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Sunday Service, 9th May 2021

Led by Rev. Bob Gemmell

Welcome

Call to Worship

Colossians 1:18. ‘Christ is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things.’

Hymn 465 – Be Thou My Vision. Listen here.

Prayer

Lord of the ages, you are our beginning and our end.
Everlasting God, we place our days within your care.

We trust you and praise you for your faithfulness in the past and for your constant and continuing care throughout our lives.

We place ourselves into your keeping, to guard and guide us this day and every day; and we offer our lives for your service.

Lord of history, to whom a thousand years are as a day, renew us by your Holy Spirit, that while we have life and breath we may serve with enthusiasm and hope, through the grace of your Son.

Lord, we find it strange that you should call us to be your Church, yet you have always worked through men and women in the working out of your purpose.

Through prophets and disciples, leaders and followers, preachers and listeners you have called your people, so that your redeeming love might work through them.

Above all, in Jesus, your Word has become flesh. He died for us and you have raised him for us that he might be our foundation and our head.

Fill us with his love that we might truly be his disciples.
We dedicate ourselves afresh to being your people.

Accept our worship and our prayers, our intentions, our gifts.
All has come from you and now as we pray may your Holy Spirit prompt us and empower us.

Grant us your grace, that we might be faithful to our calling as your Church.
Deepen our faith, strengthen our love and increase our hope, that we might be an offering acceptable to you and available for your will.

Covenant God, you are always faithful and your promises of grace are certain and sure. Open our hearts through your Holy Spirit so that we might find joy and satisfaction within the fellowship of your people.

Strengthen our wills that we may be faithful to the promises that we have made to you and to each other, through Christ Jesus, in whose cross and resurrection you have established a new covenant. Hear us as we continue in prayer using the words that our Lord taught his disciples:

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, forever. Amen.

Children’s talk

One of the things we would often do here at Wardie is to share the peace with each other. We would be able to turn to our neighbours, or stretch not too far over pews and shake hands whilst saying ‘peace be with you’. Now with current guidelines and social distancing we can’t shake hands but we can of course say the words, so I wondered if we know any of the reasons we might say them…

We say them because Jesus said them – they are the words that he used to greet his disciples after his death and resurrection – but the word ‘peace’ or the Hebrew ‘Shalom’ means a lot more than just being free from conflict or war – in fact, Shalom actually means peace: harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity, so when we greet someone as Jesus did and say ‘peace be with you’ we are actually wishing them a very complete well-being – physical, psychological, social and spiritual.

It’s a lovely way of sharing the good things that God gives us in our lives with our neighbour.

Now as we have to change the way we would traditionally use this greeting I think it fair that we try something that everyone can join in with. This week is also Deaf Awareness Week so I think it very appropriate that we use the signs to say (SIGN) peace be with you (you may sign this differently; I use makaton which is a simplified version of British sign language designed to be inclusive for a range of people and to be used with the spoken word):

Peace (sign)

With(sign)

You (sign)

So even if you are watching at home (stay on mute), let’s share the peace together by signing and saying:

‘Peace be with you.’

And may harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity be with us all!

We will now hear our Bible readings for today.

Scripture readings (NRSV)

Psalm 40: 1–11

Thanksgiving for Deliverance and Prayer for Help

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

11 Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe forever.

John 20: 19–23

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Hymn (from Christian Praise) – I Cannot Tell Why He Whom Angels Worship

Reflection by Rev. Bob Gemmell: This is not what I signed up for

Having been a fully paid-up member of the non-conformist brigade and someone who is still finding my feet within the ways of the Kirk I find this Sunday a betwixt and between one – still in the period of Easter but looking forward to our Lord’s Ascension and to Pentecost.

I have entitled my sermon this morning ‘This is not what I signed up for’, words that I am sure must have echoed around, for example, the First World War trenches, words that I am sure must have been echoed by both officers and men, and even more poignantly by boys, in the midst of that tragic conflict: ‘This is not what I signed up for.’

Have you ever wondered how our Lord’s disciples must have felt as they met together behind the locked doors of the Upper Room on the evening of Easter Sunday, fear and uncertainty, no doubt, staring them in the face? Like those First World War soldiers they too must have felt shell-shocked, traumatised by all that had happened over the previous hours and days. Do I hear echoes of the words from at least some of the disciples: ‘This is not what we signed up for three years ago when by the tranquil shores of Lake Galilee we made our initial commitment to follow Jesus?’ Called to follow, called to become fishers of men, but no word of it all ending up in death and tragedy.

In the midst of their turmoil they suddenly become aware of a ‘presence’ in their midst, the presence of a risen Lord. As John records the scene, ‘the disciples were filled with joy’. I don’t know how you would interpret what was behind that verse, but as it stands it surely provides us with one of the great understatements of all time. Emotions must have run high. I am sure the word ‘joy’ doesn’t fully describe their feelings.

I have always found it interesting that our Lord used this dramatic occasion not to sympathise with his disciples at the way his ministry and theirs had ended, but to re-energise them and challenge them as far as their future lives and ministries were concerned, and to lift them from the horrors of their particular trench and set them walking a new road or, as the Psalmist put it: ‘He pulled us out of a dangerous pit out of the deadly quicksand. He set us safely on a rock and made us secure.’

The risen Lord’s initial message to his disciples that evening was of peace: ‘Peace be with you.’ He then showed them his hands and his side. And his follow up? Again, the promise of peace but this time it is accompanied with a call for commitment, commitment to future ministry, a call that these same disciples would hear repeated in different settings in the days leading up to the Ascension and to Pentecost. But for the moment the call is clear: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you. Then he breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit.”’

The reins of leadership were being passed on from the Lord to the disciples. The challenge is now for them to take up the baton and move forward, a move which would see them take responsibility for the setting up and the establishing of the early Church.

The disciples had not been in a good place, but the darkness of the tunnel had now given way to the sunshine of a new day, a new chapter was about to open up in front of them.

However, it must have been with real trepidation that those disciples, and others who were to join them in future days, committed to the work of the Gospel.

I remember hearing about an applicant who after the job interview was offered a post within the firm, not the one he had applied for, but a position far above the original one. He was offered a senior position in the company. He would be running an entire department with a huge annual budget. Not what he expected and certainly not the post he had applied for. The applicant’s initial feeling was that he simply wasn’t up to the task. However, the chairman of the company assured him that, with help, he could rise to the challenge. He believed that he was the right person for the job and that he would get all the specialist help and assistance he would require.

Something along these lines would, I believe, be the basis of our Lord’s message to all the men and women who would take up the baton and commit themselves to the various forms of ministry within the Church.

But back to the Upper Room. It is interesting that our Lord’s words to the disciples came, on that occasion, not by way of a request, but rather as a challenge, a command. He knew that these men, and other men and women who would join the cause, could fulfil the task before them, that despite any earlier failures, despite their lack of education, the work of the Kingdom was being left in safe hands. During his three years of ministry, he had been restricted geographically as far as the preaching of the Gospel was concerned but now the whole known world of the day would open up to the Apostles. Plus, while our Lord’s ministry, by and large, had been restricted to the Jews, the early Church would take the Good News out to the nations and the peoples of the world.

The call from the Upper Room and the call that was to echo in the days leading up to Pentecost: ‘Go then to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age’, is a call that has come loud and clear across the centuries to others, to Paul and Barnabas and the early Church fathers. It came in different circumstances to Martin Luther and John Calvin in the days of the Reformation, to the Mary Slessors and the David Livingstones of the Missionary Movement, to the great social reformers of a past age, to Martin Luther King and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa, to George MacLeod and Tom Allan and to so many others within the lifetime of many of us listening this morning.

I wonder how many of those I have mentioned, and other saints across the centuries, reflected on their initial call to commitment, and in later years realised that where they now stood was a far distance from what they had initially signed up for. If they did I am sure that accompanied with such a question mark in their minds was a realisation that the Lord who had called them had been true to his word and that he had been with them every step of the way.

Initially the disciples had locked themselves away in that Upper Room. Christ not only came and stood in their midst, he helped them to unlock that door and gave them confidence to go out and face a new chapter in their lives.

It can fill us with a sense of awe when we realise that we too stand in that same line of disciples which goes right back to the Upper Room. Often, when we face hard times in our discipleship – when it feels that we are being asked to do too much – we will think: ‘This isn’t what I signed up for. I don’t need the hassle; I’m tired and weary.’ Often it is at just those times that Jesus stands beside us and encourages us – not in person as he did to those first disciples, but in the touch of friends and their wisdom and encouragement. It’s good to share those feelings with people we trust – only then can they reach out to us in love.

As a Church nationally we are at a turning point as we move out of restrictions and face the fact that Church life may never be quite the same as the past we treasured. As a congregation you are at a turning point here at Wardie. It’s time to leave the seeming safety of the closed upper room and in the words of Andrew Scobie’s hymn:

Look forward in faith, all time is in God’s hand.
Walk humbly with him and trust his future plan.
Look forward in hope, he gives us each new hour.

And thanks be to God that it is so. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession by Karen Bowman

In this Christian Aid week we are including some of the prayers from Rev. Bob Kikuyu, Christian Aid Kenya, and from the Very Rev. Dr Susan Brown of the Church of Scotland, Faith Impact Forum.

Let us pray…

God our Father, as Your church gathered today, in the Wardie sanctuary and on Zoom, we thank You that we can come closer to You, we can listen to Your prompting, and share Your love.

We dedicate the money donated in various ways to the church and ask You to bless those using it to know Your vision, and use it wisely. We thank You for our Interim Moderator Ann and our Locum Bob, our Session Clerks Heather and Paul, and ask Your blessing on all who make our worship possible in these challenging times.

We thank you for our Nominating Committee and we pray for the sole nominee Rev. Dolly Purnell, and we trust in Your guidance for the next steps on this journey. Be our Vision, our Light, our Wisdom.

Creator God,
Who makes the sun to rise, and opens the heavens,
Hear the cry of the people
Who sow in hope for rain, but reap only despair, in drought
Hear the cry of the people
Seeking shelter from the storm, who see their hopes and homes submerged
Hear the cry of the people.
When creation is hitting back, with rage and resistance, in droughts or floods.

We pray that in this time of climate crisis and ecological emergency, You may
help us to rediscover Your love of creation and to reflect that in our own lives.

God who speaks through unexpected people,
We thank You for contemporary prophets
who are challenging us to act; for Christian Aid and for the
indigenous people whose land is harmed, for scientists who warn us and who innovate, for all those working to heal the environment and to fight disease.

We pray for young people challenging us and a society fuelled by worship of profit and power. We pray for the newly elected politicians to be given humility and Your wisdom in serving in public office.

We remember Tilda Hospital and all on the Indian subcontinent,
We pray that the pain of loss and grief
that sees tears flowing through that land,
will be met by the love and compassion
of fellow human beings worldwide.
Help us to share Your love, in our prayers and to give what we can.

Strengthen us all with Your Holy Spirit to look forwards in faith and in hope every day. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Blessing

Like those early disciples, open up the doors and go out into the community to serve the risen Lord, assured of his presence and his power and the touch of his hand on your life.

And now may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you and with all whom you love, now and ever more. Amen.