.

 

Remember –

Living a good life is important –

Living a Godly life is essential…

 

blessing

 

And now –

Go now, and live humbly – walk faithfully.

 

And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father – Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you – be with your families and 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.

*

Look out for my ‘Midweek Meditation’

Posted Online each Wednesday Morning.

 

Have a good week.

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 !
*
Based on Reflections on Life through the 23rd Psalm by Wanda Wood
*
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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