Online Sunday Service – 28th June 2020

28 June 2020

Online Service

Good morning folks,

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

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

But before that – Let us Pray ~

PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

Gracious God, we bring these,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgive me Father – bless me with your mercy and your grace, I pray – and hear me now as I pray the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer –

OUR FATHER..WHO ART IN HEAVEN.. HALLOWED BE THY NAME.. THY KINGDOM COME.. THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN….. GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.. AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS.. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.. BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL .. FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM.. THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER…. AMEN.

We have 2 Readings this morning ~

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

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

 

PREAMBLE TO READINGS

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

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

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

THEIR BEHAVIOUR WOULD DETERMINE THEIR FATE.

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

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

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

READINGS –

 

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

 

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

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

And ~

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

The Need for True Repentance

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

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

The Parable of the Fig Tree

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

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

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

SERMON 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

*

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

 

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

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

 

That too is the ‘promised land.’

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 *

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But Jesus was kind, understanding and compassionate too.

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

 

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

 

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

 

He’s talking about us.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

*

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

 

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

 

But I see it as a good and positive passage.

 

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

 

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

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

 

Who wouldn’t want that?

*

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Perhaps it’ll lead us to ask of ourselves –

Am I the person God wants me to be ?   –  

Am I the person I want to be ??”

 

So many questions – so few answers…

 

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

 

Don’t keep putting it off –

Think about it – pray about it.

 

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

 

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

 

Now that is something for us to think about!…

 

And I pray that you will

 

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

 

Amen.

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

 

Let us pray –

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

Almighty God,

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

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

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

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

 

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

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

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

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

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

 

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

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

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

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

 

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

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

Bless their families too.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

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

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

Lord, in your mercy,

Help us to reach out in love.

 

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

Amen.

 

‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’

 

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

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

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

“No he was not,” answered the soldiers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And all promised to you.

 

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

 

Amen.

 

Blessing

 

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

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

 

AMEN.   

 

Take care and may God Bless you

and those you love.

Keep safe.

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Look out for my Midweek Meditation

Posted Online each Wednesday Morning.

 

Have a good week.