Sunday Reflections

Sunday Reflections (November 2020)


Reflections for 29th November 2020

Reflections for Sunday 29th November 2020
Click to read the Order of Service Read the Order of Service
(29th November)
Click to read the Order of Service Read the Order of Service
(22nd November)

CH4 273 O come, O come, Emmanuel

Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ,
Child of salvation,
Held in the loving arms of Your earthly parents,
Held in the loving heart of the heavenly Creator,
Creeping into our winter world
Where cold and darkness hold their sway.
Yet still You come,
Reminding us each year of warmth and light,
Unshakeable mercy,
Shining love.
In this fading year, with so much hurt and loss
and frustration –
Come to heal and soothe;
In this bitter year, with so much left undone
and broken –
Come to hold and mend.
this locked-down year –
Come to liberate and renew Your people.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Child of promise,
Within the grasp of Your infant hands
You hold the grace and joy that will transform
Our lives, our Church, our world.
Who can see the hope for the poor,
The welcome for the excluded,
The guidance for the perplexed,
The shelter for the homeless,
Swaddled in Your tiny form,
Resting and restless in Your manger?
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come into our world almost to dare
Us into action and love;
Beguiling and entrancing us in infant form,
Yet God made flesh,
In all Your vulnerability and strength.
A God of, ‘what if?’;
A God of, ‘this is possible’;
A God of, ‘hear Me’;
A God of, ‘follow Me’;
Lord Jesus Christ,
In Advent, Christmas and coming New Year,
Let us grow with You:
Emerging from darkness into light,
Moving from isolation to community,
Leaving despair for hope.
Holy Child, Servant King, Prince of Peace,
With us, despite us, for us, beside us.
Be near us now, and always.
Amen

Lord’s prayer

Light first candle on Advent wreath + 1 verse of CH4 282 Christmas is coming

Reading (1) Mark 13: 24-31

The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “In the days after that time of trouble the sun will grow dark, the moon will no longer shine, 25 the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers in space will be driven from their courses. 26 Then the Son of Man will appear, coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 He will send the angels out to the four corners of the earth to gather God's chosen people from one end of the world to the other.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

28 “Let the fig tree teach you a lesson. When its branches become green and tender and it starts putting out leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, you will know that the time is near, ready to begin.[a] 30 Remember that all these things will happen before the people now living have all died. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

CH4 280 Alleluia! Hurry the Lord is near

Reading (2) Mark 13: 32-37

No One Knows the Day or Hour

32 “No one knows, however, when that day or hour will come—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son; only the Father knows. 33 Be on watch, be alert, for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It will be like a man who goes away from home on a trip and leaves his servants in charge, after giving to each one his own work to do and after telling the doorkeeper to keep watch. 35 Watch, then, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming—it might be in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or at sunrise. 36 If he comes suddenly, he must not find you asleep. 37 What I say to you, then, I say to all: Watch!”

Reflection

I wonder what gets you excited when you think about the future. What gets the juices going in anticipation of something special still to come. Remember your childhood, in the run up to Christmas. Remember that? Looking forward to family gatherings, parties and celebrations, and of course what Santa was going to bring you. As a wee boy I used to hunt the house looking for hidden presents. Not the ones from Santa, of course, they had not arrived yet but the ones from my parents. I’m sure you never did such a thing.

As we get older, I think we lose that excitement, until we see it again through the eyes of our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Christmas comes alive once again. Now, if we are really honest with ourselves, Advent doesn’t quite do it. I have never sensed much excitement about Advent. Yet without Advent, there would be no Christmas. Advent is the journey. Christmas is the story. Advent has taken thousands of years. Christmas was a couple days in Bethlehem. When Christmas is over, the journey of Advent will continue. I will come back to that in a moment.

Advent is a time to take seriously, the role of people like Mary, mother of Jesus and the prophets of the Old Testament who foretold the coming of the Messiah, but in our minds, they pale into insignificance, when compared to the shepherds and the wisemen. That’s the exciting part of the story. They’re the heroes. We remember the nativity stories we were part of – tea towels on our heads (buy the costumes today readymade) and being an angel hiding in the pulpit and then standing up. I remember taking part in an adult nativity play in St Pauls church in Milngavie. I was a wise man. There was a cast of thousands, ornate costumes, and multiple rehearsals. This was serious stuff. Advent just doesn’t seem the same. But as we will pack away the crib, the journey of Advent, continues.

I have to be honest, I not that keen on the reading we had today. So why choose it? It is one of the lectionary readings for the 1st Sunday in Advent. Its connection though is not really with Christmas at all, but how the journey of Advent plays out, once and for all.

There is no way, that Christmas ever sneaks up on us. You can’t miss that Christmas music in the shops and the advertising that screams to us, to buy, buy, buy and you will have a great Christmas. The words of Jesus, in Mark 13, have to be talking about something else. If you look at them, with some certainty we can say this; they talk about events that are future-tense. They have not happened, yet. The language can be a bit strange and full of vivid imagery, and the key word is this, “watch”. Look for the signs and be alert to what is happening.

Advent is the journey to the manger. We know that story so well. In the Bethlehem stable, Jesus is born. But it is not that simple. The bible says Jesus is God and has been around since before creation and for all time. Bethlehem is just a moment in time, and where for 33 years or so, after that, God breaks into his creation. His name is Emmanuel, God with us and he entered into our world. I want to suggest, that Christmas, by itself, is a story that does not challenge us. It does not challenge us, enough. We actually need Advent.

If Jesus is God, then is should come as no surprise, that he might come again, in mystery and in miracle. Mark 13 raises that possibility, and asks the question, when will that be? For centuries, people have tried to interpret the words of Jesus to answer that question. I want to take a slightly different tact and ask this, are we talking about the possibility of one specific future event, or do we need to look at such passages from a different perspective? Not about the future, but about today.

What about this, this passage is all about suspense. You watch the movie. You know something is about to happen. There is that mood music, but when it does, you are still taken by surprise. Jesus language here is a bit like the mood music, building suspense, but never offering us a clue as to when the event will actually take place. Maybe that is the point. To hold us in suspense, as God demands us, to be always watchful. If, just if, Jesus were to come back, would we be taken by surprise?

So maybe it is an appropriate text for Advent. This Advent journey is to the crib, but from the 26th of December, we begin our advent journey to the cross. And in that rhythm, each and every year, God says to us, be watchful. Wait. You just never know, what might happen. Amen.

2nd Prayers

CH4 279 Make way. Make way

Blessing

Reflections for 15th November 2020

Reflections for Sunday 15th November 2020
Click to read the Order of Service Read the Order of Service

Reflections for 8th November 2020

Reflections for Sunday 8th November 2020
Click to read the Order of Service Read the Order of Service

Call to worship

From the darkness of death, God calls us into glorious light.
From the tumult of war, God call us into the beauty of peace.
Children of light, God calls us today to remembrance.
In light and in peace, we will remember them.

CH4 36 God is our refuge

We remember today, all the ordinary people ripped from their towns and villages, torn from their families, to serve their country in war.

We remember today, all the ordinary people left behind to keep things going in factories, on farms, on the streets blitzed by war.

We remember today, the ordinary people who lost their lives in war and those left behind who never saw their loved ones again, who grew up without a parent, a sibling, a partner or friend, whose who never discovered love again, and who grew old alone.

We remember today, all the ordinary people on either side of the conflict whose lives were changed forever, all those who paid the price of freedom and, in our remembering the ordinary people, we remember that the cost of war will always be too high.

(Please stand)

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them. For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon 1869-1943.

2 minute silence

Beyond words, beyond the battle, beyond the outcry, lies silence.

For what words, and what warring, and what anger has words enough?

It is sacred, this silence, holy, this remembering, for only silent remembering can carry enough pain and truth, together, to whisper at dawn, “It is enough”

"When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today."(Kohima epitaph, after John Maxwell Edmonds 1875-1958)

(seated)

Welcome to our service of remembrance / intimations

CH4 528 Make me a channel

Prayers

Father God, you do not want our sacrifice, you do not want our piety, all you ask for, is that we walk with you the humble path of justice and love. It is not in grand gestures, but in humble service that we can best reveal your love. Lord God, may we strive not to be special, but in getting alongside other people, we can make a difference in the world: bringing peace not war; bringing love not hate; bringing freedom, not oppression.

Eternal God, we lay before you today all the areas of conflict in our world: conflict that still rages and places still ravaged by war and its consequences. Out of the ashes of conflict may people and nations resolve to find paths to peace. Give us creativity, that we can shape a brave new world out of the scars of war. Give vision and courage to leaders and governments who seek to resolve conflict.

Help us all, to be prepared to surrender power and wealth in the interests of peace. For the sake of all people, whom you honour and cherish, God of justice, peace, and love, hear our prayers.

Lord’s prayer.

Reading (1) Isaiah 25: 1-9

25 LORD, you are my God;
    I will honor you and praise your name.
You have done amazing things;
    you have faithfully carried out
    the plans you made long ago.
2 You have turned cities into ruins
    and destroyed their fortifications.
The palaces which our enemies built
    are gone forever.
3 The people of powerful nations will praise you;
    you will be feared in the cities of cruel nations.
4 The poor and the helpless have fled to you
    and have been safe in times of trouble.
You give them shelter from storms
    and shade from the burning heat.
Cruel enemies attack like a winter storm,
5 like drought in a dry land.
But you, LORD, have silenced our enemies;
    you silence the shouts of cruel people,
    as a cloud cools a hot day.

God Prepares a Banquet

6 Here on Mount Zion the LORD Almighty will prepare a banquet for all the nations of the world—a banquet of the richest food and the finest wine. 7 Here he will suddenly remove the cloud of sorrow that has been hanging over all the nations. 8 The Sovereign LORD will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone's eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The LORD himself has spoken.

9 When it happens, everyone will say, “He is our God! We have put our trust in him, and he has rescued us. He is the LORD! We have put our trust in him, and now we are happy and joyful because he has saved us.”

Reading (2) Matthew 5: 38-48

Teaching about Revenge

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40 And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.

Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48 You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Comment:

War has never been part my personal experience. It has always been held at arm’s length, happening somewhere else in the world. Yet, I often reflect on the fact, that I was born the decade after WW2 ended. In historical terms, that is too close. What if I had been born, say 20 years earlier? My life would have been very different

Last year Anne and I visited the grave of one of Anne’s relatives, Robert Inglis, killed in 1916 at the battle of the Somme. We reckon no other family member had visited his grave in that quite corner of France. We did not share his war experience, but we shared, just for a moment, his final resting place. I hope it is the closest, I ever get to war.

I sometimes ask myself the question. If called to fight, what would I do? Too old now, of course. But if asked, what would I do? I can honestly say, I don’t know.

But as we remember the fallen. I don’t believe they would call themselves heroes. That is not the recognition they ask. But they did fall in battle, injured in body or in mind, and so it is right that we remember them. Men and women of all nations.

Is war, ever right? It is such a difficult question to answer. All I can say is this, I am glad I will never have to make that choice on behalf of a nation. We are not here to glorify war or death. That dishonours the fallen. We are here to remember what they were asked to do. Simply that, remember those who went over the top, who flew the spitfires and landed on the beaches. And so much more.

The sad thing is this, history repeats itself. We never seem to learn, and each and every year, we will continue to remember. In some part of the world today, a conflict is raging.

What did Jesus say? He said, do not take revenge. Love is not about an equality of justice. You did this to me, so I can do the same back to you. True love is about going the extra mile and loving even your enemies.

I believe, if we lived out these two teachings of Jesus, there would be less conflict in the world, and less need to remember. I believe, a true reflection of our humanity, as made in the image of God, is to reconcile our differences with others, as God reconciled the world, through Jesus Christ.

So, let us strive for God’s shalom, as today we remember. It is the right thing to do, as we seek a better world, the Kingdom of God, a world as God would wish it to be. If we remember people gave their lives for tomorrow, let us, live the ways of peace, and compassion, for today. Amen.

CH4 159 Lord for the years

Blessing

Let us go from this place with minds that never forget, with hearts that grow in hope, with lives that shine Christ’s light.

Let us go to serve, to reconcile, to bring peace, and to stand united as children of the light.

And may the blessing of God, Creator, Peacemaker, Peace-bringer, go with you all, this day and every day. Amen.

Reflections for 1st November 2020

Reflections for Sunday 1st November 2020
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Sunday Reflections for October 2020 ...