Sunday Services

Service for use at home

3rd Sunday after Trinity, 20th June 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham                                           

‘Do you know him?’


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

Have no fear, for I have redeemed you; I call you by your name; you are mine. – Is.43,1

Collect:
O God our defender, when storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid, rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

 

In heavenly love abiding

In heavenly love abiding,
no change my heart shall fear;
and safe is such confiding,
for nothing changes here;
the storm may roar without me,
my heart may low be laid;
but God is round about me,
and can I by dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me,
no want shall turn me back;
my Shepherd is beside me,
and nothing can I lack;
his wisdom ever waketh,
his sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
and I will walk with him.

Green pastures are before me,
which yet I have not seen;
bright skies will soon be o’er me,
where the dark clouds have been:
my hope I cannot measure,
my path to life is free:
my Saviour has my treasure,
and He will walk with me.­
                                                Anna Laetitia Waring (1820-1910)

 

Mk.4,35-41

Dear friends

Jesus’ command to the disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side’, given actually when evening came rather than at a time when the crossing might have been safer, is quite rightly understood when it reminds us that church and faith as fellowship with Christ is a matter of journeying, not of settling down and settling in. It is a reaching for what is to come; the mind is on God and the things of God, not the seen but the unseen. Being church and having faith is being on the way, is being on a pilgrimage. “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebr.13,14) We recognise that the world in a very important way is not our home but the place of preparing us for our true home as we serve God and seek his kingdom. Jesus taught those who would follow him that they would share his experience with regard to this world of being homeless in it: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Lk.9,58) The journeying will be through changing circumstances and happen under varying, often challenging conditions.
In many ways this is counter to, and may even collide with, what’s in us: our longing for permanence and for places to lay our head, for settled situations, for being at home with what we have here; it runs counter to our desire through planning to control developments and outcomes, and not least also with our desire to be free to go where we want.
Yes, Jesus’ words ‘Let us go’ don’t square up neatly and comfortably with such desires and longings, but they call church to be faithful, to follow him, trust and obey him as it faces changing circumstances and conditions which may often cause fear and threaten its purpose – to love and serve God.

Let us look at this passage as it shows us vital truths about the way of the church and the nature of faith in its calling to follow, trust and serve.

After obeying Jesus’ request to ‘go over to the other side’ the disciples soon find themselves in dire straits. A furious storm is threatening to bring everything to an unhappy conclusion. Neither life nor property is safe anymore and their very survival, it seems to them, is at stake.
It is not difficult, nor is it unrealistic or far-fetched, to find in this a description of the church’s experience, and that of faith, as it journeys with the Lord. The boat is being rocked by heavy seas: There is the problem of internal strife and rifts, a falling into sin and the accusation of guilt, a crisis of leadership, financial turmoil and pressure, unreconcilable differences about the way forward, despondency and lacklustre commitment, fear brought on by an uncertain future, facing adverse circumstances, falling numbers and threat of closure, a crisis of faith or a silent drifting away – things and events such as these threaten the life of church and faith.

The disciples, under great pressure, have to react. The question is: what reaction is truly salutary? Or, when is their reaction truly salutary? The answer is: When they turn to Jesus.
However, when they do so they find him asleep and have to wake him up! So you might ask, ‘What is this all about?’ Does it not say (Ps.121): “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”? But here the Lord does exactly that – slumber and sleep while everyone is in a state of panic! However, the fact that he is asleep in this moment of crises, and has let it evolve, provides the opportunity for the disciples to ask this vital question: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” And it is a vital question because what they are asking in other words is this: “Have you no part in our distress and problem? Are you indifferent about the threat we are facing? Unsympathetic towards our weakness and frailty? Are you as lost as we are lost and cannot help?”
This question, you see, is a like a light-beam directed on to exactly what they need to see and grasp: namely, that he has part in their distress, their problem, frailty and lostness, that he is in their place facing what is threatening them; but that he is who he is – lost with them but not lost like them, and who can therefore bring their lostness to an end! Which is what the disciples then experienced: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

But that’s not all. Jesus in turn then asks the disciples something. And again it is a question that intends a vital insight: “He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” In other words what he asks them is:
“Why do you let your fears of what is threatening you carry you away, to thinking that the place of hope and trust is in yourself, to turning your minds away from my word as though it should fail you, letting your minds instead be ruled by your worry and what causes you to panic and lose your way? Do you still not believe that what threatens you threatens me and its dealing is with me? Do you still not believe that what I do and what I say, my work and my word, is for you and is your strength to do what I ask you to and what is needed – to do the will of your Father in heaven whom winds and waves must obey, and do, and so not perish – not at all! – but live?”

The disciples are terrified, understandably, at both what they see and what they hear, and do not answer Jesus’ question. But they ask each other a question which points the way to how they will come to and will be in a place where they shall not be afraid and shall believe – such as to be free to follow, trust and obey. They asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” The question is, then, and the key: Do they know him?!

Dear friends, do you know him? Do you know him who “being in very nature God” (Phil.2,6) let himself be threatened in the way you are, and bore your sin and death so that you might live? Do you know him who made his place with the lost so as to save them? Do you know him who has conquered sin and death and says: Don’t be afraid; just believe (Mk.5,36)? Do you know him who becomes the life of those who follow, trust and obey? To see and learn, by seeking and asking, who the Lord Jesus is and what you have in him, is being on the way. He lives and is no further away from anyone than is his word.
Of a life-plan that is self-driven and self-seeking, captive to fear and sin and oppressed by it, and careless of the will of God, there are myriads of various versions. The only true alternative is the life plan the vision of which is to know the Lord.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in haven and on earth derives its name. I pray that our of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph.3,14-19) AMEN

- time of prayer / intercession – [ we give thanks for God’s mercy and faithfulness, for the compassion and steadfast love he has for all that he has made, that all his judgments are just and righteous, that he is our refuge and the helper of all who call to him;
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, for our church, the church’s leadership; we think of the situation in India, Nepal and other places, the suffering of the people there and elsewhere, the attempt of the authorities to regain control; we give thanks for the help that is being delivered; we pray for the situation in Israel, the rift between the Palestinians and the Jews;  for perseverance in the determination to share our means with those who lack them; 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

Now to him who loved us, gave us every pledge that love could give, freely shed his blood to save us, gave his life that we might live, be the kingdom, power and glory and thanksgiving evermore.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you. AMEN

 

2nd Sunday after Trinity, 13th June 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham          

                                  

‘The kingdom: God in charge’


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

If Christ is in you, the Spirit is your life. – Rom.8,10

Collect:
Almighty God, without you we are not able to please you. Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

The kingdom of God
is justice and joy,
for Jesus restores
what sin would destroy;
God’s power and glory
in Jesus we know,
and here and hereafter
the kingdom shall grow.

The kingdom of God
is mercy and grace,
the captives are freed,
the sinners find place,
the outcast are welcomed
God’s banquet to share,
and hope is awakened
in place of despair.

The kingdom of God
is challenge and choice,
believe the good news,
repent and rejoice!
His love for us sinners
brought Christ to His cross,
our crisis of judgment
for gain or for loss.

God’s kingdom is come,
the gift and the goal,
in Jesus begun,
in heaven made whole;
the heirs of the kingdom
shall answer his call,
and all things cry, ‘Glory!’
to God all-in-all.

Bryn Rees (1911 -83)

Mk.4,26-34

Dear friends

In these parables before us Jesus teaches vital truths regarding the kingdom of God. It is the central theme of Jesus’ ministry and the point of all he says and does. Which ought to make it clear to us that faith, which is the other great theme and corresponds to it, must be understood to be the way in which the kingdom of God operates and in which it is present.

How might we “translate” the expression ‘kingdom of God’ so as to bring out that it is ordered to faith and faith is ordered to it? One thing to help us here is to pose ourselves the question: “How does God come to be in charge – truly in charge - over my life, over his people? How does a new principle come to be at work in me, in his people, which results in obedience to his (the King’s) will?” For the words ‘kingdom of God’ suggest a state of affairs where God is in charge and his will is obeyed. And the place of this and the manner of it is faith. It is the faithful alone who can truly answer the question “Who is in charge here?” with the words: “God is!”

So Jesus’ parables here are about the all-important matter of how God comes to be truly in charge and savingly at work. In view here is not God’s governance over his creation, his sovereign control over all. In this respect there is no question of his being in charge. Nor is in view some form of political realisation of God’s rule through human institutions.
What is in view is the heart of man, our heart, and the question what has charge over it and what is at work in it. That such is in view comes out clearly in Jesus’ words: “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst (within you).” (Lk.17,21) Or in what Paul says to the church in Rome: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom.14,17

What is envisaged when Jesus teaches the kingdom of God is (that there be) a people who do what Satan tried to tempt Jesus away from and what Jesus put to him in response: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”; a people who are done – because they are set free from it – with being captive to the suggestive ways of sin and to the fear of death and to the drive of evil desires; a people whose ruling principle in the heart is love of God and of one’s neighbour; and a people who because such a new principles is at work in them have a sure stake in the coming world of God, will inherit the kingdom of God.
You have, perhaps, like me made the frustrating experience of waiting for a bus to take you home or to wherever your destination lay, only to find that when it finally came it drove straight past you, because it was, as the sign read, “Out of service”. According the biblical account so is the heart of man – it is “out of service” in regard to God. It runs for itself and where it wills, not heeding the destination for which it was made, going after all manner of idols as it serves created things rather than the Creator (Rom.1,25), and is lost to God’s will, purpose and destination – serving love in unblemished righteousness and godliness.

What features in the kingdom parables as the ripe corn growing from the scattered seed and “the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade” growing from the mustard seed “which is the smallest of all seeds on earth”, stands for the good works that proceed from the heart which is “in service”, from the heart, to use an earlier way of describing it, of which God has come to be truly in charge and in which a new God-born principle is at work. It also stand for the end that such engagement in good works leads to – resurrection and the coming of ‘the new heaven and new earth’ (for instance Rev.21,1) of God’s promise.

But now, dear friends, it is the burden of these parables, really, to say something about how God comes to be in charge and the heart to be “in service”. Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a process, to something that is operative, powerful and active. And the point of the first parable is the hiddenness of it. “He knows not how” the seed comes to be a fruit-bearing thing. God comes to be in charge we know not how – that is, our knowing and knowledge doesn’t do it, we don’t do it. Were we to think that it is down to us and the result of our works and our worrying and were we to teach that way, we would join those to whom Jesus says: “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Mt.23,13) God comes to be in charge in a hidden way. Yet this does not mean that he does so without means. The means are his word and prayer. Paul puts it well in his letter to the Corinthians: “What, after all, are we? Only servants through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (1Cor.3,5.6)
The planting and watering refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ through the word of God, preached and taught and heard with prayer. And so God is at work in a hidden way through the word that proclaims Jesus Christ as the Saviour who redeems us from the powers of sin and death and who brings the Spirit of God who dwells in us.

Dear friends, let not the seeming smallness and weakness of God’s word, by which faith lives, deceive you into thinking that God’s kingdom comes and grows in ways other than through Christ by the Spirit, or that God does not come to take charge and instil a new principle in the heart that honours his word. Yes, let us put our hope and confidence in God’s word. For where Christ is, there God is at work, to heal, redeem and save – to make and complete his new creation which says rejoicingly “in service”.
                                                AMEN

 

Lord God, to whom belongs the kingdom and the power and the glory, whose throne is firmly established in heaven and is founded on righteousness and justice – to you be all glory.
Not through coercive measures do you set us free that we may serve you, but in mercy through judgment and grace through Jesus Christ.  And in him through faith we are heirs with him of your kingdom. Grant us by your Holy Spirit in repentance and faith to make use of your word by which these things are held out to us and does your work within us, so that the good works that you have prepared for us to do may issue from our heart to the praise and glory of your name. Amen

 

- time of prayer / intercession – [ we give thanks for God’s mercy and faithfulness, for the compassion and steadfast love he has for all that he has made, that all his judgments are just and righteous, that he is our refuge and the helper of all who call to him;
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, for our church, the church’s leadership; we think of the situation in India, Nepal and other places, the suffering of the people there and elsewhere, the attempt of the authorities to regain control; we give thanks for the help that is being delivered; we pray for the situation in Israel, the rift between the Palestinians and the Jews;  for perseverance in the determination to share our means with those who lack them; 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

Now to him who loved us, gave us every pledge that love could give, freely shed his blood to save us, gave his life that we might live, be the kingdom, power and glory and thanksgiving evermore.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you. AMEN

 

Communion Sunday 06 June 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham    

                                

‘Penitence: Who to wait for and why’


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

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to you through his indwelling Spirit.  – Rom.8,11

Collect:
Almighty merciful God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Deliver us from the death of sin and raise us to new life in him, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Father God, the Lord, Creator

1  Father God, the Lord, Creator,
    by whose hand we all are fed,
    in Your mercy re-create us
    at the breaking of the bread.

2  Christ our Lord, be present with us,
    risen victorious from the dead!
    In Your mercy may we know You,
    in the breaking of the bread.

3  Holy Spirit, God’s empowering,
    by whose life the Church is led;
    in Your mercy, send us strengthened
    from the breaking of the bread.

4  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
    hear our praises – sung and said.
    From our hearts comes our thanksgiving
    for the breaking of the bread.

Words by John Richards

Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; 2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. 3 If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 I wait for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

 

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD

I am grateful, Lord God, to have these words. They give me a voice when I didn’t think I had one or would hope to raise it before you.  I am filled with fear and worry about many things. Much lies in darkness that I wish I could see. The remembrance of the missed opportunities of love and faith lies heavy on my conscience, acts of careless pride and selfishness I know attach to my name as it is known to you. Worst, I can’t seem to help being distrustful of your word, sceptical towards your promises and suspicious of your goodness. Desires for what is not right nor good keep running away with me and I lose my way. I have neglected your will and gone against it, nor can I say in my defence that I didn’t know. And now I serve another will, one which takes away my freedom to walk in your way. When I consider that you are holy and just, that you can not even so much as look at sin, the depths become even more imposing. The more clearly I see that you are holy, the more clearly I see how far short of this I fall (how deep indeed that fall!). Can I come before you, living and almighty God, when all I can present to you is the cry: “Have mercy on me, a sinner”?

 

2 LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy

Lord God, the guilt of my sin is no longer a light matter, brushed aside with a quick acknowledgment of grace and a bit of religious wordery. How such a thing makes a mockery of your name! And how such a thing would leave in place sin’s hold over me! I have abused your name in word, thought and deed, and have I now any right to call upon it? Any right to be heard?
Yet I need you to hear my voice and reach down to me, and have nothing for it other than that you are merciful. I draw on the hope – for which you yourself give reason! – that you help the helpless who call on you, not because of any merit in them but because of the mercy that is in you.

 

3 If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, LORD, who could stand?

Lord God, without your mercy my sin must remain and forever keep me captive. If in your mercy you do not save, I must remain lost.

 

4 But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you

Lord, but you are the Saviour-God and yours are ways to put our sins away from us. And when you do, it is so that we may abandon the ways in which we walk which are contrary to your will. By your mercy we find the beauty and power of your gift of forgiveness of sins, whereby the heart learns to love and serve you and darkness retreats as at the coming of light.

5 I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope

I leave to one side the cheap offers and words that promise relief and ease without addressing -or if, only lightly - the problem of the guilt of my sin and the need to hear God speak the word of forgiveness. I need his word and I need it with all my being, for the burden of my sin is the longing to serve him with all my being. So I wait and let nothing dislodge my hope from where I have put it and where it belongs – in his word.

 

6 I wait for the LORD more than the watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning

There is no exaggerating the importance of waiting for the LORD, of insisting and hoping that he will turn in mercy to the sinner and make a way to reinstate him to full fellowship, to life in the light and heights of grace and peace. And neither is there exaggerating the compassion and faithfulness of God which ensure that all such waiting is crowned with success.

 

7.8 Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins

Therefore, let us all be pointed to Israel’s God, who came to his people to show them his unfailing love and offer them full redemption, as he did through his Son Jesus Christ who bore in his body God’s judgment on sin and was raised from the dead to be once and for all God’s word of forgiveness to all who call on him. Salvation is indeed from the Jews for it was through the Jewish people that came the One (descending as far as the depths would go!) who is the Saviour of all: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4,12)
There is no depth so deep that his love and grace is not deeper still, that his ear cannot hear and his hand cannot reach and save. Christ, the Lord, is the ‘here and now’ of God’s redeeming purpose and will. Let us ‘seek the LORD while he may be found, and call on him while he is near.’
                                                                                                                                                                                AMEN

With all my heart I thank you, Lord.
With all my heart I thank you, Lord.
For this bread and wine we break,
for this sacrament we take,
for the forgiveness that you make,
I thank you, Lord.

With all my soul I thank you, Lord.
With all my soul I thank you, Lord.
For this victory that you’ve won,
for this taste of things to come,
for this love that makes us one,
I thank you, Lord.

With all my voice I thank you, Lord.
With all my voice I thank you, Lord.
For the sacrifice of pain,
for the Spirit and the flame,
for the power of you name,
I thank you, Lord.

Words: Paul Field

- time of prayer / intercession – [ we give thanks for God’s mercy and faithfulness, for the compassion and steadfast love he has for all that he has made, that all his judgments are just and righteous, that he is our refuge and the helper of all who call to him;
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, for our church, the church’s leadership; we think of the situation in India, Nepal and other places, the suffering of the people there and elsewhere, the attempt of the authorities to regain control; we give thanks for the help that is being delivered; we pray for the situation in Israel, the rift between the Palestinians and the Jews;  for perseverance in the determination to share our means with those who lack them; 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

Now to him who loved us, gave us every pledge that love could give, freely shed his blood to save us, gave his life that we might live, be the kingdom, power and glory and thanksgiving evermore.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you. AMEN

 

Trinity Sunday 30th May 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham    

                              

‘You must be born again’
 

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

Can you fathom the mystery of God, or attain to the limits of the Almighty?
 – Job 11, 7

Collect:
Almighty and eternal God, through your Word and Spirit you created all things. In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, you reveal your salvation in all the world. Through your Holy Spirit, you give us a share in your life and love. Keep us firm in this faith, and fill us with the vision of your glory, that we may sere and praise you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

 

1 In the presence of your people
I will praise your name,
for alone you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Let us celebrate your goodness
and your steadfast love;
may your name be exalted
here on earth and in heaven above.

2 All who love you sing your praises
and proclaim your power,
for alone you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
You have not ignored our suffering
but have heard our cry;
may your power be exalted
here on earth and in heaven above.

3 All who seek your rule will praise you
and be satisfied;
for alone you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
All the peoples of the nations
will bow down to you;
may your rule be exalted
here on earth and in heaven above.

                                             Brent Chambers (b. 1948) and Bert Polman (b.1945)

Jn.3,1-17

Dear friends

Jesus is surprised at Nicodemus’ difficulty to understand, or grasp, what he means by saying “You must be born again” as a condition for being able to see and enter the kingdom of God. This is not because Nicodemus doesn’t understand what everybody else does. Being a teacher of Israel, the fact that he doesn’t understand means that the view of God’s renewal, the coming of his kingdom, in Israel is not such that it will easily be recognised. Jesus’ surprise alerts Nicodemus to the fact that God’s recipe of renewal will involve processes which will divide between those who will accept them and those to whom they will seem unacceptable.

Nicodemus’ lack of understanding is not unique to him. We are all listening in on the conversation because the question is relevant to us all: What is God’s recipe for renewal? How does God’s kingdom operate? How does anyone go from “no one can see/enter” the kingdom of God to seeing it and entering it?

Jesus’ answer is, “you must be born again.” Before we go further here, it is necessary to clear up, hopefully, two matters in relation to it which may occupy the mind and urge us to come back at what Jesus is saying in a way which precludes us from taking any further notice. One is that Jesus here makes no exception. It is not just Nicodemus who needs to be born again, but anyone who would have a living, saving faith in God. The ability to see and enter the kingdom of God, in other words the ability to be renewed and become part of God’s coming world and live with hope, in righteousness and without fear, requires the process of being born again. If there is the question ‘Can we not please have a version of faith and kingdom that is Christian without this need of being born again? More people would sign up for Christianity that way!’, then the answer must be as clear as Jesus’ words to Nicodemus – no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
The reticence of the church to state this as clearly as Jesus did may be an acknowledgement that doing it wrong can lead to wrongful claims and cause some to sit in judgement over the consciences of others; but it can also, and is far more often the case, be driven by a desire to mask the truth that we need God to remake us ground-up and wholly.
The other matter has to do with renewal. If what Jesus says here is true, we are prevented from seeing renewal in the church and in our lives, if it is to be spiritual and true, as the outcome of our own planning and our own decision-making processes to which the Spirit of God is incidental. We must be careful not to make the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, a mere word which appears occasionally in announcements and prayers but to whom nothing corresponds in our own lives by way of being conscious that “flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit”, that is, that the Holy Spirit begets spiritual life.

But now let us ask what Jesus’ words ‘You must be born again’ mean. As Nicodemus asks: “How can someone be born when they are old?” (v.4) Jesus’ answer is given in these words: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” Here, then, is God’s recipe for renewal. The thing we need to notice here, is that while Nicodemus thinks that something is being asked of him, Jesus’ answer shows that this is not the case. It’s not about what Nicodemus must do but about what Nicodemus must have done to him and for him. The new birth is not the work of Nicodemus but the work of God for Nicodemus and in his life; it is from above, and it is of water and the Spirit.

But what does it mean, to be “born of water and the Spirit”? Water signifies baptism. And what does the water of baptism mean but cleansing from sin, a dying to who and what I am as one belonging to sin and separate from God, in order that I may rise as a new creation belonging to God as his child, knowing him and living in his ways. The reality of this is created through the death of the Son of God and his resurrection from the dead. Without this, baptism would be nothing more than a mere symbolic act that has no significance other than what we may attach to it culturally. But there in Christ’s death and resurrection is baptism proper. To it belongs the reality that then becomes effective in the church’s life through baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Holy Spirit according to Jesus’ word.
The words ‘born of water and the Spirit’ point and refer to Jesus’ vicarious death on the cross for sinners where he carried out what he symbolically announced in his own baptism in the Jordan (“it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness” – Mt.3,15) and to his promise that the Father will send the Holy Spirit (Jn.14,26).
You see, Nicodemus does not yet realise the place of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead in God’s plan of renewal: that it means our own death to sin, that it dismantles completely what we are because of our sinfulness in order to remake us in Christ’s image, ground up and growing all the way to the finished article – in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus does not yet realise that such renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit in those who believe, that it is not our call to try and save what we are or have across from the old to the new, but that it is our call to seek the Spirit’s leading and enabling to grasp Christ as God’s agent of renewal, to know ourselves as sinners who by ourselves are perishing and know Christ as God’s love through whom we shall not perish but have eternal life, to know and hold fast to it in faith: That “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Dear friends, we cannot determine the direction of the wind, nor whether or not it blows. But we can be out there in the open and set our sails so they catch the wind when and where it blows. We cannot control the Spirit God or direct him according to our will and whims, much as we depend upon his work (and we do so completely!). But Jesus has made known the mind of God in regard to the coming of his kingdom, in regard to our renewal. And he has himself told us to put our sails where the wind shall blow: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk.11,13)                                                                                                                                                            AMEN

(Prayer by R Maurus)
Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire: You the anointing Spirit are, the gifts You impart are sevenfold. / Your blessed unction from above is comfort, life and fire of love: enable with perpetual light the dullness of our blinded sight. / Anoint and cheer our soiled face with the abundance of Your grace: keep far our foes, give peace at home – where You art guide no ill can come. / Teach us to know the Father, Son, and You, of both, to be but One; that, through the ages all along, this, this may be our endless song: Praise to Your eternal merit, Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Amen

 

- time of prayer / intercession – [ we give thanks for God’s mercy and faithfulness, for the compassion and steadfast love he has for all that he has made, that all his judgments are just and righteous, that he is our refuge and the helper of all who call to him;
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, for our church, the church’s leadership; we think of the situation in India, Nepal and other places, the suffering of the people there and elsewhere, the attempt of the authorities to regain control; we give thanks for the help that is being delivered; we pray for the situation in Israel, the rift between the Palestinians and the Jews;  for perseverance in the determination to share our means with those who lack them; 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

Now to him who loved us, gave us every pledge that love could give, freely shed his blood to save us, gave his life that we might live, be the kingdom, power and glory and thanksgiving evermore.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you. AMEN

 

Service for Sunday of Pentecost 22nd may 2021

 Call to Worship for Pentecost

God of wind and fire, When you send your Spirit, we are created anew. God of mighty oceans and still waters, When we receive your baptism, we are born anew. God of bread and wine, When we eat at your table, we are nourished anew. So pour out your Spirit Let sacred waters flow Fill us with holy food. May our hearts and our hands be open wide to receive your gifts of life. Amen.

~ written by Joanna Harader

Hymn MP 67. Breathe on me breath of God (tune Carlisle)

1 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love the way you love,
and do what you would do.

2 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours,
to do and to endure.

3 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
for all eternity.

Prayer and Lord’s prayer.

Acts 2:1-20 The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asiab 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

John 15:26-27 - John 16:4-15

The Work of the Holy Spirit

26“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16:4-15 4I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Hymns 612 and 613 Spirit of the living God

612 Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

Fill me anew, fill me anew.  Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

613 Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.  Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

Sermon.

Prayers of intercession

Hymn MP 673 There is a Redeemer:

Jesus God's own Son,

Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,

Holy One.

Thank you, O my Father, for giving us Your Son and leaving Your Spirit 'til the work on earth is done.

Jesus, my Redeemer,

Name above all names,

Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,

all for sinners slain.

Thank you, O my Father, for giving us Your Son and leaving Your Spirit 'til the work on earth is done. 

When I stand in glory,

I will see His face,

and there I'll serve my King forever,

in that holy place.

Thank you, O my Father, for giving us Your Son and leaving Your Spirit 'til the work on earth is done.

Benediction

 

7th Sunday of Easter 16 May 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham  

                                

Christ ascended


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

If I go and prepare a place for you, I shall come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. – Jn.14,3

 

Collect:
Almighty God, you have raised your only Son to the right hand of your glory, and bestowed on him the name above all names. Assure us that as he reigns with you in heaven so he abides with us on earth to the end of time; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and is glorifies with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Here from the world we turn (MP228)

1  Here from the world we turn, Jesus to seek;
    here may His loving voice graciously speak!
    Jesus, our dearest friend, while at Thy feet we bend,
    oh, let Thy smile descend! ’tis Thee we seek.

2  Come, Holy Comforter, Presence divine,
    now in our longing hearts graciously shine!
    O for Thy mighty power! O for a blessèd shower,
    filling this hallowed hour with joy divine.

3  Saviour, Thy work revive! Here may we see
    those who are dead in sin quickened by Thee!
    Come to our hearts’ delight, make every burden light,
    cheer Thou our waiting sight; we long for Thee.

Words by Fanny J Crosby

 

Sermon on Acts 1,1-11 / Eph.1,15-23

Dear friends

On the morning of the day of Jesus’ resurrection Jesus said to Mary Magdalene who was the first witness and had wanted to embrace the risen Lord when she saw him: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them: ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (Jn.20-17)
With the words “not yet ascended to the Father” he signalled to Mary that the way in which she was seeking to reconnect was falling short of the kind of re-connection that his resurrection meant. Only as the ascended Lord who would thereby enable the coming of the Holy Spirit would he be to Mary and for Mary – and that is believers everywhere and in every time - what he wanted her to have and know: namely, the presence with her of the saving, sin and death conquering Lord, the knowledge of and union with the Father, in him the re-connection of heaven and earth.

40 days after his resurrection his ascension then took place in the presence of his disciples whom he had gathered: “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” (Acts 1,9) And what he had said to them before that was this: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1,8)

When Jesus faded from their view, he did not equally fade from their lives. On the contrary, by ascending into heaven he connected their lives through his person with God and God with them – “my Father and your Father, my God and your God”. Now, because he would send the Holy Spirit, their knowing and loving him would in a far deeper and fuller sense become a knowing of God. This he had taught them when he was with them: “If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (Jn.14,15-20)
In other words, Jesus in his person, having done what he did (i.e. dying for the sins of the world, bearing the judgment that sin deserves in obedience to the will of God), is heaven and earth re-connected. That is what his ascension signifies and what the coming of the Holy Spirit applies and puts in place. And if we ask where this re-connectedness of heaven and earth is manifest, the answer is: it is manifest, in seed-form and following the pattern of the cross, in the disciples and the church which is created by their witness of Christ.

That heaven and earth are re-connected in his person through his death and resurrection means it is accessible to faith.  This means that the way a person is connected with God is by faith in Jesus Christ. This, again, is to say that heaven and earth connect in the believer and that the way that this connection, this state of connectedness, must become manifest is through the believing community because of what it is – the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Eph.1,23).

But now I hear a voice say, and perhaps you do too: “Well, sounds as if faith is all we are left with. If so, we are not really left with much!”  But this is a voice that belongs to someone who does not see that faith is knowledge, is about knowing what God has done and is saying, that it is knowledge of God by God.
This is what is behind Paul’s prayer and is the reason why he prays: “I keep praying that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know.” This prayer is said for those who believe, because their faith is about the reality of Jesus Christ, the reality that is created anew in him, and because it connects them to this reality. The prayer is there because their faith is totally reliant on God making this reality known to them. It is by this knowledge that faith comes to be, is made real and grows.

Let us be reminded by Paul’s prayer for the church what the reality is that faith has access to:
Reality is that through faith in Jesus we have and own the hope that we shall be where he is (“our lives are hidden with Christ in God” – Col.3,3!), shall be remade in his image and share in the glory he has with the Father. Reality is that Jesus will come again and at his second appearance “shall bring salvation to those who are wating for him” (Hebr.9,28). Reality is that God will raise from the dead all who believe by the same power by which He “raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realm”. Reality, too, is that all that Christ is and has, his power and authority, he uses to benefit the church, which he does through the Spirit who guides the church into all the truth that he taught (Jn.16), because he identifies with those who belong to him so completely they are his body – to be heaven and earth reconnected in full as he fills it with gifts and blessings.

Dear friends, we have a Lord who, having come from God and being God, has dwelt among us, has died for our sins, has been raised from the dead and has ascended to the right hand of God. Let us be before God humbly acknowledging our sins and pray that our faith may be informed by the truth of Jesus Christ through the Spirit. Because the faith that is informed by the truth that in Jesus Christ sinner and God are reconciled, heaven and earth reconnected, will abide in the truth.             AMEN   

 

 Lord God, in Jesus Christ you have reconciled the world to yourself. You sent the Apostles to tell us and call us to faith so that we should be reconciled and should live and die as such, knowing that our lives are now hidden with Christ in you. His ascension to your right hand means we know where we belong and where we are going. Forgive us, for Jesus’ sake, our sins which convict us of unbelief and strengthen us in all goodness. Fill us with your Spirit that we may be guided into all the truth you revealed in Jesus Christ and may show it with our lives, to your praise and glory. Amen

 

 

.

- time of prayer / intercession – [ we give thanks for God’s mercy and faithfulness, for the compassion and steadfast love he has for all that he has made, that all his judgments are just and righteous, that he is our refuge and the helper of all who call to him;
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, for our church, the General Assembly, the church’s leadership; we think of the situation in India, Nepal and other places, the suffering of the people there and elsewhere, the attempt of the authorities to regain control; we give thanks for the help that is being delivered; we pray for the situation in Israel, the rift between the Palestinians and the Jews;  for perseverance in the determination to share our means with those who lack them; 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

 

Keep hold of what is good and avoid all forms of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, make you holy through and through, and keep you sound in spirit, soul, and body, free of any fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you. AMEN

 

6th Sunday of Easter 9th May 2021, Christian Aid Sunday, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham           

                                  

Christian Aid Sunday

 


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

Bless the Lord, my soul, and forget none of his benefits. – Ps.103,2

 

Collect:
Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass all understanding. Pour into our hearts such love toward you, that we, loving you above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

 

Christian Aid Week film 2021 featuring Florence



A woman sings a deep, joyful tune. Her song lifts the spirits of the other women on the farm. This is Florence. She is full of life, love and laughter. The women in her farming group look up to her. She’s courageous, kind – a survivor. A few years ago, her husband died, leaving her a widow. At that time, she had no water to grow crops. Her children were hungry. She had to walk for hours on a dangerous journeys to collect water. ‘Life was miserable,’ she told us. Florence could easily have been defeated. But Florence is a fighter, and she shows the women in her farming group that they can be fighters, too. Next to her farm, Florence is proud to show us something remarkable – a dam, full of freshwater. It’s thanks to Christian Aid Week donations like yours that Florence and her community have built this water dam, with the help of our partner ADSE, just a short walk away from her village.

With this dam, Florence can grow tomatoes, onions and chillies on her farm. With this dam, her children can eat healthy, nutritious vegetables. It’s her source of life and joy. Florence also uses the water from the dam to keep honey bees. She sells the rich, golden honey for cash at the market. Now, Florence is reaping a good life for herself and her family. This is all thanks to generous people like you, who have helped provide a dam close to her home. ‘I have been sustained by the earth dam. My life has changed. I am very happy. You can see in my face: my face is shining. I have strength and power.’ You can see Florence’s strength and power as she hauls heavy buckets to water her crops. You can see her strength and power as she digs up the fresh vegetables she has grown. You can see her strength and power as she takes climate justice into her hands. Florence is generous, and she knows other people are struggling to cope with the drought. ‘There is a village nearby – they don’t have an earth dam. They travel for a long way to come to this water point. They are suffering.’ ‘I am thankful to people who have donated to build this earth dam. I am praying God will increase their giving.’ Give today and help more people like Florence stop this climate crisis. Sadly, millions of people in Kenya are desperately struggling to survive the drought. It’s so severe that it was declared a national emergency. You can help another community build a dam. Many more people will have the water they need to sustain their families. Please give generously, and help more people like Florence to thrive.

 

 

1 For the world and all its people,
we address our prayers to God.
            Confidently, all can worship
            in the presence of the Lord.

 

2 All the powerless, all the hungry
are most precious to their God.

 

3 For the poor, God has a purpose,
for the desperate, a word.

 

4 Christ is here, and Christ is stronger
than the strength of sin or sword.

 

5 God will fill the earth with justice
when our will and his accord.

Spanish, from Misa Popular Nicaraguense, engl. Version John Bell

Sermon:

Mi.6,1-8

‘Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.
‘Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.
‘My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD.’
With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

 

Dear friends

The prophetic voice and office has never been silent, nor has it been unnecessary or dispensable. It cannot be said, however, that it has always enjoyed equal access or was taken notice of and consulted. But today there seems more of a readiness again to receive those who speak prophetically. The reason for this being that we have become aware of issues which are perceived to threaten life on a large scale and in big ways, and which invite predictions of what kind of future mankind is heading towards depending on whether or not we understand the signs and do what is right. [Christian Aid works on the premise of climate change as an indicator of injustice.] There is a climate – no pun intended – of uncertainty and foreboding which has called forth many a “prophet” and made many receptive to their assessments, predictions and future scenarios, and remedies.

It ought to be obvious – and this is a lesson the Bible teaches emphatically – that where there is need for the prophetic there is also much scope for the kind of prophetic utterance that is falsely called that. We need to discern between the true and the false.
But the true prophetic voice is the biblical one, because it is God-sent, God-enabled and God-intending. There was a divine certification that authorised the true prophets and their message and it was the fact that their predictions of highly specified events came true. As they said so it came about. This is not of historical interest only, it authorised their message for those that came after.
It is such a prophetic message, therefore, that we have here before us and which Christian Aid has rightly chosen for this day and the period of Christian Aid Week as we consider the fact that things are wrong and how justice may come to prevail.

What makes a prophetic message truly prophetic is its dependence and focus on God’s Word and God’s will. This is of first-rate importance. Because if we evade this, what are we left with? We are left in the hands of those whose assessments and judgments are superficial, whose predictions are crude guesswork and whose remedies fail to penetrate to the level required for true healing.
There is a “prophetic” wisdom, and a reception to match, which relies much more on algorithms and mathematical modelling, for instance, than it does on God’s Word and God’s will; a prophetic wisdom which seeks to instrumentalise God for its own agenda and perceived solutions, and often for the same reason instrumentalises also the victims of injustice and those in need of help.

It is no small part of the prophet’s task, of the prophetic word, to tear through the kind of wisdom which acknowledges God only to use him for its own agenda and to use his Word for the same end, the kind of wisdom that says, ‘We know what is good, let us show you.’ [How often does this kind of wisdom appear in and inform our prayers, when we tell God what is good and then ask him to help accordingly!] But do we know what is good and makes for justice – such that we do it! – apart from realising that we have been shown? Apart, therefore, from realising that when we assess and judge the things that are wrong and not good, we only look at symptoms without seeing the underlying sickness that needs addressed – our departure from the good that we have been shown? Jeremiah, another prophet, points at this issue when he says to Israel: “Consider then and realise how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God.” (2,19)

The prophetic word in the mouth of Micah in a way takes us back to the moment where “it went wrong”, where the departure occurred that has led and does lead to so much that is wrong, to the darkness of injustice and hardness of heart: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

In the word, the direct address to us, translated here as ‘O mortal’ and meaning ‘man/mankind’, lies the serious and profound reminder that helps us see what is at the heart of the departure: That we are not God and therefore not our own makers nor our own or each other’s saviour, that we are not the masters of history nor of our own fate, that God alone is good and He alone is Lord and we answerable to Him; that we are created to be good by receiving His Word and doing His will.

Dear friends, the good that we have been shown and that God our Maker requires of us, means that we recognise much that is unjust, many of the wrongs and ills that mar the beauty that could be; our conscience bears the mark of it and we are spurned on by this to do deeds of kindness and generosity; it is also the reason why our hearts are warmed by examples of ‘chesed’ (Hebrew) – mercy and selfless loving-kindness – and examples of humility and modesty. And yet we need to be reminded of it, because man in his pride has departed from it by assigning to himself the power and right to determine what is and what is not good and to be himself the way of salvation. We need to be reminded by it that this departure is what has brought down justice and righteousness which were meant to be the crowning glory of mankind made in God’s image.
If we would let the prophetic word reach us and open our heart to its message, we must not do the superficial and foolish thing of disregarding the sinfulness of man - the departure from God -, man’s determination to put his own will before that of God. ‘Superficial’ – because this would be like thinking we could have the moment back that the departure happened. (In everyday life we know well the wishful nature of the thought: “If only I could have that moment back…!”) But we must hear it in the light of the truth that God’s Word became flesh and showed us God’s goodness in a new way – in a way that brings the sinner back to what he has departed from – that is, in the light that is Jesus Christ “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Tit.2,14)           AMEN

 

A prayer by Christian Aid's Global Theology Advisor, Bob Kikuyu.
 

Great God,
Who makes the sun to rise, and opens the heavens
Hear the cry of the people
Who sow in hope for rain, but reap only despair
Hear the cry of the people
Seeking shelter from the storm, their hopes and homes submerged
Hear the cry of the people,
When creation is hitting back, with rage and resistance
Give us hope, grant us salvation,
Give us a new relationship with creation
With reverence to tend this gift from You
And say once again of the earth and all you created
It is GOOD.

 

.- time of prayer / intercession – [we pray for God’s blessing on the efforts this week of the volunteers of Christian Aid and give thanks for them, for a plentiful response and the joining in prayer for the cause of God’s kingdom in justice and the will for peace;
 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 think of the situation in India, the suffering of the people there and elsewhere, and give thanks for the help that is being delivered; for unity in the determination to share our means with those who lack them; 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

 

Keep hold of what is good and avoid all forms of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, make you holy through and through, and keep you sound in spirit, soul, and body, free of any fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you. AMEN

 

5th Sunday of Easter 2nd May 2021, Haddington West with Garvald and Morham                                            

‘Remaining in Christ’


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

                                                                                                                               

The Lord has told you mortals what is good, and what it is that the Lord requires of you: only to act justly, to love loyalty, to walk humbly with your God.  – Micah 6,8

Collect:
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Give us grace to love one another and walk in the way of his commandments, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Loving Creator

1 Loving Creator,
grant to your children
mercy and blessing,
songs never ceasing,
grace to invite us,
peace to unite us -
Loving Creator,
Parent and God.

2 Jesus Redeemer,
help us remember
your pain and passion,
your resurrection,
your call to follow,
your love tomorrow -
Jesus Redeemer,
our Friend and Lord.

3 Spirit descending,
your light unending
brings hope and healing,
is truth revealing.
Dispel our blindness,
inspire our kindness -
Spirit descending,
Spirit adored.

Daniel Thambyrajah Niles (1908-1970)

 

Jn.15,1-8

Dear friends

As old as Christianity itself is the question of what authentic Christian faith is and looks like. From the beginning it was challenged by the possibility of the inauthentic. This challenge is one that the church is permanently faced with. To be unaware of this is a mark more likely of the inauthentic than of the authentic.

Jesus here lays out to his disciples the ways and nature of authentic faith. And what he says is meant to be understood both as a guidance and as binding for the church, for its work and its witness. There may not be for the church a task more urgent and necessary than to reflect on these words of Jesus and to apply itself to the instruction found in them. The word “if”, used repeatedly in this passage, signals that there are certain conditions on which an authentic faith depends – conditions which if not met, or if departed from, result in a faith that is of no use or worse a hindrance.

Now the nature of authentic Christian faith is circumscribed here in Jesus’s words to his disciples: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” The main thought here is that of ‘bearing fruit’. That is, it is the output of the life of the believer in as far as it is Christ-like (!) which gives away the presence or otherwise of authentic faith. “By their fruit you shall know them”, said Jesus. And here the question must be: how does such fruit come about?

This question, as it ought to, leads us to Jesus’ use of the simile of the ‘vine and the branches’, referring to himself and his disciples. In this simile the disciples are spoken of as ‘branches’ and taught to understand themselves by way of this image: “You are the branches”.
The branches are the fruit-bearing part of the plant, and the term is therefore very fittingly applied to the disciples. But the crucial thing is this that the fruit-bearing quality or strength of the branches depends on two factors other than themselves. The branches, which are the disciples/the church, are, as it were, “sandwiched” between one thing to their left and one thing to their right without which they produce little, or the wrong kind of fruit, or nothing at all. To the left of what is to bear fruit is the vine, to the right of it the gardener.
The illustration is cleverly chosen because it shows with immediate clarity that authentic faith, the fruit-bearing kind, is not something that proceeds from or stands in ourselves. Prior to the branches there is the vine; there is he who says “I am the vine”, that is, Jesus Christ. He is first and pre-eminent; there is no beginning but in him; he is the source. Before the words “You are the branches”, there are the words “I am the vine”, that is, the word that says what Christ is for us: We can only be those who can do nothing in terms of his command to love one another as he loved us until he mediates to us the fruit of his cross and resurrection – the will of God (gardener!) by the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The connection runs from the vine to the branches, so that any dis-connect must show in a lack of fruit on the branches.

Dear friends, what does this illustration express but our need to order our lives fully towards Christ? To let him be the strength of a fruitful life? To avail ourselves of what he is and what he has done for us? Without this living connection to Jesus Christ, union with him, there can be no Christian faith, no authentic faith. There may be something that has the name, indeed has even the appearance of it, but not something fruit-bearing – “apart from me you can do nothing”, says Jesus.
Like a gardener tends to the vine by pruning the branches so that more fruit be produced, so God tends to the believers’ union with Christ, providing means and ways by which this purpose is achieved. First, God calls and by this call moves a person to become a believer and by putting her trust in Jesus to join herself to him. “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them”, says Jesus (Jn.6,65). Then, second, God calls forth opportunities by one’s response to events and circumstances to deepen faith and grow in one’s union with Christ which otherwise would pale and grow dim and become fruitless. This is according to what Jesus said: “Consider carefully what you hear. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mk.4,24.25)

Dear friends, Jesus above all, in bringing home the point, emphasises the need for the believer/church to remain in him – that is the root and source of authentic faith -, not to let the branch be severed from this vine. If we remain in him, and only if we do, he comes to be in us and we are not “apart from him”, therefore the union will not remain fruitless. Just how much Jesus wants us to know that his saving presence is given with what he calls ‘remaining in me’, is made clear by his words: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” These words also give us the answer to the question of how we remain in him – by letting his word remain in us and by asking in accordance with it: By using the Scriptures to make Christ known to us and by seeking in prayer the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to be made fruitful in our lives, to the glory of God.

                                                                                                AMEN

I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art, my only Trust and Saviour of my heart, who pain didst undergo for my poor sake; I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take. / Thou are the King of mercy and of grace, reigning omnipotent in every place: so come, O King, and our whole being sway; shine on us with the light of thy pure day. / Thou art the life, by which alone we live, and all our substance and our strength receive; sustain us by thy faith and by thy power, and give us strength in every trying hour. / Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness, no harshness hast thou, and no bitterness: oh, grant to us the grace we find in thee, that we may dwell in perfect unity. / Our hope is in no other save in thee; our faith is built upon thy promise free; Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure, that in thy strength we evermore endure.

- 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 think of the situation in India, the suffering of the people there and elsewhere, and give thanks for the help that is being delivered; for unity in the determination to share our means with those who lack them; 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 has shown us such love, and in his grace has given us such unfailing encouragement and so sure a hope, still encourage 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