Sunday May 16th 2021
A warm welcome to worship. The intimations are at the end of the service
Hymn 438 The Head that once was crowned with thorns
Prayer of Approach and Confession (by Gwen)
Loving Lord God,
We come together, praising you for the wonders we see round about us. We see the spring flowers blooming gaily – the blue of “Cra’ Taes”, the yellow of the Dandelion, the pink of the Cherry blossom on the trees and white blossom of the thorn bushes, and now we see the greens on the trees as the different leaves unfurl to re-clothe the trees in their spring finery. All the different colours like a painting by numbers picture or a patchwork quilt as each plant and tree awakens once again to perform their purpose as well as brightening our world. We hear the birds as they sing their little hearts out and see and hear the different bees as they too enjoy the spring flowers and our hearts respond to the joy they all bring and we praise you for your clever hand in their multi-tasked creation.
We praise you for the longer days of sunshine bringing more warmth as we work outside and can start our vegetables, fruit and flowers growing, refreshed and watered by rain. We worship you for the newness of life around us – the baby lambs, frog spawn, kittens, chickens, ducklings, baby birds, calves – all fresh and new to our world.
We worship you for the joy we have as lockdown restrictions are eased and we can look forward to carefully meeting our friends and families, perhaps meeting new members not met before, but not forgetting those members who left us and we were unable to wish them “good bye” because of the virus. We are so sorry for this and for the way we used this virus as a way to avoid doing as much as we should have done to help other people and became too attached to our secular world instead of giving you the worship you deserve. Forgive us Lord and strengthen our need of you and help us to follow you more nearly, doing your will and together we further pray saying - - - - Our Father,
Hymn 439 Look ye saints, the sight is glorious!
Readings: Acts 1: 1-11
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
Anthem: Hymn 436 Christ triumphant, ever reigning
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
We have quite a family of bunny rabbits in the back garden of the Manse, and I freely admit I enjoy watching them out of the window, nibbling the grass, cleaning themselves, chasing each other, and generally enjoying life.
A few weeks ago during this early morning entertainment, I noticed a little baby bunny rabbit popping its nose out of its burrow. On seeing the feast of beautiful, green grass, it decided to venture further and came right out and began to explore a new world.
But it enjoyed only about two seconds of freedom. For as soon as mummy rabbit spied that her baby had left home, she acted immediately. In the twinkling of an eye the poor little bunny rabbit was chased unceremoniously back into the burrow and was clearly given to understand that it was not to come out again.
Evidently, mummy in her wisdom believed that the time was not yet ripe for her offspring to venture forth into the big bad world.
She obviously took her responsibilities as a parent seriously, and like many who feel responsible for the well-being of others she was perhaps finding it a little hard to know when to let go.
"Letting go" can raise questions far beyond merely the lives of a family of rabbits. The church today is marking Ascension Sunday, when we remember one of the great moments of "letting go" in the church's history, the moment when it was right for Jesus to leave his disciples to the not-very-tender mercies of the world as he ascended into heaven.
And I think the ascension was an event which must have been very troubling for the early disciples and which continues to raise questions in people's minds even today.
For one thing, it can seem in a way almost farcical. I don't know how you mentally picture the ascension, but try as I might, I find it difficult to get beyond a medieval picture of the Ascension which I once saw, which has left me a mental image of nothing but Jesus' legs dangling from beneath a cloud. And one has to admit that as a physical event it is puzzling.
But the important thing to ponder is not how it happened but why it happened. Why was the ascension necessary?
I think our reading from John provides the answer. In verses 4 and 5, Jesus addressing God says:
"I have shown your glory on earth. I have finished the work you gave me to do. Give me glory in your presence now, the same glory I had with you before the world was made."
Jesus had finished what he came to do. He had lived a human life. He had died, been resurrected, appeared to various people so that there were witnesses of the resurrection, and the time had now come for him to return to the Father.
I have a friend who is a minister who once said that he finds it very difficult to preach on the ascension because he felt that it was Jesus abandoning us, removing himself from his bodily presence among the people and returning to the distance of heaven.
I have never understood the ascension like that. I have always seen it more as the natural conclusion to Jesus' time on earth. And of course the next instalment was the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, causing God not to be bound to a person who could only be in one place at one time, but rather for the power of God to be with everyone who believed.
But the point which my friend made, got me wondering what was going through Jesus' mind as the time approached for him to return to the Father. Did he feel that he was abandoning us? While he had been on earth, he had been able to lead, direct, exert some control over the disciples. Now he was leaving them to get on with the work that he had commissioned them to do.
Was it actually quite difficult for Jesus to leave earth and return to the Father?
Probably most of you, at some time or other, have had a similar experience to Jesus - the experience of having to "let go", of distancing yourself from another and letting them stand on their own two feet.
A number of you are parents. A time is always reached, in any parent's life, of "letting go", of allowing your child to venture forth into the big bad world all by itself, and having to stand back and hope that the values which you have instilled into your child will remain with them.
That time may come when they go off to boarding school, or to university, or leave home to get married, or to spend a gap year abroad. Whatever it is, that time when your child finally leaves the nest is a difficult one for parents, and yet it is such an essential part of a child's development.
It is only when you are left on your own that you can really find your own personality, that you can fully blossom into your own person.
Yet letting go, even when we know we need to do it, can be so very hard.
I wonder how Jesus felt when the time came for him to "let go" of the disciples. Did he wonder how they would cope without him to lead them? Did he worry about the persecution that he knew they would face, and wonder how they would deal with it? It was a risk that Jesus took, going back to heaven and leaving the work and growth of the church to the mercy of a few faithful followers, the same risk that God took when he created the world, put human beings in charge of it, and gave us free-will.
And what about the disciples? How did they feel, I wonder, when they suddenly realised that Jesus was not going to remain with them forever, that his resurrection appearances were only temporary, and that soon they would no longer see him "in the flesh" so to speak.
Can you remember what it felt like to be "let go of'? Do you remember the day you first flew from the nest, or left the burrow?
I can remember my experience quite distinctly.
I first left home when I went to work in Romania for a year. I was 22, I'd had 4 years at university when I had lived at home and travelled, and the longest I had ever spent away from the bosom of my family was two weeks. Suddenly I had committed myself to spending a year in Romania, a country where I didn't speak a word of the language, working as a teacher, a job I was not qualified to do, having to do my own washing, cleaning, cooking and shopping. I was nervous, terrified might be closer to the truth, and my parents were apprehensive.
Well I remember the morning I left. My parents took me to Glasgow airport, I hugged them goodbye, and then set off down the corridor to board the plane. As I came to a bend in the corridor, I turned to wave a final good-bye to my parents. Then I turned the corner and they disappeared from my sight. I was on my own
But I remember also the day I left Romania to return home. I went down to the station to catch the overnight train to Bucharest. I was accompanied by a young Hungarian man called Akos who had become a good friend. I climbed into the Vagon de Dormit and found my compartment. I then put the window down and chatted to Akos until the time came for the train to depart.
The guard blew the whistle, the doors slammed, and the train began to move, slowly at first, then gradually gathering speed. I leant out of the window and waved to Akos who grew smaller and smaller and I kept on waving even when he had long disappeared from sight.
The disciples continued to gaze up to heaven even when Jesus had disappeared from view. It was hard for them to accept that Jesus had let go of them and left them on their own.
Letting go can be painful for both parties. Let me read you some verses from an anonymous poem which I came across some years ago. It expresses the importance of being able to "let go".
To "let go" does not mean to stop caring.
It means I can't do it for someone else.
To "let go" is not to cut myself off,
It's the realisation I can't control another
To "let go" is to admit powerlessness,
Which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To "let go" is not to be protective,
It's to permit another to face reality.
To "let go" is not to regret the past, but to grow and love the future.
To "let go" is to fear less, and love more.
Jesus let us go because he loved us and trusted us and wanted us to become our own people. In the same way, there comes a time in most of our lives when we too need to let go of others, and let them become their own people. To let them go is not a sign that we don't care, but a sign that we love and trust them enough to give them freedom.
To "let go" is to fear less and love more.
Hymn 450 Christ is the world’s Redeemer
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (by Gwen)
Lord God, our Heavenly Father,
We thank you for looking after us as we came through the difficulties of the Corona virus and thank you for your continued care. We know we cannot relax completely yet as the virus is still around and not everyone has been vaccinated and know that there are variations about that we don’t know how they will react with our vaccines or how protected we are against them. We have watched the tragedy unfold in India and we hold the people up to you now in our prayers and we pray that they receive all the help that they need.
We are aware that recently we were beginning to notice the effect of the dry spell on our plants and the grass in the fields so we can imagine the effect that the drought has in the warmer countries of Africa. Women and children have to walk miles to fill containers with water then carry them home. Water which is needed for washing, cooking, drinking for animals as well as humans, for growing crops and in fact for everything and we pray that Christian Aid managed to raise enough money during their fundraising week to help to drill for deep wells of clean water nearby to where it is needed and make life easier and healthier for all those who live there.
Lord God, our hearts ache for those whose lives are difficult just now, by war, climate conditions, abuse, racism, poverty, displacement, slavery – all situations we would not like to be in ourselves and we pray that you will improve life for all who are caught up in these situations.
We especially pray today for the people of Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank where fighting has broken out and full scale battles are taking place. We pray for your intervention to prevent further bloodshed and peace to be restored if not a fulltime peace agreement to be worked out.
We hold up to you all who lie heavily on our hearts this day in the silence - - - - - - - - - We ask that you bless them with your compassion and shelter all beneath your healing wings.
These things we ask in the name of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Hymn 459 Crown him with many crowns
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
Exit voluntary: Torelli Trumpet concerto in D
General Assembly 2021
The General Assembly will run from Saturday May 22nd to Thursday May 27th, all virtually. Val is a commissioner this year, so the service next Sunday May 23rd will be conducted by Mrs Gwen Corson. Please pray for the General Assembly and the new Moderator Lord Wallace.
Last Sunday’s Reflections focussed on the work of Christian Aid in parts of the world, such as Kenya, which have been suffering from drought and famine as a consequence of climate change. Although the usual fundraising activities associated with Christian Aid Week have not been possible in 2020 or 2021 owing to the pandemic, funds are still urgently required in support of this work. Donations can be made online at either www.christian-aid.org.uk or www.caid.org.uk
Worshippers at Twynholm will be given a Christian Aid envelope which you can take home and fill and return to the Church.
Gatehouse and Borgue: Diary Deadline
The deadline for articles for the next edition of the Diary is May 20th. Please ensure that Jim Logan firstname.lastname@example.org has your contributions by then. Thank you.