Sunday  October 24th 2021

A warm welcome to worship this morning.  There are two pages of intimations at the end so please take the time to read them.

Hymn 189 Be still for the presence of the Lord

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvQZKDAurWI

Prayer of Approach and Confession (by Gwen)

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,

Triumphant praise and joy These we bring as we enter Your court with praise and thanksgiving Bowing our heads and joining in prayer For You O God are gracious and Your mercy everlasting.

This is the day You have made for worship and we thank You for it we thank You for each other for the people we are and the places we have come from for all that we shall become as we walk with You For all You have given, we praise and worship You.

We thank You for the love of Christ encircling us, Your Spirit guiding us, so that we might bring our lives before You, in praise and worship

Loving God, You are ever at work in our lives and striving to help and strengthen our world, heal and comfort, forgive and restore, undo wrongs and establish right.

Merciful God, we have not been humble. We have discouraged others from seeking You. We have not sought Your wisdom. We have been rude and selfish in our own wants and actions. We have hurt others by intended words spoken and actions not done – some known to us and others unknown to us

We know what we have done please forgive our faults

While we deserve only judgement You offer us grace, and the hope of life renewed.

Merciful Father we praise You that through Jesus Christ we are forgiven, we are renewed, and through Him we are taught how to live and serve.

God of restoration, in our blindness and ignorance, You open our eyes and lead us to truth; in our arrogance and defiance, You still our souls and teach us humility; in our weakness and displacement, You protect us and lead us home;

And so we praise You and thank You, with all our hearts.

Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord who taught us when we pray to say

Our Father…

Hymn 187 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26cyYoBqiQ8

Readings: Mark 2:13-17

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 3:1-6

3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Hymn 482 Come let us to the Lord our God

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHX_zNQVSk4 (Kedron)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHrDEPPb5n4 (Kilmarnock)

Reflections

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen

The other day a rather startling newspaper headline caught my eye.  It said:

“Bare shelves, no holidays…At last a biblical kind of Christmas.”

The article itself implies that the policy proclaimed as “Build Back Better” should more honestly be called “Build Back Worse”.  Among other things, we see great flocks of Brexit chickens coming home to roost, with Northern Ireland on the brink of a major crisis, soaring gas and electricity prices all over Britain, petrol shortages and price rises, not enough drivers to deliver supplies, and bare shelves in the shops. Thousands of vacant posts in the National Health Service, which used to be filled by staff from Europe, coupled with possibly a hundred thousand new Covid cases every day are threatening what the official monitor of the NHS calls a “tsunami” of demand.  Meanwhile, pensioners are seeing the cost of living rising faster than their pensions, which means that everybody who depends on the state pension is actually going to be worse off.  After surveying this landscape of shortage, deprivation, disease, and disruption,  the article concludes ironically that, indeed, “Christmas 2021 will be a wholesome affair more in keeping with the original event.” 

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, because I suspect the Emperor Augustus in Jesus’s day would have got a much better grip on things and would never have let his realm sink into such an awful mess.  But on a deeper level,  that headline’s suggestion of  a  “biblical kind of Christmas” does raise important questions, not just about Christmas but about the whole meaning of the Incarnation and what it tells us about Jesus and about God.  And those questions are worth thinking about as we move through the next eight weeks before Christmas.

It is certainly true, as the article implies, that life in Palestine was hardly a bed of roses when Jesus was born, and, that being so, we have to ask right at the start what God meant by sending his son into such a situation.  That is actually a fundamental question that Christians have been trying to answer for the last two thousand years, and it is a question that provokes objections from many non-Christians.  Some religious traditions envisage a God who is so exalted that he simply could not demean himself by descending to live an earthly life among human beings.  Other religious traditions imagine a God who is so detached from the human sphere that its cares and concerns mean nothing to him.

Christmas is an emphatic rejection of both those views. The Incarnation is a clear statement that God cares about people and that he acts to involve himself directly in human life to create the possibility that it may be made better. 

And here I think we learn something about why Jesus appeared as he did in a world that was so far from the divine perfection that some religions believe is the only appropriate place for God to be.  He came to a messy and broken world precisely because it had lost the divine perfection God wanted it to have.  Jesus embroiled himself in the spiritual, social, and political world that people had created precisely because that world needed to be fixed.  If one can use the analogy that Jesus himself used in Mark 2:17,  one might say that a person who is perfectly healthy does not need a doctor.  It is sick people who need doctors.  It was a sick and broken world that needed Jesus.

That being so, the question then becomes: what does God do about it?  Does he in effect simply tell people to pull their socks up out of fear of divine punishment if they do not?  Or does he offer a guide to lead people towards a better life?

This again is a point of disagreement between Christianity and some other religions, but it has also been a point of disagreement within Christianity itself.  If you visit medieval churches on the Continent that still have their original frescos and murals, you can often see violent and gruesome depictions of a Last Judgement where sinners are being cast down in droves to the fiery torments of Hell.   Our medieval ancestors found it difficult to conceive of any relationship between God and humankind other than one of Judge and Criminal.  They saw it as a situation where God had set out his rules and, as far as human beings were concerned, it was a matter of:  follow the rules---or else!!!

There was, of course, a certain logic to this.  Why would God bother to work out what people should do and then not impose consequences if they failed? There must be a relationship of cause and effect in human affairs and the medieval view is a way of taking account of that.

But the problem with that view is that it rather loses sight of the fact that the cause itself can generate the effect.  In other words, it is not a question of punishing people as such.  Instead it is a situation of God saying: “You live in a world where, if you do such-and-such, the result will inevitably be this outcome.”   For example, we live in a world where it is very unwise to jump out of a high-flying aeroplane without a parachute.  God tells you it is unwise, and he tells what the consequences will be.  If you still decide to do it, the consequences are not a “judgement” from God, but the inevitable result of your stupid decision.

It is easy to see the point in a practical example like that, but the whole New Testament story emphasises that the same point applies in the spiritual and moral spheres.   Bad moral choices produce bad moral results just as much as bad practical choices produce bad practical results.

The difficulty, of course, is that while it is usually easy to see the bad consequences of poor practical decisions, it is not always so easy to see the results of bad moral decisions.  And it is even more difficult yet to see the bad results of imperfect spiritual choices.

There is then a subtlety to this whole situation that the fiery depictions in Medieval churches completely miss.  But Jesus did not miss that subtlety and I would argue that it was the subtlety in the situation that made the Incarnation of Jesus necessary.   Humankind needed Jesus to come amongst it because it needed to be shown that the life God wanted people to have had to be seen and lived as a totality.  It was not simply a matter of rules and regulations, a matter of do this and don’t do that.  Life was not a matter of ticking boxes on a checklist.  Instead, life was a matter of living in its entirety in the way Jesus showed us.

This, I think, was what lay behind the emphasis in the New Testament on not being bound by the old Law.   The old Law could easily produce a life of ticking boxes rather than actually living the life God wished people to live. 

Therefore, when confronted with difficult choices, people should not be asking “Is this allowed or forbidden?”  Instead they should be asking:  “Which choice fits better into the Christian life as presented to us by Jesus himself?” 

That, of course, is a much more difficult question to answer.  It is not simply about knowing the rules and applying them.  It is about achieving greater understanding of what the Christian life means overall.

Achieving that understanding raises profound issues and difficult choices. That is why mankind needed Jesus and why he came to live among us.  As Jesus himself said, he was not sent into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. The New Testament shows us that many people at the time understood this.  They looked out on a world that was deeply flawed and they understood that the only way to make it better was a commitment to a completely different life looking towards completely different goals---in short, a life that was dedicated to creating the Kingdom of God on earth. Amen

Hymn 291 When out of poverty was born

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzwyjnACz0o

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

O God, our loving and merciful Father, We come to You, because we know You'll hear our cry. We come to You, because You call us near to You. We come to You, because You deliver and save. We come to You now with our prayers and petitions.

In the noise of voices calling for revenge and restitution, for judgement and punishment, we pray for the courage to speak out for restoration.

When grief and pain, poverty and persecution leave people blind to grace and compassion, we pray for the courage to carry the light of comfort and consolation, love and forgiveness.

Where the quest to even the score has left our world angry and wounded, we pray for the courage to release our grievances and seek wholeness for all.

As You intercede for us, Jesus, we intercede for our world that all may know the Good News of restoration in Christ.

We pray for the local and universal church. Give us the humility to walk in Your way. We pray for the leaders in our nation and the nations around the world. Give them the courage to walk in peace. We pray for those who are in need. Give us ears to hear their cries and be agents of Your mercy.

In our praying, heavenly loving Father, we choose to celebrate, in the midst of grief because it reminds us of hope, and brings comfort to our broken hearts; we choose to celebrate, in the midst of poverty because it speaks of wealth beyond material things, and gives dignity to our humbled hearts;

we choose to celebrate, in the midst of conflict because it turns us to peace, and restores humanity to our angry hearts;

we choose to celebrate, in the midst of suffering because it lightens our darkness, and inspires strength in our fragile hearts; we choose to celebrate, in the midst of injustice because it defies evil, and renews determination in our compassionate hearts;

Though crosses may loom, and opponents gather, through our devotion to You we choose to embrace and enjoy for our own sake, and that of the least, the healing power of celebration. And we lift our own hidden prayers to You now, in silence, for You hear even that which is unspoken.

(silence)

Taking comfort from our prayers may we comfort one another through Your love and the sharing of our experience.

God of wholeness, we celebrate the healing You bring to us and our world, and we celebrate the promised wholeness that awaits all of creation in Your eternal reign.

Hear our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Hymn 261 Father Eternal, ruler of creation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfQv0yMZXmQ

Benediction

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

Closing voluntary

Hummel trumpet concerto in Eflat 3rd movement

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF6CMFVAMBM

 


 

 

Intimations

Appeal for Afghanistan

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Afghanistan Appeal for Refugees. £239.38 was raised at Gatehouse and £198.00 at Twynholm, giving a total of £437.38.

Sacrament of Communion

Tarff and Twynholm will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion  next Sunday 31st October at 11.30am.  All are welcome. Covid  guidelines, as set out by the Church of Scotland, will be followed. A plate for donations to Mercy Ships will be available inside the porch at the front door.

Gatehouse and Borgue will both celebrate communion on November 7th.

Life and Work

Life and Work have produced a FREE four-page COP26 Special Supplement available now at https://www.lifeandwork.org/resources/cop26-special-supplement. The purpose of this publication is to enable congregations to engage before, during and after COP26 and also signpost resources. Also, the November issue of the magazine  has a focus on COP26 and Remembrance. Anyone that is not a subscriber and interested in this particular issue can purchase a single print or digital copy at https://www.lifeandwork.org/subscribe.

Blythswood Shoe Box Appeal

Leaflets about the Blythswood Shoe Box appeal are available in the Church porch or from Jim Logan. Completed boxes can be left in the Anwoth Corner or with Jim Logan, 16 Fleet Street by Friday 29th of October.  Thank you to all who have contributed thus far.

Music Society Concert

Gatehouse Music Society are holding their first concert in the 2021/22 Season on Sunday 24 October at 3.00 pm in the Church.  Aisling Agnew, flute, and Sharron Griffiths, harp, are The Clyde Duo who will perform a varied programme of classical works and folk music.  The concert is free, but donations would be welcomed.  The Church’s Covid measures will be observed – wearing face masks, using hand sanitizer, keeping your distance, and supplying contact details for track and trace.  There will be no interval for refreshments, but toilets will be accessible in the Halls.

And finally…..

GATEHOUSE OF FLEET PARISH CHURCH

has a vacancy for

an ORGANIST

The organ is a 3 manual Viscount Envoy 350 with full pedal board

The Sunday service is at 10am.

Currently there is no choir because of Covid restrictions, however there may be the opportunity to get a small group of singers together for the main Christian festivals.

Salary £3000p.a. (reviewed annually)

For more information or to express an interest please contact:

Rev Val Ott (minister) tel: 01557 814233 email: VOtt@churchofscotland.org.uk

For informal enquiries please contact:

Geoff Keating  tel: 01557 814376 email:gmk.gof01@gmail.com

Or David Mackay tel: 01292 266435 email: david.mackay15@yahoo.com

Alternatively, if anyone might be interested in playing sometimes on a rota basis, but doesn’t want a weekly commitment, we would also be interested in hearing from you.