Wardie Logo Pink

Sunday Service, 7th February 2021

Led by Rev. Bob Gemmell

Welcome

Call to Worship

The Scriptures of the Old Testament tell us that: “In the beginning when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate. The raging sea that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness and the power of God was moving on the water. Then God commanded ‘Let there be light’, and light appeared. God was pleased with what he saw. Then he separated the light from the darkness and named the light, day and the darkness, night. Evening passed and morning came, that was the first day.”

Hymn 212 – Morning has broken. Listen here.

Prayer

Lord our God – maker of heaven and earth, your glory is all around us. Your hand can be seen in the wonders of nature, in the mountains and rivers and valleys.

Lord our God – redeemer of the world, your love for us is plain to see. Your providence evidence in nature’s bounty, supplying our every need.

Lord our God – giver of life, your creation teems with life, each springtime with its provision of new life, each summer and autumn yielding its abundant fruit.

Lord our God – maker of heaven and earth, redeemer of the world, giver of life. We gather in our homes this morning to worship and praise you.

Loving God – we are sorry that we have marred the beauty of your world with the sores of pollution, the scars of abuse.

We are sorry that we have become poor stewards of its bounty, blundering its natural resources, selfishly hoarding its wealth.

We are sorry that we have not treated your creation with respect, that we have taken with no thought for tomorrow and for our children’s children.

We are sorry that we haven’t acted as your true children towards the world and towards one another.

Loving God – you, however, have the power and the will not only to create, but also to re-create your loving image within us, that we in turn might strive with you for the healing of all creation.

Present yourself in our midst this morning. May our worship bring honour to your name and hear us as we join together, praying the words that our Lord encouraged his disciples to use.

Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done in 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 by Mo Brand

Sometimes people become known for specific words and phrases, little things that we associate just with them. When it comes to famous people or characters we often call these catchphrases, so I wonder if you can work out some famous catchphrases from these cartoons:

Bugs Bunny – What’s Up Doc
Scooby – Scooby Dooby Doo
Spiderman – My spidey senses are tingling (or from uncle Ben – With great power comes great responsibility)
Mighty Mouse – Here I come to save the day
Superman – Up, up and away
Yogi Bear – I’m smarter than the average bear
Buzz Lightyear – To infinity and beyond
Fred Flintstone – Yabba Dabba Do  

Some of them were quite easy when their own name was the catchphrase! Some told us a little more about what they do. If we were to tell the world who we were and what we were about, it might be a catchphrase, but we’re more likely to call it a mission statement. Most churches and businesses have one, and here at Wardie our mission statement is:

Building relationships, building community – finding God in dialogue with the world and its people

It’s part of the plan that tells people what were about, and it’s easy to find on the website if you’ve not read it in a while.

Now there’s not an official mission statement for Jesus. Kids@Wardie thought some of his words may be: be kind; be happy; make your life happy; to teach people about God.

I wonder what he would have chosen to sum up why he was here and what he was about – the Old Testament is full of passages that told us about the kind of person he would be, and told details of his birth and lineage and all sorts of prophesy that was fulfilled in him, and the New Testament has lots of quotes where Jesus tells us more about who he is and what others say of him, but the bit we’re going to hear today is both from the Old Testament and a part that Jesus actually reads in the New Testament.

“he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”

I wonder if that would be a fitting mission statement for Jesus?

We use different words in our mission statement, but many of them could be summed up by sharing ‘good news’ and to ‘bind up the broken hearted’. Thankfully we’re a whole community of different gifts and talents because these are not small tasks, so I wonder, if you had to choose a mission statement for the week ahead which words you would choose?

Scripture readings

Isaiah 61 (NIV)

1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

Luke 4: 1630

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[a]

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[b] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Reflection by Rev. Bob Gemmell: Establishing the Kingdom

I am going to divide our reflection this morning into two sections, focussing first of all on the establishing of God’s Kingdom on earth and then turning to our experiencing of the presence of God’s Kingdom at a personal level. I was reminded recently of the statement that all good sermons should begin in Jerusalem and end at the local church. We are beginning at Nazareth this morning and finishing up at Wardie.

Let’s take a moment to place our New Testament Reading into historical context. Our Lord’s sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth was preached AFTER his baptism, AFTER his period of temptation in the wilderness and, as we find it in Luke’s record of events, BEFORE our Lord’s recruitment campaign, BEFORE his call to the disciples to follow.

His campaign, the establishing of his kingdom, although still in its early stages, had already begun. For example, during his period of temptation, he had set down very definite markers as to the type of ministry he intended to establish. Hatred, sensationalism, and gimmickry were tools with which he would not identify, tools that would never be used in the building up of his kingdom.

No, his building bricks would be service and sacrifice, healing, compassion, friendship and teaching.

It could well be said that what Jesus was doing in both his wilderness experience and in his sermon in the synagogue was setting out his manifesto for the setting up of his kingdom.

Flattery and abuse often follow after one another. That was certainly Jesus’ experience on that particular day as he participated in the synagogue worship in his home town. Initially his audience: “were all impressed with him and marvelled at the eloquent words that he spoke”.

Flattery soon turned to abuse and eventually to violence as the congregation responded to the content of our Lord’s sermon. No doubt in the minds of many of his listeners lay treasured expectations of the establishment of a new and earthly Messianic Kingdom where the key words would be power, dominion and freedom. Instead our Lord reminded his hearers of God’s intervention in the life of a Gentile sufferer and God’s use of a Gentile widow to shelter a prophet, and that seemed to trouble the waters in the synagogue.

But was it just these examples from their own Scriptures or was it his interpretation of the set passage for the day from Isaiah 61 that offended them? Was it the fact that certain things were going to be set aside that fired them up so passionately – the privileged position of the wealthy; the heavy yoke of the Law, which over the years had somehow transformed godliness into spiritual bondage; their dreams of revenge, of political conquest, all to be set aside in the establishing of the Kingdom?

Instead, taking centre stage from now on, would be the poor, the broken hearted, the captive, the blind the bruised. These were the folks on whom the spotlight would now shine. These were the folks with whom friendships would now be forged. And good news, liberation, light, healing would become the corner stones, the foundation on which the Kingdom would now be built.

Here we have a sermon which speaks about grace in place of judgment, healing and peace instead of bitterness and war, freedom for the enslaved, the righting of the world’s wrongs.

Few within that Sabbath Day’s congregation would have been expecting their home town boy to be preaching in this kind of way. His message, however, was to become the basis and foundation for the coming Kingdom. It is perhaps little wonder that the initial flattery turned to abuse and eventually to violence.

I find it interesting that later in his ministry Jesus was asked by the Pharisees as to when the Kingdom of God would come, and his answer on that occasion? “The Kingdom of God doesn’t come in such a way as to be seen. No one will ever be able to say, ‘Look, here it is or there it is’ because the Kingdom of God IS WITHIN YOU.” Christ’s manifesto for the establishing of his kingdom.

Hymn 253 – Inspired by love and anger

Reflection: Experiencing the Kingdom

Jesus said: “The Kingdom of God IS WITHIN YOU”. The Kingdom is established in us through our commitment to the Lord, a commitment that may have come in a dramatic moment in time or been established over a period of time through different circumstances. It is within us and it will grow like seed, it will shine like light, it will preserve like salt. No, it will not be seen, but the effect that it has on our lives and daily living will be present for everyone to see.

Jesus took the prophetic passage from Isaiah and used it as the basis for his manifesto for the establishing of his Kingdom, a message that was relevant for his day and a message that continues to be relevant in our own day: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”

If the Kingdom can’t be seen, how can we possibly present it in the place where we live and work and have been called to serve? In the early days of the church it was proclaimed through teaching, by example, through a caring and healing ministry. And over the centuries it has continued to be proclaimed in exactly the same way, using the same tools, exercising the same acceptance and understanding.

Purity and truth, service and love are still the bricks and mortar of the Kingdom. And all of this will manifest itself through our continuing compassion towards the hungry, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. We are Kingdom people and as such we will be there on the front line fighting evil and injustice, when provoked our humanity and humility will preserve our meekness, our minds will be set on peace, and we will become peacemakers and we will not worry too much about possessions, we will sit lightly on the world’s goods.

We may never find ourselves having the practical opportunities for service like those presented to the Mother Theresas of the world. We may never be given the task or be presented with the challenge, of rebuilding an Abbey on an island like Iona as did George MacLeod, but what we are called to be is faithful to our own calling, faithful in our service, faithful to each other and faithful to the Lord.

Jesus’ message that the Kingdom of God is within us is as true for us here in this congregation and parish today as it was when Jesus first used these words. From Nazareth to Wardie, people down the years have been called to be Kingdom people. Only through us can the Kingdom be seen. The words of Luke Chapter 4 are the manifesto for the Kingdom and only through us can the manifesto become a reality. How do we do that? I think it is simply and perfectly stated in the second line of our final hymn this morning: “Let me be as Christ to you.” May that be our prayer today and every day.

Intercessory Prayer by Brian Cooper

As we prepare to pray together in the warmth and comfort of our own homes, as the current circumstances are still preventing us being together physically in the sanctuary of our beloved Wardie Church, we can still join together spiritually as we spend the next  few moments praying together for those near to us, around the country, and around the world.

Let us pray.

Loving God, we hold up to you in gratitude those we love and those who show selfless love to others:

  • Doctors and all nursing and other staff involved in hospitals, hospices, GP surgeries and care homes;
  • All involved in the roll-out of the vaccination programme and Covid testing centres throughout the UK;
  • Teachers and all other school and educational staff helping in various ways to uphold schooling as much as possible in challenging circumstances;
  • Mothers and fathers and grandparents and partners and any others involved with childcare and home-schooling;
  • Scientists and laboratory staff involved in developing and monitoring the Covid-19 virus and tests.

Forgiving God, we ask for your mercy and forgiveness for those involved in what can sometimes seem to be acts of mindless violence, selfishness towards the most vulnerable in our society and the abuse of power that affects whole countries.

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the ways in which the Wardie Church family is continuing to meet and communicate during this challenging time so we ask for your blessings and continued support: for our Locum, Bob, and Interim Moderator, Ann; for Mo as she continues to interact with our young people; for the wonderful music we enjoy played so beautifully by Margaret; for the office and administrative support provided by Catriona; for our Joint Session Clerks and the Kirk Session; and for everyone involved in organising and running the weekly Sunday Services by Zoom.

Dearest Lord, we ask you to comfort and bless those we know who have suffered bereavement and loss recently, remembering particularly Harvey Macmillan, not only for his service and dedication to Wardie Church but as a friend too. We also remember at this time all who may be struggling financially, or with mental health problems, as well as those who are ill in hospital or at home, and we remember those known to us, particularly Penny, Rory and Michael, in our thoughts and prayers in a short, heartfelt silence.

—-

Sovereign Lord, we seek your blessings on us all as we begin to see and walk towards the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel; as the vaccine developed by scientists, whose skills and talent you have provided, starts to be rolled out, so that your message of re-building the world we knew, with all the privileges you gave us to enjoy before, will again re-kindle your message to us as followers of your son, Jesus Christ – knowing that your Church on this Earth you gave us will be stronger still.

Loving God, we ask you to stay by our side and continue walking with us until we reach the other end of this tunnel, as we travel together in unity to re-establish your Kingdom, in Jesus name, Amen.

Hymn 694 – Brother, sister, let me serve you. Listen here.

Blessing

Go into the days of this week in peace.
If the road ahead is long – praise God, for he will walk it with you.
If the wind is cold – praise God for the warmth of his touch.
If life is hard – praise God for his arms of love around you.
And now may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and with all whom you love, now and always.
Amen.