Tuesday, 29 August 2017

September Communion

Quarterly Communion Service:

Our next Communion Service will be:
10.30am Sun 3 September, in the parish church at Abington.

"This is the table, not of the Church, but of the Lord. 
It is to be made ready for those who love God
and for those who hope to love God more. 
So, come, you who have faith 
and you who have doubts. 
Come if you have been here often, 
and come if you have not been here long. 
Come if you have followed, 
and come if you have stumbled. 
Come, because it is the Lord who invites you. 
It is Christ’s will that those who seek him 
will meet him here at his table. 

We practice an open table: all who are baptised, regardless of denomination,
are welcome to share in bread and wine.
Children and communion: children may receive communion
at the discretion of their accompanying adult.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Sermon Sun 27 Aug: 'Spirit of hope' wk51 WMRBW

READINGS/ Rev 1:9-19; Rev 21:1-27; Rev 22:1-6, 16-21

Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

There was a story in the news yesterday that caught my eye.
Two people in London, a man and a woman, minding their own business, are sitting on the Tube on their way home from a night out.
The woman does a slight double-take when the man sits down opposite her, which, naturally, catches the his attention.
He looks at her a little more closely, trying to work out why she seems vaguely familiar.
Meanwhile, curiosity gets the better of her:
breaking the unwritten protocol of the Tube, which is, basically,
to politely ignore fellow travelers, she asks,
‘Don’t I know you?’ 
Now, he’s done a little TV and radio presenting, so he thinks it’s just that:
‘Probably from Crime Watch’ he jokes.
But no, that’s not it.
And then, they realise:
back in 1992, a much younger Howard had picked a much younger Brigette
as his date on the show, ‘Blind Date’…
so, keeping on that theme, I guess it was a bit of a ‘Surprise Surprise’
for both of them to meet 25 years later.
Now, back in the day, the show had whisked the couple off to Germany for their date
where they spent the weekend drinking champagne and trying to get to know each other a little.
A couple of weeks after the date, they spoke on the phone, but nothing really came of it.
This time around, however, Howard’s clearly quite taken with Brigette, and she, with him –
both seeing the other in a new light.
Plans are afoot to see each other again, and it all sounds...hopeful...

Sometimes, I wonder if that vaguely familiar –
‘Don’t I know you?’ feeling is a little like how we react to the very last book in the Bible:
the Book of Revelation.
Yep, we know it’s there, we may even have taken it out for a wee date –
well, opened a few pages to try and get a little more familiar with it,
and then put it aside, because...well, frankly, it’s just a very odd piece of writing.
Today, we have the opportunity to look again at this Book, and maybe –
a little like Howard and Brigette –
we might see it in a new light and, find hope within in it:
because, for all it’s seeming strangeness, ‘hopeful’ is the word
that I’d choose to associate with the Book of Revelation.
So let’s do a little exploration,
looking at the beginning, and the ending of it,
to get a sense of what this Book is all about.

An alternative name that’s occasionally used for the Book of Revelation is:
‘the apocalypse of John’.
That word ‘apocalypse’ has all sorts of interesting connotations
when we hear it, and none especially cheerful.
‘Apocalypse’ is the kind of word that makes you think of
doom and destruction; great catastrophes.
Actually, all it really means is ‘unveiling’ –
and what the Book of Revelation reveals to us
is a God whose agenda is about life, not death;
a God of resurrection and renewal, not utter ruin.

Apocalyptic writing, such as we see here, and in the Old Testament, in Daniel,
has strange things happening within it,
has odd creatures – like a lamb with 100 eyes,
or great mysterious beasts – there's a dragon, in Revelation.
What does it all mean?
For a start, it’s not meant to be interpreted literally:
think of the strange style of writing as if it were like painting with words.
If you try to go down the path of taking a literal interpretation you may end up in some
very odd places indeed – and down the years, some folk have.
But, back to that question:
what does it all mean –
what’s it all about –
and what’s the relevance for us?

Revelation was written in the 1st century, either around the year 60, or, possibly 90.
In either case, the known world was ruled by Rome, and on the Imperial throne was a madman.
In his book ‘We make the road by walking’, Bryan MacLaren observes that:
‘Life was always hard in the Roman Empire for poor people, 
as it was for most of the followers of Jesus. 
But life was extremely precarious when the man at the helm of the empire was 
vicious, paranoid, and insane, as both Nero and Domitian were.’
Under the reign of both of these emperors, Christians were persecuted:
tortured and killed for their faith…
because what both Nero and Domitian really wanted, was to be worshipped as a god.
The Christians simply couldn’t do it, and died.

‘Revelation’, then, is written to people who are living in harrowing, dangerous times;
people whose lives are on the line;
people who are decades removed from when Jesus walked with his disciples.
Life, if anything, feels worse, not better.
While they’re followers of the Prince of Peace,
while they’ve been commanded to love their enemies
and pray for those who persecute them,
given the circumstances,
could they not just turn their ploughshares back into swords;
take matters into their own hands and meet violence with violence?
Given the times, and given that they didn’t know if each day would be their last,
wouldn’t they also just be better off to follow that old saying and ‘drink, eat, and be merry’…
and, quietly give up on Jesus and pay lip-service to their very demanding Caesar instead…
and maybe live to see another day?
If their world is all going to end anyway, it sounds reasonable.
Into this mix, then, comes John’s great vision that we call ‘the Book of Revelation’ –
a message to the church:
a message looking to the future, but looking also to the present.

In our first reading, we heard an extract from Chapter One.
In it John identifies himself as the writer, and also identifies with
the struggle that all followers of Christ have been going through.
‘I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering…’ he says.
He understands the situation his readers find themselves in completely.
And then he begins to tell of the vision –
given to him by ‘someone like the Son of man’,
who has a voice ‘like the sound of rushing water,’
who has a sword coming from his mouth, not his hand –
basically, whose words are far mightier than any weapon.
This messenger is amazing in appearance, so much so, that John cannot cope:
he falls at the messenger’s feet, as if dead.
John’s utterly overwhelmed with what he’s seeing.
And then, the messenger speaks.
And the very first words spoken to John?
‘Do not be afraid.’
We’ve all heard those words before, the first words Jesus says
to those he meets after his resurrection.
And then John hears:
‘I am the first and the last; 
I am the Living One…
I hold the keys to death and Hades.’
John is met by none other than the risen Christ in glory,
and is then instructed to write down all he sees in the vision.

In the vision, John sees a great number of things,
but primarily, what is being shown is the breaking down of old powers, of old systems;
in one sense, a vision of corruption and decay:
the end of life, the end of all things.
However, that is not all there is:
in the breaking is a remaking as we see in the final sections of the vision.
‘Behold! I make all things new.’
Evil doesn’t triumph.
Those who are living under the power of tyrants are given hope –
tyrants may come,
tyrants may go,
tyrants may rise again…
but in the end…God.
Good wins over evil –
not by inflicting violence upon enemies,
but through the sacrificial love that allows the giving of One life for all.
John writes down his vision, acutely aware of the events of his current day,
and in doing so, essentially says to his brothers and sisters in persecution:
‘stay the course. 
This …   ends. 
These are the death-throes of the old way of being –
the way of darkness and of death.
We are people of the light,
we worship the God of the living, the God who makes all things new.’

John’s vision shows God making his home among us, just as in Jesus,
God walked the earth for a time.
We see the ongoing work of God, healing and renewing the heavens and the earth.
We see what the kingdom of God looks like:
no oppression, because there are no more tyrants, or bullies.
No more tears, or pain, or suffering, or death.
A place of light, not darkness, and that light, coming from God himself;
a place of welcome, where the gates are always open;
a place of healing – not just of physical wounds, but of broken relationships –
we see new accord between nations, and, no more war;
a place of life – where the river of the water of life flows, and is freely given to all.

As we hear the description of this new Jerusalem,
we hear again the echoes of the first Creation story:
here, in Revelation, God begins again –
starts afresh, walks in the new Creation with his people once more…
in one sense, this is set in the future at the end of all days.
But it’s also set in the context of the present in which John’s readers live:
they live in the now and the not yet.
The vision encourages them to stay the course,
for they are shown how the story ends…
and they also stay the course, because they understand that they are part of
bringing in the end of darkness and death,
for they live in Christ, and they have the hope of resurrection in their hearts.
John’s message to them is that,
no matter what person sits on a throne of power,
what matters is that the ultimate power is God’s.

That message is not only for those living in the 1st century under Roman rule.
We live in turbulent times –
where it feels like madness sits in the highest places of power around the world.
We feel the rise of those around us who
would do violence to people because they’re different in some way –
just as in the 1st century, Christians were different.
Some of us may feel fearful as we see what’s happening in our world,
our own country,
even in our own neck of the woods.
But, remember those words of Jesus:
‘Do not be afraid.’
Remember the message to the early Christians given to John in a most unusual way
and yet, a message giving hope to those living in terrible times:
God triumphs.
Hate doesn’t win. Love does.
The old, rotten structure is swept away –
death is destroyed and God makes all things new….life wins.

Toward the end of Revelation, there’s an invitation:
whoever is thirsty, come, take the free gift of the water of life.
That life is available to us now, in Jesus, who IS the living water.
As we drink deeply of the water that he gives, so we are strengthened
and have our hope in the One who makes all things new.
In that strength, in that hope,
so we are called to go and do the work of bringing in the new kingdom.
So, come, drink deeply of the free gift of the water of life…this day, and every day.
Come, and live into the power of the resurrection –
be made new once more by the One who calls you his people.

Let’s pray
Speak to us, Giver of Life, and make us new.
We thirst for the waters of eternal life,
we yearn to know ourselves
as Resurrection People.
Send your Holy Spirit upon us this day,
and create in us your new heaven and new earth.
Speak to us words of comfort and hope,
words of challenge and courage.
Come: move among us, we pray,
in Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

UCPC Events: coffee morning

UCPC ANNUAL COFFEE MORNING - food, fun, and fund-raising
It's back! Our annual coffee morning will be held once again in Roberton Village Hall.
Choose your morning tea from a selection of mouth-watering home baking, 
check out what's on offer to buy from our making and baking stalls, 
see what fabulous item/s you might just take home from our tombola...
Let your friends and neighbours know, 
and come along to join us on Sat 9 September, from 10.30

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sermon, Sun 20 Aug - 'Spirit of life'...wk50 of WMRBW

A bit of an out of the pulpit experience this morning, beginning at the doors to the worship space, and moving along... eventually staying at the mini-lectern by the front pew.

Readings for the morning: Ps 90; Phil 1:20-30;
Luke 20:27-38

Let’s pray: may the words of my mouth and the
thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

[from the entrance doors]
Let’s pretend, for a moment, that our aisle is a timeline…
and, let’s say that here, at the doors,
it’s way back at the dawn of civilization:
picture in your mind’s-eye people hunting and gathering,
chasing the odd woolly mammoth or two,
living in caves…
painting images of their lives on the stone walls.
 [moving several pews forward...]
Moving along the timeline…
let’s imagine that centuries have come and gone
and that, we’ve reached what we now call the 1st century:
just over the mid-way point, possibly around the year 60.
Jesus has been born, baptized, lived, died, risen, and ascended…
the day of Pentecost has come and gone,
the new religious movement of those who follow him,
who follow his teachings, has been spreading.
And in Greece, in a place called Philippi,
the community of believers have received a letter from Paul –
the one who shared the story of Jesus with them several years ago.
They listen as the letter is read,
hear of his struggles and imprisonment,
hear his encouragement to them to stand firm in the faith
and that what keeps him going –
what gives him life
is Jesus:
through the power of the Spirit of life,
he is able to find meaning and purpose
and the strength to keep telling the story
he has shared with so many,
in so many places…
for him, to live is Christ…
 [moving several pews forward...]

And so we move along our timeline again:
and, giving a nod to this, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation…
the place is what we now know as Germany – a town called Wittemburg.
It’s the end of October, 1517, and a monk named Martin Luther
wants to get into a discussion about some of the practices of the church
that he feels are unhelpful, and, in some cases, corrupt.
He stands at the door of the Cathedral hammering a paper into it, with 95 challenges.
His intention is to correct abuses:
but the outcome will change the world and continues to have repercussions even now…
 [moving to front and centre...]
Speaking of the present…
here we are:
we live in interesting times and even as we do –
God lives –
for God’s name is I AM.
God…is … here.
 [moving back to ‘1517’]
just as at this point in time:
God lives –
God is I AM,
not ‘I was’;
God is here, too.
[moving back again]
God is I AM here, as well…
[moving back again]
God is I AM here…
[moving back to doors]
God’s is here, too:
for, as we listen to the words of scripture –
as we listen as Jesus debating with those who would try to trick him,
we hear him say of God that:
‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him ALL are alive.’
[heading back to mini-lectern]
ALL are alive:
we talk of the 'communion of saints',
we hear the phrase ‘the cloud of witnesses’:
we worship a God who is beyond time and space
and who, in Jesus, breaks into our time, and our space.
No matter where on the human timeline,
…God is I AM –
fully present both in the present
and in the present of those who we think of as in the past…
or, who are yet to be.
Hard to get your head around without it feeling like your brain might melt a little!
But what’s all this timey-wimey stuff – to pinch a phrase from Doctor Who –
what’s this talk of time got to do with our readings?

For the psalmist, the living God is a refuge:
but more than that,
a dwelling-place –
God is our home:
has been,
will be…
our home throughout all generations:
in every generation that has a present,
God...is present, and God is home.

For Paul, who writes to the Philippians,
who writes while in chains,
while in captivity for his faith,
the Spirit of Christ is both a present help,
and also, gives him hope,
gives him reason to look ahead,
gives him reason to live:
‘for me to live…is Christ’ –
for Paul, just as essential as air is to life …is Jesus…
and: ‘for me, to live is Christ –
as I said a little earlier, not only does Paul live
through the power of the life-giving Spirit,
the Spirit is what gives Paul a meaning,
a purpose to live:
it gives him hope,
it gives him courage in the face of extreme difficulty –
will he get out of jail,
will he survive this ordeal?
Whatever the outcome, Paul tells the Philippians –
who are also undergoing struggles –
whatever the outcome,
the Spirit of life helps to drive away the fear –
for, to live in fear… is a living death…
Paul says that,
as God is with him,
so God is with them –
…the living God, and ...the God of the living
Life, not death, is the final word in Christ.

And, what then, of Jesus?
Our gospel reading takes us to a strange conversation on resurrection and marriage.
But the whole conversation is a set-up:
the instigators of this wee chat are those who belong to a group known as the Sadducees –
a group within Judaism that didn’t believe in the idea of an afterlife, of a resurrection.
An old high school chaplain back in the day who had a reputation for
appallingly dire jokes used to say:
‘the Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection: that’s why they were sad, you see…’
It’s such a bad pun, that’s it’s been seared into my memory for decades.
But these Sadducees want to test Jesus, so they set him up
with a hypothetical, and utterly ridiculous question,
trying to showcase just how stupid the whole idea of resurrection is.
And, here we get a little insight into the custom of Levirate marriage,
of the needing to pass down the family name:
a husband takes a wife.
Before there are any children, he dies.
The brother below him, in order to carry on the family name, then takes her as his wife…
he, too, dies childless, and so this goes on
as the poor woman is married to each of the seven brothers in turn.
When all the brothers have died, and still without child, she dies…
whose wife will she be?
I rather suspect that she’d quite like a wee break from the whole marriage thing, personally.

They know they’ve asked a ludicrous question,
Jesus knows it too, but turns it back on them:
this is what happens in our lives in the here and now, he says…
everything in this given situation is focused upon what to do in case of death –
what to do to prevent the dying out of a family line –
What about focusing upon life instead, says Jesus.

The resurrected life is very different:
nobody is giving anyone away in marriage –
people are not property;
nobody needs to secure their future through the passing down of a name –
they are named as God’s own, that is their inheritance;
nobody need fear death, says Jesus –
for there is resurrection:
God is the God of the living.
Christianity is a way of life,
…not a cult of death.
This is expressed every time that someone of faith – a follower of Christ, dies.
In the funeral, at the point of committal,
we hear less about death
and more about life.
We hear the following – or a variation of – the following:
'Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life.  
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.
We have entrusted our brother,/our sister…into the hands of God. 
Now let us commit their body to be buried:
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, 
in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died, was buried, and rose again for us, 
and is alive and reigns for evermore.' 

We come right back to Easter, here:
Jesus dies on the Friday, but he’s not just left there on the Cross –
we have the astonishment,
the wonder,
of an empty tomb,
of grave-clothes folded,
of death defeated:
of a living God, and a God of the living.
And later, the Spirit of life breathes life into those friends of Jesus,
who go out and share the story:
who see life in an entirely new way –
for the fear of death that has held them, and has stopped them from living, is gone.
They have moved from working within a context of death, to a context of life –
and so their lives flow, and grow…
and brings resurrection life and possibility to those around them;
it sustains Paul in prison,
so much so, that he’s able to encourage his friends in Philippi:
they, like he, need not fear –
need not cower in death’s shadow:
they are resurrection people,
they follow the living God,
they are filled with the Spirit of life, not death.

In good times, in hard times,
in times of joy, in times of discouragement…
God is here –
I AM, not I was
God is present –
and we are a resurrection people.
We live in a time of change, of transition.
The mainline church seems to be more and more on the sidelines of society,
so many other things compete for precious time.
Church attendance numbers are studied,
and brows furrow in concern and mutter darkly about ‘decline’ –
in some cases, we hear of strategies to ‘manage decline’
But I say:
let’s have a strategy to manage life because
the living God has not finished with us –
we are a resurrection people…

As God’s community of faith in this small corner of the kingdom,
how does living as people of the resurrection
move us, give us purpose, give us life?
What do we hope for, my friends?
For God is with us now
God is at work in us and within us…now.
We don’t worship the ‘as long as it sees me out’ God -
we worship the living God,
whose Spirit breathes life into our hearts, our souls, our minds…
Let’s be open to that Spirit – even if it may bring change
Let’s choose life, resurrection life:
let’s choose to fully be God’s living people.
And, this day, and every day,
let’s worship and celebrate the One who gives us life –
our living God,
not ‘I was’,
but, I AM.
…May it be so.  Amen.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Sunday preview: 'Everybody'

Can't remember where I came across this cartoon, but every frame tells a story of sorts, and, for me, the overall cartoon is a wee delight.

This coming Sunday, as we continue in our season of exploring the Spirit,
we'll be focusing in on the Spirit of Life; pondering beginnings and endings,
the life to come and the life we have now.

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

'Wordworks' writing group August meet up

'Wordworks', our writing group, meets this week on Thursday at 7pm in the Colebrooke Arms, Crawfordjohn.

This month's writing prompt:
take a headline from the news as your source for inspiration. How might you:
retell the story?
write about something entirely different?
tell the story with the most economic use of words?

Feel free to bring this along, or any other pieces you may be working on.

See you Thursday, by the fireplace...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sermon, Sun 13 August: 'Spirit of holiness'...wk49 WMRBW

Psalm 98;  John 14:15-29;  1 Cor. 15:20-28

Let’s pray: may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer, Amen.

The scene:
a wet and muddy field;
I’m very aware of the hole in my right shoe
and the increasingly damp sock that I’m wearing.
The midges are making me wonder
why they really needed to be included in God’s good creation.
And, I’m not alone in that thought –
some good Samaritan is sharing around their Avon ‘Skin so soft’…
Dotted about me are a cast of characters:
Luke Skywalker, an Obi-Wan Kenobi – or two,
a couple of Princess Leias,
several Chewbaccas, a Yoda,
and not forgetting R2D2 and C3PO.
There’s also a posse of Elvis’s,
some punk rockers,
and Batman’s Boy Wonder – Robin.
A whole assortment of heroes or such-like based on a sort of 70’s theme,
with a random Charlie Chaplin thrown in for good measure.

I have the horrible, agonizing job of having to judge the best costume:
a job guaranteed to make you popular with a teeny number of people,
while making you decidedly unpopular with the wider majority.
In discussion with my fellow judge, we make our decisions knowing that,
while some will be delighted, others will be disappointed.
It’s the fancy dress competition at Leadhills Gala Day – held yesterday.
And I’m always amused, and occasionally awestruck,
by the work that goes in to making the costumes for these kinds of events –
the sweat of brow, and creativity given to
how best to look like,
how to best be like
the particular character you’re trying to show to the world –
how to be your hero?
In this case, some of the props include light sabres, assorted wigs, masks,
and, for some, a lot of… fur.

But… how best, to be like Jesus?
The scene:
an upper room.
In the room, a table.
A meal has been eaten –
breadcrumbs are scattered among discarded dishes
and half-empty cups of wine.
A bucket of now-dirty water and damp towel
sit by a table-leg,
a sign of service given...
of humility shown.
Seated around the table are his friends –
and he is there, in the midst of them,
telling them that change is coming,
that things will be different,
that he … will be different…
that he will be going…
but that, even so,
they will not be left to fend for themselves;
they will not be abandoned,
not be orphans:
he is going in order that
he may live in them still,
live with them forever,
through the power of the Spirit –
the One he calls ‘Counsellor’,
the Spirit of truth,
the Holy Spirit.
He urges them, for love’s sake, to obey what he commands…
As the Father lives in Jesus,
so Jesus will live in them through the Spirit.
God will be all.
God will be all, in all.
Essentially: everything’s going to be alright.
In the words of the medieval mystic,
Julian of Norwich,
‘all shall be well, 
all shall be well,
and all manner of things…shall be well.’

But, not long after this point in that upper room,
things are going to look pretty bleak and hopeless indeed;
not well at all.
Their friend is arrested, crucified, and dies.
It probably feels to them that things are about as ‘not well’ as it gets, really.
They experience an agonising separation –
guilt and grief and desolation,
mingled with so many other emotions.
The dream is over, and death is the harsh reality.
They are stunned.
And then, everything changes.

Initially, there’s confusion.
Then the stirrings of hope.
Later, hope turns to joy.
could it be?
Yes, it could.
And then, …
they wait for the Spirit to come, just as he promised…
and when it does,
it’s as if they suddenly find their eyes
opening wide, and seeing things anew.
Their minds are also open:
to new ways of understanding
his words,
his actions,
his life…
the time he spent with them showing what God is like,
and, how to live in such a way as to best be like God.
But this is no fancy dress –
this is the real deal,
of what a life lived authentically as one of God’s people actually is.

‘Obey what I command,’ says Jesus:
it’s a command to love –
so simple.
So hard.
And yet, in loving, there comes both
and holiness…
Seeing God – the holiness – in all
brings about wholeness;
it’s about restoration:
nothing less than the restoration
of all creation,
of all created things.
It’s where balance and harmony and well-being
are the order of the day, rather than disorder.
It's where everyone, everything
is reconciled to their rightful and true purpose…
and I’m minded of our rightful and true purpose according the good old
Westminster Shorter Catechism:
What is the chief end of man?
Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. 
To shout with the joy of the psalmist;
to live into the peace given by God…

The Holy Spirit – God’s Spirit living within us –
helps to restore us, to put things right:
to reorient us to God,
reorient us to our true purpose:
to be reconciled and whole people of God,
and, as God’s holy people,
to live in our communities,
in our world,
as those who work, who strive,
to see restoration –
of people put right,
of reconciliation of neighbour to neighbour;
of reconciling people with planet –
the whole of creation.

‘All shall be well’…
We know things aren’t well in the world:
crumbs, the news this week confirms that -
we’ve got the leaders of two nations throwing threats at each other,
who potentially have an arsenal of nuclear weapons to throw as well…
elsewhere, the Ku Klux Klan have been openly marching in Virginia with lit torches,
spewing racism under the guise of patriotism:
I’m not sure about you, but I feel a weird deja-vu…
and find myself wondering how we’ve managed to go back to some
kind of nightmarish re-run of the Cold War and pre-Civil Rights.
We’ve troubles closer to home with the fall-out over what may, or may not, be
with Britain post-Brexit…
and there’s not much point rehearsing some of those arguments either side of the fence,
but merely to say how splintered we’ve become,
not how united.

‘All shall be well’…
We know things aren’t well in the world:
we are bombarded 24/7 with the news…
we are the people who know the good news –
if we really do believe that there’s more to Jesus
than just being a decent guy who had some nice, moral lessons to tell…
if we really do believe that there was more to Jesus than met the eye…
that, the words he spoke belonged to the Father who sent him…
sent him to show us how to live,
to show us of the restoring, reconciling  power of holiness,
to teach us what God looks like –
what the love of God looks like…
then, we have a job to do:
we need to share that good news –
to live it,
to love,
to be people about the work
of restoration,
of reconciliation,
of demonstrating that all shall indeed be well.
We are the good news people:
though there are fearful things afoot in the world,
we    need   not   fear –
we are not abandoned,
we are not orphaned;
for God has given us the Holy Spirit,
and bit by bit there will be restoration.

‘All shall be well’…
We know things aren’t well in the world,
but we dare to dream:
that in Jesus, God spoke;
we dare to dream:
that goodness is stronger than evil,
that love is stronger than hate;
we dare to dream:
that holiness, wholeness, will triumph
and that reconciliation and restoration
will be the order of the day;
we dare to dream:
that our songs of praise to God
will be revolutionary actions of change,
will be tools of liberation that will help throw off fear
and bring about healing and joy and freedom.
We dare to dream,
because Jesus showed us what that dream was,
and that, through the Holy Spirit,
we have the strength within us
to do the great work of restoration in partnership with God.
We dare to dream:
for we know, that in the end,
all shall be well,
for God will be all in all
and that we need not fear.

I love Bryan McClaren’s take on not living in fear. He says:
‘we won’t live in fear. 
We’ll keep standing strong with a steadfast immoveable determination, 
and we’ll keep excelling in God’s good work in our world. 
If we believe the universe moves towards purification, justice and peace, 
we’ll keep seeking to be pure, just and peaceable now. 
If we believe God is pure light and goodness, 
we’ll keep moving towards the light each day in this life.
Then, one day, when our time comes to close our eyes in death, 
we will trust ourselves to the loving Light in which we will awaken, purified, beloved, for ever. 
Until then, the Spirit leads us along in that arc towards restoration and healing. 
Like a mother in childbirth, groaning with pain and anticipation, the Spirit groans within us. 
She will not rest until 
all is made whole 
and all is made holy, 
and all is made well. 
Life will not be easy. …
(but) We will never be alone. 
…In the end 
all will be well.
That is all we know, and all we need to know.’

Let’s pray:
Holy God,
the psalmist calls us to sing your praises...
Lord, take our songs
and fill them with Your presence.
Let them bring a word of hope
to weary care-full hearts.
Take our songs
and fill them, Lord.
Fill them with Yourself.

Lord, take this place
and fill it with Your blessing.
Let it be a haven
where the poor in spirit sing.
Take this place
and fill it, Lord.
Fill it with Your praise.

Lord, take our lives
and fill them with Your praises.
Let us speak a word of peace -
the peace that Jesus gives to us.
Take our lives
and fill us Lord.
Fill us with your Spirit
this day, and every day,
we pray...amen.

Hymn 710 'I have a dream,' a man once said

Friday, 11 August 2017

Reflection zone: Psalm 98

Our psalm reading this coming Sunday is Psalm 98...

O sing to the Lord a new song,
   for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
   have gained him victory. 
The Lord has made known his victory;
   he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
   to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
   the victory of our God. 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
   break forth into joyous song and sing praises. 
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
   with the lyre and the sound of melody. 
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
   make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. 

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
   the world and those who live in it. 
Let the floods clap their hands;
   let the hills sing together for joy 
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
   to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
   and the peoples with equity.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Contacts, information, events to 9 August

Due to annual leave, the minister will be unavailable from: Mon 24 July to Wed 9 August  

Rev. George Shand
Funeral cover:
will be provided by the Rev George Shand who can be contacted
on 01899 309400.

For any ongoing parish queries, please contact our Session Clerk:
Ms Heather Watt on 01899 850211, or, if unavailable,
one of our elders - Mrs Jenny Worthington on 01899 850274

News, events, and general notices:

Schools: Our thoughts and prayers are with all the P7's from our 5 primary schools in the area, as they make the move to Biggar High School in the new school year: go well, settle quickly, work hard, and enjoy this new adventure.

Local Church Review (LCR): about every five years, each parish in Scotland
undergoes a process called the Local Church Review –
back in the old days, this used to be known as the Quinquennial.
Our turn has come up and over the next couple of months, a team from presbytery
will be meeting with a team from Upper Clyde,
helping us look at where we are and what we’re currently doing;
and then, helping us as we look ahead, and see where we might go,
and what we might do over the next several years.
Think of it as the equivalent of an MOT for the parish.
Our team, I think, covers a good cross-range of views here and
I just want to thank them publicly for giving up time to be involved in the process, so, thanks to:
Keith Black
Lynn Cochrane
Judith Gilbert
Jenny Worthington
and Dee Yates.
These are your ‘go-to’ people.  If you have any thoughts on things you’d like to see
happen here at Upper Clyde do feel free to catch up with any of the team -
they’ll feed your comments back into our team meetings.
It should be a good learning curve, I suspect we may even surprise ourselves,
so, let's enjoy the ride together. I look forward to seeing where our collective
thoughts and prayers will lead us.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Reflection zone: Psalm 150

A great psalm of praise and worship...

First, the psalm as read in scripture:
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty firmament! 
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
   praise him according to his surpassing greatness! 

Praise him with trumpet sound;
   praise him with lute and harp! 
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
   praise him with strings and pipe! 
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
   praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Second, a musical setting of Ps 150 as played and sung by Miqedim

and third, a prayer:
Lord you give life to life!
From day one, your Spirit brooding over the deep,
your wind rushing, your breath filling.
As creatures of the earth we rejoice in life
using our breath, our being
to raise this hymn of praise:
Hallelujah to the sun’s hot passion
embracing the ground’s great shoulders.
Hallelujahs for the growth from seed to plant
greening the earth; its fruit—beauty and food!
Hallelujahs for generations of life
tumbling one after another.
Life creeping, swimming, flying, running,
below, above, upon, within.
All the world sings, calls, signals, speaks
praise to God whose glory grows in all that breathes!

Fill us, enliven us, to be ambassadors of life abundant,
breathing out your song in harmony,
singing to you, our Creator,
whose glory shines through all the world. Amen.