Sunday March 7th 2021

Welcome to Reflections for a Sunday morning for the Third Sunday of Lent. The intimations are at the end of the service.

Hymn 124 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QQezNMfaL4

Prayer of Approach and Confession (Gwen)

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father,

We come together in mind and Spirit, this third Sunday of Lent, as we take time out from our busy lives, to offer you our praise and worship.

We praise you for this day and for all the days of our lives.

We praise you for the world in which we live though we do not always fully appreciate or care for it properly. We praise you for the beauty of our neighbourhood with the hills, valleys, fields, forests, rivers and the sea all nearby; all within easy reach to appreciate and admire the diversity of your creation.

We praise you for the new season of Spring as it slowly takes a grip and chases away the long dark and cold of the Winter which reminds us that it still has a last few bites yet as it clings on, reluctant to let us go.

We rejoice in the warmth of the Spring sunshine as it gladdens the heart in us and reaches down into the earth to bring forth new growth with the joy of bright flowering daffodils, crocuses, primroses and irises.

We praise you for your continued care of us, for your love for us; you do not leave us to wander this world aimlessly and without boundaries, you are our guide through your commandments and the witnesses and examples we find in your word as we hear them today and by your Holy Spirit who lives within us. Your commandments have stood the test of time and are as valuable to us today as when they were first given to Moses; commandments in the name of love, harmony and respect, and how to live together as your family. We often forget the words you have given us and sometimes stray from your chosen path for us and we take a quiet moment now to reflect on our sins and confess them to you in silence and ask your forgiveness. - - -- - - -

Refresh us we pray as the Spring sunshine and showers refresh the awakening earth, and in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we further pray saying - - - our Father…

Hymn 36 God is our refuge and our strength

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds1VugPhznk (tune: Stroudwater)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFgcDq3Lmy8 (tune:  Ellacombe)

Reading: Genesis 41:14-36

14 Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was hurriedly brought out of the dungeon. When he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer.” 17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; 18 and seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19 Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin. Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt. 20 The thin and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows, 21 but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had done so, for they were still as ugly as before. Then I awoke. 22 I fell asleep a second time and I saw in my dream seven ears of grain, full and good, growing on one stalk, 23 and seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouting after them; 24 and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. But when I told it to the magicians, there was no one who could explain it to me.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. 30 After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. 31 The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. 35 Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

    and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,

so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,

    and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and ministered to him.

Anthem: Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0vc7AiNKfY

Reflections

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

The story in Genesis of Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph’s interpretation of it is so well known that it even managed to get into Act 2 of a Broadway musical of fifty years ago called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  I know that because, as a member of the Larbert High School choir, I remember singing about the seven cows and the seven ears of corn in a special performance for the Moderator of the General Assembly, who honoured the school with a visit when I was 12 years old (which was not fifty years ago, I hasten to add!)

But I cannot say that, in my reasonably comfortable childhood, I thought much more about the story on that occasion than simply trying to get the words and the notes right. It was only much later that I visited Egypt and began to understand what it would have meant for ancient Egypt if the “gift of the Nile”---the annual flood waters that brought agricultural prosperity to a desert landscape---ever failed.  The possibility that that might fail, not merely for one year, but year after year, would be devastating.

And that is precisely what Joseph says Pharaoh’s “dream” (we might really be better to call it a “nightmare”) was all about---seven years of misery, starvation, and ultimately death for an entire population.

In some translations this time of famine is described as the seven “lean years”, a phrase that resonates in English well beyond the tribulations of ancient Egypt.  And it certainly comes to mind when one looks back over the austere years since the great financial crash of 2008, a period that has been capped in this last year by a plague that would not be out of place in a Bible story.  Even in modern Britain we now have some idea of what a “lean year” might really be like.

Fortunately, for most of us, this past year has not been lean in terms of a famine – indeed the health gurus tell us that the enforced inactivity has actually caused some people to put on lockdown pounds.  But it is has been very lean indeed in other, perhaps more important ways, – lean in terms of travel, especially foreign travel, lean in terms of productive work for many people, but perhaps most importantly, lean in terms of our face-to-face personal relationships with other people.  We may not have been starved of food, although there are certainly many people who have struggled in this way (as the massive increase in the demand on Food Banks shows), but everyone has been starved of companionship, social events, time with family and friends. 

I see this especially when I take funerals.  Probably more than any other time in our lives, funerals are occasions when we need the actual physical closeness of other people.  We need that arm around our shoulder, that clasp of a hand, that comforting hug.  Someone in a mask, standing at a 2m distance just doesn’t do it.  

We also need that time afterwards, to relax over a drink and some food, and share stories about the person who has died.  But the plague has deprived us even of that.

I suspect the deprivations of “lean years” would have been a much more familiar thing to our ancestors than they are to us. Indeed historians point out repeatedly that “lean years” have been the precursor to many great historical upheavals---the devastation of the Black Death preceding the so-called “Peasants’ Revolt” in England in 1381, the agricultural collapse in France in the 1780s leading up to the French Revolution, the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s disrupting that island for decades.  I suspect that Pharaoh, as a wily politician, would have been well aware how dangerous it could have been to his exalted power and position if the people had suddenly decided that he had failed in his duty to lead them safely through the crisis.

Joseph himself was no stranger to “lean years” of various kinds.  The favoured son of his father Jacob, he was sold into slavery by his scheming jealous brothers and ended up as a slave in the house of Potiphar.  He did quite well there, working his way up to be given responsibility for the running of the household, but in so doing, caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife.  When Joseph resisted her advances, she cried rape, and Joseph ended up in prison where he still is when our reading this morning starts.

So Joseph knew lean times of slavery, degradation, and prison.  Fortunately most of us have not had experiences as bad as that,  but Lent is a season when it is especially appropriate to reflect what such experiences have done to others and what they might have done to us.  Joseph’s lean times led him to rely more on God and God blessed him for it.  In the desert, the Israelites had 40 years of lean times before they were allowed into the Promised Land.  And in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus spends 40 lean days in the wilderness, not eating or drinking anything, in preparation for his coming ministry.

What is similar about all these lean times, is that the people going through them, learnt from them to rely more on God.  The Israelites in the desert did finally reach the Promised Land and learnt a lot about themselves and their God in the process of getting there.  Jesus’ time in the wilderness was a time of personal struggle.  He was starving and the Devil tempted him with food, with riches, with power.  Yet Jesus came through all these temptations stronger – the ministering angels in verse 11 being a sign of God’s blessing.

All of which raises the question: “How might we, as individuals and as a society, grow stronger from our lean years?”

It is a question that we may all want to ponder in these days of Lent.  Might we perhaps become a society where people care more about each other, a society which will appreciate more the importance of other people in our lives, a society which has learned to slow down a bit and be grateful for what we have, that has learnt to sit still and listen to the birdsong and smell the roses? Might we, after decades of being relentlessly bombarded by secularist propaganda against Christianity, finally become a society which has learnt to reflect on the real meaning of life and what God’s place in it all is?

If these are the lessons which we take away from our lean years, then they may yet turn out to have been a time of blessing.

Amen

Hymn 573 Saranam, saranam, saranam

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

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Lord Jesus Christ,

We are reminding today, in this season of Lent,

Of the time you spent in the wilderness,

Facing choices,

Wrestling with temptation,

Experiencing a period of testing that would shape the course of your ministry

 

We thank you that you came through that time stronger,

More sure of the path that you had to take

And more confident in your ability to take it.

 

We pray today for all those who are experiencing a time of testing

We think of those suffering from financial hardship because of Covid,

Those who are unwell and challenged by thoughts of their own mortality

Those who have lost someone very dear to them and are struggling to face life without them.

And we hold those known to us before you now in the silence….

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

Give strength to all facing such times

A sureness of purpose and a clearness of mind

May each emerge the stronger for all they experience

And better equipped to face the future, whatever that may be

For the sake of Christ our Lord, Amen

 

Hymn 192 All my hope on God is founded

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

 

Blessing

Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

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:  Mozart’s horn concerto no. 4 in E flat: Rondo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbuELxd54nY


 

 

Intimations

The minister will be on leave from March 8-16th.  Gwen Corson will send Reflections out for next Sunday and will also be providing pastoral cover for Gatehouse, Borgue and Twynholm.  Tel: 01557 870328.  Geoff Monk will be providing pastoral cover for Corsock and Kirkpatrick Durham, Crossmichael, Parton and Balmaghie, tel: 01644 450679.

From the Foodbank

The next collection date for the Stewartry Food Bank will be Tuesday 9th March, 9 - 9.30am at Kirkcudbright Parish Church.

We continue to be busy in the food bank and most stocks are plentiful. We have more than enough pasta, pasta sauces, tea, biscuits, beans & cereal.

Whilst we are grateful for everything that we receive, we are particularly short of:

tinned veg, tinned fruit,  long life milk (whole & semi skimmed).

To maintain social distancing, we have had to reduce the number of people who date, sort and store your donations. It would be a great help to them if you could mark the 'best before' date on all items. (Thanks to those of you who already do this.)

If you could use a marker pen to note the month and year in a prominent place (tops of tins, sides of packets) this would save them a lot of time. Thank you.

In Twynholm the Church will be open from 10-5 on Sunday 7th March for you to leave donations.  You should enter by the door opposite the big main gates. 

In Gatehouse, donations can be left at the Gatehouse Stores or in Jim Logan’s Pend, the door to the left of 16 Fleet Street.