Previous Posts 19th March 2020 to 15th April 2020

Previous posts during the Coronavirus period appear below (most recent first)

Wednesday 15th April 2020 – Return of Ian Stirling and thanks to Andy Muir

We will all be pleased to learn that after a period of illness and recuperation, Ian Stirling will be returning to minister in both churches from next week. He plans to write a series of reflections each Sunday, commencing 19th April, which will be posted here (with links also from the Facebook pages), and will resume his pastoral duties with effect from Monday 20th April. Ian has indicated that he appreciates very much the sense of prayerful support he has had from many sources, and observes that it is always good to travel in companionship.

From 20th April, Ian intends to resume pastoral responsibilities and will start reengaging with members of the congregation and community. He expects his recuperation to continue for some time yet, and will therefore try to pace himself sensibly to ensure that he stays strong and in a good place spiritually and emotionally.

He has said that he is very appreciative of how everyone has stepped up to the mark to hold the church in good standing during these difficult times, and he has indicated his enormous appreciation for Andy Muir who he says has done brilliantly in his capacity of leading us in this uncertain time.

Andy is coming to the close of his placement with Fisherton and Kirkoswald, although he expects still to be involved with us from time to time, including providing some cover when necessary. Andy wishes to thank everyone at both churches for his time with us and sends his best wishes for the future. For our part, we extend our huge appreciation to him for all he has done, and for the faith he has shared and inspired us with. And we wish him every blessing as he continues his journey.

EASTER SUNDAY 12th APRIL 2020 – HE IS RISEN!

11th April 2020 – Service and Sermon for Easter Sunday from Andy Muir

Dear friends, 

As I write this, the sun is shining, and the sky is blue. We should perhaps feel concerned that we cannot go out on such a beautiful day, but hopefully, we can always spend some time in our gardens. Although this is difficult for us all, the more we stick to the government advice, the sooner we shall all be able to come out the other side of this. I’m sure many of you will be out of sync, as I am, without going to Church on a Sunday. It seems that all the days just blend into each other, but hopefully, things won’t take too long before we can begin to return to normal. In the meanwhile, please try and stay positive. Please keep in touch with friends and family in any way you can safely do so, and try not to dwell on the negativity that some sources are only too happy to share. Nobody is suggesting this is an easy time, but let’s make it as tolerable as we can, and who knows, we might even surprise ourselves with the things we learn, or find ourselves doing. I have heard from Ian, and I am delighted to share with you, the good news that he is making progress and hoping to return soon, so this may be my last time with you. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in both churches for making Shona and I so welcome. I have made so many friends, and I feel I have learned and grown so much during my time here. It has been a pleasure to minister to you all in some small way. We have shared many laughs and some tears along the way. I shall remember my time with you all with much joy. I look forward to the end of the current restrictions so I can come and say goodbye properly to everyone in person.

Until then, please allow me to share one last online service with you all, on this very special Easter Sunday.

God bless you all.

Andy.

Reading

Matthew 28:1-10 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Has Risen

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

We rejoice this Easter day that Jesus Christ is risen!

Let us celebrate, that in the sure and certain knowledge of the resurrection, we live with the promise of eternal life. 

Let us remember that, in this life, you are always with us whether we are in our church buildings or at home, as many of us are at present.

We pray for a swift end to this current situation and that in the meantime We ask thatyou keep us all safe and well.

Help us, Lord, not to make ourselves ill with worry, but to remain positive and the knowledge that you have all of this under control.

Help us not to be self-centred,

but instead, enable us to see how we can help others less fortunate.

Help us to follow the guidance that we are given from those in the medical professionand the government,

and to be patient and tolerant when we do have to go out.

Most of all, Lord, help us to have faith in you.

We also pray for others at this difficult time;

for help for those who may have lost their job and their income;

for those who have other illnesses, which may have been forgotten by us during this present crisis,

and we pray for those who may be struggling to bring food to their table during this crisis.

Father, help us to look out for all those who are less fortunate than ourselves,

and to share what we have, with those who have not.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our minister, Ian and his family, at this time. 

We thank you, Lord, for the progress that Ian, our minister, is making.

We ask that you continue to provide healing and that you help us to give him the space that he needs as he gets better, sharing the load wherever we can.

We pray that this will be a time of reflection for the world;

A time when we can finally stop and listen for your still, soft voice;

A time when we can decide what is important to us in life.

We know, Lord, that many do not put their faith in you, because they do not have the time to stop and think.

Now that they do, we pray that we may see a revival of faith across the nation.

We pray that in this time of trouble, people will come to you, And find Salvation.

Deliver us from all this time of trouble, Lord, and help us to recognise you as our strong deliverer.

These things we pray in Jesus name,

Who taught us to pray, saying,

Our Father, 

Who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil,

for thine is the Kingdom,

the power, and the glory,

forever.  

Amen.         

Sermon

HE IS RISEN! – HE IS RISEN INDEED!

The above statement and response have been used in churches for centuries. Iexpect to hear these words spoken in an Easter service, and when I do, it always makes me smile with the reassurance that it brings. Sadly I won’t hear it this year,though. It is quite sad that the Coronavirus would strike at any time, but it is especially unfortunate at Easter. There are millions of Christians all over the world who will be deeply saddened by the fact that the churches are all closed, and there is nowhere we can go and worship on what is the most important day of the year in the Christian calendar. However, If you agree with that last sentence, then you haven’t understood what Church is, and that is something which is quite common. Let me explain. 

On the 15th of April 2019, Fire broke out in one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in Europe, if not the world; Notre Dame Cathedral. The effects were devastating, leaving the roof and much of the interior in ruins. It was on the front page of every newspaper in the western world, with people transfixed by the live pictures of the flames which were televised on every tv channel. This was indeed a tragedy, a beautiful ancient church from the 12th century, destroyed, and filled with ash, smoke and water. People were in tears all around the world, questioning how God could have allowed such a thing to happen. Global fundraising began at unprecedented levels, and President Macron publicly stated that not only would theyrebuild it, but it would be better than ever!

Perhaps it is because Christianity no longer shapes our nation or many other nations, that the media failed to realise that Notre Dame is not Church. It is a church building, but it is not Church. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus tells us, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”. Although our church buildings are closed this Easter, we are still Church, and if two or three of us read this together, then this is Church, and Christ is with us. As we do so, I ask you to imagine the words spoken aloud “HE IS RISEN – HE IS RISEN INDEED”. Send them as a message to a friend, and savour them in your heart, for it is these words that give us hope; the resurrection provides us with the promise of eternal life. In John 11:25-26, Jesus told Martha, and he tells us today, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”. Jesus promises us, that to have eternal life, we must believe. 

I read something just the other day that made me wonder just how many people dobelieve in the resurrection though. 

“A woman wrote to J. Vernon McGee, saying: “Our preacher said that on Easter Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?” McGee replied, “Dear Sister, beat your preacher with a leather whip for thirty-nine heavy strokes. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for six hours Run a spear through his body. Embalm him. Put him in an airless tomb for three days. Then see what happens””.

I’m not too sure that ‘preacher’ would put his own words to the test.

The Apostle Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 15:13-14,

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then is our preaching is useless and so is your faith”.

Today, I want to look at some of the evidence that we have for the resurrection, in the hope that this may affirm believers faith, help agnostics decide and give non-believers something to think about.

I can understand how some people will question this, as there was a time when I did so too. It seems a little far fetched to expect that anyone was raised from the dead, doesn’t it? I mean, it just doesn’t fit with our understanding of the way things work. When someone is dead, they are dead. If anyone agrees with this, I wonder, if a loved one died from a heart attack, would you expect the doctors or the medics touse a defibrillator perhaps? Many people have died and been brought back to life because of these fantastic machines. Science has allowed us to do something, only under certain conditions, which God can do under any condition. We are governed by the laws of the natural world; God is a supernatural God. The rules of nature do not limit Him.

Perhaps now, some people may be conceding that, yes, we can bring people back to life, but Jesus was dead for days, not hours. In that case, let’s look at some of the historical proof. After 2000 years, we cannot give exact details, but I think we can use the available evidence to prove the resurrection beyond a reasonable doubt.1. Jesus was crucified by the Romans.

It is inconceivable to think that Jesus didn’t die on the cross. Crucifixion had been around for about six hundred years, the earliest examples we know of were carried out by the Babylonians, but we can be certain that, as with anything else, the Romans would have perfected it. I have already mentioned what Jesus suffered. Add to that, the fact that crucifixion slowly suffocated its victims. You needed to use your muscles to keep your body from sagging so your lungs could expand. The more exhausted you were, the less you could breathe.2. Jesus was buried in the tomb of a Jew.

All four gospels tell us that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. This man was a member of the Sanhedrin, the body or council which condemned Jesus to death. The gospel writers simply would not have made up this information,unless it was true. Mark tells us that the whole Sanhedrin voted to condemn Jesus(Mark 14:55, 64 and 15:1) and we know from Paul/ Saul just how badly Christians were persecuted by the Jews.3. The tomb was discovered empty on the third day.

All the Gospels testify that it was women who discovered the empty tomb. This would be particularly odd to include if this had been a concocted story. Women were not viewed in first-century Palestine as reliable witnesses. Again, had this not been true, they would not have been named as the primary witnesses. Jesus was also buried outside the walls of Jerusalem, and we know without any doubt that the Church began in Jerusalem just after Jesus’ death. With the resurrection central to the Church’s proclamation, if the body was still in the tomb, this could never have happened.4. Many credible witnesses saw Jesus alive.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul gives us a list of people who the risen Jesus appeared to. As well as Peter and James, Jesus brother, he also appeared to five hundredpeople simultaneously. It is unimaginable to have five hundred people concoct a story and be in agreement with each other when questioned, as they surely must have been. Any policeman will confirm that often, even two people cannot get their stories to match if they are not true, let alone five hundred!5. The transformed lives of the Disciples

The last piece of evidence I want you to consider is the amazing change in the lives of the apostles. Without the knowledge that Jesus had risen, and the hope that we can all have eternal life, surely a small group of defeated disciples would have been quickly silenced by the fear of persecution and death. There is absolutely no way they could have convinced others to follow them, especially at the rate they did, had it not been true. It is estimated that within a few decades, Christ’s followers had grown to almost a hundred thousand. By 350A.D., the numbers had grown to thirtymillion across the Roman Empire. Something happened on that Sunday morning which changed their lives forever. That something was the appearance of the risen and glorified Lord, Jesus Christ.

In my opinion, this does indeed prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the resurrection of Jesus was real. I hope many people who read this will be reassured by this evidence and that non-believers will begin to question things and find Jesus for themselves. Each of us can help to spread this good news if we follow the simpleinstructions of just four little words which we find in the passage, in verses 6 and 7. Come and see – go and tell.

We have come and seen the evidence, no go and tell the world,

HE IS RISEN – HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Amen.

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

It is by your power that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

We rejoice and celebrate that he who was dead is alive,

that he who was buried has risen.

Death is conquered, we are free,

Christ has won the victory.

Lord, make us aware of the presence of the risen Christ in our lives.

Let us all proclaim the good news, ‘He is risen!’

In the power of the risen Lord, let us lead people out of darkness into light.

Christ Jesus, risen in glory,

scatter the darkness from our hearts and from our world.

Lord Jesus, as we rejoice this day,

we remember your words to the disciples,

‘Peace be with you’.

we pray for peace in our world,

that we may rise above all that would cause strife and conflict,

that your victory over the powers of evil may be allowed to work in your world.

Christ Jesus, risen in glory,

scatter the darkness from our hearts and from our world.

Risen Lord, as you appeared to Mary in the garden,

to the disciples in the upper room,

to the travellers on route to Emmaus,

be known among us.

Christ be in our homes, in our work, and in our journeying.

Risen Lord, let us walk in your presence and peace.

Christ Jesus, risen in glory,

scatter the darkness from our hearts and from our world.

We remember before you all who walk in darkness and fear,

all who are weighed down, all who are heavily Laden.

we pray for all who have lost hope,

for all who are approaching death,

for those caring for the terminally ill,

for those in a hospice.

Christ Jesus, risen in glory,

scatter the darkness from our hearts and from your world.

We rejoice in the glory our risen Lord,

and all of your Saints who have shared in your triumph over the grave and death.

We pray today for our loved ones departed,

that they may rejoice in the glory of your presence.

Christ Jesus, risen in glory,

scatter the darkness from our hearts and from our world.

Amen

Prayer by David Adam.

Blessing and benediction, 

May you find in Christ Jesus, our risen Lord, a companion for your journey, a sure ground for your hopes, the peace that passes all understanding, and the joy that life is eternal,

and the blessing of the one true God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be with you all,

both now, and forever.

Amen.

4th April 2020: Cross at Fisherton Church

4th April 2020 – Service from Andy Muir for Palm Sunday and Holy Week

Greetings friends,

This week has been extremely busy for me! Many times, I haven’t known whether I was coming or going, but I have finally managed to doeverything I needed to (I think). It is certainly giving me a taste of how life as a minister will be. Despite the cliché, I can confirm that ministers DO NOT only work one day a week!

I won’t mention the dreaded ‘C’ word this week, except to say to everyone, please follow the government advice and stay safe. It is hard to avoid the fear and negativity we continuously see in our media, but we need to remain as positive as we can for our own morale, and to carry on through this difficult time, trusting in God that in response to our prayers, God will deliver us from this situation. Instead, I shall focus on the events of Easter. We may think that this is going to be a difficult Easter, but when we consider the true meaning of Easter, our difficulties pale into insignificance. Perhaps we could each find a way to mark it, by making a cross from branches and placing it in our porch? If we have any of the palm crosses left over from previous years, perhaps we could put them in our window? It would be great to send out the message, that, even though the church building may be closed, Easter is certainly not cancelled! 

As you will know, Sunday the 5th of April is Palm Sunday, a time which I really look forward to as it marks the beginning of ‘Holy Week’. I would typically choose today to discuss Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but instead, after talking to a friend who is a minister, I have decided to follow the passion narrative. My reason for this is that we cannot do all the Holy Week services, and so, I feel that it is so important to explore the crucifixion and the atonement for our sins before looking at the resurrection next Sunday. I would encourage everyone who has access to the internet, to watch the Holy Week services, which are widely availableonline.

I have been very encouraged by all the kind comments I have received since this type of service started. I am very grateful for that, and I am just happy to be able to make this possible and to provide a way for people to continue to worship God. The reading from the lectionary is another very long one this week, but it is well worth taking the time to read it all.

Prayer 

The following is a prayer as we face the coronavirus by Colin Sinclair, moderator of the Church of Scotland.

Living God, in our hour of need, we turn again to you, For we have nowhere else to turn. We put our faith in you, because you have proved your faithfulness time and again. We reaffirm our love for you because you have never let us go. We thank you that you are not distant from us but have drawn near, in your Son, our saviour, Jesus Christ. He has shared our life, tasted our death and defeated it. He understands our worries and our fears. We pray for this pandemic spreading across our world, remembering all who have lost loved ones and praying for those seriously ill at this time.

We uphold the National Health Service as it responds to this added pressure on its already overstretched services. We pray for doctors and nurses and all in the caring professions who work to help and support People as best they can. We remember those working behind the scenes testing samples, confirming results, giving information to patients. Weuphold others trying to understand this virus better working to create an effective remedy. 

We pray for our governments in Westminster and Holyrood, as they work with the best medical advice to guide us on how we should respond and what action we should take. We pray that these guidelines may be taken seriously and that all would put them into action. May this crisis bring out the best in us, not the worst. Help us to live by faith and not by fear; to build bridges, not barriers and to resist all who would speak ill of any other group. May we not forget our responsibility to one another, not least to the vulnerable and voiceless in our communities.

Help us to find ways of keeping in touch and offering reassurance to those with underlying health issues; for any who feel particularly vulnerable or in danger at present. As the virus spreads, we pray for the disruption it causes to normal life, Bringing new fears and anxieties: we pray for those who have been laid off as their work disappears; for financial hardship for individuals and businesses; for the impact on the economy and pensions, when austerity has already left its mark. 

We pray for those whose trips, both for business and pleasure, have been cancelled; and others where events, long-anticipated and planned for, have been postponed; for those making contingency planning for home-based work Or childcare for exams. May our inconvenience not blind us to others’ loss.

We remember those who cannot visit loved ones in locked down care homes; for the elderly whose social Contacts have been severely curtailed; help us to find creative ways of keeping in touch, of assuringthem they are not forgotten or ignored. May congregations find new ways of living through this time. May we not forget our faith, But draw strength from it. So may our worship be heartfelt, our fellowship deepen and our service increase. 

God of grace and God of mercy, hear our prayers at this time. Strengthen us, by your spirit, so that we may carry on our lives as best as we are able, looking out for others, showing love in action, being faithful in prayer, and bringing encouragement, hope and peace; Always trusting in you, our Rock and our Redeemer. 

These prayers we bring to you, in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Reading

Matthew 27:11-56 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[a] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spat on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

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.

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[b] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[c]

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[d] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[e] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Sermon

Christ died that our sins may be forgiven.

Although we are not together in the church today, I still want to continue with my habit of beginning with a question. On the 7th of February 1952,what major event was announced across the world?

The British newspapers were dominated with one headline. “The King is dead”. Early that morning, King George the 6th died, passing away peacefully in his sleep at Sandringham. We know that within hours of the death of Britain’s previous King, the newspapers all across the world were announcing that the King was dead. The television, the radio and all forms of media then, would have undoubtedly been full of programs and articles which told people of the many good things that he had done. But one thing we can be sure of, the nation never celebrated the death of theKing, because we celebrate life, not death, do we not?

The contrast between the death of King George, Britain’s last King, and Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, could not be greater. Yes, Jesus died, but it was in His death that He achieved his greatest victory, and that is why we celebrate on Good Friday, the death of Jesus Christ instead of having a day of mourning.

The Cross is one of the most recognised symbols in the world, but for many people, its true meaning has been lost. For many people, Christian or secular, it has become a fashion statement; Something you might see printed on a T-shirt or fashioned as a piece of jewellery. The familiarity of the image has blinded us to the horror of what it’s actual purpose was.

How would we feel if we saw someone come to church wearing a T-shirt showing an executioner with an axe? Or a picture of a hangman’s noose? Or an electric chair? Or a guillotine? I think we would all be a little bit shocked and probably a bit offended. These things I have mentioned are all symbols of execution, and so was the Cross. In fact, the Cross was a shocking and barbaric method of execution. It was a punishment reserved for the very worst criminals, meant to inflict the maximum amount of pain, over an extended period of time. A slow and painful death awaited anyone who found themselves on a cross, and yet, here we are. We now celebrate the death of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday. So how do we interpret the events of the crucifixion? To do this, I want to look at three points. Firstly, the Cross reveals a problem; secondly, the Cross reveals a plan, and thirdly the Cross reveals a person.

The problem

On the 13th of April 1970, the words “Houston, we have a problem”, were spoken by astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission to the moon. These words have since become iconic. How many of us have used them when something won’t work, or something goes wrong?

We each have all sorts of different problems, some are small, some are big, and some are huge! The problem for those astronauts wasn’t justhuge; it was life-threatening. They were losing oxygen and slowly dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, but thankfully the people with the know-how were able to fix things.

Humanity has a problem. Each one of us, whether we care to admit it or not, has a problem. The Bible tells us this and the Cross reveals this. We all live with the effects of sin in our lives. In fact, the biggest problem for the whole of humanity is the problem of sin. No matter how much we try, we can’t avoid it, whether it presents as a fleeting, negative thoughtabout somebody, or something much worse, it is all around us, and it affects each and every one of us.

Genesis 2 tells us of humanity’s rebellion against God, and because of that, we are separated from God’s presence. Romans 5:12 tells us of the consequence of that rebellion, ”Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”. Many people don’t like to accept that fact, so let’s ask ourselves, what is sin? It’s a word that isn’t used very much in our culture today, and yet, when we read the account of human history in the Bible, it shows us a history where humanity is constantly in a state of sin, or rebellion against God. Thankfully, though, it also shows us God’s plan to save us. His plan to redeem us; to bring us back to His presence.

The Apostle Paul highlighted the struggle with sin in his own heart, in Romans Chapter 7:19, when he said, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do. This I keep on doing”. Our consciencetells us what choice we should make, but somehow our minds tell us we would rather choose another course of action, one which satisfies the desires of our own hearts. We are controlled by the things we want, and ultimately, we want independence from our creator. Human beings strive to take control. We want to be God, to be the ruler of our own lives.

Jesus said that the problem is not on the outside; the problem is on the inside. It’s our hearts that are unclean before God, and it’s the desires of our hearts, that separates us from God. So, sin is the problem that the Cross points us to. Now, this can be a painful truth. People say thatbefore you can solve a problem, you need to accept that you actually have a problem. Every person who is a Christian has at one stage in their lives, come to a point where they accepted that they were a sinner before God. But many people don’t think they have a spiritual problem. We really don’t see ourselves as sinners. Many people believe that we don’t haveany real need of God and that there’s nothing to worry about. But we read in Mark 2:17 that Jesus said to people who were judging him, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”. The Cross reveals to us that humanity has a problem, it’s a problem of sin, and it’s a serious one, but Secondly, the Cross reveals to us that God had a plan.

The plan

Humanity caused God a seemingly impossible dilemma, but it was a dilemma which He always knew how to solve. God knew how to show us mercy without undermining His righteousness. His perfect plan was to enter our world and to deal with this problem once and for all. He would send his one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come into this world to die for us on the Cross. That is why Jesus is described as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. In Matthew 20:28 we read that Jesus said, “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. This was God’s plan, to bring Salvation to the world through His Son, and throughout the whole of the Bible, we see different passages that point us to this. Probably the most famous example of this is found in Isaiah chapter 53, written by the Prophet, 700 years before these events happened. It describes the suffering of God’s servant and contains prophetic verses about the actual suffering of Jesus on the Cross. Verse 10 says “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the willof the Lord will prosper in his hand”. Jesus was committed to this plan of Salvation. He deliberately and willingly sacrificed Himself on the Cross for our sake.

In the passage, we read that Jesus resisted the temptation to come down from the Cross from those who were mocking Him. They were telling Him, in a repeat of the temptation in Matthew 4, “Come down from the cross if you are the son of God”, but He didn’t. Those who mocked Jesus were effectively asking Him to prove to them that He was God, that He was the Messiah. They were implying it was weakness that kept Jesus on the Cross when, in actual fact, it was strength that kept Jesus on the Cross. The strength of love for humanity.

The Cross can leave us in absolutely no doubt, that God loves us. To God, we are worth the price that was required. We are not worthy, but we areworth it. The value of something is not in the item or the person themselves, but it’s the value that someone places on it. We are all precious to God. He sets such a high value on us, and He has proved that by sending his Son to die on a cross for us. We don’t deserve that, but to God, we are worth it. So the Cross reveals to us that we have a problem of sin, and it reveals to us that God has a plan to save us through the death of his Son. But the Cross also reveals to us a person, and that person is Jesus Christ.

The Person

When Jesus died on that Cross, He achieved for us something that we could never do. The first thing He did was paid the penalty for us that was due for our sin. We read in verse 45 that darkness came over all the landfrom noon till 3 pm. There are previous accounts in the Old Testament where God has brought darkness over the land, for example, He brought darkness over the land of Egypt, in the book of Exodus when the people were captives. And we find in the book of Amos when God is about to judge His people, that He was bringing judgment on them for their sins and that He would bring darkness over the land. So darkness in scripture is very often used as a symbol of God’s judgments upon sin, and this is what has happened here. This terrifying darkness was a symbol of God’s judgment upon our sins. His anger, His holy justice, was burning itself out into the very heart and body of Jesus, so that He, our substitute, suffered the most indescribable agony, as He took on the sins of the whole world.

Jesus was being made sin. He was being wounded for our transgressionsand bruised for our iniquities. God was placing the iniquity of us all, upon Jesus. Only Jesus could pay that penalty, because only He lived a perfect life in every way, without spot or flaw. He was the perfect substitute, the spotless Lamb of God who would shed the blood that cleanses us from the guilt of our sin. We can never understand the agony that Jesus must have felt on the Cross because, in those 3 hours of darkness, He was separated from His father. That is why He cried out my God, my God, why have you forsaken me. Jesus experienced something He had never experienced before. He became sin; He suffered for every sin that has ever been committed, before, since, or after, and He did that for you and me. He paid a penalty that we could never pay.

Most importantly, He also gave us a status that we could never achieveourselves. The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians, 5:21, that on the Cross, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross makes it possible for us to be declared righteous before a holy God. Faith in Jesus is more than just “head knowledge”; it is heart knowledge. It is trusting in a living person for the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with God. It involves heartfelt sorrow for sin. It requires a sincere commitment to turn away from a sinful life and to have obedienceto Christ. Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are declared righteous before God; they are justified. This is a legal term; it’s a status. God is not saying that we are without sin because we know we’re not. We still battle with sin, but God has said that we are justified. So we can echo the words of the apostle Paul, “there is truly no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. This is great news. Our status, as Christians is that we are justified before God. He doesn’t see our sins; God only sees the righteousness that Jesus has purchased for us.

Jesus also achieved for us “divine access”. Verse 50-51 tells us that Jesuscried out His last words, “It is finished”, that He gave up his spirit and the curtain in the temple of God was torn in two from top to bottom. The temple was the place where people came to worship God. It was at the heart of the Jewish community. It symbolised God’s presence with His people, but at the same time, it also signified that there was a problem.There was a massive no entry sign, because only one person, the high priest, could enter that part of the temple to offer a sacrifice for sin, and only on one day of the year, the day of atonement. The priest had to go through a ritual cleansing to cover his own sins, but when that curtain was torn in two, Jesus is showing to us that our sins have been covered. The debt has been paid.

This opens up a wonderful truth that we, as Christians, can come into the presence of God because we have been cleansed. God no longer sees our sin; He sees the righteousness of our saviour. Not only did Christ and the Cross obtain divine access for us to our heavenly father, but His death, coupled with the resurrection achieved a great victory. Waterloo has become synonymous with great victories in British history. The battle of Waterloo marked a decisive defeat for Napoleon, so much so that even today if someone suffered a defeat, we might say he has met his Waterloo. It’s something that’s ingrained into our language, and in those days without mobile phones or computers, communication would have only been possible by semaphore. A message would go from lookout to lookout, and the story is told that after the battle of Waterloo, when one of the ships was returning to England, it sent a signal, “Wellington”. That was the first word that was received. Then it signalled the second word,which was, “defeated”. At that moment, a great fog came down over the land. The people descended into gloom because they believed that Wellington had been defeated, but that fog lifted when the other two words came through, to say, “Wellington defeated the enemy”!

You can see how the Cross must have seemed like a crushing defeat for the followers of Jesus. They had put their hope in Him, risked their lives for Him and yet here He was, crucified on a cross. But the Cross was no defeat; instead, it was His greatest victory which has been celebrated ever since.

Amen.

Prayer, Written by D. Adam

Lord, You give us life, you give us love, and you give us yourself. Help us to give our lives, our love, ourselves to you; through Christ who died and rose again for us and who lives with you and the Holy Spirit and everlasting light. Amen.

Lord, We come to you as people broken by sin and divided by factions.

We come weak in our mission, failing in holiness.

We come neglectful in our prayers and insensitive to your presence,

become lacking in vision and wavering in faith.

We remember all who have broken faith,

broken vows, broken commitments.

Lord, broken on the cross, we come to you.

Only you can make us whole.

We come as a world broken by war,

with all divided by fear,

with all who are shattered by betrayal of trust,

with all who are fractured by oppression.

Lord, broken on the cross, we come to you.

Only you can make us whole.

Lord, we come with broken hopes and broken dreams,

with broken relationships and broken hearts,

with broken promises and broken trust.

We come, a shattered people.

Lord, broken on the cross, we come to you.

Only you can make us whole.

We come with all your broken people.

We come with a broken in spirit,

with the despondent and despairing.

We come with the broken in mind,

with the deeply distressed and the disturbed.

We come with the broken in body,

with all who are injured and all who are ill.

We come to you with all our needs.

Lord, broken on the cross, we come to you.

Only you can make us whole.

We Remember all who have been killed through injustice, cruelty or carelessness,

all who have died that others might live.

We rejoice that now they know the wholeness and holiness of your Kingdom.

Lord, broken on the cross, we come to you.

Only you can make us whole.

Amen.

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

We seek your love and your peace at this time.

Our hearts are heavy and troubled, as we listen to the news of the coronavirus sweeping across our nation and the entire world.

We cannot understand how this has happened, or how it can be controlled.

Help us Lord, not to make ourselves ill with worry,

but instead let us remain calm and hopeful for a cure.

Help us to follow the guidance that we are given from those in the medical profession.

And most of all, Lord, help us to have faith in you.

We bring all our worries, cares and concerns before you at this difficult time.

We pray for help for those who may have lost their job and their income;

for those who have other illnesses, which may have been forgotten by us during this present crisis,

and we pray for those, who struggle to bring food to their table.

Father, help us to look out for all those less fortunate than ourselves,

and to share what we have, with those who do not.

Our thoughts and prayers or with our minister, Ian and his family, at this time. 

We ask that you provide healing for Ian, and that he is aware of your loving presence each day.

We pray that this will be a time of reflection for the world;

A time when we can finally stop and listen for your still, soft voice;

A time when we can decide what is important to us in life.

We know, Lord, that many do not put their faith in you, because they do not have the time to stop and think.

Now that they do, we pray that we may see a revival of faith across the nation.

We pray that in this time of trouble, people will come to you, And find Salvation.

Deliver us from all this time of trouble, Lord, and help us to recognise you as our strong deliverer.

These things we pray in Jesus name,

Amen.

Blessing and benediction

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and know the saving power of God,

And the blessing of the one true God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,  

be with you all,

both now and forever.

Amen.

28th March 2020 – Reflection from Andy Muir for Sunday 29th March

A thought from your trainee minister, Andy Muir.

Dear friends

As I write this, I am aware that most of us will be finding these times quite difficult. Last Sunday in particular, felt really odd to me as I’m sure it did toeveryone else, because it was the first Sunday morning in many years that I have not been to a church to worship. However, I would like to try and share some encouragement during these strange times. 

As much as we all feel very attached to our Church, and we hopefully find it a place where we can feel the presence of God, let’s remember that Church is not just a building. It is not an organisation or a belief system; Church is made up of you and me; The family of believers who are all united in Jesus Christ. We are all united in spirit, and wherever we are on a Sunday morning or any other day of the week for that matter, we can still come together into God’s presence and worship Him.

I would encourage everyone to keep in contact, using whatever safe means are available, with not only your friends but also with anyone else you feel may be lonely at this time. What has encouraged me most, even in these early days is the way that people are coming together and caring in ways that are beyond allexpectation. I am pleased to say that the Coronavirus is not the only contagious thing at the moment. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the contagious outworking of goodwill, love and charitable spirit that seems to be spreading even faster among people than the virus!

I hope that during this time, we will all find the time to take stock of our lives, find out the things that are truly important to us, and come closer to God each day as we place our trust in Him and not in wealth or worldly possessions.

Prayer and Lords Prayer

Let us take a moment to come before God in prayer.

Heavenly Father, 

You are above all earthly powers, and you are in control of all things.

Help us to know this assurance in our hearts as well as our minds,

giving us an awareness of the blessings you pour out on us.

Help us today, and in the weeks to come, to draw ever closer to you,

knowing the certainty of your love, care and compassion in these very uncertain times.

Lord, we pray that you impart your wisdom upon the world leaders, the scientists and decision-makers at this time,

enabling them to find practical solutions to the pandemic that is sweeping this world.

Please help the scientists in their understanding of this virus, and to develop both a vaccine and a cure.

We thank you for the courage and commitment of frontline workers throughout the world,

and we ask your protection upon them.

We also ask for your peace to be in the world, easing peoples fears of going without, and allowing a fairer distribution of food and other household items.

Lord, help us to understand that you will supply us with our daily bread, 

both physically and spiritually, as you have always promised.

During this time of social isolation and distancing, 

help us to be able to reach out and help the most vulnerable in our community.

We may need to find new and intuitive ways to do this, 

so we ask you to lead us forward and inspire us with the necessary ideas.

Help us to share your love and care to those who need it most.

Father, we also pray that you to share your love and your peace with our minster Ian and that you bring him back to full health.

We are all looking forward to his speedy recovery, and we ask that your presence is felt by Ian, Mandy and all the family.

Lord, we ask for your help to stay strong during these times and to be able to put our fears and our cares before you

These things we ask in Jesus name,

Who taught us to pray, saying,

Our Father,

Who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

Amen 

Bible Reading

John 11 verses 1 to 45

The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Reflection

If anyone has a mortgage or has borrowed a significant amount of money for something, the sensible thing to do would be to take out life insurance for at least the amount borrowed, naming your partner or your children as the beneficiary just in case something goes wrong. I think it would be quite a selfish act not to, because, on the event of your death, your loved ones could face financial ruin. Thankfully, life insurance is readily available and very easy to set up. We just choose the amount and pay the monthly premiums.

Both 2000 years ago in this passage, and today, Jesus is offering us not life insurance, but rather life assurance. He is offering us the assurance of eternal life, and there isn’t any premium to pay! The only thing we must do is believe. Jesus makes this fact clear numerous times throughout the passage, and in many different ways. In verse 9, Jesus says, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they will see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light”. We will not stumble if we walk in the light of Christ.

In verse 25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”. Eternal life is ours when we confess that we believe.

In verse 40, He says, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” In eternity we will be able to see the true glory of God.

In John chapter 1, verse 4, we are told that Jesus is the light of the world. In chapter 3, verse 15, Jesus tells us “that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him”. 

He cannot make things any clearer. Jesus is the light. If we walk in His light, we will not stumble, and we will see His glory. If we believe in Him, we shall have eternal life after earthly death, and He has shown proof of this by raising Lazarus from the dead! 

Jesus has not just given proof to those who believed, but many of those who saw also believed and this has given glory both to God and to the Son of God.

This life assurance is not a cash pay-out, but the assurance of eternal life after our death. The terms of this policy are simple and cost nothing. Whoever believes in Jesus, shall have eternal life!

Another verse I want to bring to your attention to is verse 37, where some of the Jews ask, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”. That is a question we still constantly ask in many ways, even today. We often ask in light of a tragedy; why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why did God allow this or that to happen? Perhaps we ask this when we lose a loved one, or even maybe right now as we face the threat of thisCoronavirus. It seems perfectly normal to ask why, just as some of the Jews did in this passage, but let us think about that for a moment.

God is not a game player, who made us so that he could watch us follow a pre-set route like a train set, sheltering us and not allowing us choices. If he did that, we would be nothing short of robots. Can you imagine what life would be like if we couldn’t decide anything for ourselves? If we couldn’t decide what to say or what to wear? If we couldn’t decide where to live or who to marry or whether to have children? Certainly, nothing would go wrong, but what a dull life it would be.

Thankfully we do have free will, and we are also granted dominion over everything in this world. We can decide anything and everything we choose. The downside of freewill is that some things will not be decided in the right way, though. We may not see the rise of tyrants until its too late, or know if someone will be capable of the worst crimes imaginable.Nor will we know when things like this virus will break out, and we will notimmediately know best how to deal with it. It is in times like these, we just have to believe, and with faith, the answers will be revealed to us. Just as in the case of the blind man, or in the case of Lazarus, if we believe, then God will provide the cure, and in doing so, He will be glorified. 

I hope and pray we have found the best way to deal with this virus just now and I pray that we will have a complete cure before long. Until we do, though, we must come before God, praise him and believe he will show us the way.

Amen.

You will all be in my thoughts and my prayers until we meet again,

Until then, please take care and stay safe.

Blessing

Stay positive and be aware of all the blessings in our lives, whether large and small. Protect yourself and think how to help others,

And may the blessing of the one true God,

Father Son and Holy Spirit,

Be with you all,

Now and forever. 

Amen.

22nd March 2020 – Information from Church of Scotland about Online Resources

Church of Scotland – Covid-19 Briefing – 20th March 2020

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23 is the Lectionary Psalm for this weekend, and an appropriate one for a time such as this, as we journey through Lent in unprecedented times for most of us.

Worship

We are very conscious of the need to provide spiritual resources in this time, both nationally and locally. While physical services are cancelled, a number of churches are moving to offer online worship.  We will be providing a recorded service every Sunday via the Church of Scotland website and social media platforms, as well as transcripts which can be printed and delivered to those who are not able to access online resources. We will also be aiming to provide guidance and ideas for how congregations can connect with each other and offer spiritual practices for members to follow in their own time. For this purpose we have created a dedicated page on the Church of Scotland website which will be updated over the days and weeks ahead.

Some resources have already been signposted for us, and we hope to pull them together and publicise them using different channels. Cormac Russell writes on Asset Based Community Development, and he stresses:

We are not engaging in ‘social-distancing; ’ we are engaged in ‘physical distancing’

while remaining social.

Prayer

Scotland’s Church Leaders have joined with others in the United Kingdom, as reported in the previous briefing, calling for a National Day of Prayer, and inviting people to join together at 7 pm on Sunday 22nd March to say a common prayer together; this prayer can be accessed from our website.

Radio and Television/Social Media

Early conversations with BBC Scotland about a possible Sunday service to be broadcast are taking place; further details will be released as they become available. The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Right Reverend Colin Sinclair, has prepared a brief act of worship, and this will be available on the Church’s website, and on social media, from the morning of Sunday 22nd March 2020. He will also deliver a live daily reflection on Facebook beginning on the morning of Monday 23rdMarch, at 10 am.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will also broadcast on Radio 4 at 8.40 am on the morning of Sunday 22nd March.

Conclusion

The above is offered in the light of current information, and is of course subject to further public health guidance and directives from the Scottish Government. The situation is changing frequently, and we shall offer further updates as information becomes available.

A Prayer to finish

The Reverend Dr Lezley Stewart, Secretary for Recruitment and Support, has written a prayer for this time, and it can be found on the Church of Scotland website.


19th March 2020 – Message and Worship from Andy Muir, Minister in training:

Dear friends,

For the benefit of anyone who may not already know me, my name is Andy Muir, your trainee minister at Fisherton and Kirkoswald.

As Ian is currently unwell, I have taken it upon myself to write this article which I hope will help in some way help to bring people before God in Worship. 

As I’m sure you have all heard by now, the Church of Scotland has requested that we stop all forms of public worship as of Wednesday 18th March. While many of us find this news deeply upsetting, please be assured that the decision has not been taken lightly. This decision was made according to the latest expert advice, and with the best intentions for our congregations’ health and well-being in mind. 

Although we are not able to physically come to church and worship, it is important that we keep worshipping God during this time. The Coronavirus has undoubtedly changed the world, and it will continue to change it, but love has not changed. Our God has not changed, and the hope that we have in him has not changed. Now, more so than ever, we should think of the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Up until now, it has been too easy for us to come to church on a Sunday, and perhaps not pray, or read the Bible again until the next Sunday. But Jesus doesn’t teach us to ask God for our weekly bread. Instead, we are told that we should ask for our daily bread. We can only do that by reading God’s word and coming before him in prayer, each day.

I would also encourage everyone, now more so than ever, to keep in contact with each other. For people who are self-isolating, a phone call can be a blessing, or perhaps Facebook Messenger, or an email. For those of us who are currently lucky enough to carry on with our lives in a reasonably normal fashion, it is hard to imagine how important it is for those who are isolated, to hear another human voice. How important it is to interact with friends and family in some way, even though they may not be able to come into direct contact with them. Another way we can help each other is to deliver any groceries or prescriptions that are required by those who cannot go themselves. Please be aware though, that no physical contact should be made when delivering these items; instead, these should be left on the doorstep. 

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse during times like these. We have all seen numerous examples of people only looking inwards, bulk buying, and only thinking of their own needs. Now is a time when we have an opportunity to show people what it means to be a Christian. We should look outwards, thinking of the needs of others as well as ourselves. Remember that we are called to love our neighbour as ourselves. I would suggest we try our best to avoid being drawn into the negative side of social media. Instead, either simply ignore any negative posts or better still, post something light-hearted ourselves as we try to keep the love and goodwill alive in society.

Prayer

As you read the following words, I invite you to join with me in prayer;

Heavenly Father,

We are confused and upset just now.

We cannot understand why things are happening the way they are.

We hear so many different messages about what is, and what might be,

But really, no one knows except you.

We are saddened by the pictures on our TV screens, as we see the darker side of humanity surfacing.

Everywhere we look, there are empty shelves, or else everyday items appearing for sale at over inflated prices.

We turn to you, Father, for comfort and reassurance at this time.

We ask for calm and common sense to prevail, as well as love and respect for others.

We ask that you inspire everyone to come together and help each other, instead of looking only to ourselves.

It is extremely hard for us to see any positives in this situation, but we pray that you help us to use this time to re-examine ourselves. To search our hearts and find out the things which are most important to us in life.

Help us to come closer to you, Lord, as we realise, we are nothing without you.

We know that we can seek our refuge in you.

It is only in you, Father, that we can place our trust.

We also pray that you would empower us with the fruit of the spirit, which is essentialfor us during this time of trial.

Please fill us with the fruit of Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Equipped with these gifts Father, we will manage to weather this current storm, much more easily.

Let us think of others who are not so fortunate at this time,

Those who may need the use of the food banks but cannot venture out;

Those who want to stock up but cannot afford to;

Those who are suffering from underlying ailments and illnesses and who are living in fear of catching this virus.

Lord, let us do all we can to help people, both physically and mentally, keeping up their morale.

These things we ask in Jesus name,

Who taught us to pray, saying,

Our Father,

Who art in Heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done, 

On earth, as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, 

but deliver us from evil,

For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory, 

Forever. 

Amen.

Word

This week, the lectionary reading is John 9, the whole chapter. 

John 9:1-41 NIV Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed and came home seeing.

His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said.

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Spiritual Blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

My aim is not to write a sermon here, but rather, just a brief reflection upon the passage looking at only three verses to see how it is relevant to us today.

Reflection

At this point, Jesus has just finished what is known as the ‘temple discourse’. Adiscussion which ended with Jesus slipping away from the temple grounds before He was stoned after He declared his identity with God, saying; “Very truly I tell you, … before Abraham was born, I am!”.

The current passage doesn’t indicate any break in time and simply appears to proceed from the last account. I want to raise your attention to the following points.As Jesus and his disciples are walking along, they saw a blind man. The disciples asked Jesus;1. Vs 2. “Rabbi, who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”.  2. Vs 3. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 3. Vs 16. Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath”.

Firstly, this man is not blind because of the effects of anyone’s sin; he is just unfortunate.

Secondly, we cannot for one moment suppose that God has made this man blind so that He can prove a point or show His glory in public. Despite everything this man has suffered during his life, God was not to blame, but He will show His mercy and His glory by performing a miracle in an otherwise hopeless situation.

Thirdly, the Pharisees should have recognised Jesus. They have been eagerly awaiting the Messiah, and now He is here, they cannot see Him for who He is. The irony is not lost on John, as he shows us that the Pharisees, who should have seen the Messiah, were spiritually blind, yet, the blind man saw and worshipped Him immediately.

So what does all this mean today? The first point is still typical of us today, especially in this current crisis. How many times does something negative happen in our livesand our response is, “Why me!”. What did I do to deserve this? It is as if we expect all the bad things that happen in life to be a result of something we have done? Now that we have got this virus among us, we might be forgiven for asking, what did we do to deserve this? How can God do this to us? This response is understandable, but of course, no one is to blame, the situation simply is. 

Why don’t we turn this around, and rather than ask questions to which there aren’t any answers, we might ask how we can respond to this crisis, at a time when God may be revealed to us more closely than ever before.

Once we have accepted that this is nobody’s fault, we can expect that God will do great things in the face of this adversity just as He did with the blind man. I pray that those who do not have to isolate, will be able to share the love of Christ through the way we help and look out for one another and that these examples will be an inspiration to us all. I pray that during this crisis, those who do have to self-isolate can use the time to grow closer to God in their daily lives and form a more intimaterelationship with Him than they have ever known before. As difficult as it is to draw positives from this situation, I am confident we will hear many unique and heart-warming stories of love, selflessness and compassion.

Lastly, many will be able to see Jesus amid this crisis today, but sadly there will also be those who can not see beyond their own selfish and greedy needs. I ask that each one of us does everything we can for our friends and our neighbours, whether a phone call or perhaps something more, each one of us can make such a difference to those most affected. Let us be aware, and keep our eyes and ears open for the poor, the sick and the needy, as we know this is what Jesus would have done. Let us remember that this will pass, that things will get better. Hopefully, once we have taken stock of the whole situation, we will have come to realise what is actually important to us in life and be better people, who can walk closer to God because of that.

Amen.

Please know that you are all in my prayers.

Stay well until we meet again,

Andy Muir.

With the first light of dawn – May God bless you

When the long day is done – May God bless you

In your smiles and your tears – May God bless you

In your hopes and your fears – May God bless you

Amen.