Welcome to Spring
Rev. Robin McAlpine

Sunday Thought for the Day

Robin has written, compiled, read and presented some thoughts for various days of the week. This page presents his thoughts each Sunday. You can find links to his thoughts for other days of the week by using the index on the right of the page.

The latest thoughts are at the top of the page or you can scroll down to read earlier entries.



Thought for Sunday 31st May

There will be no video podcast on the Bennochy church web site this coming Sunday, 31st May 2020. We are all encouraged to join in a national Pentecost service hosted on the Church of Scotland web site or Facebook page from 10am. You can view the service on our Pentecost Service page. An audio version of the spoken parts of the service (not the musical sections) will also be available via telephone on 0131 378 7895.

Alternatively you can view the service via these websites:

Click for Website Church of Scotland Website
Click for Facebook Church of Scotland on Facebook

Details

Moderator to host church-wide Pentecost service

Congregations across Scotland will be joining together-remotely-for a special Pentecost service on 31 May.

Rt Rev Martin Fair will be hosting the service which will include worship, prayers, music, a sermon, Bible readings, and will close with the Moderator’s wife Mrs Elaine Fair singing The Blessing.

The Moderator is encouraging congregations and people of faith across Scotland, and beyond, to join together in worship as a whole church.

“Pentecost Sunday is an opportunity to rejoice in the birth of the church and to celebrate our togetherness as a church family,” Dr Fair said.

“It was the coming of the Spirit upon those first disciples that brought the church to life, with power and passion - and the same Spirit unites us still.”

“Even though we cannot be together in person, we can be together in spirit. We can share in the same worship, pray together using the same words, be inspired together by the same Bible verses and affirm our unity as the body of Christ here on earth.

"Ordinarily, the worship of the Church is offered locally, rightly so. But it seems to me that in these present circumstances there is merit in giving over one Sunday to come together.”

The Moderator will open the service and invite you to worship. Others taking part will include: Rev Fran Henderson, minister in Shetland; Rev William Boyle of Port Glasgow, New Parish Church; Ann Lyall, DCS from Glasgow; and Rev Ruth Morrison, of Clydebank Waterfront.

The musical offerings will feature hymns and songs from across Scotland including:

  • Rev Jonathan Fleming of St. John’s Largs and Cumbrae and his family
  • the worship team at Fullarton Parish Church
  • junior choir members from Aberfeldy
  • the worship team at Chryston Church of Scotland

The service will be recorded in advance and will be available for viewing on the Pentecost Service page at 10am on Sunday 31 May.

An audio version of the spoken parts of the service (not the musical sections) will be available by phoning 0131 378 7895.


Thought for Sunday 24th May

Reflections for Sunday, 24th May 2020

Thought for Sunday 17th May

Reflections for Sunday, 17th May 2020

Thought for Sunday 10th May

Reflections for Sunday 10th May

Readings for today

Psalm 31:1-5, 14-16 (The Message)

A David Psalm

31 1-2 I run to you, GOD; I run for dear life.
   Don’t let me down!
   Take me seriously this time!
Get down on my level and listen,
   and please—no procrastination!
Your granite cave a hiding place,
   your high cliff aerie a place of safety.

3-5 You’re my cave to hide in,
   my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader,
   be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps;
   I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands.
    You won’t drop me,
   you’ll never let me down.

14-16 Desperate, I throw myself on you:
   you are my God!
Hour by hour I place my days in your hand,
   safe from the hands out to get me.
Warm me, your servant, with a smile;
   save me because you love me.

John 14:1-14 (The Message)

The Road

14 1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

5 Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

8 Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

9-10 “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.

Reflection

I have seen this film a few times. It is one of those post apocalyptic stories, where a father and son, struggle to survive in a world of dwindling food supplies. It is violent and it is depressing. The father has one aim, and that is to protect his son. Yet it is one of those few films, for me anyway, that I will watch again. I don't remember exactly why, but their journey was to get to the sea. The film is simply called, "The Road".

Eugene Peterson in his Message translation of John 14, gives it the same title. It is an image that relates well to the early days of the Christian church, where followers of Jesus, were known as 'People of the way'. In their public declaration of following the Christ figure , they were going against the crowd and the empire. They faced rejection, persecution and even loss of life. They believed they had been called by a man, Jesus of Nazareth, risen from death, who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

John builds his gospel around these famous 'I am' sayings of Jesus. It is not important whether he is quoting Jesus exactly, but in using these words, John is picking up the ancient story of Moses, where he encounters a burning bush. The story can be found in Exodus chapter three.

Moses wants to know who God is? Does God have a name. For if he is to return to Egypt to lead Gods people out of captivity, they will want to know, who has sent him. You see, Moses was a stranger to them. Why should they trust him? So he asks for God's name. This what God said, 14 God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3: 14) In other words, John is saying, this man Jesus, is, ' I am'. John is clearly saying to his readers, Jesus is God.

These are hugely powerful statements that go well beyond their image. They are far more than simply descriptions of Jesus. All these sayings are about the identity of God, as "I am". In this case, "I am the way, the truth and the life".

If I am going on a journey, one of the things I do is to check Google maps. Not only does it plots the way I need to go, it also tells me roughly how long my journey will take. However, what it can't do, is tell me what will happen on the way. We can only cross the bridge by walking it.

I am fairly certain the disciples of Jesus wanted some clarity about the way ahead. It is our natural human instinct to want to know where we are going, before we set out . We don't normally set out with no destination in mind. We want to know the next step. The next turn of the way. For example, at the moment, people are asking, when and how are we going to exit the lock-down. What is the Governments route map? We will need to wait and see.

What Jesus is saying to us is, we will not know a defined way. In life, we are asked to trust in Jesus, as our companion 'on' the way. To go further than that, in faith to believe, he is 'the way'.

Every path we take has two parts; the journey itself, and then there is the destination. If you bag Munroe's you are probably more interested in the destination, for the journey is not a success, unless you reach the top. But before we get there, in life, we journey, not by ourselves, but with those roundabout us. The Christian journey is one we share with others, on the way. In the journey we need to look around, and ask, who is travelling with us, and what is God wanting me to do, Today.

At this moment in time, I have to believe that the journey is actually more important than the destination. In the words of the apostle Paul, it is about staying the course and the ultimate destination, is not within our control, anyway.

At the end of the film, the father dies and you wonder what will become of his son. What will be his way? You will need to watch the film to find out. Hard as it is, we need to stay in the moment, and try not to worry about tomorrow. Jesus rightly said, it will have its own worries, but don't add them on to today. Cross that bridge when we come to it. Our road is hard enough, but we do not travel it alone. God is ahead of us. Christ is our companion on the way, and the spirit is our guide. Amen.

Prayer

We approach God of the burning bush. We enter the holy ground of, "I am", and we ask this; accept us for who we. Forgive us. We can come no other way.

We pray, Christ of the way, be our companion.

Spirit of God, be our guide.

May the unknown future be filled with faith.

May our uncertain steps be strengthened with hope

And if the hill seems to steep to climb, the chasm too wide to cross and our fears too deep to follow, may the peace of God's shalom, go ever with us, on the way. Let us pray together.

Our Father, who art 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 forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
forever.
Amen.

Blessing

Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7)


Thought for Sunday 3rd May

Reflection for Sunday 3rd May

Readings for today

Psalm 23 (The Message)

A David Psalm

23 1-3 GOD, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

4 Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,

I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

5 You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.

You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

6 Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.

I’m back home in the house of GOD
    for the rest of my life.

John 10:1-10 (The Message)

He Calls His Sheep by Name

10 1-5 “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”

6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Reflection

Good morning everyone. Well, who wants to be a sheep? Who wants to blindly follow and be part of the crowd? But I was wondering if sheep get a bad press? So I did a little bit of research. In an internet article by Harriet Constable, dated 19 April 2017, she says this, and I quote;

"Reputation: Sheep are stupid, defenceless and harmless creatures that mope about on hillsides doing not very much. They are good for two things: being eaten and producing wool.

Reality: Sheep are actually surprisingly intelligent, with impressive memory and recognition skills. They build friendships, stick up for one another in fights, and feel sad when their friends are sent to slaughter. They are also one of the most destructive creatures on the planet.

Intelligent. Complex. Sociable. All words we would quickly assign to humans, but would not dream of extending to sheep, those fluffy white creatures you see milling about in fields – or served up with mint sauce on your dinner plate. Instead, we have decreed that sheep are just plain stupid. This opinion has not changed much since the 1700s, when George Washington, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, declared: "If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

Nowadays, to be "a sheep", as the Urban Dictionary puts it, is to be someone who mindlessly follows others: "a waste of flesh and brain cells," The truth is that sheep are far smarter than we know."

So, now we have put that one to bed. Sheep are more intelligent than we think, we can now look at the words of the Psalmist, in a new light.

The ancient practice of shepherding was never to drive the sheep from behind, but always to lead. And because of the relationship between the shepherd and the flock, the sheep would follow. The journey together was based on their relationship. The shepherd knew each sheep by name, and the sheep recognised, in some way, the voice of the shepherd. My understanding is this, if two shepherds met and their flocks intermingled, all they had to do, to identify their own herd, was to walk away from the other shepherd and call to them; the sheep would then run to their own shepherd. In the passage from John 10, Jesus expresses this relationship between shepherd and sheep, assuring us that his own sheep will run toward him, and won’t wander off, to follow a stranger.

You can see why Jesus used the image. First of all, the image of the shepherd was already a descriptor of God, not only does the famous 23rd Psalm say, "the Lord is my shepherd", in Ezekiel 34 we can read this,

"For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. "

It was already part of their understanding of God, and their relationship with him. Think about it, in rural Palestine, 2000 years ago, it was just part of their way of life. To see flocks of sheep following their shepherd. You can almost imagine Jesus saying to the crowds, look, see that shepherd over there, you already know how he cares for his sheep; that is like God's relationship with his people. The image is kind of lost on us. We live in a very different culture. I wonder, what we might replace the image of sheep with, but that is for another time.

If care and compassion runs right through the 23rd Psalm, in a way that is more than we deserve, today, my eye is drawn to these words, Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid. The Covid pandemic has brought grief, to many a door. Many today are walking through death valley, and many more are fearful for themselves, their family and friends. This is indeed a psalm for today. It says to us, do not be afraid. God is by your side.

Now, I realise that is a statement of faith, but whether we believe in God or not, does that remove God's love for the world? I don't think so. I have to trust and hope, that's God's compassion is high enough, broad enough and wide enough to accept us , whoever we are. With all our failings. To be the shepherd of all sheep, even those who do not recognise his voice. There are those who might disagree with that.

Many years ago, I was walking in the Outer Hebrides. It might have been Benbecula. It was meant to be one of the paths taken by Bonnie Prince Charlie, en route, to be 'taken over the sea to Skye'. He is reputedly in disguise as an Irish spinning maid, Betty Burke and accompanied by Flora McDonald, he was leaving Scotland on his way to France, after his defeat at Culloden in 1746. Anyway enough of the history lesson. On the track, in front of me, was a gate. To continue the journey, the gate had to be opened.

It reminded me of those words of Jesus, 'I am the gate'. If it is Jesus who opens the gate, or who is literally the gate. It is only ourselves, who can choose to continue the journey with him. Yes, it is a bit like sheep, who follow the voice of the Good shepherd. And he echoes the words of the psalmist, that we will find green pasture. This is God's promise to us all.

Stay connected. Stay safe. Till the next time.

Prayer

Lord God, shepherd all your people. On our different journeys, with our different joys and struggles, remind us that we are all are honoured guests at your table, and that all of us, will find a home, within your goodness and love. Help us to know that in you, we have everything we need. Acceptance, forgiveness and in Jesus, a companion on the way.

And in a moment of silence, we now remember those impacted by Corona virus. In their grief, their struggle for breath, their isolation and their fears, we bring our thoughts, and our prayers.

Silence.

May we follow, with hope for tomorrow and live with faith for today. In Jesus’ name we now pray these words.

Our Father, who art 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 forgive 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.

Benediction

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)