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Updated: 27 Mar 2020

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From the Manse

Thought for the Day

Prayers of Hope



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Bennochy Quiz

Hippo Knitting Pattern

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Days of Thought

Sunday 29th March

Thursday 26th March

Tuesday 24th March

Sunday 22nd March

Contact Numbers

The Minister (Robin) (01592) 643518
Session Clerk (George) (01592) 200179
Rev. Robin McAlpine

Thought for the Day

Robin has written some thoughts for each day. To begin with, these will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He will also put up a short reflection for each Sunday. There is a list of days on the right of the screen or you can simply scroll down the page as you read. The latest 'thoughts' are at the top of the page.

Thought for Sunday 29th March

Readings for today

John 11: 38-44

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
39 Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’
40 Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’
41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me.
42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’
43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’
44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

Ezekiel 37:1-14

1. The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.
2 He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
3 He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know.’
4 Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath* to enter you, and you shall live.
6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath* in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.’

7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:* Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath,* and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’
10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.
14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD.’


When I read John 11, I can't help but think about family dynamics. OK, the central characters are not all related, but this is a story about people who deeply care for one another. First of all, Lazarus is a dear friend of Jesus, and then we are told, that Jesus loved both Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. John is recounting here, a family reaction, to the loss of a friend and brother.

For me, the key moment in this story is when Jesus seems to delay his return to Judaea. Why did he not go right away? After all, was his friend not seriously ill. In the midst of all that is going on around us, and at the heart of all the statistics around covid-19, are people who are seriously ill. Many of whom will not recover, or who have already died. Family members. Close friends. This story shares something of our present world experience. An experience of loss.

There was a time, not that long ago, when we read the statistics about this virus, and thought, it will have nothing to do with us. It would not come to our door. Now we know it has. I read today that 25% of the world's population are now in lock-down. Imagine that!

When Jesus eventually arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has already been dead four days. He is not just dead. he is decomposing. All hope has already been lost. What does Jesus hope to achieve, except to put his arm around Martha and Mary. The family and wider community are grieving at their loss. Their tears, now expressed in the many tears, of our world today.

This story is also about different perspectives in the face of illness and death. For Jesus, death is not the end. The great miracle of life was still to come. It is story of hope in resurrection, however that happens. Because of that, for Jesus, there was no rush.

For Martha, it is all about her faith. Even if Lazarus is dead, and I firmly believe that is what she thought, her trust in Jesus was strong enough, to believe that death would one day, be overcome. For the rest of us, Jesus should have hurried to be by the bedside of his friend. No delay. After all, he was the man of the moment. The man of miracles.

Mary's reaction is interesting. Is there any accusation in her words, "if you had been here, my bother would not have died!" or just grief at the loss of her brother. If these are accusing words, then they were quite understandable. Natural. For part of grief, as we know, is anger. Often at God. And against a God, many people do not believe in.

There are many who are weeping today. A bed side they cannot sit at. A funeral they cannot attend. If it is the shortest verse in the bible, "Jesus wept" is about his humanity, and not his divinity. At our times of loss, uncertainty and despair, Jesus weeps with us. He is here. Today. He feels our pain. He knows what we are going through.

There will be an end to this pandemic. That is our hope. Once more, we will return to a new 'normally'. Whatever that will be. And as Lazarus left the tomb, the power, compassion and the glory of God, was plain for all to see. So in faith we believe, that resurrection will again bring new life, even in the midst of death.

Stay connected. Stay safe.


A prayer for today

For a moment. Let us turn from ourselves, and turn to God.

We remember all those who work in our emergency services, and who seek to keep us safe.


We remember all those who serve us, and who work to keep essential supplies on our shelves.


We remember all those who work and volunteer, making sure the vulnerable and isolated have what they need, are cared for, and maintain contact with the outside world.


We remember those known to us, who are fearful about the future. In uncertain times, may we pray with faith in God for today, and hope for tomorrow. Amen.

Hymn for today


In times of danger and of doubt,
When trials multiply,
Lord, calm our fears and still our souls,
Remind us of your truths of old:
Help us on you rely.
Help us on you rely.

When changing our familiar ways,
Help us adapt to change;
Lord, give us persevering hearts,
A spirit fit to face the task
In comfort or in pain.
In comfort or in pain

Help us to see our neighbours' need,
Our neighbours' burden share;
To go for them that second mile,
To love and give and help and smile
In comfort or in pain.
In comfort or in pain.

Lord Jesus, you have suffered more,
Your pain has known no end;
You healed the sick, reclaimed the lame,
In pity share each sufferer's pain,
On you we now depend.
On you we now depend.
(tune, Dear Lord and father of mankind)

Words by Graham Leitch


Praise the God who reigns above;

praise the Son who lived below;

praise the Spirit, three in one,

God we love and know,

God we love and know. (CH4 815)

Thought for Thursday 26th March

Readings for today

Genesis 3: 1-6; 11-13

3 Now the snake was the most cunning animal that the LORD God had made. The snake asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”

2 “We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden,” the woman answered, 3 “except the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do, we will die.”

4 The snake replied, “That's not true; you will not die. 5 God said that because he knows that when you eat it, you will be like God[a] and know what is good and what is bad.”[b]

6 The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it.

11 “Who told you that you were naked?” God asked. “Did you eat the fruit that I told you not to eat?”

12 The man answered, “The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

13 The LORD God asked the woman, “Why did you do this?”

She replied, “The snake tricked me into eating it.” (Good News)

“ The snake asked the woman, ‘Did God really tell you not to eat the fruit from any tree in the garden?’

‘ We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden ‘ the woman answered ‘ except the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do we will die.’

The snake replied, ‘ That’s not true; you will not die. God said that because he knows that when you eat it you will be like God and know what is good and what is bad.’

The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it.

God asked, ‘ Did you eat the fruit that I told you not to eat?’

The man answered ‘ The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit ,and I ate it.’

The Lord God asked the woman, ‘ Why did you do this?’

She replied,’ The snake tricked me into eating it.’”

Human nature doesn’t change. The moment anything is forbidden, it increases in attraction and becomes a “must have”. And the moment anyone is found out, their instinct is to blame anyone, anything else: “ It wisnae me!”

So if you are tempted at this time to ignore what are after all only temporary restrictions, remember there may be consequences..And the person to blame will be...?


Father God, your Son Jesus taught us to pray:
“ Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.”
Holy Spirit, make this our prayer today, for ourselves and others. Amen

Nancy Gilmartin

Prayer Points

  1. To remember the staff, pupils and parents of North primary and Dunnikier. For staff still working. Vulnerable pupils being cared for and for parents juggling responsibilities of child care, home schooling and work.

  2. To remember the staff and residents in Abbeyfield, Marchmont and Bennochy Lodge care homes. For relatives no longer able to visit their family. For staff in isolation.

  3. For people we know who are ill with covid-19. People who fear the future, and the recently bereaved coping with new funeral regulations.

Locked Down - A Prayer

A prayer from Rev Dr Lezley Stewart, the Church of Scotland's Recruitment and Support Secretary.

There were other doors
once locked in fear,
in a time of waiting
and distress.

It was an uncertain,
questioning time -
longing for what had been known
and treasured before.

Into that space,
calming and soothing,
came these welcome words -
“Peace be with you.”

Peace be with you in every worry,
in every sleepless night,
in every loss experienced,
in every comfort now distant.

Peace be with you in every certainty,
in the shared burden of these days,
in the unexpected connections,
in the gift of another sunset and sunrise.

Peace be with you and yours,
the deepest peace,
the strongest peace,
the peace that passes all understanding.

Christ is our peace
and is in our midst.
His words echo again -
“Peace be with you.”

Thought for Tuesday 24th March

Readings for today

Luke 6: 37 & 38

37 “Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you. 38 Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.”

Jesus said: “Do not judge others and God will not judge you; do not condemn others and God will not condemn you; forgive others and God will forgive you. Give to others and God will give to you. Indeed you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands- all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.”

We probably need this advice more than ever today. And two popular songs possibly might say it in another way, for you. From the film, “Frozen”: “Let it go!” Suspend blaming others -and yourself -and discover compassion and forgiveness. And from the Beatles “ Abbey Road”: “ And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Love others-and yourself- and discover compassion and love.


Father God, we give you our past: forgive us
Jesus, God the Son, we give you our present: be our strength and support
God the Holy Spirit, we give you our future: be with us on the journey Amen.

Nancy Gilmartin

Thought for Sunday 22nd March

Readings for today

1 Samuel 16:1-13 Good News Translation (GNT)

David Is Anointed King

16 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you go on grieving over Saul? I have rejected him as king of Israel. But now get some olive oil and go to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, because I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

2 “How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “If Saul hears about it, he will kill me!”

The LORD answered, “Take a calf with you and say that you are there to offer a sacrifice to the LORD. 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will tell you what to do. You will anoint as king the man I tell you to.”

4 Samuel did what the LORD told him to do and went to Bethlehem, where the city leaders came trembling to meet him and asked, “Is this a peaceful visit, seer?”

5 “Yes,” he answered. “I have come to offer a sacrifice to the LORD. Purify yourselves and come with me.” He also told Jesse and his sons to purify themselves, and he invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Jesse's son Eliab and said to himself, “This man standing here in the LORD's presence is surely the one he has chosen.” 7 But the LORD said to him, “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called his son Abinadab and brought him to Samuel. But Samuel said, “No, the LORD hasn't chosen him either.” 9 Jesse then brought Shammah. “No, the LORD hasn't chosen him either,” Samuel said. 10 In this way Jesse brought seven of his sons to Samuel. And Samuel said to him, “No, the LORD hasn't chosen any of these.” 11 Then he asked him, “Do you have any more sons?”

Jesse answered, “There is still the youngest, but he is out taking care of the sheep.”

“Tell him to come here,” Samuel said. “We won't offer the sacrifice until he comes.” 12 So Jesse sent for him. He was a handsome, healthy young man, and his eyes sparkled. The LORD said to Samuel, “This is the one—anoint him!” 13 Samuel took the olive oil and anointed David in front of his brothers. Immediately the spirit of the LORD took control of David and was with him from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

John 9:35-41 Good News Translation (GNT)

Spiritual Blindness

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 The man answered, “Tell me who he is, sir, so that I can believe in him!”

37 Jesus said to him, “You have already seen him, and he is the one who is talking with you now.”

38 “I believe, Lord!” the man said, and knelt down before Jesus.

39 Jesus said, “I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see and those who see should become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were there with him heard him say this and asked him, “Surely you don't mean that we are blind, too?”

41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still guilty.”

Reflection: what is the right thing to do?

What is all the fuss about? Jesus heals a man born blind. So what? But to the religious leaders of the day, it seemed a very big deal indeed. It was all about what was the right thing to do. Do you obey the law, that said no healing on the Sabbath or, did this act of healing over ride the law? It is interesting to note, as Jesus often did, that he uses such incidents to raise spiritual matters. We do not stop with the miracle. There is more to the story than that. In this case, it is about spiritual blindness. Now surely that does not apply to us? The Pharisee did not like the sound of that, one little bit.

At the moment, due to corona virus, we are all being asked to follow the advice being given, about isolation and social 'distancing', to protect ourselves and the health of the nation. We might be wondering, what is the fuss all about. I feel fine. It comes back to the question, what is the right thing to do?

In the time of Jesus, illness was sometimes associated with sin. In the past, someone must have done something wrong. In this story, Jesus clearly states that this is not the case. And John wants to make clear, that the miracle of the story is about demonstrating of God's power and not judging the individual. In this viral outbreak, the world has been left vulnerable and powerless to the force of nature. I hope we do not see this as the action of God because we have done something wrong. It is not the God I believe in.

It can't be him. He was blind. So the rumours go round and round. When something happens that we can't understand, rumours abound. Corona is no different. How did it start? The man shares his story. We have all done that. You will never believe what happened to me! The crowd want a bit of the action. Where is he? I don't know, the man answered. We all love to follow the gossip.

Enter the Pharisees, and they set up an impromptu investigation. Witnesses are called. The outcome is unclear. The Pharisees say one thing. Some say another. How could a sinner perform miracles? We all have our views on Corona and what should be done. In our circles, we set up our own investigations, and our leaders are in the dock. Fancy being in their shoes? I don't.

The Pharisee change tack. Maybe he wasn't actually born blind. It is all a scam. Who is telling the truth. It is the key question in any trial. The Pharisees ask the man exactly that. Tell us the truth. Truth depends on your perspective and from where you stand, you might see things different from others. The man says, I don't know what is true, only I was blind, and now I can see.

For many people reality is truth. What is going on around them, what they are coping with, is their priority. How do I stay safe? What is the best way to protect my family? Truth, and no doubt blame, will come later. Who is at fault? How did the virus really start?

Sometimes we need to hear things many times before it sinks in. Did we really believe people when they started to talk about corona affecting us? A viral outbreak In the other side of the world. So what? We all have had our eyes opened.

Has religion touched the Corona outbreak. At the moment I am not sure that it has. In Jesus day, everything was seem through the prism of who was, and who was not, part of God's people. This healing story has as its background a theological debate, which was asking the question, what is the right thing to do?

In Johns account, Jesus comes back to the man. It is now a story of faith. Sometimes its source is not obvious, and people struggle to see God, who sometimes stands before them in plain sight. We look in the wrong places.

In a very uncertain world. In unprecedented times, the church needs to stay rooted in faith, in a creator God, and corona is part of that creation, and at the same time, we need to offer hope to others. In practical ways. In prayer. Let us play our part. And may God reach out his healing hand, upon our world.

Prayer for the day

God who has created all things, be with us.

Jesus of Nazareth, give us sight to see the things that blind us.

Spirit of God, unseen as the wind, blow peace upon our anxiety, and give us hope for tomorrow.

In uncertain times, may our faith stay strong and all the more think of others. Let us be guided by compassion and a strong sense of justice, and when that has not been the case, forgive us.

In our separation, make us one. In our division, united, and held by God, as one body in Christ. Amen

Hymn for the day (please read)

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

The Lord hath promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.


May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall softly on your fields
And until we meet again
May you keep safe
In the gentle loving arms of God. Amen.