Ukrainian refugee fundraising – Update

Members of our church and their friends are walking 10,000 steps per day in March to raise money to accomodate Ukrainian refugees in Romania.

We are pleased to announce that 40 Ukrainian refugees are now being safely looked after at the centre in Romania 🙏

These photographs were shared to us by Maria who runs the centre 💖

Every step that has been walked so far and every single penny donated has made this possible 👏👏

Thank you so much to everyone involved!

Please keep donating and walking so we can continue to support our friends from Ukraine 🇺🇦💙💛🙏

Donate here

Church at Home – Sunday 2 May 2021

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School

JAM young adults have a separate programme Breakthru 7:00am-8:00pm
Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of today’s programme.

Baptist Union of Scotland National Prayer Livestream
The monthly prayer livestream takes place tonight, Sunday 2 May, 2021 7.00–7.30pm.  You can access on YouTube.

This service is led today by Rev Gary Torbet

Call to worship: Genesis 12: 1 – 3, Psalm 8: 3 – 4, Intro.

 Genesis 12: 1- 3: The Call of Abram

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

 Psalm 8: 3 – 4:

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them.

Introduction;

We come to worship today a generous God.

We have so many promises that God has made to us, just like the one he made to Abram.

We have God’s generosity in the beauty and wonder of creation

We have God’s generosity in giving us life & breath.

Most of all we see God’s generosity supremely in the giving of Jesus Christ, his one and only Son, to come down from heaven, to show us the way to the Father

And to die for ours sins and be raised to life – in order that we need not fear death for those who are in Christ Jesus.

How should we respond, but in giving our lives afresh to God today – in worship and in praise!

Let us do that now and reflect on all of this as we sing;

Our opening song of praise and worship is:Above all Powers’

Opening Prayer:

Loving Heavenly Father

As we gather for worship today, may we encounter you afresh, by the power of your Holy Spirit, touch our lives today. Wherever we are with you – may you today God give us the Holy Spirit, that as Paul prayed,

“to grow in wisdom and revelation, so that you/we MAY KNOW HIM BETTER.”

Might that be our prayer today that comes from our hearts, hearts that are open and expectant to be touched by you today. That we might know afresh “the hope to which you have called us”.

Thank you for your promises to us, like the promise to Abram, that bring us reassurance in the midst of troubled times. That the beauty of creation and the stars in the night sky will lift our minds beyond our circumstances, to a God who is the creator and sustainer of the universe and who is in control.

Thank you for Jesus and as we reflect on his example, may it inspire us – in the power of your Holy Spirit to be Jesus to the world around us. To generously give our time, our love, our compassion and material possessions to the needy world around us;

Come now Holy Spirit, our prayer is that we want more of you Jesus, may all we do in worship today bring you glory to the wonderful and powerful name of Jesus.

May none of us Lord – whether we are at Panmurefield or on Zoom, leave the same way as we came – change us, mould us Father into your image, we pray.  Amen.

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

All Age Talk   ‘Jesus & Zacchaeus – the generosity of Jesus’, Luke 19: 1- 10

A Little Man with a Big Problem

Have you ever been to a parade where you couldn’t see over the person in front of you? It isn’t much fun to go to a parade if you can’t see the marching bands, the floats, or the fire trucks with their flashing lights, is it? When that happens, a periscope may be just what you need. The periscope has two mirrors in it so that you can look in the bottom and see out the top. It allows you to see over tall objects or even around a corner. Periscopes are used in submarines so that the people in the submarine can see what is happening above the water. I have seen people using these at parades and at sports events where they may have difficulty seeing above the crowd.

Today’s Bible story is about a man who went to a parade, but couldn’t see above the crowd. The main attraction in this parade was Jesus. He had become quite famous because he had performed many miracles. He had raised Lazarus from the dead and had restored sight to a blind man named Bartimaeus, so when he entered the city of Jericho, the atmosphere was very much like a circus parade. People lined the streets hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus. One of the people in the crowd was a man who was very short. He was so short that he couldn’t see above all the people in the crowd. You probably know this man’s name, don’t you? That’s right, it was Zacchaeus. He didn’t have a periscope to help him see above the crowd, but he really wanted to see Jesus, so he climbed a tree and waited for Jesus to pass by.

As Jesus travelled through the streets of Jericho, he came to the place where Zacchaeus sat up in the tree. Jesus stopped, looked up in the tree, and he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I am going to your house today.”

The people in the crowd were shocked! You see, Zacchaeus was one of the most hated men in all of Jericho. Why did the people hate him? Because Zacchaeus was a little man with a great big problem! He was a thief and a cheat! He was the chief tax collector and he had become very rich because he cheated people by collecting more taxes than they owed and keeping it for himself. The people could not believe that Jesus would go to the home of a man like that!

Zacchaeus knew that he had cheated people and when he and Jesus arrived at his house, he confessed and said that he was sorry for what he had done. He said to Jesus, “I am going to give half of all that I own to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Because Zacchaeus was sorry for what he had done and confessed his sin, Jesus forgave him and said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Yes, Zacchaeus was a little man with a big problem — sin! But he met Jesus and his life was changed. It doesn’t matter if you are short or tall, when you meet Jesus, he will change your life too!

Our Father, when we meet Jesus it is a life-changing experience. Thank you for your love and forgiveness. Amen.

If you follow this link you can Children’s activities related to the All Age Talk.

All Age Song – Zacchaeus was a wee little man

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father,

We come with heavy hearts once more to cry to You for the people of India and other countries where the virus pandemic is causing suffering on a scale that was feared might happen around the globe. Thank You for more nations who have resources being willing to assist the government of India in seeking to address this critical situation. Lord have mercy upon them.

We pray too for those countries suffering extreme violence and mass murder and pray for relief that pressure from the international community can be brought to bear on the Chinese government in its treatment of minorities and faith communities, especially the Uighur people group. We pray for Myanmar and the escalation of brutality by the regime that has extended its violence from killing non-violent political protestors around the country, to concentrated attacks on the Christian minorities in the north of the country and now medical staff in hospitals who are treating injured protestors. We pray too for the Christian community in north and central Nigeria where it appears the government has lost control to Islamist militants who raid and pillage at will. Lord have mercy upon them.     

We pray for the young people preparing for their National 5s / Higher & Advanced Higher, or College / University exams. We pray that they may know Your peace at this time.

We pray as people of Scotland go to the polls on Thursday, that no matter which political party wins the election, that something of Your justice, mercy and goodness would be seen flowing in this land. We pray for fair policies and plans, which provide equity, provision and the ability to flourish for all.

We pray for the Baptist Union Accreditation Conference taking place online on Tuesday, as candidates engaged in the early years of some form of church or chaplaincy ministries finish their three year accreditation journey with a final interview. We pray that despite being online, that these meetings will result in wise discernment and be helpful to both the candidates and panel.

We pray for the following chaplains and churches:

Rebekah Sharp-Bastekin (Chaplain, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow) – We pray for Rebekah and the work of the chaplaincy team at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Glasgow as they seek to support patients, their families and the staff at the hospital.  

Dalbeattie BC – We give thanks for the Baptist church in Dalbeattie and pray that they would know God’s presence with them as they meet together and witness to the community.

Dalkeith BC – We give thanks to God for the encouraging weekly fellowship they are able to maintain through technology, as they wait-out the Coronavirus storm at a distance from one another. We pray for them as they begin to consider how they might best ‘reset’ post virus, and move on in ministry in the pursuit of God’s glory.

Dedridge BC – We thank God for preserving a strong spiritual bond between them as a family through on-line study, prayer, book club, Alpha and social evenings. They are particularly conscious of this given early anxieties about more senior folk mastering the technology. We pray for the families that have lost loved ones to Covid, and other illnesses. The present climate with its restrictions has made their passing all the more difficult to bear

We come to pray for the needs in our own congregation:

Heavenly Father,

We bring before You today John and Shona H and other members of their family as they prepare for the funeral on Friday of his mother Jean. We pray that you would comfort and strengthen them at this time.

We continue to remember Mary D as she continues to cope with the ongoing problems with her left hand. We continue to pray for Your strength for Jim and Dorothy G as they cope with ongoing health issues at this time.

We remember Alison A as she copes with a lot of discomfort from torn tendons and a twisted knee. We also continue to remember Sheila and Jim B Betty R, Hamid and Alva D, Fiona Mc, Nicola L’s Dad Lawrie and Margaret – Ann W’s sister, Bill T, and the R family at this time. 

We also continue to pray for a restoration of health for other members of our congregation or members of their families…

We pray too for anyone else with ongoing health conditions and bring them before You now…

We pray for the people whom we cannot visit in residential care, and others who are at home on their own, together with others in our church family who are feeling the effects of increasing age and infirmity…

We continue to pray for those who have been bereaved and ask Your comfort for them …

We now pray silently for anyone else known to us who is in need of our prayers at this time…..

We pray also for our own needs…

We bring all these prayers before you in Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Bible Reading II Corinthians 9:1-15

There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 

For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we – not to say anything about you – would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 

As it is written:

‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures for ever.’

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘God of justice, Saviour to all’

The Message

II Corinthians 9:1-15 The pattern for giving

Introduction

In chapters eight and nine of this letter to the church at Corinth we have a window into one aspect of the life of the Early Christian churches in the Mediterranean world. Here we see what the apostle Paul and his mission teams taught the members of the congregations they planted. They first were challenging to see themselves as part of a community of believers, not just in one local congregation, but as part of a wider Christian family with responsibilities to care for and provide where appropriate for one another.

This fellowship extended across racial and geographical boundaries. Giving was a privilege that was modelled on the example of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Here the issue was famine relief and the necessity of doing what they could to provide for needy brothers and sisters in Judea. In the latter part of chapter eight Paul promoted the importance of integrity in how church life was administered, especially in the area of finance.

He wanted them to be a model of transparency as a public witness in this aspect of their work. In this third and final section on this topic the apostle speaks about the pattern for giving. Is there a regular pattern to this area of Christian discipleship or is it only a focus for intensive fundraising for a limited time when particular needs arise? What did Paul recommend to this local church in Greece, and by extension to later generations of Christian churches?    

1. The organisation of our giving (II Corinthians 9:1-5)

(a)Paul’s scheme was planned in advance (II Corinthians 9:1-2) There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.

It will be no surprise to anyone to find that the New Testament pattern for giving is something that is regular and sustained and the approach to meeting particular needs carefully planned. We might think that this is the only way to do it, and in our cultural context it is natural to think this way, but in the majority world that is much closer in the way of living to the New Testament world many individuals and families live a precarious existence day by day.

There is little many of them can do to plan too far ahead. The congregation in Corinth was untypical in that some of its leader had higher than average incomes and may have been quite well off, unlike the majority of the membership. This small group almost certainly paid the bills as they arose and had complete control of church life. However, Paul wanted to enable the whole congregation here and elsewhere to have a stake in what was going on, including in sharing in financial giving. This fund-raising appeal would accomplish so much more than just raising funds for people in need. It brought both within and between the Early Christian congregations a greater sense of unity and shared purpose as they lived out their faith.

Church life is what we do together. It is not left to a few individuals while others applaud on the side lines. Here the issue is financial giving, but it may be about so many other things from inviting people to attend courses to explain the Christian faith, or engaging in various forms of ministry. We are all in this together. The question to ask is this: what is my part and how can I play it, in seeing this project come to fruition?

When Paul wanted to launch this appeal for the needy in Judea it had first gained the assent of the congregation, presumably at an in person meeting or service. It was a new situation, a crisis that had not been faced before like the covid-19 pandemic is for the vast majority of us today. However, the need had led to creative thinking and better ways of working had emerged. Please pray for our church and others that we may see clearly how God wants us to come out of this pandemic as a church and how we can best live out the gospel and communicate it more effectively to our community.      

(b) It was a team effort (II Corinthians 9:3-4) But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we – not to say anything about you – would be ashamed of having been so confident. 

Paul’s letter was to the whole church, encouraging each person as they were able to contribute to this relief effort. Each member of the congregation could play a part in ensuring this appeal was successful. Why did the Early Church see congregations growing and spreading to all the major cities of the Roman Empire within a generation? It was because each person recognised they had a part to play in evangelism, in living as a disciple of Jesus and working together effectively in a hostile environment.

Certain individuals like Peter, the most prominent public speaker amongst Jewish followers of Jesus; or James the leader of the Jerusalem congregation and the one who chaired the meetings of leaders when key decisions were taken; and Paul the apostle to the Gentiles occupied key leadership positions. Yet it is likely that the majority of those who came to faith in Jesus first heard the good news from ordinary men and women whose names are unknown to us.

Too often in Western Christianity, church life has reflected professional sport where a small number of people are doing the hard work and many more are supporting them from the side lines. If you doubt that, take a closer look at the Sunday attendance and active ministry by members of parish churches compared to the total numbers on the roll. In smaller Evangelical churches a greater proportion of the congregation are active participants, but as we come out of lockdown and beginning to return to something more like normality, it will require each of us to ask ‘what can I do?’ to play my part in proclaiming Jesus Christ in our community.     

(c)People are required to administer it (II Corinthians 9:5) So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

The congregation in Corinth had committed itself to participating in this venture. However, it would only happen in practise if there were people in that local setting who were organised to promote it and willing to arrange the collections in line with what had been agreed. Of course, Paul and his missionary colleagues used this crisis to build stronger ties between these young congregations so that significant good emerged from it that had not been planned prior to the time of famine.

We live in a world where many good and bad things happen that are outside of our control. What matters, though, is how we respond to the challenges before us. It was far from certain how well this appeal would go in Macedonia and Achaia, two provinces of Greece, but through the willingness of Titus and his unnamed colleagues it was a remarkable success.

I thank God for each person in this church, whether through faithful dedication to the same form of ministry or through a willingness to serve in other ways who has stepped forward to make a difference over this very difficult year. May we be sure, though, not to neglect prayer, whether individually or collectively, because it is often the secret of the success of a church’s work when its children and adults are people of prayer.

James, leader of the Jerusalem church in his letter to the Churches reminded us of this in James 5:16b: The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (NIV). Or as the NLT version states:  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. How are you planning to serve in the life of the church in the coming year? Please pray for the forthcoming Deacons’ election that together we may sense God’s leading in this matter. 

2. The nature of our giving (II Corinthians 9:6-7)

How does Paul characterise Christian giving? Obviously in this immediate context the issue is concerned with money, but the principles mentioned here in II Corinthians 9 are much broader than that. Paul highlights two characteristics that should be prominent in our lives as a whole as followers of Jesus. 

(a)Generous (II Corinthians 9:6) Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Paul is speaking here about our spiritual investment in the lives of others on so many different levels. The imagery works whether we are looking at a person planting seeds in their garden or an arable farmer sowing seeds for a commercial crop of grain or some other product. The reality is that not all the seeds sown will germinate. The fruitfulness of the crop reaped at a future date depends on so many factors including the type of soil and the weather. However, the principle being advocated is that the more generous the sowing of the seed, the greater the likelihood of a good harvest to come at a future date.

What is Paul saying in practise to us as individuals and as a Christian church? To reap a future harvest requires investment now. In terms of personal witness and evangelism, the more people we have contact with and with whom we share our faith, in whatever appropriate way, the greater the probability of a response over the medium to longer-term.

If we look at church life and see, for example, the investment we made into Children and Families’ work and youth work five to six years ago, it is most encouraging to note how much has been accomplished. The last year of a virus pandemic has disrupted everything in our society, but although the transition back to normality will not be easy, the principle of spiritual investment to reap a harvest is absolutely correct.

I thank God for the investment we have made in modern technology that has allowed us to hold zoom services and hybrid services in several forms. It has enabled people to participate who could never have done so in person during the last year on health grounds. It has enabled direct contact with mission partners overseas in a way that was not even considered just a short time ago. It is most remarkable what has happened in such a short time, albeit by necessity. The challenge to us as we go forward is this: what is God saying to us about the next stage of our ministries –what investment steps are required for the new situations we will face?

Our Bible verse for the year from Isaiah 43:18b-19: Do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I don’t have simple answers to offer. However, I am encouraging us both individually and collectively to pray that God will guide us in the way to go forward.         

Jesus used the example of the investment of a poor widow in God’s work to teach His first disciples an important spiritual lesson in Mark 12:41-44: Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’  

I am deeply thankful to God for the incredibly generous financial giving in enabling our church to get through this last year. Thank you to each person who has played their part in this important area of our collective life. However, we must never think what we can give not just of finance but of time or abilities is so small it doesn’t matter. Jesus in Matthew 12:42 spoke of the giving of a cup of cold water in His name was an action that would find favour with God. We never know how God might use what you and I have to offer Him.

(b) Willing (II Corinthians 9:7) Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. This was an echo of an Old Testament principle from the time of Moses. Deuteronomy 15:10-11:  Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

The immediate context of these words was to ensure that the poorest people would have their basic needs met in the newly formed nation of Israel as they settled in the Promised Land. The wider context in Deuteronomy 15 was the formation of an economic and financial structure that prevented the kind of appalling injustice seen in the bonded-labour system of modern slavery so familiar in countries like Pakistan today.  However, Paul applies the principle that God wanted them to operate in the nation as a whole to their individual circumstances and by extension to churches as the family of God. Freely, willingly, we invest in God’s work for the good of others and for the glory of God.     

3. The benefits of our giving (II Corinthians 9:8-15)

(a)Personal benefits (II Corinthians 9:8-10) And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures for ever.’ 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 

Now, we do not give with a primary motivation of personal reward as a result. We give because we see a need and want to help meet it. There is no promise from God that His blessing will come in any one particular way. However, the individuals and churches that reflect the heart of our generous God will receive over time abundant blessings as a result of honouring God in this way. In the Old Testament there is the remarkable account of the action of a Lebanese woman who assisted the prophet Elijah during a time of famine (I Kings 17:7-16).

The story whichever way you read is so incredible. First of all, that God chose to use a desperately poor widow in a foreign country to be the means of providing for His servant in a time of crisis. It was not a means Elijah would have ever considered as the way by which God would answer his prayers. Her act of generosity in a time of famine in offering to share her last meal and that of her little child with this stranger is extraordinary. She was almost certainly thinking we are all going to die of starvation anyway there would have been only a bringing forward what was inevitable. However, Elijah had promised her that if she assisted him in this way God would guarantee her supply of oil and flour until life got back to normal. It happened! God honours those that honour Him.

In the New Testament, a story that appears in the gospels of a large crowd of people who had spent the day with Jesus, but had eaten no food that day and appeared to have no prospects of obtaining any for dinner. Jesus asked His disciples what they would do to meet this need. Mental panic was almost certainly the response! Philip, one of the disciples was doing the maths of the cost of feeding all of them and the figures he came up with were sobering. It is impossible to do it was his response. Yet another disciple Andrew took a different line. What could he do to contribute to meeting the need?

He clearly asked people present if they could help. The one person who came forward was a boy with a packed meal of bread and fish and who offered it to Jesus. A single person’s portion of food was on its own of minimal significance in meeting the need. Yet miraculously Jesus took what he offered and fed a vast crowd of people (John 6:1-13).

A lesson would be learned that day that no-one present would ever forget, especially they boy in question. He saw more clearly that day than many adults present, the principle that giving to God willingly and generously what we have can be an incredible personal blessing. Have you and I grasped this principle as we review our pattern for giving to God’s work and as our way of living?     

(b)Church-wide benefits (II Corinthians 9:11-15) (i)It will lead to thanking God (vs 11-12) You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 

I have a feeling that the Corinthians or at least some of the people in that church were of the view that all the effort Paul was putting into raising funds for the famine relief in Judea would accomplish little. How many people would join in and support the appeal? We don’t know the figures raised, but it had the desired effect and covered the cost of the needs of the people concerned in Jerusalem and Judea. The total raised was clearly greater than they had thought possible. It led to a spirit of thankfulness to God that they were able with other believers to meet that need. What some deep down in their hearts had thought was impossible had happened. God has used them to contribute to this answer to the prayers of those in need. 

Take a few moments today to recall and reflect on the thankfulness you felt when your needs were met through the generosity of other people. I expect particular people or situations will come to your mind. 

(ii) It will overflow into the praise of God (v13) Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

The thankfulness of God’s people for the generosity of others in helping meet their needs will naturally overflow into praise of our great and amazing God. In this case the believers in Jerusalem and Judea praised God for prompting Christians they had never met in Europe to provide the means of meeting their needs. Remember Paul’s words of praise to God that overflowed in his letter to the church in Ephesus.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Will you take time today to praise Him for some blessings you have received? Will we, not only individually, but collectively as a church be a people of praise, acknowledging all He has done for us?  

(iii) It will strengthen ties between believers (v14) 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. There are people who come to your mind, and others to my mind, who have helped us in times of need in different ways over the years. There will be people who have become friends as a result of acts of kindness in the past. Living this way, Paul reminds us, will enrich our lives in ways beyond our expectations.

The incredibly poor Christians in the Macedonia region of Greece that gave so sacrificially to help fund Paul’s missionary journeys could not imagine what has resulted over the centuries from their generosity. This month, for example, Christian brothers and sisters in their thousands in northern Myanmar are receiving aid from our Baptist World Alliance as they hide in the jungle after the repeated bombing of their towns and villages by the military regime of that country. Why do we as Christians give in this kind of way? We remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40: Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.       

(iv) It helps us appreciate more our generous God (v15) Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! In the light of His gift of Jesus to us 2,000 years ago, and then for us on the cross, we have a model for living and a pattern for giving of the resources entrusted to our care, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Wonderful Grace’

The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’

Our closing song is: ‘And can it be’

Closing Prayer:

Lord Jesus, we are so thankful for the life You lived that modelled generosity as You focussed Your earthly life in the service of others. As we have been reminded once more in the act of communion, the sacrifice of Your life in our place on the cross was the greatest demonstration of Your amazing love for us. Help us this week and in coming days to be people who take delight in giving to others of our time and our abilities as well as at times other resources entrusted to us. We bring our prayer with all our praises to You, in Jesus’ name, Amen

Benediction:  The Grace

Sunday 18 April 2021 – Church at Home (Tearfund focus)

Our service today is led by Isdale Anderson.

Virtual Sunday School

For JAM young adults, please contact garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of online events.

Baptist Union prayer livestream
The monthly prayer livestream takes place next on Sunday 2 May, 2021 7.00–7.30pm.

Call to Worship

Opening Worship

Opening Prayer

Lord Jesus, we come in Your name to our heavenly Father this morning with joy that You indeed hear our cries. You are the Lord over all the creation You brought into being; but only human beings were created in Your image with the ability to engage in relationships with You. We acknowledge the sense of privilege in the direct access we have to You at this time. We have the wonderful assurance that You take delight in hearing the praises and prayers of us as Your children today. 

We acknowledge that human beings have been given the responsibility of caring for this planet we call our home. We confess that as a race we have not taken this responsibility as seriously as we should. Help us to be wise in our use of the earth’s natural resources and also to think how the choices we make may affect others in less economically privileged parts of the world. We bring our praises and prayer in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

All Age Talk – Your Neighbour is Thirsty
Graeme McMeekin

Good morning, and thank you for your warm welcome! I’m Graeme McMeekin and here on behalf of Tearfund Scotland.  Before I begin, can I also say thank you to those of you who have faithfully supported us whether it be through prayer, financial giving, or committing to a legacy. Your support is so important to us and makes such a difference to lives around the world.

Can anyone tell me what this is…..

It is in fact a tap.  Do you see the string that comes down to the ground?  That acts as a foot pedal!  You press down on the string with your foot and it tilts the container, pouring out water on to your hands.

Do you see the bottle top?  Inside this is a bar of soap on a string.  The bottle top protects the soap from the occasional heavy rains.

If you go around various rural villages in Africa, then you may see this form of tap.  These particular pictures were taken in the south of a country called Uganda in East Africa.  Tearfund have been working with Dioceses of Kigezi and North Kigezi in order to enable access to clean water for villagers as well as to teach them skills for good hygiene such as making these simple taps.

Recently we have heard a lot of focus on how we wash our hands – that we should be washing them for over 20 seconds and singing ‘happy birthday’ twice as we do so.  However for many people around the world, they don’t have access to clean water in order to wash their hands and many don’t know that they can prevent diseases by washing their hands regularly with soap.  That is why this type of training is so important.

Quiz

Let’s have a quick quiz.

  1. What percentage of the Earth’s surface is covered in water?
    71% – if you look at a globe, there is more than twice as much water than land.
  2. How much water should you drink in a day?
    1.2 – 2 litres – the recommended daily amount by the NHS is a minimum of 1.2 litres however in other countries, like the USA the recommendation is closer to 2 litres.  This equates to about 8 glasses a day.
  3. What percentage of our fresh water is on the surface (e.g. rivers and lakes)
    0.3% (the vast majority is found in glaciers, icecaps or underground) – Only a small percentage (about 0.3 percent) of the earth’s water is even usable by humans. The other 99.7 percent is in the oceans, soils, icecaps, and floating in the atmosphere. However, we don’t have access to much of the 0.3 percent because it is under the ground.  Most of our water comes from rivers but the majority of fresh water is actually found underground as soil moisture and in aquifers. This groundwater can feed the streams, which is why rivers keep flowing even when there has been no rain.   
  4. How many people lack a basic drinking water service?
    785 million people (11% of the global population) – Yes, 785 million, that is almost 1 in every 8 people have no basic drinking service.  That is more than the whole population of Europe including Russia!!!

With a staggering 785 million not having access to a basic drinking service, then people are going thirsty and not getting the basic 1.2 litres of drinking water.  Jesus talks about being thirsty.

In Matthew 25 Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes, he will separate people out and will say to the righteous.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”

‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:35-40)

Whenever we quench the thirst of someone who is thirsty then it is as if we are doing this for Jesus.  This is quite a responsibility but one that Tearfund takes seriously.  For many years, Tearfund has been working with our partners to provide clean, safe and accessible drinking water to communities.

One of the ways we do this is by helping people to access some of the water that is underground.  In Uganda, near where we saw the picture of the tap, you can find these small fields. Each of these small fields in the boundaries of the hedges, contains a spring where water naturally emerges from the ground.  Tearfund has worked with our partner to put drainage into these areas that capture the water and enables it to go into pipes that flow into the tank in the upper right hand side of this picture.

This water then flows down pipes to help people like Scovia and her children who are able to access water from the taps further down the hills.

Whilst we can get water from the ground, another way can be from catching the water that falls.  In Rwanda, rain can be unpredictable and when it does fall, it falls very quickly causing floods.  Tearfund have been able to work with our partner AE (African Enterprise) on a project funded by the Scottish Government in order to help families capture some of this water.

When it rains, the rain water is caught in these gutters and instead of flowing into a drain, like we would normally do in this country, the water flows into this large 10,000 litre tank.  This water is then filtered in the tank and can be used as drinking water or for the animals or irrigation so that they can grow crops.  We call this Rainwater harvesting and can be a real lifeline to communities.

Later in our service, I’ll be talking to the adults a bit more about water and particularly about the situation in Ethiopia.  For now we just want to pause for a moment and thank God for the water that he has provided and pray for those who don’t have as easy access to it as we do.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus,

We thank you for water.  We thank you that it is so useful in growing crops and refreshing us on a warm summer’s day.  We thank you for the work of Tearfund’s partners working with communities around the world to enable them to access clean, fresh water.

Lord, we pray for those people who have too much water that it floods their land making it difficult to farm and grow crops for their everyday needs.  We ask that you will strengthen them, comfort them and give them wisdom in how to use this abundance of water.  Likewise we pray for those that  don’t have access to the water that they so desperately need.  We also ask that you strengthen them, comfort them and draw people around them that will help them to access this much needed water. Amen

Song: ‘Give thanks to the Lord our God and King’

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father,

Once more we acknowledge with gratitude the contribution to the life of our country of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the loyal and faithful husband of our Queen Elizabeth II. We thank You for giving the strength needed to his family yesterday for his funeral. We continue to remember them in our prayers asking for Your comfort for them at this time.

We are thankful, but also relieved to see the further easing of lockdown measures in our country. We deeply appreciate all those whose dedicated service to our country has enabled us to navigate safely to this point in time, and pray that further progress in the journey towards a restoration of a more familiar way of life can be our experience in the coming days.

We pray today for those managing rural estates and other popular tourist destinations who may face challenges managing large numbers of people visiting their areas in the coming weeks. We hope and pray that all of us as citizens can be trusted to care for and respect the natural environment and that the dreadful scenes of littering of the countryside last year will not be repeated this summer.   

As this week sees school pupils return full-time and many more shops and leisure facilities begin to reopen we pray for wisdom for those managing these times of change. We pray too for churches as leaders and congregations plan and prepare for restarting more in-person services and ministries in the coming weeks. 

We pray for the following chaplains and churches:

Al Nicoll (RAF Chaplain) – We pray for Al as he support chaplains from all three armed services who deploy on military operations across the world, particularly with the added complications caused by periods of quarantine before and after long periods away from loved ones.

CBC Community Church – We give thanks for CBC Community Church in Crookston, Glasgow and ask You to bless them as they meet as a fellowship, whether online or in-person and as they continue to be Your witnesses to their local community.

Crown Terrace BC, Aberdeen – We thank God that they have been able to establish a regular online presence with services and groups which support people within and out with the fellowship. We pray for God’s guidance for the future and where they should concentrate their resources to have the greatest impact for the Kingdom.

Culduthel Christian Centre – We give thanks that the church remains united despite the pressures of lockdown and that they have had opportunities to be creative in pastoral care, discipleship, worship and mission. We give thanks that they have seen new believers added and have many asking when they can be baptised. We ask in our prayers for them in rebuilding their youth and children’s ministry which has suffered from a lack of face to face ministry during lockdown

We also continue to pray for a restoration of health for other members of our congregation or members of their families…

We pray too for anyone else with ongoing health conditions and bring them before You now…

We pray for the people whom we cannot visit in residential care, and others who are at home on their own, together with others in our church family who are feeling the effects of increasing age and infirmity…

We continue to pray for those who have been bereaved and ask Your comfort for them …

We now pray silently for anyone else known to us who is in need of our prayers at this time…..

We pray also for our own needs…

We bring all these prayers before you in Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God’

The Message
Graeme McMeekin Tearfund

My name is Graeme McMeekin and I am the Head of Tearfund Scotland.  I would like to tell you about the work of Tearfund before we go on any further.   Tearfund works primarily through the local church in order to unlock people’s potential to end poverty.  There are three main ways in which we do this.

The first is through Church and Community Transformation.  This is where we work with the local church in order to identify what the needs are in the local community, to work alongside the community in order to identify the needs, the responses and the potential within that community. Then the church works with the community to set up new programmes, new businesses and new entrepreneurial activities. Most of this work starts through Bible Studies – by doing Bible Studies with the local community that show what the needs are in the community, both spiritually and physically but also how God can use the little that they have already.

The second area of our work is our advocacy work.  Now advocacy work looks different in different places around the world.  In Scotland it might be in working alongside the Scottish Government or Westminster government in order to mitigate for and tackle climate change.  Climate change has a huge effect on those living in poverty around the world and we will find out more about that later on.  As we move towards COP26, the UN summit on climate change that is due to take place in Glasgow in November 2021, we want to work together to reduce some of the effects of climate change.

We also do advocacy work around the world.  In rural areas, it might be about lobbying the local government to build a road so that villagers can get food to the market.  Our advocacy work can look quite different in the various places.

Tearfund are also involved in humanitarian work.  Over the last few months it has focussed on the COVID-19 pandemic and how we respond with water, soap and hygiene work in various places. These include refugee camps such as Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh which is one of the world’s largest refugee camps or in places like Columbia where we are providing food programmes for those who cannot get out to work due to lockdown arrangements. We have also worked in places with Tsunamis and cyclones. We have recently been working in Ethiopia where a plague of locusts have been infesting the Eastern side of Africa over the last year.

[Ephraim Tsegay – Ethiopian Country Director]

Praise be to the Lord for who He is, His greatness and majesty!  The year 2020 has been a quite challenging time, as we all know it has been a very difficult year.  In Ethiopia it has been, as I call it, a cocktail of disasters, complex problems and climate-change induced crisis.  In Ethiopia we had recurring droughts, we had flash flooding, desert locust infestations combined with the effects of COVID-19 and also over 114 inter-community conflicts taking place since 2018 according to our Prime Minister reports.  All this have undermined the livelihoods of those living in Ethiopia.

These crises have resulted in pushing the most marginalised people, those with disabilities, the elderly, and children into the brink of collapse. With this compounding crisis, millions of people were internally displaced in Ethiopia.  Thousands of innocent people were killed.  Millions of people have also lost their lives and the cost of living has soared upwards. 

If you see the desert locust infestation, this is what you see in Afar region.  It was devastating and ravaged animal feed and crops that we have in Ethiopia.  We also have had the challenge of flooding in the same region.  It was recurring in just a couple of months.  Following also we have had the conflict in the Tigray region.  More than 4.5 million people are in need of emergency response/aid, including about 2.2 million in the Tigray region.  Also the number of cases of COVID-19 in Ethiopia is increasing.  It now [at the time of recording] has the second highest number of cases in Africa, following South Africa. 

All these affect the work we are doing in Ethiopia and it impacts the progress that we have made over all these years in our Church and Community Transformation approach and our Self-Help Groups, our economic sustainability and our emergency approach.  However we didn’t lose our hope.  Why didn’t we lose hope?  Because the Bible says that the excellence of power is from God and that whilst we may be troubled on every side, we may be despised and distressed, we are persecuted but not forsaken.  We are not cast down or destroyed because of the power of the Lord.

We also had some really encouraging things in Ethiopia that give us a source of hope.  Our source of hope was really the joy in communities, when we serve communities – when they have access to water.   It really was our joy, such as when we have installed solar-powered borehole pumps in the Afar region where people do not have access to clean water.  This is the time when we see drought affected communities, impacted by climate change, but we are able to bring clean water through solar-powered pumps in Afar.  This was also our source of joy in the last year.

Also, the sacrificial giving of our supporters, their commitment to serve communities affected by COVID-19 was also a source of hope last year.  We have had hope in the midst of the wilderness and this crisis of a cocktail of disasters in the last year, but there was hope for us.  There was hope because of His power, the work we see in communities, because also our supporters standing with us, because also of the teamwork and collaboration in Ethiopia.

The Bible in 2 Kings 3, talks about the three kings that went to fight together against Moab.  Similarly we in Ethiopia together, with colleagues in the UK and colleagues in the region, were able to work together and support many communities come out of abject poverty in Ethiopia.  That was also a source of hope.

Regularly prayer, having a mindset of prayer, like the harpist in the Bible.  In 2 Kings, before the word comes to Elijah, the harpist was there giving thanks to the Lord and praising the Lord.  He was in the middle of the wilderness, in the middle of a difficult situation where people really had no water for themselves or their animals, he was giving thanks.  The regular devotion, the prayer, the giving thanks was also our source of hope over the last year despite the cocktail of disasters in Ethiopia.  The Bible says from nothing to plenty of water.

So it was a challenging year with this crisis, this cocktail of disasters but praise be to the Lord that we are able to renew our hope because of who He is.

Thank you and God bless you.

[Graeme]

Today I would read to you from Matthew 25, starting to read at verse 34.  This is the parable of the sheep and goats where Jesus is telling this parable of a king who separates the sheep from the goats and he goes on to say the following:

‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”

40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

It is quite an incredible passage whenever we read it – ‘whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me’. Whenever we meet people’s needs – their hunger, their thirst or visiting them in prison, whatever those needs might be it is as if we are doing it to Jesus himself.

One of the things that has struck us in that passage in particular is the references to thirst.  ‘I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink’.

I live in Renfrew and work in Glasgow, both of which are on the banks of the Clyde river. 

The Clyde is one of the many rivers that are flowing throughout Scotland.  We have an abundance of water and it is often through the abundance of rain that comes.  We don’t really understand what thirst is.  We don’t really understand what thirst is because there is always access to that water.  For many of us it is just a few steps to our nearest tap and we can just turn the tap and get that water.

For many people around the world it is just not the same.  For 785 million people, that is about 1 in 8 of the world’s population, don’t have local access to clean water.  That means that they have to travel hours and hours for their basic needs.  Water for drinking and cooking needs, never mind the needs around cleaning that we have become so accustomed to because of coronavirus.  They just don’t have access to the water.

Some of our team in Tearfund Scotland travelled to Ethiopia just before the pandemic and the travel restrictions came into force.  They were in the North-East of the country in an area known as the Afar region.  They met someone called Orbisa and I would like you to watch this short film and hear a bit more about her story.

Film

[Voiceover]

Your neighbour is thirsty, but there is a solution and there is hope.

For many people in the north of Ethiopia, the impact of climate change is devastating. They used to expect rain up to four months a year, but now it only falls in August. People do not have enough water to survive – it is an issue of life or death. And for families, like Orbisa’s, everyday life is a real struggle.

[Orbisa]

My name is Orbisa and I have nine children. Life is very challenging here, we have no food and are dependent on our livestock for our livelihood. Whenever there is no rainfall, our animals die as there is no grass or water. This affects our lives significantly. We will not get money or have milk to drink. We have no other option.

When it rains, I only need to walk five minutes to collect water, but these water sources are now dry. Every night, I walk for ten hours to collect water from a lake. The walk is dangerous, I can face wild animals such as hyenas and leopards. There are crocodiles in the lake.

The water I collect is not sufficient, I am only able to collect a third of what my family needs each day. We need most of it for drinking, but sometimes it is not enough and my family has to go to bed thirsty. I feel extremely sad whenever I cannot provide water for my children.

We used to get rain every four to five months, the area was very fertile and green. But now, the length of the dry season is increasing. It hasn’t rained for six months and I don’t know when it will rain next. It is God who knows when the rainfall will come. I worry about my children and my family. I worry about the small livestock which are remaining. I feel worried whenever I think about the future.

If we could get water access in our village, this would change things for me. This is the first and most important thing that would give me hope.

[Voiceover]

Orbisa’s story is, sadly, all too common. Forced to find any kind of water, more people are getting sick and their livestock – their only source of income – are dying due to lack of water. Because of climate change, the area has become even more dry and arid, like a desert. People are suffering and many are giving up hope.

But, there is good news. Tearfund is changing lives, by working with local partners to set up solar-powered wells that will provide clean water closer to communities. This will help to restore hope and give new life for all who live there.

[Tearfund Partner]

Afar is one of the hottest areas on our planet and rainfall is very meagre. In the last ten years, the droughts are now increasing from year to year. Households used to depend on the water from the river. During dry season, those streams dry up and then availability of water is very, very difficult. Tearfund has started now working with FSA, creating access to potable water, drilling boreholes and developing water supply systems near their village. Their lives are being changed, they are getting water and they are seeing the love of Jesus. When we provide water for these communities, we are changing the lives of the coming generations too. The young people – the children – their lives will change, definitely, when we provide water for them.

[Voiceover]

£12 per month, for a year, could provide 12 families with access to a life-saving water source, giving hope and a future to communities, like Orbisa’s. Please donate now: www.tearfund.org/thirst

Afar is in the north-east of Ethiopia and is a very hot, dry, remote place. It’s not a particularly well-visited place – even Ethiopians from other parts of the country don’t really like to go there.  Teachers and contractors are sent to Afar, stay for a few days, then leave. People tend not to stick around. Afar is home to nomadic people who keep goats and camels.

As I said, some of my colleagues from Tearfund Scotland spent some time in Afar and when they were there they were surprised at how everyone seemed so lethargic.  Everyone was just sitting there because they had just enough water to survive and no more.  It was here that they met Orbisa, and her family. They sat with Orbisa and she told them about her life.

In the past, if her family needed water, they would only have to go a short distance, a five minute walk to find a source of water, perhaps to a river, or a stream.  However, over the past five years or so, due to climate change the water has dried up. Throughout the region there are many riverbeds, the earth now cracked and dry where there would once have been water. The rainy season that could be expected for perhaps three or four months of the year is now down to just one short season.

Orbisa spoke about how they have been waiting year after year for things to go back to the way they were – but it never does. The situation is only getting worse, as the impact of climate change wreaks havoc on the environment and on the land. She is feeling the effects of climate change in the here and now.

Because of this, Orbisa now has to set off at around 4am, each day, on a round trip that takes up to ten hours in order to fetch water from the nearest water source. And this is common throughout the region of Afar now. She said that the water they are able to collect is often dirty, and they get sick because of it. She also has to contend with dangers in her journey to get the water, such as hyena and leopard attacks.

Orbisa said that she can carry nowhere near the amount of water for her family’s daily needs. This means she often has to put her kids to bed complaining that they are thirsty. She just has to tell them to wait until the next day. Because of all of this, Orbisa’s life is one of struggle, anxiety and hopelessness.

Here in Scotland, we don’t hear about Afar and what people are going through there. It’s not in the news or in the papers. Orbisa’s suffering continues and it goes unseen – along with many more families in Afar. As we go about our lives, in relative comfort, Orbisa continues to struggle, sitting in the desert heat.

I believe God wants to provide for Orbisa’s needs, both spiritually, and practically, like he did for Hagar.

When the team from Tearfund Scotland were in Orbisa’s village, the overwhelming feeling was that it was lifeless. There seemed to be a lack of joy. The children sat still, not playing, not laughing. There was an intensity in the air.

But, on their last day in Afar, they visited another village. One that had just received a new water source provided by Tearfund’s partner. As soon as they entered the village they could see, and hear, that things were very different here. Right in the middle of the village water flowed powerfully through a large tap, as women filled up barrel after barrel of fresh water chatting loudly together in groups. Children played in the misty overspill of water that bounced off the barrels. There was so much noise, so much laughter.

One of the Ethiopian colleagues turned to the team and said, ‘Where there is water, there is life.’

The good news is that in places of the greatest need, like Afar, we often see Jesus at work through his people or his church.

In Afar, Tearfund’s partner Friendship Support Association are now in the process of providing fresh, clean, abundant, local water for villages like Orbisa’s. So far they have dug two wells, but they want to dig many, many more. We too want to follow Jesus where the need is greatest, and we want to provide, and bless abundantly, like Jesus does.

Those words are so striking… where there is water, there is life.

That desperate situation that Orbisa and her children are in is heartbreaking, however, I am excited there is something we can do about it. I’d like to ask you, today, to consider your neighbours in Afar. Your unseen neighbours who are thirsty.

I know that £12 per month has the potential to enable Tearfund to provide abundant, clean, local water for 12 households a year in Afar. For the cost of a Marks & Spencer Saturday night meal for two, a family – like Orbisa’s – could have their lives completely turned around.

Tearfund are doing work like this to help people all around the world. If you feel led to join us in helping people, like Orbisa, you can do so simply by heading to www.tearfund.org/givewater where you will be able to give. We’d be really grateful for your support.

I would also like to ask you to pray. To pray with Tearfund as they follow Jesus where the need is greatest, and pray for Orbisa, and her family, that they will know the love of Jesus, the living water that only he can provide, but also the physical water that they so urgently need.

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Kyrie Eleison’

The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’

Our closing song is: ‘Christ be in my Waking’

Closing Prayer:

Thank you Lord Jesus that we have received from You so many blessings that enrich our daily lives. We are deeply grateful for them. We recognise our responsibilities to care for and when we can support our brothers and sisters living in much more challenging circumstances in other parts of the world.  We thank You for mission organisations like Tearfund that accomplish so much in partnership with national believers in the two-thirds world. We pray Your blessing on them and other mission agencies serving in Your name. Help us also in our local context to live out our faith in ways that demonstrate Your love and care for others, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Benediction:  The Grace

Church at Home – 11 April 2021

Intimations

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School. Here is the link for Sunday 11 April 21 Virtual Sunday School:

JAM young adults have a separate programme. Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of today’s programme.

Baptist Union of Scotland National Prayer Livestream The monthly prayer livestream takes place next on Sunday 2 May, 2021 7.00–7.30pm.  

This service is led today by Alan McRobbie

Call to worship: 

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise His name;
proclaim His salvation day after day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvellous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

Psalm 96:1-4a

Our opening song of praise and worship is:

Opening Prayer:

Lord we come with real joy in our heart and with a spirit of gratitude for all the blessings You have given to us. As the Psalmist (in Psalm 118:24) declared long ago: This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.Although, restricted from singing live in congregations just now, we are so thankful that we can sing on our own at home or accompany recorded songs online. There is nothing that can stop us singing in our hearts Your praises. On this new day we want to meet with You by Your Holy Spirit. Forgive us once more for our sins, purify our hearts and empower us by Your Holy Spirit to be the people You want us to be. Speak to us from Your Word today in accordance with our needs, for Jesus’ sake, Amen. 

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

All Age Talk 
How to handle those who have wronged you by Alan McRobbie

When someone wrongs or mistreats you or says things that will end up hurting you, how do you respond? Being mistreated happens in life. It can occur within our groups of friends, our schools, the church, within our marriage, within our family or anywhere where we have relationships with others. So, what we need to ask is this, are we responding rightly when we are wronged by another by the things they say or the things they do?  How are Christians supposed to respond when someone has wronged us?

Jesus gives strong words to the believer concerning our response to those who are against us or have wronged us either in what they have said or what they have done.

In Matthew 5:43 the system of Jewish law considered it a sin to love your enemy. But in verses 44 and 45, Jesus steps in and says: 

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

It’s important to say here that built into us there is a self-defence that God has given us for the sake of protecting ourselves from harm or death. If someone plans to physically harm or mistreat me, I’m going to defend myself or run away. This is good. It’s not about that.

When he says the word “love” he means the Greek word ‘agape’ and so he is talking about a deeper level of love. Jesus is not talking about having affection for our enemies. He teaches us to respond to them in a manner that is for their benefit and not for ours. We’re going to respond in love because if we respond in anger and bitterness and resentment, we start to become their enemy.  Anytime we respond with defensiveness and bitterness we are the ones who will suffer, we become unhappy, regardless of how our enemies may suffer.

When Jesus says I am to love my enemies we are going to have to make a choice to love them. There is a price to be paid to love those who have wronged us. We give up something of ourselves for the greater good. The Christian is the person who reasons that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict wrong.

How are we going to be able to do this? There isn’t anyone alive who can love their enemies as Jesus teaches in their own strength and in their own human nature. My help to love those who have wronged me is Christ. Only because Christ is my life. And what does Paul say in Galatians 5:22-23?

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

He says this is the fruit of the Spirit, not of you, not of me.

In summary, because Jesus loves those who are against him, we should act in the best interests of those who are against us. Christian love says, “You may be harming me, but I’m not going to give you back what you’re giving me.  I’m going to love you in the way that I would like you to love me.” Overwhelm that wrong with goodness. This isn’t normal.  And isn’t that the point? The point being, they will recognise that this is not human, and it will become clear that this identifies you as having a supernatural love which reveals Christ who is working in you and through you which brings much praise and glory to God. We become witnesses of Christ in this world.

Watch this short cartoon animation on Loving Your Enemies at this link: 

Song: ‘Good and Gracious King’

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father, 

Today we come to give thanks to God for the life of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the loyal and faithful husband of our Queen Elizabeth II. During seventy-three years of marriage, they have served our country together until his retirement from public duties at the remarkable age of 95, four years ago. 

We appreciate his dedication to public service and his lasting contributions in a number of fields, not least the innovative Duke of Edinburgh activity scheme he founded for young people. We pray for Your comfort for each member of the Royal family at this time.   

We will observe a short time of silence in recognition of his passing.

Father God we pray today for countries within Europe who are being hit with a third wave of Covid-19. We prayer for wisdom for the governments concerned as they seek to tackle this development, and for the health care systems in these countries at this time. In the United Kingdom, we do appreciate the encouraging reduction in the levels of infection and the early stages of the easing of lockdown regulations. We pray for wisdom for our governments that the lifting of restrictions may be sustainable over the coming months as we begin to return to a more familiar way of living.  

We give thanks for the new posts being advertised for serving our churches within the Baptist Union of Scotland. We pray for those applying for the posts and for the interview process. We pray for discernment for the interview panels as they seek to discern who You have chosen to fill these roles.

We pray for the following chaplains and churches:

Stuart Murdoch (Chaplain, Strathcarron Hospice) –Stuart writes: ‘This last year has been difficult for everyone. As Chaplain to Strathcarron Hospice that is no different. The support for staff continued to increase as staff were feeling vulnerable and weary from the intensity of their workload. Pray for me and the staff that we will be sustained and renewed in our spirit to continue to work that God has called us to here in Strathcarron Hospice. Pray for us as we enter the community that we would be kept safe and keep our patients and families safe as we support them through these difficult times and through their Palliative Care journey.’

Cowal BC – We give thanks for the church fellowship in Cowal and we pray for the church as they seek to keep Jesus as the centre of all that they do.

Cowdenbeath BC – We give thanks that despite not being able to meet physically, Cowdenbeath Baptist have enjoyed meeting for prayer and worship using technology. We also give thanks that, after a tip-off from the Baptist Union of Scotland, we were fortunate to have an application approved for some iPads from the Connecting Scotland charity for members without technical access currently. We also continue to pray with them for the ongoing search for a new pastor. 

Crieff BC – We give thanks for God’s continued faithfulness while doing a mixture of struggling and striving, pushing and pressing our way through this awful Pandemic. Prayer always works best when spurred on with belief and need. We pray for them as they continue to Zoom and You Tube their way through to a new normality with a new consecration amid the amazing consideration of our Heavenly Father for us all

We also continue to pray for a restoration of health for other members of our congregation or members of their families…

We pray too for anyone else with ongoing health conditions and bring them before You now…

We pray for the people whom we cannot visit in residential care, and others who are at home on their own, together with others in our church family who are feeling the effects of increasing age and infirmity…

We continue to pray for those who have been bereaved and ask Your comfort for them …

We now pray silently for anyone else known to us who is in need of our prayers at this time…..

We pray also for our own needs…

We bring all these prayers before you in Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Bible Reading 

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a] – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’

II Corinthians 8:1-15

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘Father I place into Your hands’

The Message

II Corinthians 8:1-15 The privilege of giving

Introduction

How should I divide the resources I have or the income I receive? Of course there are bills that have to be paid and needs that have to be addressed. Many of us have family responsibilities and commitments with rightful expectations that we will cover certain costs incurred by the activities and choices of members of our families. As Christians we want to support our local church in its work as that is the foundation of Christian presence around the world, but many of us also support other Christian causes at home and abroad who are doing excellent work for the Lord. A proportion of our incomes goes on leisure activities and in the absence of a virus pandemic this might include the cost of a holiday or some days away. These are personal choices each one of us has to make based on the level of income we receive.

Does the Bible have anything to say about the privilege of giving? It certainly does! At its heart, it is a way of thinking and living about the whole of our lives. It is a much greater subject than simply how we divide up the finances we receive month by month. When we grasp this bigger picture it enables us all to see that we have so much we can give as well as receive. We all have talents and abilities that we can give. We also have the precious commodity of time. We can share some time with another person than can be mutually enriching. 

In Luke 19 we see the impact of coming to faith in Jesus in the life of one of Jericho’s wealthiest men. He had grown immensely wealthy over many years, but had little opportunity to gain value from it. There was only so much he could do in home improvements or alterations. The reality was, as he had come to recognise, that he was not really happy or fulfilled despite all he had accumulated. He hears that Jesus of Nazareth is coming to Jericho and he wants to see Him and hear the message He will be bringing to the citizens of that city. However, it has never entered his head that meeting Jesus might challenge his entire way of living.

The first shock he experiences is when Jesus spots him and invites Himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ home that day. The crowd were stunned that Jesus was spending precious time on this hard hearted man. But that dinner-time conversation was very fruitful. In Luke 19:8-10 we read the outcome of that encounter. But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ 

Jesus had not asked Zacchaeus to take this radical step. However,  in becoming a follower of Jesus, he had gained a different perspective on his way of living. Was this the only rich man Jesus had some personal conversations with about his wealth? No! In Luke 18:18-30 there is the account of Jesus meeting a rich young ruler who seemed a likely convert to the cause of Jesus. Yet he responded so differently to the challenge of Jesus regarding his possessions. Where is your treasure and mine? Is it primarily in what we can gain or what we can give? Our investments speak powerfully about our priorities. There have been some incredibly generous wealthy benefactors of Christian causes.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, William Hartley, the Jam manufacturer, was the largest individual benefactor to an English Methodist overseas mission agency. James and John Campbell-White, chemical manufacturers in Scotland, largely bankrolled the Free Church of Scotland’s Livingstonia Mission, launched in 1875 at the southern end of Lake Malawi at Cape Maclear in Nyasaland (now Malawi).

In British Baptist circles the largest donations to the Baptist Missionary Society were received from a man called Robert Arthington. His family had owned a brewery, but coming to an Evangelical Christian faith they decided to sell the business. Young Robert inherited the sum of £200,000 on his father’s death in 1864. He was a committed Christian whose ‘life and his wealth was devoted to the spread of the Gospel among the Heathen’ [from his gravestone in Teignmouth in Devon]. 

He decided to invest the greater proportion of this money in the Indian Peninsula Railway Company for two reasons. First, to make it easier for Christian missionaries travelling across that large country; second to help develop India’s cotton industry so as to counteract the dependency in Britain on cotton produced by African American slaves in the USA. His investments grew in value despite taking out thousands of pounds each year to give to many different Christian mission societies working in Asia and Africa.

It was a remarkable legacy of a man who lived the simplest of personal lives with a view to giving to extend God’s kingdom all over the world. Although in many ways an eccentric man who lived alone, his life was dominated by a vision of the privilege of giving what he had to tell other people about Jesus. Paul in the first section of II Corinthians 8 shares not about an individual but a congregation who despite deep poverty were so focussed on the privilege of giving to support the work of Paul and his mission teams.      

1. The example from Macedonia (II Corinthians 8:1-7)

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Paul was so encouraged by this congregation. They were so poor in financial and material assets. Yet they were so full of the joy of the Lord and constantly looking to see how they could assist other Christians in God’s work. The apostle highlights the behind it was something he calls grace. It is a term in the Bible that speaks of God’s undeserved kindness to us. It is a declaration that God has been so good to me that I need to pass on to others something of His amazing love to me, in whatever way was appropriate. What a statement Paul makes when he writes concerning these churches in Macedonia in Greece: In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. Could we paraphrase it and say in the midst of a global pandemic their minds were not focussed on the frustrations of the restrictions on their lives, rather they were thinking how can we further extend God’s kingdom. How might we work with other Christians locally, nationally and overseas to help more people come to faith in Jesus?     

There were so many reasons why they might choose not to act in this way. Their future income was certainly not guaranteed. When they had so little it was so remarkable that they would think of other needs so strongly. The picture Paul paints is incredible: In the midst of a very severe trial… and their extreme poverty (II Corinthians 8:2).

By contrast, the recipients of II Corinthians lived in a relatively prosperous city and certainly a minority of this church were comfortably well off. Yet they rarely seemed to think about the needs of other people. They needed constant reminders and in-person visits to Corinth to keep their focus. We might want to stop and reflect on why it was the very poorest people who were most willing to assist others in need and the better off who had so much more who appeared so reluctant to exercise the privilege of giving. If the Macedonian Christians could so easily come up with a long list of reasons not to give to help others, what was it that was the secret of their generosity? Paul gives the answer in II Corinthians 8:2: their overflowing joy…welled up in rich generosity.  

What is joy?  Is it a Christian word that means the same as happiness? Absolutely Not! Joyis an emotion deep within us when we  recognise all that God has done for us through Jesus. It is an overflow of gratitude in our inner person as we appreciate God’s undeserved kindness to us. It was an attitude of mind that Paul had taught them and they were living it out. In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). It was not only that congregation, but also the one in the city of Thessalonica that grasped this point.  In I Thessalonians 1:6, Paul wrote: You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. This was why Paul could write next to that second Greek congregation: And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it. 

A faith that is lived in good times and tough is an attractive faith; other people can be turned off by the proclamation of words that are disconnected from our actions. In other words, would an observer watching you and me think our faith was working effectively in us and for our benefit? If the answer was ‘no’ then they would have no interest in becoming a Christian as they have enough problems to contend with at the moment already! By contrast, if the answer is ‘yes’ then there is a likelihood that they will watch us closely as most of us can benefit from the assistance of others in our daily lives. Notice what Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 1:8: The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it. 

The exercise of the privilege of giving in these churches in Macedonia and Thessalonica was opening the door for other Christians to speak words about Jesus. In other words, social action ministries which are good in themselves can also provide some opportunities to explain why we are motivated to do what we do for God.     

Paul continues: For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharingin this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: they gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us (II Corinthians 8:3-5).

They were proactive in looking for ways to serve and bless others. They were not looking for Paul to launch a campaign for something, although they always tried to support whatever he was doing, but took on board the responsibility themselves to think outside the box. The challenge for us personally is this: Is there a possible opportunity for me to demonstrate the lived reality of my faith to someone or some people that I had not previously considered? This is quite dangerous to pray for because God might answer our prayers! I did that last year and unexpectedly God answered with something I had not considered or been praying about. In the next few months as this begins I hope to share more about it. These Christians in Macedonia were an incredible role model in that first generation of the Christian Church. 

How does this story relate to events in Corinth? II Corinthians 8:6-7 states: So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 

It is a rather delicate matter. Paul when he became the apostle to the Gentiles was asked to take financial collections from the churches he founded at times when there was real hardship being experienced by Jewish followers of Jesus in the Holy Land. He mentions this in his letter to the churches in Galatian in southern Turkey. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along (Galatians 2:9-10). 

Titus, it appears had been asked to go round some of these churches asking them to start making collections that could be picked up at a later date by agreed representatives of the churches and taken to Jerusalem where there was a great need. The Church at Corinth initially agreed to do this, but it seems that they had lost interest and stopped collecting any more money. It is so important to say that giving of our time and our abilities, not just our money is part of Christian discipleship. It is a privilege not just our responsibility. Therefore, Paul tactfully challenged them:But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving (II Corinthians 8:7).

Before I move on, I want to say how much as pastor I deeply appreciate your generosity to the work of our church over this last year. I have been deeply humbled by awareness of how our faith is being lived out in this respect.     

2. The example of Jesus (II Corinthians 8:8-9)

(a)Love in Action (II Corinthians 8:8) I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.  

It appears that in this relatively prosperous city in Greece that some of its better-off citizens might have looked down on the poorer people in other parts of the country. Of course, people today don’t compare what they have with what others have in their class at school or college; or what their neighbours in the street have? So this is not an issue today?!! Of course it is, probably worse than then, because we can find out so many things without even going out of our front door. It is good psychology by Paul to drop into the conversation what the Macedonians had already collected. He knows they will be embarrassed to find that their collections were so much smaller. So he lets them know in advance that Titus will come back to be with them towards the end of their time for collections so as to motivate them to get back on track with something they ought already to have completed. Thankfully, this appeal seemed to work and in time the collection was concluded in a satisfactory way.

(b) Their role model for action (II Corinthians 8:9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 

The example of fellow Greek Christians was a powerful one, but this second example was inevitably the most powerful. What would Jesus do? No, in this context it was what had Jesus already done! Jesus had given up the ease of life in heaven to come down to earth to live among us. As John puts it in John 1:16: Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. Are there any regular opportunities for us today to recall what Jesus did for us? Yes in the ordinances of believers’ baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

In Romans 6:3-4 Paul wrote:  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. It was incredibly costly for Jesus to give His life for us on the cross. When we go through the waters of baptism we are declaring that we are committed to following in His footsteps, even though at times it will be costly for us. Then each week as we gather round the Lord’s Supper as we take the bread and wine it is a physical sign of the price of our redemption. He did all this for me. We can never say we didn’t know.’ Because we have been blessed and brought to faith through the witness and generosity of others, the privilege of giving becomes part of our lived experience of the faith as well. 

3. Paul’s guidance on giving (II Corinthians 8:10-15)

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’

What is Paul in the last part of this section of chapter eight advising the members of the church in Corinth to do?

(a)Giving proportionately (II Corinthians 8:12) For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. It is a reminder of II Corinthians 8:3: For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own… 

Paul is grateful that the Christians in Corinth, although they had been slow to do it in practice, were committed in principle to their responsibility to contribute financially and in other ways to the Lord’s work.  The principle here is that each person is responsible for how and what they give. Our circumstances are all different as are our incomes, the amount of free time we possess and our various gifts and talents. We are invited to give proportionately to our income.  

(b)Giving together (II Corinthians 8:13-15) Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’ 

Together, God’s people will be prompted by the Lord to give what is needed in His work. It is something we see in a range of contexts not just in churches where people co-operate sometimes without knowing other givers to accomplish a particular goal.

For example, there was a story of Naana Aisha Issaka, a support worker from Nottingham whose expected student loan to pay for her nurse training course had been rejected turned to crowd-funding to pay for her studies. In just a few weeks members of the public donated the nearly £40,000 she needed[BBC News website 8.4.2021]. 

I found it so encouraging over this year how generously members of our congregation gave to the fund raising appeals by our own younger members. 

However, at the heart of the gospel is the good news that we are recipients of God’s grace, His undeserved kindness to us. When we recognise all that God through Jesus has given us it becomes not an obligation but a privilege to give back to the Lord for His work and to bless other people in different appropriate ways. The Christians in Macedonia had been quick to grasp this principle. The church in Corinth much slower, though at last they understood what Paul had been teaching them. May God help each one of us experience this sense of privilege in giving to God and others, for Jesus’ sake, Amen   

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Give Thanks’

The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’

Our closing song is: Great is the Lord

Closing Prayer: 

Thank You Lord that You gave Yourself for us upon the cross.Willingly, out of love for us You endured the cost of that sacrifice in our place. Thank You for the honour of being one of Your followers. Thank You for the privilege of giving of ourselves, our gifts and time and finances as offerings of worship to You and in some cases also as a means of blessing other people. Guide and direct us is all that we do this week, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen   

Benediction:  The Grace 

Easter Sunday 2021 – Church at Home


Intimations

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School. Here is the link for Sunday 4 April 21 Virtual Sunday Schoolis: ‘Palm Sunday Special’.

JAM young adults have a separate programme Breakthru 7:00pm-8:00pm Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of today’s programme.

Facebook service – We also have another recorded service that was live on the church Facebook on Easter Sunday.

Baptist Union of Scotland National Prayer Livestream The monthly prayer livestream takes place on Sunday 4 April, 2021 7.00–7.30pm.  

Today’s service is led today by Moraig Piggot

Call to worship

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.”’

Mark 16:1-7

Our opening song of praise and worship is: ‘Thine be the glory’`

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we come with great joy on the happiest day in the Christian year when we celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Each year when we hear these words of the angel, it brings real delight to our hearts. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 

 We are so thankful that our faith rests on such secure foundations. We know that those first followers of Jesus were not expecting this glorious news of resurrection as the day dawned on the first Easter Sunday. Thank you Lord that what You predicted during Your earthly ministry came true. In Mark 10:34-35 You declared: …the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock Him and spit on Him, flog him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise.’ 

As we celebrate God’s actions in the past, it gives us real hope for the future in our own lives. No situation is hopeless where You are involved. No life is hopeless when Your Holy Spirit is at work within us. We come, once more, confessing our sins and seeking Your forgiveness. Fill us again with the power of Your Holy Spirit that we may be effective witnesses for You in this coming week by our words and actions, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:


Talk 1 – The Best Surprise
by Moraig Piggot 

What is the best surprise you have ever had? I would probably say I don’t really like surprises. I think this stems from when I first met Simon and on our first anniversary, we decided we would have a nice meal and exchange gifts. I had obviously put a lot of thought into this and bought Simon a t-shirt by a designer he likes to wear, Simon then hands over my gift and straight away I thought well it’s too big a parcel to be jewellery, but also too small to be a handbag so what else is there he could possibly have bought me? I opened it and it was a CD holder case for my car!

So I know what people who don’t know me will be thinking, I would smile and say thank you but I know that people who do know me will not be surprised that my response was “Well if this relationship is going to last any longer than a year Simon I think from now on I will buy my own presents!” Simon looked quite shocked and couldn’t understand what was wrong after all as he told me it was a very practical present and useful! But he was to learn very quickly that this lady did not like surprises that were practical or useful!

I would have to say though that the best surprise I have ever had was when I gave birth to both of my children and finding out whether they were a boy or girl, seeing what they looked like and knowing that we had a lifetime of unimaginable love ahead of us. 

We are going to watch a video now about the greatest ever surprise the world would ever know! Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb. An enormous stone and Roman soldiers guard the entrance. But when some of his followers go to visit the tomb, something astonishing unfolds. The stone is rolled away, the soldiers are gone, and angels bring an amazing message! We don’t all like surprises but for us as Christians, this surprise at the heart of Easter is the best news the world has ever heard! Today in our service we will explore the resurrection of Jesus and what it means to us as Christians today. 

Bible reading Matthew 28:1-10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and His clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of Him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.” Now I have told you.’

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshipped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me.’

Talk 2 – Jesus is risen
by Moraig Piggot

Jesus is risen, just as he had said he would be, that he would die, and on the third day, rise again. This is why he came. The disciples, however, although they had heard Jesus say this several times, hadn’t understood. Remember too, that since Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus is dead, as far as they are concerned. The one they thought was the Messiah, the one they had been waiting for, for all of these years, had been killed and buried in a tomb. 

Imagine you go to Jesus’ tomb, you find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. How would you respond? (Wait for some responses) Imagine being Jesus’ friends that day and seeing him alive again face to face! Now you can understand how this for them was the greatest surprise ever!

It’s a reminder to us today that God is more powerful than death. We know that he loved us so much he sent his only son to earth to be born as a baby in the stable that very first Christmas, but as the video reminded us- Easter is a game changer, Jesus rising from the dead shows that suffering and death are not the end. There will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. Rev. 21:4. Jesus came to fix our broken world and restore our relationship with God. We can experience love and life in all its fullness if we follow him. John10:10.

What a wonderful assurance we have through Easter that death is not the end, when we are experiencing tough times or people we love are suffering, Jesus’ resurrection is the reminder that we need that in God there is always hope. God doesn’t give up, as we are reminded in his word May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13.

If you are hearing this amazing and wonderful, surprising news about Easter for the very first time today or have maybe been curious about this for a wee while but are not sure how to find out more then can I please encourage you today to turn to God because he loves you and wants you to know more about the hope he offers us all. Throughout the year we run a number of courses as a church which may help to support you and answer questions you may have. 

Life and the Christian Faith Course. Opening up conversation about life, faith and God

An informal series of free evening conversations on Zoom for people who want to explore Christianity for the first time.

Run by Broughty Ferry Baptist Church. 

Contact  webmaster@broughtybaptist.org for more information.

Similarly if you would like prayer or want to chat about things, Brian, Gary and Claire are also available.

Our next song is: ‘Risen, Risen, Jesus is risen’ 

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father on Easter Day, we come with thankfulness that if You could make history, as You had promised two thousand years ago, then we can trust You to help us in our times of need in the present and into the future. We give thanks for the hope that we have in Jesus’ resurrection and we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and the powers of darkness. We pray that this Easter people across Scotland will come to know this resurrection hope for themselves and the power of Jesus. In this disruptive season, we pray that they good news of Jesus will continue to be shared in-person and online in communities across Scotland. Help us Lord to be your hands and feet in our communities. Embolden us to share our faith with those we journey alongside in the coming days.

While we see signs of the easing of restrictions on our daily lives and the reduction of the spread of the Covid-19 virus, we continue to pray for those countries in Europe and other parts of the world where the spread of this virus seems far from under control.  We pray that governments and vaccine manufacturers will be able to work together effectively to first contain and then to seek to eliminate it in every country of the world for our common good.

We pray today for those people living in the midst of extreme violence. We remember the people of Myanmar in particular whose brutal military regime has murdered many more civilians across the age range as they seek to impose their rule on the country. Lord have mercy on all these countries and situations. 

We pray too for those countries suffering severe food and other shortages as a result of conflicts caused and maintained by other countries, in particular Syria and Yemen. We pray that pressure can be maintained on the governments concerned who could alleviate this suffering if they choose to do so.

We also pray for the election campaign in our country that it may be conducted with dignity and respect across the parties; that truthful speaking and integrity in presentations both spoken and written may be a hallmark of this campaign. We pray too for negotiations in Israel over the formation of a new government. We pray that in this polarised situation that those involved in the negotiations may seek to do what is best for that country.     

Chaplain and Churches for prayer

Jim Meighan (Chaplain, Royal Hospital for Children) – As they work their way through the second wave, there are many staff already running on empty due to Covid, PTSD andexhaustion. Lord we pray that they will get time to rest and recuperate. We also pray that many restrictions will remain in place in Scotland until the majority of people are vaccinated to help reduce prevalence of this disease.

Coastline Community ChurchPittenweem – We give thanks to God for all the community work we have been able to do during the past year, especially within the foodbank and community resilience. Please do keep us in prayer as we seek what the Lord would have us do once we emerge on the other side of this pandemic.

Coatbridge BC – We give thanks for the church family at Coatbridge as they seek to make Jesus known in word and action. We pray Father that you would lead and guide them in the weeks and months ahead as they seek to share Jesus with the people of Coatbridge.

Collydean BC, Fife – Lord, we give thanks for our brothers and sisters at Collydean Granary Baptist as they seek to worship and serve God in the town. We pray for boldness for the church as they share Jesus with the people they come into contact with.

Cornton BC, Stirling – We give thanks to God for the continued fellowship we share in these strange times and that folks remain connected online. Please pray for a new partnership, ‘The Larder’, which provides food and essentials for those who are struggling at this time, and for Easter activity packs distributed to all our church families as well as our Kids Club families in the community.

Our local Church needs for prayer

Lord, we also remember the people in our own congregation in need of our prayers. We ask that as You bring people to our minds that we would bring their situations to You…

Lord, we also pray for other people we know that are in need of prayer…

Lastly, we bring our own needs before You at this time…

Lord, hear and answer our prayers we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Talk 3 – The Greatest Friend
by Moraig Piggot

The Bible teaches and reminds us that Jesus came to earth to die and rise again so that people could have a friendship with God. This is what Easter is all about! Why is God a better friend than anyone else? 

Jesus’ friends were so impacted by what happened on that first Easter weekend that they gave everything to share this good news. They wanted everyone to know the lengths that God would go to, to show his extraordinary love! 

Last week Gary reminded us in his all age talk of our Church Mission statement that as Broughty Ferry Baptist church we are seeking to build a Christ Centred Church why because Christ is and should be at the heart of everything we say, think and do. What Christ did for us that very first Easter demonstrates the lengths he was prepared to go to, to ensure we have a forever future with God. As we sang last Sunday and will sing again today ‘Hallelujah, praise the one who set me free. Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me. You have broken every chain. There’s salvation in your name. Jesus Christ, my living hope.’

So when we have made the commitment to have Christ at the centre of our lives its right and important that like those first disciples we should want to share this good news will all around us. Why have the greatest friend ever and keep them all to yourself? Now up until this time last year, as a church we were really blessed with the opportunities God was giving us as a church to share his love in our community here in Broughty Ferry, we were a buzzing hive of activity with lots of different groups, courses and services happening. Then like the rest of the world it felt like Covid19 shut everything down and everything we were doing stopped! But we know from what we have heard today that God is a game changer, if he is more powerful than death then he is even more powerful that a virus. God’s love and God’s word continues regardless and so what I feel we need to reflect upon today is what opportunities to grow his church we can thank him for in this last year and how are we going to continue to be looking to him, growing in him and sharing him from today forward, regardless of the circumstances we are in?

That very first Easter the world received the greatest surprise it would ever see- Jesus is Risen, death could not defeat him, God is more powerful than death and he offers us love and life in all its fullness. The very first disciples were filled with excitement and passion to go to every corner of the earth and share this good news, today all these thousands of years later are we filled with that same desire this Easter day to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, our living hope, the greatest friend we will ever have and with every day we have we will proclaim this for all to hear!  

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Standing on this mountaintop’

The Lord’s Supper 

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’

Our closing song is: ‘Living Hope’

Closing Prayer: 

Thank You Lord for Resurrection Day, the greatest day in history, when even death itself was conquered. Thank You Lord, because in the light of Your resurrection, death is not the last word on our lives as well. We have a living hope in the God who transcends history. We thank You for the assurance that as we go through another week that You will go with us each step of the way.  We give You our heartfelt thanks in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Benediction:  The Grace 

Easter Sunday events

Our Good Friday service is available here.

Sunday 4 April 2021 @ 10am
Easter Sunday’s Service will be an All Age Worship Service led by Moraig Piggot on Zoom. People are welcome to attend the service in person in Panmurefield Baptist Centre. Those who would like to attend in person or on Zoom should contact us by Wednesday 31 March. (webmaster@broughtybaptist.org or Contact Us form)

Moraig writes “We would encourage everyone to consider who they might invite along on Zoom to our Easter service. Email addresses of family and friends should be sent to Fiona Small who will then send out a Zoom invite. Following on from our successful Christmas Broughty Ferry Baptist ‘Bake Off’ we are going to have an Easter Broughty Ferry Baptist ‘Bake Off’! To take part you will need:

Round plain biscuit such a digestive.
Smaller round biscuit such as an Oreo or Jammie Dodger.
A mini egg.
Green coloured icing.
Some sprinkles.

Instructions about how to use these ingredients will be given on the day. If you are planning on inviting along family or friends to the service who may have children please let them know in advance about the ‘Bake Off’ so they can join in too.

Easter Sunday Facebook service @ 6pm

You can join us for our Facebook service with more celebrations including All age talk, bible reading, prayer and music at Broughty Ferry Baptist Church | Facebook page.

Church at Home – 21 March 2021

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School.

JAM young adults have a separate programme Breakthru 7:00pm-8:00pm looking at the Youth wellbeing journey, a range of issues to do with God’s plan for our wellbeing. Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of today’s programme.

Through Lent’ Baptist Union reflections Week 5 ‘Thankfulness’

Baptist Union of Scotland National Prayer Livestream – The monthly prayer livestream takes place next on Sunday 4 April, 2021 7.00–7.30pm.  

Call to worship

Let us start by opening our service in prayer –

Here we are Lord, your people, your church, meeting in your presence. We welcome each other albeit virtually and we welcome You Lord personally. Make yourself known to us in new ways through our worship, our prayers, and our understanding of your Word today. Please bless our time together in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

In Psalm 5: 11 it says, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love Your name may be filled with Joy.”

Our opening song of praise and worship is: Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord’

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

All Age Talk Helen Rice   ‘Jesus Calms the Storm’

This last year life has been challenging in a way most of us could never have imagined. In this video clip we will see the disciples facing a challenging and scary time on a boat during a storm.

As we journey through life, things are going to happen. We will face many storms in our life. They may not be the kind of storms like in this video. Perhaps we may face a serious illness or a family problem. We might encounter difficulties at school, or work, or with friends. We might make a wrong decision.

When you have these problems on the sea of life, who do you want to have with you? I know who I want! I want Jesus. He can calm every storm, helping us through any difficulty no matter how big it may seem. With Jesus in your life, you can be assured that you will never be alone. He will be there with you always no matter how tough things get.  

Let us Pray – Father God, we know we will have difficult situations to deal with in life. Thank you, that you are always there for us giving us peace and comfort through the hard times. Let us remember, that Your great love will always lead us through. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Song: ‘My lighthouse’

Prayers for others 

Heavenly Father, 

We come so conscious today of our need as a society to treat one another with respect and for all to feel safe within our society. We are deeply saddened by the murder of Sarah Everard in the south of England and pray for Your comfort for her family and friends at this very difficult time. We pray more generally for attitudes to change in our land so that all women can feel safe going out in our towns and cities across the land. Lord help us as a country to know how best to be able to respect and honour each other in person and in all other means of communications, regardless of our differences, knowing that each one of us is special because we are created in Your image. 

We pray too today for children and adults who are on the Autism spectrum and for whom this time of upheaval has been very difficult and traumatic, and where everything has been turned upside down. We pray for God’s peace and presence to be with all of these people and their families in this season.

We pray too for Scripture Union Scotland, Compass Christian Centre, and other Christian outdoor activity organisations who may be really struggling due to the pandemic and who are not able to open currently. We pray God that you will lead them to innovative and creative ways to continue to reach out to children in the coming days.

We pray for the following chaplains and churches:

Gordon Jones (Lead Chaplain, NHS Orkney) – We give thanks that the profile of and appreciation for healthcare chaplaincy among NHS staff and service-users in Orkney is greater than it has ever been. We give thanks that an Honorary Chaplain has joined the Team. We pray that the Chaplaincy Team would be sustained with vigour and creativity to respond in effective and flexible ways in what is a dynamic context. We pray that, in responding to opportunities which have arisen to develop spiritual care locally and influence its shape nationally, that Gordon would have sufficient wisdom as he carries out his duties.

Castlehill BC, Bearsden – We praise God that most of their congregation are still connecting with one another despite such a long time without meeting face to face (and little prospect of it since they meet in a school hall). We pray as they anticipate appointing a Children and Families’ Worker later in the year that God would give them guidance as to the right person at the right time.

Castlemilk BC, Glasgow – We thank God for making the way for them still to help people in need throughout the pandemic. We pray for all those we know who have suffered bereavement recently; and others struggling with the restrictions and with being separated from loved ones.  

Cathcart BC, Glasgow – We pray for those within their fellowship who have felt deeply the deaths of those they love over this last period and have sought to work out new ways to make, remember and hold precious these moments. We give thanks for the creative possibilities in serving each other and the people around us which are taking shape because of the lockdown, but which are also helping us think through what church looks like going forward even beyond all this.

We pray also for our own needs…

We bring all these prayers before you in Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Bible Reading II Corinthians 7:2-16

 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it – I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while – yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 

11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.

In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘Father I place into Your hands’

The Message 

II Corinthians 7:2-16 Our source of joy in Christian service

Introduction 

‘How are you?’ is probably one of the most common questions asked when two people meet in person and frequently asked to in other forms of communication. The British response to that question most often is: ‘I’m fine’. However, behind the words spoken the reality can be very different. The respondent to this stand polite enquiry about their health might be in good health and enjoying good life circumstances. Yet on many other occasions these words cover over a mix of feelings from I am not really okay, but I don’t want to talk about them with you just now (or not at all!); or I am not wanting to talk about my circumstances at this time as I don’t know how I would cope if I started to explain how I really feel deep inside.

We are complex beings as humans. Christians are not exempt from the whole range of life issues faced by others; we are not excused the mix of physical, emotional and mental health challenges experienced in daily life by people around us. One Sunday morning in 1866 the pastor of the largest Christian congregation in the world, the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, stood up before that vast congregation and declared; ‘I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.’ Although, to that date few would have known of his severe struggles with what we call today clinical depression, and without the medical support available today, it was far from a one-off. In 1887, he told the congregation in that same place that ‘Personally, I have often passed through this dark valley.’

It was not a unique example. Alexander Whyte, minister of Free St George in Victorian Edinburgh, was one of Scotland’s most powerful preachers in that era. To an outside observer it appeared that he was extraordinarily successful in his work for God, like Charles Spurgeon I mentioned earlier, yet his biographer, G.F. Barbour noted: ‘Resolute as was Dr Whyte’s character, he had seasons of deep depression regarding the results of his work in the pulpit or among his people.’ [W. Wiersbe, Walking with Giants, pp. 263-265] 

Many more examples can be given of great Christian figures from the past. But although we are much more aware of mental health problems today, the sad reality is that this is an increasing not a decreasing challenge, even without the added burden of the difficulties caused for so many people by the virus pandemic of the past year. It is important to acknowledge that no-one is exempt from the potential of physical, mental or emotional ill health. At such times when depressive illness is a real issue we can lose the felt sense of God’s presence and the sense of our close ties with other human beings close to us. It can be a horrible time to go through. It can leave us in a place where we feel unable to pray and we are struggling even to do the ordinary routine activities of life.

Many of us are aware of people young and older alike, whom we love, and who have been going through deep mental health challenges during this past year. May we commit ourselves to continue to support them by our presence where possible, and our prayers, until they are enabled to come through these incredibly tough times. You may not be surprised to note that the apostle Paul was not exempt from this reality in his own life as well.   

1. The reality of difficult times (II Corinthians 7:2-5)

It is easy for us to focus on the physical trials Paul had endured because he has given lists of them in this letter to the church at Corinth. We have to read the text more closely to note his mental or emotional health struggles, not least because the vocabulary to express this reality was very limited until the relatively recent past.

However, in II Corinthians 7:6 Paul speaks of God who comforts the downcast… (NIV). However the New American Standard Version translates this verse: But God, who comforts the depressed,  comforted us by the coming of Titus; What had happened to Paul and his companions that had contributed to this situation?

He gives a clue in II Corinthians 7:5: For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within.  It appears that enduring so many difficult times had led to this place of complete physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. What is more, it was only when they finally stopped to rest in Macedonia that this emotional rollercoaster was experienced by Paul. You too may have shown great fortitude in keeping going through tough times, but we all need times for rest and relaxation. We cannot keep going indefinitely without adequate breaks. The God-given pattern of work and rest on a weekly cycle is for our good. 

It appears that the troubles in the church at Corinth were weighing heavily upon him. The false accusations against him brought by the self-appointed apostles who were seeking to turn that church against its founding pastor Paul were serious. It is likely that the three statements in II Corinthians 7:2 indicate the nature of what had been alleged. Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 

It is impossible at this distance to be certain about what is behind these words. But clearly when Titus did meet up with Paul some months later he would have clarified for Paul the nature of the difficulties that had needed to be addressed. It is possible that some people in Corinth had felt Paul was too severe in insisting on biblical standards of personal morality and were objecting to the disciplinary measures he had required with respect to the man described in I Corinthians 5. This is very likely, because prior to Paul’s intervention the church had taken no disciplinary measures against him for his sexual misconduct. They had been reflecting the low standards of the Graeco-Roman society of that time.

It is possible with respect to the second charge that it related to Paul implementing the decision of the Council of Jerusalem in AD48, in his teaching to the people of Corinth. This Council was incredibly important in Christian history because under the guidance of the Holy Spirit its leaders were convinced that Jewish social and religious rules regarding what you ate or whom you could have fellowship with were not to be expected of Gentiles, that is non-Jewish followers of Jesus.

By contrast, Paul’s opponents wanted them imposed on all followers of Jesus; and taught that Paul and others were leading people astray with His gospel of grace that was so different to their rigid rule-based approach to living out their understanding of faith in God. The third charge of possible exploitation almost certainly relates to the special financial collection Paul and his missionary colleagues were gathering to help poor believers in Jerusalem who were suffering acutely during a time of famine. It is possible that his opponents raised questions as to whether Paul and his colleagues would pass on the money collected.

Almost certainly, Paul is responding to this accusation in II Corinthians 12:17-18: Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit? Until Titus arrived, Paul was unaware of whose account had been believed in this congregation. But the false accusations had affected his health. Today, whether words spoken in person, in written communications or on social media can equally affirm or damage other people. Let us be exceptionally careful how we speak with one another to our common good. We live a world where so many people are damaged by the criticisms and false accusations of others. 

Paul also had fears within (II Corinthians 7:5b). This related to his concerns about how his converts were going on in the faith. When he was feeling depressed or at least low in spirits he has times of anxiety concerning their progress in the faith. For example, he wrote to some Christians in Southern Turkey, who it appears were now following the teaching of his opponents from Jerusalem. I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. (Galatians 4:11); in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica in Greece, Paul wrote these words: 

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labours might have been in vain (I Thessalonians 3:2-5).

Later in this letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote: Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (II Corinthians 11:28). He had such joy in his heart to see people coming to faith in Jesus, but the other side of that coin was his sense of responsibility for their spiritual wellbeing and his regular pattern of praying for them in the years that followed. If you too are blessed to see people come to faith in Christ; if you too are praying for others to come to faith and seeking to take opportunities to share your faith; if you pray regularly for other Christians as they journey through life, then you will to some degree experience the emotions Paul went through at times in his life.  However, the months of anxiety finally came to an end when Titus arrived in Greece and was reunited with Paul.        

2. His comfort and joy through the coming of Titus (II Corinthians 7:6-7)

 It was a two-fold blessing:

(a)The arrival of Titus (II Corinthians 7:6) But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus… We must remember there was no means by which Titus could have told Paul the reason for his delay. There were no phones, no internet communications and no public mail delivery system. On top of that time was lost in the winter months when there were no sailings across the Mediterranean Sea to avoid the potentially severe storms that could endanger the lives of those caught in them. We too struggle with time delays not just in our prayers to God, but also in our interactions with other people. Then there are the inevitable delays as we wait for test or examination results or those from job interviews and in so many other areas of life. Paul gives thanks to God that his time of waiting and anxiety was over.

He acknowledges that His divine hand had enabled them to be reunited. Take time to thank God for the people who are a blessing to you even today. I thank God that on the day I am writing this message that I received a communication in the post from someone in the church that brought such joy to my heart this week. I thank God for another message earlier in the week from a third party of the spiritual progress of someone for whom I pray regularly. It was a special joy to receive that news. Take time to treasure these blessings when we receive them.  

(b)The encouraging news from Titus (II Corinthians 7:7) …and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. This was what Paul was particularly waiting for. Paul had not been particularly anxious or depressed for his own circumstances but primarily for the well-being of other people, in this case his representative Titus and the congregation in Corinth. What was it that thrilled the apostle?

(i) He was greatly relieved by how they had treated Titus: …but also by the comfort you had given him.  A number of Paul’s other colleagues were less than excited at the prospect of spending time working with this church. Of all the newly planted causes in the first century AD, this congregation was probably the one whose members raised the most concerns with fellow Christians across the Roman world. It was a problem that continued in the decades after Paul’s death. However, they had treated Titus well and listened to the message he had brought to them.

(ii) Secondly, he would not have been human if he had not been thrilled with what Titus reported about his visit on behalf of Paul. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.  It appears that the majority of the church was loyal to their father in the faith. Although, it is clear that some members had been swayed by the presentations of Paul’s opponents, something that will be a cause of sadness to the apostle; however, his worst fears have not been realised. His heartfelt pleas have been heard and the course of action he recommended followed. Paul’s great joy comes from God’s assurance to him, but it is mediated in part at least through the right choices undertaken in this congregation. Those of us who are parents or grandparents will understand something of how he feels because many of us have had anxieties about things that affected our children or grandchildren. Like him, we were powerless to effect the necessary changes, but equally like Paul we can pray about these matters, persevering until the issues have been addressed or the circumstances changed.       

3. His encouragement and joy through the Corinthians’ repentance (II Corinthians 7:8-13a)

(a) Godly sorrow (II Corinthians 7:8-10) There are different ways we can respond to a challenge when we are in the wrong. We could be remorseful that we were found out or because we had to face the consequences of our actions. But this response is failing to take the responsibility for our actions.

A remorseful person might also be opening to doing the same thing again, if they are only regretting being found out for their actions. Thankfully in Corinth there was no doubt about what had taken place and although it was difficult no-one wanted to see it repeated in the families associated with that congregation. The opposite response was repentance. In this scenario a wrong is acknowledged or an omission recognised and action is taken to put it right. …now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. 

The man’s actions (see I Corinthians 5) needed to be addressed and disciplinary measures put in place. In a city like Corinth where sexual permissiveness was the norm, it was very likely that for many of the non-Jewish converts to Christianity this was the first time they had heard about boundaries to sexual expression for free citizens in the city.

Paul wanted to remind them that these circumstances were a good learning opportunity for the whole congregation to understand how they could react more appropriately in the future. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes at times. What is important says Paul is that we experience godly grief; that is we are genuinely sorry for our wrong choices and sincerely want to do better and act appropriately in the future. The principle here is so clear and easily applicable to many situations in daily life today.   

(b) Good grief! (II Corinthians 7:11-13a) Earnestness reveals an intentionality to do what is right in the future. It demonstrates that they had understood the seriousness of the situation. Fast forward to our day, it is sobering how much we still have to learn as a society about appropriate and inappropriate sexual activity and how we relate to other people.

The tragic death of Sarah Everard in the south of England a few weeks ago provoked a deep reaction of revulsion amongst decent people. The BBC News website on 14 March 2021 ‘How a woman’s death sparked a nation’s soul-searching’ There was an inevitable shock that someone could be randomly snatched off the street by a total stranger, an incredibly rare event, and especially so that a serving police-officer was charged with her murder. Yet as a society we have so much still to learn about genuine respect to one another and providing a safe living space.

The BBC News article reported the experiences of other women who also had genuine concerns for their safety. Helena Wadia was one of those. She told BBC Radio 5 Live she wanted to highlight how common it was for women to feel unsafe. “The first time I was catcalled I think I was about 12 years old,” she said. “I have been self-policing since then. We moderate everything – our clothing, our drinking. We get taxis where maybe we can’t afford it. We hold keys between our fingers. We don’t wear headphones when we’re jogging. We stick to well-lit areas. It’s exhausting.” [BBC News website 19.3.21]. 

The saddest part of it is that no sector of society has a perfect track record. Even those places where we would expect the highest standards such as schools or churches or in our Houses of Parliament in Edinburgh and London, the number of examples of people who acted inappropriately in recent years is profoundly sad.

I thank God for how seriously this church has taken safeguarding over the years so that every effort has been made to provide a safe and welcoming environment for children and adults who join with us. The challenge across our land is whether there is just words of regret and anger at the wrongs that have happened or whether there is ‘good grief’ that produces the fruit of a willingness to make the necessary changes in behaviour and boundaries to ensure all can live their lives safely in our land today. The example of this church in Corinth, on this occasion, was most encouraging. They had grasped the need to honour both God and one another in making the right choices. May God help us to do that today as well 

4. His encouragement and joy through their response to Titus (II Corinthians 7:13b-16)

(a)Right choices encourage other people (II Corinthians 7:13b) By doing the right thing standards were set and safe boundaries established in their midst in Corinth. However, they also greatly encouraged Paul as he heard about their choices. They had also been a real blessing to Titus who may have gone to Corinth fearing that it was a wasted journey that they wouldn’t listen to him. When you and I speak in the right way, or do the right thing, we can also be a big encouragement to other people who had been too afraid to speak up or to take the appropriate action themselves until we stood up and were counted first. As you stop and reflect on your life at school or work or in other contexts are there times when we could have done better? Are there lessons we learned from the speech or actions of others about our own future choices? 

(b)Right choices now will later be vindicated later (II Corinthians 7:14-16) Notice how Paul had sought to speak about the Corinthians in the best possible terms to Titus ahead of his visit. He had raised expectations that they could and would do the right thing. It helped Titus keep focussed on upholding best practice and was a model to his team and to us to endeavour to speak well of other people. It is so easy to focus on an area of difference rather than the greater number of things we share in common or appreciate about someone else or other people.

Now in his letter to the church there is positive reinforcement of their good choices. We can see how Paul’s inter-personal skills have improved so much from the abrasive young man who came to faith as a university student. Let us today be those who encourage others by our affirmation of good choices and reinforcement of appropriate courses of action. If like Paul here, we can do it in a very positive way then it can be a helpful bolstering of confidence in good practice.  Paul’s source of joy was rooted in God’s love for Him but it was also based here in the good choice made by the members of the church in Corinth.

Today, you and I might be pressured to tolerate inappropriate speech or behaviour. Like Paul and Titus we may fear the negative fallout from seeking to help others address inappropriate behaviour. However, I hope and pray that through our words and our examples we can encourage each other to live lives that are both honouring to God and a blessing to other people, Amen.  

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Only by grace can we enter’ 

The Lord’s Supper 

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’

Our closing song is: ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’

Closing Prayer: 

 Thank You Lord that we can be a source of joy to other people through the right choices we make in our attitudes, words and actions. We ask that you would guide and direct us in the choices that we make this week that this joy may be our experience and that of those with whom we interact day by day, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Benediction:  The Grace