Sunday March 21st 2021
A warm welcome to worship on Passion Sunday. In the intimations at the end of the service there is important information about the churches reopening for worship.
Let us worship God
Hymn 123 God is love, let heaven adore him
Prayer of Approach and Confession (by Gwen)
Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,
God of boundless mercy and unfailing love,
Our Creator, saviour and redeemer,
as part of the body of Christ around the world,
as people called to live for You in the families and communities and networks in which You have placed us,
we gather together to worship You:
to proclaim Your goodness and to offer our thanks and praise.
Meet us here, we pray.
Join our hearts in wholehearted worship.
Breathe Your word into our souls;
engrave Your covenant of grace into our minds and hearts.
Cultivate Your character in us,
inspire and shape us,
unite and encourage us,
that our lives may reflect Your love and justice to the world.
Wash away all our guilt and cleanse us from sin.
For well we know our misdeeds, and our sins confront us all day long.
Against you, only you, we have sinned and done what displeases you,
So that you may be proved right in accusing us and just in passing sentence.
Though you have hidden the truth in darkness,
Through this mystery you teach us wisdom.
Take hyssop and sprinkle us, that we may be clean;
Wash us, that we may become whiter than snow;
Let us hear the sounds of joy and gladness,
Let the bones dance which you have broken
Turn away your face from my sins and blot out all of our guilt.
Create a pure heart in us, O God, and give us a new and steadfast Spirit;
Do not drive us from your presence or take the Holy Spirit from us;
Revive in us the joy of deliverance and grant us a willing Spirit to uphold us.
So we may teach others the ways that lead to you.
O Lord God, our deliverer, save us from bloodshed,
and we will sing the praises of your justice.
Open our lips, O Lord,
That our mouths may proclaim your praise;
That we may also say together in Jesus name - - - - -
Hymn 128 How shall I sing that majesty
Reading Matthew 27: 32-44
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Anthem: Hymn 377 Go to dark Gethsemane
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
As we approach our great festival of Easter this year we can perhaps understand, even more than we might have in the past, what it means to be reborn, revived, and in some sense resurrected to new life after long months of a shadow life in lockdown that, at times, has seemed almost too much to bear.
With the benefit of a hindsight that reveals the whole story to us, we can now see Easter in this bright, life-enhancing way. But our passage from Matthew, which gives us an insight into the events of the Crucifixion moment by moment as it was happening, presents a very different picture of what it meant to some people at the time.
And Matthew 27 verse 42 encapsulates that picture, and indeed in some sense encapsulates the whole story of Jesus and the message of salvation which he brought to mankind. Matthew tells us, that as Jesus hung on the cross, “the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and the elders jeered at him: ‘He saved others, but he cannot save himself.’”
I say that this one verse is almost a summary of the whole life and ministry of Jesus because it emphasizes the gulf that separated Jesus from the society in which he lived and indeed that separated him from the ideas of the past. For the chief priests and no doubt many others, the key issue in life was “What’s in it for me?” For them the central question was what Jesus chose to do for himself. They expected him, in the vile modern phrase, to “look out for Number 1”. When he apparently did not do that, they could not imagine, with their egotistical “me-first” attitude, any other explanation than that he was a failure. And then they mocked him and jeered at him.
Sarcasm and mockery seems to have come easily to the lips of those leaders of the people. They applied their standards of morality to the life and ministry of Jesus, and when they saw that he was focussed on something completely foreign to their way of thinking, they responded with contempt. They saw that Jesus was not doing what they would have done and it never entered their heads that perhaps the problem was not his attitude but actually their attitude. And they used against him the weapon that what you might call “clever ignorance” often takes up, the weapon of ridicule.
In this, the situation of Jesus was perhaps not all that different from the situation of Christians down through the ages right up until today. The attitude of society towards Christianity has so often been, in effect, “Don’t tell us what we ought to do; tell us how we can do what we want to do.” The chief priests and their followers at the Crucifixion wanted to know how they could live a “me first” life, but Jesus refused to give in to them. He stood out, even on pain of death, for something completely different.
Many followers of Jesus down through the centuries have found themselves having to take the same stance, whether they be martyrs to religious persecution or people who resisted political injustice. And this has often been met with that same sarcastic contempt that Matthew recounts. In a famous trial here in Scotland in the 1790s, the defendant, Thomas Muir, who was a Church of Scotland elder and campaigner for what in those days were called “the rights of man”, was put on trial for advocating political and legal reform. In his defence, he told the court that he attempted in all his activities to follow the way of Jesus--- at which the judge, the infamous Lord Braxfield, sneered “Aye, and much good it did Him!” The chief priests of New Testament times clearly also have their followers!
And yet life itself continues to refute the scoffers, if only the scoffers would see it. This has been shown most strikingly over this past year of pandemic death and misery. We have seen again and again the stories of doctors and nurses, and carers more generally, exposing themselves to the disease, and all too frequently succumbing to it. And they clearly did not take this risk out of a “me-first”, “save-myself” attitude. For them, as for Jesus, there was a larger meaning to life, a meaning that grew out of a sense that a life lived only for oneself was a pretty poor life, while a life lived for others was true life. Life sometimes had to be about self-sacrifice, not self-preservation. This was what Jesus represented on the cross and this was what his sneering tormentors utterly failed to understand.
So as we begin the final countdown to Easter, with Palm Sunday and then Holy Week approaching, let us ponder whether or not our own lives reflect Jesus’ self-sacrificial example, a life truly lived for others.
Hymn 694 Brother, sister let me serve you
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession
It is with sadness that I have to intimate the death of one of the Gatehouse members, Amanda Barras who died on Thursday. In your prayers at this time, please give thanks for her life and remember her family.
Let us pray
Have mercy on us, O God, according to your loving kindness;
in your great compassion, hear our prayers.
We pray for the whole church, all the people of God,
all who respond to the call of Jesus, ‘follow me’.
May we follow his example of self-sacrificial love.
We pray for our nation,
for all the nations of the earth,
and for all who govern and judge.
Purge us from our sin,
And we shall be pure.
We pray for those who hunger,
those who thirst,
those who cry out for justice,
those who live under the threat of terror,
and those without a place to lay their head.
May they hear of joy and gladness,
that those who are broken may rejoice.
We pray for those who are ill,
those in pain,
those under stress,
and those who are lonely.
Give them the joy of your saving help,
and sustain them with your bountiful Spirit.
We pray for those who have been bereaved
Give them your comfort and peace.
We think especially of the Barras family and ask for your strength to be with them in their time of grief and loss
Lord Jesus, you taught your disciples that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit;
As we prepare our hearts to remember your death and resurrection, grant us the strength and wisdom to serve and follow you, this day and always.
Hymn 512 To God be the glory
May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith;
May you be rooted and grounded in love;
May you grasp the full breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ;
May you know that love, which surpasses knowledge;
May you be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.
Closing voluntary: Haydn trumpet concerto in Eb flat 1st Movement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUZYoVw7moc
The Scottish government have given permission for churches to reopen for worship as from Friday March 26th, assuming there is not a rise in coronavirus transmission. The Kirk Sessions of Gatehouse and Borgue, Tarff and Twynholm, Corsock and Kirkpatrick Durham, and Crossmichael, Parton and Balmaghie have all taken the decision to reopen and resume services. However, there was quite a lot of paperwork to be submitted to the Presbytery Coronavirus Standards Committee before permission was granted. I’m pleased to say however that Parton, Kirkpatrick Durham, Gatehouse of Fleet and Twynholm have all received permission to restart services.
I can therefore confirm that there will be services of worship in our buildings on Palm Sunday (March 28th), at Kirkpatrick Durham at 9:30am, at Parton at 11am, at Gatehouse at 10am and at Twynholm at 11:30. Please note however, we will still be operating under the same restrictions as before Christmas, social distancing, limited numbers, face masks, hand sanitisers, no singing etc.
A huge thank you to the office bearers who worked so quickly to put the paperwork in order and get it into the Presbytery and a huge thank you to John Ronnie from the Presbytery Coronavirus Standards Committee who replied so expeditiously to our submissions.
Open air worship
Some people have asked if it will be possible to have our usual early morning open air worship service on Easter Sunday at Anwoth or Girthon Old Kirk. I regret to say that at present, outside services seem to be fraught with difficulty and therefore it will not be possible to have an Easter outdoor service this year. This may seem strange as outdoor events are deemed to be safer than indoor events, however I think it is to do with problems of crowd control.