In life our temperaments do play a significant part in shaping how we view the world. Some of us are natural optimists who look for the best in others and see opportunities opening up in front of them. By contrast, some other people are at the opposite end of the scale and are naturally pessimists and from their perspective there are an alarming number of problems and difficulties lying ahead of us and they struggle to see a way through.
In popular speech in Scotland there is a simple form of words we use to describe these two broad categories of people with reference to a partly-filled glass of water. There are those who see a glass ‘half-full’ and others who see it ‘half-empty’. There is no dispute about the quantity of water in the glass only the significance of it.
At the current time it is mostly likely that the Covid-19 virus crisis may be the biggest challenge to humanity worldwide since World War Two. Therefore, if this statement is correct, the choices we make now as the Christian Church in its local as well as global expression may have a huge bearing on the effectiveness of our collective witness over the coming decades and possibly even longer.
We cannot deny that we may face some even bigger challenges ahead than we are even anticipating at the present time. Yet at the same time there may be some unprecedented opportunities to show the importance and relevance of our faith to a world of people whose ideological foundations have been shaken by all that has taken place.
The Bible passage for today is very brief, covering an unscripted and completely unplanned ministry opportunity for Jesus and His disciples in Luke 18:15-17. What do we see?
(1)An unsought opportunity (Luke 18:15a) People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have Him touch them. I have no idea what Jesus had planned that day for Him and the group of disciples that were accompanying Him.
What we see here clearly is that choices had to be made. How would Jesus respond to the situation before Him? In that cultural context it was not uncommon for rabbis, the Jewish religious leaders, to be asked to perform a blessing on a child around its first birthday. Jesus’ could have said ‘no’ He was too busy to stop and spend time with them.
Churches around the world in locations with good access to the internet have had new opportunities to bear witness to Jesus Christ. How many had prior to this crisis hosted meetings or services on a zoom platform? How many had livestreamed services or activities or even thought seriously about doing it prior to March 2020? How many Christians had considered sharing gospel messages to groups on whatsapp or other people via email or shared something of their faith by more traditional methods of actual conversations in person, by phone or some other means of communication.
I am delighted to hear good examples of some of you taking opportunities to share your faith in recent weeks. Personally, I have had many more opportunities to speak to others about aspects of the Christian faith in the last month than I could ever have anticipated. I want to encourage you to join me in praying to the Lord for spiritual sight to ‘see’ the opportunities that God is providing for us.
(2) An unwanted opportunity (Luke 18:15b When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them… These sincere people had a schedule for the day that had to be followed and so the presence of these parents and young children was a problem to be got rid of not an opportunity for engagement.
Is this our natural response when difficulties come? Or might there be a better way to react? For example, by praying: ‘Lord, I don’t like the situation before me’; Can you please open my eyes to view it from your perspective of looking for new opportunities for witness or service?’ It is not the details of what happened here that matters as we live in a very different cultural context, instead our focus in this Covid-19 crisis is to ask God how we might live effectively for Him in our communities at this time of enormous changes.
(3) A God-given opportunity (Luke 18:16-17) 16But Jesus called the children to Him and said, Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Jesus’ choice is an active one. He called the children to Him… to model God’s kingdom values to the adults present. Children typically have a sense of wonder about the world and an expectancy of God at work within it.
Do we need to recover even in a time like this a sense of the opportunities God is presenting to us? For prayer, witness and compassion ministries;
Children have a depth of trust in God and in the adults in their lives. In our difficulties will we demonstrate our confidence in God by the choices we make for our future? Children are also willing to play ‘Follow my leader’ games.
How willing are we to follow Jesus in simple trust that He will lead us in the right way in these difficult times? Children are also marked by their amazing ability to forgive when apologies are offered and to offer them when they are at fault. How much we adults have to learn from them! Thank God Jesus took this God-given opportunity to live out His faith amongst people who might not otherwise have seen Him or heard Him preach. Or calling is to follow in His footsteps.
Our song to help us in our reflections today is ‘When we walk with the Lord’
I have encouraged us through this Covid-19 virus crisis to set aside time for prayer and reflection in the middle of the week to reflect on our blessings, the things that have gone well as well as bringing to God the difficulties we are going through or facing in the near future.
In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells the story of a young woman experiencing some incredibly difficult times. Let us look briefly at this account of how she responded after reading through Luke’s record of what Jesus said to His disciples:
Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”4 ‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’
6 And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’
The purpose of the story: Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1) Why did Jesus need to tell this story? It is quite straightforward because as human beings if we don’t see something happening in a short period of time then our enthusiasm for bringing an issue to God often drains away and before you know it we have stopped expecting anything to happen even if we are still praying for it for a considerable period of time.
Jesus wanted to encourage His first disciples and us today to not only ‘try praying’ but to ‘keep on praying’. It was central to Jesus’ life and His example is a serious challenge to us when we settle for something less. Do you need to be encouraged to set aside some time for prayer on a daily basis?
The problem behind the story: He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. (Luke 18:2) Some problems in life seem too big to overcome. This judge was in charge of that court for years. There was no Court of Appeal. He was a giant roadblock in the way of her quest for justice.
What is your roadblock just now in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis? Is it mental health struggles coping with being confined to your home? Is it a fear of catching the virus in your workplace? Is it anxiety about losing your job or not getting the university place you had worked for? Is it worry about a decline in physical health and strength as you have got older? The list is endless and at all ages!
If you are facing your roadblock just now remember these words of Jesus in Matthew 19:26: Jesus looked at them [His disciples] and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ There is no situation too big for God to handle. Bring your concerns to Him.
The person in the story: And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” 4 ‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’ (Luke 18:3-5)
The young widow in that culture was incredibly vulnerable. Her chances of getting justice from such a court as this were minimal. Yet because she was convinced that nothing is impossible with God combined with the strength of her case she was determined to keep coming back with her requests for justice. Jesus’ point to His followers was very simple. If she could do it so can you and me. Never give up in prayer; never give up in evangelistic witness to family and friends who need to find Jesus for themselves; never give up hope that we will receive the answers to our prayers – for as long as it takes!
The points to remember from the story: 6 And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:6-8).
God loves and cares for His children so if there is no totally hopeless situation on earth we can come before Him with a quiet confidence of God answering our prayers, although we must never forget His answers to our request may be ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not yet’. The last point Jesus highlights in Luke 18:8concerns our perseverance in prayer and expectancy of God working in people’s lives until the day He returns. Can Jesus count on you and me continuing as a praying people?
Our song for reflection today ‘Never once did we ever walk alone’
I am thankful to Claire for planning some pointers for our prayer time
Prayer Time for Wednesday 29th April
• Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;his love endures forever. Psalm 106v1. Take some time to praise God for who He is and then thank Him for the things we can be grateful for in our lives.
• Pray for the many vulnerable countries, that they would receive the financial and humanitarian aid they need to prevent virus spread and meet people’s basic needs.
• Continue to pray for the Government in Scotland and in the wider UK and for their clinical and scientific advisers, may they have the wisdom they need to make the right decisions at the right time.
• Pray for the physical, emotional and mental health of the staff and residents in Care Homes. Pray that supplies of the right equipment would get through to meet theirneeds. Pray for residents as they may struggle with theneed to stay in their rooms and not having visitors. Please especially remember those who live and work in the Care Homes that our church led services in – Ferry House, Orchar, Elder Lea Manor, Ballumbie Court, Moyness and Balcarres. Pray also for our neighbour, Lochleven Care Home.
Give thanks that Hannah was able to lead a small Sunday church service for those who wished to join in at her workplace, where their spirits were lifted through singing, praying and counting their blessings together.
• Please continue to remember the NHS workers, whatever their role, as each one plays their part to ensure that we can access care when it’s needed. Pray for those who you know by name and ask God to sustain them.
• Pray for teachers, especially those known to you. Ask for God’s help for them as they adapt to new ways of teaching and for help with the frustrations that can bring. Pray that those working in school hubs would be able to work in safe ways and wouldn’t be put at unnecessary risk.
• Pray for parents who are trying to support their children with school work at home, particularly while trying to do their own work too. Pray for patience and understanding. Remember children and young people who have additional support needs and are now struggling with a big change to their routines and a reduction in their usual support services.
• Remember those with ongoing health issues in our church family just now, pray for the NHS to resume its usual services as soon as possible to attend to those waiting for operations, treatment plans, tests and check-ups.
• Pray that Messy Church At Home (on our website) and Zoom Boogie Babies (this Saturday morning) might help us to keep connected with families and be of benefit to them.
• Pray for ourselves, ask God to help us to seek Him first in everything that we do and to always make time each day to read His word and spend time in His presence.
If you could ask God one question when we get to heaven and be guaranteed that it would be answered what would that question be? I suspect under the pressure of the moment that some of us would be reduced to silence. Others, who prior to that moment could quickly have stated their question, might have declined to speak because it seemed no longer to be that important.
It is just possible that the questions we would most like to be answered then are not currently of particular importance to us.
Two thousand years ago Jesus was approached by a wealthy young man who held an important office in his country. Outwardly his life and career would have been viewed by his contemporaries as a great success. But there was a burning question in his mind to which he sought an answer.
It is possible he had asked other Jewish religious leaders the same question in the recent past, but it appears that he was not satisfied with any answers he had received prior to that time. What was the question he wanted to ask?
Luke18:18 states: A certain ruler asked him, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? All credit to this man for being honest enough to admit that he needed to make changes in his life in order for God to save him. Do you need to take some steps of faith in order to be the person God wants you to be?
However, what this young man had yet to learn was that entering God’s family comes about not through us becoming good enough, but through God the Father accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross in our place. Salvation is all of God’s grace not where our good deeds outweigh our bad ones.
Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2:8-10, verses that illuminate what Jesus was explaining to this man. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Have you grasped the extraordinary nature of the gospel? It is good news to the undeserving.
The focus of some people who want to follow Jesus is what can I do to be good enough for heaven? However, this is to misunderstand the nature of the good news. Jesus died in our place to take the punishment in advance for our sins so that when we simply place our trust in Him as Lord and Saviour we are welcomed into His family. This is the most incredible good news in human history.
The great Methodist hymn-writer Charles Wesley, in the hymn he wrote to describe his own conversion to follow Jesus expressed something of the wonder of what happened that first Easter: ‘Died Him for me who caused His pain; for me who Him to death pursued, amazing love, how can it be that thou my God shouldst die for me? (Charles Wesley hymn, ‘And can it be’ verse one, CMP 33).
Eternity will be insufficient to wonder how God could go to the lengths He did to save undeserving sinners such as you and me –but He did! The difference between risking eternal ruin and receiving an eternal reward is only two letters of the alphabet: ‘done vs do’. Either it is finished(Psalm 22:31; John 19:30) and we accept Jesus did all that was required on our behalf, or we are still working on it, with no certainty of the outcome. I know which kind of salvation I want to have!
Our song for reflection today is Charles Wesley’s well known hymn ‘And can it be’
Moraig will lead us with some of our favourite Boogie Babies action songs for you to sing and dance along to.
Bookings can be taken by EMAIL ONLY as this is how we will share the Zoom session details with you. If you would like to join in on Saturday, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and your child’s name to book a place.
We will use this information to confirm that you are known to us from previous sessions. Please don’t be offended if we reply back to ask a couple of further questions that you will only know the answers to, if you have previously attended Boogie Babies, to confirm that you are known to us.
As most of you usually book on Facebook, please let me know if your Facebook name is different from your real name, to avoid any confusion! More details about the session will be sent by email. We can only accept a booking from someone who isn’t already known to us, if you are recommended to us by someone we do know. I hope you understand our reasons for doing this, while Zoom is a great platform, we must keep it safe and secure for everyone. Hope to see you Saturday 🙂
There is something in our psyche in Scotland that causes us to naturally favour the underdog in many contexts, especially sporting ones. But it is almost a principle that we want people to have a fair and balanced view of themselves in whatever sphere of life they lead. When someone is looking down on their peers and viewing them as second class citizens we know that something is wrong, or I hope we do!
Jesus wanted to address this issue of humility and wisdom and told a simple story to illustrate His point. It is found in Luke’s Gospel chapter eighteen verses nine to fourteen:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” 13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ (Luke 18:9-14)
It is important to understand the religious and cultural background of this story. The first hearers of the story would have been very confident of the point Jesus was making that God has no time for wretched sinners like the tax-collector who exploited his fellow Jews while collecting taxes for the Roman Army, an army of occupation in Israel.
By contrast, the Pharisees were very popular with the vast majority ofordinary people. They were local tradesmen who were based in ordinary communities alongside their peers, but who had also had a theological education prior to serving as lay-pastors or elders of the local Jewish synagogues. Apparently there were about six thousand of them in Jesus’ day. The majority of them were excellent God-honouring individuals, but not all. Some were so obsessed on keeping their own rules and regulations that they forgot what was most important of all in our relationship with God. Let us look very briefly at these two people in this story:
1.The Pharisee 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayedabout himself [or literally to himself]: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
The context was a time of prayer in the most holy place of worship for Jews, the Jerusalem Temple. The wording of what he was doing praying about himself could equally be translated to himself.
He was speaking the truth he had been a conscientious individual seeking to lead a good life. There was no doubt that he was correct that he hadn’t robbed people in the street or carried out evil acts against fellow citizens and equally likely that he had been faithful to his wife. What is more he had not been engaged in fiddling his taxes after all this man was so careful like many other Pharisees that he gave away not only a tenth of his income to charity, but did the same with the herbs in his garden (Matthew 23:23).
He even gave up some meals to engage in extra times of prayer twice a week. This is all highly commendable conduct except that prayer is not about telling God how wonderful we are, or boasting about our achievements in His holy presence.
Just imagine walking uninvited into Buckingham Palace when Queen Elizabeth II is giving out medals or certificates to citizens who have been nominated successfully. Instead of waiting your turn you walked past others in the line and stopped at the front demanding to be honoured first! In every respect such an action would be wrong. Jesus was suggesting that God would equally view such arrogance in prayer as out of place.
It is unlikely that we would pray out loud in a church service declaring ourselves better than other people present. However, human nature being what it is we can have strong temptations at times to see ourselves as better than some other people. I understand various police forces around the UK have had an alarming number of calls in recent weeks from people reporting their neighbours for violations of the lock down restrictions, for example, for taking an extra walk per day or some other similar matter!
2. The Tax Collector (Luke 18:13-14)‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner[literally the sinner ].”
This person has a different focus. He simply focusses on himself in his prayer that day asking God to forgive him for some wrong thing he has done. There are no excuses or self-justification. He admits it was him who had failed.
God knows us better than we know ourselves so we cannot hide things from Him. So it is both humbling and wise to be completely open with God when we pray. The Bible is clear that God is willing to forgive the sins of anyone who is genuinely sorry for their misconduct. How did Jesus indicate God viewed these two prayers?
14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
In this new week let us talk honestly and humbly with God about how we are getting on knowing that God wants to honour those that honour Him. God knows all our hearts so we cannot mislead Him. Therefore, the wisest step to take is to please Him in the choices we make and in the attitudes we display for our good and for His glory.
Our song to help us reflect on this subject is ‘Search me O God and know my heart’
Sunday Evening Prayer Livestream 7.00pm – We will be continuing the Prayer Livestream at 7.00pm on Sunday, celebrating the theme of Resurrection Hope with live prayer and news from churches around the country. This will be another significant time of national prayer for us. Click here to join.
Call to Worship
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Psalm 95: 1-7
We are grateful to Francois and Pips for selecting the songs for worship for this service.
Our opening song of praise and worship is: Be still for the presence of the Lord This song invites us come with reverence and respect into God’s holy presence.
We are not on our own God is here with us as we worship Him and it is His presence that enables us to face the future even in difficult times with confidence.
Our second song of worship is: What a friend we have in Jesus
It is an extremely relevant song that even mentions being in isolation!
Lord Jesus we come with deep thankfulness in our hearts for Your amazing love towards us. In both the newer song ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ we sang today and in the more familiar older hymn of that title we recognise the lengths You went to show us the love of our heavenly Father for His children.
We thank You for dying in our place on the cross, the greatest act of love in history. Once more we confess our sins and ask for Your forgiveness and seek the fresh empowering of Your Holy Spirit to live for You effectively in this new week. We come with a sense of expectancy into Your presence today as we seek Your blessing once more upon us as we spend time in Your holy presence.
Heavenly Father thank You for Your faithfulness to us when we were less than faithful to You. Thank You for Your constant kindness to us each day of our lives. Therefore, we can say with the apostle Paul, in his words:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Romans Chapter 8:31-34.
Thank you Lord for these wonderful words of encouragement from the Bible; Please speak to us from Your Holy Word as we worship You today, in the name of Your Son our Saviour we bring our prayers today, Amen.
Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever Amen.’
Our third song is a recent composition that has been appreciated by many Christians – Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me.
JAM Kids’ focus:
We have a new series this week, Virtual Sunday School! This week we look at the theme of ‘PRAYER’ and the Bible story of ‘Daniel & the Lion’s Den.’
All Age Talk – Isdale Anderson
I’m sure that one question that many people have been asking recently is:
“When am I next going to get to the hairdressers or barbers?”
I think the simple answer is “It could be a while!”
Now there are various ways that you could cope with this problem. You could – and this is perhaps an easier option for the men – is go for a look that some guys in our church already have ie the baldie or shaven head! You could just get a razor and shave it all off!
If that’s too drastic an option then you could always locate that wig that you wore to that fancy dress party a number of years ago. And of course if you don’t have a wig you could always have a go and make one. Then pop it on your head, stick on a pair of sunglasses and no one would be any the wiser!
If you don’t fancy that you could of course ask someone else to cut your hair for you. But would you know anyone in your house who you would trust with a pair of scissors? Your sister might smile sweetly and say “Of course they can do it!” do it for you. But maybe they are just looking for the chance to get revenge for that time you threw a bag of flour all over their hair just as they were about to go out to meet their friends.
So if that still doesn’t appeal then you could decide to take matters into your own hands and go for a selfie – and just cut the hair yourself! But a word of caution here. Have a look on the internet first at some of those who have tried this as it may put you off! Crooked fringes, tufts sticking out at odd angles, bare patches at the back – you’d be begging not to be allowed back to school until September!
In the end you may just have to go for the Wild Man/Lady of the Mountain look – and comfort yourself that it’s a very popular look this summer!
Anyway does it really matter that much how we look. I certainly don’t think it does to God. He accepts us whatever we look like and is much more concerned about what we’re like on the inside than the outside.
There’s a story in the Old Testament part of the Bible, where the prophet Samuel is given the very important job of choosing someone to be the new king of Israel. He has to go to a man who has 8 sons. The youngest is only a teenager of about 15 and the others go all the way up to the oldest who was about 30.
In the story, all the brothers come forward one at a time to be inspected by Samuel starting with the oldest. He was a big chunky handsome guy whose appearance really impressed Samuel and he thought “I’m sure he would make a good King.” But he felt God telling him that no he wasn’t the man.
And so the next brother came forward, and the next and the next. All the way down to the 7th son. But still God didn’t tell Samuel to choose any of them. Some of these men looked very impressive. They were handsome – tall – muscular. But Samuel felt God saying to him “People judge others by their outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”
In other words, God isn’t interested in how people look, but on what kind of person they are. What is our character like? Do we put what God wants before what we want? Are we thoughtful and caring to others? That’s what matters to God.
So next time you look in the mirror and groan about the state of your hair, remember what’s on the inside is more important than what’s on the outside. What kind of people we are is more important than how we look. It isn’t easy being stuck in the house with our families not being able to go out and see friends or play with our pals. We can get bad tempered and annoyed easily and be unkind. So here’s this week’s challenge. Two parts!
One to aim to do at least one kind thing for other people every day. Could be to help with the housework – or if there’s no one else in your home, pick up the phone and ask how someone’s getting on. There’s a very good chance they will be in!
Two A fun challenge for the boys and girls – but there’s no age restriction. If you have some bits of wool, string etc you can have a go at making your own wig. Take a photograph of you wearing it and send it to me and we can show them it on the Church News Update sheet or at the next Zoom service.
I know that I never told you the end of the story of the 8 brothers. The story is in 1 Samuel chapter 16. Read it for yourself and find out!
Cast your cares on the Lord (kids song) from Seeds of faith, family worship. Amazing word art on this one, based on Psalm 55:22
JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:15am on the Zoom platform –parents of teenagers can get a link code by contacting Gary Torbet on email@example.com
Prayers for Others
Lord once more we come humbly seeking Your assistance to our country and indeed our world during this ongoing covid-19 virus crisis. We ask for Your continuing strength for all the dedicated people serving in our health and social care facilities to support both patients with covid-19 virus and others with different medical and other health needs. We are particularly concerned at the spread of infections in nursing homes in our land and pray for Your protection on some of the most vulnerable people in our country at this time.
We particularly remember today those working in the NHS or Social Care facilities.
It is with deep sadness that we remember all the people who have died seeking to assist those who have contracted this illness, even in this week. We pray for Your comfort for their families and for the families of the patients for whom they cared until their deaths.
We continue to remember all those in national, regional and local government seeking to serve their country through these difficult times. We pray that they may know Your wisdom in seeking to govern appropriately under severe pressures at this time.
We pray for teachers who are in school to help teach the children of key workers at this time. Pray also for the home learning environments of most children and young people just now. Pray for parents who are teaching their children at home and give thanks for online learning tools and other resources.
We thank you too for the wider network of Christian Churches at this time as they seek to serve their local communities. During this covid-19 virus crisis we have become so much more aware of the Christian church overseas.
We particularly bring before you those who are seeking to lead worship in communities in the two-thirds world where serious shortages of food have caused many to go to bed hungry during the current lock downs, especially in minority communities in places like Pakistan, where additional government food supplies are withheld from them in some communities by leaders from the Muslim majority – Lord have mercy on them at this time.
We are grateful for the blessing of working with other local churches in Broughty Ferry and in our wider city. We ask for your encouragement and blessing on them at this time.
We thank you within our wider Scottish Baptist Church family for:
Andrew Oliver (Chaplain, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards) – In 2019 Leuchars Station had five (unrelated) deaths. Please pray for all families and friends affected by this. Please pray for my children who attend Madras College St Andrews – often the children of ministers / padres feel a certain extra peer pressure. Please pray for their continued spiritual growth and the grace to stand up for our Lord at school.
My time in army chaplaincy comes to an end in November 2021 and we are looking to the Lord for what lies beyond that, including possible church-based ministry. We value prayers for all the practicalities that surround this – especially that the children’s studies will not be adversely affected, and that the whole process will draw us all closer to God and each other.
Culloden-Balloch BC – Please pray for the church as they seek to live for Jesus and bring others to Him. Pray in particular for the church as they seek to reach out to people in different and more online ways at this time.
Cumbernauld BC – We praise God for a new Leadership team who along with members are seeking God’s will for the church in Cumbernauld as we consider potential new opportunities and ask for prayer that we will know God’s leading. As we are currently in a pastoral vacancy we give thanks for the Scottish Baptist Lay Preachers Association members who have been willing to lead us in worship and we have been richly blessed.
Cupar BC – We praise God for His faithfulness and provision during this time of vacancy. We seek God’s guidance in prayer as the church looks for the way forward to continue God’s vision for our fellowship and community.
We thank you for our local church family and remember particularly those who are confined to their own homes or residential care homes at this time. We particularly pray that You would encourage those who are struggling with these restrictions on their movement or the fact that declining health has led to much greater limitations on what they can do.
We are particularly conscious of people with ongoing health issues and especially remember Jim and Jan F but if we wish to name others before You, we do so now….
Lord we ask for Your ongoing comfort to those who have been bereaved recently and your assurance to those struggling with limited finances or difficulties over their employment. We also bring our own prayer needs before You ….
Lord hear and answer our prayers in the wonderful and precious name of Jesus, Amen.
As we rest assured in the amazing love and kindness of God towards us let us sing again a familiar older song “How deep the Father’s love for us”
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12: 22-31
Before we come to the Scripture passage let us sing once more: “Lean hard on the everlasting arms” by Lou Fellingham
A filmed version of the message:
Luke 12:22-31 He will give you all you need…if…
Introduction ‘Don’t’ worry’, we have all said these words countless times to other people and then received them ourselves in return. We are all so acutely aware that there are many types of situations where it is inevitable that there will be deep concerns about what lies ahead of us.
For us several weeks into the Covid19 virus crisis we have become very aware of the uncertainty of life. Now for some of us with a secure income whether through regular employment or a guaranteed pension and some savings there is a great deal that is certain about our future, at least in financial terms.
However, as recent events have revealed, no matter how well prepared we are life can in a very short time become very unpredictable and the future far from certain. In the two-thirds world for hundreds of millions of people this time has not only been inconvenient and unsettling, but life threatening. On days when many of them are not working there is no money to buy food for their families and so there is no food to eat.
In the last week I have had telephone calls or messages from Christian workers in a number of countries in Asia and Africa pleading for help for their families and church communities because they have no food to eat. It was extremely difficult explaining that I am unable to provide what they needed.
Yet these words of Jesus in this passage are incredibly powerful and challenging precisely because they were first spoken to a gathering of day-labourers who lived from one day to the next and who had no chance of changing their socio-economic conditions. If Jesus could ask them some powerful questions about trusting God with our futures then He can rightly do the same with us. Let us look briefly today at this passage.
(1)The point to note (Luke 12:22-23) Then Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
We live in a world of growing insecurity. In the two-thirds world millions of people work zero-hours contracts and only eat that day if they have secured work in the morning. Their families too live the same precarious existence. Lock-down is catastrophic for such people when combined with an absence of state support for their material needs.
It raises questions about the ethics of employment in our own land that will not go away once the virus crisis is over. How many jobs ought to be based on zero-hours contracts rather than regular employment contracts? There is a big debate to be had about economic justice in our land that raised its head powerfully in some of the better aspects of the recent debates about our relationship with the European Union and how so many million people here in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Continental Europe feel they gained nothing from that previous relationship.
Just as pertinent in the last two decades has been the remarkable growth in wealth of a tiny number of billionaires. There are all kinds of issues around tax and its payment by some of the largest companies in the world that will need to be addressed as we reflect more critically on globalisation. Can the world really continue in the way things have gone in recent decades or are their some changes to be made so that the poorest proportion of the world’s population may actually have a chance to simply live?
A number of political commentators have noted that the value of some lower-paid NHS and Social Care workers has noticeably increased in many people’s minds over the last month. And so it should when some of them risked or have given their lives in the service of the people under their care. How should this be reflected going forward? Many would argue with better terms and conditions of service as was experienced after the two world wars in the previous century.
I greatly appreciated the commentator who reflected on whether it was time to have the equivalent of the NHS for social care to ensure older people are treated so much better than many have been in care homes over the years. There is a debate to be had on that subject I believe. To come back to ourselves, and the personal challenge about the way we live our lives: How have your priorities changed in recent weeks? Are there people we value more than we did before this crisis began?
(2) The example to follow (Luke 12:24, 27-28)Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! …27 ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!
Planning ahead when we have the opportunity is still wise, not just for personal protective equipment for health service workers, but also for various forms of insurance including, for example, pension provision if we have the opportunity to arrange one.
However, although that is true, I hope one of the big lessons learned of this covid-19 crisis is that life does not need to be so complicated. If planning decisions and hospital erections, for example, can be done in weeks why need they take years, as so often in ‘normal times’? The complexity of endless paperwork in most workplaces that has grown so much in recent years – is it really necessary?
Life at every level can be simpler than it was. Consider the rest of creation effectively not just what benefits humans, says Jesus. People who have spent their entire lives in cities around the world with blighted vision and breathing difficulties due to excessive pollution can now breathe more easily and enjoy views some had either never seen before or certainly had only done so with difficulty. Will we as humans place a higher priority on the quality of our environment after this crisis? I certainly hope so
(3)The challenge to heed (Luke 12:25-26)25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
How many of us have had severely restricted movement recently and as a result had more time to think about our lives? This down time might for some be refreshing and an opportunity to catch up on long-lost sleep. However, for others it might have been deeply disturbing as we looked into the mirror of our lives and didn’t like everything that we saw.
Living one day at a time is biblical but hard to practice. Learning to do what we can and then consciously handing over the rest of our circumstances to God is easy to say, but at times very hard to practise. Is there an issue you are struggling with just now?
(4) The attitude to avoid (Luke 12:29-34) 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Have I been too focused on getting material things or buying experiences no differently to the people around me who don’t have a faith in God? Do I need to have some priority changes going forward? How does Jesus ask us to prioritise our finances, time and abilities?
The New Living version rendering of Luke 12:31 I found very powerful in my daily devotions recently: He will give you all you need from day today if you make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. For those who normally give financially to their local church in cash on a Sunday –is that offering now being given through standing orders or direct debits.
Sadly there are those who may have to reduce what they give because their income has gone, but what if your expenses have significantly reduced in recent weeks –might you consider giving extra to help avoid a shortfall in church accounts as we go forward? This would be a radical kingdom choice?
It would also be a wonderful testimony of our trust in God to the wider community if we were still able to balance the books as a church at the end of this crisis. I am thankful too in our community for those whose giving has funded our Broughty Ferry Food Bank –and others in our city whose giving has paid for the work of similar initiatives. Jesus finished by saying here: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. What might that mean to you and me at this time in our lives? Now that is a big question for us to answer! Let us ask Him to guide our reflections on this matter, Amen.
Our closing song is Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?
Benediction – The Grace
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore, Amen
At the end of many a busy day you finally complete as many of the tasks in your ‘in-tray’ as is possible and then sit down with a well-earned time for relaxation as you stop to reflect on the day and what you might have achieved, or not have achieved, as the case may be. Or maybe on the threshold of the weekend, if the week day and weekend distinction still holds under lock down, you stop to consider the week that is past.
Sometimes we don’t want to think for too long because we are frustrated that so little has been achieved and we would rather not dwell on that fact. However, for most of us if we are not too hard on ourselves there are tasks that have been completed and a fair assessment would be that they have been reasonably successful.
As I have mentioned on other occasions, the perception of Holy week two thousand years ago by the followers of Jesus between Palm Sunday and Easter Saturday was very different to the view of Christians today.
We look backwards knowing what happened on Easter Sunday, but from their perspective it was a week that began amazingly well with Jesus getting the recognition He deserved in Jerusalem, but going downhill steadily as the week progressed. Before the end of Good Friday, Jesus had died.
How did those present see Jesus in the light of the events of that day? Let us look very briefly at Mark’s short account of late Friday afternoon that day in Jerusalem:
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last.38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed Him and cared for His needs. Many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem were also there. (Mark 15:37-41)
It had been a hectic day with the old city of Jerusalem jam-packed with vast crowds of people, but the noise has greatly diminished as those present have mostly gone back to their homes or the place where they were camping during the Passover Festival. Yet on the hillside outside the city wall Mark highlights the presence of one man and a group of women
The women Those named were regular supporters of Jesus who were loyal and committed through good times and bad. They were there when others had gone missing. There are many times for us too when we stand alongside someone going through hard times. We cannot solve their problem or fix their crisis. But our presence shows that we care. We want to find words but sometimes there are no words that are adequate.
Undoubtedly there were plenty of deep thoughts to accompany their silence. Are you someone who like them can be counted on to be loyal to the end? It takes real courage and perseverance to do that in tough times then and now. But with the help of the Holy Spirit we too can stand firm when the going gets tough. In what situation today is God asking you to keep going and not give up?
The centurion This was the toughest individual present that day. He had probably killed or overseen the execution of more individuals than he cared to recall. For him it was another shift at work with three men for him and his team of soldiers to crucify that day. Job done! Or was it? What did he say about the man on the central cross? And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’
I wonder how he slept that night after such an observation? Killing terrorists and other undesirables would have been a routine activity for him, but this was different. As he reflected on how Jesus died something changed within him. Have you stopped to consider how Jesus behaved on the cross – what is your verdict? I hope and pray that you come to the same conclusions as the centurion, and then take a further step and put your faith in God through Jesus and commit your life to follow Him.
Our song for reflection today is an older Easter hymn of Irish hymn-writer Thomas Kelly, ‘The head that once was crowned with thorns’
If you knew you were going to die within a few minutes and had the energy left to utter only one more sentence or two, what would you want to communicate to the world?
Archimedes of Syracuse (298-212 BC), possibly the greatest mathematician of ancient Greece apparently said: ‘Wait till I have finished my problem.’ Peter Abelard (1079-1142AD), the greatest philosopher in Europe in the early 12th C AD and lecturer at the University of Paris declared; ‘I don’t know’. Dominique Bouhars (1628-1702), a French Jesuit grammarian who spent his life persuading his fellow-countrymen to speak their language correctly, (in French) was recorded as saying: ‘I am about to…or I am going to…die… either expression is correct.’
Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533-1603), was recorded as saying the following utterance: ‘O my God! It is over I have come to the end of it, the end, the end. To have only one life and to have done with it; to have lived, loved and triumphed and now to know it is over. One may defy anything else but this.’ Lastly Joseph Addison, a writer and literary figure in England (1672-1719) summoned his wayward stepson Lord Warwick to his bedside and in a final plea to the young man to trust Christ concluded with: ‘See in what peace a Christian can die’. We have never met these people but we can make an informed guess about what really mattered in their lives. What is your real passion and mine? Is it something that in the light of eternity is of real and abiding significance? This is the challenge with which we are to live our lives for the Lord.
Jesus uttered His cry of triumph tetelestaifinished and then concluded with these words recorded by Luke in 23:46: Jesus called out with a loud voice Father into Your hands I commit My spirit. When He had said this, He breathed His last. Jesus was not hanging on to life. After His cry of triumph declaring the completion of the work the Father had given Him to do, He confidently laid down His life and committed Himself into the arms of His Father in heaven. No fear of death, no regrets about His life, but it was recognition that His work was accomplished.
Jesus lived and died in full confidence that His life was in the hands of God the Father. Do you share His confidence in your own life? Jesus endured the agonies of crucifixiondespite knowing in advance the cost of total obedience to the Father’s will for His life. Are you and I willing to endure some hard times in order to remain faithful to the calling God has placed on our lives? Then when the day finally comes will we die in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life – as Jesus did? I sincerely hope and pray each one of us will do this and sing the song chosen for our reflection today as a declaration of our faith in Jesus.
We’re really missing getting together with all of our Messy Church families, we’re thinking of you all and we hope that you’re doing well. Coming very soon we will have our first Messy Church At Home session which you can access online. We hope that it will bring a wee taste of Messy Church to your home and you can do it at a time that suits your family. More details to follow, watch this space!! 🙂