Sunday 24th January 2021.
Third Sunday after Epiphany. (Written by Gwen Corson)
Welcome to you all on this Sunday which celebrates Christian Unity. I hope you are all keeping safe and well and finding positive things to be grateful for during this period of lockdown and darkness.
The Intimations are on the last page.
Hymn no 526 This is a day of new beginnings,
Prayers of Approach and Confession.
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,
We come before you to praise you for your great loving kindness to us your children. We worship you for the gift of the lengthening days as our winter heads towards Spring. We praise you for the growth we already see – the thickening buds, the snowdrops in bloom, the daffodil leaves above ground showing the promise of flowers to follow. We hear the birds singing as they start thinking of building a nest to lay their eggs. We praise you for the many geese we see flying overhead in their ‘V’ formation and hear their ‘honks’ and also their chatter when they stop to refuel on the lush grass in the fields.
God of abiding love, present in all our beginnings, acquainted with all of our ways, intricately woven into the depths of all things – you understand our thoughts from far off, and know our ways intimately and we praise you for taking care of us.
As we come to worship you, nothing is hidden from you. May we recognise your voice in our midst. Stop the chatter of our busy minds so we may listen to you.
As we come to give you thanks and praise, may we relish all of the days you have written for us. As we see the signs of your presence around us may we forever praise you and when we fail to recognise you and fail to see you in each other and give you the glory, forgive us.
Forgive us for our continual failings of you and of each other and our failings to look after your beautiful world.
And we now say the words together that Jesus taught us, saying –
Our Father, - - - -
Hymn no 707 Healing river of the Spirit,
Reading – Luke 10:25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Luk 10:25 A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to receive eternal life?"
Luk 10:26 Jesus answered him, "What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?"
Luk 10:27 The man answered, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind'; and 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself.' "
Luk 10:28 "You are right," Jesus replied; "do this and you will live."
Luk 10:29 But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbour?"
Luk 10:30 Jesus answered, "There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead.
Luk 10:31 It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side.
Luk 10:32 In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side.
Luk 10:33 But a Samaritan who was travelling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity.
Luk 10:34 He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.
Luk 10:35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Take care of him,' he told the innkeeper, 'and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.' "
Luk 10:36 And Jesus concluded, "In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbour toward the man attacked by the robbers?"
Luk 10:37 The teacher of the Law answered, "The one who was kind to him." Jesus replied, "You go, then, and do the same."
Hymn no 259 Beauty for brokenness
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Recently I read a news story about a car being driven erratically along the road. The vehicles following increased the distance back from the car till they could see what would happen. Eventually the car pulled up in a lay-by, narrowly missing the litter bin, and the front wheels stopped up on the grass verge.
The first people to arrive were two women who stopped in the lay-by to put some litter in the bin. When the other car’s door opened the ladies got a fright and drove off quickly.
The second people to arrive were two policemen who were on their way to clock-on for work. The driver of the car had pulled into the lay-by to answer his mobile phone. He was obeying the law to not answer his phone while driving. After a quick conversation on his phone, the driver got back into his car and drove away. Neither the driver nor his passenger had noticed the other car had the door open and a driver in distress trying to catch their attention. When interviewed later the policemen said they assumed the car had been dumped by joy riders and would find out the details once they had started work.
The next ones to arrive in the lay-by were a Muslim couple who were driving past when they realised something was wrong. They drove on till they could turn round and go back to the lay-by. Once there they realised that the driver was in distress and called an ambulance. The motorist was a diabetic and was lapsing into a coma as he had nothing with him to counteract his symptoms. He had driven further than he had meant to - beyond his normal lunchtime and this was the result.
The Muslim couple realised what was happening and managed to give the motorist some lemonade and they stayed with him till the ambulance and medics arrived. Not only had they stayed till he was taken to hospital but they had secured and locked his car before he left and afterwards they had contacted the sick man when he had recovered to make sure he was ok.
When I read this story it reminded me of the similarity with that of The Good Samaritan that is in the Bible. In that story the man had been beaten and left to die. One of his own countrymen, a Priest, had been fearful of being similarly attacked so passed by quickly. Being a Jew, their laws didn’t allow them to touch dead bodies and suspecting the man was dead or would soon be, the priest scuttled off. Next a Levite came upon the injured man and he passed by on the other side of the road. The third person to come across the attack victim was a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews had been enemies for years, yet this Samaritan had stopped, had dressed the Jew’s wounds, had gently placed him on his steed and taken him to the nearest Inn where he left money and instructions to tend to the injured man’s needs and said he would pay whatever was short when he returned that way again.
In the modern story, the two women were of a nervous disposition and had simple got a fright and thought they were in danger. The two policemen should have been more observant and when word had reached their superiors the two were given a telling off and fellow officers gave them a ribbing about their eyesight!
The two Muslim’s were the unlikely ones to stop according to stereotyping. The public perception is that Muslims are terrorists who will do anything to kill non-Muslims and the more they can kill at the one time the better. Yet they are human beings just like us. The majority just want to live a peaceful life, working, resting, and raising their family just as we do. If anything they attend to their prayers and go to their ‘Church’ – the Mosque, more regularly than we do. They also make a great effort to make sure their people are looked after.
I wonder how many of you watched the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of America on Wednesday. I had my TV on in the background and watched the main bits of the ceremony. After the riots on Capitol Hill a fortnight ago and the deaths of four people as well as the Trump supporters stirring up things I was afraid something might go wrong. I must admit that when Biden swore the oath I felt I physically relaxed and I cried as I thought ‘surely things will calm down now.’
I listened to the new President’s address and Biden clearly stated that he would serve all Americans and has started his term in office by electing people to office from ethnic minority groups, starting with his Vice President, Kamala Harris. Hopefully things in America will settle down now with people treating each other kindly and with respect. The President also said he wanted to renew relationships with the rest of the world and has already started by re-joining the World Health Organisation and has put in place measures to find ways to overcome the Corona virus Pandemic. He is also going to try and help to find ways to make our planet more eco-friendly, to change the problems of Global Warming and Climate Change.
So far I have been reassured by his words and actions though I do know each leader, when elected, promises gold but in effect delivers dross. Yet what Joe Biden delivered in his speech was Hope! He told the people that there was no need for ‘fire’ just calm and that they had weathered the storm and democracy had prevailed. He has been around the White House for a while now and seen what happens. He knows how Government works and knows the pitfalls. He knows how to deal with people and understands the importance of forming good friendships with other world leaders. Biden tells the people to be bold and optimistic and I felt the hope in the air. He will do well as long as he keeps a trigger thumb off Twitter! Some of the journalists had been talking and the consensus was that they were exhausted and had been for four years and now they were looking forward to a rest. Trump was unpredictable and caused a lot of trouble. I am not an American, but even I felt the weight being lifted from the American shoulders and heard the communal sigh of relief once Trump had left and Biden had been sworn in. There is a lot of work to do in America and they know it, but with all our prayers and with God’s help they are ready to knuckle down and tackle the problems.
Recently, I have been going through a lot of things in my house. I am a hoarder, though not nearly as bad as some of the hoarders seen on TV. A wee while ago I came across some things of my Mum and Dad’s – wedding invitations of Aunts and cousins; old family letters and I already kept some of my Dad’s and Granddad’s sermons. One paper I found was entitled “A Christian Response” and said “We offer the following notes to the clergy of our churches in the hope that they will provide guidance for our Christian people in these anxious times.” This paper was a joint paper from Rt. Rev. Dr James G. Matheson, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Most Rev. Thomas J. Winning, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow and the Most Rev. Richard Wimbush, Primus of the Episcopal Church in Scotland.
This paper must have been written about 1975/6 and I was amazed at how very nearly it could have been written for now (though now it would have been more politically correct with either ‘men and women’ or ‘people’ instead of just men.)
Part 1, i says: “Many grave issues confront our country and our people in the present time. The rising tide of unemployment, the alarming rate of inflation, increasing social violence and deep divisions in our society are leading many people to contemplate the future with despair. Things seem to be happening in and to our country that cause us all serious concern. This concern has prompted us as leading churchmen of the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church in Scotland to come together to discuss these matters, and to offer to our Christian people (and all men of goodwill) some thoughts that may stimulate them to think prayerfully about our problems and about what they as Christians may be able to contribute to their solution. We are especially concerned that the pressures of our times are likely to bear hardest on those least able to withstand them – the poor and the weak. We think especially of the damage that may be done to family life as well as to individuals by unemployment and redundancy at all levels. And we feel even greater concern for young people leaving school perhaps to face enforced idleness and all the attendant dangers for them at such a critical stage of their lives.”
This paper goes on to point out some of the things that have been happening – industrial relations deteriorated, wealthy have become wealthier and the poor poorer, increase in ‘pleasure-seeking’ activities – drinking, gambling, pornography, and promiscuity but also states “However gloomy this picture may be, we do not as Christians accept that it gives any grounds for despair.” “God’s grace is at work in the world, and because of this Christians must look forward with hope, not backward with regret.”
“God did not make a finished world, but created man to carry on the work that he began. Our vocation is, therefore, to continue God’s work by making the world a place ever more fit for his children, and in which men and women can find true dignity.”
This pandemic has threatened our world and the increase in numbers of those sick and those who have died is depressing. Added to that, the increase in lockdown time, and we can understandably feel despair at times. On the other hand the vaccines that have been developed give us a good measure of hope for our future plus knowing that God is on our side and that he has helped us through so much in the past and will help us through this too. Our leaflet goes on – “that the message is to urge Christians to seriously study the ills of our times, but is in no part of our purpose to sound a note of doom. Christians who take an active part in the fight for justice and charity should be convinced that they make a great contribution to the welfare of mankind and to the peace of the world” and encourages members to be ‘shining examples’ in faithfulness to Christ and his gospel, confident in the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, facing the future without anxiety as we wait in hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Hymn no 192 All my hope on God is founded
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession.
Gracious and merciful Lord our God,
We thank you for bringing us safely through another week. A week where some parts of the country have seen snow, some have had heavy rain and then floods, and some have had the storm Christoph.
We thank you for the calm and peaceful inauguration of Joe Biden as the new American President and thank you that he wants to unite all of America and all its people and we pray that you will guide and help him to fulfil the promises he made to his people and his wishes for peace with other nations. We pray that all leaders; Presidents, Prime Ministers, all who rule that they will take this chance as a new beginning to forge friendships to mutual benefit and understanding, to do good in this world to make the people and the environment an improvement on today’s status quo.
We pray for all people who live in a world of turmoil and pray for calm. We pray for all who live in poverty, especially just now with the pandemic making things so difficult with people unable to go out, to go to work, to earn money, to pay for a roof over their head or put food on the table.
We thank you for all those who help to supply food banks or who help deliver the shopping or who help in soup kitchens; those who try to make life a bit easier for those who are not so able as themselves. We thank you too for all those involved in the delivery of mail and parcels, who spread hope by being a means of contact between people who may see no one for days.
We pray for those who are ill whether from this virus or another illness and we pray for the carers who look after them. We pray for those who are bereaved and who struggle with the restrictions and not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones in the way they wished. Grant them your comfort Lord.
We pray for all whose lives are not the way you would wish them to be and especially we hold up to you in the silence those who concern us most today - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - .
These things we ask in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Hymn no 530 One more step along the world I go
We pray and work that God may reign.
Throughout our day let the Word of God breathe life into work and rest. May we maintain inner silence in all things so as to dwell in Christ and be filled with the spirit of the Beatitudes: joy, simplicity, mercy.
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and all peace in faith, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Closing Voluntary: Lefebure-Wely: Sortie in E flat