Sunday Services

Service for use at home

1st Sunday after Easter 11th April 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham]                                           

‘The peace of Christ’
Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that your inward eyes may be enlightened, so that you may know how vast are the resources of his power open to us who have faith. – Eph.1,18-19

Collect:
Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Jesus Christ is alive today,

I know, I know it’s true.
Sovereign of the universe,
I give Him homage due.
Seated there at God’s right hand,
I am with Him in the promised land.
Jesus lives and reigns in me,
that’s how I know it’s true.

                                                       Anon

Jn.20,19-3

Dear friends

Who of us can fail to sympathise with the disciples and understand why they hid behind closed and locked doors after what happened to Jesus in Jerusalem? The threat they sought to guard against was real. They knew that in the eyes of the Jewish leadership they were just as guilty as the Lord whom they crucified. That they as his disciples couldn’t expect a more lenient treatment Jesus himself had taught them.
The image of the disciples being locked in, of being locked up by their fears of those who had pursued their master, of being closed in and of closing themselves off from others, speaks to us of experiences that we are all familiar with. Not just in the sense of the natural instinct to guard against external threats, which is a good thing, but in the sense of the ways in which life comes under the sense of being imprisoned and a person becomes locked in to himself, of the way life becomes a thing from which we are separated as by a closed door.

Now when the disciples were gathered behind closed and locked doors on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, it happened that the risen Lord came among them. Appearing to them in body he said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ and showed them that it was really him.
It is difficult if not impossible to imagine just how the disciples must have felt at that moment – we are told that they were overjoyed. But one true way of putting it is to say that it was for them a key moment: that a key was being applied to the disciples which opened them up and unlocked them. Not in the sense that the physical doors which they had locked ‘for fear of the Jewish leaders’ became unlocked. Indeed, we are told that when the disciples were gathered in the same room a week later, they still ensured the doors were locked. But in the sense that they as people and within themselves through Christ’s presence with them received (and experienced) ‘peace’: And what is peace if not a great opening and unlocking? (Think the announcement of peace ending war; or peace ending a feud between brothers/neighbours, etc.)

But what of the peace that Jesus is able to give and does give? We remember his words to his disciples, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (Jn.14,27) The peace that Jesus gives is the great unlocking and opening of the heart (soul, self, person) that is locked into itself and is in hiding – in hiding even before the living God and the light of His truth. Is this not man – hiding from sight, bound to his fears, wrapped up in his own self, unable therefore to be at peace? Is this not man – the creature who needs peace?
Do we not see here precisely the distortion which explains why we put locks on our doors? Why we close ourselves off from the suffering of another? Why we cannot be truly open with one another nor with ourselves, and not with God? Why we are in fear of others and in fear of death?
There is a depiction of this issue in the Bible which describes it in the simplest terms. It is of Adam in the Garden of Eden after the fall. When he and Eve heard God walking in the garden ‘in the cool of the day’ ‘they hid from the LORD God among the trees in the garden’. And because man hid from him, God had to ask, ‘Where are you?’, showing man that he was no longer in the light. The story then continues to tell of Abel’s murder at the hand of his brother Cain, leading to God asking Cain, ‘Where is your brother?’ and Cain replying, ‘Am I my brothers’ keeper?’, showing that man was no longer in love.
What’s described here explains that the reason we need peace is that we are in hiding from God’s light and truth on account of our sins which we don’t want to be seen, and that we close ourselves off from others because of the darkness of our guilt. And ever since, the two questions await the key to the answer that would unlock the truth and light that they seek. What is the key to my being able in openness and freedom to answer: “I am here, LORD, and I am yours”? And to answer for my brother even with my own life?

But this key, dear friends, is what the cross and resurrection of Christ are about, is what they are. The key belongs to him who brings peace. In saying to the disciples, ‘Peace be with you!’, does he not declare forgiveness for the sin of their betrayal, their lack of faithfulness, their selfish fear? Does he not cleanse them of all the unrighteousness that they have displayed? He comes into their hiding (not waiting for them to come out of it!) and says: “Do no longer belong to it, there is no need; I know your sins, I have paid for them; I know your fears, I have faced them, and I know your temptations, I have tasted them, and I have overcome both; even your death I have made mine, and now my life I shall give to you. Now I am with you and you are with me and in me you are children of my Father who is also your Father, my God who is also your God, and His love casts out all fear. What locks you into yourself, closing you to God and one another, your sin, in me is gone, it no longer determines who you are and shall be. What now has the say is God’s grace. And when you let it – and as you do – you will know that I live in you and strengthen you.”
So important was it that the disciples understood and grasped this that Jesus told them a second time, ‘Peace be with you!
And then he sent them out to do for others what he had done for them, to make available to others what he had made available to them. And so that they could, he gave them the Holy Spirit, which meant that what they were to do in his name would through them be done by him, and would be received by faith. But what they were to do was to bring and declare peace: ‘If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’

Dear friends, the gospel of Jesus Christ declares to all who believe that their sins are forgiven – this is the reality of grace which effects the great opening and unlocking of the heart by filling it with the love of Christ. Let us hear the word of grace; like snow remains where it does not melt, so sin remains where it is not forgiven. But all sin is forgiven that is brought to Christ.
If the reality of grace in the risen Lord Jesus Christ is accessed and owned by faith, is not this, then, our foremost need – to entrust ourselves with all our hearts to him who says: “Peace be with you!”
                                                                                                                                                                                          AMEN

Christ, whose glory fills the skies

1  Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
    Christ, the true, the only light,
    Sun of righteousness, arise,
    triumph o’er the shades of night:
    Day-spring from on high, be near;
    Day-star, in my heart appear.

2  Dark and cheerless is the morn
    unaccompanied by Thee;
    joyless is the day’s return,
    till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
    till they inward light impart,
    glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

3  Visit then this soul of mine;
    pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
    fill me, radiancy divine;
    scatter all my unbelief;
    more and more Thyself display,
    shining to the perfect day.

Words by Charles Wesley

 

Lord God, we give you praise for the redemption of your world which you delivered in Jesus Christ according to your promise. Our life meant the death of your Son, for when he assumed our life, he was made to be sin for us. But his death meant for us a new life, because he died so that we should no longer belong to sin and death but live for him. And this life is his life – the one you so gloriously brought to light through his resurrection. Praise, glory and honour be to you! Let us not forget what you have done, that our life is in him and is at peace, so that by faith and obedience we may wait for and see your plan unfold, which is to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

 

- time of prayer / intercession – [we pray for those who have become ill, are fighting illness or are recovering from it, for those who care for the needs of others; for those in positions of leadership and authority: that they may rule wisely and seek peace, that they may guard the values by which a society can flourish, that they may lead with courage and wisdom, for a turning to the light that is God’s Word; for those who have lost loved ones, need comfort into their grieving and the loving presence of friends; we give thanks for all the help we have received and still experience, for grace and answered prayers; we pray for the despondent and the hopeless, for those who seek light, for the wisdom to comfort the suffering; we pray for our sister church in Northern India and for the body of Christ worldwide and here; we pray for God’s blessing on the preaching and teaching of His word, for people to respond in repentance and faith, for freedom and liberty and courage to stand for what is good and true and honours His name; ]

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

 

Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father. Set out, then, on a new life with Christ.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

Palm Sunday in Lent, 28th March 2021,   

JESUS AT THE CENTRE


Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

                                                                                                                              

Jesus wept over the city and said, ‘If only you had known this day the way that leads to peace! But no; it is hidden from your sight.’ – Lk.19,41-42

Collect:
Lord Jesus Christ, on the first Palm Sunday you entered the rebellious city where you were to die. Enter our hearts, we pray, and subdue them to yourself. And as your disciples blessed your coming and spread garments and branches in your way, make us ready to lay at your feet all that we have and are, that we too may bless your coming in the name of the Lord. Amen

Hosanna to the Son of David

You are the King of glory,
You are the Prince of peace,
You are the Lord of heaven and earth,
You’re the Son of righteousness.
Angels bow down before You,
worship and adore,
for You have the words of eternal life,
You are Jesus Christ the Lord.
Hosanna to the Son of David!
Hosanna to the King of kings!
Glory in the highest heaven,
for Jesus the Messiah reigns!

Words and music by Mavis Ford

Lk.19,28-44

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ Some of Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’”

Dear friends

Joy is in the air and celebration! People gather in happy anticipation, filled with the sense that the good days are finally about to return. At the centre of this joyous celebratory welcome is Jesus, who is riding towards Jerusalem on a donkey. The songs and shouts of the disciples and others give the reason for this happy party-mood – the man on the donkey is the long-awaited ‘king who comes in the name of the Lord’, whose coming their Scriptures have foretold.
That he is this king, of this the people are convinced by the miracles they have seen him do or have heard about him. Jesus himself, the man openly at the centre of these celebrations, does not object to this welcome. And this is not out of vanity. When the people had tried to make him king at an earlier stage he had very much refused. But now he accepts the endorsement he receives. Why? It reveals the fulfilment of Scripture. The event witnesses to the fact that what Scripture foretold is now here: God’s Word is here!  This is the reason why he says to the objecting Pharisees, ‘I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

Dear friends, this scenario of joy and celebration by way of contrast may make us the more aware of our own situation and our hope for a return of the good days, for a time whose coming we have been longing for for a while, when we can celebrate and enjoy life without restrictions. Instead, fear and restrictions prevail; we’re told not to celebrate (yet?), any anticipation of better days is not to be exuberant but at best ‘cautiously optimistic’. This perhaps depresses the inclination to seek the joy of Palm Sunday and join in the celebration. Perhaps we think that one cannot really know the joy of Palm Sunday if one does not have the material joy of having a good time (peace on earth, as it were), if, as we now experience it, the external circumstances of our lives lacks somewhat a cause for celebration.
Now, we could let this thought keep us from considering the joy surrounding this man at the centre. But what we should do is let it be helpful to us, in the sense that we let it sharpen and focus our eyes to look at the man at the centre, to turn from the joy we may be lacking to the joy we may be caused to find in the man riding on the donkey.
Let us remember, and hold the thought, that he is none less than ‘the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Should his coming not blessing – blessing of the highest order? Does not the name of the Lord mean all goodness? Should not his coming – the word of his coming, the reason for his coming, the result of his coming – in itself be the cause of a joy nothing else can or does yield nor overcome? The joy of which Jesus spoke to his disciples when he said, ‘Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy’? (Jn.16,22) Should not his coming, then, be the coming of ‘your joy’?

But let us be disciplined here (for want of a better word) and not lose the prospect of this joy straightaway by hanging it on ideas of joys regarding which Christ is irrelevant (or merely seen to be the delivery boy). His coming is not in our name, in the name of our joys and pleasures, but in the name of the Lord, our joy! The rich young ruler lost the prospect of this joy the moment (and for as long as) he decided that his joy was to remain in his possessions.
Of the joy, on the other hand, which the rich young ruler discarded, we have the following witness, Paul: “Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Phil.3,7-8)


In the song (Ps.118,26) the disciples sing announcing the coming of the king – the coming of ‘your king’ – there is an indication of what this coming means and why the joy of this coming should be of a worth surpassing all things, worth even the loss of all things. The indicator is in the words ‘Peace in heaven’. It means, the man at the centre, the king riding on a donkey, is our joy because his kingdom is not of this world, because the peace he brings is about peace in heaven.
How far we may be from recognising this peace, and therefore the joy that is Christ Jesus, appears in the tears that Jesus sheds over Jerusalem as he approaches it. He weeps over the city, because it does not know ‘on this day what would bring you peace’; because they will reject him when they realise that he is God’s claim on them. Not peace in joy and celebration awaits Jerusalem but judgment and death ‘because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’
Do Jesus’ tears not ask us whether we recognise it? Whether we recognise the time of God’s coming? Recognise that God finds our heart in rebellion against Him, refusing to let Him be God, not willing to let him be at the centre of our lives? Whether we recognise that we have no greater need than for peace in heaven, then that we have peace with God?

Only peace in heaven yields the joy that nothing can take from you. In the heart that is at peace with God all strife and rebellion has ceased and fear is driven out, it knows of life’s ultimate and greatest celebration and is a guest at it. Of this Jesus speaks to his disciples when he says: ‘Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ (Lk.10,20)

This peace, dear friends, is the man at the centre of the Palm Sunday celebration and joy, who is riding on a donkey. May we recognise it and in faith acknowledge it to our joy! May we know that he doesn’t ride on a horse because he hasn’t come to judge the people, but that he rides a donkey because he has come to carry the burden of our sin, of our rebellion, of our wilful rejection of heaven, because he has come to bring peace. May we realise that we find our joy as we follow him by faith into his rejection and death on our behalf, thereby being united to him, and into his resurrection to new life, even life everlasting. May you recognise the time of God’s coming to you as through the gospel (for your faith!) Christ is held out to you as the Saviour in whom your sins are forgiven, your death born, your name written in heaven, in whom your soul finds rest and knows the love which drives out all fear. He is your joy. AMEN

Lord God, the joy of knowing and serving you, of being able to say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” is the fruit of the peace Christ has given us, a peace which is beyond all understanding because it is peace in heaven, peace with you. To you be all praise, glory and honour for the joy that is ours through the king who came in your name to take our sins from us in his death and to raise us in him to a living hope and an imperishable inheritance. As the sinfulness of the heart wars with all its might against the knowledge of this joy, give us grace to seek the might of Christ, incomparably stronger, to rule over us and be at the centre, for the praise and glory of your name. AMEN

- time of prayer / intercession – [we pray for those who have become ill, are fighting illness or are recovering from it, for those in the caring professions and for those in positions of leadership and authority over us that they may seek to further justice, rule wisely and guard the values by which a society can flourish, that the course they are on may lead out of the pandemic; for those who have lost loved ones and need the loving presence of friends; we give thanks for the availability of vaccines and for all the help that is given and received; we pray for the despondent and the hopeless, for those who seek light, for the wisdom to comfort the suffering; we pray for our sister church in Northern India and for the body of Christ worldwide and here; we pray for God’s blessing on the preaching and teaching of His word, for people to respond in repentance and faith, for freedom and liberty and courage to stand for what is good and true and honours His name; ]

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

 

Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

5th  Sunday in Lent, 21 March 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham 

Like faith like rule


Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ                                                                                                                             Jesus died for all so that those who live should cease to live for themselves, and should live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life. – 2.Cor.5,15

Collect:
Most merciful God, by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, you created humanity anew. Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross, we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ
 our Lord.

1 He came to earth, not to be served
but gave his life to be a ransom for many.
The Son of God, the Son of Man -
he shared our pain and bore our sins in his body.

King of kings and Lord of lords,
I lift my voice in praise: such amazing love!
But I do believe this King has died for me.

2 And so I stand, a broken soul,
to see the pain that I have brought to Jesus;
a yielding heart will be consoled,
and be made new, the joy of all believers.

3 And from now on, through all my days,
I vow to live each moment here for Jesus;
not looking back, but giving praise
for all my Lord has done for this believer.

                                                                John Pantry (b.1946)

Mk.10,35-45

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Dear friends

What a moment it was for John and James, 2 of the disciples, when standing before Jesus they heard him say the words, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’!
Many times they had heard him say this to people, who then got what they asked of him and went away healed and helped, their faith in Jesus having triumphed. And in fact, not long after this incident Jesus and the disciples meet a blind man as they pass through Jericho, whom he asks the very same question, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (v.51). The man says ‘Rabbi, that I may see’, and as he asks so he receives. Are John and James, therefore, not right to be hopeful in their faith with which they come to Jesus, that they will receive what they ask for? After all, does not Jesus encourage faith in this way when he says to his disciples: ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it’ (Jn.14,13).

This is a pivotal moment in the life of faith: To ask for and receive what Jesus does for us (= what God through Jesus and in Jesus does for us)! But what is that, and how do we understand it? We see that in John and James’s request to Jesus there appears a misunderstanding, a misconception, because it leads him to respond to the two disciples with the words ‘not for me to grant’, and to go on to say to all of the disciples ‘Not so with you’.
But this is a misunderstanding we are all likely to labour under and which we do not see if the word does not teach us to. We mustn’t think that the other disciples are indignant towards John and James because they see as Jesus sees. No, they are indignant only because each of them almost got beaten to it by one next to them!
Now, what John and James, who believe in Jesus, ask him to do for them, is that they may rule with him and be rewarded in the way that they wish.  What we have to recognise here is that in asking for this they have actually understood something, namely that faith in Jesus does mean that they will rule with him and that faith is rewarding. You see, it won’t do to conceive of a Christian (a follower of Jesus Christ) in terms other than this that the One they belong to is indeed the King, who rules and whose rule is everlasting, that they share in his rule over sin and death and his power that is above all powers and that indeed they stand to receive by way of reward all that is the King’s. John and James understand this and get this right. And so must all who believe and have faith.
Where, then, does the misunderstanding come in, and what is the nature of it?
We learn it when we follow Jesus as he explains it to his disciples.
He paints before them a picture of Gentile rulers and of high officials and their authority. It is a picture, thankfully, which we can relate to immediately and as easily as they could. We don’t have to imagine sandal wearing people in tunics who apply themselves to the administrative and governing ways of imperial Rome in order to get Jesus’ picture. We have plenty of examples of our own and they do the job just as well. What the picture expresses is a world in which rule means dominance over others and authority means being first. What we see is a jostling for position, for power, for pre-eminence. We see the desire to be honoured, to be important and influential, to deal with matters of consequence and people of standing, who are not beneath you, to have the say and have it over and before others. But what is such rule and authority? They are precisely such as arise from a motivation and drive that is self-seeking and self-serving. The kind of rule and the kind of authority rife in this world, all the restraints that need to be in place and honours that are insisted on, show that this is the case.

And this is the crux of the matter, the point of the picture. ‘Not so with you’, says Jesus. With this little word “not so” Jesus entirely repudiates the notion that faith in him can be self-serving. What rule are believers to seek? What kind of rule are they to display? The rule they are to seek, the rule they through him share in – his rule – is not about having power over others for self-serving ends, but about the power that gives the freedom to serve and do so in a non-self-serving way. And what honour shall be theirs? Not the honour from man which is one of pre-eminence and of being first, but the honour which is from God which is due those who put themselves last and are willing to carry the burdens of others. And what is their reward? Not something they live for, but something they know to leave in the hands of God because they live for him.

Dear friends, John and James want Jesus to do for them ‘whatever we ask’. It is a faith, as it turns out, that is self-seeking and self-serving. Of this Jesus says ‘Not so’. Because a faith that is self-serving is one that locks us into ourselves, it makes God live and do all things for us (‘whatever we ask’) and it makes us see others in the same way. But faith is a life for God and out of this a life for others.

This being the way of faith, what is the way to faith? Explaining to his disciples the way of faith, Jesus doesn’t leave it at that. In the word, ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’, he points to his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead as that which redeems our lives from its bondage to sin and the fear of death and the evil one and makes us free to live for God through union with him.

Let us not seek whatever we may ask for in a spirit of self-serving interest, but what Christ has done for us in order to save us from our sins so that we may live for God. Indeed, “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1Tim.1,15) AMEN

 

Lord God, yours is the power and the glory. Heaven and earth declare the praise of your name. Indeed, how majestic is your name in all the world! We long to acknowledge it with a pure heart and a simple mind made wise. Have mercy upon us.
Let us not seek for ourselves what is yours and forgive us the self-serving ways in which we turn to you, interested far more in how you are useful to us than in how we might praise your name, trust you and be useful to our neighbour. Our joy in you is small because our selves are so big. And therefore our strength to be last and to serve is weak and so often overpowered by pride and despair. Bring us to our Redeemer in acknowledgement of our sin so that by grace we may be truly changed, because we become the place of his strength. To the praise and glory of your name. Amen

 

- time of prayer / intercession – [we pray for those who have become ill, are fighting illness or are recovering from it, for those in the caring professions and for those in positions of leadership and authority over us that they may seek to further justice, rule wisely and guard the values by which a society can flourish, that the course they are on may lead out of the pandemic; for those who have lost loved ones and need the loving presence of friends; we give thanks for the progress brought about by the availability of vaccines; we pray for the despondent and the hopeless, for those who seek light, for the wisdom to comfort the suffering; we pray for God’s blessing on the preaching and teaching of His word, for people to respond in repentance and faith, for freedom and liberty and courage to stand for what is good and true and honours His name;

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

 

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

 

4th  Sunday in Lent, 14 March 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham  

 

The glory of God and the matter of wisdom

 


Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ

                                                                                                                               

Those who live on the level of the spirit have the spiritual outlook, and that is life and peace.  – Rom.8,6

 

Collect:
Gracious Father, your blessed Son Jesus Christ came from heaven to be true bread which gives life to the world. Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Who would true valour see

Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
one here will constant be,
come wind, come weather;
there’s no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
with dismal stories,
do but themselves confound;
his strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
he’ll with a giant fight,
but he will have a right
to be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
can daunt his spirit;
he knows he at the end
shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away;
he’ll fear not what men say;
he’ll labour night and day
to be a pilgrim.

                                John Bunyan

 

 

Jn.12,20-26

“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir’, they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’”

Dear friends

It was an honour for Jesus to be sought by these Greeks. For consider who “Greeks” were:  seekers after wisdom; they “look for wisdom” says Paul (1Cor.1,22). So for them to seek Jesus and request to meet him is a clear mark of Jesus’ importance and relevance, of the kind of Saviour he is. This is very probably in Andrew and Philip’s mind as they take the request of the Greeks to him. Look! The wise, the lovers of wisdom, have taken notice of Jesus; things are moving in the right direction, Jesus is getting wisdom’s seal of approval and his mission will justify it!
This would have been the expectation, and it reflects a way of thinking that is familiar to us. Are not, after all, the many prizes, awards and honours that we bestow on people, on organisations and projects at seriously dignified ceremonies designed to honour the work and accomplishment of (human) wisdom and skill and drive it forward for the benefit of all? Does not ‘saving’ very naturally belong here? What the wisdom of the wise endorses and approves of, that is worthy of honour. And what we honour, that is marked (and held up) as having wisdom’s approval, as being beneficial, in the grand scheme of things, in the service of human flourishing.

Where in this does Jesus fit, and the gospel? Where salvation? This is really the question that Jesus replies to (not: ‘Will you come and meet them?’). The question is: Will he ally himself, the gospel, faith, to the wisdom of the wise, to those who look for wisdom and believe they know it? Will he go to work by seeking honour from those who make that honour dependent on the approval of wisdom? Will he make common cause with those for whom human flourishing, life, the good are the matter of human wisdom? Will he accept the role of Saviour as offered him by those who honour their own wisdom? Will he do the wise thing and honour the brief and criteria for salvation such as a Nobel peace prize committee, for instance, would draw up?

Jesus’ reply seems almost unconcerned about the Greeks’ request and about an altogether unrelated matter. But that is not the case: the matter of honour is in there and thereby also that of wisdom. “The Hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”   
Yes, Jesus will be honoured in what is about to happen and by what he is about to do. But he, his work (!), is not such as will be honoured by the wise and their wisdom. They will not recognise in Jesus’ next step the way of wisdom, but that of foolishness. He will be honoured by God.
Here, dear friends, we come up against faith’s great dissent from the voice of the world: Not man, but God! Not this is the way to flourishing that we seek honour from each other, have and give honour among ourselves! But that we give honour to God and have honour from Him and with Him. But where is God’s honour? And who is concerned whether they have honour with God?  And who puts wisdom together with God’s honour?
Jesus’ way is one which is honoured by God. It leads not as the Greeks, and the thinking and hoping and trusting that they represent, envisage, to a new apex of human wisdom. It is not a way that the wise in their wisdom, the strong in their strength, the honoured in their honours can join him on and stay the same! For either this way becomes hateful to them or it makes their life in this world of giving and receiving honours hateful to themselves for the sake of having honour with God! For Jesus’ way is to cross and to death.
In the eyes of the wise this compares foolishly to their own wisdom. But what looks foolish in the eyes of the wise and devoid of honour, is not so. Jesus’ way is honoured by God and it honours God. And in doing so it yields what the way of wisdom unconcerned with God’s honour cannot and does not: It yields fruit and flourishing, true wisdom. That’s what the beautiful metaphor is describing: “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
You see, the cross, as it came to be proclaimed by those whom Jesus taught, was the way of procuring the forgiveness of sins and victory over death. That is now had and owned through faith by all who believe in him, which is the way God is honoured, because only God can forgive sins and give eternal life. But it is also the way by which man is saved, and is saved for God’s honour, for a new kind of wisdom.

You see, in Jesus’ way to cross and death appears what only here we can truly behold but without which we will not honour God nor give Him glory: The honour and glory of God.
What is the glory of God, the honour of His name?! Announcing to the shepherds the birth of Jesus the angel and a “great company of the heavenly host” said, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven’ (Lk.2,14). What did these words mean but to say that God’s glory is His freedom to come down all the way into our weakness, sinfulness and darkness and be with us? God’s glory is His bending down in gracious, giving love to sinners in fear of death in order to lift them up and raise them, speak grace to them and give them eternal life. He empties Himself in favour of sinners, to fill them with His glory!
Is not Jesus - Son of God, born in a manger, dying on the cross – just this, God’s glory? “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Phil.2,6-8)

Dear friends, the ‘many seeds’ springing from Christ’s death for sinners is the flourishing of a new wisdom – God’s wisdom – the fruit of which is the compassionate, merciful, self-giving love which bends down to the lowly and lost in order to bind their wounds and bind them to itself. This seed is Christ himself in his life through the Spirit in those who believe on him. In them through faith grows the fruit as they hear the call to follow him and serve not their own glory but the glory of God.
And this we shall know, as we do what Jesus says, that God will honour such faith. In Christ we find what in him we seek.  AMEN

 

 

Lord God, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of who you are for us as you revealed yourself through your Son whom you glorified, is unsearchable. We cannot measure the extent of your love, but in its light we see the limits of our wisdom, the wrongfulness of our pride and the love we have for our own glory. Forgive us our sins. And grant us, we pray in Jesus’ name, that faith in him which moves mountains, so that as his servants we may be where he is – on the side of your glory, serving.

- time of prayer / intercession – [we pray for those who have become ill, are fighting illness or are recovering from it, for those in the caring professions and for those in positions of leadership and authority over us that they may seek to further justice, rule wisely and guard the values by which a society can flourish, that the course they are on may lead out of the pandemic; for those who have lost loved ones and need the loving presence of friends; we give thanks for the progress brought about by the availability of vaccines; we pray for the despondent and the hopeless, for those who seek light, for the wisdom to comfort the suffering; we pray for God’s blessing on the preaching and teaching of His word, for people to respond in repentance and faith, for freedom and liberty and courage to stand for what is good and true and honours His name; ]

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

 

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

3rd Sunday in Lent, 07 March 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham 

 

A matter of discipleship


Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus.

“No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. “  Lk.9,62

Collect:
Almighty God, of ourselves we have no power to help ourselves. Keep us outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With undivided heart

1  With undivided heart and ceaseless songs
give thanks to God.
To Him all majesty and praise belongs:
give thanks to God.
His love and truth proclaim,
His mercy still the same;
and for His holy name
give thanks to God.

2  Exalt His name and His eternal word,
He is our God.
Before His throne our every prayer is heard,
He is our God.
Let kings declare His praise,
sing of His words and ways,
for through eternal days
He is our God.

3  He reigns in glory from His throne above,
He is the Lord:
and in our weakness meets us with His love:
He is the Lord.
His purpose cannot fail,
though fears and foes assail,
His love shall still prevail,
He is the Lord.

Words by Timothy Dudley-Smith

 

 

Readings: 1 Kng.19,1-8 / Ps.34 / Eph.5,1-9

 

Lk.9,57-62

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Dear friends

Faith in God, as his word but also history reminds us, is for doing, it is something “done”. If it is inactive or even counteractive, it is not faith but only the appearance of faith. But how is faith in God “done”? It is done by following Jesus Christ, by being his disciple. Jesus’ summons “Follow me!” is the call of faith and the call to faith to trust God and obey him in the concrete circumstances of one’s life (and all of one’s life).

Now the man in our passage in saying to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go’, shows that he has listened and has understood something, that he has heard faith’s call to follow Jesus. And his decision to follow him is made by faith.
However, in the dialogue that follows between Jesus and this man, and the others, this theme of deciding to believe and follow Jesus is given some surprising attention. All 3 who appear in this encounter and express a willingness to follow Jesus, rather than being welcomed and commended as one might expect, are being sounded out in quite an unexpected way. It looks as though Jesus seeks to discourage them, as though they are not really wanted. This impression is created by the fact that the demands and conditions Jesus attaches to following him seem unnecessarily harsh, even unreasonable. And we suspect that they must be designed to appear to be off-putting so as to prove whether their intention is genuine, rather than that they state an actual demand or an actual condition.
But Jesus does not want to put them off, nor us. The call of faith is open and genuine and it does seek the decision to follow Jesus. But Jesus wants to disabuse them, and us, of illusions and ties that are detrimental to faith and discipleship if left to be. And these illusions and ties are such that we hold them as self-evidently as we do the notion that one needs to have a home in this world and a roof over one’s head, that it is proper to bury one’s dead and good manners to say goodbye to one’s family before heading off.

What is Jesus getting at? Well, it might help if we begin with the question that many might well ask: “Who does Jesus think he is to ask such things of those who are ready and willing to follow him?!” Because, if Jesus is, as many believe he is, a teacher – of wisdom, morality, spirituality -, if following him means you accept some or any of his principles and his teaching and his views on God and you apply them as best you will, if he is an example of a good person that you and I can emulate: then how could it be right of him to demand this level of commitment?! Would a good person demand you don’t bury your father for the sake of following him? Surely that would not be a good person. In this case (if that is who Jesus is) such a demand – and that’s what Jesus’ remarks help us to see plainly – would be deeply improper.
But this would not be the case if Jesus is God’s claim on you, God’s call to you and God’s gift for you, if following him is the only real way of yielding yourself to God and walking humbly with God, if Jesus is God saying, ‘Here I AM; fear not, I have redeemed you, you are mine, and nothing shall separate you from God’s love’, if Jesus is God’s coming into our world and is also the way for man to be with God: then how could it be right not to demand this level of commitment? Anything else would be a commitment of a partial and divided nature! And this would be improper.

What Jesus is getting at is this that faith in God, following Jesus Christ, is not something that is going to be done in a half-hearted way. God wants an undivided heart. Because faith is to operate and bring about changes on the level of last and ultimate things, of last and ultimate loyalties. It has to do with what the heart at bottom and ultimately belongs to and trusts in; it is about life, not aspects of it but life itself, whether it is won or lost, it is a matter of realising that every moment counts because it is relative to eternity.
Being a Christian, being a disciple, is not something any can be ‘a little bit’ in the same way one cannot be ‘a little bit’ pregnant. Being a follower of Christ is not something one can be ‘among other things’ just like one cannot exist ‘among other things’. And this is what the men who are willing to follow Jesus do not truly perceive.
And let’s be honest, can we blame them? Do we think their requests are detrimental to their plan to follow Jesus? Would we not have considered things in the same way?
But the thing is, and this is detrimental, they see God and faith as something that they have to, and can, integrate into their lives, as something that fits in with what’s there and with their orientation and must be reconciled with a range of other commitments. But self-evident as this may appear to them, this is their illusion. Because the consequence of this is that they thereby prevent the changes that faith seeks and enables and that discipleship of Christ is meant to put into place and carry through: No renunciation of the things that tie the heart to the world, no separation or coming out from among a mindset and culture that is governed by death and by the fear of death and is held captive by the sins of the past, and no desire or freedom to walk in new ways, to put off the old (that is the sinful ‘me’) and put on the new (that is Christ).
But all this is what a follower of Jesus Christ is called to, because belonging no longer to the world but to Christ, they are God’s.

Dear friends, we must learn again and anew what it means that “God does not live in temples built by human hands” (Acts 17,24), that faith in God is not like a house among other houses which we sometimes go to before we return to our own house, the sphere of our own say; but that God seeks the devotion of an undivided heart, people who “will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (Jn.4,23); that following Jesus will make us roofless in the world and strangers to the spirit, thoughts and ways that the world is at home in (“our citizenship is in heaven”  - Phil.3,20), that following Jesus will open our eyes to the fact that the past no longer has hold over us and that we shall not be our past as those are that are dying, but that the new has arrived, that in him we are a new creation living by new principles springing from the hope of resurrection in our heart. With Paul we will learn to say: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (Phil.3,12-14).

Yes, we must learn all this. And the way we do this is not by law but by faith, is not by going into ourselves but by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of faith (Hebr.12,2), who has made God’s immense love for us known by laying down his life for us as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1Jn.3,16;4,10) and who has risen from the dead to a new life – one that is now by the Spirit given in him to all who believe. He who has “become for us wisdom from God – that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1Cor.1,30), even He is our learning.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small,
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
                                                                             [Isaac Watt]

AMEN

 

 

Lord God, to you be all praise, glory and honour. We seek to worship you with an undivided heart, in the Spirit and in truth. The world ties us to itself through our desires, our sins have hardened our hearts and blinded us to what lets you be God and what makes us live in your light, even the light of your love. Have mercy on us and make us find our delight in you through the knowledge of Jesus Christ in the forgiveness of our sins, so that it may become the desire of our hearts to follow the example he gave us all and do so in his strength by the Holy Spirit, to your praise.

- time of prayer / intercession – [we pray for those who have become ill, are fighting illness or are recovering from it, for those in the caring professions and for those in positions of leadership as they make decisions about the way out of the pandemic; for those who have lost loved ones and need the loving presence of friends; we give thanks for the progress brought about by the availability of vaccines; we pray for the courage of faith to trust and obey; we pray for God’s people here and throughout the world, for wisdom and love to be light to others and praise for God’s name; we pray for those who bring peace and that we ourselves may be such in our own place;]

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

 

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.

AMEN

 

2nd Sunday in Lent, 28 February 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham  

 

‘The parable of the evil farmers’ – What is the use of the cross?

 


Grace be with you and peace from God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ 

“Come to me and listen to my words, hear me and you will have life. – Is.55,3

 

Collect:
Almighty God, your Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross. Give us faith to perceive his glory, that being strengthened by his grace we may be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings: Is.5,1-7 / Ps.25 / Rom.5,1-11

 

Mk.12,1-12:

Jesus began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard, He put a wall round it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.”
But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So, they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:’ “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes”?’
Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them, but they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

 

Dear friends

The view this parable opens up to us on the state of things between God and his people, and through that on the state of matters of faith and eternity, is perhaps surprising to us and shocking, because we find the picture is filled with conflict and hostility, betrayal and violence. It is also directly pointed at those to whom it is told, announcing judgment as they readily understand.
Indeed, the audience reacts with rage and become themselves the acting agents in the parable. If Jesus had not been on the way to his execution already before telling this parable, he would most certainly have been after telling it. And he knew what he was doing.
In the parable he refers to events in the past, such as the prophets of old, their message and fate, but he also refers to an event yet to come, which in the course of the parable is its climax: and that is his own execution, the cross. The parable, therefore, is crucial for understanding the context in which Jesus’ death occurs and what the use of it is.
Indeed, the most important question of what Christ’s death is useful for appears in Jesus’ end-question and -answer: “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: ‘”The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes”?’ The cross of Jesus brings a development, a state of things, to its climax, but is as such also a turning point, the beginning of something new.

Now the state of things as it stands between God and his people, in the description of the parable, is one marked by hostility towards God and conflict with him, by a lack of the kind of fruit God delights in. That this was the theme of Jesus’ parable was understood clearly by his hearers. To what effect? Well, they were outraged at hearing themselves described as enemies of God, as being in conflict with him, as people who abuse what God entrusts to them, who withhold goodness, righteousness and love from others and maltreat God’s word-bearers, doing all things for their own sakes and their own ends; having every regard, not for what pleases God – like goodness, mercy, truth -, but for what pleases them, even to have for themselves what is God’s. Surely this could be justifiably be said of the Gentiles, of people who do not know God and don’t care for his word, don’t have the temple (don’t go to the synagogue) and are generally given to immoral ways and attitudes…; but not of the people of God, esp. the high achievers – the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders!

Yet this is what Jesus says of them! What do we say? Should we mark this off as a critique aimed exclusively at the Jews? Should we not rather recognise that what appears here is not a national characteristic particular to the Jews, but a human characteristic particular to all?
Should we not understand this when we consider that Jesus died for all, that he was to be “the lamb who bears the sins of the world”, that the cross of Christ was to be preached to all because all by our nature are in need of what the cross achieved?
The context in which the death of Christ occurred is as true of us as it was of those who killed him! Otherwise Christ is not the Saviour of all! The hostility towards God, the betrayal of what God entrusted to his people, the state of being in conflict with God’s will, the violation and rejection of goodness, mercy and truth for one’s own sake: all this led to the execution of the Son of God, and all of this is – my sin.

As Jesus tells the parable, his hearers realise the claim upon them to repent and change their ways, that Jesus’ life and word is God’s claim upon them to do his will. But as the parable goes on to show, they are unwilling and unable to do so, because thy don’t want to give up on possessing the vineyard and having it for themselves; that is, they want to see their desires for what is contrary to God’s will and neglectful of it affirmed and given sanction! Claiming to serve God and be his people and own his ways, they are hiding before themselves the fact of a deep-seated hostility towards God, fuelled by the desire to be in command at their own pleasure and have their ways and wills sanctioned despite their lack of godliness and fruitfulness.

His hearers, enraged to be depicted in this way, then shockingly reveal the truth of it later by executing God’s claim on them to change their minds, throwing “him out of the vineyard” and declaring him hostile and the enemy of God! But did they not thus declare their own hostility?
Dear friends, if this is sin, is not sin, then, familiar to all of us? If hostility is able to masquerade as righteousness, as goodness, as spirituality, as religious insight and understanding, as moral rectitude etc. and be hidden under it, are there any eyes that see in which no speck is found?

Dear friends. What of the hostility towards God? “What will the owner of the vineyard do?” Jesus does not leave the question open or unanswered: “He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” In other words, there must be a killing and a giving. In the vineyard, that is, in the place of those hostile to God and to everyone, there must be “others”. Those “others” we all must become and be! Those “others”, who will bring in due season their fruit of love, mercy, goodness, patience, peace, who love and do the will of God.
And the thing that is “wonderful in our eyes” (when we see it), is that it is the Son himself in whose execution the hostility towards God is born and judged. That is what Jesus goes to the cross for: to be rejected, so as to become the cornerstone of a new, another structure. In him takes place the killing of hostility and in him takes place the giving of the new vineyard.
Will we let the cross of Christ deal with our hostility as we bring it to him in repentance, believing that he died for our sins and gives grace so that we may begin to live for him? Or do we insist on our hostility, rejecting the grace of God as not needed, and wait for the coming of the owner of the vineyard to give us the end of our own will?

Just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. … God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom.5,6-10)  AMEN

 

And can it be

1  And can it be that I should gain
    an interest in the Saviour’s blood?
    Died He for me, who caused His pain?
    For me, who Him to death pursued?
    Amazing love! how can it be
    that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

2  ’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies:
    who can explore His strange design?
    In vain the first-born seraph tries
    to sound the depths of love divine.
    ’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
    let angel minds inquire no more.

3  He left His Father’s throne above –
    so free, so infinite His grace –
    emptied Himself of all but love,
    and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
    ’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
    for, O my God, it found out me!

4  Long my imprisoned spirit lay
    fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray –
    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
    my chains fell off, my heart was free.
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

5  No condemnation now I dread;
    Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
    Alive in Him, my living Head,
    and clothed in righteousness divine,
    bold I approach the eternal throne,
    and claim the crown, through Christ, my own.

Words by Charles Wesley

 

Lord God, we think of your people and how they rejected the word of your prophets time and again, how your call to them fell on deaf ears time and again, and how things culminated in the rejection of your Son; and we think how true it is that we are of the same stuff: that in our own way we do the same and hide from ourselves the hostility which is at work in us preventing the fruit in which you delight and which Jesus manifested so beautifully. But you demonstrated your love for us by sending your Son to die on the cross for us and in him to judge our sins. Merciful and gracious God, open our hearts to the influence of your Spirit that through knowledge of Jesus Christ by faith we may become  in him those “others” to whom the vineyard shall be given, to the praise and glory of your name.

- time of prayer / intercession –

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

 

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you.