Sunday August 8th 2021
A warm welcome to worship.
Hymn 189 Be still for the presence of the Lord
Prayer of Approach and Confession (by Gwen)
Almighty Father of all things that be,
Our life, our work, we consecrate to you,
Whose heavens declare your glory from above,
Whose earth below is witness to your love.
We see your love poured out with the rain, refreshing the earth, washing away the dust, making everything brighter in the sunshine. All that was parched now fresh and vibrant, lifting our spirits again.
The rain you sent is a much needed boost to the growth of vegetation we see all around and is testament to your love.
We see the joy too on the faces of people around us; on the faces of those we meet as we begin to relax a bit over this pandemic. We see the restrictions ease and it starts to sink in that we might be safe to meet closer with people; to see friends we haven’t seen for so long and to visit places we have missed due to the limitation of numbers of visitors and the constraints in distances we could travel.
We know there are still precautions, but we feel easier about the virus as we have trusted you to look after us and keep us safe.
When we have doubted you, you remained faithful.
When we have griped and complained about others, you have listened and let us have our say till our disquiet is spent then let us see that you are still in charge and don’t need our suggestions as to what to do.
Forgive us when our faith is weak and when we perceive that others are not on the same path as we are.
Help us to follow the example of your Son Jesus Christ to show compassion for others, to be tolerant of them and their ways which may be equally valid and not necessarily wrong.
Help us to look for your face when we see other people and even if we can’t find it, help us to reflect your face to others and spread your message of love to all we meet.
We further pray in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, saying ---
Our Father, - - - - -
Hymn 167 Guide me O Thou great Jehovah
Reading: I Kings 19:4-8,
4 Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It's too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”
5 He lay down under the tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat.” 6 He looked around and saw a loaf of bread and a jar of water near his head. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 The Lord's angel returned and woke him up a second time, saying, “Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you.” 8 Elijah got up, ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to walk forty days to Sinai, the holy mountain.
John 6:35, 41-51
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “Those who come to me will never be hungry; those who believe in me will never be thirsty.
41 The people started grumbling about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 So they said, “This man is Jesus son of Joseph, isn't he? We know his father and mother. How, then, does he now say he came down from heaven?”
43 Jesus answered, “Stop grumbling among yourselves. 44 People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me; and I will raise them to life on the last day. 45 The prophets wrote, ‘Everyone will be taught by God.’ Anyone who hears the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 This does not mean that anyone has seen the Father; he who is from God is the only one who has seen the Father. 47 I am telling you the truth: he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. 50 But the bread that comes down from heaven is of such a kind that whoever eats it will not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If you eat this bread, you will live forever. The bread that I will give you is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.”
Hymn 190 Art thou afraid his power shall fail
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XENp8SWZje4&list=RDXENp8SWZje4&start_radio=1 (some verses are missing and some are different and the tune is different but this is the best I could find!)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
The story of Elijah in 1st Kings, of which we read a part this morning, is in some ways one that we can relate to very easily. We see the Prophet fed up with life, overcome with a weariness with the situation he’s in, tired of the way life has treated him. I suppose that these days we can all in some ways sympathise with that, when we’re getting tired of having to wear face masks all the time, of having to keep a distance from people all the time, of having to think and plan how to keep safe before we do anything. Everyone wants normality to return. We want our lives back!
If that phrase had been invented three thousand years ago, I imagine Elijah would also very fervently have echoed it: “I want my life back!”
Unfortunately for him, accomplishing that was a lot more difficult than it is for us, and he knew it. And no doubt it was this knowledge of how difficult his situation was that contributed to the black depression we find him in in our reading.
Elijah was living in a land where there had been a drought for 3 years, and all the important people in the land wanted to find out why it was happening and how to end it. Unfortunately for Elijah , his analysis and that of the Israelite King, Ahab, conflicted. They both thought it was about the need to propitiate the ruler of the universe, but Ahab thought that that was the god Baal, whose worship Ahab was promoting, whereas Elijah was sure it was the God of the Old Testament.
In chapter 18 of 1st Kings we can read about the famous encounter of Elijah with the false prophets of the god Baal, all 450 of them. Elijah challenges them to a contest to see whose god is strongest. A bull is killed and put upon the altar. A fire is prepared around it but not lit. The prophets of Baal prayed to Baal to send fire but nothing happened. Then Elijah prepared his bull, built up the wood for the fire and prayed to the Lord and an almighty fire came down. Elijah had triumphed and he used his victory to incite the Israelites to seize the false prophets of Baal and put them all to death. There was no forgive-and-forget in the Old Testament!!!
This was a great victory for Elijah and certainly established the dominance of the Lord as top God. It also marked the end of the drought which had gripped the land for three years. However, perhaps not surprisingly, King Ahab was not very pleased about what had happened to his prophets and his wife Jezebel was determined to get revenge. She sent a message to Elijah with a very clear death threat, which alarmed Elijah sufficiently that he fled for his life.
And so we come to this morning’s passage, which actually gives a very interesting insight into the character of Elijah. Previously, Elijah has come across as a very confident person, who jeered and mocked the miserable attempts of the prophets of Baal to start the sacrificial fire. Yet in our reading this morning we see a broken man, one who has come to the end of his tether. In today’s language we would probably say that Elijah was burned out. It has suddenly all become too much for him. Despite the many indications that God had given him of His favour, Elijah has had enough. He wishes he could die.
And it is just when Elijah is at his very lowest point, that God comes to him. The same God whom Elijah has defended in front of the people, the God of power and fire, now sees Elijah’s utter weariness and despair and reaches out to him, not with power but with tender caring.
And what God provides is very simple and very practical – food, drink and rest. Simple, practical and yet the very necessities of life. Having eaten, drunk and slept, Elijah now has the strength to continue his journey.
There are a couple of things which particularly strike me about this passage.
One of them is the importance of food, liquid and rest towards our mental well-being.
Have you ever been told “You’ll feel better if you eat something”. Or, “Try to get a goodnight’s sleep – things will look better in the morning.” Just because they are platitudes, doesn’t mean they are not true.
The communities of both the Old and New Testaments would have been much more aware than we are of the importance of a reliable supply of food and water. In a land where the majority of people lived a hand-to-mouth existence and drought was a common problem, food and water had a much more important place than perhaps they do for us in our land of plenty. Jesus was well aware of this basic need of the people he was ministering to and he refers to it directly or indirectly many times, in his parables and his encounters with the people he meets, as we saw in our reading from the Gospel of John this morning. This reading follows on from the feeding of the 5000 earlier in John chapter 6 and, having provided for people’s physical needs, Jesus goes on to draw the analogy between needing physical bread for our bodies and needing spiritual bread for our souls. Feeding our souls is just as necessary for our well-being as feeding our bodies.
And in some ways the story of Elijah makes that connection also. Indeed, what we see in that story is how much being physically fed serves to revive Elijah’s spirit and soul. One minute he is ready to just give up and die. The next he has been lifted up, his mind and body full of vigour and energy, his determination to act restored.
Part of this is no doubt merely physical: people need to be fed---you can’t run your car without fuel, and there are limits to what you can do when hunger is sapping your energy.
But I think there is more to it than that. In our reading Elijah prays to God: “Take my life; I might as well be dead.” But instead of acceding to that prayer, God does the opposite: he sends his angel to feed Elijah. We might miss the significance of that, but I am sure Elijah realised what it meant. It showed him that he was cared for, and not cared for by just anybody, but by God himself.
And that surely must have been enormously encouraging to Elijah. Up to then, he had been dealing with people like Ahab and Jezebel, who were prepared to tolerate his existence only so long as he served their dubious purposes. As soon as he stood up and adopted an independent line, they became his enemies and were determined to destroy him.
But now being fed by the angel was exactly what he needed for his own personal well-being. He was not an object of somebody else’s hatred or friendship. He was being rescued, as it were, on his own terms and in response to his own needs. Once he had experienced that, he was then able to resume being the person he had been, a person committed to doing the work God had intended for him. And later in the story of Elijah we see exactly that: we see God leading Elijah towards fulfilling his life’s mission, confident that he was once again on the right path.
All of which emphasises that for each of us it is not merely receiving help that is important but also who it comes from and why it is given. I was reminded of that a few years ago when I was browsing in a bookshop and came across a thriller called Firefly by Henry Porter. I can’t now remember all of it, but I do remember that the central character was a 13-year old Syrian refugee boy who was fleeing from a refugee camp in Turkey and trying to get to western Europe to establish himself there so that he could then get his mother and sisters out of the refugee camp and bring them to Europe also. For various good and bad reasons many people were trying to thwart his plans, and what struck me was that they all tried to use his basic need for food and shelter to control him and his actions. For that boy, help came at a very high price and he found himself very cynically having to accept help from people whose motives he distrusted and at the same having to escape from their control. Who was helping him, and why, were vital questions in his life.
And when you picture that sort of situation, which was not too far from the situation Elijah found himself in, you can understand how important it was for Elijah to be helped by a God in whom he could place complete trust.
And I suppose that on a much more mundane level that sort of situation can arise quite frequently in ordinary life, and it does remind us that in our own acts of kindness to other people we need to make clear at all times that we do it because we care in the spirit of Christian charity. It was because he cared that Jesus cured the sick and showed mercy to sinners. And it was because people could see that he cared that they responded to his message.
And the spirit of caring is not called for only in grand acts of charity but in the little things of life also.
Just a kind word or a kind action from another person who cares can make all the difference. And we should never underestimate the effect that an act of caring can have on another person and indeed on the whole situation they find themselves in. It may even change someone’s life in ways that we may never know.
As we all struggle on in the very different world Covid has created and perhaps experience the feelings of weariness and depression that it can bring, remember that even a small act of caring can go a long way towards brightening up someone else’s day, reviving their zest for life and renewing their determination to face the future with confidence. Amen
Hymn 133 Source and Sovereign, Rock and Cloud
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (by Gwen)
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,
We thank you for your continued love and care you show to us your children.
We thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us – the joys of human love in family and friends and even the unconditional love from our pets which keeps us thankful and shows us how we should love others.
We are aware that we are the lucky ones. We have homes and families, food and clothes, and though we may not have much money, we have freedom and comfort in our lives.
We hold up to you those situations we have heard about on the news recently – the fires in Turkey, Italy, the Balkans and through Greece, as well as those in America and Canada and Russia. We pray for those who have lost their homes and livelihood; for those who have been injured and for the families of those who have died, whether those who died have been caught in the fires or were helping to put the fires out and we pray for those having to escape on boats as the fires had cornered them on the shore.
We pray for all who are caught up in wars, especially in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is again fighting to take over and US and UK citizens are being told to evacuate. We pray for the Afghanistan people who are caught in the midst of this fighting and for people in other places caught up in wars.
We pray for all migrant peoples who have had to leave homes and families for whatever reason and who have tried dangerous crossings of water to reach new countries to safety. We pray for better solutions to these situations to be found.
We pray for all whose situations are less than they should be whether through abuse, poverty, homelessness or illness of any kind and particularly today we hold up to you in silence those who lie heavily on our own hearts - - - - - - - - -
These things we ask in Jesus name Amen.
Hymn 540 I heard the voice of Jesus say
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you all, this day and forevermore, Amen
Exit voluntary: Aram Khachaturian – Sabre Dance from the Gayane suite No.3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUQHGpxrz-8
Minister on Leave
The minister will be on annual leave from August 9th-17th. The service next Sunday will be taken by Mrs Gwen Corson who will also be providing pastoral care in the event of emergencies, tel: 01557 870328.
As from next Sunday, it will no longer be a legal requirement for us to socially distance in the Church. However, the advice of the Church of Scotland is that it would be advisable, at least for the next few weeks, to retain a 1m distancing and this is what we will be doing in Gatehouse and Twynholm.
Volunteering at the Mill
The Mill on the Fleet is still needing volunteers to staff the tourist information desk. There are quite a few empty regular slots during the week (open 7 days) and they’d also like to build up the reserve list for short notice cover. The Mill is definitely getting busier with many people having holidays in the UK and probably a low Covid area like Dumfries and Galloway is a popular reason for people coming here. It can be really interesting chatting to visitors, quite often you meet people you have some sort of connection to. Also it's not necessary to be incredibly knowledgeable about the town, you learn things all the time and it's surprising what you already know anyway. There is information to help volunteers who might not be confident about this. Can you help? The slots are 10.00 til 1.00 and 1.00 til 4.00 and you get free drinks and cakes from the cafe, or lunch if you happen to be there then. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Susan Smyth on 814458 or 07761 460049 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.