Sunday July 11th 2021
A warm welcome to worship. The intimations are on page 8 and there are quite a lot of them this week so please take the time to read them. Let us worship God:
Hymn 132 Immortal invisible God only wise
Prayer of Approach
God, our God
This morning we gather to worship You.
We come together, each of us from our own lives,
with our own thoughts, and hopes, and worries.
Let us bring our hearts, with all that weighs on them, before You this morning in worship. And unburden us, do not let us be weighed down,
but instead send Your Spirit anew among us,
and clear in our hearts and minds a space to focus on You and our relationship with You.
For we come, thirsty – longing for refreshment.
For we come, hungry – longing for sustenance.
We come as Your children: and long to know Your love.
And here in this place of prayer;
in this quiet and unlaboured time –
we can trace the steps of the paths that brought us here.
Our Sunday morning waking and journey here;
our Saturday and the week that has been.
As Your people, we’ve known joy, comfort, fatigue, and pain;
love and hope, loneliness and strain.
But as we cast our thoughts back, Lord,
give us eyes to see that You have been with us all along.
Gives us hearts to know of Your presence,
not just today,
but every day in our walk with You,
and that in our worship we will remember Your constancy in every moment of our lives.
You are the God who freely loves.
You have no needs or requirements; the whole universe belongs to You:
yet as infinite, majestic and glorious God:
You concern Yourself with us.
You care for us.
You know us.
In Jesus Christ You walked among us and demonstrated a love so perfect,
that all human history will unravel before we will comprehend its depth, width, and height.
And hear us as we further pray together in the words that Jesus taught us saying Our Father…
Hymn 87 Lord from the depths
Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. 8 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9 there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10 At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 11 Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus' sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours. 12 This means that death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 The scripture says, “I spoke because I believed.” In the same spirit of faith we also speak because we believe. 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will also raise us up with Jesus and take us, together with you, into his presence. 15 All this is for your sake; and as God's grace reaches more and more people, they will offer to the glory of God more prayers of thanksgiving.
16 For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. 17 And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. 18 For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.
Hymn 153 Great is thy faithfulness
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
The story is told that the Emperor Napoleon was approached by one of his generals who said he was confronted with an urgent problem, to which Napoleon replied: “There are no problems, only solutions”.
“There are no problems, only solutions”.
It’s an interesting idea, with a lot of implications, but I suspect that Napoleon meant to emphasise particularly the key element in all difficult situations, namely deciding what are the possible solutions available to you and which one you want to go for. To focus on the solution rather than the problem is another way of saying that you must focus on your own priorities, list them in order of importance to you, and then decide which priorities you have the means to achieve and which not.
Obsessing about the problem diverts your energies away from considering how to achieve the best possible solution. And in some cases obsessing about the problem may lead a person into thinking that there are no solutions, and of course at that point it becomes very hard to escape from the difficulty they are facing.
We have probably all met people at some point or other who have fallen into that trap of hopelessness where their will to act in a positive way is paralysed. They cannot make the positive decisions, and take the positive actions they need to, in order to get out of their difficulty. But of course that does not mean that they do nothing: as long as they’re alive they cannot avoid doing something, but it usually turns out to be something that makes no contribution to a positive solution. Instead they turn, for example, to drink or drugs. They waste what money, time and energy they do have, with the result that instead of moving towards a solution they simply get deeper and deeper into difficulty.
When I see this sort of thing, as I do from time to time, I come away thinking yet again how important it is not to fall into that trap of hopeless obsession with the problem rather than focussing on the solution.
But at this point an important psychological and spiritual issue arises: in order to escape a sense of hopelessness, you have to have hope. You have to have faith that there are solutions and that you can achieve goals.
In a very down-to-earth practical way one can see this in the careers of many world-class tennis players, as the current Wimbledon championships remind us. Some of you may have watched the semi-final between Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka. It was very evenly matched and in the first set Pliskova had 8 break points but never managed to actually convert any of them and as a result, Sabalenka won the first set.
However, Pliskova did not allow herself to be disheartened by this, and in the second set she did manage to break the Sabalenka serve, and went on to win that set, and the third, thus gaining herself a place in the final.
When she was interviewed after the match, Pliskova said that she owed her victory in part to her coach Sascha because he truly believed that she could win the match and that gave her the faith that she needed to persevere, even when she lost the first set. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong in the first set, she just focused on winning the next 2.
But of course it isn’t only at the exalted level of Wimbledon competitors that this issue arises. In all areas of life you need to escape the trap of focussing on problems rather than solutions. I am certainly not the only person to notice that. And indeed in the first half of the last century an American writer named Dale Carnegie made his career out of advising people how to improve their lives by focusing resolutely on solutions, not problems. One of his most famous books was called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. In that book, there was much down-to-earth practical advice of the sort Wimbledon competitors would have appreciated. But Carnegie went further and emphasised the importance of cultivating a mental attitude that will bring you inner tranquillity and happiness. To do this, he said, you need to “Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health and hope”.
I don’t know for sure whether Dale Carnegie ever read the writings of St Paul, but I strongly suspect that he did, and I was interested to discover that one of his recommendations for achieving that positive state of mind was to pray.
In any event, St Paul certainly got there first, and I have no doubt that his emphasis on the importance of faith in the future reflected at least in part his profound understanding of human psychology and his realisation of how absolutely vital it is to face the problems of life with courage and hope.
In his letters to the Corinthians Paul makes this point again and again in various ways. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, we read in verses 8 and 9:
“We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.”
Later in the same chapter he emphasises the importance of focus and focussing on the right things when he says: “we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen”, in other words on the things of the spirit and the divine calling that all Christians have. In Chapter 3 verses 3 and 4 he says that the Spirit of the living God does work in human hearts and he feels able to proclaim that because he has “confidence in God through Christ”.
Paul sums all of this up in that famous verse in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says that the three most important elements of the Christian attitude to life are “faith, hope, and love.” Although he emphasises the supreme importance of love, we must never forget that this trinity of Christian characteristics also includes the two other essential elements of faith and hope. I think it is clear that Paul believes that faith and hope are equally necessary elements in the Christian’s attitude to life. Without faith and hope all else would be without the spiritual grounding every Christian needs.
I remember a few years ago, visiting Bethlehem and seeing first hand the situation that the Palestinians are living in behind the Israeli Wall, cut off from family and friends in Jerusalem, and sometimes from their own land. On that visit we heard a talk by the Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem about how difficult life was and someone asked him if he ever lost hope that things would get better.
“I am not optimistic about the future,” he said. “But that is very different from not having hope. As a Christian, you cannot live without hope. To do so would be to give into despair.”
So even in the most difficult of situations, we need to hold on to the faith and the hope that things will get better.
As St Paul says in Ephesians 3:20
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Hymn 256 May the God of hope go with us
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
God of love and freedom, of hope and joy,
we pray for those who long to be free,
For those wrongly imprisoned.
For those imprisoned because of a fight for justice,
because they spoke out against the tyranny of their government,
because they protest the actions for their state,
because they have a faith that is censored.
We pray for those who seek asylum and refuge from their past;
and who now live in detention centres.
We pray for those who are detained for their own safety and wellbeing, but long to be free.
We pray for all those whose freedom falls victim to the greater power of an unjust majority.
We pray for those whose helplessness condemns them to a form of slave labour.
For those working unbearably long hours with little or not pay.
For those increasing number of people trafficked – human lives bought and sold.
We pray for those who long to be free.
For those who know daily pain, and who are overwhelmed with the struggle of coping.
For those who have a diagnosis that feels like an incarcerating sentence.
For those whose health curtails a freedom they used to know.
We pray for those who are trapped by the snares of self-contempt.
For those who disregard their own inherent worth and loveliness,
and long to be free for love.
For those who are not free to love who, or how, or where their heart leads them.
We pray for those who long to be free,
for those who are condemned by poverty.
For those whose hunger becomes like shackles.
For those who feel unemployment to be liberty-deprived.
We pray for those who long to be free,
for those who wish to be free of the pain of this life.
And for those who mourn the passing of one dear to them.
For all those who have loved freely and long to again.
God: Father, Son and Spirit,
You are the God who loves freely:
the God whose love is unconditional and infinite.
You love each of us eternally: enfold us into Your embrace;
grant the freedom of Your people and the fulfilment of our prayers.
All this we pray, for the sake and in the name of Your son Jesus Christ, Amen.
Hymn 702 Lord in love and perfect wisdom
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, and those you love, and those you find hard to love, this day and forevermore. Amen
Sale of Borgue Church: GOOD NEWS! Almost three years after closing the Church because we thought we had a buyer, we have finally managed to get Borgue Church sold. The buyer is the Stornoway Heritable investment Company Ltd.
Kirk Session Meeting: There will be a meeting of the Gatehouse Kirk Session on Thursday July 15th at 7:30pm in Gatehouse Church.
Stewarty Foodbank: Our next collection will be on Tuesday 13th July, 9 - 9.30pam at Kirkcudbright Parish Church. We will be happy to accept whatever you have collected, but we have no specific shortages this month.
As our shelves are well stocked, we plan to have NO collection in August. We will reassess the situation at the end of August and keep you informed about September. Thank you for your continued support.
At Tarff and Twynholm the church door opposite the main gate will remain unlocked after the service today until 5.00pm for donations. Thank you for your continued generosity.
Diary Deadline: The deadline for the next edition of the Diary will be July 22nd. Please make sure that Jim Logan, email email@example.com has your contributions by then. Thank you.
Open day at Arndarroch Garden: The Glenkens Church of Scotland is hosting an open day at Arndarroch Garden courtesy of Annikki Lindsay on Saturday 17th July from 10am – 4pm. This is a wildlife friendly environment developed over 30 years on a south-west facing hillside overlooking Kendoon Loch. You can find it on the B7000 at postcode DG7 3UD, to the north of Dalry. Teas will be provided. We invite you to plan a visit on that day and to pass the word around to others. Entry by donations for the Glenkens Church of Scotland.