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 

Church at Home – 14 March 2021

Intimations

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School

JAM young adults have a separate programme JAM 11:30am-12:30pm looking at the character of King David from the Old Testament.  Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of today’s programme.

‘Through Lent’ Baptist Union reflections Week 4 ‘Connecting with Creation’

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

Call to worship

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
I will fear no one.
The Lord protects me from all danger;
will never be afraid.

In times of trouble he will shelter me;
he will keep me safe in his Temple
and make me secure on a high rock.

Hear me, Lord, when I call to you!
Be merciful and answer me!
When you said, “Come worship me,”
I answered, “I will come, Lord.”
9Don’t hide yourself from me!

Psalm 27: 1, 5, 7-9

Our opening song of praise and worship is: ‘The Lord is Our Salvation’

Opening prayer

Lord, we come before You today to offer our praise and worship to You. We confess that there are times when we can struggle to articulate the desire of our heart to worship and adore You. We echo in our hearts today the prayer of King David, recorded in I Chronicles 29:10b-13:

Praise be to you, Lord,the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all… You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name.

We may have particular blessings we want to thank You for today. However, we also come confessing our sins and ask afresh for the purifying of our hearts once more by the Holy Spirit. Speak Lord into our lives as we gather for worship today, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.  

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

Our next song is: ‘You are my anchor’

All Age Talk Isdale Anderson  ‘Mother’s Day’

Hands up any mums who got –

Breakfast in bed today?

A homemade card?

A bought card?

Some flowers?

Chocolates?

Are getting their dinner/tea made for them?

Maybe in “normal” times, some mums might have been taken out for lunch – but not this year. This year it might be difficult for some mums to even to meet up with their children – especially if they live far away and are not allowed to travel. Hopefully the children will still be in touch – as I think that it’s a good idea to have a day celebrating mums.

Mother’s Day has been celebrated in Britain for many years. Hundreds of years ago it was quite common for people – even children as young as 10 – to have to leave home to work, perhaps as a housemaids if you were a girl or to learn a trade if you were a boy. These young people were allowed to go back to their home area on the fourth Sunday in Lent. The idea was that they should go back to worship in the main church or cathedral in their home area. This was called their “mother” church – and gives us the name Mothering Sunday. Of course the children didn’t just visit their mother church when they were back in their home area, but also their mothers and families as well. As they walked along the country lanes, children would pick wild flowers to take to church or to give to their mother as a small gift.

Now as you might expect – things were a bit different in the United States of America, where Mother’s Day is a more recent holiday. Over a hundred years ago, a lady in the USA called Anna Jarvis tried hard to have a Mother’s Day holiday recognized by the US Government.

Anna Jarvis

She finally succeeded and Mother’s Day was made an official holiday in 1914 and was celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Anna wanted the day to be celebrated every year so that families would take the chance to express their love and gratitude to mothers, and acknowledge the sacrifices that they had made for their children.

However, strange to say, not long after Anna was successful in getting Mother’s Day made an official national holiday, she tried to get it stopped! The reason was that she was unhappy with the way that it had ended being used by card makers, flower sellers and chocolate makers etc to make a lot of money. That was never her intention. Anna thought that this spoiled the whole point of the Day which was supposed to be an opportunity for children to thank their mums for all they did for them, without needing to spend a lot of money.

From about 1920 onward, Anna tried hard to stop businesses from making a lot of money by selling Mother’s Day cards, sweets, flowers, and other gifts. She spent a lot of her own money in the process. However she wasn’t very successful. In 2017 it’s reckoned that the total amount of money spent on Mother’s Day gifts in the USA was over $23 billion.

Now I don’t know about you but I do think that Anna had a point. It’s not necessary to spend loads of money on chocolate and flowers on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly nice to have a day when you are made to feel special and appreciated. But when the Bible said that we “should honour our father and mother”, it didn’t just mean on one day a year – but every day! More than presents I’m sure that what mums want to be given is our love. And for us to show it not just by a giving a card but by how we act. For children living at home, it could be by trying to help in the house and not expecting our mum (or dad!) to do everything. For older children who have left home it could be by giving our time – to phone regularly, to text, to find out how they are doing and – as Covid restrictions allow – to visit.

Take a moment to think of one thing about your mum that you really appreciate. Then at some point today, take the time to tell her. I’m sure that she will enjoy that even more than the biggest box of chocolates!

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father,

We continue to pray for the Covid-19 Vaccine rollout across the UK at this time. We give thanks that millions of people have already had their first vaccine and we pray for the ongoing logistics of this mass vaccination programme. We are delighted too with the easing of some of the restrictions we have had to live under in recent weeks and pray that this process may be able to continue without further increases in the virus infection rate in  the community.

On Wednesday this coming week is St Patrick’s Day. At this time we pray for the people of Ireland both in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, as they continue to battle Covid-19 and vaccinate people across the land. We give thanks for the rich heritage of Christian witness in Ireland and we pray for an outpouring of God in Ireland again in these days. We pray too for them as they adjust to the problems caused by the implementation of the new Brexit arrangements. We pray that the politicians in our Westminster Government and those in the European parliament may be able to come to fair and appropriate arrangements to address the issues that have arisen over the transportation of good around these islands.  

We pray also today for churches who might be struggling to connect together effectively at this time and for whom technology might be an issue. We give thanks that other local churches are helping with resources and encouragement. We are most grateful for those within our own congregation whose work behind the scenes on technology makes it possible to hold our services and meetings week by week.

We pray for the following chaplains and churches:

John Jamieson (Army Chaplain) – We give thanks that John has been extended two more years’ ministry and service in the Royal Army Chaplains Department. We pray for wisdom for John as he supports soldiers and their families as we progress through this challenging COVID situation. We pray for help as John and his wife explore how they do church, and disciple Christians, using the online tools available.

Campbeltown Community Church – They are thankful for close fellowship and cooperation with believers from other churches in the town. We pray for them as they continue to serve the local community and share the good news of Jesus with the town.

Canonmills BC, Edinburgh  – Their wee church in the centre of Edinburgh stands empty but the Canonmills Family’s loving concern for one another is sustained by the candle of hope that they can soon all be together again.  They state that there are a wee church, maybe, but with a big heart, and we pray that the friends of Jesus everywhere may be strengthened by His hand in the face of the concerns we all face in this terrible pandemic.

Carluke BC – We pray today for the church family in Carluke Baptist, especially those who may have been very badly affected by Covid-19, that they will know God’s love and comfort at this time.

Carnoustie BC – We give thanks to God for the deepening of fellowship and growth in maturity over this past year, in the midst of lockdown; and for their 10th anniversary at the beginning of March this year. We pray as they continue to look at their witness to the most marginalised in their community; and for funding as they hope to start work on their building revamp this year.

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

Amen.

Bible Reading

We put no stumbling-block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.

As God has said:

‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’

17 Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ 18 And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ 7 1Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

II Corinthians 6:3-7:1

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘How firm a foundation’

The Message

II Corinthians 6:3-7:1 Living the gospel of Jesus

Introduction

We live in a world that is messy and complex. We are well aware that human beings are all sinful creatures that potentially can get so much right, but equally can get things horribly wrong. On the day I started writing this message a Scottish member of the Westminster Parliament was obliged to step back from their promoted post in their political party because of allegations of misconduct in office. They are not the only one in recent years as others too have had to stand down or even resign from parliament altogether as a result of choices made. 

Sadly, across society we are not taken by surprise when such stories are made public. It is particularly sad as a Christian, reading accounts of church leaders that have to step back from their ministry positions, but in the USA there have been quite a number of prominent figures who have had to stand down for a shorter or longer time depending on what has taken place.

Living the gospel of Jesus has never been more critical than it is today. It has always been true that many people in our communities are unable to determine whether a minister, priest or pastor is faithfully proclaiming the gospel in a church pulpit, but many more are able to spot when that same church leader or congregational member they know is living their daily life in a manner inconsistent with the faith they profess.

Many Christians are concerned at times about our limited abilities to speak about our faith to people outside the church, but what is fundamental to our credibility is a genuine attempt to practise what we claim to believe in everyday life. No-one is expecting us to be perfect or even close to that! However, it is fair to understand that we ought to be seen to be at least attempting to follow Jesus in the choices we make and the attitudes we display in our interactions with other people. What does Paul say to these relatively new Christians in Corinth on this topic?     

1. Authentic ministry (II Corinthians 6:3-13)

We have to remember that most of the New Testament books after the Four Gospels and Acts were written as letters without chapter or verse divisions. Paul was no different to us in that his letters flowed from one thing to another without any formal subdivisions in what he has written. Immediately prior to this section he has spoken about the extraordinary work of God in the life of the believer: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (II Corinthians 5:17)

This transformation is not the waiving of a ‘magic wand’ the moment we come to faith in Jesus. It is the start of a remarkable journey during which we progress to become more life Jesus in partnership with the Holy Spirit working within us. In this context, Paul states in II Corinthians 5:20: We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. 

In other words, when people want to see how God wants us to live they should see that in the life of a Christian. In the same way, the attitudes we  display and the words we speak should be a fair representation of how the Lord Jesus would have us act or react in that situation. Many people do not read the Bible even though quite a lot will own a copy on their bookshelves. But they certainly ‘read’ the way followers of Jesus live their lives. What message are you and I communicating by the way we live? It is in the light of these remarkable truths that Paul presents the first of two principles in this short passage to show us how we ought to live our lives. They are two boundary markers for us.    

(a)The principle (II Corinthians 6:3) We put no stumbling-block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  This is an essential conviction that every Christian should be committed to.  I do not want anyone to be put off committing their life to follow Jesus as a result of any of my words or actions. 

I may never be perfect, but with God’s help I want to live in a way that pleases Him and that shows however faintly that I am trying to live in a way that pleases Him. Of course, this does not mean that all will be well if we live this way. Like everyone else alive today we are coping for better or for worse through a virus pandemic. How that health crisis affects your life might be very different to a neighbour in your street or a colleague at work, even apart from the differences experienced in other countries around the globe.

On top of that there are individual challenges and opportunities that cross our pathway week by week. Yet through it all this principle applies. Through good times and through the hardest times I want to honour God through the choices I make and the life I lead. There will be times when we are sorely tempted to cut corners or just to act like other people around us. In the short term that can make life easier, but our calling is a privilege as well as a responsibility. How am I and how are you in getting on with living out this way of life? Are there any issues that you are struggling with that you need to pray about or even want a friend to get alongside you to pray with you or to pray for you? Don’t assume everyone else is doing better than you. We all have issues that we struggle with at times.

Timothy Dudley-Smith, in his biography of John Stott, of one of great Evangelical leaders in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century, recorded a conversation with that church leader about how he handled conflict in the course of church ministry. Stott made the honest admission that his first inclination was to run away as he found dealing with this kind of issue in church life quite exhausting. One of his favourite passages in the Bible came to mind from Psalm 55:5-6: Fear and trembling have beset me, horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.

Quite a lot of other church leaders would have deep sympathy for his honest admission. In fact, I suspect the vast majority of people shrink back from getting involved in trying to resolve conflict situations whether in our extended families, amongst our friends or colleagues at work or in our church families. Yet for Paul, the number one thing for him was to do his very best to avoid saying or doing anything that hindered anyone else’s faith journey.

I thank God for the Christian men and women I have known over the years who lived this principle so well and who have been such an encouragement to other people. I also want to thank the Lord for each person in this church family who over this difficult past year has gone out of their way to encourage or to assist someone else in their times of need.              

(b) The practice (II Corinthians 6:4-10)  The principle Paul stated was cast in a negative form, but now in a few sentences Paul attempts to convey how we and his mission team sought to live when they were in Corinth or in any other city where they had sought to plant a Christian church. Here in verses four to ten of II Corinthians chapter six he opens his heart to them to demonstrate how different he is to the ‘super apostles’, the other unnamed people seeking to win their affections and allegiance. Paul wants to make it very plain that the differences between him and them were much greater than some secondary level theological beliefs. What was Paul seeking to explain to them? 

(i) The true servant of God will live through tough times (II Corinthians 6:4b-5a) in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; The message his opponents were proclaiming was that if you are trusting God and living in the right way before Him that you will see things going so well for you. This man Paul, they were saying, is so inadequate. He goes from one crisis to the next. He is working himself to death and even then he is achieving so little compared to us. Look at all that time he spends in prison or under house arrest or in recovering from injuries inflicted during his ministry. We have not been in prison or beaten up for our faith in Jesus. Paul is going about it the wrong way they were saying. What they would have omitted to say was that it was Paul and his church-planting teams that were responsible for so many new churches beginning across the Roman Empire. What they might also have neglected to remind the Christians in Corinth were these words of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper in John 16:33:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Was this truth part of  Paul’s messages to new converts? Yes! In Acts 14:21-22: They preached the gospel in that city [Derbe] and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.

Then and now, living the way of Jesus will include going through some hard times. Our difficulties may be quite different to the list Paul cites of his own issues, but our calling is to seek with God’s help to persevere through our hard times.

(ii) The true servant of God will experience troubles from other people (II Corinthians 11:24-25a, 26a)  An example of Paul’s imprisonments came from Philippi where he and Silas were brutally beaten and put in the most secure inner section of the prison with their feet confined in stocks within the cell (Acts 16:24). If ever anyone had a right to feel hard done by, then these men could have raised this example as one for them.

As you read through the book of Acts there is a pattern of wrongful arrests and imprisonment and then release. Paul was well aware that as a Roman citizen he had rights when under arrest, something denied to the majority of people living under Rome’s jurisdiction. He was, though,  reluctant to claim his rights, as his aim was to secure freedom of worship for other believers in the locations where churches were planted, not just as a torture avoidance guarantee or as ‘a get out of jail’ card for himself. However, he claimed his legal rights when under arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 22:22-29).

To return to Paul in Philippi, the governor did not realise what effect locking up these Christian missionaries would have in his prison. Luke records that as late as midnight Paul and Silas were singing and praying to God with the other prisoners listening to them. The rest of the story was remarkable with an earthquake seriously damaging the prison facilities, prior to an evangelistic meeting being conducted on site in which the governor and his family were amongst those who came to faith. If that was not enough excitement for the night, it was followed by a baptismal service and then an exceedingly late dinner or full breakfast before Paul and Silas were due back in court. It was certainly eventful wherever these first Christian missionaries went to share the good news of Jesus.        

(iii) The true servant of God will experience self-inflicted hardship (II Corinthians 6:5b)… in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; Paul’s dedication to Christian service was remarkable. Yet we must not forget the growing numbers of colleagues who were members of his mission teams sent out to plant new congregations. They all faced the same dangers and struggles as they lived out the gospel of Jesus. Clement of Rome, a prominent Christian clergyman, in the generation after Paul wrote this concerning Paul:  ‘Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After he had been seven times in bonds [imprisoned], had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith.’ [Clement of Rom Epistle to the Corinthians, 5 trans. J.B. Lightfoot].

What these religious opponents of Paul in Corinth saw as a failure, Clement, one of the most prominent European Christian leaders in the 90s AD, saw as something to be admired. Was this fortitude and endurance simply something that was characteristic of Christians two thousand years ago? Absolutely not! It has been a common pattern over the centuries. Around the world at any one time in some countries there is freedom to practice your beliefs, but in others, discrimination, persecution and imprisonment or in the worst cases martyrdom for professing faith in Jesus.

In Nigeria over the last decade, for example, barely a week has gone by without some Christians being murdered by Islamic extremists for refusing to deny their faith. It is not only religious extremists who will imprison and kill. North Korea, is an atheistic country. It is effectively a death sentence to be caught practising the Christian faith. A country currently in the news is Myanmar where the brutal military regime has reasserted control over its governance. Their horrific treatment of Christians mainly from ethnic minorities in the North, alongside Rohinya Muslims from the South, has been going on for some years. How are Christians responding to their plight? They continue a faithful witness and are prepared to die for their faith, whether young or old.

At a protest rally on Wednesday 10 March 2021 in Myanmar’s northern State of Kachinhas there was a remarkable sight of a Roman Catholic nun Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng who put herself between the protesters and police by kneeling before one squad and pleading with them to stop their violence. Two officers dropped to their knees and joined her. [story and picture available online from many sources]

Sadly, although her intervention was successful at that time, the police came back later that afternoon and shot dead unarmed peaceful protesters. Around the world at the present time more Christians are living under discrimination or persecution than have the freedoms we enjoy in the United Kingdom. Living the gospel of Jesus around the world for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ is as difficult now as it was two thousand years ago.              

(c) The purpose (II Corinthians 6:11-13) Paul rightly points out what he and fellow Christians had endured to take the good news of the gospel around the Roman world. He was not seeking to stir their emotions to tears so that they felt sorry for him and his colleagues. Instead, he wanted to demonstrate to them his inner motivation for coming to Corinth or any other place as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. His proof of apostleship and genuineness in his calling is demonstrated in the way he is living the gospel of Jesus.

The Corinthians needed to view differently the contrast between Paul and his ‘super apostle’ opponents. They may have had charismatic personalities, were gripping to listen to in their sermons and their self-promotion second-to-none. However, they need to see that endurance through suffering and hardship demonstrated Paul’s commitment to the Lord Jesus and his love for them as his converts. We as Christians today likewise must be honest and admit to those seeking faith that it can be tough to follow Jesus.

We must never pretend that life will necessarily get easier if we put our faith in Jesus. In fact, in many countries today the opposite will be true. What is particularly noticeable is that the church is growing in those parts of the world where there is a greater cost to Christian discipleship. However, this will only happen if enquirers see that existing Christians are truly living the gospel of Jesus. We thank God that in countries like China and Nepal remarkable things have happened over the last seventy years as the Christian Church has grown remarkably fast despite constant government opposition.

2. Authentic lifestyle (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1)

Our character as well as our conduct is really important. Many Christian leaders have pointed out over the centuries that the greatest dangers the church can face comes from within. Will we live the gospel of Jesus today? Our words lose their power if our lives are inconsistent with our claims. Paul now highlights a second principle for living for followers of Jesus. What did he mean then and what does it mean for us today? Remember, Paul is contrasting the gospel message he preaches and lifestyle he lives with the self-proclaimed apostles who were teaching a very different message and living a different lifestyle. Paul is very clear in spelling out that both ways cannot be right. The Corinthians need to make a choice. Over the centuries of Christian history there have been quite a number of times when huge choices had to be made over doctrinal matters, especially regarding the identity of Jesus and over the way we live the Christian life. The pressures to water down Christian convictions and the way Jesus calls us to live are as strong now as in any previous era of history.

(a)The principle (II Corinthians 6:14a) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  In 1964, a well-known American theologian reflected that many of the churches in his country had large attendances and yet appeared to have too little influence on the culture of the day. He wrote: ‘In the area of belief we find widespread indifference to the Bible and ignorance of its contents –and strong resentment if a biblical word of judgement is brought to bear on the life of a congregation. In worship we find notably lacking any sense of the holy presence of God and of what worship is for…In ethics we find the cultural ideas of friendliness and fellowship more evident that the difficult standards of the New Testament or historic Christendom’ (Langdon Gilkey, How the Church can minister without losing itself, p.1)

The sad reality is that those words could equally have been spoken about some churches in the UK as well, in his day and today. It is a huge shock to many new Christians to come to terms with the fact that there are professing Christian Churches that do not stand for historical orthodox Christian beliefs and the lifestyle commended from their pulpits is at variance with biblical teaching on a broad range of issues. Paul would have encouraged Christians seeking a marriage partner to look for a fellow believer because they would have more things in common in terms of faith convictions and outlook on life, but that is not his primary point of application here. He is asking the Christians in the congregation in Corinth not to follow the other religious leaders who were claiming their allegiance instead of them continuing to follow Paul and the teaching of Jesus.

What did Paul highlight in this letter about these opponents in his day? II Corinthians 2:17: Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. They were becoming rich at the expense of those who followed them. There are sadly church leaders who promote a prosperity gospel that justifies them gaining significant wealth that goes far beyond their needs. The God channel has so many of these false prophets promoting their gospels that are so different to the way of Jesus. Thankfully, there are genuine Christian ministers preaching on there too, but we need to be discerning when we hear them.

In II Corinthians 5:12 it appears these ‘super apostles’ were strong on self-promotion about their greatness and successes, rather than being humble pointing others to Jesus. When we leave a church service if we are thinking more about how wonderful Jesus is then the preacher has succeeded. If the opposite is true and our minds are totally focussed on the messenger not the message something has been missed. Remember John the Baptist’s well known words: He must become greater and I must become less (John 3:30).

These other religious leaders visiting Corinth had a different view of the Bible and the teaching of Jesus. They wanted to privilege a works based faith and the observance of Jewish dietary guidelines at the expense of the gospel of grace. The letter to the Galatians in the New Testament was written to congregations who had been taken in by that false gospel. Today, this is not an issue for churches in the UK. In Western Europe, by contrast, too many clergy and churches adopt a view of God and His activity in the world that is effectively at variance with what the Bible teaches about Christian belief and behaviour, more influenced by secular voices outside the church. We need to stand firm on God’s inspired and authoritative Word, like Jesus did in His response to the devil’s temptations. It is written… and cited passages of Scripture to counter them (Luke 4:1-13).               

(b) The practice (II Corinthians 6:14b-18)

Paul is quoting six Old Testament passages in this section that in simple terms point to God’s desire for a personal relationship with His children by faith. ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ Relationships flourish when there are no barriers to prevent them prospering. Are you and I allowing anything to hinder our relationship with God from flourishing? Even more remarkably, Paul declares, God wishes to adopt us into His family ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ Paul, in effect is asking the Christians in Corinth, and us today, if we really grasp how special this is? Almighty God has a personal interest in wanting you to flourish as the person He created you to be. He wants you and me to avoid any false beliefs or behavioural choices that could prevent this taking place. Therefore, Paul ends this section of his letter with a challenge:    

(c) The purpose (II Corinthians 7:1) Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. In essence, Paul invites us to reflect on our lives to ensure there are no issues we need to address so that God’s vision for our lives can become increasingly the reality in our experience in the coming days, for Jesus’ sake, Amen. 

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Purify my heart’

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: ‘The Servant King’

Closing Prayer:

 Lord, what a privilege You have entrusted to us to represent You in this world. We are conscious of the need to depend on the help of the Holy Spirit to equip us as we seek effectively to live out the gospel of Jesus. We pray that You would bless and encourage us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves this week, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Benediction:  The Grace

Church at Home – 28 February 2021

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School

JAM young adults have a separate programme 11:30am-12:30pm looking at the character of David in the Old Testament.  Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of today’s programme.

Scottish Bible Society Wonder Walks – You don’t need to prepare anything in advance, just download your map and head off for your weekly Wonder Walk. On each map you will find something to read from the Gospel of Mark, questions to think about, games to play, and ideas to pray about.  We have created a walk for each Sunday in Lent, concluding with a Good Friday and Easter Walk, but you can go use these walks anytime you go out!

Baptist Union of Scotland National Prayer Livestream – The monthly prayer livestream takes place next on Sunday 7 March, 2021 7.00–7.30pm. 

Call to worship

Keep me safe, my God,
for in You I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
apart from You I have no good thing.’
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight… 

5Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup;
You make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.


I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With Him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will You let your faithful one see decay.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.

Psalm 16 selection

Our opening song of praise and worship is: ‘Everlasting God’

Opening prayer

Our Father in heaven we come before You today as Your children, with joy in our hearts assured of Your presence with us by the Holy Spirit. We come from our struggles and our successes of the past week; we may have come from our tears of frustration or sadness, but also some of us come able to testify of our triumphs over adversity; and now, once more, as a new week begins we come humbly before You once again. Purify our hearts from our sins of thought and word and deed, and fill us again with the Holy Spirit’s power so that we might enter the days before us with confidence in You. Speak into our lives today as we sing Your praises, pray, and hear Your Word read and expounded. We bring our prayers in the all-powerful name of Jesus, Amen.    

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

All-Age Talk – Moraig Piggot

So today Brian is going to be speaking to us about ‘Living in the light of our future’. When you become as Christian and invite Jesus into your life, you are promised forgiveness for all the wrong things you do and also promised that you will live with HIM for eternity even after you die. That means we will life forever in heaven with God. Eternity means never ending, an endless life after death.

Sometimes in life we can use this word eternity in a different way. You may have heard that my sister and I were raising money for Cancer Research by taking part in a challenge where you had to cover 56 miles in February by either walking or running. Now I am not going to lie, this month as a result as felt like an eternity! Every time I went out to run it felt like it was never ending and when all the snow came, I just didn’t know how we would complete all these miles!

When I give the young people I teach work to do they sigh and moan “this is going to take forever!” Maybe you feel the same when you look at all the work that is uploaded onto Teams or Google Classroom for you to complete!

I am sure we can all sympathize with each other about the endless boredom we are feeling from being in yet another lockdown and the announcement of the easing of restrictions plan feels like it will be a really long time before we ever see ‘normal’ again.

These examples of eternity, things in our life that feel like they are never ending are not very positive experiences unfortunately.

The eternity that we will read about in today’s bible verse however will bring a different meaning of the word. Listen to these words from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

You see what we read here explains to us that when we are fed up, worried, ill or unsure about things, these feelings and situations will not last for forever, in the big picture of our lives these days, months and maybe even years of difficult times are just a small section of the bigger plan that God has for us.

The verses I read remind us, especially when we feel discouraged, to think about those invisible things that are powerful and last forever. Love is an important thing that cannot be seen, but is very powerful. When you feel discouraged think of all the people in your life who love you.

Another powerful thing that cannot be seen is hope. Hope comes from God’s love that goes on and on forever.

Always remember that you are loved. Do not lose heart. Do not give up.

I want you to try something today that will demonstrate the true loving and hope filled meaning of the eternity God gives us:

Get a measuring tape or a big ball of wool/string. Go to the start of your driveway and ask someone to hold the start of the tape/wool/string then you walk pulling it out until you reach the end of your back garden.

Leave the tape/wool/string there and walk back to the start. Use a ruler to measure 10cm. That 10cm is your life here on earth regardless of your age right now. Then walk or look at the rest of the tape/wool/string still in front of you. This is to remind you and let you see what an eternity with God will be like, our lives here on earth are just a tiny part of what is still to come.

I hope and pray this thought of eternity with God brings you joy, a feeling of hope and fills you with lots of love. You could actually keep walking and walking with all the tape/wool/string that we have in this world and it would never be enough to demonstrate the eternal life we have to come! Now that’s an amazing thought!!

Our next song is ‘Bless the Lord O my soul (10 Thousand reasons)’

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father,

We come with thankfulness that we can see the first signs of spring; as the snow has melted and the first flowers in our gardens return to view, in particular the carpets of snowdrops and the first crocuses and daffodils beginning to reveal their vibrant colours. We are encouraged that the continued success of the vaccination programme gives further hopes of an easing of the lockdown restrictions in the coming months  

We continue to pray for wisdom for hospital administrators and medical staff as they seek to reduce the lengthy waiting lists for operations at the present time. We pray for Your strength for all those working in our NHS and Social Care sectors that they may be enabled to continue to carry out their duties effectively, especially when there are staff shortages or other resources are limited.

We remember those especially who in serving others caught the Covid-19 virus and who are suffering the effects of ‘long-covid’ and finding it so difficult to return to work. For them and others in the same position as a result of ‘long-covid’, we pray that medical treatments made be found to alleviate their symptoms.

We pray for our governments in Edinburgh and Westminster as they grapple with increasingly difficult decisions that have such serious implications for so many people’s lives. As they wrestle with the options open to them over what sectors of the country to open up first in the coming weeks, they will be well aware that there are social as well as economic costs to the choices made.

We pray that they will come to wise decisions. However we pray that the people who have lost their employment or who are struggling with the continuance of the furlough scheme may not lose the hope of returning to their work or of gaining new forms of employment in the coming months.  

We pray for the following individuals and churches:

Philip Craven (RAF Chaplain) – We give thanks for our chaplains who continue to serve in various capacities across Scotland and the UK. We pray specifically for Philip as he serves as an RAF Chaplain at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham. We pray that Philip will know God’s leading and blessing in all he does this year.  

Broxburn BC – We give thanks for the fellowship in Broxburn and pray for them as they continue to worship and meet together over Zoom at this time. We pray that they will be uplifted and encouraged as they meet together week by week.  

Buckhaven BC – We give thanks to God that from lockdown (March 2020) they have been able to continue their food bag support for local families and individuals; we are pleased that they have also been able to refurbish the kitchen for their Friday Café reopening post-lockdown. We pray for the congregation as they seek a new Pastor. They are thankful to meet weekly online for worship and are ready to meet occasionally in person as lockdown lifts.

Buckie BC – We pray for the ongoing youth work and for the settling in of Graham Mair the new pastor. We pray that God would give them wisdom in how best to communicate the good news of Jesus to the people in their community.

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

Heavenly Father,

We come with deep thankfulness for the success of Helen S’s operation last week. We pray that You would strengthen her as she recuperates from surgery at this time. We also remember Shona H’s niece Lynne after her time in hospital as well. We also remember Sheila B who has been unwell recently and pray for the restoration of her health.

We bring before You Jeanne P in Ninewells Hospital and pray for Your peace and strength for her at this time.

We continue to remember the Gray, Steer and Torbet families as they grieve the loss of loved ones

For people with on-going health issues – Betty R, Fiona K, Dorothy G, Fiona McC, Mary D, Nicola L’s Dad Lawrie and Margaret – Ann W’s sister, for Fergus R,  – may you grant them all your comfort, your peace and a special sense of your presence during these difficult times

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

We continue to pray 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 pray for other people 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

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

II Corinthians 4:16-5:10

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘By faith we see the hand of God’

The Message

II Corinthians 4:16 to 5:10 Living in the light of our future

Introduction

In the midst of the current virus pandemic very little seems certain. So much of what is stated as the rules for this week may be quite different next week or next month as circumstances change. However, the painful truth is that some things like death do not change. All of us are confronted with this unsought reality time and again when we say farewell to people we love and now deeply miss.

One day the funeral arrangements will be for you and for me, the only question to answer is this: are you ready to enter eternity should your time come soon? Our answer to this question leads naturally to ask ourselves and each other: how should I be living in the light of our future beyond this life? Have you ever stopped to answer this question? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow only the present day.

In funeral services of various kinds an overwhelming majority will affirm some form of belief in life after the grave, apart from the conviction humanists and atheists. One of the early Christian statements of faith, recited in church is The Apostles Creed, which includes these lines:

In the funeral of a believer it is common for the officiating minister to state words like these, which originated in the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer, though based on various biblical texts. For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.

This is a clear description of the distinctive Judaeo-Christian emphasis on life beyond the grave. Jesus was the first to be raised, never to die again; but we as His followers will one day experience that same transformation as Paul told the Corinthians in I Corinthians 15:20-22: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Yet what happens when we die – between then and the return of Jesus Christ? We have all sat around in bus stations or airport lounges and it has felt like ‘forever’! Most importantly, how do we view the present circumstances we are experiencing in the light of the future God has prepared for us? These are some of the issues Paul will address in the next section of his letter to the church in Corinth.

1. Our Goal –Eternal Glory (II Corinthians 4:16-18)

Paul has been speaking about the wonderful message we have to proclaim and the need to proclaim it with integrity, like a light shining in a dark place. Yet we do so in human weakness, totally dependent on His strength and resources. After all if God the Father has the power to raise Jesus from the dead then He can handle all the issues I am likely to face. In the final section of chapter four the apostle provides his and our motivation for serving the Lord and making the best use of our time here on earth. He speaks first about:

(a) Perseverance (v16a) Therefore we do not lose heart. The apostle has made the same point in II Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.

However, there he was looking back to the previous chapter and the glorious truths we have to proclaim about our amazing God, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Here he is looking forward to what lies ahead of us beyond the grave. There is a constant tension between the ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ of our inheritance in Christ. Paul explained something of this in his own experience in his letter to the Philippians:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me (Philippians 1:21-26). 

Our time here is short so we must continue focussed on the calling to which He has entrusted us, maintaining that fire in our hearts, that passion for His glory, that determination to see His name honoured throughout the earth. God is at work in our lives! God has used you and me to influence and indeed to reach other people for Him. Collectively the Christian Church is experiencing amazing growth, despite the horrific opposition and suffering being endured in many countries today. 

Thank God for the encouragements we hear from the Middle East and even from parts of Africa where God is working in people’s lives. We will not give up. Brother ——— was a convert to the Christian faith in Mogadishu in 1986, through hearing the gospel by radio. In 1992 for the first time he met a fellow believer in that same city. Together they founded an underground church of fourteen members. Sadly Islamist extremists found out and hunted them down killing twelve of the fourteen believers. His co-founder Liibaan, a nurse, was the first martyr. Then Ahmed Gobe, a leading doctor, was shot dead on the way home from a clinic. Another martyr was Mohammed Haji, a former University professor in Canada, who was rebuilding the education system for the children in that city. All the murderers were apparently well known and walked freely afterwards in the streets of Mogadishu.  Brother ——— left the country, but returns periodically to encourage the underground churches [Evangelical Times February 2011].

However, a Christian will only have the priorities this believer has if he or she shares the convictions of the apostle Paul quoted from Philippians 1:21. If Christians can persevere in Somalia then we have no excuse in Scotland. Does Jesus come first in your life? Are you living now in a way you will be comfortable with when we meet Jesus?

(b) Transformation (v16b) Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Old age does not come alone. The aches and pains and loss of strength can be depressing and frustrating when we cannot do the things we once enjoyed. Yet even in an age when the cult of youth is king in our secular culture and those older, especially women, are banished from the TV screen, to be replaced with younger models, the perspective of the people of God should be different.

We do not live in denial and pretend that we can vanquish the ageing process. Expensive face lifts, botox injections and innumerable creams only delay the inevitable! At each stage of life there are blessings and challenges, both are a part of the tapestry of life with its many inter-connected threads.

One of the most powerful forms of witness through our church has been the partnership of younger and older people serving the parents and their children through the parent and toddler ministries. This kind of inter-generational activity is increasingly rare in our society and is something we might sometimes take for granted. We may not have the energy we once had but it should not be a reason to diminish our prayer life.

On the contrary time pressures might be less without the requirements of formal employment – even though many people have remarked in my hearing that they cannot imagine in the past how they found time to go to work! In the inner person, in our character and relationship with the Lord we can grow more like Him. Our goals and ambitions will of necessity, in terms of things of this life, be different to when we were younger, but our focus on Jesus and our passion for His glory should remain the same. In more general terms, it was the Christian approach to human life that led to the value of and care for the very young and the elderly in society.

In a world where the denial of the sanctity of life for the very youngest (in abortion legislation) and the lack of adequate care for the elderly is increasingly common, Christians (and not just Christians to be fair) will wish to honour older people and treat them with the dignity they deserve. We cannot stop the physical ageing process, but we can actively promote and encourage growth in grace and Christ-likeness in our inner person, because one day we will be like Him.     

(c) Glorification (vs17-18) 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Perseverance and transformation are accompanied by glorification. Are there times when things get too much for us? Yes! Work issues, health concerns, family matters, things in society, our neighbourhood and even at times in our church there are issues that cause us to be despondent and even sometimes distressed. In such a context Paul says remember what is temporary and what is eternal; how apt his words are; how often I need to be reminded of this fact, and I suspect many others of us here as well.

A lot of people around us behave the way they do because they think that this life is all there is, which leads to short-term thinking and not building for the future. As Christians we know that we are part of something much bigger; of universal and eternal significance, even if our part in that is perceived as small and in the world’s eyes insignificant. This is a point that Paul repeated in a number of letters, including to the church in Rome.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:18-25).

Ira Sankey, the famous singer who accompanied D.L. Moody in his evangelistic campaigns in Scotland in the late nineteenth century, tells a story about Robert Annan of Dundee:

Having carried in my pock­et for sev­er­al months the words of the hymn “Eter­ni­ty,” which the au­thor, El­len M. H. Gates, had sent me, I hand­ed them, one day in Chi­ca­go [Il­li­nois] in 1876, to my friend P. P. Bliss, ask­ing him to write mu­sic for them. Three days lat­er he had com­posed the tune.

The hymn was much used at our meet­ings both in Great Bri­tain and the Unit­ed States. Be­fore sing­ing it, I used to tell the sto­ry of Rob­ert An­nan, of Dun­dee, Scot­land. He was one of the worst men who ev­er lived in that town, but af­ter hav­ing been con­vert­ed be­came one of the most use­ful mis­sion­ar­ies of the place. On leav­ing his lit­tle cot­tage home one morn­ing to go to his mis­sion work, he took a piece of chalk from his pock­et and wrote on the flag­stone of the walk which led to his house the single word “Eter­ni­ty.”

A few min­utes lat­er he saw a child fall from one of the ves­sels in the har­bour. Be­ing a bold, strong swim­mer, he threw off his coat and shoes, and plunged in­to the bay. He saved the child, but at the cost of his own life. His bo­dy was car­ried home over the word “Eternity,” which he had writ­ten a few hours be­fore. On my last vi­sit to Scot­land, about five years ago, I went to see his wi­dow, and found that the writ­ing had been cut in­to the stone by di­rect­ion of the Honourable James Gor­don, the Earl of Ab­er­deen. Thou­sands go to see it ev­ery year. Mr. An­nan’s min­is­ter took me to the beau­ti­ful cem­e­te­ry at the place, where a fine mon­u­ment ten feet high, marks the last rest­ing-place of the he­ro.

That street was later demolished, but the paving stone in question was rescued and is now located at the entrance to St Peter’s Free Church of Scotland in Dundee. This man’s life and the word imposed on the memories of many citizens of Dundee as a result of his witness, is a word that we too would do well to keep at the forefront of our own memories, as it keeps everything else in perspective.

2. Our Future – Eternal Life (II Corinthians 5:1-8)

 1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

David, in Psalm 16:10-11 is conscious that there will be some extraordinary events taking place in the future life of the coming Messiah, such as His violent death (Psalm 22) and resurrection (Psalm 16:10), but for David who would die before that time there will still be something to look forward to prior to the bodily resurrection. Why was he so happy?:

because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Jesus, in Matthew 8:11-12, spoke of life after death in these terms: I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

However we understand these verses it is clear that the people described are conscious and active participants in what is going on in heaven. Jesus, in His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, makes this request in verse 24: Father I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory… The saved believers in heaven currently praising the Lamb that was slain do so with real joy as they experience His glorious presence in person.

There are various Bible references that draw attention to what they are doing there. For example, Revelation 7:9-10: After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.

There are people who have been martyrs for their faith on earth, described in Rev.6:9-10: I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?)

They cry out for justice on the earth prior to the end of the age. There are other believers pictured as serving the Lord day and night (Rev.7:15). In the light of the cumulative evidence of the Scriptures, not just II Corinthians 5:7-8: We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

We need not fear death because it is not the end. We are liberated to live life to the full in the here and now, knowing that the best is always still to come for the people of God.  In the life to come we enter eternity and time is no more. We cannot be late or early for anything; a fact that will be a big encouragement for those of us who struggle with time-keeping!

We will look forward to our resurrection bodies, but the joys of the age to come will more than compensate prior to Christ’s second coming. The Greek cultures of the Roman world looked forward to immortality free from a physical body and saw such a position as a future liberation. Paul stresses here this is not our hope. We look forward one day to a glorious resurrection body, when Jesus returns with His saints who have already died, to collect those who remain on the earth. Although followers of Jesus shared with these Greek secular scholars the conviction that this life was not the end and that the best is yet to come; in contrast to their views, we believe it will be in a physical world in fulfilment of God’s original plans for His creation.        

3. Our Accountability –Eternal Reward (II Corinthians 5:9-10)

(a) Our Goal (II Cor.5:9-10a) 9So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. In Roman cities the governor sat on the judgement seat to hear court cases, as Paul knew well from his time before Gallio’s court in Corinth (Acts 18:12). This was a serious matter as the most serious penalties could in principle be given to guilty defendants. However, Paul is much more concerned by a much higher court and a greater judge, before whom we shall all one day appear, the Lord Himself.

In the light of this reality it is no wonder that Paul says in II Cor.5:9: So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. Is that what you do?

Much of our lives other people in our church family, and even our human family, know little about, unless we care to tell them.  But, there is one person who knows and sees everything and it is before such a One that we will stand on that day.  It is not your husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter, brother or sister who makes that call but the Lord of glory.

It is not the mocking person in the street, the cynical colleague in the workplace or the caustic critic on the TV, but the One who hung on a cross and said: Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). It is not the helpless victim of injustice or oppression or one of the starving multitudes in parts of Asia or Africa who will judge you and me, rather the One who rebuked Peter for chopping off Malchus’ ear in the Garden of Gethsemane and said in Matthew 26:33-34: Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?

Without exception, every man, woman, boy or girl, who has walked this earth will stand before King Jesus –the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). What is your number one goal? Is it the same as that of Paul? It needs to be, as that is why you and I were placed on this earth in the first place.      

(b) Our Reward (II Corinthians 5:10b) that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Our salvation is eternally secure because Jesus obtained it on the cross. However, our judgement as believers covers rewards for service rendered; and all our works will be tested to discern their quality. In I Corinthians 3:10-15 Paul explains this point in more detail:

For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,  13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Are you / am I as Christians on course for a pleasant surprise or an awful shock or a bit of both when we stand before Him? May our goal be to put Him first throughout our lives and on that day be delighted to hear Him say:

Well done good and faithful servant…come and share your master’s happiness (Matthew 25:23), Amen. 

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’

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: ‘Amazing Grace’

Closing Prayer:

Thank you Lord for the incredible privilege You have entrusted to us to live in the light of the future You have prepared for us. We are assured that the work You have begun in us and in others who know and love You, together with all the members of Your Church down the ages, will one day be brought to completion. We recognise that along the way we will have our struggles and our fears, yes even our tears, but through it all Your Holy Spirit will enable us to be victorious and one day stand before You in heaven rejoicing that what was prophesied in the Bible has finally come true.  We bring our praises and our prayers to You this day, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Benediction:  The Grace

Church at Home – 21 February 2021

Intimations

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School

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

Scottish Bible Society Wonder Walks – You don’t need to prepare anything in advance, just download your map and head off for your weekly Wonder Walk.On each map you will find something to read from the Gospel of Mark, questions to think about, games to play, and ideas to pray about.  We have created a walk for each Sunday in Lent, concluding with a Good Friday and Easter Walk, but you can go use these walks anytime you go out! Visit the website for further information.

Prayer for Scotland “Cry for Mercy” – a call to 40 days of prayer for Scotland.

Baptist Union of Scotland National Prayer Livestream The monthly prayer livestream takes place next on Sunday 7 March, 2021 7.00–7.30pm.

Call to worship

A word from Jesus on Discipleship;

“A large crowd was following Jesus.  He turned to them and said to them “If you want be my disciple you must hate everyone else by comparison, your father & mother, wife and children, brothers & sisters – ye even your own life.  Otherwise you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14: 25 – 27

As Edwards the scholar comments “Jesus is talking to the crowds – to all contemplating a relationship with Jesus lest they imagine that familiarity with Jesus even proximity to him are substitutes for costly discipleship with him”

For it says in Galatians 2:20

“For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” Amen!

The treasure is in jars of clay – and let us now reflect on this in our first song of praise “Yet not I but through Christ in me”

Opening prayer

Let us commit our time to God in prayer, let us pray.

Loving heavenly Father, we come to you as the God of creation the Sustainer of the universe, and yet a Holy perfect God.

Help us afresh today to stand in awe of you – that you are Holy and that we would have the privilege, of coming into your presence God!

Help us wonder at that privilege, that Jesus, whose hands flung stars into space – to cruel nails surrendered!

That we might receive salvation, to receive your forgiveness, to receive your treasure – into us as earthen vessels;

Father as we worship you today, take us deeper into you, enable us to see what we need to repent of, that we might more fully represent you in costly discipleship.  That we might share you Jesus in our needy world and communities;

In all that we do today – in praise in prayer, in testimony, in hearing and listening to your voice through your word.

May our lives be touched, infused, challenged by the work of your Holy Spirit – Lord, shake us today and may you the God of heaven be glorified.  For it is in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

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


All-Age Talk Rev Gary Torbet

Later, Brian is reflecting on our need to be faithful in witnessing for Jesus and in this passage is says in 2 Corinthians 4:7:

“We now have this light shining in our hearts (that is the amazing truth of the Gospel) BUT WE OURSELVES ARE LIKE FRAGILE CLAY JARS CONTAINING THIS GREAT TREASURE”

In Jesus times these were jars of Clay, and yes they don’t look like something you would put something precious in, and we are like the jars of clay – with all our failings, weaknesses, things we do wrong – yet still seen as precious for the purposes of God.

The knowledge of the Gospel has shone light into their hearts, unveiling them to God’s glory. This knowledge is through Christ, and it is their treasure. Paul recognizes their worthlessness before God, but He has chosen to give them this valuable truth, to free them from their sins and bring them to Him in order to show His surpassing greatness. As His servants, He has chosen them, jars of clay, to spread this truth.

This treasure is for us if we accept Christ Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. When we become followers of Christ, the veil in our hearts is torn and our darkened hearts are filled with light. This light is the knowledge of the glory of God that we have heard about through God’s Word and that we begin to experience as believers through our worship and prayers.

Jars of clay were valueless containers, readily discarded, being cheap and always available to people in Paul’s day. The difference between these worthless jars and the treasure of Christ is huge! Paul’s main purpose in calling himself and the apostles’ jars of clay is to reveal that human weakness presents no barrier to the purpose of God. The worthlessness of the vessels is evidence that the magnificent power which occurs when the Gospel is preached, the change that takes place in human lives, is God’s and not the apostles.

And they can be used to place beautiful flowers in;

Boys and girls – why not draw a picture of a clay jar and place inside it a some beautiful flowers or a precious gem or treasure and with the verse “BUT WE OURSELVES ARE LIKE FRAGILE CLAY JARS CONTAINING THIS GREAT TREASURE” 2 Corinthians 4; 7

Worship Song 

Let us now sing about the light of the gospel and how it is something God calls us to do – to spread the Good News of His wonderful Gospel of grace and salvation.  “Light of the World”

Prayers for others

Loving heavenly Father,

We thank you are the light of the world Jesus – that you came to us, to show how much you loved us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”

Your Gospel of truth, love and grace are so amazing, and how the world we live in, so needs this just now, so needs your peace, your healing just now.

Help us realise afresh today Lord that we may not always have the freedoms we have to share your gospel – help us not to take this for granted and especially now as we remember our brothers and sisters around the world that

have the real threat of being imprisoned, taken away from family, being tortured for the sake of “picking up their cross” and daring to follow you in some of these lands that we pray for now – from the Open Doors Watch list of the 10  most dangerous countries

to be a Christian – we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in:

  • North Korea
  • Afghanistan
  • Somalia
  • Libya
  • Pakistan
  • Eritrea
  • Yemen
  • Iran
  • Nigeria
  • And India, where we remember our brother Nilapu and his colleagues preaching the Gospel there.

Father, as we think of our nation, we pray for continuing wisdom for our leaders – Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon as they continue to battle the pandemic.  And also that as a wider world we would not create, yet another injustice, by withholding vaccines from much poorer countries that will heap further suffering and death upon their people – May you raise up leaders and in the church – who will speak out for the voiceless.

We pray especially for all the Doctors, Nurses, Physios, OT and Care Workers in the NHS and care homes as they care for the sick and dying – protect them, give them daily courage. We pray for all those who have lost loved ones through COVID – each a personal tragedy – would they know your comfort Lord.

Father we pray especially for those who are currently unwell or suffering from long-term conditions;

For Helen S and for a successful hip replacement tomorrow.

For the T and G families as they grieve the loss of loved ones

For people with on-going health issues – Betty R, Fiona K, Dorothy G, Fiona Mc, Mary D, Nicola L’s Dad (L) and Margaret – Ann W’s sister, for Fergus R,  – may you grant them all your comfort, your peace and a special sense of your presence during these difficult times.  We pray for supernatural breakthroughs and for your healing Lord – grant medical people involved with them renewed insight for their well-being.

We pray now silently for those known to us now; …

We continue to pray for;

Hamish R for recovery from COVID,  in his ongoing ministry in France, his ongoing witness to Frank (the 69 year old skateboarder) and for Hamish’s future direction next year.

The Christianity Explored and Discipleship Explored participants that they will grow in their knowledge, understanding and application of God’s Word particularly the 5 people on these courses who are yet to be saved.

The church of Broughty Baptist -may each one of usl grow into a mature relationship with Jesus and be devoted to one another in prayer, learning God’s Word together, sharing the gospel and in fellowship with one another.

For the deacons and pastor as they meet at the end of March for the deacons ‘away day’. May they discern God’s will for leadership direction.

For the church’s youth and children and families provision. That young people will grow in their relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit working through the Word, leaders and young people. For the children and parents/carers who take part in Boogie Babies and Messy Church that relationships with Moraig and Claire will mature and through the Word and these relationships the Holy Spirit will lead children and adults to a growing knowledge and understanding of Jesus leading them to an understanding of their need for Christ.

We bring all these prayers to you, our loving Lord Jesus and it is in your name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’[b] Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

II Corinithians 4: 1-15

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: 

The Message

II Corinthians 4:1-15 Are we faithful witnesses for Jesus?

Introduction

Why should anyone listen to people from the churches? What are the churches contributing to our communities in this time of a virus pandemic? These are questions someone put to me this week and are questions put to others in churches where enquiries are made about our place in society at this time.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Bishop of York Stephen Cottrell gave this response to an enquiry about what the ‘Church of England is doing’ at this time: “‘Where is the C of E?’” the pair asked. “Let us offer an answer. We have been burying the dead, comforting the bereaved, feeding the hungry and praying for our nation. We have been doing this not as superheroes, but as human beings living through the same crisis as everyone else: grieving, home-schooling, worrying, getting sick, shielding, isolating, weeping.” [Premier Christian News Thursday 11 Feb 2021]

This is of course alongside zoom or livestreamed services; or the multiple ways in which churches distribute services to make them accessible to others, by email, cds or dvds, or by hard copies printed off and posted or hand delivered to people’s doors. We thank God for our online Baptist Union Assembly ‘Canopy’ last autumn and other Christian conferences and media that have been a blessing through these difficult times.

In a culture where celebrities post a stream of social media messages to keep a high profile about their activities, and the news media is attempting to offer a twenty-four hour version of the main news stories of the day, what we are doing will never fit neatly into that kind of packaged presentation. The question of what it means to be a faithful witness for the Lord is both a personal and a collective one.

What have I or you been doing during this virus pandemic is inevitably a mixture of the ordinary everyday things of life that are part of regular routines of running a home; these may include supporting family members with school work or assisting others with needs, especially those older people in our church family or community.

We are very limited in what we can do, when visiting people’s homes is greatly restricted or meeting others for a coffee in a café is not possible. I thank God for those in this congregation who have written letters or cards to encourage other people. I thank God for the number of people who have made phone calls or other forms of messages to others to enquire about their wellbeing. We have had different phases of activities over the last ten months.

Initially there was a great scramble to ensure everyone shielding or vulnerable in some way could access the necessary groceries or other items needed; we have participated in the provision of parcels to encourage NHS and Social Care workers. Others of us have sent or spoken messages of appreciation to supermarket employees or other essential workers in the course of ordinary contacts with them.

There is no limit on who we might seek to encourage or how we might express appreciation for faithful dedication to serving our local community. However, Paul in this passage in I Corinthians 4 is focussed on how as the people of God we engage in worship, witness and social ministries. The ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what’. Let us take a short time to reflect on what Paul has written in these verses.   

1. Our commitment (II Corinthians 4:1-6)

Christian liberty is not a freedom to do what we like, but an opportunity to serve wholeheartedly the God who has done so much for us in Christ. This is why Paul begins chapter four with the word ‘therefore’. On the basis of such a wonderful blessing it will be natural that we want to please Him in the way we live. But what does Paul have in mind? It requires that:                 

(a)We Persevere (4:1) 1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. The ‘super-apostles’ who boasted about their spiritual greatness, and whom Paul will address in II Corinthians 10-12, by contrast, criticised Paul for his inadequacy. He’s a boring speaker. He’s not a charismatic personality. His ministries are too short. He moves on because he quickly becomes demoralised and cannot continue in ministry at a particular church for too long. This is why he left Corinth.

Nonsense, says Paul, when we recognise how great is our God and how wonderful is the message we proclaim we will never quit. We will not surrender our calling, not today, not tomorrow, and not ever! Nothing will make me cease to do the work God has entrusted to me. In II Corinthians 11 the apostle compares his battle scars for the sake of Christ with theirs and shows how much more he has endured than they. His list included these items:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (II Corinthians 11:23b-28).

There are many Christians who can offer magnificent service for God over a year or two, but He desires men and women who will keep on year after year living for Jesus and using their gifts in His service; touching the lives of others around them with a passionate and prayerful desire that they also will come to know and love Jesus too.  I trust this is your desire this year, even during a virus pandemic!

Can you and I promise: ‘God, while I have breath in my body and strength in my limbs I’m available to live for you.’ When we are wholly available to the Lord, don’t be surprised if He wants to use you to influence the people with whom you come into contact in the coming weeks. God’s work is like running a marathon and He calls each one of us to finish well the race we have begun.

In his letter to the Churches in the region of Galatia (part of modern day Turkey), Paul wrote: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:9-10).

(b) We maintain our integrity (character) (4:2a) 2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; In our secular society one of the few ‘unforgivable’ sins is hypocrisy, saying we will do something, while all the time intending to engage in another course of action.  Our character is the most important thing we have and its maintenance of the utmost importance.

In Britain today personal integrity seems increasingly to be absent in so many social contexts. In business how many people could be trusted to deliver on a promise sealed with a handshake, even if it turned out to their financial disadvantage, without the signed paperwork to accompany it? How many sportspeople are there who would rather lose a game or competition rather than win by engaging in some form of cheating? We could go on across the whole of society asking these questions.

The bottom line is this: you and I ultimately are responsible before God for one person – ourselves- for whom we will give an account to God one day (II Corinthians 5:10). No other person on earth may know what is going on in your heart and mind, but He does, and that is what is important. May He help us to live in a manner that allows us to maintain a clear conscience before Him and in the sight of other people. Some people may say we are stupid to our face sometimes for being so honest, but deep down they will envy the kind of courage we possess to be willing to do the right thing, even if it is to our short-term disadvantage.  

(c) We serve with integrity (conduct) (4:2b) we do not use deception, It is not just words but actions. The battle in the mind and heart is the hardest, and if we win there, inappropriate words and actions will be avoided. However, all of us know that there are times when wrong thoughts get through the barrier; in fact, we may secretly welcome them and take pleasure in them.

The danger then is that we might actually engage in actions which bring dishonour on the name of Jesus. Paul had been accused of declining financial support from the wealthy Corinthians in order to have some kind of moral bargaining power over them (see II Corinthians 12:11-18). This was nonsense. He had asked them to make collections for mission work in other places (I Corinthians 16:1-4), but he was concerned that this might not happen in his absence, because they were possibly the least generous of the churches he had founded, despite their wealth.

May God help us in our work careers; in our family relationships and in our church ministries and roles to be people of integrity who live in a way that honours Him.  

(d) We proclaim the gospel accurately (4:2c-6)

The Gospel Paul proclaimed told the truth about heaven and hell; included the unpalatable truths about sin, righteousness and judgement. He was fearless about proclaiming the truth, albeit doing so with gentleness and respect (I Peter 3:15). When on trial before Roman Governor Festus and Jewish king Agrippa (Acts 26) Paul could have said ingratiating words in the hope of securing his release. Instead he reminded them that God had commissioned him to go to Gentiles, like Festus, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Jesus] (Acts 26:18). 

These words would have been as welcome to Festus, as to secular sceptical people in your laboratory, office or staffroom today! The Gospel is good news to those that receive it, but by implication are the very opposite to the people who refuse to accept it. The offence of the Gospel has not changed.

2. Our condition (II Corinthians 4:7-15)

Paul has responded forcefully to the critics of his gospel whose simplistic creed has nothing to say about suffering, death and judgement; whose goals and ambitions concern this life not focussed on the eternal priorities of King Jesus. A gospel that does not meet people in their hours of deepest need is no gospel at all. However, the glorious message that Paul has given his life to proclaim does address these fundamental concerns and issues of daily life.

(a)Our weakness and His power (II Corinthians 4:7) 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all- surpassing power is from God and not from us. The finest diamonds kept in a ceramic pot from the value range of a local supermarket!

The Holy Spirit is at work in human bodies subject to decay, disease, injury and certain death; why? It is to show that the victory of the gospel and its ultimate triumph is of God not of us; or as Paul puts it in II Corinthians 1:9: that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.

You and I are the messengers proclaiming good news in a world that so desperately needs it. We are the means God has chosen to make known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

On my way home from the Grammar School I attended in England, age sixteen, I was met one day by a small boy of seven or eight who challenged me to a fight. He was only half my height and I played rugby for the second team in my school year. No contest! However, near to our school was a rough area where the boy lived, I knew that he would have an older brother, and a whole gang of mates, who would appear in minutes, or at least the next day, should I lay a finger on him! His boldness (or foolishness!) was not about him, but the resources that he believed was available to him should he need them.

What point is Paul making here? There is a call for humility and self-awareness. Yet it is equally a request to look up and see the divine resources available to us. We remember these extraordinary words in Ephesians 3:20-21 at the end of Paul’s prayer for this congregation in Western Turkey. 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 us21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. When we grasp the truth of this point we will be able to say with Paul: I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). Praise the Lord!

(b) Our problems and His grace (II Corinthians 4:8-9) 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Advocates of cheap grace and the prosperity gospel proclaim: ‘have faith’ ‘come to Jesus and your problems will be over –you can rise above them’. As we read the New Testament and follow the path that leads through Church history it is the very opposite that is true. It has been among the poor and marginalised of the world that the gospel has spread, only rarely has it appeared to triumph amongst the rich and powerful. Following a crucified Messiah appears to be foolish to the powerbrokers of the world.

Yet we have a gospel that can meet every need. Abraham Kuyper, the great Christian thinker and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905, believed that God continually influenced the life of believers, and daily events could show his workings. Kuyper famously said, “Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'[James D. Bratt,  Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader, p. 488]. 

The final triumph of Jesus  and His imminent return keeps us focussed on living for Him. Paul expresses so clearly the wonderful paradox of our calling in Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.

(c) Our dying and His life (II Corinthians 4:10-12) 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

There is a cost to Christian living. In much of the world physical violence even martyrdom can be the lot of followers of Jesus. In secular countries like our own, discrimination in an increasing number of workplaces as a result of hostile legislation put in place by the Edinburgh or Westminster Governments which has resulted in a loss of careers for some people and a loss of promotion for others. Now we need to pray for courage, but also for wisdom in the choices we make.

Very few Christians in Western countries are at risk of physical violence or facing death threats simply for following Jesus. However, we must remember that we have our freedoms today because others had to fight very hard, or in a few cases gave their lives, in earlier centuries, to obtain them. There can also be other less obvious costs to following our vocation. Some individuals who had served as missionaries overseas, for example, on returning back to the United Kingdom to retire have lost a proportion of their state pension rights and consequently have only limited financial resources to provide for anything other than a very basic lifestyle in retirement.

We have to be ready and willing to pay whatever price is the cost of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Our testimony should be in line with that of Paul who declared in Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

(d) Our faith and His plan (II Corinthians 4:13-15) 13It is written: I believed; therefore I have spoken. With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak 14 because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

This is our hope and vindication. The God who raised Jesus bodily from the dead will one day raise His people in like manner at the end of the age. Paul would have said a big ‘Amen’ to John’s vision of heaven recorded in his vision in Revelation 7:9-10:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  10 And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’

No wonder Paul could say in Romans 1:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

But it took him many years of Christian service to say these words with conviction and truly mean them. Our faith is anchored in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because He triumphed then so shall we with Him on His return to reign as the King of Kings. I hope as we read and reflect on Paul’s words in Romans 1:18, that we can identify with Him and commit ourselves, like him, to be a faithful witness for Jesus, Amen.

Our song before we come to communion is:

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: 

Closing Prayer: 

Thank You Lord Jesus for the way You lived Your life here on earth as a faithful witness to God the Father, modelling for us a way of living that You called Your first disciples to seek to follow. Help us as Your present-day followers to demonstrate through the choices we make this week that we are seeking to be faithful witnesses for You in this generation. Please give us wisdom and guidance to make the right choices in all we do this week, in Jesus’ name Amen.

Benediction:  The Grace