Sunday January 9th 2022

A warm welcome to worship.  The intimations are on page 9.

Hymn 192 All my hope on God is founded

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3LCGh02Vew

Prayer of Approach and Confession

Our loving God,

we have entered your gates with thanksgiving and your courts with praise.

This is the day that You have made; we rejoice and are glad in it.

For You O Lord, are a good God and Your love endures for ever,

Your faithfulness continues through all generations.

Today, we recognise our connectedness with You, and with one another.

We praise You, Almighty God, for You establish the times and seasons.

This is a new month, a new year; it is a new beginning,

and You are still God in charge of Your world.

Blessed be Your holy name for ever and ever

through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

 

Forgiving God,

we confess to You the many ways in which we have fallen short of Your expectations of us. We confess our sins against You our God,

and against our fellow sisters and brothers in this world.

Often, we have failed to testify of our faith in You,

of our love for You and of Your care for us.

Often, we have chosen the easy way of talking about everything else

but of our relationship with You.

Have mercy upon us, grant us Your grace that by Your Spirit,

we will be true disciples of our God

whose son Jesus Christ, died and rose for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

Gracious Lord,

as we receive Your forgiveness, we ask that You be present with us in this time of worship. May Your Spirt unite us together, whether we are gathered here in this sanctuary

or joining through Reflections at home.

Grant us grace to worship You aright,

to hear Your words read and preached with new ears, and to respond with renewed commitment.

Make us a people after Your heart,

seeking to do good to the world

and to bear testimony to Your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who taught us when we pray, to say:

 

Our Father…..

 

Hymn 36 God is our refuge and our strength

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGzuUfQD-G4

Readings:  Isaiah 43:1-5a

But now thus says the Lord,

    he who created you, O Jacob,

    he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

    I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

    the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.

Because you are precious in my sight,

    and honoured, and I love you,

Do not fear, for I am with you;

 

Luke 3: 21-22

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Hymn 191 Do not be afraid

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2rO0LhSWJ0

 

Reflections

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

I was amused the other day to see a news report on television about the efforts of the Italian authorities to encourage school children to get the Covid vaccine.  As a reward, every child who was vaccinated received something called an “Attesto di Coraggio”, an official “Certificate of Courage”, to prove to friends and family that the child had faced the jab with fearless resolution and had overcome doubts and uncertainty with a confidence that all would be well.

As adults we don’t often find ourselves being given certificates of courage for facing the challenges that life throws at us, but like those Italian school children our success in overcoming our doubts and fears may well depend on our having the faith and courage to believe that things will turn out well in the end. Those children were encouraged by the support of loving families and friendly medical staff to feel that they were not alone in facing the ordeal.  And like those children, we also may go forward with greater confidence when we know that someone is on our side, that even in the darkest moments, we are not alone.

The Bible writers understood this very well, and perhaps one of the loveliest expressions of reassurance in the Scriptures is that beautiful passage we have just read from the prophet Isaiah, at the beginning of chapter 43.  

It is a passage which resonates with many people who are facing daunting problems and it is fitting that it has found its way into the Church hymnary with a beautiful musical setting by Gerald Markland.

As so often in the Old Testament, the background to this passage is political and nationalistic, coming at a time when the Jews who were in exile in Babylon were longing for a change in the international political situation that would allow them to return to Palestine.  Such a revolution in international affairs was far beyond anything the exiled Jews could achieve by their own unaided efforts, but the prophet assures them that the God who created them, who made a divine covenant with them, will not abandon them. 

But it would be a mistake, I think, to limit our understanding of what Isaiah is saying to just the question of nationalist politics, because the God whom Isaiah speaks for is not concerned merely with international politics but with all of life.  If that were not so, if God were merely the great master of international affairs, he would be a much diminished God.  He would not in fact be the ruler of the Universe who we know the God who created all things must be.

In later times, Christians began to realise just how important that point is because it means that what Isaiah said about God had meaning far beyond the politics of his day.   The God who saved the exiled Jews in Babylon was also a God who supported and saved those who suffered and were afflicted in many other ways and in many different times and places.  And it is not merely coincidental that the image of the Messiah in this part of the book of Isaiah (chapter 53) has been taken by Christians as a description of Jesus, the Saviour of the whole of mankind, who himself received the confirmation and assurance of God’s love at his baptism, as our reading from Luke tells us.   When we baptize in the church today,  we convey the same assurance to future generations that God will be by their side.

Gerald Markland in his hymn was right, therefore, to see the images in Isaiah 43 as reflecting quite broadly the fears and anxieties that we may all experience as we go through life but also reflecting the vital assurance of God’s presence through everything that life throws at us.  

There is perhaps no image that strikes us more forcefully with the fear of being overwhelmed than the image of water, and I suspect that is why the story of the sinking of the Titanic has seized the modern imagination so strongly.  And when Isaiah looks for the strongest images that he can imagine to assure the people of Israel that God will be with them spiritually and psychologically in all their troubles, his first image is of water, and his message is, as our hymn says, that with God by your side “you will never sink beneath the waves”. 

But if we fear firstly being drowned in the enormity of our problems and anxieties, perhaps next after that comes the fear of being consumed by the intensity of the difficulties we face.  And there, I think, the image of fire speaks to us--- not the cosy and contained fire of the hearth, but the uncontrollable and raging flames of fires like those in America recently, where whole communities were consumed in a few hours.  It is an image that strikes us with the terror of our whole world going up in smoke, an image that may resonate with us when we suddenly find that all our plans and hopes look like they are going to be destroyed.  And yet even here Isaiah assures us, as the hymn puts it, that we will never be consumed by the flames. 

These images of the threat of untamed fire and water both arise from the very real and concrete dangers of raging infernos and overwhelming floods,  but Isaiah and our hymn writer are not really thinking of the practical problems of fire and water, since those problems can very largely be minimised by practical solutions and forward planning.  But the fires and floods that threaten us in our personal lives, the ones that threaten us in our minds and spirits, are a different matter, and it is those threats that Isaiah is really concerned with.

Those children in Italy receiving their Covid vaccine are, after all, not really faced with a practical problem, since all the practical problems will, as much as possible, have been anticipated and provided for.  The problem of those children was really what was happening in their minds, and for that there were no practical solutions.  The answer to their fears and anxieties had to take place where those fears and anxieties arose---in their minds and spirits.  They needed the assurance that all would be well, the assurance that they could get through the ordeal, the assurance implied in those “Certificates of Courage” that every child was promised.

And, as our hymn writer realised, that is the assurance that Isaiah strives to give because he knows that the determination of his people to pull through must be rooted in the faith and hope that they can pull through. 

How often in our lives we find ourselves in the same position! 

The Covid crisis, for example,  just seems to go on and on and we find ourselves even after two years still faced with the challenge of overcoming our anxieties and somehow finding a way through.  This looks in many ways like a practical problem---getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and so on---but of course it is not really the practical problem that bothers us.  What really bothers us is what the crisis is doing to our minds---making us fearful to meet friends and family, making us afraid even to go out, and making us anxious and undecided about our plans for the future.  People don’t know whether to book holidays, they can’t get their wedding organised as they wish, they don’t know what may happen in their work. 

And life can throw other similar challenges at us, unlike any we have faced before.   In times of illness or when we have had a scare about our health, our fears and anxieties may loom large, and I was interested recently to read an item in the paper quoting a doctor as saying that recovery from illness may be a “story of the mind as well as the body”.   In times of bereavement also, when someone we love has died, we can suddenly feel very alone in our sadness and anxiety.   

And it is when faced with such fears and anxieties that Isaiah reminds us that we are not alone. He knows that this is when we need very strongly to feel that God is with us, supporting us through all the uncertainty, the fear and the sadness. 

The precious love which God has for each of us, is a good thing to reflect upon at this time of a New Year, a year which still holds the uncertainties we have experienced over the past 2 years and yet, which we know that, with God by our sides, we do not face alone.

Amen

Hymn 190 Art thou afraid his power shall fade

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYRPOEhbeNg (the CH4 words begin at verse 2.  The original version of this hymn in the 1929 Scottish psalter had the verse they started with – although not to this tune!!)

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (Gwen)

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,

We come together this morning in body and in Spirit to worship you for you are a good God who always looks after his people from generation to generation and continues to do so today.

We thank you for this world of ours and for all that it gives to us by way of food, fuel, all the materials we need to make other things like clothes, shelter, and transport, but we need to continue to think about the consequences of how we are treating our world and how we treat our wastage.

We thank you for looking after us for we are aware of our shortcomings in looking after each other. We pray for those who are refugees who have been forced to leave their homes, family and country behind as they flee from forces invading their country or from persecution because they follow you, our Lord God.

We pray for those in poverty just now and for the homeless and those who have been abused.

We pray for the sick in body or mind, for the dying and for the bereaved. May they know your comfort and know that they are not alone.

We need the help of your Holy Spirit to treat others the way we would like to be treated with compassion and love as you have shown for your people. Give us the tolerance to accept those who are different to us, or who hold different ideas as you created us all, whether the same or not in colour, creed, or orientation.

We pray for all those who care for others, whether at home or in hospitals or in care. Guide our scientists as they search for the best treatment for the Corona virus and all the variants that are appearing now. Guide us in staying safe for ourselves and others.

We pray for your Church, that through this pandemic we may grow in strength and numbers, drawing close to you and each other. Give us the confidence to tell others about you and not be afraid of the reaction of others for you are with us always, beside us, guiding us, giving us the words to say.

Bless all your children Lord, especially those whose lives are not what they should be just now, including those we hold up to you in the silence now - - - - - - - -

These things we ask in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Amen

Hymn 513 Courage brother, do not stumble

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41Gr_6-2YRQ

Blessing

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

Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major BWV 1048 - Netherlands Bach Society https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr0f6t2UbOo


 

 

Intimations

Foodbank

The January collection for the Food Bank will be on Tuesday, 11th January, 9 - 9.30am at Kirkcudbright Parish Church.

Having filled 55 Christmas boxes, our supplies are fairly low and we welcome donations of any foodstuffs and toiletries. It is a great help to the sorting team if food can be clearly marked with an expiry date and left for uplift at the right hand side door of the church.

Your donations continue to be gratefully received, especially in these winter months when heating bills are high, so thank you, as always, for your generosity.

Gatehouse people can bring donations to church on Jan 9th or leave them in Jim Logan’s Pend, 16 Fleet Street.  Twynholm members can bring donations to the Church up until 5pm on Sunday 9th January.

VINE TRUST

Anne Carstairs is making marmalade again this year in aid of the Vine Trust, a Scottish charity enabling local charities in Tanzania and Peru to bring health, hope and opportunity to vulnerable communities, especially children. The Vine Trust is also one of the Guild project partners for the next three years. If you would like to order jars (£2 each) please contact Anne on 01556 670279 or annegcarstairs@gmail.com and to arrange delivery.

Thanksgiving Services

The funeral of Anne-Cliff McCulloch will be on Friday 14th January at 11am in the Church.  Due to Covid restrictions this will be private, however if you would like to play your last respects to Annie, the hearse will be passing down the High Street prior to the start of the service, probably at about 10:40.

There will be a thanksgiving service for Peter Carpenter on Wednesday January 19th at 1pm in the Church.  This is not private - all friends are invited to attend.