Wardie Logo Pink

Sunday Service, 15th November 2020

Led by Rev. Bob Gemmell

Welcome

Good morning and welcome once again to Wardie Parish Church for our service of worship. Welcome to those who have joined us in church and also to those who have joined us via Zoom. Our continuing thanks to those working behind the scenes making it possible for us to join together in this way.

This particular Sunday in the year sees the start of Prisoners Week and they have very appropriately chosen the theme of not alone. We will be focusing on this subject this morning and reflecting on part of Psalm 118.

Call to Worship

For our call to worship I would like to combine words from Isaiah Chapter 6 with words from the Book of Revelation Chapter 4.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.
Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.

Hymn 111 – Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. Listen here.

Prayer

In the beginning, before time, before people, before the world began, GOD WAS.
Here and now, among us, beside us, enlisting the people of earth, for the purposes of heaven, GOD IS.
In the future, when we have turned to dust and all we know has found fulfilment, GOD WILL BE.
Not denying the world, but delighting in it. Not condemning the world, but redeeming it, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, GOD WAS, GOD IS, GOD WILL BE.

This is the place, and this is the time, here and now, God waits to break into our experience; to change our minds, to change our lives, to change our ways;
to make us see the world and the whole of life in a new light;
to fill us with hope, joy and certainty for the future.

Among the poor, among the proud, among the persecuted, among the privileged,
Christ is coming to make all things new.
In the private house, in the public place, in the wedding feast, in the judgment hall, Christ is coming to make all things new.
With a gentle touch, with an angry word, with a clear conscience, with burning love, Christ is coming to make all things new.
That the kingdom might come, that the world might believe, that the powerful might stumble, that the hidden might be seen, Christ is coming to make all things new.
Within us, without us, behind us, before us in this place, in every place, for this time, for all time, Christ is coming to make all things new.

Lord God, may we experience something of the renewing spirit of Christ in our worship this morning. Speak to us, inspire us, challenge us through the reading and preaching of your Word as we continue in your presence, taking the words of the Lord’s prayer and making them our own.

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, for ever. Amen.

Children’s talk

Oh, is it me?

Um, OK. So, what’s a good story for today? Kidz@Wardie did lots of cool things but I suppose it’s unfair to just repeat them? I would ask you for some ideas but it’s a little hard over Zoom. I’m sure I must be able to think of something.

Are you with me? Are you feeling confident? Have you given up and decided to just go make a cup of tea and wait on the next person? The people here in church can’t do that, sorry.

Did it work? Were you doubting what would happen this morning? Have you already switched off, thinking there’s nothing good to hear?

Isn’t it strange how our expectations and attitudes can do that? How our first impressions or one experience can change how we feel about something?

There’s a book that my son likes called Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose and in it the animals are sharing a meal and the line ‘carrots yuck says fussy duck’ seems to really stick with him as he likes to claim he does not like carrots – apart from ‘yuck’ his other line is to state that carrots are for bunnies, despite our evidence that they are also for humans, dinosaurs and, if you go back to the book, kangaroos. He loves carrot soup, he eats carrots in lots of meals but he’s very adamant that they are also yuck.

The reason that I shared this today is that in the Bible passage we will hear the writer talk about giving thanks to God because his love endures forever. But he isn’t just thankful for good things; he mentions some rough times in which God was with him and still goes on to give thanks to God because he is good. His attitude seems to be one of faith and confidence, knowing that God is with him, that God is good and that he is thankful.

Where can we change our attitude to be thankful – perhaps ‘thank you that we are safe’, rather than complaining that we can’t go out?

So as a challenge for today or for this week, why don’t you look for God, look for the good, look for the love and give thanks.

Scripture Readings   

Psalm 118: 1–14

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!

Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Let the house of Aaron say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Let those who fear the Lord say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.

With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.

All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees;
they blazed like a fire of thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off!

I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.

Matthew 25: 31–46

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

Reflection by Rev. Bob Gemmell: Prisoners Week

Within our reading from the NT this morning Jesus speaks about areas of particular care and ministry in which we as Christians ought to become involved: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.”

This is a theme taken up by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews: “Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering as though you were suffering as they are.”

Few of us will have the opportunity to physically visit members of the public who have been imprisoned. The only occasions on which I have been inside any prison centred around providing Court Reports during my years as a social worker or a visit I made during my social work course to the Special Unit at Barlinnie in the days when Jimmy Boyle reigned supreme there. These experiences coupled with a placement I did at Carstairs Hospital are the only opportunities I have had over the years of any kind of involvement with those in prison.

While I acknowledge that this is not an area of ministry in which we can all be involved at a practical level, it is, however, an area where we can show an interest through prayer, and where some of us can continue to care, for example through the giving of gifts and toys at Christmas time to prisoners’ families and I know that some within the church are actively involved in this particular ministry.

Information regarding Prisoners Week has come down to us through Presbytery from the Rev. Sheena Orr and I would like to quote part of her message. She writes: “This year we have all learnt what it means to be locked down behind closed doors. As a result, much of the physical support available to people in prison was not available at the same time as prison doors have been locked for more hours each day. Amid this, new ways were used to reach people to let them know that they are not alone. This year’s theme is an assurance to those inside that there are people thinking about them, praying for them and supporting them wherever possible.

“There is also a challenge to those of us on the outside – how can we ‘be there’ for people in prison? How can we support people on release and in the community? How can we show compassion to families affected by imprisonment? How can we show we care even when a physical presence is not possible? We believe that God’s presence can break into the darkest of cells … but He uses us to demonstrate that loving presence to one another.”

Sheena then adds the Prisoners Week Prayer.

Lord you offer freedom to all people.
We pray for those who are held in prison.
Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist.
Support with your love: prisoners, their families and friends,
prison staff, chaplains and all who care.
Heal those who have been wounded by the activities of others,
Especially the victims of crime.
Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, to love mercy, and walk
humbly together with Christ
in his strength and in his Spirit,
now and every day. Amen.

One particular sentence from Sheena’s message stands out for me, one with which I am sure we can all identify: “This year we have all learnt what it means to be locked down behind closed doors”. In a sense we have all experienced, at least to some extent, something of what it feels like to be imprisoned, our freedom curtailed. Some of us have coped better than others with the restrictions placed upon us and I would imagine that we would all describe our experiences of lockdown in different ways.

I suggest that the most widely read and the most precious book of the Old Testament is the book of Psalms, or at least individual poems within the book. No matter our tradition or our background it is to these particular poems that we turn when we are looking for inspiration or guidance or comfort. Somehow across the centuries their messages have kept very close to life and to reality, they have been able to speak to every generation and to each one of us as individuals.

The psalm that was read for us this morning is a song of thanksgiving to God and yet it is one that seems to have been written within the most intense of human experiences. The writer describes himself as being surrounded on all sides by enemies, by powerful foes.

I am not suggesting that the psalmist was either writing from a prison cell or in the midst of a world pandemic but it could be said that the picture he paints could, with a wee bit of imagination, or with the use of poetic licence, be taken and used to describe the lot of the prisoner or what our experience has been over much of this year.

The psalmist writes about being set free from depression and from the many enemies that surrounded him, surrounded him on every side like a swarm of bees.

While I have no doubt that there have been those within society today who have coped positively with the restrictions which have been placed on their lives in order to deal with the present pandemic, there have also been some for whom those restrictions have brought a real sense of foreboding, a fear and a sense of uncertainty for their future and the future of their loved ones. We have become aware of some folks who have developed a dread about coming out of their own lockdown, coming out of their isolation, coming out into the world again. They feel that they have become imprisoned within their own homes, surrounded by their own set of enemies.

For all of us the sense of imprisonment within our homes is one that is real – not being able to see members of our family who happen to live in other countries or even in other local authority areas – not being able to have friends in our homes – not being able to attend any form of our favourite sport – not being able to come to church in any large numbers and not being able to sing when we get here – not being able to mourn the death of our friends properly or rejoice with those who are coming together in marriage.

While we may have some difficulty in identifying with the language and the images which the psalmist uses, we too can at least identify to a greater or lesser extent with his sense of hopelessness, his sense of imprisonment, when we are unable to change the present situation in which we find ourselves.

At the end of the day how did the psalmist cope with his situation? From what he says, he relied totally on the Lord for his salvation: “The Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. I was fiercely attacked and was being defeated but the Lord helped me. The Lord makes me powerful and strong; he has saved me.” Or to quote the words of another translation: “The Lord is my strength and my song, he has become my salvation.”

In times of uncertainty and anxiety the ways in which we express our relationship with God vary. Sometimes we are angry with God – and that was an emotion often felt by the psalmist. At other times we may doubt God’s presence in our lives. And then there are days when we know with a wonderful certainty that God is there beside us, guiding us and uplifting us when we think that things are too difficult for us; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bears our griefs and carries our sorrows. He is indeed our strength and salvation.

Prayers of intercession by Graeme Trotter

At the end of the United Nations week for Science and Peace, we bring our prayers to you, Oh Lord, knowing that your guidance and love will support and bring success to those working to heal the world’s wounds through science and peace.

We pray for the many charities who feed and clothe the hungry and destitute and care for those in any kind of isolation. Those scattered across the world who are forgotten and crushed and need feeding, clothing and shelter.

Charities whose work has been hampered due to the pandemic, war or the stupidity of blinkered leaders and politicians.

Listen, Oh Lord, when they call. Answer their distress and give them refuge. Help all who are able to say ‘Yes’, we will help. ‘Yes, Lord, yes, yes, yes.’

Many risk their lives daily to escape the horrors of war and destructive regimes. We pray that governments will agree on the solutions to this worldwide calamity. We think particularly of Ethiopia and we pray that the warring factions in that country will find a way to lay down their weapons so that innocent people will no longer suffer and lose homes, families and livelihoods.

With a glimmer of light now, amidst the horror of the pandemic, at the end of the dark tunnel, we turn to you Lord to help us all to act responsibly to help to bring this sad and testing chapter to a close. We call to you, Lord, to set us free from our petty concerns to serve you and all mankind.

Bring hope to those who are suffering and have suffered. Heal bodies and minds; cradle in your loving arms those who are isolated and in need of your spiritual nourishment.

Set free decision-makers; help them to cast off the chains of pride and selfishness and open themselves to your love and care for all nations.

We pray for our Prime Minister and his colleagues, and we pray that they will move forward positively and meet all the challenges they face, with an openness to your will.

We pray for the President-elect of the United States and pray that you will give him the strength, vision and wisdom to help to heal that divided country and that Christians there will re-discover the true meaning of their faith and your desire for them.

We give thanks for our families and friends; for all the support we’ve had. May that endure, and may we say ‘Yes’ to them, remembering all who are precious to us in this silence.

Amen

Hymn 724Christ’s is the world in which we move. Listen here.

Blessing

Now go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast to that which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the faint-hearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honour all people;
love and serve the Lord
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

And now may the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
rest and remain with you and with all whom you love today and forever more. Amen.