Sunday Reflections
Rev. Robin McAlpine

Updated: 01 Aug 2020


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Sunday Reflections

This summer we will be providing special "Joint" on-line services presented by the Kirkcaldy town centre Churches.

Each Church is organising two services during July and August, so on each Sunday there will be two services available.


Kirkcaldy Town Centre Churches Summer Services

Joint Services for Sunday 2nd August

This week there is a choice of Sunday service from either Linktown Church or Kirkcaldy Congregational Church.

Both services are available to view below. You can choose which to watch, or why not enjoy both!

Note: The Linktown service will be live-streamed, so will only become active at around 10:50am on Sunday 2nd August.
Linktown Church Service for Sunday 2nd August 2020



Kirkcaldy Congregational Church Service for Sunday 2nd August 2020

Joint Services for Sunday 26th July

This week there is a choice of Sunday service from either Bennochy Church or Kirkcaldy Congregational Church.

Both services are available to view below. You can choose which to watch, or why not enjoy both!

Bennochy Church Service for Sunday 26th July 2020

Readings for today

Isaiah 30: 19-26 (The Message)

19-22 Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” You’ll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You’ll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good riddance!”

23-26 God will provide rain for the seeds you sow. The grain that grows will be abundant. Your cattle will range far and wide. Oblivious to war and earthquake, the oxen and donkeys you use for hauling and plowing will be fed well near running brooks that flow freely from mountains and hills. Better yet, on the Day GOD heals his people of the wounds and bruises from the time of punishment, moonlight will flare into sunlight, and sunlight, like a whole week of sunshine at once, will flood the land.

Matthew 13: 1-17 (the Message)

13 1-3 At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.

3-8 “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

9 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

Why Tell Stories?

10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
    Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
    so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
    so they won’t have to look,
    so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
    and let me heal them.

16-17 “But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.

Reflections

We are easily distracted. Things change around us all the time, and we don’t even notice. We look and wonder, when did that happen? It never used to be like that. When did that change? We take for granted the street we walk on and the places where we live. There is something in the sub conscious, maybe, that says to us, things will always stay the same. Maybe that is what we hope. It is easier that way. Now, we know that is not the case. Things change all the time, but we don’t seem to take it in. We often show an amazing lack of awareness.

That led me to think, I wonder how God-aware we are. Do we notice what God gets up to? Do we care? Do we believe that things only change because the church is somehow involved in them? I like to think that God acts in spite of the church, and God’s challenge is, open your eyes, see what I am doing, and join in. How often do we act, as if God is only found in church buildings?

There are times in the bible, when Jesus seems to go out of his way to make things difficult. To tell stories that people can’t understand. You would think that if God wanted to change the world, he would make it easy for people. Instead he shared parables that left people scratching their heads and wondering, what was that all about. What did he mean, and you can imagine them going home mystified? “What did he say? I have no idea. He told us a story and I don’t know what it means!” Why did Jesus do that? I wish I had an easy answer.

He seems to say, that some people, at that moment in time, had been given insight, and many others not. I assume that insight is given by God to, let’s call them ‘God-aware’ people. Eugene Peterson in his poetic way says, God is ‘nudging’ some to understanding. Not that they have grasped everything, but there is a readiness to believe, that others just don’t seem to have.

I don’t see parables as a test, as such, but there had always been people, willing to be more open, to what God is doing and saying. Think of the prophets of the Old Testament and their challenge to people and to power. Great examples of God- blessed ears, listening, and God- blessed eyes, watching. What is ironic is this, In Matthew 13, the very people who I am assuming are in the God-aware category, still need Jesus to explain the parable to them. Maybe their openness is the very fact that they did not understand and knew, there was more to the story that Jesus had told them.

As Covid has changed the world, and as the church is seeking to be God-aware, what new things is God wanting us to look for and to listen out for. What are the God aware signs of today? The thing is, God is not going to make it any easier for us, than he did for those who heard the parable stories for the first time. The prophet Isaiah talks about the ‘right road’. But it is only by being God-aware, will we walk that road, knowing when to turn left or right, and here is the hard bit, the right road, only confirmed by God, only after the decision has been made, and not before. We need to be nudged in the right direction. But a nudge does not give us all the answers. That is where faith comes in. We are going to have to set aside what is both comfortable and traditional. We will need to clear the rubble of what we have always done. Pick what is good, and without knowing the way ahead, be prepared to follow Christ.

In our everchanging world, are we prepared to notice what is new or different, or will we simply keep our heads down, and walk only familiar paths to our places of worship? In all that is changing in Kirkcaldy, and we complain all the time, about say, the demise of the High Street, will we lift our heads and get involved. You see, our communities are the places where the Kingdom of God is already happening. God is out there. Ahead of us, and I believe he asks of us, be my partners in the gospel.

If we were to watch the video for a second time, we would be looking out for the changes taking place. Life is not like that. Each day, we get one chance, to notice. To be open of ear and eye, mind, and heart. To be God aware, of all that is going on around us. For in each and every, moment, do we see and hear the Kingdom of God. It is there, with or without us. Visible. Noisy.

Stay connected. Stay safe. Till the next time.

Prayers for today

Lord God forgive us the times when we choose not to look. Not to look out for those in need. Not to look for glimpses of Your glory. Not to look for opportunities to share your good news with others. Forgive us.

In a changing world, open our eyes to you, O God. May Your Holy Spirit reinvigorate us. May we rub our eyes and focus on what you call us to do this day, and every day.

In a changing world, open our eyes, open our hearts, our mouths, and our minds. We pray, make us God aware.

God of love and compassion, we pray for all who seek to make a difference in the lives of others. Be with carers and counsellors, medics, and mediators, be with those with listening ears and those with caring hands, be in all that opens people’s eyes to you, your love and your call.

God of justice and peace, we pray for all who seek to challenge injustices and stand up for what is right. Be with the politician and the protester, the activist and the pacifist, the vocal and the silent. Be in all that opens people’s eyes to you, your love and your call.

Hear us and help us to see you this day. 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.




Kirkcaldy Congregational Church Service for Sunday 26th July 2020

Joint Services for Sunday 19th July

This week there is a choice of Sunday service from either Bennochy Church or St. Bryce Kirk.

Both services are available to view below. You can choose which to watch, or why not enjoy both!

Bennochy Church Service for Sunday 19th July 2020

Readings for today

Hebrews 13:5-9 (The Message)

5-6 Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,

God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?

7-8 Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.

9 Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.

Isaiah 43:16-21 (The Message)

16-21 This is what GOD says,
    the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
    who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
    they lie down and then can’t get up;
    they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
    —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
    rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
    the people I made especially for myself,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

Reflection

Good morning. As Ken and I were discussing, this Sunday is all about being ‘open’. I hope you have seen the poster on the church web site. I know that church buildings are not yet open, but the church has never shut.

I hope you all have your paper and pen ready. I want to begin by asking you write down as many definitions of the word “open” as you can. No going online or the use of a dictionary. I will give you a moment to do that, as Bruce sings, this little light of mine.

I wonder how many you have. If you want to, email them to me and there might even be a prize. But I hope there was no cheating!

I wonder what you came up with. Let begin with, as an adjective it describes access to something, which is exposed to view and is not covered up. When people look at the church, what do they see? Do we make God accessible? As a verb, it is the movement of the ‘open door’ where people can enter the world of faith and vision. It can also mean to spread out. I have in the past used the image of the eagle. Imagine it ‘opening’ its wings to fly. What a great biblical image, as the gospel has been taken across the globe. And as a noun, it means no restrictions, and everyone one can be involved. I am sure you had plenty more.

The key question is this, as a church, what are we open to? Let me start with being open to the community. An openness, that allows not just access, but a meeting of dreams, hopes, and fears. A rubbing off, of values and beliefs. An encouragement of see worth in others, and even the face of Christ in those ‘different’ from us. It is a place of no restrictions, where in each other’s company, we are all vulnerable.

Openness is about the church being ‘guest’ around the tables of others, as much as it means being the ‘host’. It is about going out and joining in with what God is already doing and being dependant on the community. That is what the sending of the 72 in Luke 10 is all about. It is not just about what we have to offer. Openness has as its core, a mutual dependency.

Openness is about listening. That does not mean we always agree. But there will be matters of concern that we can work together in partnership. The spirit of God bringing unity of purpose. In matters of peace, compassion, and justice. Things that are important, indeed vital, to both community and church. Motivating us to come together.

We all have our rough edges, and as the church, we need our community to rub up against us and take off our sharp edges of judgement, self-interest. Our lack of love and justice. Openness allows us to make an impact. What is a faith community if it does not impact its parish and make a difference? We are here to offer God-values. We want to make the place where we are, better than it is, because that is what the Kingdom of God is all about. The world as God would wish it to be and not as it is. And just not in the future, because people live their lives, today.

I have been thinking about this idea of shaping and being shaped by. No church is an island. We will always be influenced by the community round about us. However, there are times when we only focus on being ‘shapers’ and often that is another way of saying, “come to church” and be like us. The danger of being open to the community is to ‘be shaped’, and of our traditions being shattered. That is a risk we take. Being open to our communities is also to be open to change.

Corona virus has changed the world. In the slipstream of all that has happened. Out of the ashes of all that has been lost, can we see and grasp a new future. As a church, can we just go back and try to pick up where we left off in late March. I hope not. Being open does not live in the past. Being open is being God-aware and watching for new opportunities for the future. And the thing about the future is this, it is based on what we do today. Today becomes the new tomorrow, and in the new tomorrow things will be different. There can’t stay the same.

We have heard so much about the ‘new normal’. As a church as we willing to make it a reality. Open and listening to God’s community around us. Watching for the new thing that God is doing now, and in faith, searching for what we cannot yet see, that which is always just around the corner. Our trust, based on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Stay connected. Stay safe. Till the next time.

Prayers

Help us to be open to God and to know his forgiveness. God’s love is indeed greater than any of our failings.

May we be open to others, in what we offer and in what we receive. To see in people, even those different from us, the face of Christ.

Let your church be a place that opens wide its doors. Where people encounter God. In the ordinary. In the mystery and even in the miracle. Lord God, who goes ahead of us, may we join you in the work of the Kingdom. Working with others, to witness to the God-values of peace, compassion, and justice.

We need to be open to the cries of the world. Our climate is failing. The world is not an equal place. God hears the cries of the poor and those who march for justice. Lord God open our ears, and let our hearts respond.

Lord Jesus Christ be our example in the way you were open to the people you met. Your touch of healing and our words of grace.

To change is never easy. So help us to listen. To grasp the future is hard. Help us to follow.

We now 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

May the LORD bless you and take care of you;
May the LORD be kind and gracious to you;
May the LORD look on you with favour and give you peace. Amen (Numbers 6: 24-26)




St. Bryce Kirk Service for Sunday 19th July 2020

Joint Services for Sunday 12th July

This week there is a choice of Sunday service from either Abbotshall or Linktown Churches.

Both services are available to view below. You can choose which to watch, or why not view both!

Abbotshall Church Service for Sunday 12th July 2020



Linktown Church Service for Sunday 12th July 2020

Sunday Reflections

Robin has written, compiled, read and presented reflections for various days of the week. This is the Sunday page. 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 reflections are at the top of the page or you can scroll down to view or read earlier entries.



Reflections for Sunday 5th July

Reflections for Sunday 5th July 2020

Reflections for Sunday 28th June

Reflections for Sunday 28th June 2020

Reflections for Sunday 21st June

Reflections for Sunday 21st June 2020

Reflections for Sunday 14th June

Reflections for Sunday 14th June 2020

Reflections for Sunday 7th June

Reflections for Sunday 7th June 2020

Readings for today

John 14:1-14 (The Message)

The Creator of All You Can See or Imagine

12-17 Who has scooped up the ocean
    in his two hands,
    or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
    weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told GOD what to do
    or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
    what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows,
    showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,
    a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
    like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
    nor enough animals in those vast forests
    to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him—
    less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“GOD has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
   young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Matthew 28:16-20 The Message

16-17 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

18-20 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Reflection

Have you seen the eagle soar? Effortlessly riding the thermals of the Scottish mountains. Graceful in its movement. On wings of power. Seemingly without effort, it rises up. It scans the horizon for its next prey.

Today many are tired. The stress of work. The captivity of lock down. The isolation and loneliness of their own company. Grief without the presence of family and friends. The thermals are few and far between. When struggling with mental health, many are living in the dark places. There are no wings, on which to soar.

But what an image of hope to hold onto. The creator of the world never gets tired. God does not come and go. God lasts. Yet it is precisely those times in our lives, when we say that God is not there for us. When we cry, God where are you? Don’t you care anymore? That God is at his most compassionate. That doesn’t sound right, but I believe it to be true.

It is in very times that we soar. When life feels good, that we must look back and never forgot, that in those moments of despair, when there seemed to be no way forward. Stumbling in the dark. Our brains failing to engage, that God shared our burdens, and brought us to this place. Young or old, we have all been there.

It is easier to believe the theology, than to practice it, and it is OK to admit that. We read the words of Isaiah, “those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength” and say rejoicing, we know that to be true. And then life hits us. The rug is pulled from beneath our feet. We are falling. We are numb. Humanity takes over, and we struggle to hold onto the promises. It’s not that we don’t believe, but we are grasping, desperate, for that truth to be real.

I wonder if God saying that you can only truly soar, from the place of greatest despair. That trust and faith allows you to rise from a place that you should not be able to do so. That the thermals are the power of God’s presence. And it is only in looking back, we know that to be true.

There will be times when we complain. God why have you allowed this to happen? I don’t think ‘allow’ is the right word, but you know what I mean. In life things happen. We don’t know why. We can’t explain them. Often it seems to us, just unfair.

How we see things. Our perspective. On what happens to us. Will depend on where we stand and in what direction we look. We miss a lot. We fail to see the big picture, of a creator who scoops up oceans. For a moment imagine that. Scoops up oceans with his hands. God has no hands, but he is witness to the big picture. The miracle is this, the one who needs no teacher, who weighs mountains upon his scales; is the same creator, whose compassion is always there, never changes, and promises to lift us up as on eagles’ wings. He will make us soar.

Jesus said to his friends, I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age. He would lift them up from the glens of despair. To rise above and see with God’s eyes. In the midst of, and as we are starting to exit out of lock down, what new vision is God asking his church to see? Not from ground level but soaring high above the mountains.

Let me quote these words, by Susan Beaumont, an American church consultant, she says, “Liminal seasons are rich times, ripe for innovation and creativity. A threshold has opened. Our grasp on the past has loosened. The threshold invites us to let go of our fears and discomforts, along with some things that we hold dear. We are broken open to embrace new possibilities.”

What are those new possibilities? We need to look in the right places. From God’s perspective and not ours. Let us wait upon GOD to get fresh strength. Let us soar.

Stay connected. Stay. Till the next time.

Prayer for today

May the strength of God make us soar.
May the love of God bring forgiveness.
May the peace of God, give us strength.
May God’s wisdom, let us see,
New possibilities, fresh journeys and hope for tomorrow.

To those who struggle to walk, never mind fly, we bring our prayers to God. They are known to us. They are known to others. They are known to God. All lives ‘matter’.

May the peace of the Spirit, beyond our understanding, rise up, to calm anxious minds and troubled footsteps.

Where the way ahead is unclear, for church and nation, and those who seek to follow Christ; give us eagles eyes, to see the God’s mountain view, a vision beyond our sight.

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,
for ever.
Amen.

Blessing

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20-22)


Reflections for Sunday 24th May

Reflections for Sunday, 24th May 2020

Reflections for Sunday 17th May

Reflections for Sunday, 17th May 2020

Reflections 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)


Reflections 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)