Sunday January 3rd, 2021
Welcome to worship on the first Sunday of the New Year and a Happy New Year to you all. The intimations are on page 9.
Hymn 161 O God our help in ages past
Prayer of Approach and Confession
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father.
We praise you for bringing us safely through to this New Year. You have looked after us and protected us in the months gone past and stayed by our side to calm our fears during the past year and we know that we can put our trust in you to continue to guide us in this New Year.
We praise you for sending people into our lives; heroes who selflessly look after those in isolation, to those without family around or who are unable to go out on their own and thus without these heroes would make this time of year so difficult. We praise you for all those who have encouraged us and for the times that we have been able to uplift others who are struggling.
We praise you for this good spell of weather allowing us to go out into your fresh air, to see our neighbours safely and to feel better in the sunshine. We have also been able to see the moon clearly at night as well as the stars, all reminders of your hand in creation. We can see too the buds already showing on some of the shrubs and we praise you for the birds singing joyfully in the sunshine, praising you and lifting our spirits.
All these things, plus the news of the vaccines against the Corona virus bode well for the future, giving us hope as we look forward to the year ahead with optimism as we start again to plan our lives, and we place our trust in your guidance of our future.
Help us to make the most of the future ahead, living each day to the fullest and to serve you through whatever lies ahead, whether through good or bad times as you have shown us your constant love in the past.
We ask these things in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ as we rejoice in his birth and remember The Wise Men’s visit.
Together we further pray saying - - - - - -
Hymn 153 Great is thy faithfulness
Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
1 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Anthem: Benjamin Britten: The New Year Carol
“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” our ancestors used to say, and I was reminded of that old proverb the other day when I read a report in the newspaper on Tuesday morning. It seems that over the Christmas weekend Storm Bella, so destructive in many respects, nevertheless helped Britain pass a historic milestone: the storm’s high winds injected just enough extra power into the nation’s wind turbines to generate, for the first time in our history, more electricity by wind power than by all other means combined. For a few hours Britain overall had a “green” electric generating system.
When I read that piece of good news, I couldn’t help but notice that it appeared side-by-side with reports of fallen trees, blocked roads, structural damage to buildings, and life-threatening floods. Storm Bella was undoubtedly an ill wind for many people and yet, even so, in its very power and brutality it did some good.
So were our ancestors right in thinking that good might indeed come even from the worst situations? It’s a question that has recurred to me many times over the year that we have just consigned to the dust bin of history. The plague unleashed by the Covid epidemic swept away so much of our normal life and, like Storm Bella, left much uprooted, unstable, and damaged. Surely there is no good to be found in all of this---and yet that old proverb suggests that perhaps we would be wise us to temper our pessimism.
This is actually an important question now because at this time of year we stand---if I can put it like this---at the beginning of the future. The New Year is a time when we are compelled to look forward, and the question of Covid’s ill wind is really a question, not about the suffering of the past, but about the prospect for the future, and of course, there are still many possibilities, and not all of them bad.
The question then becomes: how do we seize the good possibilities, how do we make sure that Covid’s ill wind does actually lead to good?
We are, I suppose, in a position rather like that which historians tell us (or at least tell my generation!!!) existed at the end of World War II. They say that people in Britain were determined that all that suffering should lead to a better country and a better world than had existed before the war, with the proof of that being in the election of a Labour government by a huge majority, in spite of the personal regard in which many people held Winston Churchill.
But that effect of the world war’s ill wind seems to have been mainly political, and, if the past year has taught us anything, it is that politics is a very weak reed to lean on if you’re trying to drag yourself out of the morass and climb towards firm ground and sun-lit uplands. If, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the mount, life is more than raiment, it is also certainly more than politics.
But what more? That is the big question.
One part of the answer has been brought out by the fact that politics by itself cannot solve the crisis of Covid. Politicians can decree restrictions, but if the public, or large segments of it, have no moral commitment to doing the right thing, all the decrees in the world will be useless. But heedless flouting of Covid restrictions is merely a reminder of the more general delusion that has become so widespread in modern society, namely, that life is a free-for-all in which everybody can do their own thing without any sense of moral responsibility to anybody else.
Yet by now one might think that even the most heedless person would have noticed that it has only been the mutual commitment of millions of people to each other that has prevented the epidemic from being even more devastating than it has been. That has been borne out again and again on every level, from vital national institutions down to the caring behaviour of one neighbour towards another.
It may not always be easy to see this aspect of the tribulations we have been going through. When we look back over the past year at what Covid has brought to this country, and indeed the world, we probably think of the 70,000 people who have lost their lives in our country. We may think of the increased mental health problems due to isolation. We may think of failed businesses, working men and women who have lost their jobs, and even more people in desperation having to turn to foodbanks to feed their children.
And we cannot avoid thinking of the rapidly developing crisis of an underfunded and dangerously overstretched National Health Service.
And yet---in spite of all of this, and much more, we also think of the moral commitment to others that is exemplified in the sacrifice that those in the health and caring professions have made during this year. We think of how aware we have become of the importance of key workers in our society – people who in the past we may have overlooked and who are often in the lowest wage brackets, yet who provide the vital service of keeping us alive, not only through the NHS, but even at the basic level of making sure we have clean water, gas and electricity to heat and light our homes, and food to stave off starvation.
But that sense of the mutual moral commitment we have to each other goes much further. Being deprived of the company of other people has made us aware of how much we need, and even depend on, other people. Not being able to worship and sing hymns in Church has made us realise how much the fellowship of communal worship and praising God together can mean to us. More generally, one senses that a real community spirit has come to the fore, as people look after their neighbours and offer help where help is needed.
History suggests that great crises like Covid also have the beneficial effect of making people think more deeply about the bigger issues of life. And there are signs that this is happening now. I was interested to hear recently that 25% of 18-24 year olds attended some form of online church service during lockdown – a much higher percentage than usually come into a church building on a normal Sunday morning. It seems that Covid may be making at least some younger people aware that there is more to life than money and partying.
The New Year is always a time when we look forward and consider how we might transform our own lives and the life of the world so that the future may be better than the past. And in doing that this year, while we may grieve the losses which Covid has inflicted, we must also never forget the good things that Covid has taught us – that people are the most important thing in our lives, and looking after, and caring for, each other is our highest calling. That is how all of us can give life and energy to the spirit of Jesus’s words at the end of chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Let us look forward in the coming year to a renewal in all our lives of the moral commitment to each other that Jesus asks of every one of us so that indeed the future will be better than the past.
Hymn 526 This is a day of new beginnings
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
It is with great sadness that I have to intimate the death of the Session Clerk at Crossmichael, Parton and Balmaghie, Willie Little. By necessity Willie’s service needs to be private, but in your prayers at this time, please give thanks for his life and remember his daughter Alison and the rest of the family.
Let us pray
Lord our God, faithful and kind,
You have always been our help.
With and without our asking, with and without our recognition,
You are the wind in our sails,
the compass for our walking,
the firelight for our resting.
It is Your pleasure to help,
and for this we thank You.
You never neglect us.
Even when we blame or berate You;
even when we are too despairing to ask
or too weary to find words;
it is Your pleasure to help,
and for this we thank You.
So we seek Your help again.
Bring deep rest to those exhausted and spent.
Bring deep solace to those bearing loss upon loss.
Bring deep purpose to those plodding on in unceremonious conscientiousness.
Bring deep release to those glad to see the back of 2020.
Bring deep wisdom to those leading and governing.
Bring to us all deep trust in what is possible in partnership with You.
For it is Your pleasure to help, and for this we thank You, Gracious God
Today we thank you especially for the long life of your servant Willie Little, for his service to the Church for many years as Session Clerk and organist,
for his strong faith and unfailing cheerfulness.
And we ask that you would be with his family in their time of loss and grief
And now we bring you our own personal prayers for those who lie heavily on our hearts at this time…
All these things we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen
Hymn All my hope on God is founded
Lead us on,
to learn willingly,
to love well
to live in trust.27
Surround us with hope, shield us from harm,
set us on our way rejoicing.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you all, this day and forevermore,
Closing voluntary: God is our strength and refuge (based on Psalm 46)
The Moderator of the General Assembly the Right Rev Martin Fair has produced a service for this Sunday as many churches, like ourselves, have cancelled services again because of the enhanced restrictions. You can watch his service by clicking on the link below. It becomes active at 3am on Sunday morning.
https://youtu.be/4JgDRZerOMY (with captions)
Tarff and Twynholm intimations
The offering on Christmas morning for the Salvation Army in Dumfries amounted to £136.00. This will be much appreciated. Thank you.
A letter from CrossReach has been received thanking Tarff and Twynholm for used stamps. "We will turn these items into funds that will contribute towards our life changing work across Scotland". Please continue to save your stamps. They do help to make a difference!