Wardie Logo Pink

Sunday Service, 8th November 2020

Led by Rev. Bob Gemmell

Welcome

Welcome to Wardie Parish Church on Remembrance Sunday. Welcome to those who have joined us here within the Church building – and welcome to those who have joined us through Zoom. Our special thanks again to those who are making our service this morning possible, doing all the technical things behind the scenes. When gifts were being handed out I missed out on all forms of technical stuff but I have a great appreciation of those who use those particular gifts for the benefit of others.

A wee word of caution to those worshipping within our building – government and church restrictions prevent us from singing. Our worship has to remain silent but it can of course continue to be meaningful. For those participating from home – you face no such restrictions.

With it being Remembrance Sunday, our order of service this morning will be slightly different, with us attempting to have our act of remembrance as close to 11am as possible.

Today and over the next couple of Sundays, leading up to Advent we will be looking at particular psalms. Today our focus will be on Psalm 46; next week, Psalm 118: 1–14; and on 22nd November, Psalm 139.

Call to Worship

For our call to worship this morning I turn your attention to words found in the Book of Revelation 4: 1–4. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished. And I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne; ‘Now God’s home is with mankind! He will live with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all the tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.’”

Hymn 63 – All people that on earth do dwell. Listen here.

Prayer

Partly taken and adapted from Donald Hilton’s book Seasons and Celebrations.

Heavenly Father, on this particular Sunday in the year we acknowledge the fact that you remember your promises and your people, that you keep both the living and the dead in your love and care, that you are indeed a faithful God.

We have to confess that in OUR remembering we are more selective: we do not have any problems remembering the events that brought happiness into our lives, we readily remember the things we agreed with, we eagerly remember all that fitted into our point of view – and even when we TRULY remember the past, we fail to apply the lessons we learned to our present tasks.

A few of us may still remember the brighter times of the Second World War; when songs had tunes, and people pulled together. Help us, however, not to forget the partings that made those songs so poignant or the distress that gave them a common cause.

Help us not to forget those who died on some foreign field; those who had to cope with death in the rubble of their blitzed street; or the pain of families divided, children orphaned and partners bereaved.

We remember with thanks, sacrifices made during those years.

Help us not to forget the pain that so many endured; the agony of ordinary people in the nations we knew as enemies; the desecration of fields and crops; the grief that has continued for some down the years.

We remember the daylight raids and the long nights that folks spent in the air-raid shelters; the Holocaust and the concentration camps.

Help us not to forget the killing fields of Cambodia; the massacres in Rwanda; the hills of the Falklands; the deserts of the Gulf; the streets of Beirut, Jerusalem, Sarajevo and Belfast and the violence that still claims lives today.

Lord, deliver us from the sentimentality that cripples action and the destructive remembering that crushes hope. Help us to use memory – as a resource for peace.

In the name of Jesus who died and rose again and in whose name we further pray, saying –

Our Father who 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.

Readings

Old Testament lesson: Psalm 46 (NRSV)

God is our refuge and our strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

New Testament lesson: Revelation 7: 9–12 (NRSV)

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.

They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,

‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

Reflection by Rev. Bob Gemmell. God – Our Refuge and Strength

The threat and reality of global warming is a subject that gets a fair amount of air time on radio, television, in our newspapers and in social media these days: the melting of the ice caps and the threat that this brings to coastal towns; the blazing forest fires around the world. Similarly, those living, for example, around the Indian Ocean continually facing the threat of a further tsunami leading, as it has in the past, to catastrophic flooding and the loss of life.

And added to that list of possible threats is the one faced by those who live around the various fault lines of the world, with the ever-present danger of earthquakes.

The ancient world, including the authors of some of our psalms, didn’t take the world’s stability for granted. Perhaps their experience of “earthquakes and floods, of storms and whirlwinds” led many to believe that the world in which they lived embodied vast forces of energy, which at times were barely restrained.

The poetry of the Old Testament speaks of the ‘sea’ as the embodiment of the forces of chaos and yet in spite of that chaos those authors regarded the world in which they lived as “securely founded” – they could write and speak of ‘security’ amidst uncertainty and chaos.

The Psalmist presents the Lord God as “our shelter and stronghold, our refuge and strength, our rock in times of trouble.”

This concept of a shelter, a stronghold, a tower, is an important one in Israelite thinking, something that features from time to time in their writing.

The idea of a SHELTER from rain or from storms is a familiar one to us living in Scotland. In Palestine, however, shelter from the sun was far more relevant. God is presented, as our SHELTER from all elements of life.

Psalm 42 refers to God as a ROCK, the one to whom we can cling when the emotional as well as the physical floods threaten.

Citadels, strongholds and towers speak about REFUGE from military pressure. Palestine, both then and now, was often centre stage as far as world history was concerned. People then no doubt sought refuge when news arrived of the approaching Sennacheribs and Nebuchadnezzars. God, in reality, became their Rock, their Shelter, their Stronghold.

Our chosen psalm for this morning was probably one that was used in the liturgy of the Temple. It is a statement of confidence and trust in God.

I get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the author is writing here from the depths of his own experience. And from that experience he presents TWO images which he suggests bring reassurance.

The first of those images is that of a RIVER. “A river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

In reality there was a stream that provided water for Jerusalem and it seems that folks still do their washing in it today. The gentle Siloam filled a pool inside the city walls. How many of us recall the words of the hymn “By cool Siloam’s shady rill, how sweet the lily grows”. In the psalm the writer points to the contrast between the seething roar of the sea and the stillness of the river, a river that speaks of God’s provision and protection, peace in the midst of turmoil.

In these verses the Psalmist identifies the source and the ground of our confidence, confidence amidst the storms of nature and of the mind, a confidence that means we will not be overwhelmed by anything we face. And our part in this process? TRUST. As Isaiah puts it, “The Lord will be for us as a place of broad rivers and streams.” “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

The second image used by the Psalmist is a very different one. It’s that of God the WARRIOR: the Warrior King, the defender coming to his people’s aid.

This particular title is one that some of us might have a wee bit of difficulty accepting today and I must admit that I don’t particularly like the NIV’s description of God as the “Lord of heaven’s armies”. But back to the text.

“The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Or as the Apostle Paul was to put it so powerfully: “There is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God, which is ours in Christ Jesus.”

Moving on in the psalm, the writer invites his audience to “come and behold the works of the Lord”.

I wonder what particular ‘works’ the writer had in mind. Historical events, for example, when Israel witnessed the power of the Lord acting against the might of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, or, closer to the time of the Psalmist, the Lord’s intervention on the occasion of Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701BC?

This invitation is one that is still open to us today to “come and behold the works of the Lord”. To where do our inquisitive minds turn? Once again, no doubt, to the great historical interventions of God in the life of his people across the centuries,  and also to the Lord moving in and through the lives of men and women such as Martin Luther, David Livingstone, and Mother Teresa to name but a few.

I would suggest, however, that to any historical list we might conjure up we can also add moments and occasions from within our own lives when we have been conscious of the Lord prompting us, challenging us, encouraging us to take a step of faith, to open our hearts and minds to particular needs. The great acts of God are not just events of the past, of history. No, I am certain that many of us have, over the years, been aware of God’s influence on our lives in one way or another, encouraging us, challenging us, calling us to follow him and to serve him.

Returning to the text and to the vision of the Psalmist, we find the writer looking beyond and behind what can be seen: “He has wrought desolations on the earth, he makes wars cease to the ends of the earth, he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the chariot with fire.”

The scene he describes is one of desolation, of devastation. The vision that the writer portrays however is, nevertheless, one of peace.

And today, we find that many nations of the so-called First World are still manufacturing  bows and spears and chariots, or at least their modern-day equivalents, planes and bombs and tanks, while children and vulnerable adults around the world continue to go hungry and die without proper medical care.

And the Lord’s message, through the Psalmist in OT times, is one that still rings out loud and clear to today’s world, “Be still, stop fighting and acknowledge that I am God.”

I am told that John Wesley used the words of this psalm as his comfort as he himself faced death.

And it is a psalm that our nation used, almost as a declaration of faith, in times of national danger, in the midst of two world wars, in the trenches and through the bombing. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”

It is also a passage within which many of us as individuals have sought solace, strength and comfort through the darker days and experiences of life. It comes as a reminder, as a word of encouragement, that the Lord is with us along all of life’s perplexing paths and through all the changing scenes of life,  and in the darkest days of the present pandemic – a reminder that “The Lord of hosts is with us, that the God of Jacob is, and will continue to be, our refuge.”

Prayers of Intercession by Christine Shepherd

Dear Father God, on this Remembrance Sunday we remember all who have given their lives in the many conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries.  In the words of the poet Laurence Binyon:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lord, we pray also for those who did not die in conflict, but who returned physically or mentally maimed. They too gave their all.

Lord, we know that, sadly, there will always be conflict, that the ‘war to end all wars’ that many hoped WW1 would be has been followed by many wars.  We pray that you will give strength to all who strive to bring peace to the world.

At this time when the world is struggling with the Covid crisis we pray for all families everywhere who have been affected, both physically and mentally, by the virus.

We gave thanks for those who care for those affected by Covid, and for scientists who are striving to find an effective vaccine. We pray also for those who have other health conditions, particularly where treatment may have been delayed because of Covid, causing anxiety to them and their loved ones.

We pray for Wardie Church vacancy committee in their task of seeking a new minister. And we give thanks for the sustaining leadership of Ann and Bob. Bless those who keep communication going with church members during these strange times, hopefully enabling people to feel less isolated.

We pray for wisdom in our governments, both at Holyrood and Westminster. May they be guided in their task of ensuring the welfare of all their citizens.

All these prayers we bring to you, together with the prayers we offer in the silence of our hearts.

Amen

Act of Remembrance

Remember, remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Our short act of Remembrance this morning gives us the opportunity to honour those who have served our country in times of danger, especially those who lost their lives in the cause of freedom.

As I have already suggested this morning, in the midst of the conflict, as a nation and as individuals many turned to the words of Psalm 46 as a source of comfort and encouragement:

God is our refuge and help in times of trouble.

So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and the mountains fall into the ocean depths. Even if the seas roar and rage and the hills are shaken by the violence.

The Lord Almighty is with us – the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Prayer

God of refuge and strength, Lord of life and vanquisher of death, we thank you for the promise of your continuing presence in the midst of your people, with us on the mountain top of life’s experiences, but especially with us in the valley of uncertainty and danger. Those of us who have grown up in the atmosphere of relative freedom and peace may find it difficult to identify totally with the atrocities of war. However, we remember with sorrow and yet with thanksgiving the sacrifice made by so many, allowing us today to enjoy our freedom and peace. We honour that sacrifice with humility and thanksgiving.

Let us take a moment to remember in silence before God all those who have died in two world wars and also those who have died in conflicts, for example in the Falklands, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Northern Ireland, as well as other battlefields across the years.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Two-minute silence

Prayer

Father of mercies and God of all comfort, we pray for all those who continue to suffer because of war – widows and orphans, the bereaved and the wounded, the shell-shocked and the traumatised, refugees without home or work or country. Grant to each one your strength and healing, your help and consolation. Help us in turn to value and appreciate the freedom that has been won for us at such a high cost. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymn 159 – Lord, for the Years. Listen here.

Blessing

Go in peace and may the God of peace go with you; and the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit rest and abide with you today and forever more.