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

Church at Home – 25 April 2021

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School

JAM young adults have a separate programme JAM 11:30am-12:30pm
Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details.

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 Helen Rice

Call to worship: Psalm 25 (selection of verses)

Come, lift up your hearts to the Lord!
To You, O Lord, we lift up our hearts!
In You we trust!
Do not let us be put to shame.
Our God is full of compassionate love.

He brings sinners back to His way,
and teaches the humble the way they should go.
Show us the right path, O Lord;
point out the way for us to follow.

Lead us by Your truth, and teach us,
for You are the God who saves.
We put our hope in You!

Opening song of praise and worship

Opening Prayer:

Lord we come with joy in our hearts today assured by Your amazing love for us revealed through Your Son our Saviour Jesus. We come to You our Father both because we have been encouraged to do so by You, but also because as Your children we take delight in spending this short time at the start of each new week in Your presence alongside other members of Your family. Thank You for the grace that we have needed to get us through the past week. Thank You for Your patience in those times when we have failed to live for You as we should. At the start of another new week we come seeking the forgiveness of our sins and the fresh empowering by Your Holy Spirit to equip and enable us for all that lies before us. Speak we pray to our hearts and minds as we come to worship You today, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

All Age Talk  Helen Rice – Moses and the Burning Bush

When Moses was a young man, he was living as a prince in Egypt, but when he was older, he ran away from Egypt after committing a crime. Moses went from being a prince to being a pauper. Moses wandered in the desert, until he met and married his wife, and there he went to work as a Shepherd for his father-in-law. And that’s when something amazing happened!

One day whilst tending the flock of sheep Moses led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the Mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush.

Moses stared in amazement, although the bush was engulfed in flames it didn’t burn up! Moses edged forward to check out this burning miracle, and as he got closer something even crazier happened, God spoke to Moses through the burning bush.

God said, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am”, Moses replied.

God said to Moses, “Do not come any closer, take off your sandals, for you are standing on Holy Ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Can you imagine Moses confusion? A bush is on fire, but not really! And then a voice calls out his name!

God continued to speak to Moses, “You are Moses, the man I have chosen to lead my people out of Egypt.” At this time God’s people, the Israelites were living in slavery in Egypt. God wanted Moses to lead them out of Egypt and to set his people free.

Moses cried, “But I’ve been kicked out of Egypt I can’t just go back!”

Moses thought God had chosen the wrong guy! Moses said, “Who am I to lead the people out of Egypt?” God replied, “You must do it Moses, I have heard my peoples’ cries. I have chosen you to lead them and I will be with you. I will lead them out to a good fertile land.” 

Moses was worried, “What if they won’t believe me?” “Throw your staff on the ground”, God instructed. Moses threw his staff down and it turned into a wriggling snake.

Then God ordered him to pick it up. Moses wrapped a shaking hand around the snake, and it turned back into his staff. God told him, “This is so the Israelites will believe the Lord appeared to you.”

God then told Moses to put his hand inside his cloak.  When he took his hand back out it was covered in a skin disease. God then instructed Moses to put his hand back into his cloak. So, Moses put his hand back into his cloak and when he took it out again his hand was healthy like the rest of his skin.

God said, “If they still don’t believe you after these two signs, take some water from the Nile, pour it onto the ground and it will turn to blood.”

Moses needed to be brave and to depend on God. Even though Moses was scared he had to trust that God would give him the strength, courage and means to lead the people out of slavery.

So, what about you, is there something that makes you scared?

In the Bible in Hebrews 13 verse 6, it says this:

“So, we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

As Christians we need to trust that God will meet all our needs.

Song: ‘Confidence’

                                           

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father,

We continue to remember in our prayersour Queen Elizabeth II as she continues to serve our country at the remarkable age of ninety-five and pray for Your comfort for her and her family at this time of loss. We also remember the families of those who continue to die week by week during what we hope are the later stages of this virus pandemic. We pray for Your comfort and support for all concerned. We pray for wisdom for the NHS staff as they adjust to the changing environment allowing more operations and treatments to resume after the restrictions over the past year.

We come with deep concern for the country of India with its alarming numbers of new cases of the virus and the increasing inability of the hospitals to cope with the growing numbers of cases and the many patients simply waiting with family members outside hospitals as there is literally no space for them inside. Lord have mercy upon them at this time.

We pray too for the citizens of countries suffering great hardship due to the brutal military regime in Myanmar or Islamic terrorism in Mozambique as well as the civil war in Chad. Lord have mercy upon them.

In our own land we come with grateful thanks for the further decrease in reported cases of the virus and the low numbers gaining treatment for it in hospitals. We pray for wisdom for us all as citizens as we enjoy the return of many sectors of society that had been on hold for the last few months. We pray too for many businesses as they reopen that they may be able to re-establish themselves and for workers furloughed to be able soon to return back to their work.

We pray for the following chaplains and churches:

Andrew Oliver (Chaplain, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards) – The next 12 months is a very busy time for the regiment with lots of time away from home training in preparation for deployments overseas. Andrew asks: ‘Please pray for me as I minister into this and in particular for opportunities to share the gospel. This is potentially a year of change for us as a family with the likelihood of another move in November. Please pray that the Lord will prepare the way especially for our children.’ 

Culloden-Balloch BC – They give thanks for the church fellowship in Culloden. We pray for the church as they seek to live for Jesus and bring others to Him in both Culloden and Balloch.

Cumbernauld BC – They give thanks to God for the safe keeping of all their church members during the past year. They have been unable to meet but have utilised online services and the Baptist Union of Scotland Prayer Live. They ask for God’s guidance in the months ahead as they prepare to open and seek direction in knowing God’s will for them as a church in the community they serve.

Cupar BC – They acknowledge that they have been adversely affected by the lockdown. They invite us to pray that they will know the Lord’s will for the way forward as a fellowship and that He will build them up again. They give thanks for the faithful support of their interim Moderator.

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

Amen.

Bible Reading II Corinthians 8:16-24

Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.

19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honour the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honour to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘Christ is mine for evermore’

The Message

II Corinthians 8:16-24 The importance of integrity in Christian service

Introduction

A man named Salvatore Scumace who was a civil servant in the southern Italian city of Catanzaro was appointed to work as a fire safety officer in the city hospital in 2005. In the months to the present day he has been paid in euros approximately £464,000. His disciplinary record is excellent. Apparently, he only had one disagreement with his line manager. I can tell every reader of this paragraph will be waiting for the catch, and with good reason.

In April 2021 a lengthy police investigation into corruption in the Italian public sector suspended a number of senior managers from their posts at the hospital and began to look more closely at the records of other employees as well. This man decided to stop going to work in 2005. His one disagreement with his then line manager was over their threat to report him for non-attendance at work. They never did report him. He is now ‘helping the police with their enquiries’ along with fifty-seven other hospital employees and facing some serious criminal charges. There appears to have been a major breakdown in the quality of governance in that hospital. [The Times 22 April 2021] 

The tragedy is that it is only one of many examples that could be cited. One of the best known stories of serious professional misconduct from the UK in the last year relates to the materials used in the cladding at the Grenfell Tower and many other high rise tower blocks in our country. The tragedy of the fire in that tower in London in 2017 might have been avoided had the correct materials been used in the construction of that building.       

Integrity – does it really matter? Do my words matter? What about my conduct?  Does anyone care if the way I live is seriously contrasting with the words I speak? The answer of course is yes! What we say and how we say it is important. The connection between our words and our actions is also of vital importance. Imagine a financial adviser telling clients to place their life savings in a particular investment scheme while at the same time pulling out all his or her own money from it days before it collapsed.

Words and integrity matter! Imagine a doctor telling you that your worst fears are realised and you need surgery to make things better. They offer to conduct that surgery successfully for you in the next few days. What decision do you make? It depends on their track record. If former patients report being worse off, not better, or even worse die as a result of that surgical procedure then your enthusiasm for proceeding is likely to diminish. However, if the opposite is true and former patients testify of the good results from that doctor’s work then their words will carry extra weight as you consider whether to go ahead with the procedure yourself.

Here in Scotland we will soon have a parliamentary election and many promises are being made by our politicians. The weight we place on their words on election literature or spoken in public events will go a long way to determining how we place our cross on the ballot paper on May 6.

In this second letter to the church at Corinth we can feel the tension that exists as Paul and these ‘false apostles’ from Jerusalem battle for the hearts and minds of this congregation in Greece. Who do they trust? Whose words will they heed? It is of crucial importance because their eternal destiny might be at stake. To us, it is so obvious that it should be Paul as the leader of the church-planting team that first brought the good news of Jesus to Corinth. Surely they can see that he has consistently practised what he has preached over the years? The answer will be ‘yes’, at least a majority of the congregation did, but the outcome was in doubt for some time until Titus reported back to Paul to confirm what had been going on in the church.

Our integrity really matters. In this context the issue under discussion was the probable claim by the false apostles visiting Corinth that Paul could not be trusted over handling all the money being donated to help struggling Christians in Judea. How did Paul demonstrate his integrity and that of his mission team in this important work?

1. The first identified person – Titus (II Corinthians 8:16-17)

16 Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. 17 For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 

A key thing was that he, Paul, was not directly involved in counting or handling the funds raised. There were three identified individuals entrusted to handle this large sum of money. Paul knew that it was much easier for him to appeal for financial assistance for this aid appeal in person or by letter if he was not profiting from the collection and because others had been set apart for the accomplishment of this task. By this wise step the suspicions raised concerning him by these false apostles was dismissed straightaway.

The congregation in Corinth was given clear evidence that the care Paul had taken previously over the handling of finances in his mission work had been maintained in this new venture. Paul was not only doing what was right, but operating in a manner that ensured everyone could see he was conducting this appeal appropriately as well. Titus had come to faith some years before and then joined Paul’s mission teams.

He was a dedicated Christian and faithfully carried out the work entrusted to his care. I thank God for the many Christians in our church, and other churches at home and in other countries who faithfully carry out so many different forms of Christian service. However, of course it is not just in churches, but in every workplace or sports team. Everyone has to play their part effectively or things can go wrong quite quickly. It is a reminder that the celebrity culture that is so familiar in our world today is not healthy. It is particularly harmful when it invades the Christian community. We are all servants of the greatest servant of God on earth, the Lord Jesus Himself. He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross in our place (Philippians 2:7-8).

Titus took such a delight in accomplishing the tasks entrusted to Him that must have brought joy in heaven in the heart of our heavenly Father. I hope and pray that each of us may carry out our service for the Lord with a similar heart-felt enthusiasm.

Paul knew that Titus could model both integrity and enthusiasm in his Christian service while in Corinth. The message that comes from that so clearly is that we don’t always have to use a lot of words; sometimes living out what we profess is more powerful. Titus could be trusted by Paul and in return Titus had confidence in Paul otherwise their partnership in the gospel would not have worked so well. It is very likely that Titus was the leader of this trio of people entrusted with collecting the money raised by the churches and ensuring its safe delivery in Jerusalem at the end of their long journey in the Mediterranean world.   

2. The second identified person who is unnamed (II Corinthians 8:18-21)

18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. 19 What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honour the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. 20 We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21 For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

Who is the second person who was entrusted with carrying out this mission? We do not know who it might have been. There are two clues to his identity.  The first is stated in verse 18: the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. This unnamed individual must have been on Paul’s mission teams that were involved in planting the Christian churches in Greece. To be praised by all the churches implies a long-standing team member who had spent years travelling with Paul on his missionary journeys. This person was, therefore, well known and highly respected in these different congregations. His Christian commitment and personal integrity were clear to all concerned.

Therefore, this person was an ideal choice for this task and their apparent willingness to undertake it made them a good choice for the apostle to make. The burning question of course relates to the identity of this person. We do not know who it was. This is the only certainty. Church leaders and Bible commentators in subsequent centuries have offered a variety of names that cover a high proportion of named team members from Paul’s letters. These include Barnabas, Paul’s earliest companion on missionary journeys, though I would suggest this is most unlikely as he would have been quite old by the time of this lengthy journey. Silas, one of Paul’s most regular companions in his earlier years of church-planting, could have been a strong candidate, but he has already been named in this letter (II Corinthians 1:19) because he was well-known in Corinth having been there with Paul for eighteen months when the church was first-planted along with Timothy and Titus two other experienced companions of Paul.

It is inexplicable that either Silas or Timothy would have been a team member, but not be named by Paul in this context. Other names include two members of the church in Thessalonica who regularly accompanied Paul, Aristarchus (Acts 19:29) and Secundus (Acts 20:4); or Sopater from the church in Berea (Acts 20:4); two Turkish colleagues Trophimus (Acts 21:29) and Tychicus (Colossians 4:7-9) have also been suggested. The most popular suggestion by far is that it was Luke, Paul’s close friend and doctor, who accompanied him on many of his missions and wrote about a number of them in the book of Acts in the familiar ‘we’ passages in Acts that indicated his personal involvement in those particular events. Yet at the end of the day we cannot identify this person with certainty.

There is, though, a masterstroke by the apostle Paul in the decision making process regarding this fund-raising tour. This second unnamed individual was not only well respected as a Christian and honoured for the work he put into serving the Lord, but he was also selected as their representative on behalf of the churches in the region of Macedonia. II Corinthians 8:19 states: 

What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honour the Lord Himself and to show our eagerness to help.

This person was selected by them to keep a record of which churches participated in the collection; how much they gave and presumably at the end the total amount handed over to the church leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17). Personal integrity in the handling of finance is and always has been an incredibly sensitive topic down the centuries. This is why as a church we have always been so careful to ensure transparency and accuracy in the recording of donations received and in the presentation of the annual accounts. Bible commentator William Barclay made this memorable comment: ‘It is a most interesting thing to note that this same Paul who could write like a lyric poet and think like a theologian could, when necessary, act with the meticulous accuracy and care of a chartered accountant. Paul was a big enough man to do the little things and the practical, things supremely well.’ (William Barclay, Galatians, I & II Thessalonians; I & II Corinthians, p. 363)

The gathered meetings of the local churches discussed this matter and presumably through some form of correspondence came to a common mind as to who should be their official representative. The fact that Paul explains this process to the church in Corinth suggests that they had not been a party to this decision-making process. However, it was probably crucial in persuading them that great care had been taken by Paul to ensure that the full collection arrived at its intended destination. The principle behind this action is so applicable to our work and witness today.                   

3. The third identified person who is also unnamed (II Corinthians 8:22)

22 In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. Paul could have said two people are sufficient for this work, namely his named representative Titus who was the leader of this delegation that visited the churches in Greece and a second person chosen by the local congregations. However, in view of the fact that the sum raised was probably a large one and was in coins. It could be heavy to carry and noticeable to other travellers on the roads or boats on which they journeyed to Jerusalem.

Therefore, asking a third person to join them on the journey to provide both added security and companionship seemed a wise step to take.  In our world of cheques and card payments, and even more recently bank transfers through online banking, it would have been so much easier to forward money to the needy people in the Holy Land. Again this third brother is not named, but it seems that Paul thinks the Corinthians will regard this person as another good choice for this mission trip.

The principle of course is so clear to us that in God’s work we must not only do what is right but be seen to do so, taking every step to demonstrate personal and collective integrity.  In the USA where a much higher proportion of the population are church members or professing Christians, some Christian ministries or churches have remarkably high incomes. The temptations to those involved in handling such large sums of money, if there is a less than adequate system of accountability in place, has sadly been too great on too many occasions.

The sad events of mismanagement at a number of the Hillsong congregations in the USA in the last year [various online sources] are a sobering reminder of why each Christian and churches in general need to demonstrate integrity and accountability in their activities. Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul knew all too well how important it is to maintain the highest standards of conduct to avoid bringing dishonour on God’s name.        

4. The commendation from Paul (II Corinthians 8:23-24)

 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honour to Christ. 24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

Paul concluded this section of his letter with these words summing up his confidence in the three representatives that would soon visit Corinth. The poorer churches in Macedonia had already collected their incredibly generous donations to the needy believers in Judea. The church in Corinth who had started to collect money some time earlier during Titus’ visit (see II Corinthians 8:6-7), were now given a big encouragement to finish their fund-raising and to be at least as generous as these other congregations. There had been a crisis due to a famine in Judea. It appears that relationships between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus had been quite distant from one another due to religious, cultural and linguistic differences. However, this visionary plan of Paul for famine relief, and the honouring of his commitment to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem to provide funds for the assistance of the poor and needy in Judea (Galatians 2:10) was a means of bringing the churches much closer together in Christian service. It was also a good public witness of care for one another. Within Greece, it appears the churches all participated in this plan, but most crucially the wise way Paul planned it demonstrated his personal integrity in Christian service to all concerned. It is a reminder to us today that what we say and do go together, and an important aspect of our public witness for the Lord, Amen.    

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Before the Throne of God Above’

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 Splendour of the King’

Closing Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus that You modelled for us a life of personal integrity in Your words and actions. We acknowledge the difficulties we face at times in attempting to live up to Your standards, both individually and collectively. Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit to equip and enable us to live this way in the coming days. We go forward with a quiet assurance that Your grace will be sufficient for our needs at this time, for Jesus’ name sake, 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 

2 April 2021 Church at Home – Good Friday

Welcome to this short Good Friday service. We come on this very special day as followers of Jesus with deep gratitude for all that He has done for us.  


Call to Worship

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals – one on His right, the other on His left. 34 Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.

(Luke 23:32-34)

The shock and disbelief of so many people at the sight they saw that day would remain with them for the rest of their lives. Why was Jesus on the cross? It is a question we do well to ask ourselves today. Humanly-speaking there are many people that contributed to putting Jesus on the cross –yet supremely the most important answer comes from Isaiah 53:10 It was the Lord’s will. God the Father knew we could never be good enough to earn our salvation. Our sins separated us from Him. Out of His amazing love for us – in the person of Jesus – He died in our place. He died so that we might live with our sins forgiven and the amazing gift of eternal life. Hallelujah What a Saviour! 

Opening Song ‘Come and See, Come and See’

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, it is an incredible privilege on this most holy of days in the Christian year to stop for a short time to reflect on what Jesus went through for us on the cross and the cost of His sacrifice in our place. Thank You Lord for all that You willingly endured in our place so that we might freely by Your grace be welcomed into God’s family as His children.  We come humbly today, confessing our sins, humbled by the knowledge that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Meet with us today by Your Holy Spirit and speak into our lives something more of Your amazing love for us and challenge us afresh to renew our commitment to follow You more closely in the coming days, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.    

Bible Reading

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for You to eat the Passover?’

18 He replied, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, “The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with My disciples at your house.”’ 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray Me.’

22 They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?’

23 Jesus replied, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with Me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for Him if he had not been born.’

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, ‘Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?’

Jesus answered, ‘You have said so.’

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is My body.’

27 Then He took a cup, and when he had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

(Matthew 26:17-30)

Message 

Instead of giving a message in this service today we have a guest speaker, Joseph Steinberg, a Jewish follower of Jesus, who leads the International Mission to Jewish people, and who has recorded two messages, one fifteen minutes long and the second approximately thirty minutes long.

Joseph Steinberg


In these two messages that you can download by clicking the drop-box links, or by coping and pasting the link into your internet search facility, he allows us to see the events of the Last Supper, most probably an adapted Jewish Passover meal, through Jewish eyes. We can take time to listen as he shares with us a Jewish understanding of the significance of the bread and wine taken in communion and, secondly, a deeper explanation of the good news of the gospel in the Passover celebration. It may help us see a little more clearly something of the significance of the events of that first Holy Week in AD33.     

The fifteen minute explanation of the bread and wine is here:  

Jesus ‘the bread of life’ and the ‘lamb of God’

And the longer thirty-four minute Gospel in the Passover short demonstration is here:  

‘The Gospel in the Passover’

Song ‘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: ‘Give me a sight O Saviour’

Closing Prayer: 

Thank you Lord Jesus for the honour of spending this time reflecting on all You have done for us two thousand years ago. Help us to dedicate our lives once more to be Your willing servants who will live in a way that is pleasing to You, following Your example of obedience to the plan of the Father for Your life on earth. Empower us we pray through the Holy Spirit that other people may see something of the likeness of Jesus in us day by day, for the honour and praise of Your holy name, Amen.   

Benediction

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(Hebrews 13:20-21)

Find out about our other online Easter events

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 – Palm Sunday 28 March 2021

Intimations

Jam Kids – Virtual Sunday School

JAM young adults have a separate programme JAM 11:30am-12:30pm – Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details of today’s programme.

‘Through Lent’ Baptist Union reflections Week 6 ‘Perseverance’

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

Holy week events @ Broughty Baptist Church

We have many services planned for this Holy week. Click here to find out more.

This service is led today by Rev Gary Torbet

Hello everyone, can I give everyone joining us this morning a really warm welcome to our Church at Home on this Palm Sunday!

It is so exciting to be able to gather for worship together and I especially give a welcome to those joining us for the first time and …. From the furthest flung places on the planet

May you all feel at home as we worship the Lord Jesus together and enter for us as Christians the most special, reflective and hopeful week of the year – Holy Week.

Call to worship

20 These gates lead to the presence of the Lord,
    and the godly enter there.
21 I thank you for answering my prayer
    and giving me victory!


22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.


24 This is the day the Lord has made.
    We will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Please, Lord, please save us.
    Please, Lord, please give us success.


26 Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God, shining upon us.
    Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.


28 You are my God, and I will praise you!
    You are my God, and I will exalt you!

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever
.

Psalm 118: 20 – 29 New Living Translation

There are days when the last thing we want to do is rejoice.  Our mood is down, our situation is out of hand, and maybe our sorrow and guilt is overwhelming.

We can relate to the writers of the Psalms who often felt this way.  But no matter how low the writers felt, they were always honest with God.  And as they talked to God, their prayers ended in praise.  God has given us this day to live and to serve him – let us indeed rejoice and be glad.

We shall begin our time of worship by singing the same words as the crowds on Palm Sunday – “Blessed be your name.”                                                      

Our opening song of praise and worship is: Blessed be your name

Opening Prayer:

Loving Heavenly Father, what a privilege to be able to come into your presence to worship you!

To encounter you Jesus – yes we sing “Blessed be your name” – help us afresh today to reflect on what that means for us.

Help us Father, to put aside what might distract us, yes we may be at home and not together – but help us Lord – engage with you!

With our Father in heaven, through the Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit – our fuel Lord for hearing from you, our fuel for hearing your truth, our fuel that you give us to live for you!

Forgive us O Lord when we take this for granted. Forgive us O Lord when we go through this time – as ritual – instead of what should be vibrant, life-giving, surrender and encounter with you!!  Wake us up Lord to all that you have for us, in you.

Help us today as we reflect on the story of Palm Sunday – to not just be the crowd cheering you on one day – and turning our back on you the next – turning our back on the call you have on our lives to live for you every day!

By the praise, by the prayers, by the testimony of your people; By the reading and hearing of your word; By the preaching of your word;

By the gathering around your table – let us take out the ritual and see it again today as a life-changing, life transforming meal that sees us participating in your mission Lord to the world.

Enable us by your Holy Spirit, we invite you to renew us, transform us together today. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 19; 14

“May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing in your sight – my Lord, my Rock, my Redeemer.”

For we pray in the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

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

All Age Talk  “Who do you follow?” Rev Gary Torbet

So in our passage from Luke 19 that we will look at later on, on Palm Sunday we see the crowds shouting and singing, praising God;

But later, we read in Luke 23; 13 – 25, when Pilate was trying to release Jesus because he had done nothing wrong – some people who had been in the same crowd the previous week cheering Jesus, were now shouting;

“Crucify him, Crucify him”

They were turning their backs on Jesus.

That got me thinking about football. As many of you know I am a life-long supporter of the world famous Dundee United!  I have followed them for 45 years now, followed them through thick and thin, watched them winning cups, titles, in European finals and also seen them relegated and in the doldrums.

There are also others in our church who are football fans;

Which team do you support? Would you ever think of supporting a rival team?  I thought not. And yes, same with me, I am a Dundee United fan – they will always be my team.

Did you know that the very same thing happened to Jesus? Do you know what these are? (Hold up the palm branches.) These are branches from a Palm tree. In the country where Jesus lived, the Palm tree was everywhere. The branches of the Palm were a symbol of victory and joy. During the time of Jesus, people used to wave Palm branches as they cheered in celebration when an important person such as a king rode through the streets of town.

On the Sunday before he was crucified, Jesus rode through the streets of Jerusalem on the back of a small donkey. As he rode along, people waved Palm branches and shouted and cheered. They shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The people cheered Jesus as their King.

Just a few days later, Jesus was arrested, tried, and led to a hill called Calvary to be crucified. The cheers that he had heard on Sunday now turned to jeers. Many of the people who just a few days before shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” had now turned against him. They were now shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! He is not our king. We have no king but Caesar.” They were even offered the choice of whether to free a criminal named Barabbas or to free Jesus. They chose to free Barabbas and crucify Jesus. Many of His once-faithful followers had forsaken him.

You and I have to make a choice. We can choose to follow Jesus and make him the King and Lord of our life, or we can choose to forsake him like the people who cried, “Crucify Him! He is not our king!” Will we be found faithful?

Let’s pray; “Jesus, Blessed Jesus, today we choose to make you King and Lord of our life. Help us to be strong, and to follow you, even when all others have forsaken you. Amen.”

Song: ‘Hosanna in the Highest’

Prayers for others

Gracious God

We come before you as children do to their fathers, with confidence, trusting in your loving kindness, your mercy and grace.

We ask for your mercy on our world, and pray for people devastated by war in Yemen, Myanmar and Syria, especially for the children. We pray for all those involved in charity and missionary work that seek to bring food and medical help and compassion to people in need.

We pray for peace and justice in our world and for courage and wisdom for those who are in power to bring peace and justice to their people. 

We pray your blessing on those campaigning for environmental issues, that your beautiful world would recover from the mistakes we have made.

We pray that many more people would have access to Covid vaccinations, no matter where they live.

We pray for our Queen and for our Parliaments, and for all those who are in authority over us.  We pray for wisdom when we come to use our votes.

We pray for our NHS and for all those involved in healing and caring, for your help and strength and energy for those supporting people through physical and mental illness.

Father, we pray for those in our church family both here and abroad, that you would bless and have compassion on us.  We pray for help especially for those who are having a hard time with long term illnesses, financial difficulties and stress.

In the silence, we bring before you those close to our hearts, that they would know the power of your presence and blessing, each and every day……..

Thank you Lord God. Amen

Bible Reading

28 After Jesus had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As He approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ 34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!’ 40 ‘I tell you,’ He replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ 41 As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it 42 and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. 

43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’

Luke 19:28-44

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘Make way, make way for Christ the King’

The Message

Luke 19:28-44 What causes you and I to weep?

Introduction

It is one of the happiest times of year in the Jewish religious calendar. It is one of the few times in the year when people in that country 2,000 years ago got some time off. Most people would have had a spring in their step and a sense of expectancy as they gathered with the vast crowds in Jerusalem. Yet in Luke 19:41 Luke records of Jesus on this visit to Jerusalem having this response: As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it. Jesus’ perspective on that occasion was extremely different to the majority of people present that day. This account gives a hint to us that some things other people, even a majority, might rejoice in may cause deep sadness to a follower of Jesus. Taking a step back from this account of that Palm Sunday two thousand years ago, we reflect on our own situation and that of others in our communities. 

We have passed the anniversary of a whole year of lockdown restrictions. The experience of people of these islands has been decidedly mixed. A percentage of people have loved it, enjoying working from home instead of a long daily commute saving money usually spent on travel. Others with enforced free time carried out more DIY or found a new interest in home baking. Some people claim to have taken up new hobbies or enjoyed lots more time with their families. Great fulfilment has been experienced by some who were able to serve as volunteers in local communities and some lower-paid workers have had self-esteem boosted by being referred to as ‘essential workers’. Feeling valued is now acknowledged as crucial for contentment. (The Times, 23 March 2021).

By contrast, the pressure on others in frontline services such as health and social care, at times was dangerous, leading to excessive stress and an increased number suffering from physical, mental or emotional health problems.

An unknown number have suffered from ‘long covid’ and are finding it incredibly hard to recover their health and strength. Each of us can quickly compile lists of things that we or others have struggled with over the past year.  However, what events in the recent past or even the present have brought sadness to your heart – or even tears? Some of us, for example, have lost someone close to us who has died.

Others may be struggling to cope with serious health problems that have caused us to shed tears. Over the last year plenty of people will have cried with frustration over work issues, either due to extreme stresses within the workplace or out of fear of employment that might be lost as a result of lockdown restrictions. Others maybe out of a sense of loneliness as they are unable to meet with family or friends. The list of possible causes can be quite lengthy. However, what is also likely is that some of those who shed tears do so because of the suffering or difficulties of other people. We wish they didn’t have to go through the circumstances we have become aware of.

Here in Luke’s account of this joyful festival in the Jewish religious calendar, the author draws attention to something quite unexpected, something that causes deep distress in the heart of Jesus. His coming to the capital city was part of God’s plan in making history in what would be the most important few days in human history to date. So what was it that happened that Sunday?   

1. The Plan of Jesus (Luke 19:28-31)

After Jesus had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28).  What had Jesus been talking about? It had been about the cost of discipleship. It will not be easy to live in the way God wants us to live. Open Doors, a Christian ministry supporting the persecuted church, in 2017 reported that 215 million Christians in fifty countries endured serious marginalisation or were vulnerable to physical attacks or endured formal persecution or lived in a society where it is illegal to practise the Christian faith [Jeremiah Johnston, Unimaginable, p. 20]     

In the worst case scenario some Christians will be martyred for their faith; many more will be discriminated against in a whole variety of ways that make life very difficult for them. Of the first disciples of Jesus the apostle John was the only one to die of ‘natural causes’ and that was after serving a lengthy term of imprisonment in the slate quarries on the Island of Patmos. All the others were martyred for their faith. Although the formal persecution of the Roman authorities against followers of Jesus only began in the 60sAD it was never uniform across the Empire and was often centred on particular locations where a key leader was particularly opposed to the presence of this new faith. Christians were a small minority in any case and what is more the majority of them were enslaved people or the very poorest of the poor, with only a tiny proportion of the wealthier classes professing faith.

Therefore, it was easy to pick on them as the Roman Emperor Nero did in particular. Yet despite all that was thrown at them, the Christian Church slowly but steadily grew until in the early fourth century an Emperor called Constantine professed faith and declared that his empire would recognise Christianity as the main faith in its midst. It would lead to a remarkable transformation of society with a huge reduction in racism, together with a growing respect for life both of the most vulnerable in society from its very youngest to its oldest members. The Christian Church was responsible for the foundation of healthcare facilities and education which we take for granted too often today. What was Jesus expecting when He got to Jerusalem?  

(a)His knowledge (Mark 10:32-34) They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again He took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to Him. 33 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ He said, ‘and 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.’

Jesus was in no doubt concerning what lay ahead of Him in Jerusalem. As you read through Mark’s Gospel it is not difficult to see that He repeatedly explained to His disciples what would happen to Him and how things would turn out. It is equally clear that they did not even come close to understanding what Jesus was saying to them.

It is possible that they were secretly hoping God had a ‘Plan B’ by which Jesus could avoid the cross and all the suffering that accompanied it and somehow set up His glorious future kingdom without any of the difficulties He had mentioned along the way. Their grasp of what God had planned for Jesus was not in line with His divine purposes. If we stop for a moment to reflect on their error we ought to ask ourselves to stand in their shoes and think what kind of response we might have given then and what kind of response we would give now to God in our current circumstances.

Our natural human reaction is to want life to be straightforward and if we work hard for things to expect success in what we are doing. Yet Jesus was perfect and did exactly what God the Father had for Him to do, but it was anything but an easy road to travel. The author of the book of Hebrews wrote these words in Hebrews 2:9-10:

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what He suffered. 

These are deeply challenging and sobering words.

Jesus’ professed followers today number more than 2.3 billion individuals, but the total number during His earthly ministry who were committed to following Him was fairly small. If the ‘Church Growth’ experts had been evaluating Jesus’ earthly ministry I am not sure how positive they would have been. What is of greatest importance here is how it ended; death on the cross or burial in a borrowed tomb was not the end.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday was God’s verdict and declaration of triumph! We are a resurrection people following in the footsteps of Jesus. Therefore, although we will have disappointments and heartaches and setbacks along the way, the final triumph of God in building His Church is assured. We must lift our eyes from the difficulties to focus on the One who was triumphant over all the obstacles placed in His pathway.    

(b) His command (Luke 19:29-31) As He approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’

Jesus and His disciples are within sight of Jerusalem and will soon have a glorious view of the city from the nearby Mount of Olives as they make their descent down towards Jerusalem. At a time when they were passing through two tiny villages very close to one another Jesus made a request to two of His disciples. It was not a surprising request because in that culture a Jewish rabbi could ask to borrow a donkey for a day.

He had a duty to take care of the animal and to return it in the condition in which it was loaned to him.

We have no knowledge of the details here as to whether Jesus had a prior arrangement with the owner or not, but on the surface it looks like a supernatural revelation of Jesus in predicting that an available animal would be tied up in a specific location, and thereby be available for Him to borrow. There appears to be a specific form of wording He gave to His disciples to say, if they were challenged about their course of action.

On other occasions Jesus clearly had made plans such as the upper room used for their Passover meal. In Luke 22:7-13 it states: Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’ ‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked.10 He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.’ 13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

These incidents remind us that there will be occasions in our lives when we have clear instructions about how we live our lives as Christians, but there will be plenty of others where we have guidelines for our behaviour and choices, but we have no detailed blueprint for our course of action. There will be particular times when we need the special blessing of other people coming alongside us or even in response to our prayers when God the Holy Spirit intervenes in a special way for our good and for God’s glory. The issue here was trust.  Do I trust Jesus enough to follow Him? Am I willing to commit the whole of my life to honour Him? It is the biggest call you will ever make. Have you taken that step of faith? I hope each one of us has done so.         

2. The Obedience of the Disciples (Luke 19:32-35)

(a)Our trust in Jesus (Luke 19:32-35) Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as He had told them33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ 34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

These disciples had learned to trust Jesus on a daily basis as they had walked around the country with Him over the past more than three years. They still had plenty to learn, but let us give them the credit due for what they did that day. How strong is your faith and trust in Jesus? It is important when we pray for something, if we notice an answer to write it down in a notebook so that in difficult times we can encourage ourselves by what we have recorded on previous occasions. Jesus is trustworthy.

Are you following Him? Or is today the day when you will start following Him? We are a people called to prayer both individually and corporately. What expectancy do you have of God working in you or through you this week, for example? If we expect nothing then we are sure to hit the target! I am fairly certain that these disciples did not know what Jesus was going to do with the donkey – in terms of where He had planned to go with it. So often you and I likewise in our journey of faith will not know how and when God will work in particular circumstances for which we are praying. His message to us is quite simple: ‘Will you follow Me?’

Is there a situation you are struggling with at the moment? Are you wondering how you should act in a particular situation? We need to keep on praying until God makes clear His will or opens or shuts a particular door of opportunity we were considering. In so many life situations there is no obvious right or wrong choice, instead it is often between a good and legitimate choice versus the best choice in that situation. We need the aid of the Holy Spirit to help us make our choices.

(b)  Our trust in His Word (Zechariah 9:9-10) Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey… He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the Riverto the ends of the earth.

What Jesus was doing on Palm Sunday was not a last minute impulsive action, first thought of that morning. It was something prophesied 500 years earlier by Zechariah, one of the spiritual leaders of God’s people after the return to the Promised Land from exile in Babylon (Iraq). We can often forget that there were 400 years of apparent ‘silence’ after the end of the book of Malachi with no more revelatory words we are aware of before the ministry of John the Baptist.

We know very little indeed about those centuries with respect to their walk with God or how the people of faith viewed their circumstances in most of that time. Yet God had not forgotten them or delayed the fulfilment of His promises. We in our day make many requests to God and at time wonder why something we are praying for is taking so long to happen. It is important to remember that His timescale is often longer than ours. God knows what He is doing even if we are unclear why things take place the way they do in many situations. We can trust His Word because God is in control.

In God’s time came One who would proclaim: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
(Matthew 5:3-10).

The militaristic Messiah most Jews had been hoping for and expecting was so different to Prince of Peace. The final triumph of King Jesus at His second coming is still to take place, but we can trust God’s Word for the future just as much as rely on it for events fulfilled in the past.

3. The Response of the Pilgrims (Luke19:36-38)

36 As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

The crowds grew larger the closer Jesus got to Jerusalem. Almost certainly many of these people cheering Jesus that day were Galileans who had recognised Him from the meetings they had attended and the miracles they had witnessed. There was genuine enthusiasm for Jesus presence that day it was not contrived or forced like the applause at political party conventions that differs little across the range of parties here in the UK from those of regimes overseas that choreograph praise for the great leader or President!

It was not confetti and plastic flags distributed by public relations personnel employed by major sports teams or other well-funded agencies at work here. It was genuine and sincere with Palm branches strew along the pathway and some coats put down on the road as well. However, although these expressions of praise are heartfelt and once again a fulfilment of prophecy with a citation of Psalm 118:26 Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord it was only a part of the picture.

Around the world the Church of Jesus Christ is growing with more people added every week, but as we know in our own cultural context a positive response to the claims of Jesus is not the perspective of the majority in our land. However, we rejoice with those who have the humility and wisdom to receive the grace of God and commit their lives to follow Jesus.

4. The Indifference of the Majority (Luke 19:39-44)

(a)The folly of the Religious leaders (Luke 19:39-40) 3Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ 40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’   A few moments ago I cited the first part of Psalm 118:26: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. The second half of that verse states: From the house of the Lord we bless you.  

The general public on the streets welcomed Jesus, but the words not cited from the second part of the verse was also with good reason. The religious leaders ought to have welcomed Jesus, but were mostly indifferent or actively opposed to Jesus and what He was proclaiming. It is extremely sad that things have not changed over the centuries. In every generation there have been religious leaders, some holding extremely high offices who have taught opinions contrary to the teaching of Jesus. We must always check things out with God’s Word. What does the Bible say? What does the Bible say in context!

I have heard over the years some outrageous things claimed as being ‘what the Bible teaches’ by people indifferent or hostile to following Jesus. It is so easy with the Bible or even simply with the words of someone else in conversation to twist what has been said. It happens all the time in the media.

Here on Palm Sunday it was the ordinary Jewish pilgrims from Galilee who acknowledged Jesus more accurately than the religious leaders. It is a challenge to us, always to take care with our words and even prior to that in our listening to other people so that we may hear accurately what they are seeking to communicate to us. How tragic it was that Jesus was not welcomed into God’s House, the Temple in Jerusalem, by the religious leaders. Have you welcomed Jesus into your life?  

(b) The heartache of Jesus (Luke 19:41) As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it  These verses in Luke 19 are a part of the Palm Sunday story that is often overlooked when we consider that day, but it is part of the story we need to consider most carefully. Jesus cared deeply for these people. It saddened Him deeply that so many had missed out on the relationship with God that their heavenly Father intended them to experience. How much do you care for people who don’t know Jesus? It costs emotionally at times when we seek to share something of our faith with other people.

It is painful at times when others indicate that they don’t want to know about the Lord Jesus or are not interested in the invitation we are offering to them. Behind the happy palm branch waving and celebrations Jesus was broken-hearted that the good news He was presenting was not wanted by a majority of the population of that major city. There is nothing new under the sun. Cultures and outward forms of things in society change with great regularity but the underlying human needs and aspirations don’t change from one generation to another. What is more, people’s need of God is just the same for everyone whether they recognise it or not.

We must keep on praying for people even if it takes years before we see them come to Christ. We are involved in a work for God over the longer term when current fads and fashions of the wider society have receded into history. Who are you praying for week by week to come to know Jesus? Safeguard your time for that investment even if it is only for a very short time; we must be intentional about finding a little time to spend with people as a little over the medium to long-term adds up to a significant amount of time over the years.

We will have our tears of disappointment like Jesus, but people will only care what we know and stand for when they know first of all that we genuinely care for them as people. There are no quick fixes. We are in it for the long haul. How much do you care for people who don’t yet know Jesus? Who are you praying for and who might you invite to an Easter online service this year?    

(c) The misjudgement of the people (Luke 19:42) and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The religious leaders were worried that there would be a reaction from the Roman authorities if people increasingly followed Jesus. It was astonishing that at the very time when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, not long before the first Easter that some people together with their religious leaders could so misjudge the situation. In John 11:45-53, just after Lazarus was restored to life, it states:

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.’

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take His life.

It was a catastrophic misjudgement. How could they get it so wrong? 

(d) The consequences of their actions (Luke 19:43-44) The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’

This prophetic message refers to the Jewish–Roman War, 66-70AD. In Josephus’ contemporary work the History of the Jewish Wars, the details of the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem and the Jewish nation were recorded: while the sanctuary was burning…neither pity for age or respect for rank was shown.

On the contrary children and old people, laity and priests alike were massacred (Book 6:271); the Emperor ordered the entire city and the Temple to be razed to the ground, leaving only the loftiest of the towers…and the portion of the wall enclosing the city on the west…as to leave future visitors to the spot no reason to believe that the city had ever been inhabited (Book 7:1-3).  Jesus was unpopular with some because He cared for them and for this city.

Not everyone will welcome the good news of the gospel, but because we care for them, we will continue, month after month and year after year to make Christ know. We will have our tears of sadness at some of those rejections, but I trust we will never cease praying week by week for the people God places on our hearts; while an opportunity remains we will proclaim Jesus by word and actions so that those we encounter have the chance to own Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, Amen.    

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘O Lord, the clouds are gathering’

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:

Lord, You are the head of the Church, we truly want to love and worship You more.  We desire to grow more like You as we read and reflect on Your Word and as we spend time with You in prayer and in fellowship with other followers of Jesus. Help us this week and in coming weeks to have a greater desire to make You known and share You with others, in the light of all You have done for us, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Benediction:  The Grace

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