Sunday May 2nd 2021
A warm welcome to worship this morning. You will find the intimations at the end of the service. Now let us worship God
Hymn 485 Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Prayer of Approach and Confession
As we try to focus our minds,
it is easy for our minds to shoot off
in so many directions.
We find it hard to slow down,
to remove all the clutter
and concentrate on You, Lord.
In the stillness of this place,
take from us the strain and stress
as we feel ourselves rest in Your eternal love,
in the everlasting arms.
the small beginnings of praise well up
as we remember
what we have in Jesus Christ.
That we have one who is with us,
who guides and strengthens us.
Who holds us through every storm of life
who leads us to everlasting life.
We confess that sometimes the storms we endure
are of our own making.
A foolish word,
a thoughtless comment,
a misguided action,
a quick judgement.
Then we have to live with the consequences,
and the guilt.
Take all that stress from us too
and replace it with Your forgiveness and peace.
in Your hands we are safe and secure –
we rejoice in Your eternal love
and all sufficient grace.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray together saying…
Hymn 522 The Church is wherever God’s people are praising
Reading: James 2:14-18
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
Anthem: Hymn 694 Brother sister let me serve you
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
On Thursday, after spending my entire day from 9 in the morning until 10 at night staring at the computer screen in Church of Scotland Zoom conferences, I decided to veg out with a video of one of those interesting Great Railway Journeys broadcast by Michael Portillo. We picked the great journey he did in Russia a few years ago.
Intriguingly, his trip began, not in some obvious tourist centre, but in a place called Tula, a hundred and fifty miles or so south of Moscow. Although the city had a medieval walled fortress and various other sites, Portillo soon made clear that the real attraction was out in the countryside beyond the town, where he could visit a place called Yasnaya Polyana, the estate of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.
Portillo was clearly attracted to Tolstoy not merely for the great books he had written, like War and Peace, but also for Tolstoy’s Christian faith and commitment. Tolstoy’s Christianity was often at odds with the official position of the Orthodox Church, to such an extent that, towards the end of his life, he was actually excommunicated. Tolstoy’s great sin was, in essence, that he believed Christianity was not something you talked about---it was something you did.
Now you might suppose that this should have made him a great favourite of the Church and the authorities, but not a bit of it. In Russia in those days real Christianity was the last thing the rulers of the country wanted to see actually applied, because, as Tolstoy realised, applying Christianity would require a massive change in the way the people in power thought and behaved, a change they refused to make because it would necessarily have meant abandoning their regal and aristocratic prestige and privilege. In Tolstoy’s mind, the state did not exist to enrich the powerful but to serve all the people, and he foresaw clearly that if those in power refused to recognise this, then the only alternative would be violence and revolution. History proved him right a few years after his death, when the Russian Revolution swept the Tsarist regime away in a whirlwind of brutality and viciousness.
I have been thinking about all of this in the last few days because, by one of those flukes of ecclesiastical calendars, this year the Russian Orthodox Easter comes nearly a month after our celebration of Easter in the Western churches. In fact, today, May 2nd, is Easter Day in all the Orthodox churches and it was preceded by a week of observances that included ceremonies that are quite different from anything we know in our Church of Scotland tradition. I always think that one of the most interesting of these is what is known as the Holy Fire ceremony. If you ever happen to be in Jerusalem during the Orthodox Easter, on Easter Saturday you can attend the Holy Fire ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where a flame is lit in the tomb of Jesus and passed with candles and lamps from one person to another, until eventually thousands of people are carrying this symbol of the Light of Christ out into the wider world.
A similar ceremony took place in Russian Orthodox churches, and one writer said about this transmitting of the light that “the flame had to pass…from one to another like faith in Jesus Christ.” Clearly, real Christian faith required action from the believers to make the light of Christ shrine out on the lives of the people around them. Christianity was not simply to be proclaimed but also to be shared.
Tolstoy must have been inspired by that Russian vision of Christianity, and he certainly believed that, to be real, Christianity had to work in the world to make a difference, to make the world a better place, to make people and their lives better.
Tolstoy himself tried to set an example in his own life, difficult though that was, and his idealism and commitment inspired many people who wanted a better world but did not want it to be sought by violence but instead by peace. In that regard, the example of Tolstoy guided people as diverse as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and Tolstoy continues to be admired for his wisdom by people all over the world, including, it seems, Michael Portillo.
At the heart of it all, was Tolstoy’s realisation that Christianity, to be real, had to be made to mean something in people’s lives and how they lived those lives. He would no doubt have agreed with James in his letter when James says in chapter 2, verse 17: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
But putting your faith into action is not always easy in practice, because many problems present themselves in the form of difficult choices when, as someone once said colourfully, we may find ourselves in situations where “we have the wolf by the ears, and can neither hold him nor let him go.”
But I think that Tolstoy would remind us then that the starting point for finding any solution must be that we commit ourselves to its being a Christian solution, a solution based, not on our own narrow self-interest or ambition, but on a deliberate choice to advance, as best we can, the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.
Hymn 537 We do not hope to ease our minds
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (by Gwen)
Almighty Lord God, our Heavenly Father,
We come together to worship you this morning in mind and spirit and some of us in body. We thank you for looking after us all through the difficulties of the Corona virus and praise you for all the goodness shown to each other over this time. Even in times of lockdown, there were times that kind hearted souls went the extra mile to follow Jesus’ example in helping others.
As we come closer to you our lives are drawn closer to others. Our minds turn to images of violence we have seen on the news in places of fear and terror, to where people are at loggerheads, over race, religion, land, power.
Our thoughts turn to Christians living with persecution who face danger, simply for being linked to you.
We add our prayers to those praying for the people of India, Nepal and Pakistan where the pandemic is causing so much suffering, death and distress; where families are so helpless to do anything for their loved ones due to lack of facilities, medication, oxygen and care.
We pray for those in northern Israel where so many Jews gathered for a religious festival and many people were trampled to death in the crush, among them a number of children with many others being separated from their families.
Our thoughts turn to people in leadership and power – who have decisions to make over the economy and people whose jobs and livelihood will be affected especially as there is a releasing of lockdown there is still uncertainty about the viability of businesses. We pray for our nation, and its leaders. May changes and choices be shaped by the values of the Kingdom.
On our hearts are people in need in our church and community. Wherever hearts are breaking …bodies are failing …minds are confused …families are ruptured … In particular today, we raise up to you, in silence, all who lie heavily on our hearts, who need your special touch ----------
Lord, come with your help and healing.
Here, too, as your church gathered today, we give thanks for the saints of the past and the fruit they have borne in our community and beyond. Like them, help us to remain in you that we may be fruitful and bring glory to Your name. Through Jesus Christ, the true vine.
Hymn 519 Love divine
Let us go into the world
with a love that moves us into life,
and to love others before they love us,
for this is of God.
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: Widor’s Toccata from Symphony no.5 in F
From the Foodbank
The next collection date for the Stewartry Food bank is Tuesday 11th May, 9 - 9.30am at Kirkcudbright Parish Church.
Our shelves are very well stocked and the only items which are likely to run low in the coming month are:
bars of soap
As always, thank you for your continuing support.
Donations can be left in Gatehouse at the Gatehouse Stores, or in Jim Logan’s Pend, the door to the left of 16 Fleet Street.
In Twynholm, the Church will be open for donations on the afternoon of May 9th until 5pm. Please use the door opposite the main gate.
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.